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- Nets to Catch the Wind - 2/6 -


Than one that'll run like a Hielan' gillie A-linkin' it ower the leas, my laddie, In a raggedy kilt an' a belted plaidie!

AUGUST

Why should this Negro insolently stride Down the red noonday on such noiseless feet? Piled in his barrow, tawnier than wheat, Lie heaps of smoldering daisies, somber-eyed, Their copper petals shriveled up with pride, Hot with a superfluity of heat, Like a great brazier borne along the street By captive leopards, black and burning pied.

Are there no water-lilies, smooth as cream, With long stems dripping crystal? Are there none Like those white lilies, luminous and cool, Plucked from some hemlock-darkened northern stream By fair-haired swimmers, diving where the sun Scarce warms the surface of the deepest pool?

THE CROOKED STICK

First Traveler: What's that lying in the dust? Second Traveler: A crooked stick. First Traveler: What's it worth, if you can trust To arithmetic? Second Traveler: Isn't this a riddle? First Traveler: No, a trick. Second Traveler: It's worthless. Leave it where it lies. First Traveler: Wait; count ten; Rub a little dust upon your eyes; Now, look again. Second Traveler: Well, and what the devil is it, then? First Traveler: It's the sort of crooked stick that shepherds know. Second Traveler: Some one's loss! First Traveler: Bend it, and you make of it a bow. Break it, a cross. Second Traveler: But it's all grown over with moss!

ATAVISM

I always was afraid of Somes's Pond: Not the little pond, by which the willow stands, Where laughing boys catch alewives in their hands In brown, bright shallows; but the one beyond. There, when the frost makes all the birches burn Yellow as cow-lilies, and the pale sky shines Like a polished shell between black spruce and pines, Some strange thing tracks us, turning where we turn.

You'll say I dream it, being the true daughter Of those who in old times endured this dread. Look! Where the lily-stems are showing red A silent paddle moves below the water, A sliding shape has stirred them like a breath; Tall plumes surmount a painted mask of death.

WILD PEACHES

1

When the world turns completely upside down You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore; We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town. You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold color. Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor, We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

The winter will be short, the summer long, The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot, Tasting of cider and of scuppernong; All seasons sweet, but autumn best of all. The squirrels in their silver fur will fall Like falling leaves, like fruit, before your shot.

2

The autumn frosts will lie upon the grass Like bloom on grapes of purple-brown and gold. The misted early mornings will be cold; The little puddles will be roofed with glass. The sun, which burns from copper into brass, Melts these at noon, and makes the boys unfold Their knitted mufflers; full as they can hold, Fat pockets dribble chestnuts as they pass.

Peaches grow wild, and pigs can live in clover; A barrel of salted herrings lasts a year; The spring begins before the winter's over. By February you may find the skins Of garter snakes and water moccasins Dwindled and harsh, dead-white and cloudy-clear.

3

When April pours the colors of a shell Upon the hills, when every little creek Is shot with silver from the Chesapeake In shoals new-minted by the ocean swell, When strawberries go begging, and the sleek Blue plums lie open to the blackbird's beak, We shall live well--we shall live very well.

The months between the cherries and the peaches Are brimming cornucopias which spill Fruits red and purple, somber-bloomed and black; Then, down rich fields and frosty river beaches We'll trample bright persimmons, while we kill Bronze partridge, speckled quail, and canvas-back.

4

Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones There's something in this richness that I hate. I love the look, austere, immaculate, Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones. There's something in my very blood that owns Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate, A thread of water, churned to milky spate Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray, Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meager sheaves; That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath, Summer, so much too beautiful to stay, Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves, And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.

SANCTUARY

This is the bricklayer; hear the thud Of his heavy load dumped down on stone. His lustrous bricks are brighter than blood, His smoking mortar whiter than bone.

Set each sharp-edged, fire-bitten brick Straight by the plumb-line's shivering length; Make my marvelous wall so thick Dead nor living may shake its strength.

Full as a crystal cup with drink Is my cell with dreams, and quiet, and cool.... Stop, old man! You must leave a chink; How can I breathe? _You can't, you fool!_

THE LION AND THE LAMB

I saw a Tiger's golden flank, I saw what food he ate, By a desert spring he drank; The Tiger's name was Hate.

Then I saw a placid Lamb Lying fast asleep; Like a river from its dam Flashed the Tiger's leap.

I saw a Lion tawny-red, Terrible and brave; The Tiger's leap overhead Broke like a wave.

In sand below or sun above He faded like a flame. The Lamb said, "I am Love"; "Lion, tell your name."

The Lion's voice thundering Shook his vaulted breast,


Nets to Catch the Wind - 2/6

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