Vignettes in Paled Light: A Book of Poems
And an alienated Jughead Jones searches for meaning in modern-day, food-obsessed Japan. Richly detailed, linguistically deft, and employing both formal and free verse, Missing Persons is a dazzling debut. Instead, she patiently, faithfully seeks out real mysteries and works to articulate them in all their strangeness. A full life is lived on these pages, and it flickers with light and dark. In Missing Persons , memory is a cabinet of curiosities filled with tiny figures carved from bone, scimitars, ticking oven timers, sugar skulls.
Young loves, Girl Scouts, sex ed teachers, a father, a mother—all are rendered lovely and interesting through the delicate treatment of the imagination. And, as with any wunderkammer , we want to return to the glimmering rooms of these poems again and again, discovering each time we visit something new to hold and behold. Always in the mix there is her agile wit, typically gentle but mischievous too. Sometimes things are darker, but then compassionate too. In all of these settings there are characters who choose their paths by accident or misconception, bumping their ways along as we do and continuing in ways we admire.
When father bought a battered single horn from the termite-riddled Antique Mart on Mayfield Road, we feared his brain had sponged inside the slide-grease jar of his skull. My father screwed his Farkas mouthpiece to the pipe and blew— such tinned, half-fretful notes, the lamplight winced.
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Poor dad: an aero-acoustician, born with a clingstone ear; the physics of the exponential bell evaded him, although his Wunderkammer swelled with instruments. Years passed. When we could bear no more, we sank him in the cellar, perched on a Hepplewhite chair, spit valve and practice mute in hand, lips pursed in swollen embouchure.
Scales startled from his horn like wayward quail. I clench my teeth and fake a Miss America grin as you, my ex, become conventional, a True. Romance case study in lace and vintage pearls, my last lost cause. I think of the gamine girls I kissed in college—Pantene-haired, tattooed, their skin scrubbed raw with tea tree oil—such crude. My senior year, half-drunk on single malt and boxed white wine, we sunk.
I played the novice that brief summer: a secret, staid, and steady girlfriend. In August, you returned to school. If writing Journals were my task, From cottagers to kings-- A little book I'd only ask, And fill it full of wings! Each pair should represent a day: On some the sun should rise, While others bent their mournful way Through cold and cloudy skies. And here I would the light'ning bring With threatening, forked glare; And there the hallowed rainbow fling Across the troubled air.
Some faint and wearily should glide Their broken flight along-- While some high in the air should ride Dilated, bold, and strong. Some agitated and adrift, Against their will should rove; Some, steering forward, sure and swift, Should scarcely seem to move-- While others, happiest of their kind! Should in the ether soar, As if no care would ever find, No sorrow reach them more; When soon an arrow from below Should wound them in their flight, And many a crimson drop should flow Before they fell in sight.
The rapid and abrupt descent, The stain'd and ruffled plume, Would seem as if they were not meant Their ardour to resume. But soon their beauty and their force Sweet hours of rest renew; Full soon their light, their varied course Careering they pursue. Alternately to rise and fall, Or float along the day-- And this is Fortune--This is all I would vouchsafe to say! Lucy, I think not of thy beauty, I praise not each peculiar grace; To see thee in the path of duty, And with that happy, smiling face, Conveys more pleasure to thy friend, Than any outward charm could lend.
I see thy graceful babes caress thee, I mark thy wise, maternal care, And sadly do the words impress me, The magic words--that thou art fair. I wonder that a tongue is found To utter the unfeeling sound! For, art thou not above such praises? And is this all that they can see? Poor is the joy such flattery raises, And, oh! Unworthy one whose heart can feel The voice of truth, the warmth of zeal! O Lucy, thou art snatch'd from folly, Become too tender to be vain, The world, it makes me melancholy, The world would lure thee back again!
