Two Poems by William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827)

Arguably known as much for his painting skills as for his poetry, British Romantic poet William Blake (1757-1827) was recognized for neither during his lifetime. Blake has been posthumously recognized for the philosophical undercurrents in his self-proclaimed prophetic works.

Blake was said to be influenced at one point, as were many writers of his time, by the ideals of the American and French Revolutions. His vocal criticism of organized religion and idiosyncratic viewpoints likely did nothing to help him gain prominence in literary circles during his lifetime; however, the rise and fall of many writers’ reputations throughout the centuries has more to do with the ideologies and sentiments of modern critics than actual fair analysis of one’s work in the context of their own time and circumstance.

The third of seven children, Blake was homeschooled by his mother after age 10. He entered into an apprenticeship for seven years to become a professional engraver, after which he became a student at the Royal Academy. In 1781, he married the illiterate Catherine Boucher, who he taught not only to read and write, but how to engrave. She subsequently helped him in his craft for the rest of his life.

Blake’s most recognizable poems include “The Tyger” and “The Chimney Sweeper: When My Mother Died I Was Very Young,” both of which are found below.


The Tyger

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


The Chimney Sweeper: When My Mother Died I Was Very Young

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”

And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

Two Poems by Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

A contemporary of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, British Renaissance poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) is probably best known as the author of “The Fairie Queen,” an epic fantasy poem celebrating the monarch of the time, Queen Elizabeth I.

Spenser, however, did much more than write a flattering poem paying tribute to the queen and her family line. He also wrote many sonnets and is considered one of the founders and most respected craftsmen of English verse.

Born in London and twice married, Spenser’s life was spent writing and socializing in literary circles. His foray into politics was suppressed during his lifetime, possibly due to his incendiary viewpoints regarding the Irish. His prose pamphlet entitled “A View of the Present State of Ireland” argued for destroying the customs and language of the Irish people, by violence if necessary, to force them into a more submissive stance toward the English. He died in London at age 46 and was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminister Abbey.

Aside from his most famous (and very lengthy) epic fantasy poem, “The Fairie Queen,” the following two sonnets are from his collection Amoretti and are among the most notable poems Spenser wrote.


Amoretti LXXIX: Men Call You Fair

Men call you fair, and you do credit it,
For that your self ye daily such do see:
But the true fair, that is the gentle wit,
And vertuous mind, is much more prais’d of me.
For all the rest, how ever fair it be,
Shall turn to naught and lose that glorious hue:
But only that is permanent and free
From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue.
That is true beauty: that doth argue you
To be divine, and born of heavenly seed:
Deriv’d from that fair Spirit, from whom all true
And perfect beauty did at first proceed.
He only fair, and what he fair hath made,
All other fair, like flowers untimely fade.


Amoretti LIV: Of This Worlds Theatre in Which We Stay

Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay,
My love lyke the Spectator ydly sits
Beholding me that all the pageants play,
Disguysing diversly my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in myrth lyke to a Comedy:
Soone after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I waile and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my merth nor rues my smart:
But when I laugh she mocks, and when I cry
She laughes, and hardens evermore her hart.
What then can move her? if not merth nor mone,
She is no woman, but a sencelesse stone.

Two Poems by Carey Jobe

The Creek’s Stones

No neighbor’s surprised Stone Creek
is threading the needle’s eye of August
aridity. As for weeks, parched cirrus
gauge the sky’s depth, rain’s delay:
Minnows trapped in shrinking puddles
probe edges, catch the colors

of the pebbles, crawstone oddities
littering the shambling creek bed
—quarters in banked spits, pennies
brimming wishing pools. Could a trickle’s
persistent drollery planish
their dented disks? I pick one,

a wet, hard smoothness. Brown-milky
seepage soon heals the scar.
Uninteresting, a drab wart-gray,
it denies my reflection, the drought
that strands it, even—a fossil
of blue Devonian bays, white beaches

kilned to bedrock, now resuming its
nature as sand. I toss it—clack!—
scan the creek. As if thrown years,
it’s vanished down this tributary
of things going unnoticed, to surface
randomly as a childhood memory

polished smoother. Could Stone Creek
erode them all? How?—Wet pebbles sprawl
under glazing sun, each a shape
partly resistance but mostly
acquiescence, like a mind’s
travel from rough to rounder.


