Random Sunday: Poetry


by Loren Eiseley

Plant quiet like a seed within your heart
And let it grow and split that organ through.
Let the fierce root rive all such walls apart,
Let the dark flourish, let your words be few.
Out of the earth and dreaming in the sun
Though the years burgeon, it is well to know,
After the lightning and the wolves that run
In the tense mind, the quietude of snow.
Thirst, if you thirst, for all the elder things--
Lie with the worm against the forest's root.
Eat of the granite, plumb the deeper springs,
Burn with the acrid and the bitter soot
Packed in the puff ball. In that leathern cover
Taste the last taste: compound of life and lover.
  • mirandajane says:

    Goodness me I am way way late to this poetry Sunday because it is Monday but here is one by Mary Oliver:


    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

  • Kirsten says:

    So I spent today working on a school paper, and am late to the posting party. I love the idea of recurring random poetry Sundays, though! And to that end, and since it fits the tenor of the discussion, I offer a favorite from Edmund Vance Cook, “How Did You Die?”

    Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
    With a resolute heart and cheerful?
    Or hide your face from the light of day
    With a craven soul and fearful?
    Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
    Or a trouble is what you make it,
    And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
    But only–how did you take it?

    You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?
    Come up with a smiling face.
    It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
    But to lie there–that’s disgrace.
    The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce –
    Be proud of your blackened eye!
    It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;
    It’s how did you fight–and why?

    And though you be done to the death, what then?
    If you battled the best you could,
    If you played your part in the world of men,
    Why, the Critic will call it good.
    Death comes with a crawl or it comes with a pounce,
    And whether he’s slow or spry,
    It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
    But only–how did you die?

  • HollyGolightly says:

    Her Kind

    have gone out, a possessed witch,
    haunting the black air, braver at night;
    dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
    over the plain houses, light by light:
    lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
    A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
    I have been her kind.

    I have found the warm caves in the woods,
    filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
    closets, silks, innumerable goods;
    fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
    whining, rearranging the disaligned.
    A woman like that is misunderstood.
    I have been her kind.

    I have ridden in your cart, driver,
    waved my nude arms at villages going by,
    learning the last bright routes, survivor
    where your flames still bite my thigh
    and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
    A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
    I have been her kind.

    Anne Sexton

    • carter says:

      Oh my GOD I love Anne Sexton and her kind. Gaaaahhh, awesome, thank you.

      • HollyGolightly says:

        I am LOVING random sunday: poetry. Anne Sexton is so amazing, & =(( sometimes.

        • carter says:

          I always post this one of hers somewhere on September 11th. In that context I find it to be heartbreaking, but also incredibly poignant and beautiful. 9/11 happens to be my birthday, and this is now the poem closest to my heart:

          Riding the Elevator into the Sky

          As the fireman said:
          Don’t book a room over the fifth floor
          in any hotel in New York.
          They have ladders that will reach further
          but no one will climb them.
          As the New York Times said:
          The elevator always seeks out
          the floor of the fire
          and automatically opens
          and won’t shut.
          These are the warnings
          that you must forget
          if you’re climbing out of yourself
          If you’re going to smash into the sky.

          Many times I’ve gone past
          the fifth floor,
          cranking upward,
          but only once
          have I gone all the way up.
          Sixtieth floor:
          small plants and swans bending
          into their grave.
          Floor two hundred:
          mountains with the patience of a cat,
          silence wearing its sneakers.
          Floor five hundered:
          messages and letters centuries old,
          birds to drink,
          a kitchen of clouds.
          Floor six thousand:
          the stars,
          skeletons on fire,
          their arms singing.
          And a key,
          a very large key,
          that opens something-
          some useful door-
          up there.

          Anne Sexton

    • kathleen says:

      Love this…

    • March says:

      Random Poetry Sunday might be a tradition to continue! That was a GREAT poem. Thanks.

  • Musette says:

    My favorite autumn poem (my boys like it, too!)

    How To Like It

    These are the first days of fall. The wind
    at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
    while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
    is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
    the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
    A man and a dog descend their front steps.
    The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
    Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
    This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
    But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
    by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
    which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
    until it seems he can see remembered faces
    caught up among the dark places in the trees.
    The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
    rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
    Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
    crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
    he says to himself, a movie about a person
    leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
    to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
    where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
    on that road and the dusty smell of the car
    heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
    The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
    people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
    In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
    Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
    where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
    shine like small cautions against the night.
    Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
    The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
    by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
    But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
    one state line after another, and never stop
    until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
    Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
    starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
    and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
    of a city entirely new to him.
    But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
    Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
    walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
    How is it possible to want so many things
    and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep
    and wants to hit his head again and again
    against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
    But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
    Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
    And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
    wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
    as if into the place where the answers are kept-
    the ones telling why you get up in the morning
    and how it is possible to sleep at night,
    answers to what comes next and how to like it.

