If we were to learn to hear Dante, we should hear the ripening of the clarinet and the trombone, we should hear the viola transformed into the violin and the lengthening of the valve of the French horn. And we should see forming around the lute and the theorbo the hazy nucleus of the homophonic three-part orchestra of the future.
– Osip Mandelstam
Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierc’d the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate tree.
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 5
by Jack Ridl
A few words from Genesis, some
Duke Ellington, just the middle of the week.
Out in the yard, the anonymous robin; in
the neighbor’s garden, a spray of poppies.
The configuration of nests: why mud, leaves,
string; why paper, sticks; why stones?
The lonely smell of a wet dog, the
way water stays in the world.
Your tongue, holding to the apple, tomato,
pear, letting go without your say
Across the street, the oat grass turning yellow.
Faure’s Second Piano Quartet
by James Schuyler
On a day like this the rain comes
down in fat and random drops among
the ailanthus leaves—“the tree
of Heaven”—the leaves that on moon-
lit nights shimmer black and blade-
shaped at this third-floor window.
And there are bunches of small green
knobs, buds, crowded together. The
rapid music fills in the spaces of
the leaves. And the piano comes in,
like an extra heartbeat, dangerous
and lovely. Slower now, less like
the leaves, more like the rain which
almost isn’t rain, more like thawed-
out hail. All this beauty in the
mess of this small apartment on
West 20th in Chelsea, New York.
Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,
more slowly still, fat rain falls.
(to the panthers)
i became a woman
during the old prayers
among the ones who wore
bleaching cream to bed
and all my lessons stayed
i was obedient
but brothers I thank you
for these mannish days
i remember again the wise one
old and telling of suicides
refusing to be slaves
i had forgotten and
brothers I thank you
i praise you
i grieve my whiteful ways
– The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010, edited by Kevin Young and Michael S.Glaser
Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
Or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.