“The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens

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One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

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Father’s Christmas

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Your father died on Christmas Day.
When you heard the news
you walked out
into the snow
stepping in footprints
his boots had made
the day before,
finding a glove
he had dropped
on his way to the barn.

Too young to attend
the funeral
defying adult judgment
you sprawled in the hayloft,
chin resting on mittened hands,
watching the coffin being hoisted
from hearse to shoulders
in front of the Congregational church
next door.

The next fall
claiming you needed
male guidance
your mother sent you
away from home –
away from grandmother’s
warm homemade doughnuts and
the quiet ticking of the hall clock —
to military school.

What did you learn?
March in straight lines
Be on guard.
Sleep with one shoe under your pillow
to fend off dark midnight advances.

When you graduated in ’46 you enlisted.
Too late to fight, you
Shipped out in December
on a troop ship to Japan
to join the Army of Occupation.
At sea, loudspeakers blared
Bing Crosby crooning
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, 1994

From “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

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Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
For some they come in with the tide.
For others they sail forever on the horizon,
never out of sight,
never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away
in resignation,
his dreams mocked to death by Time.
That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things
they don’t want to remember,
and remember everything they don’t want to forget.
The dream is the truth. Image

“The Beautiful Changes” By Richard Wilbur

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One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.

Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

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Quote

Here is what yo…

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Here is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem…

From the preface to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, 1855

170px-Walt_Whitman,_steel_engraving,_July_1854

Spooky Town

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Not spooky, and not a town,
but a child’s link to
ghosts of her home,
you tell me more
than the asphalt
and split-levels
know
about the ground they cover.

Walk across the Grays’ backyard to where
the lawn ends and
the woods begin,
scramble up a rooty hill, through
hip-high grass,
past ditches filled with rainwater
to an ancient tree.
Climb it. Perch on one
thick gnarled branch,
feel the presence of history:

An apple orchard,
a farm,
a family whose daughter
abducted by an Indian tribe
returned years later
to live with her husband
in a wigwam
behind the family home.
She would not enter the house.

Some ghosts will not be buried.

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