Fear Under No Moon

Thieves’ Night, a moonless night.
Leaves crumple softly in my black yard.
I overheard,
listen hard:
a dog trailing some scent of fright?
cat on a bird,
or what?
Imagination’s lighted match,
and I forgot
to turn the deadbolt, latch…
Night fear, I’ll say. My mind’s dream play
with whispers, not…
—a watchdog’s bolted cry!
Houses off, but clear. By the pillow my
eyes go wide,
go blind. I am warned. Listen! Beside
the wall—the whistling corner sweep
of wind? Yes, wind! Still, I
won’t sleep…
Someone is outside. Someone real
at a task that ends before sunrise.
His owllike eyes
at my windowsill,
transfix me, chill
terror glistening like a spark
along my spine. No scream in the dark
is so truly fear
as this quiet nearing on moonless ground,
all things I hear
in a glimpse of sound.




Carey Jobe is a retired attorney and judge who has published poetry over a 45-year period.  His work has recently appeared in The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, and Orchards Poetry Journal.  He has published a collection of poetry, By River or Gravel Road (Aegina Press, 1997).  He resides in Crawfordville, Florida.

Two Poems by Tanya Standish McIntyre

Sugaring

Hundred-year-old maples joined in a ring 
around our house, roots grown through the wall 
of our cellar; cellar of the deep stone well, the yawling 
prisoner cat; cellar of revenants, wraiths 
and chains – stories they would tell at night to cure 
anyone of sleep. In March, up from the earth, by
some magical ancient osmosis, with the faint taste of
bananas, sap rose with steady drips, overflowing 
our galvanized buckets from a hole bored in
the pulpy layers with a red-handled bit stock.

How sealed within
a case we are, as children, before words
let us out; how dusk deepens, pressing into
the belly, as though day
would take us with it – all day I shattered
layers of pond ice with a stick, releasing
more and more to the stream, the glass music lost
and found, until I could not feel my hands.

Wood smoke wound with our syrup 
made its way west to the hills – a winter’s end 
offering to forgotten gods, who watched us 
but never intervened – gods whom 
by then, had abandoned all
of them, but me.


The Pond

A foot of black mud where the frogs
spent winters, lived at the bottom
finer than silk and grey
clay, beneath the cattails where red-winged
blackbirds perched as sentinels, guarding nests
no one ever saw, flashing their
scarlet symmetry, gliding from fencepost to fencepost
like generals surveying from the top
of each ridge, through the loom
of giant dancers, the willow’s wicker cages
sashaying to wind’s serenade to sky; the accordion
bellows of frog legs – spotted turquoise
leopards; the flighted avatars – dragonflies;
water-skimming pond-skaters
defying natural law – I want to make a raft,
drift just like Huck
through the starry marsh
marigolds at midnight, my little sister,
a loaf of bread and a string for catching
minnows; under the moon
with a long birch stick, lying in wait
for surprise, endless as summer
through the moats of cloud castles.




Tanya Standish McIntyre is a poet and visual artist based in rural Quebec, Canada. Her debut collection, The House You Are Born In, is forthcoming in McGill-Queens University Press’s Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series in December ’22. Drawing upon memories of her early years on an ancestral farm and the marking relationship with her grandfather, an early review calls it “a stunning debut by a promising new poetic voice, haunting and uplifting in equal measure.” Visit her website at tanyastandishmcintyre.com.