    Stephen Dobyns

    xo >-)

  • carter says:


    You know the brick path in back of the house,
    the one you see from the kitchen window,
    the one that bends around the far end of the garden
    where all the yellow primroses are?
    And you know how if you leave the path
    and walk up into the woods you come
    to a heap of rocks, probably pushed
    down during the horrors of the Ice Age,
    and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now
    against the light-brown fallen leaves?
    And farther on, you know
    the small footbridge with the broken railing
    and if you go beyond that you arrive
    at the bottom of that sheep’s head hill?
    Well, if you start climbing, and you
    might have to grab hold of a sapling
    when the going gets steep,
    you will eventually come to a long stone
    ridge with a border of pine trees
    which is as high as you can go
    and a good enough place to stop.

    The best time is late afternoon
    when the sun strobes through
    the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
    and when you find an agreeable rock
    to sit on, you will be able to see
    the light pouring down into the woods
    and breaking into the shapes and tones
    of things and you will hear nothing
    but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
    falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
    and if this is your day you might even
    spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
    driving overhead toward some destination.

    But it is hard to speak of these things
    how the voices of light enter the body
    and begin to recite their stories
    how the earth holds us painfully against
    its breast made of humus and brambles
    how we who will soon be gone regard
    the entities that continue to return
    greener than ever, spring water flowing
    through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
    passing over the hills and the ground
    where we stand in the tremble of thought
    taking the vast outside into ourselves.

    Still, let me know before you set out.
    Come knock on my door
    and I will walk with you as far as the garden
    with one hand on your shoulder.
    I will even watch after you and not turn back
    to the house until you disappear
    into the crowd of maple and ash,
    heading up toward the hill,
    piercing the ground with your stick

    – Billy Collins

    • March says:

      So amazing. Thank you so much. ^:)^

      • carter says:

        Thank the brilliant Billy, and applause, applause for you, the Random Sunday poetry instigator =d>

        • Shelley says:

          I’m in.

          Song of Childhood
          By Peter Handke

          When the child was a child
          It walked with its arms swinging,
          wanted the brook to be a river,
          the river to be a torrent,
          and this puddle to be the sea.

          When the child was a child,
          it didn’t know that it was a child,
          everything was soulful,
          and all souls were one.

          When the child was a child,
          it had no opinion about anything,
          had no habits,
          it often sat cross-legged,
          took off running,
          had a cowlick in its hair,
          and made no faces when photographed.

          When the child was a child,
          It was the time for these questions:
          Why am I me, and why not you?
          Why am I here, and why not there?
          When did time begin, and where does space end?
          Is life under the sun not just a dream?
          Is what I see and hear and smell
          not just an illusion of a world before the world?
          Given the facts of evil and people.
          does evil really exist?
          How can it be that I, who I am,
          didn’t exist before I came to be,
          and that, someday, I, who I am,
          will no longer be who I am?

          When the child was a child,
          It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
          and on steamed cauliflower,
          and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

          When the child was a child,
          it awoke once in a strange bed,
          and now does so again and again.
          Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
          and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

          It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
          and now can at most guess,
          could not conceive of nothingness,
          and shudders today at the thought.

          When the child was a child,
          It played with enthusiasm,
          and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
          but only when it concerns its work.

          When the child was a child,
          It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
          And so it is even now.

          When the child was a child,
          Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
          and do even now,
          Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
          and do even now,
          it had, on every mountaintop,
          the longing for a higher mountain yet,
          and in every city,
          the longing for an even greater city,
          and that is still so,
          It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
          with an elation it still has today,
          has a shyness in front of strangers,
          and has that even now.
          It awaited the first snow,
          And waits that way even now.

          When the child was a child,
          It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
          And it quivers there still today.

        • Shelley says:

          Ack! that was supposed to be separate, and “I ♥ Billy Collins” here.

          I heart so much of this, actually…

  • kathleen says:

    “Young and Old” by Charles Kingsley

    WHEN all the world is young, lad,
    And all the trees are green;
    And every goose a swan, lad,
    And every lass a queen;
    Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
    And round the world away;
    Young blood must have its course, lad,
    And every dog his day.

    When all the world is old, lad,
    And all the trees are brown;
    And all the sport is stale, lad,
    And all the wheels run down:
    Creep home, and take your place there,
    The spent and maimed among:
    God grant you find one face there
    You loved when all was young

  • Shelley says:

    What a wonderful surprise, tucked here. Thank you.

  • Louise says:

    Too many favorites…. but especially for today:

    A glimpse, through an interstice caught,
    Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room, around the stove, late of a winter night—And I unremark’d seated in a corner;
    Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently approaching, and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand;
    A long while, amid the noises of coming and going—of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
    There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.

  • sweetlife says:

    Thanks, M!

    That first line resonates for me. I’ve been reading Sarah Maitland’s quirky, fascinating and pasionate defense of silence (and the story of her pursuit of same): The Book of Silence. It’s wonderful. She had a very noisy life–a feminist activist and writer with many children–and then, in her fifties, she fell in love with silence.