Nationality by Mary Gilmore

I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

Mary Gilmore
1865–1962

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The School Where I Studied by Yehuda Amichai

Translated by Chana Bloch

I passed by the school where I studied as a boy
and said in my heart: here I learned certain things
and didn’t learn others. All my life I have loved in vain
the things I didn’t learn. I am filled with knowledge,
I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge,
the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and parasites.
I’m an expert on the botany of good and evil,
I’m still studying it, I’ll go on studying till the day I die.
I stood near the school building and looked in. This is the room
where we sat and learned. The windows of a classroom always open
to the future, but in our innocence we thought it was only landscape
we were seeing from the window.
The schoolyard was narrow, paved with large stones.
I remember the brief tumult of the two of us
near the rickety steps, the tumult
that was the beginning of a first great love.
Now it outlives us, as if in a museum,
like everything else in Jerusalem.

Yehuda Amichai
1924-2000

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maggie and milly and molly and may by e. e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e e cummings
1894-1962

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Women by Adrienne Rich

My three sisters are sitting
on rocks of black obsidian.
For the first time, in this light, I can see who they are.

My first sister is sewing her costume for the procession.
She is going as the Transparent Lady
and all her nerves will be visible.

My second sister is also sewing,
at the seam over her heart which has never healed entirely.
At last, she hopes, this tightness in her chest will ease.

My third sister is gazing
at a dark-red crust spreading westward far out on the sea.
Her stockings are torn but she is beautiful.

Adrienne Rich
1929-2012

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Picnic by Adrienne Rich

Sunday in Inwood Park
the picnic eaten
the chicken bones scattered
for the fox we’ll never see
the children playing in the caves
My death is folded in my pocket
like a nylon raincoat
What kind of sunlight is it
the leaves the rocks so cold?

Adrienne Rich
1929-2012

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Winter by Adrienne Rich

Dead, dead, dead, dead.
A beast of the Middle Ages
stupefied in its den.
The hairs on its body—a woman’s—
cold as hairs on a bulb or tuber.

Nothing so bleakly leaden, you tell me,
as a hyacinth’s dull cone
before it bulks into blueness.
Ah, but I’d chosen to be
a woman, not a beast or a tuber!

No one knows where the storks went,
everyone knows they have disappeared.
Something—that woman—seems to have
migrated also; if she lives, she lives
sea-zones away, and the meaning grows colder.

Adrienne Rich
1929-2012

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Robinson at Home by Weldon Kees

Curtains drawn back, the door ajar.
All winter long, it seemed, a darkening
Began. But now the moonlight and the odours of the street
Conspire and combine toward one community.

These are the rooms of Robinson.
Bleached, wan, and colourless this light, as though
All the blurred daybreaks of the spring
Found an asylum here, perhaps for Robinson alone,

Who sleeps. Were there more music sifted through the floors
And moonlight of a different kind,
He might awake to hear the news at ten,
Which will be shocking, moderately.

This sleep is from exhaustion, but his old desire
To die like this has known a lessening.
Now there is only this coldness that he has to wear.
But not in sleep.—Observant scholar, traveller,

Or uncouth bearded figure squatting in a cave,
A keen-eyed sniper on the barricades,
A heretic in catacombs, a famed roué,
A beggar on the streets, the confidant of Popes—

All these are Robinson in sleep, who mumbles as he turns,
“There is something in this madhouse that I symbolise—
This city—nightmare—black—”
He wakes in sweat
To the terrible moonlight and what might be
Silence. It drones like wires far beyond the roofs,
And the long curtains blow into the room.

Weldon Kees
1914–1955

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