Meteors To Streak The August Sky

Julia Kasdorf

Nothing but blackness above And nothing that moves but the cars…. God, if you wish for our love, Fling us a handful of stars!

Louis Untermeyer

 

Landscape with Desire

by Julia Kasdorf​

Next month maples along this lake will rage
orange and scarlet. Firs we barely discern
on that far shore will state their dark shapes,
so we are torn between taking it all in
from the porch and taking a swim. At night
we pull on sweatshirts, lie down on the dock,
heads nestled in life preservers, and wait
for meteors to streak the August sky
like runs in the blackest stocking against
the whitest thigh. With each plummeting light,
our voices rise like love cries, more urgent
and louder than any solitary loon or coyote
calling to its mate. Only we conflate
longing and loss like this; only we wait


 

Infidelity

By Louis Untermeyer 
 
You have not conquered me—it is the surge
Of love itself that beats against my will;
It is the sting of conflict, the old urge
That calls me still.
 
It is not you I love—it is the form
And shadow of all lovers who have died
That gives you all the freshness of a warm
And unfamiliar bride.
 
It is your name I breathe, your hands I seek;
It will be you when you are gone.
And yet the dream, the name I never speak,
Is that that lures me on.
 
It is the golden summons, the bright wave
Of banners calling me anew;
It is all beauty, perilous and grave—
It is not you.

The Bookman Comes

Jack The Giant Killer

How frail the bloom, how short the stay

That terminates us all!

Today we flourish green and gay,

Like leaves tomorrow fall.”

John Clare

To John Clare 

By John Clare (1793 – 1864)

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes—
The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer’s high renown.
 

Prayer 

by Louis Untermeyer

God, though this life is but a wraith,
Although we know not what we use,
Although we grope with little faith,
Give me the heart to fight—and lose.

Ever insurgent let me be,
Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free.
And fill me with a buoyant doubt.

Open my eyes to visions girt
With beauty, and with wonder lit—
But let me always see the dirt,
And all that spawn and die in it.

Open my ears to music; let
Me thrill with Spring’s first flutes and drums—
But never let me dare forget
The bitter ballads of the slums.

From compromise and things half-done,
Keep me, with stern and stubborn pride;
And when, at last, the fight is won
God, keep me still unsatisfied.

All The Trembling World

Louis Untermeyer (1885 – 1977)

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout;

And, though these shelt’ring walls are thin,

May they be strong to keep hate out

And hold love in.

Louis Untermeyer

 Feuerzauber

by Louis Untermeyer

I never knew the earth had so much gold—
The fields run over with it, and this hill
Hoary and old,
Is young with buoyant blooms that flame and thrill.

Such golden fires, such yellow—lo, how good
This spendthrift world, and what a lavish God—
This fringe of wood,
Blazing with buttercup and goldenrod.

You too, beloved, are changed. Again I see
Your face grow mystical, as on that night
You turned to me,
And all the trembling world—and you—were white.

Aye, you are touched; your singing lips grow dumb;
The fields absorb you, color you entire….
And you become
A goddess standing in a world of fire!


Faith

by Louis Untermeyer

What are we bound for? What’s the yield
Of all this energy and waste?
Why do we spend ourselves and build
With such an empty haste?

Wherefore the bravery we boast?
How can we spend one laughing breath
When at the end all things are lost
In ignorance and death? . . .

The stars have found a blazing course
In a vast curve that cuts through space;
Enough for us to feel that force
Swinging us through the days.

Enough that we have strength to sing
And fight and somehow scorn the grave;
That Life’s too bold and bright a thing
To question or to save.

Fruitful Crops In Every Field

Harvesting wheat by hand.

“Poetry is a sort of truancy, a dream within the dream of life, a wild flower planted among our wheat.”

— Michael Joseph Oakeshott

Portrait of a Machine

by Louis Untermeyer

What nudity as beautiful as this
Obedient monster purring at its toil;
These naked iron muscles dripping oil
And the sure-fingered rods that never miss.
This long and shining flank of metal is
Magic that greasy labour cannot spoil;
While this vast engine that could rend the soil
Conceals its fury with a gentle hiss.
It does not vent its loathing, it does not turn
Upon its makers with destroying hate.
It bears a deeper malice; lives to earn
It’s masters bread and laughs to see this great
Lord of the earth, who rules but cannot learn,
Become the slave of what his slaves create.


