Posts Tagged ‘poem’

May 19: The Great Dark Day of 1780

May 19, 2009

On this date in 1780, the skies suddenly darkened all over New England–from Maine down as far as New Jersey, the darkness was thick enough to require candles in daytime, dark enough that owls came out hours before their nocturnal habits usually allowed.  Today it’s pretty clear that the cause was forest fires combined with unusual meteorological conditions; at the time, they didn’t know that, of course (no 24-hour-news channels or satellite photos).  Many were in fear, hurrying to churches to hear impromptu sermons citing Bible verses about the plagues of Egypt, prophecies, and the end of days.

In Connecticut, legislator Abraham Davenport was more pragmatic:

“The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

He and his committee continued working, drafting regulations of the shad and alewife harvest.  Almost a century later, John Greenleaf Whittier celebrated Davenport’s response with a poem, titled “Abraham Davenport,” published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1866.

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Poem for today: “Books” by Zora Cross (1890-1964)

May 18, 2009
Oh! Bury me in books when I am dead,
Fair quarto leaves of ivory and gold,
And silk octavos, bound in brown and red,
That tales of love and chivalry unfold.
Heap me in volumes of fine vellum wrought,
Creamed with the close content of silent speech;
Wrap me in sapphire tapestries of thought
From some old epic out of common reach.
I would my shroud were verse-embroidered too—-
Your verse for preference—in starry stitch,
And powdered o’er with rhymes that poets woo,
Breathing dream-lyrics in moon-measures rich.
Night holds me with a horror of the grave
That knows not poetry, nor song, nor you;
Nor leaves of love that down the ages weave
Romance and fire in burnished cloths of blue.
Oh, bury me in books, and I’ll not mind
The cold, slow worms that coil around my head;
Since my lone soul may turn the page and find
The lines you wrote to me, when I am dead.

Lisel Mueller, “The Laughter of Women”

June 25, 2008

A favorite. Lisel Mueller (b. 1924) is a German-born American poet, who won the Pulitzer in 1997, among other awards.

The Laughter Of Women

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

Lisel Mueller

Shadow poem, for Anarcha

June 12, 2008

I am no kind of poet. But I was involved in a few rounds of the Anarcha Project as a “cyber participant,” and some of that involved writing poetry (cyber participants were given “gifts,” or prompts, to respond to each day–which sometimes requested a poem–I believe this one requested an engagement with our own shadows). The Anarcha Anti-Archive is up online now, and I found this one, below, there–I had completely forgotten it. (Hmm, two posts in a row about my forgetfulness–that can’t be good.)

Springtime and Shadows with my Kids (April 2007)

Our best shadows don’t sit in carseats

They prefer smooth sidewalks (with curbcuts) to freeways

So we walk, and roll, and scooter in the sunshine

Where our shadows can come along for the fun.

Our shadows project us into the movement of planets

They sketch complex geometries across driveways and onto walls

So we dance, and experiment, and learn in the sunshine

Where our shadows enact the universe of light.

Penny Richards