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Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the rope of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch's crown;
A dowel into which I've screwed a hook
Enables me to reach,lift,drape,and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree's elegant design.
Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims,Christians,Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.
Some say that L.A. doesn't suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUV's.
And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green,yellow,blue,and red.
Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It's comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing's lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.
Toward The Winter Solstice
Timothy Steele

Chant we the story now
Tho' in a house we sleep;
Tho' by a heart of coals
Vigil to-night we keep.
Chant we the story now,
Of the vague love we knew
When I from out the sea
Rose to the feet of you.
Bird from the cliffs you came,
Flew thro' the snow to me,
Facing the icy blast
There by the icy sea.
How did I reach your feet?
Why should I !,at the end
Hold out half-frozen hands
Dumbly to you my friend?
Neer had I woman seen,
Ne'er had I seen a flame.
There you piled fagots on,
Heat rose ? the blast to tame.
There by the cave-door dark,
Comforting me you cried
Wailed o'er my wounded knee,
Wept for my rock-torn side.
Up from the South, I trailed?
Left regions fierce and fair!
Left all the jungle trees,
Left the red tiger's lair.
Dream led, I scarce knew why,
Into your North, I trod?
Ne'er had I known the snow,
Or the frost-blasted sod.
O how the flakes came down!
O how the fire burned high!
Strange thing to see he was,
Thro' his dry twigs would fly,
Creep there awhile and sleep?
Then wake and bark for a fight ?
Biting if I too near
Came to his eye so bright.
Then with a will you fed
Wood to his hungry tongue.
Then he did leap and sing
Dancing the clouds among,
Turning the night to noon,
Stinging my eyes with light,
Making the snow retreat,
Making the cave-house bright.
There were dry fagots piled,
Nuts and dry leaves and roots,
Stores there of furs and hides,
Sweet-barks and grains and fruits.
There wrapped in fur we lay,
Half-burned, half-frozen still
Ne'er will my soul forget
All the night's bitter chill.
We had not learned to speak,
I was to you a strange
Wolfling or wounded fawn,
Lost from his forest-range.
Thirsting for bloody meat,
Out at the dawn, we went.
Weighed with our prey at eve,
Home-came we all forespent.
Comrades and hunters tried
Ere we were maid and man
Not till the spring awoke
Laughter and speech began.
Whining like forest dogs,
Rustling like budding trees,
Bubbling like thawing springs,
Humming like little bees,
Crooning like Maytime tides,
Chattering parrot words,
Crying the panther's cry,
Chirping like mating birds
Thus, thus, we learned to speak,
Who mid the snows were dumb,
Nor did we learn to kiss
Until the Spring had come.
Eden In Winter
Vachel Lindsay

LIKE the vulture
Who on heavy morning clouds
With gentle wing reposing
Looks for his prey,--
Hover, my song!
For a God hath
Unto each prescribed
His destined path,
Which the happy one
Runs o'er swiftly
To his glad goal:
He whose heart cruel
Fate hath contracted,
Struggles but vainly
Against all the barriers
The brazen thread raises,
But which the harsh shears
Must one day sever.
Through gloomy thickets
Presseth the wild deer on,
And with the sparrows
Long have the wealthy
Settled them in the marsh.
Easy 'this following the chariot
That by Fortune is driven,
Like the baggage that moves
Over well-mended highways
After the train of a prince.
But who stands there apart?
In the thicket, lost is his path;
Behind him the bushes
Are closing together,
The grass springs up again,
The desert engulphs him.
Ah, who'll heal his afflictions,
To whom balsam was poison,
Who, from love's fullness,
Drank in misanthropy only
First despised, and now a despised,
He, in secret, wasteth
All that he is worth,
In a selfishness vain.
If there be, on thy psaltery,
Father of Love, but one tone
That to his ear may be pleasing,
Oh, then, quicken his heart!
Clear his cloud-enveloped eyes
Over the thousand fountains
Close by the thirsty one
In the desert.
Thou who created much joy,
For each a measure overflowing,
Bless the sons of the chase
When on the track of the prey,
With a wild thirsting for blood,
Youthful and joyous
Avenging late the injustice
Which the peasant resisted
Vainly for years with his staff.
But the lonely one veil
Within thy gold clouds!
Surround with winter-green,
Until the roses bloom again,
The humid locks,
Oh, Love, of thy minstrel!
With thy glimmering torch
Lightest thou him
Through the fords when 'this night,
Over bottomless places
On desert-like plains;
With the thousand colors of morning
Gladness his bosom;
With the fierce-biting storm
Bearest him proudly on high;
Winter torrents rush from the cliffs,--
Blend with his psalms;
An altar of grateful delight
He finds in the much-dreaded mountain's
Snow-begirded summit,
Which foreboding nations
Crown'd with spirit-dances.
Thou stand'st with breast inscrutable,
Mysteriously disclosed,
High o'er the wondering world,
And look'st from clouds
Upon its realms and its majesty,
Which thou from the veins of thy brethren
Near thee dost water.
Winter Journey Over The Hartz Mountain
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