“What Euclid and I Might Share” by Kiluwe Mbuyu

Euclid alone saw Beauty bare,
And strove to make her smile
We, too, have met; I shan’t forget
Her craft and gentle guile
In amber hair (her finest fare),
I knew her for a while

What might we share? That man, so rare,
Had more than I can offer
But he and I look to the sky
And both our pity proffer
To stars that brim with light too dim
To touch our darling author

When blackest night defied all sight
We still had light to see
One look from her, that smile so sure;
She shone so brilliantly
What golden chance! To get to dance
With one as fine as she

But seasons come, and seasons go
And time is no man’s friend
Euclid grew old, the fire went cold
The days began to blend
He found himself an empty shelf
He lost her in the end

This, too, we share: a child’s despair
For castles washed from shore
Though made of sand, a dream so grand
Had seemed to be in store
I held her near, when she was here
But she is here no more

Perhaps the air is poorer fare
Without her voice alight
Perhaps the stars confess their scars
And weep throughout the night
I only know what gentle woe
Now holds me oh-so tight

But there is more to reckon for
Than air and stars and I
Thus, Beauty found will not be bound
By those she passes by
She’ll travel far, beneath new stars
Beneath a distant sky




Kiluwe Mbuyu is an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University, working on a degree in mathematics.  You can find more of their work on Instagram at @kiluwe.poems.

“Dashboard Jesus” by Ann Christine Tabaka

It was an era of the car chapel. Rosary hanging
from rear-view mirror / Saint Christopher medal,
complete with glove-compartment prayer book.
Magnetic Sacred Heart statue on the dashboard.

Mother was devout. I was fourteen. Life was cold.
She was fifty when she learned to drive,
after my father’s disease took him. A sorrowful
blessing. Jesus would show us the way / take care of us.

Her first car / a blue cracker-box / Renault.
it gave her new freedom. Saturday confession.
Sunday Mass. Weekdays reserved for work.
Dashboard Jesus kept his promise. He watched over us.

I was twenty-two, that night.
My son was eighteen months. Darkness and sleet partnered
to do their worst. She worked late / did not come home.
Phone ringing off the hook. It was the police / I knew.

Inebriated / he backed down the on-ramp / lights off.
He was unharmed. Twisted metal and blood-filled
highway. They pried my mother out. A long night
at the hospital. I learned to pray / I dared to hope.

Mom’s car accordioned / she survived. When finally
conscious, she said “go to the car.” The ravage
was complete. Floating upon water and blood was a
plastic box / tiny baby moccasins / there where she said.

On the dashboard stood that statue / staring down at me.
I can never forget that day. After months of surgeries,
my mother recovered. My son wore the moccasins.
I began to understand her devotion. I shed my disbelief
like skin. Dashboard Jesus Saves!

“Dashboard Jesus” first appeared in Black Moon Magazine




Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She is the winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year; her bio is featured in the “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020 and 2021,” published by Sweetycat Press. She is the author of 15 poetry books and one collection of short stories. She lives in Delaware with her husband and four cats. Her most recent credits include poems in The Closed Eye Open, The World of Myth, and GloMag.

“Halloween, 2019” by James Croal Jackson

Now that I live on a well-traveled
street, you’d think I’d pass candy on
the designated day. I was at
Shady Grove for the first hour.
The servers were vampires,
I was wearing a poncho.
The lights were off (how I like it)
when I got home, not a soul in sight.
And it was trash night. So I gathered
the usual garbage and recycling,
set it by the door. And when I opened
it a kid vaporized from nowhere
chanting trick or treat! trick or treat!
give me something good to eat!
Staring at me carrying white
marinara-stained bag and a baby
blue bag in the darkness
of the porch and I said,
I don’t have anything,
thank you– I mean, sorry.
In my navy sweatpants
I walked briskly to the curb,
the wind wanting to push me
toward the black gravel of the road
but I swiveled the direction
of home. A gaggle of swan tweens
flew toward me! I covered my face,
put my head down, walked up the blind
trio of stairs far from the rustling
footsteps and laughter and wind
and turned the living room light off,
shawled myself with the couch blanket
and reached for a crinkling half-bag
of factory favorites, a Milky Way
or Kit-Kat somewhere on my rug.




James Croal Jackson is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has three chapbooks: Count Seeds With Me (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2022), Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021), and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, PA. Find him at jamescroaljackson.com.

