An Artist’s Sorrows

As the nightingale went home in the morning and hung his golden harp on the peg, he said in a bitter tone — ’Let them be sure of this, I will not sing again.’

And his wife came up to him with chirpings and hoppings to soothe him:  but nothing availed; it was clear to all that he was bitterly affronted.

Every night he went out and sang his loves to the rose; the night air throbbed and quivered to the sound.

His wife sat at home, and was contented if he was happy; moreover, she thought that, however his love raged, no harm could possibly come of it.

And now at her entreaty he told her of his sorrows, and how deeply he was wounded by what had passed.

‘I sang sweetly! I sang sweetly! the rose opened her leaves; it seemed to me that the moon rose earlier than her wont.

‘All things listened — all things near and far off listened, save only the youth and maiden who were close to me.

‘I sang sweetly! I sang sweetly! but they only turned and whispered to each other…’

—V. A. R., “An Artist’s Sorrows,” from the Kamschatskan, Poems, 1867

See me, hear me, I am fifty.

the world may see dried-up and irrelevant —
they may not even see me at all —
LOOK!  i’ve re-blossomed with beautiful new petals —
strength, focus, perspective, poetry, silver wisdom —
i am roaring out all that i have held in,
taken on, and put up with — for all my life —
i roar for myself and for all women
i roar at the top of my lungs with all my midlife rage —
LISTEN!  no longer can i do it all nor do i want to —
i may be getting old, but also i am brand new —

—Terri Guillemets

The Poet, II

My body was once a beautiful house of marble,
Kissed to pale rose by the passionate heat of the sun,
Wherein through cunning channels flowed forever
Health-giving crimson blood in steady tides.

My eyes were then quick to see and to welcome beauty,
My lips smiled often with gratified desire,
My hands shook not, but were fit for caress or grapple,
My arms rose and my body moved in strength.

Then not a single line of any poem
Had my hands raped from my brain, but untouched and pure
They abode in the land of distant visions where no man
Heard my voice calling for them at eventide.

My blood lies in great black lakes now, sluggish and frozen,
Or fumes in like some boiling, stinging, poison brew
Till it suddenly stops in a lassitude unspoken,
Or bursts through my pores and covers me with red dew:

My eyes are bleared now and dull with sleepless midnights,
My lips are shrunken purses—their gold is spent,
My hands unsteadily clutch and paw and tremble,
My arms are as strings of macaroni bent.

And as for my chest, ’tis like a leaky air-box
Fixed to some cheap melodeon out of tune,
The bellows creak, the loose and brown keys rattle,
And the music that comes is like a dog’s sick moan.

But in my brain there seethes an adulterous hotchpotch
Of poems clean and disgusting, mad and sage;
And pain, like a dry fire, keeps them ever a-boiling
Till they splash over and blacken some wasted page.

Yes, I am a poet now to be mocked and applauded,
A turnspit that turns and must never taste the meat:
Behold how great I am, but I wait for a greater,
Even Death, who will silence the march of these crippled feet.

—John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950), “The Poet, II,” Fire and Wine, 1913