Poets’ Corner

Sartre’s Funeral

 Paris, 19 April 1980 Immense, the crowds that line the cortege route Pay homage now to him that set them free, Emancipated from Church piety. Delivered from the bonds of creed, they doubt,  Just as he taught them, urging them to flout God’s pleasure-killing laws of chastity. Hands stretch to touch the hearse; eyes strain…

Death Experienced

By Rainer Maria Rilke Translated by Susan McLean We know nothing about this going hence, which shares nothing with us. We’ve no foundation for showing hate or love and reverence toward death, whose mask of tragic lamentation strangely disfigures him. The world is still full of roles we play. As long as we worry about…

All Souls, in Morning Fog

At dawn a clammy silence wraps the ridge. Before he makes his tea, the hermit hikes Through grounded cloud to the summit, the very edge Of the world. Before him, nothing. The hidden creek’s Wind-noise speaks to him from the rising whiteness. A hawk skirls and hangs where the sky clears. Morning leans through the…

The Moderator

in a time of intemperate speech Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:27 The speakers meet, shake hands, ready to debate The issues of the day before tense groups Of partisans the moderator calms With calls for quiet, respect, and courtesy. Each…

Mordecai

By accident or fate I said the words That saved the king from poison unto death. Despite his trust I maintained shibboleths. The son of Jail, I’m not afraid of birds. The judge caught me at prayer before the feasts And longed to see me eaten by shabhaz. He ruled all servants and gentlemen must…

On a Photograph of John Martin Finlay

And on the second Sunday of every month, a mass is celebrated for the souls of departed poets. John Finlay (Paris Diary: Dec. 24, 1973) With hands thrust deep in pockets, collar high Upon your neck, and head turned slightly left, You seek the muse, as poets often do, Where land and sea and sky…

On Michaelmas

How can immortal pierce immortal through? This query wracked blind Milton; though he tried To write angelic combat, it was moot, For any wound would seal, all stakes denied. What was it then, that gave your blade the whet To cross and cleave and cast to earth beneath That seven-headed drake? And with what threat…

A Prayer from Babel

Set forth thy true and lively word, O Lord, Amidst this false and deadly earthen tongue With which we are surrounded. For a horde Of men with senseless syllables comes among Us, trampling down thy truth, to build a tower From which they think to wield confusion’s power. Send out thy tuneful sound to earth…

Prayer for a Prayer by a Nonbeliever

I saw a fellow praying by a sandwiched city church, his eyes screwed up and swaying on that sort-of parrot perch. A comic picture, nearly, he presented to me. Still he kept mouthing on sincerely, letting words in silence spill. Through the smelly candlesmoke I watched him, earnest, there, and, reaching deep for habit, spoke…

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