With every pulse a pixie scatters dust to mark her presence, as the gods ordain: she heaves and thrashes with a harlot’s lust to satisfy the scurrilous refrain of moments hurtling in a desperate appeal to never end, while humankind, possessed of dreamlike powers to emit a billion self-delusions in its mind, adorns itself in jewels, velvet robes, and masquerades of immortality.
But merciless the timeless eye that probes and parodies the human foolery of squandering tomorrows to ascend to glory just before tomorrows end.
To Embrace One’s Fortune
When breath of dusk is gathering inside, and paths are blurred by brooding clouds of mist; when kindred spirits hesitate to guide your errant journey, and the Fates persist in taunting you by lashing heavy stone to every step: then stoke your neural fires until the glimmer in your mind has grown to waves of longing, rousing your desires to revel in the ancient mysteries of being. Lots were cast for centuries, and moments passed in infinite degrees of time and place for fleeting ecstasies to spark your life — yet lives to never be are numerous as droplets in the sea!
Paul Buchheit, a lifelong Chicagoan and retired college teacher, is an author of books, poems, progressive essays, and scientific journal articles. He recently completed his first historical novel, 1871: Rivers on Fire. His most recent non-fiction book was Disposable Americans, published in 2017 by Routledge.
For those who I have loved, I cannot know
if time has been so fair or cruel to me.
Have thoughts of me just faded long ago,
or held me tenderly in memory?
At night I peel back the waning layers
and coax their voices sweetly to their tongues,
to resurrect the songs of muted players,
the notes unplucked and chords we could have strummed.
The faded faces where their eyes once glowed
stare back from every shadow on my wall.
I’d give up all I’ve hoped and all I’ve known,
if their sighs whispered now and let me fall.
Outside the chains of time their love is free,
but do they ever yearn to conjure me?
Dana Ravyn is a poet, novelist, and educator. She has published a novel (Fearless Heart), a chapbook (Swidden Dreams), and haiku and poetry in print internationally. Her new series of poems will appear in Red Haircrow’s upcoming anthology, Varied Spirits, in early 2023. Dana lives in the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, area.
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.
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.
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.
The Greeks observed, in their curving theaters, just how the straight path of dodging fate revolves one towards its center. The mask of the tragic presenter expressed each face’s frown. And to steal another’s crown of fate, that’s twice as grim when two spools too quickly grow slim, two wound-up knitting skeins are uncoiled and cut in twain as they hug, intertwined. It’s true, the planets align once every hundred years or so, veering to smile at their wandering fellow spheres. Then the sun’s commandment steers them away to orbit alone.
The Hebrews knew, praying beneath their domes in the sand, that though cupped in Heaven’s hand, one can’t escape its turning. When a golden temple is burning and sorrow fills the sky, and the new moon on high occults each brilliant star and eyelids close and the scarred breast, submerged in sobbing, quickens its sharp throbbing till hollowed, voided, cold fingers can still be folded in prayer: it warms the heart, unveils celestial charts concealed in infinity— but it’s not enough to save a temple built of gold.
Andrew Benson Brown was a graduate student at George Mason University before taking too many classes outside his discipline coincided with the reality of Debt. He now works as a children’s caseworker in rural Missouri. In his spare time, he reads obscure classics, writes things of little market value, and exercises far more than is befitting for a modern intellectual.
He who turned our English tongue into songs no one had sung now has fallen and now lies in a place that gives no prize, under several feet of loam in a narrow wooden home.
Rhymes no longer meet his ears. Now the autumn frost appears not to delve where he now sleeps in a land where no one weeps; where no dog lies past a pine; no one cherishes his swine.
Now our formalists are left in a tidy little cleft. Like the Spartans at the gates, each composes and then waits. Time will tell if taste returns with some newer well-wrought urns.
John J. Brugaletta is the author of ten volumes of poetry, including his Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press). His poems have appeared in Extreme Formal Poems, The Formalist, Measure, The Random House Treasury of Light Verse, and TRINACRIA. He is Professor Emeritus of literature at California State University, Fullerton.
She left the window open so
Her soul could float free
In ways her body never could
Or mind would ever be.
There, as we arrived, she lay,
A dressing gown her cover
Along with dreams of long ago
And hopes her time was over.
