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Prelude of Black Drapes by Edward Hirsch

Now the city deepens in smoke,

now the darkness raises a withered hand

and the night begins, like a prelude,

in real earnest. This is the music

that hurries pedestrians home

and follows a fading breath of ashes

out of the faded commuter stations.

Slowly the bridges open their arms

over the river and the cars

fan out in the mist like a peacock''s

feathers, or a deck of luminous cards

dealt into shadows. This is the hour

when the tugs slide into their cells

and the gates snap shut behind them, when

prisoners stare at their blank ceilings

and the windows are bolted in factories.

Some of us remember the moon:

it is a tarnished silver ball worn

into our memories, a faint smudge

of light rubbed into the heavy fog.

In this city even the ginkgoes

turn up their collars in self-protection

while the buildings stiffen like hills

against the wind. And as we hurry home

in the cold, in our separate

bodies, it takes all our faith to believe

these black drapes, this curtain of ash

will ever rise again in the morning.

**some of the capitalization may be off, apologies!

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Some of us remember the moon:

it is a tarnished silver ball worn

into our memories, a faint smudge

of light rubbed into the heavy fog.

.....

while the buildings stiffen like hills

against the wind. And as we hurry home

in the cold, in our separate

bodies, it takes all our faith to believe

these black drapes, this curtain of ash

will ever rise again in the morning.

 

Here, here...

 

Beautiful, this ^

 

Lovely imagery.

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To My Daughter The Junkie On a Train by Audre Lorde

Children we have not borne

bedevil us by becoming

themselves

painfully sharp and unavoidable

like a needle in our flesh.

Coming home on the subway from a PTA meeting

of minds committed like murder

or suicide

to their own private struggle

a long-legged girl with a horse in her brain

slumps down beside me

begging to be ridden asleep

for the price of a midnight train

free from desire.

Little girl on the nod

if we are measured by the dreams we avoid

then you are the nightmare

of all sleeping mothers

rocking back and forth

the dead weight of your arms

locked about our necks

heavier than our habit

of looking for reasons.

My corrupt concern will not replace

what you once needed

but I am locked into my own addictions

and offer you my help, one eye

out

for my own station.

Roused and deprived

your costly dream explodes

into a terrible technicoloured laughter

at my failure

up and down across the aisle

women avert their eyes

as the other mothers who became useless

curse their children who became junk.

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Estimates by Nick Laird

Who knows what you mean by love?
Extrapolating from the facts
you want two hundred friends
to watch
you wear the white and walk the aisle.

 

We could pack the car and motor north
to waterfall and rock, a nightfall
lit by moonlight on the snowfall
patches
still intact among the sheep-tracks

 

and the turf-banks and the heather.
We could pull in somewhere there,
kill the engine, wait,
listen
to a late-night country music station,

 

split bars of dark and fruit-&-nut,
sip amaretto from the lid, skin up,
and wake,
unwashed and cramped
as man and wife

 

in a place unpeopled, dawn-calm,
cleared of its gestures, its features
by weather, to mountains,
and mountains of clouds.
We could.

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The Boy in the Bazaar

Watches me fiercely, secretly

Yellow moon face on tender stalks of limbs.

He has never seen a strange woman’s hair uncovered before,

the pink in it confuses him.

He does not understand the glitter on my toenails.

So I turn away, feel weights press into my back.

Moon boy,

how do I tell you this?

your eyes are honey

and I am perhaps more enamored of you

than you are of the idea of me.

Source: http://new-poets-society.tumblr.com/post/70956511115/the-boy-in-the-bazaar

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Ithaca

When you set out for Ithaka

ask that your way be long,

full of adventure, full of instruction.

The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,

angry Poseidon - do not fear them:

such as these you will never find

as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare

emotion touch your spirit and your body.

The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,

angry Poseidon - you will not meet them

unless you carry them in your soul,

unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.

At many a Summer dawn to enter

with what gratitude, what joy -

ports seen for the first time;

to stop at Phoenician trading centres,

and to buy good merchandise,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

and sensuous perfumes of every kind,

sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;

to visit many Egyptian cities,

to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.

Your arrival there is what you are destined for.

But don't in the least hurry the journey.

Better it last for years,

so that when you reach the island you are old,

rich with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.

Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.

So wise you have become, of such experience,

that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean. 

Constantine P. Cavafy

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Allamah Iqbal in his signature style addressing God.

 

From Gabriel's Wing (Baal-e-Jibreel)

 

 

Whether or not it moves you,
At least listen to my complaint—
It is not redress this free spirit seeks.