from an officer's diary during the last war
The sour daylight cracks through my sleep-caked lids.
"Stephan! Stephan!" The rattling orderly
Comes on a trot, the cold tray in his hands:
Toast whitening with oleo, brown tea,
Yesterday's napkins, and an opened letter.
"Your asthma's bad, old man." He doesn't answer,
And turns to the gray windows and the weather.
"Don't worry, Stephan, the lungs will go to cancer."
II
I speak, "the enemy's exhausted, victory
Is almost ours..." These twenty new recruits,
Conscripted for the battles lost already,
Where once the young, exchanging bitter winds,
And shuffling when I rose to eloquence,
Determined not to die and not to show
The fear that held them in their careless stance,
And yet they died, how many wars ago?
Or came back cream puffs, 45, and fat.
I know that I am touched for my eyes brim
With tears, I had forgotten. Death is not
For these car salesmen whose only dream
Is of a small percentage of the take.
Oh my eternal smilers, weep for death
Whose harvest withers with your aged aches
And cannot make the grave for lack of breath.
III
Did you wet? Oh no, he had not wet.
How could he say it, it was hard to say
Because he did not understand it yet.
It had to do, maybe, with being away,
With being here where nothing seemed to matter.
It will be better, you will see tomorrow,
I told him, in a while, it will be better,
And all the while staring from the mirror
I saw those eyes, my eyes devouring me.
I cannot fire my rifle, I'm afraid
Even to aim at what I cannot see.
This was his voice, or was it mine I heard?
How do I know that in this foul latrine
Did I calm a soldier, infantile, manic
Could he be real with such eyes pinched between
The immense floating shoulders of his tunic
IV
Around the table where the map is spread
The officers gather. Now the colonel leans
Into the blinkered light from overhead
And with a penknife improvises plans
For our departure. Plans delivered by
An old staff courier on his bicycle.
One looks at him and wonders does he say,
I lean out and I let my shadow fall
Shouldering the picture that we call the world
And there is darkness? Does he say such things?
Or is there merely silence in his head
Or other voices which the silence rings
Such a fine skull and forehead, broad and flat,
The eyes opaque and slightly animal.
I can come closer to a starving cat,
I can read hunger in its eyes and feel
In the irregular motions of its tail
A need that I could feel. He slips his knife
Into the terminal where we entrain
And something seems to issue from my life.
V
In the mice-sawed potato fields, dusk waits.
My dull one's march by fours on the playground,
Kicking up dust; The column hesitates
As though in answer to the rising wind,
To darkness and the coldness, it must enter.
Listen, my heroes, my half frozen men,
The corporal calls us to that distant winter
Where we will merge the nothingness within.
And they salute as one and stand at peace.
Keeping an arm's distance from everything,
I answer them, knowing they see no face
Between my helmet and my helmet thong.
VI
But three more days and we'll be moving out.
The cupboard of the state is bare, no one,
Not God himself can raise another recruit.
Drinking my hot tea, listening to the rain,
I sit while Stephan packs, grumbling a bit.
He breaks the china that my mother sent,
Her own first china, as a wedding gift.
"Now that your wife is dead, Captain, why can't
The two of us really make love together
I cannot answer. When I lift a plate
It seems I almost hear my long-dead mother
Saying, Watch out, the glass is underfoot.
Stephan is touching me. "Captain, why not?
Three days from now and this will all be gone.
It no longer is!" Son, you don't shout,
In the long run, it doesn't help the pain.
I gather the brittle bits and cut my finger
On the chipped rim of my wife's favorite glass,
And cannot make the simple bleeding linger.
"Captain, Captain, there's no one watching us."
The Distant Winter
Philip Levine

Three months bade wane and wax the wintering moon
Between two dates of death, while men were fain
Yet of the living light that all too soon
Three months bade wane.
Cold autumn, wan with wrath of wind and rain,
Saw pass a soul sweet as the sovereign tune
That death smote silent when he smote again.
First went my friend, in life's mid light of noon,
Who loved the lord of music: then the strain
Whence earth was kindled like as heaven in June
Three months bade wane.
A herald soul before its master's flying
Touched by some few moons first the darkling goal
Where shades rose up to greet the shade, espying
A herald soul;
Shades of dead lords of music, who control
Men living by the might of men undying,
With strength of strains that make delight of dole.
The deep dense dust on death's dim threshold lying
Trembled with sense of kindling sound that stole
Through darkness, and the night gave ear, descrying
A herald soul.
One went before, one after, but so fast
They seem gone hence together, from the shore
Whence we now gaze: yet ere the mightier passed
One went before;
One whose whole heart of love, being set of yore
On that high joy which music lends us, cast
Light round him forth of music's radiant store.
Then went, while earth on winter glared aghast,
The mortal god he worshipped, through the door
Wherethrough so late, his lover to the last,
One went before.
A star had set an hour before the sun
Sank from the skies wherethrough his heart's pulse yet
Thrills audibly: but few took heed, or none,
A star had set.
All heaven rings back, sonorous with regret,
The deep dirge of the sunset: how should one
Soft star be missed in all the concourse met?
But, O sweet single heart whose work is done,
Whose songs are silent, how should I forget
That ere the sunset's fiery goal was won
A star had set?
Autumn And Winter
Algernon Charles Swinburne

 
 
 

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