And it would cost me many sighs, To see it win so bright a prize! Though passing apprehensions move me, I know thou hast a noble heart; But, Lucy, I so truly love thee, So much admire thee as thou art, That, but the shadow of a fear, Wakes in my breast a pang sincere. This twilight gloom. This lone retreat-- This silence to my soul is sweet! Awhile escap'd from toil and strife, And all the lesser ills of life, Here only at the evening's close, My weary spirit finds repose; My sinking heart its freedom gains, Which poverty had bound in chains!
For here unheard the moments fly-- And so secure, so happy I, That, often at the very last, I feel not that my dream is past.
Three Vignettes From Berlin
The little hour of bliss I spend, With thee, my chosen, only friend! That transient hour the heart sustains, Which poverty has bound in chains! And for this dear, this precious hour, I would not, if I had the power, Exchange a worldling's life of ease, Whom all around him seek to please.
I have no other friend beside, But here I safely may confide. Suspicion ne'er the bosom stains, Which poverty has bound in chains! How oft I wonder at my lot! How oft are all but thee forgot! While in this half-despairing breast, Love builds a little, quiet nest, To hover o'er with joyous wing, Nay, sometimes soar aloft and sing! Say, after all thine eyes have seen, If home appears so well!
In every hill, in every tree, A thousand charms appear. And sigh'd when looking on the arm, Where she at parting hung. To fancy others pleas'd her not, Because she thought on me! If violets, when fresh with dew, Could amaranthine be, Their soothing, deep, and glowing hue Would justly speak for me.
Or to some plant with tendrils fine, With blossoms sweet and gay, This office I would now assign; But flowers will all decay! A bird would suit my purpose more, With filial heart endued; But, ere their little life is o'er, Birds lose their gratitude! No emblem of the love I feel Appears within my view; Less ardent, or less pure the zeal, Less tender, or less true!
All I can do is to avow, My services are thine; And that my spirit still shall bow, Before my Valentine. I look'd into her eyes, And saw something divine, For there, like summer lightning, Swift coruscations shine. Still flashing, and still changing, Attemper'd soft and bright, Through each expression ranging, From pity to delight. From high or zealous feeling, From arch, excursive grace, From all with which a lovely mind Endows the human face. Perhaps a new and careless eye May not those beauties see, And wonder to behold the power Belinda has with me.
The spell which holds this captive soul She never would possess, Were not her varying features rul'd By sparkling playfulness, But when with aimless, trackless skill Is twin'd a mazy chain, In the warm foldings of a heart, Perforce it must remain.
Come, Magdalen, and bind my hair, And put me on my sad array; I to my father's house repair, And hear his final doom to-day. But wrap me in that cypress veil; At first his eye I would not brave, 'Till he shall bid the mourner hail, And knows I come from Edwin's grave.
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I, late his boast, his heir, his pride, Must like a guilty vassal kneel; I, who was gallant Edwin's bride, Must to my widow'd state appeal! Closely within my heart must keep His praise for whom that heart is riv'n, And let each fond resentment sleep, For I must die or be forgiven. Manuel, I do not shed a tear, Our parting to delay!
I dare not listen to my fear! I dare not bid thee stay! The heart may shrink, the spirit fail, But Spaniards must be free; And pride and duty shall prevail O'er all my love for thee! Then go! Should freedom perish--at thy death, 'T'were folly to repine-- And I should every feeling lose, Except the wish for mine! But if the destiny of Spain, Be once again to rise, Oh! I am unskill'd in speech: my tongue is slow The graceful courtesies of life to pay; To deck kind meanings up in trim array, Keeping the mind's soft tone: words such as flow From Complaisance, when she alone inspires!
And Caution, with a care that never tires, Marshals each tribe of thoughts in such a way That all are ready for their needful task, The moment the occasion comes to ask, All prompt to hear, to answer and obey; When mine, undisciplin'd, their cause betray, By coward falterings, or rebellious zeal! And didst thou think that worldly art Would mould anew this shrinking heart?
