Poem for a Thursday: Toni Morrison

As Toni Morrison passed away recently, it seemed appropriate to share one of her poems. This one is “Eve Remembering”, and the poem is available on Poets.org.

1

Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.

2

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.

3

I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.

Poem for a Thursday: William Barnes

Today seemed to be unintentionally bird-themed. On my morning cycle to work I said hello to them as I went past, even singing Blackbirdsinging in the dead of night as I went. Then the morning radio program I listen to had a bird-themed feature. And then during our morning meeting I spotted Poems For Birds on the shelf, so how could I resist picking a poem from it?

William Barnes was an English Victorian poet from Dorset. As you can see, he wrote in dialect. This is challenging to read, but I love that it reflects his passion for language. The Blackbird sums up my experience of spring in England and I hope you will like it too. There’s also a Youtube recording of this poem if you’re interested in hearing the dialect. It is a very thick West Country accent, and though Dorset is further south than I am here in Gloucestershire, the accent around here is quite similar.

The Blackbird by William Barnes

O V all the birds upon the wing
Between the zunny showers o’ spring,—
Vor all the lark, a-swingèn high,
Mid zing below a cloudless sky,
An’ sparrows, clust’rèn roun’ the bough,
Mid chatter to the men at plough,—
The blackbird, whisslèn in among
The boughs, do zing the gayest zong.

Vor we do hear the blackbird zing
His sweetest ditties in the spring,
When nippèn win’s noo mwore do blow
Vrom northern skies, wi’ sleet or snow,
But dreve light doust along between
The leäne-zide hedges, thick an’ green;
An’ zoo the blackbird in among
The boughs do zing the gaÿest zong.

‘Tis blithe, wi’ newly-opened eyes,
To zee the mornèn’s ruddy skies;
Or, out a-haulèn frith or lops
Vrom new-pleshed hedge or new-velled copse,
To rest at noon in primrwose beds
Below the white-barked woak-trees’ heads;
But there’s noo time, the whole däy long,
Lik’ evenèn wi’ the blackbird’s zong.

Vor when my work is all a-done
Avore the zettèn o’ the zun,
Then blushèn Jeäne do walk along
The hedge to meet me in the drong,
An’ stay till all is dim an’ dark
Bezides the ashen tree’s white bark;
An’ all bezides the blackbird’s shrill
An’ runnèn evenèn-whissle’s still.

An’ there in bwoyhood I did rove
Wi’ pryèn eyes along the drove
To vind the nest the blackbird meäde
O’ grass-stalks in the high bough’s sheäde;
Or climb aloft, wi’ clingèn knees,
Vor crows’ aggs up in swaÿèn trees,
While frightened blackbirds down below
Did chatter o’ their little foe.
An’ zoo there’s noo pleäce lik’ the drong,
Where I do hear the blackbird’s zong.

Poem for a Thursday

Shamelessly stolen from Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness. I hope you don’t mind! As I am grieving a close relative at the moment, I have turned to the wonderful Mary Oliver, who always provides comfort and grace. I chose this poem because I saw these lovely swans on the way to the funeral. And while it isn’t necessarily about death, somehow it rings apt. I hope you like it, too.

The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating–a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers–
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn’t exist
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband’s company–
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings
touch the shore?

– Mary Oliver