Washington’s Monument – February, 1885

We present this work in honor of Presidents’ Day.

Walt Whitman
American
1819 – 1892

 

Ah, not this marble, dead and cold:
Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling, comprehending,
Thou, Washington, art all the world’s, the continents’ entire—not yours alone, America,
Europe’s as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer’s cot,
Or frozen North, or sultry South—the African’s—the Arab’s in his tent,
Old Asia’s there with venerable smile, seated amid her ruins;
(Greets the antique the hero new? ‘tis but the same—the heir legitimate, continued ever,
The indomitable heart and arm—proofs of the never-broken line,
Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same—e’en in defeat
defeated not, the same:)
Wherever sails a ship, or house is built on land, or day or night,
Through teeming cities’ streets, indoors or out, factories or farms,
Now, or to come, or past—where patriot wills existed or exist,
Wherever Freedom, pois’d by Toleration, sway’d by Law,
Stands or is rising thy true monument.

The Dog and the Sheep

Marie de France
French
c. 1160 – c. 1215

 

This tale is of a dog, who was
A liar, cheat and treacherous,
Who sued a sheep. He had her led
Before the judge; as plaintiff, said
That he must have the loaf of bread
He’d lent to her, that she still had.
The sheep denied the whole affair;
He had not lent a loaf to her!
The judge said: “Dog, can you produce
Witnesses that the Court can use?”
The dog said that he could, all right,
Two; one the wolf and one the kite.
These witnesses were led forth, both,
And both affirmed by solemn oath
That all the dog had said was true.
You know why they agreed, don’t you?
They hoped to get some portion, if
The sheep, found guilty, lost her life.
The judge, proceeding in the trial,
Summoned the sheep; why the denial
He asked her, that she had the bread
The dog had lent her, as he said.
Why lie? This item was so small!
Return it; or worse would befall!
The wretched sheep, who had no bread,
Was forced to sell her wool instead.
Winter and cold soon had her dead.
The dog came; took some wool she’d shed,
The kite came flying for his share,
And then the wolf. They took from her
All of her flesh; the seized on it,
For they had long been starved for meat.
No vestive of her life was left;
And, too, her master was bereft.

With this example we can state
What many false folk demonstrate.
With lies and tricks of every sort
They drag the poor folk into court;
They get false witnesses to lie,
They bribe with poor folks’ prosperity.
They don’t care how the wretched die;
They only want their slice of pie.

Now I Know

Lourdes Casal
Cuban
1938 – 1981

 

Now I know
that distance is three-dimensional.
It’s not true that the space between you and me
can be measured in metres and inches,
as if the streets might cross each other freely,
as if it were easy to hold out your hand.

This is a solid, robust distance,
and the absence is total,
complete;
in spite of the illusory possibility
of the telephone
it is thick, and long, and wide.

When You Are Old

We present this work in honor of Valentine’s Day.

William Butler Yeats
Irish
1865 – 1939

 

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

slaveships

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Lucille Clifton
American
1936 – 2010

 

loaded like spoons
into the belly of Jesus
where we lay for weeks for months
in the sweat and stink
of our own breathing
Jesus
why do you not protect us
chained to the heart of the Angel
where the prayers we never tell
and hot and red
as our bloody ankles
Jesus
Angel
can these be men
who vomit us out from ships
called Jesus Angel Grace of God
onto a heathen country
Jesus
Angel
ever again
can this tongue speak
can these bones walk
Grace Of God
can this sin live

To the River of Cosamaloapam

Manuel Carpio
Mexican
1791 – 1860

 

Mighty and enchanting river
Which irrigates the meadows of my village,
Who could weep upon thy shores
In the cold rays of the round moon?

At night in my agitated delirium
I seem to view thy groves of palms,
Thy flowering clustered orange trees,
And thy dew covered lilies.

Who would ever deign to glance
Upon that lovely, modest home of mine,
Where I was born, like the bird of the bower?

But thy waters flow at present
Over the ruins, alas! of that home
Where I passed my happy childhood.