Two Poems by Patricia Fustenberg

Turning 50, Dancing on a ZaniLa Rhyme

I’ll smile through my fingertips, leap far,
stretch to the sky, dare a cloud,
a wave to rock and on moon to walk
I’ll attempt. Adventures expect me.

This girl’s not done, make a day a month,
laugh in the rain, dance on ice.
On moon to walk and a wave to rock,
run with wild horses – still want it all.

Feed my skin, water my soul, jump, splash,
make a mess, it will wash off,
a wave to rock and on moon to walk-
dreams take shape still; bright, bold, sharp. Alive!

I’ll carve the rest of my life, dreams will
feed my mind, blossom, erupt.
On moon to walk and a wave to rock-
I’m only 50. Blink of an eye.


Snow Must Go On

On gleaming streets, oily with rain,
a joke of life below my pane
my eyes count potholes, while my hands
scrub oily pans, life’s big charade.

I dive into the kitchen sink –
my nighttime drama, end of play,
with one spectator and one star,
a sheltered life, no crack upset.

Low heat, faint simmer, never boil
the mirror of my train of thoughts
out of the blue, a bubble forms
like ice trapped in the heart of blaze.

I am the master of my play
with only bitterness’ applause, last raw
the show must end sometime, last call,
yet this slow simmer wins each time.

How long can this play be played out?
The echo of an empty room
is proof enough, till all applaud
my monologue, or death will bow.

The water trickles to a drop,
electric kettle boils, then stops – safe mood
in place, cup off the shelf, tea leaves n hand,
the storm restored; for now, show must go on.





Patricia Furstenberg, with a medical degree behind her, has authored 18 books imbued with history, folklore, and legends. The recurrent motives in her writing are unconditional love and war. Her essays and poetry have appeared in various online literary magazines. Romanian-born, she resides with her family in South Africa.

Two Poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

I Am So Lucky to Be Here

My daughter keeps telling me I am so lucky to be here.
She means instead of in her five-bedroom home,
Which always has space for another child
But not for a grandmother in a wheelchair.
I am so lucky to be here.
My room is yellow as the sun,
Which warms my face
When I roll out onto the porch
And endure people I have nothing in common with
Except age and abandonment.
For so long I dreaded being shut away from the world,
But I am so lucky to be here,
The best nursing home in Rhode Island,
Instead of where I would be if people knew
That what killed my unfaithful husband
Was not an accident.

“I Am So Lucky to Be Here” first appeared in Providence Journal


Simplify

Simplify, simplify, lectured Thoreau,
Chop your own wood and eat food that you grow.
Farming, however, is messy and gritty.
So I say: Simplify, live in the city!

“Simplify” first appeared in Light




Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had over 220 poems published in a wide range of places, including ten in past issues of Sparks of Calliope.

Two Poems by Talbot Hook

About Face

Death has not yet come —
That autumn-wingéd,
Bare-branched god —
For me.

For months I lived alone,
Expectant with shared coffee cups,
Crumpled old paperbacks,
Waiting for Death.

Or was I waiting for You?

Waiting for You
To share sorrows til dawn,
Scattering our holy secrets,
For months to spend together.

For me —
With spring-fed eyes
And field-stirring laughter —
You have always been here.



It is strange to wait for Death
And have it never come,
Yet stranger still to find You,
And hope You never leave.


Lucubrations

What is it, to spend time:
to waste it, to use it, to kill it?

Can I really give you my time,
or you give me yours? Just whose is it?

As I sit here, passing whiles,
I wonder: what of my life?
My true life.
The one I practice at,
and wish for myself.
Can I abide my time — its passing?

And:

To those that have passed
beyond the smallness of this life,
how do you view me?
Can you endure my weakness?
Stomach my will?

And:

To those that will pass
into the smallness of this life,
how will you view me?
Do you blame me for my wasted time?
A squandered hour, a frivolous day?

Sometimes, I do.




Talbot Hook is a PhD student and occasional writer currently living in Connecticut.