 

This handful of dust,
This fiercely blowing wind,
And these vast, limitless heavens—
Is the delight You take in creation
A blessing or some wanton joke?

 

The tent of the rose could not withstand
The wind blowing through the garden:
Is this the spring season,
And this the auspicious wind?

 

I am at fault, and in a foreign land,
But the angels never could make habitable
That wasteland of yours.

 

That stark wilderness,
That insubstantial world of Yours
Gratefully remembers my love of hardship.

 

An adventurous spirit is ill at ease
In a garden where no hunter lies in ambush.

 

The station of love is beyond the reach of
Your angels,
Only those of dauntless courage are up to it.

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For the Sleepwalkers by Edward Hirsch

Tonight I want to say something wonderful

for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith

in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path

that leads to the stairs instead of the window,

the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing

to step out of their bodies into the night,

to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.

Always they return home safely, like blind men

who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

And always they wake up as themselves again.

That's why I want to say something astonishing

like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs

flying through the trees at night, soaking up

the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.

And now our hearts are thick black fists

flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.

We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-

walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.

We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness

and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

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(bismillah)

(salam)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen

(wasalam)

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What a delightful thread!

 

"I sit before flowers

hoping they will train me in the art

of opening up.

I stand on mountain tops believing

that avalanches will teach me to let go.

I know

nothing

but I am here to learn."

 
Shane Koyczan

 

 

That's an awful poem.

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Don't know much about poetry, but I bet Khayyam wrote this thinking about math problems:

 

Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire 
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, 
Would not we shatter it to bits--and then 
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire! 

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John Brown (Bob Dylan)

 

John Brown went off to war to fight on a foreign shore
His mama sure was proud of him
He stood so straight and tall in his uniform and all
His mama's face broke out into a grin

"Oh, son, you look so fine, I'm glad you're a son of mine
Make me proud to know you own a gun
Do what the captain says, lot of medals you will get
We'll put them on the wall when you get home"

That old train pulled out, John's ma began to shout
Tellin' everyone in the neighborhood
"That's my son that's about to go, he's a soldier now, you know"
She made well sure her neighbors understood

She got a letter once in a while, her face broke into a smile
She showed them to the people from next door
They bragged about her son with his uniform and gun
And these things you called a good old fashioned war

Then the letters ceased to come, for a long time they did not come
Ceased to come for about ten months or more
Then when letter finally came saying, "Go down and meet the train
Your son is coming back from the war"

She smiled and she went right down, she looked up and all around
She did not see her soldier son in sight
When all the people passed, she saw her son at last
When she did she could not believe her eyes

Oh, his face was all shot up and his hand were blown away
And he wore a metal brace around his waist
He whispered kind of slow, in a voice she didn't know
And she couldn't even recognize his face

"Oh, tell me, my darling son, tell me what they've done
How is it that you come to be this way?"
He tried his best to talk but his mouth could hardly move
And his mother had to turn her face away

"Don't you remember, ma, when I went off to war
You thought it was the best thing I could do?
I was on the battleground, you were home, acting proud
You weren't there standing in my shoes

And I thought when I was there, Lord, what am I doing here?
Tryin' to kill somebody or die tryin'
But the thing that scared me most, when my enemy came close
I can see that his face looked just like mine"

And I couldn't help but think, through the thunder rolling and stink
I was just a puppet in a play
And through the roar and smoke, this string, it finally broke
And a cannon ball blew my eyes away"

As he turned away to go, his mother was acting slow
Seein' the metal brace that helped him stand
But as he turned to leave, he called his mother close
And he dropped his medals down into her hand

 

 

 

If anyone has seen Fahrenheit 9/11, it reminds me of the mother who was so proud that her son joined the army.

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Through much toil do you gain high distinction.
So he who seeks learning keeps awake during the night.
You strive after glory, but then you sleep at night?
He who seeks pearls immerses himself in the sea.
The height of (the builder’s) blocks depends on the height
of his aspirations; a man’s dignity rests on his nightly vigils.
Whoever desires elevation without fatigue
wastes his life in the quest for the absurd.
I have forsaken sleep at night to win Your satisfaction, O Lord of lords.
So let me attain the acquisition of knowledge
and let me reach the utmost degree of accomplishment.

— al-Mutanabbi

 

 

I really love this one.^

 

Can't wait till I can sink my teeth into some amazing Arabic and Persian poetry! 

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Through much toil do you gain high distinction.

So he who seeks learning keeps awake during the night.

You strive after glory, but then you sleep at night?

He who seeks pearls immerses himself in the sea.