She made a smile as we came in –
Bees back to some lost hive –
But soon the theme was God’s harsh laugh,
Mocking those who live.
I knew I’d stay and have to hear
Her rant against the One
Who made the sinews of the heart
And human soul His throne.
At eighty-eight her wisdom gained
Had drifted through the glass,
Now open, yet for all that stained,
The queen about to pass.
James Sale, a 2022 Pushcart Prize nominee, has had poetry and literary works published in Hong Kong, the USA, and the UK. His work has appeared in The Society of Classical Poets, The Epoch Times, The Times Educational Supplement, The Hong Kong Review, The Anglo-Theological Review, The St Austin Review, and many others. An international and award-winning poet, he currently is one of two judges for the Society of Classical Poets’ 100 Days of Dante poetry competition. For more information about the author and about his own Dante project, visit https://englishcantos.home.blog.
Within those sheets, my mistress lay, her flawless form with perfect feet. One last embrace; I cannot stay! I hear her heart in metered beat.
Her voice, a ballad siren song with lyrics begging my delay. But I’ve already been too long! Within those sheets, my mistress lay.
The grandest thought one could create was “could the wife and mistress meet?” She’d see a villain-elle and hate her flawless form with perfect feet.
She draws me back into the sheets. Seductive eyes say, “Come and play,” But I must leave this incomplete! One last embrace; I cannot stay.
Perhaps… I’ll finish this last rhyme. One hasty end-stop short and sweet. The chugging quatrain steams to climb! I hear her heart in metered beat.
The writing’s done… now comes the chafe. A writer’s wife airs her dismay. The notebook closed; my secret, safe. Within those sheets, my mistress lay.
“Mistress” was first published by The Society of Classical Poets
Michael Pietrack is a new writer from Colorado, USA. This businessman and former baseball player started writing poetry during the pandemic. He will launch his first book of poetry, titled Legacy, in early 2023. Michael has a BA in English Literature from Colorado Mesa University, where he minored in Theatre, and an MA in Education from New Mexico State University.
My lively passion’s death do I desire,
For if I cannot make its wildness tame,
I fear to be consumed within its flame,
And perish of my inner heat and fire;
For if she hates or loves me, both are dire:
Her hate my heart would much defile and shame,
Or if she said “I love” before my name,
I’d lose my life, when hers I would acquire;
Therefore I try steadfastly to resist
From looking longingly within her eye,
But even when I see her not nearby,
In each and every thought she does persist;
Thus I am like the fish who bit the bait,
Whose struggle cannot but secure his fate.
If all the flesh and bone of which I’m wrought
Did not detain me on the earth I stand,
But let me reach beyond my outstretched hand
And fly away as if I were but thought;
No more the miles I’d mourn, now come to nought,
That kept us parted like the sky from land,
For I could summon you on my command,
Or think on where you are, and there be brought;
But flesh and bone I am; and though my mind
Can paint your pretty portrait in my brain,
Its pleasant mem’ry brings but present pain,
Such that I wish my inner eye were blind;
But if nor flesh nor thought will let me see
My love, then I would rather nothing be.
Daniel Joseph Howard studied law in his native Ireland before taking his MA in philosophy at King’s College London. He currently works in the European Commission.
My sweet-sixteen dress was yellow as the daffodils In the seamstress’s cramped but spotless living room, Yellow as the sweet lemon bars she made each Christmas For the neighborhood children. Mrs. Mueller lived at the end of our block In a little stone cottage near a field of flowers, Like a grandmother in a fairy tale. She was old and poor and crippled But always tidy, always smiling, Even as the marshals took her away
After it came to light that, once upon a time,
She was a guard at Auschwitz.
“Light” first appeared in Free Inquiry
Irene and Beth
Irene has shining golden hair, And fame and glory without end, And greater wealth than even she Could ever find a way to spend.
But Beth cannot afford to buy What goes beyond her basic needs. She must make do with what she has And squeeze each penny till it bleeds.
Which woman hates her empty days? Whose sadness makes her hard and mean? Who yearns and yearns to change her life? I’m sorry, but . . . it’s not Irene.
“Irene and Beth” first appeared in The Providence Journal
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 eight in past issues of Sparks of Calliope.