I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.
Lift not the painted veil which those who live Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there, And it but mimic all we would believe With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear. I knew one who had lifted it—he sought, For his lost heart was tender, things to love But found them not, alas! nor was there aught The world contains, the which he could approve. Through the unheeding many he did move, A splendour among shadows, a bright blot Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove For truth, and like the Preacher found it not
A Question by Shelley
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Then what is life?” I cried. From his rent deeps Of soul the poet cast that burning word; And it should seem as though his prayer was heard, For he died soon; and now his rest he keeps Somewhere with the great spirit who never sleeps! He had left us to murmur on awhile And question still most fruitlessly this pile Of natural shows, What life is? Why man weeps? Why sins?–and whither when the awful veil Floats on to him he sinks from earthly sight? Some are, who never grow a whit more pale For thinking on the general mystery, Ground of all being; yet may I rather be Of those who know and feel that it is night.
Love is the conversation between possible, searing disappointment and a profoundly imagined sense of arrival and fulfillment; how we shape that conversation is the touchstone of our ability to love in the real inhabited world.
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
by John Donne
As virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; ‘Twere profanation of our joys To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears, Men reckon what it did, and meant; But trepidation of the spheres, Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit Absence, because it doth remove Those things which elemented it.
The Well of Grief
by David Whyte
Those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief, turning down through its black water to the place we cannot breathe, will never know the source from which we drink, the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering, the small round coins, thrown by those who wished for something else.
A hard year and trouble brewing everywhere, Insurance companies and banks sliding headfirst Toward oblivion at 50 cents a share And heading south. The bubble has burst and our mortgaged castle in the air Will likely crash and burn, but don’t despair, Though probably our pension fund is cursed. For still we have this lovely love affair In which we are so steadily immersed And if we must go on welfare and wear Used clothes and live on angel hair and liverwurst, Still I’ll smile whenever I see you there, Bathing in the creek behind our shack, I’ll love you still and hope you love me back.
by Garrison Keillor
Here by the enormous swimming pool at the Biltmore Twenty-six young dark-skinned women lie In tiny bikinis like mermaids on the shore, And I, bound for Ithaca, just sail on by, Heading for you, Penelope, to tell the tale, How that whole Trojan War gave me the willies, The pointlessness of it, and I set sail, Having paid off Homer and left Achilles In his tent, and was lucky to get a favorable wind And stopped here at the Biltmore to recompute My course, and found twenty-six dark skinned Women, their breasts displayed like fresh fruit . Thanks but no thanks. They only want a tan. . You, dear, love a good story. I’m your man.
She used to let her golden hair fly free. For the wind to toy and tangle and molest; Her eyes were brighter than the radiant west. (Seldom they shine so now.) I used to see Pity look out of those deep eyes on me. (“It was false pity,” you would now protest.) I had love’s tinder heaped within my breast; What wonder that the flame burnt furiously?
She did not walk in any mortal way, But with angelic progress; when she spoke, Unearthly voices sang in unison.
She seemed divine among the dreary folk Of earth. You say she is not so today? Well, though the bow’s unbent, the wound bleeds on.
by Petrarch Translated by Anthony Mortimer
Upon the breeze she spread her golden hair that in a thousand gentle knots was turned, and the sweet light beyond all measure burned in eyes where now that radiance is rare; and in her face there seemed to come an air of pity, true or false, that I discerned: I had love’s tinder in my breast unburned, was it a wonder if it kindled there?
She moved not like a mortal, but as though she bore an angel’s form, her words had then a sound that simple human voices lack; a heavenly spirit, a living sun was what I saw; now, if it is not so, the wound’s not healed because the bow grows slack.
We have to dare to be ourselves, no matter how frightening or strange that self may prove to be.
Poem in Autumn
by May Sarton
Now over everything the autumn light is thrown And every line is sharp ad every leaf is clear, Now without density or weight the airy sun Sits in the flaming boughs, an innocent fire That shines but does not burn nor wither. The leaves, light-penetrated, change their essence, Take on the gold transparence of the weather, Are touched by death, then by light’s holy presence.
