You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
— Margaret Atwood
Black in the fog and in the snow,
Where the great air-hole windows glow,
With rounded rumps,
Upon their knees five urchins squat,
Looking down where the baker, hot,
The thick dough thumps.
They watch his white arm turn the bread,
Ere through an opening flaming red
The loaf he flings.
They hear the good bread baking, while
The chubby baker with a smile
An old tune sings.
Breathing the warmth into their soul,
They squat around the red air-hole,
As a breast warm.
And when, for feasters’ midnight bout,
The ready bread is taken out,
In a cake’s form;
And while beneath the blackened beams,
Sings every crust of golden gleams,
While the cricket brags,
The hole breathes warmth into the night,
And into them life and delight,
Under their rags,
And the urchins covered with hoar-frost,
On billows of enchantment tossed
Their little souls,
Glue to the grate their little rosy
Noses, singing through the cosy
But with low voices like a prayer,
Bending down to the light down there,
Where heaven gleams.
—So eager that they burst their breeches,
And in the winter wind that screeches
Their linen streams.
– “Waifs and Strays,” Arthur Rimbaud (1912)
I am afraid to own a Body—
I am afraid to own a Soul—
Possession, not optional—
Double Estate—entailed at pleasure
Upon an unsuspecting Heir—
Duke in a moment of Deathlessness
And God, for a Frontier.
– Emily Dickinson
I love incorrectly.
There is a solemnity in hands,
the way a palm will curve in
accordance to a contour of skin,
the way it will release a story.
This should be the pilgrimage.
The touching of a source.
This is what sanctifies.
This pleading. This mercy.
I want to be a pilgrim to everyone,
close to the inaccuracies, the astringent
dislikes, the wayward peace, the private
words. I want to be close to the telling.
I want to feel everyone whisper.
After the blossoming I hang.
The encyclical that has come
through the branches
instructs us to root, to become
the design encapsulated within.
Flesh helping stone turn tree.
I do not want to hold life
at my extremities, see it prepare
itself for my own perpetuation.
I want to touch and be touched
by things similar in this world.
I want to know a few secular days
of perfection. Late in this one great season
the diffused morning light
hides the horizon of sea. Everything
the color of slate, a soft tablet
to press a philosophy to.
– “Confessions of an Apricot”, Carl Adamshick (2011)
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1515)
In the end we are no more than our own stories:
mine a few brief passages in the Book,
no further trace of plot or dialogue.
But I once had a lover no one noticed
as he slipped through the pages, through
the lists of those begotten and begetting.
Does he remember our faltering younger selves,
the pleasures we took while Adam,
a good bureaucrat, busied himself
with naming things, even after Eden?
What scraps will our children remember of us
to whom our story is simple
and they themselves the heroes of it?
I woke that first day with Adam for company,
and the tangled path I would soon follow
I’ve tried to forget: the animals, stunned
at first in the forest; the terrible, beating wings
of the angel; the livid curse of childbirth to come.
And then the children themselves,
loving at times, at times unmerciful.
Because of me there is just one narrative
for everyone, one indelible line from birth to death,
with pain or lust, with even love or murder
only brief diversions, subplots.
But what I think of now,
in the final bitterness of age,
is the way the garden groomed itself
in the succulent air of summer—each flower
the essence of its own color; the way even
the serpent knew it had a part it had to play, if
there were to be a story at all.
– “Eve on Her Deathbed”, Linda Pastan (2010)
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 - "maggie and milly and molly and may" by E. E. Cummings (1956)
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
Jack Gilbert, Failing and Flying
Diego Rivera, Nude with Calla Lilies, 1944
I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment, crying hard,
searching for my wife’s hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,
and off the clothes in the closet.
But after other Japanese women came,
there was no way to be sure which were
hers, and I stopped. A year later,
repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find
a long black hair tangled in the dirt.
– Jack Gilbert, Married
Leonardo Da Vinci, Study of Horses, circa 1490
It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth made me
a snatch of grass in the thing’s maw,
a fly tasting its ear. It was
touching my nose to his made me know
the clover’s bloom, my wet eye to his
made me know the long field’s secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse’s that made me know
the sorrow of horses. The sorrow
of a brook creasing a field. The maggot
turning in its corpse. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in this way drop my torches.
And in this way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.
– Ross Gay, Becoming a Horse
Francis Bacon, Seated Figure (Red Cardinal), 1960
It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver seaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat — and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.
Sharon Olds, The Pope’s Penis