One hundred years ago it took 40 hours of labor from planting to harvest with the best horse drawn equipment at the time to raise 100 bushels of corn.   Today it takes around 2 hours.  We have 20X increased productivity and with it 20X increased the cost of production and reduced 20X the workforce needed to produce it.  The reason we’ll never go back is no one would want to work that hard ever again for so little wages.  We have grown comfortable in the marvels that the internal combustion engine and fossil fuels have created and there is no bridge back to a pastoral rural economy.  But as these poems both remind us, there is a cost to our efficiency that goes beyond finances.   There is a human cost in our souls being tethered to the very machines that have transformed lives. 

 


Agricultural Implements and Machinery

by James Mcyintre (1828- 1906)

Poor laborers, they did sad bewail,
When the machine displaced the flail ;
There’s little work, now, with the hoes,
Since cultivators weed the rows.

Labor it became more fickle
When the scythe took place of sickle ;
Labor still it did sink lower
By introduction of mower ;

And the work was done much cheaper
When they added on the reaper.
Another machine to it they join,
Mower, reaper, binder, they combine.

Machines now load and stow away
Both the barley and the hay,
And the farmers do get richer
With the loader and the pitcher.

There’s little work now for the hoes,
Since cultivators weed the rows ;
They sow and rake by the machine-
Hand labor’s ‘mong the things have been.

Armed with scythes, the old war chariot
Cut down men in the fierce war riot ;
Round farmer’s chariot falls the slain,
But ’tis the sheaves of golden grain.

This harvest, now, of eighty-four,
Will great wealth on farmers pour,
For there is abundant yield
Of fruitful crops in every field.

Kind Air Breathed Kindness Everywhere

Louis Untermeyer (1885 – 1977)

Poetry is the power of defining the indefinable in terms of the unforgettable.

Louis Untermeyer

Prayer For This House

by Louis Untermeyer

 

MAY nothing evil cross this door,
And may ill-fortune never pry
About these windows; may the roar
And rains go by.

Strengthened by faith, the rafters will
Withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
Will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
Touching your lips with holy wine,
Till every casual corner blooms
Into a shrine.

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout
And, though the sheltering walls are thin,
May they be strong to keep hate out
And hold love in.


Louis Untermeyer was a businessman, poet, translator, educator and editor who followed his passion mid-life to become one of the most influential anthologists of poetry in the early 20th Century.   Untermeyer spent his 20’s and early 30’s in the family jewelry business in New York City, but eventually followed his literary passions.  He was fond of puns and rhymes and felt that poetry didn’t need to be an elite artistic endevour but was something that should be enjoyed by everyone.   He focused on a wide range of poetry, from children’s verse to poetry anthologies used in Universities to introduce countless college students to English literature.  

Untermeyer was a liberal all his life and aligned his politics around civil rights and a more just society.  Late in life he left New York City and like Frost,  retired to the country, preferring the solitude of his gardens and nature over the busy streets of New York City. 

Untermeyer is known more for his work as an anthologist and translator, but his own poetry I find playful and inspiring.  I was particularly taken with the poem above, but wonder how successful he was in his own right in the affirmation expressed.  Married and divorced four times, martial harmony in Untermeyer’s households seemed to have eluded him, now matter how strong the sentiments he successfully put to rhyme. 

Both Adams and Untermeyer share the distinction of serving as Poet Laureate when the title was known as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.  Adams poem below took a bit for me to wrap my head around.  It is an example of a poem that I have a hard time connecting to the whole of it, but I was taken with these three lines; Thus I lived then, till this air breathed on me.  Till this kind are breathed kindness everywhere, There where my times had left me I would stay.  For me sometimes a couple of lines is all I take from a poem and the rest takes a while to sink in before the emotion or thoughts expand beyond the portion that I am attracted.  Sometimes the entirety of a poem I  never understand.   Do you have poems like that; where there is only one line that stays with you, inspires you? 


Alas, Kind Element!

By Leonie Adams 
 
Then I was sealed, and like the wintering tree
I stood me locked upon a summer core;
Living, had died a death, and asked no more.
And I lived then, but as enduringly,
And my heart beat, but only as to be.
Ill weathers well, hail, gust and cold I bore,
I held my life as hid, at root, in store:
Thus I lived then, till this air breathed on me.
Till this kind air breathed kindness everywhere,
There where my times had left me I would stay.
Then I was staunch, I knew nor yes nor no;
But now the wishful leaves have thronged the air.
My every leaf leans forth upon the day;
Alas, kind element! which comes to go.