At ten pm it starts. We can hear it from the bar
As if somebody humourless fills in the dots,
All the dots to the window, the gaps in between.
It is raining. It rained and has always been raining.
If there were conditionals they too would rain.
The future tense is partly underwater.
(excerpt from the poem “Rain” by Sean O’Brien)
He broke up the sky on the square and gave it like bread crumbs
Then he cut it in pieces and threw it to the beggars,
the crazies, the blind, and their companions.
But I got an end, smashed like a cup thrown to the ground,
lying on its back like a wounded soldier,
uncomplaining, as a harem wife
hiding her gaze behind a black veil.
The plains’ bed is spread with houses, and everyone
beneath it ages like a slave chained in bondage;
save his high-cheek-boned face.
Tensing my voice I started to refuse my free portion.
But I stayed mute, the sky’s mouth was filled with lead.
watching the great blue sky recede into the black space it really is,
listening to the lapping of an active lake under the great blue sky,
feeling the soothing warmth of an active lake under the great blue sky,
smelling the lotion passing into the soothing warmth of an active lake under the great blue sky,
tasting the freedom of summer as the lotion passes into the soothing warmth of an active lake under the great blue sky,
the great blue sky which recedes into the black space it really is.
Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like
– Ted Kooser
So breaks the sun earth’s rugged chains,
Wherein rude winter bound her veins;
So grows both stream and source of price,
That lately fettered were with ice.
So naked trees get crisped heads,
And colored coats the roughest meads,
And all get vigor, youth, and sprite,
That are but looked on by his light.
Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, now in the Israel Museum.
A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
–Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History
Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.
Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.
– Amy Lowell
(This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic starlet often photographed by amateur astronomers for its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye.)
The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem-
This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle-
We don’t know enough, we’ll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.
– Robinson Jeffers
They rolled around with a soundless sound
Like softly bruised silk;
They poured into the bowl of the sky
With the gentle flow of milk.
In eager, pulsing violet
Their wheeling chariots came,
Or they poised above the Polar rim
Like a coronal of flame.
From depths of darkness fathomless
Their lancing rays were hurled,
Like the all-combining search-lights of
The navies of the world.
There on the roof-pole of the world
As one bewitched I gazed,
And howled and grovelled like a beast
As the awful splendors blazed.
(This is an excerpt from a much longer poem)
– Robert Service
The image at the top can be found here.