The height of (the builder’s) blocks depends on the height

of his aspirations; a man’s dignity rests on his nightly vigils.

Whoever desires elevation without fatigue

wastes his life in the quest for the absurd.

I have forsaken sleep at night to win Your satisfaction, O Lord of lords.

So let me attain the acquisition of knowledge

and let me reach the utmost degree of accomplishment.

— al-Mutanabbi

 

 

I really love this one.^

 

Can't wait till I can sink my teeth into some amazing Arabic and Persian poetry! 

 

Al-Mutannabbi <3

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Lay Back the Darkness by Edward Hirsch

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
on an obscure mission through the hallway.

Help me, spirits, to penetrate his dream
and ease his restless passage.

Lay back the darkness for a salesman
who could charm everything but the shadows,

an immigrant who stands on the threshold
of a vast night

without his walker or his cane
and cannot remember what he meant to say,

though his right arm is raised, as if in prophecy,
while his left shakes uselessly in warning.

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
is no longer a father or a husband or a son,

but a boy standing on the edge of a forest
listening to the distant cry of wolves,

to wild dogs,
to primitive wingbeats shuddering in the treetops.

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Don't know much about poetry, but I bet Khayyam wrote this thinking about math problems:

 

Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire 

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, 

Would not we shatter it to bits--and then 

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire! 

 

Math problems aside, this little quatrain is the ultimate echo of human dissatisfaction with nature, with life, with everything, the same what Allamah Iqbal calls 'a wanton joke'. Only Khayyam could put that in words and thaks to Edward FitzGerald for being there for us non-Farsi folks.

 

And Khayyam says about our lack of control on our own lives:

 

"Into this universe, and why not knowing,

Nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing:

And out of it, as wind along the waste,

I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing."

Good to see this thread picking up again, thanks folks for posting. Keep it up.

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My Spectre around me night and day 
Like a wild beast guards my way; 
My Emanation far within 
Weeps incessantly for my sin. 

‘A fathomless and boundless deep, 
There we wander, there we weep; 
On the hungry craving wind 
My Spectre follows thee behind. 

‘He scents thy footsteps in the snow 
Wheresoever thou dost go, 
Thro’ the wintry hail and rain. 
When wilt thou return again? 

’Dost thou not in pride and scorn 
Fill with tempests all my morn, 
And with jealousies and fears 
Fill my pleasant nights with tears? 

‘Seven of my sweet loves thy knife 
Has bereavèd of their life. 
Their marble tombs I built with tears, 
And with cold and shuddering fears. 

‘Seven more loves weep night and day 
Round the tombs where my loves lay, 
And seven more loves attend each night 
Around my couch with torches bright. 

‘And seven more loves in my bed 
Crown with wine my mournful head, 
Pitying and forgiving all 
Thy transgressions great and small. 

‘When wilt thou return and view 
My loves, and them to life renew? 
When wilt thou return and live? 
When wilt thou pity as I forgive?’ 

‘O’er my sins thou sit and moan: 
Hast thou no sins of thy own? 
O’er my sins thou sit and weep, 
And lull thy own sins fast asleep. 

‘What transgressions I commit 
Are for thy transgressions fit. 
They thy harlots, thou their slave; 
And my bed becomes their grave. 

‘Never, never, I return: 
Still for victory I burn. 
Living, thee alone I’ll have; 
And when dead I’ll be thy grave. 

‘Thro’ the Heaven and Earth and Hell 
Thou shalt never, quell: 
I will fly and thou pursue: 
Night and morn the flight renew.’ 

‘Poor, pale, pitiable form 
That I follow in a storm; 
Iron tears and groans of lead 
Bind around my aching head. 

‘Till I turn from Female love 
And root up the Infernal Grove, 
I shall never worthy be 
To step into Eternity. 

‘And, to end thy cruel mocks, 
Annihilate thee on the rocks, 
And another form create 
To be subservient to my fate. 

‘Let us agree to give up love, 
And root up the Infernal Grove; 
Then shall we return and see 
The worlds of happy Eternity. 

‘And throughout all Eternity 
I forgive you, you forgive me. 
As our dear Redeemer said: 
“This the Wine, and this the Bread.”’ 

William Blake

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(bismillah)

(salam)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden

(wasalam)

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The pen would smoothly write the things it knew

But when it came to love it split in two,
A donkey stuck in mud is logic’s fate -
Love’s nature only love can demonstrate.

 

- Jalāl al-Dīn Rumi (The Masnavi, Book One)

Edited by Ali Musaaa :)

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