The Orange Tree by John Shaw Neilson

The young girl stood beside me. I
Saw not what her young eyes could see:
– A light, she said, not of the sky
Lives somewhere in the Orange Tree.

– Is it, I said, of east or west?
The heart beat of a luminous boy
Who with his faltering flute confessed
Only the edges of his joy?

Was he, I said, home to the blue
In a mad escapade of Spring
Ere he could make a fond adieu
To his love in the blossoming?

– Listen! The young girl said. There calls
No voice, no music beats on me;
But it is almost sound: it falls
This evening on the Orange Tree.

– Does he, I said, so fear the Spring
Ere the white sap too far can climb?
See in the full gold evening
All happenings of the olden time?

Is he so goaded by the green?
Does the compulsion of the dew
Make him unknowable but keen
Asking with beauty of the blue?

– Listen! The young girl said. For all
Your hapless talk you fail to see
There is a light, a step, a call,
This evening on the Orange Tree

– Is it, I said, a waste of love
Imperishably old in pain,
Moving as an affrighted dove
Under the sunlight or the rain?

Is it a fluttering heart that gave
Too willingly and was reviled?
Is it the stammering at a grave,
The last word of a little child?

– Silence! The young girl said. Oh why,
Why will you talk to weary me?
Plague me no longer now, for I
Am listening like the Orange Tree.

John Shaw Neilson
1872-1942

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August 1914 by May Wedderburn Cannan

The sun rose over the sweep of the hill
All bare for the gathered hay,
And a blackbird sang by the window-sill,
And a girl knelt down to pray:
‘Whom Thou hast kept through the night, O Lord,
Keep Thou safe through the day.’

The sun rose over the shell-swept height,
The guns are over the way,
And a soldier turned from the toil of the night
To the toil of another day,
And a bullet sang by the parapet
To drive in the new-turned clay.

The sun sank slow by the sweep of the hill,
They had carried all the hay,
And a blackbird sang by the window-sill,
And a girl knelt down to pray:
‘Keep Thou safe through the night, O Lord,
Whom Thou hast kept through the day.’

The sun sank slow by the shell-swept height,
The guns had prepared a way,
And a soldier turned to sleep that night
Who would not wake for the day,
And a blackbird flew from the window-sill,
When a girl knelt down to pray.

May Wedderburn Cannan
1893-1973

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The Meeting by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After so long an absence
At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet’s two or three berries
In the top of the uppermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
How old and grey he has grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year;
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those who are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807–1882

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Aware by D. H. Lawrence

Slowly the moon is rising out of the ruddy haze,
Divesting herself of her golden shift, and so
Emerging white and exquisite; and I in amaze
See in the sky before me, a woman I did not know
I loved, but there she goes, and her beauty hurts my heart;
I follow her down the night, begging her not to depart.

D. H. Lawrence
1885-1930

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Their Sex Life by A. R. Ammons

One failure on
Top of another

Archie Randolph Ammons
1926-2001

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Bitch by Carolyn Kizer

Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’t start growling.
He isn’t a trespasser anymore,
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,
The bitch changes her tone; she begins to whimper.
She wants to snuggle up to him, to cringe.
Down, girl! Keep your distance
Or I’ll give you a taste of the choke-chain.
“Fine, I’m just fine,” I tell him.
She slobbers and grovels.
After all, I am her mistress. She is basically loyal.
It’s just that she remembers how she came running
Each evening, when she heard his step;
How she lay at his feet and looked up adoringly
Though he was absorbed in his paper;
Or, bored with her devotion, ordered her to the kitchen
Until he was ready to play.
But the small careless kindnesses
When he’d had a good day, or a couple of drinks,
Come back to her now, seem more important
Than the casual cruelties, the ultimate dismissal.
“It’s nice to know you are doing so well,” I say.
He couldn’t have taken you with him;
You were too demonstrative, too clumsy,
Not like the well-groomed pets of his new friends.
“Give my regards to your wife,” I say. You gag
As I drag you off by the scruff,
Saying, “Goodbye! Goodbye! Nice to have seen you again.”

Carolyn Kizer
1925-2014

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Men at Forty by Donald Justice

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret,

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

Donald Justice
1925-2004

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