With One Firm Thrust

With one firm thrust to force the boat of living
From off the sands, and, by a wave tossed high,
Be toward a new life borne, a new beginning,
To feel the wind from scented shores sweep nigh,

To wake from torpid sleep a mind turned sluggish,
To revel in the strange and the unknown,
To lend fresh breath to life, and joy to anguish,
To make another's cares and griefs your own,

To speak of things it numbs the tongue to utter,
To fire the timid heart that fierce 'tmay pound -


Winter Uplands

The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,


Winter Sleep

When against earth a wooden heel
Clicks as loud as stone on steel,
When stone turns flour instead of flakes,
And frost bakes clay as fire bakes,
When the hard-bitten fields at last
Crack like iron flawed in the cast,
When the world is wicked and cross and old,
I long to be quit of the cruel cold.

Little birds like bubbles of glass
Fly to other Americas,
Birds as bright as sparkles of wine
Fly in the nite to the Argentine,
Birds of azure and flame-birds go
To the tropical Gulf of Mexico:


Winter Remembered

Two evils, monstrous either one apart,
Possessed me, and were long and loath at going:
A cry of Absence, Absence, in the heart,
And in the wood the furious winter blowing.

Think not, when fire was bright upon my bricks,
And past the tight boards hardly a wind could enter,
I glowed like them, the simple burning sticks,
Far from my cause, my proper heat and center.

Better to walk forth in the frozen air
And wash my wound in the snows; that would be healing;
Because my heart would throb less painful there,


White Christmas

My folks think I'm a serving maid
Each time I visit home;
They do not dream I ply a trade
As old as Greece or Rome;
For if they found I'd fouled their name
And was not white as snow,
I'm sure that they would die of shame . . .
Please, God, they'll never know.

I clean the paint from off my face,
In sober black I dress;
Of coquetry I leave no trace
To give them vague distress;
And though it causes me a pang
To play such sorry tricks,
About my neck I meekly hang
A silver crufix.


While The Bannock Bakes

Light up your pipe again, old chum, and sit awhile with me;
I've got to watch the bannock bake -- how restful is the air!
You'd little think that we were somewhere north of Sixty-three,
Though where I don't exactly know, and don't precisely care.
The man-size mountains palisade us round on every side;
The river is a-flop with fish, and ripples silver-clear;
The midnight sunshine brims yon cleft -- we think it's the Divide;
We'll get there in a month, maybe, or maybe in a year.


Wherefore

Wherefore in dreams are sorrows born anew,
A healed wound opened, or the past revived?
Last night in my deep sleep I dreamed of you –
Again the old love woke in me, and thrived
On looks of fire, and kisses, and sweet words
Like silver waters purling in a stream,
Or like the amorous melodies of birds:
A dream – a dream.

Again upon the glory of the scene
There settled that dread shadow of the cross
That, when hearts love too well, falls in between –
That warns them of impending woe and loss.


Where She Told Her Love

I saw her crop a rose
Right early in the day,
And I went to kiss the place
Where she broke the rose away
And I saw the patten rings
Where she o'er the stile had gone,
And I love all other things
Her bright eyes look upon.
If she looks upon the hedge or up the leafing tree,
The whitethorn or the brown oak are made dearer things to me.

I have a pleasant hill
Which I sit upon for hours,
Where she cropt some sprigs of thyme
And other little flowers;
And she muttered as she did it


Wilfred

What of these tender feet
   That have never toddled yet?
   What dances shall they beat,
   With what red vintage wet?
In what wild way will they march or stray, by what sly paynims met?

   The toil of it none may share;
   By yourself must the way be won
   Through fervid or frozen air
   Till the overland journey's done;
And I would not take, for your own dear sake, one thorn from your track,
   my son.

   Go forth to your hill and dale,
   Yet take in your hand from me


Why We Tell Stories

For Linda Foster


I
Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery


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