But how could I so foolish be, As not to feel a doubt of thee? Go forth, my voice, through the wild air, In the lone stillness of the night, Beneath the cold moon's pale blue light; Seek Eugenia, and declare, As warmth and promise lurk below A waste of lifeless, drifted snow; So, while my lips inertly move, While many heavy fetters bind, And press upon my languid mind, Oh! Affection still her hold shall keep, Although her weary servants sleep. Friendship to me is like a flower, Yielding a balm for human woe, I less than ever could forego; More prized, more needed every hour!
Perchance it dies for want of care, But as it withers, I despair! But vainly should detraction preach If once I made it known, The art of pleasing thou would'st teach Acknowledg'd for thy own. I can suffer, sink with pain, With anguish I can ill sustain; Till not a hope has strength to spring, Till scarce a prayer can lift its wing; Yet in my inmost heart there lies A living fount that will arise, And, of itself, diffuse a balm, A healing and refreshing calm, A pure delight, a cooling glow, Which Hate and Meanness cannot know! I can faint, and I can fear, The power of petty creatures here, Who trick dark deeds in gay disguise, And weave their web of brooded lies, With so few threads made smooth and fair, All seems plain sense and reason there; And yet I would not learn their art, Nor have their paltry spells by heart, Their rankling blood within my veins, For all the treasure earth contains!
Oft, panic-struck, I sink, dismay'd, Call, with expiring faith, for aid; When all my efforts useless seem, Emptied of force as in a dream, My courage knows to persevere, Entwin'd, o'ergrown, o'ertowered by fear!
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As he who summoned in the night, At sudden wreck, in wild affright, Once throws his arms around a mast, Continues still to hold it fast, When sight and strength and aim are flown, When cold, benumb'd, and senseless grown, My soul, by hurrying tempests driven, Though blinded from the light of Heaven, Clinging, all hope, all comfort o'er, Must yet awaken on the shore! TO MR. Behold the semblance of thy flower!
I could not fill its leaves with dew, Shew its tints varying with the hour, Its motion as the zephyrs blew. And beauty too were more complete, Appearing on the native stem, In midst of buds and blossoms sweet, And catching graces, charms from them. Or blooming under eyes like thine, Whose fond, soft gaze, whose tender tear, Must also, losing power divine, Awake no answering sweetness here.
For much of loveliness must sleep, E'en when inspir'd and led by truth; The faithful pencil aims to keep Mildness and innocence and youth. To MRS. An Hour was before me, no creature more bright, More airy, more joyous, e'er sprang on my sight. To catch and to fetter I instantly tried, And "thou art my slave, pretty vagrant," I cried.
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I had hold, and securely I thought, of its wing, O! When this can be compass'd, I'll build me a bower, And twine in the trellice each sweet-scented flower-- Rare, delicate plants, whose large, fresh leaves shall fling Green shadows, where birds in the stillness may sing. A place of repose, when the spirit is faint, And the heart wants to utter a passing complaint: Of safety; for pure and serene be the air, And nothing unkind or unholy be there!
Four Vignettes on Flash Fiction
In this sacred retreat I my cares would confide, And there my half-forming opinions should hide; If true, gather strength for the brightness of day-- If false, in the shade, unreprov'd, die away! How fondly I nourish'd these hopes, but in vain! The calm and the stillness I could not retain; My Hour fled away, every wish unfulfill'd, And warm'd not the Friendship Suspicion had chill'd! May 2, And yet they all appear too poor, Though goodness can ensure no more; Though monarchs, whom the world adore, Would purchase such with all their store.
And while this charmed gift we send, We know where'er your footsteps bend, The looks and tones that win the friend, That kindness, nature, truth, attend, Are yours, and must be with you still, Angelic guards, go where they will, To ward off much surrounding ill, And happiest destinies fulfil. If so, his anxious friends declar'd All future trouble might be spar'd: A heart thus pierc'd would never rove, Nor meanly seek a second love; No distance e'er could give him pain-- No rivalry torment his brain.
Self-love will bear a many knocks, A thousand mortifying shocks; One moment languish in despair, The next alert and debonair.