So we, first touched by death, were changed in essence, As if grief grew transparent and turned to airy gold And we were given days of special radiance, Light-brimmed, light-shaken, and with love so filled It seemed the heartbeat of the world was in our blood, And when we stood together, love was everywhere, And no exchange was needed, if exchange we could The blessedness of sunlight poised on air.
by May Sarton
If I can let you go as trees let go Their leaves, so casually, one by one; If I can come to know what they do know, That fall is the release, the consummation, Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit Would not distemper the great lucid skies This strangest autumn, mellow and acute. If I can take the dark with open eyes And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange (For love itself may need a time of sleep), And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change, Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep, The strong root still alive under the snow, Love will endure – if I can let you go
Thus I alone, where all my freedom grew, In prison pine with bondage and restraint; And with remembrance of the greater grief, To banish the less, I find my chief relief.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Sonnet 8 [Set me where as the sun doth parch the green]
By Henry Howard
Set me where as the sun doth parch the green, Or where his beams do not dissolve the ice; In temperate heat where he is felt and seen; With proud people, in presence sad and wise; Set me in base, or yet in high degree, In the long night, or in the shortest day, In clear weather, or where mists thickest be, In lost youth, or when my hairs be grey; Set me in earth, in heaven, or yet in hell, In hill, in dale, or in the foaming flood; Thrall, or at large, alive where so I dwell, Sick, or in health, in ill fame or good: Yours will I be, and with that only thought Comfort myself when that my hope is nought.
Summer, you old Indian summer. You’re the tear that comes after June-times laughter. You see so many dreams that don’t come true. Dreams we fashioned when summertime was new.
Among The Orchards
by Archibald Lampman
Already in the dew-wrapped vineyards dry Dense weights of heat press down. The large bright drops Shrink in the leaves. From dark acacia tops The nuthatch flings his short reiterate cry; And ever as the sun mounts hot and high Thin voices crowd the grass. In soft long strokes The wind goes murmuring through the mountain oaks. Faint wefts creep out along the blue and die. I hear far in among the motionless trees– Shadows that sleep upon the shaven sod– The thud of dropping apples. Reach on reach Stretch plots of perfumed orchard, where the bees Murmur among the full-fringed golden-rod, Or cling half-drunken to the rotting peach.
by Archibald Lampman
The old grey year is near his term in sooth, And now with backward eye and soft-laid palm Awakens to a golden dream of youth, A second childhood lovely and most calm, And the smooth hour about his misty head An awning of enchanted splendour weaves, Of maples, amber, purple and rose-red, And droop-limbed elms down-dropping golden leaves. With still half-fallen lids he sits and dreams Far in a hollow of the sunlit wood, Lulled by the murmur of thin-threading streams, Nor sees the polar armies overflood The darkening barriers of the hills, nor hears The north-wind ringing with a thousand spears.
Words are like the spiders web: a shelter for the clever ones and a trap for the not so clever.
by John Whitworth (1945-2019)
The solution to pollution is not eating spiders’: Newspaper headline
The solution to pollution is to stop ingesting spiders, Just say no to the arachnida that copulate inside us, How they pullulate and ovulate, the octopod articulate, Auriculate, testiculate and oft times unguiculate, The narrative of nightmare and the stuff of holy terror, They’re the creatures that convince you all your life has been an error. So you’re sicker than a parrot and you wish that you were dead? Just you wait till they migrate and drill themselves into your head. Creepy-crawly, creepy-crawly with a subtle sideways motion, Some detestable detritus from the bottom of the ocean, Something feral, fanged and furry with a flush of nasty habits, Now they’re ferreting like ferrets, now they’re rabbitting like rabbits, Now they’re occupying occiputs and populating dreams… Eating spiders isn’t nearly as attractive as it seems.
The Spider to The Fly
by Mary Howitt
“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly; “’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy. The way into my parlor is up a winding stair, And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.” “O no, no,” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain, For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high; Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the spider to the fly. “There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin, And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in.” “O no, no,” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said, They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed.”
Said the cunning spider to the fly, “Dear friend, what shall I do, To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you? I have within my pantry good store of all that’s nice; I’m sure you’re very welcome; will you please to take a slice?” “O no, no,” said the little fly, “kind sir, that cannot be; I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see.”
“Sweet creature!” said the spider, “You’re witty and you’re wise! How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes! I have a little looking-glass upon my parlor shelf, If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.” “I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say, And bidding you good-morning now, I’ll call another day.”
The spider turned him round about, and went into his den, For well he knew the silly fly would soon be back again: So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly, And set his table ready to dine upon the fly. Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing “Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing: Your robes are green and purple; there’s a crest upon your head; Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.”
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly, Hearing his wily flattering words, came slowly flitting by. With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue; Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing! At last, Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast. He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den, Within his little parlor; but she ne’er came out again!
And now, dear little children, who may this story read, To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed; Unto an evil counselor close heart, and ear, and eye, And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.