The Ferny Meaning

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) (1886-1961)

At least I have the flowers of myself,
and my thoughts, no god
can take that;
I have the fervour of myself for a presence
and my own spirit for a light;

and my spirit with its loss
knows this;
though small against the black,
small against the formless rocks,
hell must break before I am lost;

before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.

To My Cup-Bearer
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

A lady or a tiger-lily,
Can you tell me which,
I see her when I wake at night,
Incanting, like a witch.
Her eye is dark, her vestment rich,
Embroidered with a silver stitch,
A lady or a tiger-lily,
Slave, come tell me which?

Say What You Will
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Say what you will, and scratch my heart to find
The roots of last year's roses in my breast;
I am as surely riper in my mind
As if the fruit stood in the stalls confessed.
Laugh at the unshed leaf, say what you will,
Call me in all things what I was before,
A flutterer in the wind, a woman still;
I tell you I am what I was and more.

My branches weigh me down, frost cleans the air,
My sky is black with small birds bearing south;
Say what you will, confuse me with fine care,
Put by my word as but an April truth,—
Autumn is no less on me that a rose
Hugs the brown bough and sighs before it goes.

May Swenson (1913-1989)

Yellow telephones
in a row in the garden
are ringing,
shrill with light.

Old fashioned spring
brings earliest models out
each April the same,
naive and classical.

Look into the yolk-
colored mouthpieces
alert with echoes.
Say hello to time.

King's Mountain
Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

In all the cities of this year
I have longed for the other city.

In all the rooms of this year
I have entered one red room.

In all the futures I have walked toward
I have seen a future I can hardly name.

But here the road we drive
Turns and enters upon another country.

I have seen white beginnings,
A slow sea without glaze or speed,
Movement of a long lying-down dance.

This is fog-country. Milk. Country of time.
I see your tormented color, the steep front of your storm
Break dissipated among limitless profiles.

I see the patterns of waves in the cross-sea
Advance, a fog-surface over the fog-floor,
Seamounts, slow-flowing. Colors. Plunge-point of air.

In all the meanings of this year
There will be the ferny meaning.

It rises leaning and green, streams through star-lattices;
After the last cliff, wave-eroded silver,
Forgets the limitations of our love,
These drifts and caves dissolve and pillars of these countries
Long-crested dissolve to the future, a new form.

The Transgress
Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

That summer midnight under her aurora
northern and still we passed the barrier.

Two make a curse, one giving, one accepting.
It takes two to break a curse

transformed at last in each other's eyes.

I sat on the naked bed of space,
all things becoming other than what they seem

in the night-waking, in the revelation
thundering on tabu after the broken

imperative, while the grotesque ancestors fade
with you breathing beside me through our dream:

bed of forbidden things finally known—
art from the symbol struck, living and made.

Branch lifted green from the dead shock of stone.