Perfection Wasted by John Updike

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And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same.

Spring is like a perhaps hand by e.e. cummings

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,

III

Spring is like a perhaps hand 
(which comes carefully 
out of Nowhere)arranging 
a window,into which people look(while 
people stare
arranging and changing placing 
carefully there a strange 
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps 
Hand in a window 
(carefully to 
and fro moving New and 
Old things,while 
people stare carefully 
moving a perhaps 
fraction of flower here placing 
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

Modern Love Song by Robert Nichols

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From Two Songs of the Enigma

Now that the evenfall is come,
And the sun fills the flaring trees
And everything is mad, lit, dumb,
And in the pauses of the breeze
A far voice seems to call me home
To haven beyond woods and leas.

I feel again how sharply stings
The spell which binds our troubled dust
With hint of divine frustrated things,—
The Soul’s deep doubt and desperate trust
That She at sunset shall find wings
To bear her beyond NOW and MUST.

So place your head against my head,
And set your lips upon my lips
That so I may be comforted,—
For Ah ! the world so from me slips,
To the World-Sunset I am sped
Where Soul and Silence come to grips
And Love stands sore-astonished.

Courage by Anne Sexton

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It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

Dedication by Rita Dove

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after Czeslaw Milosz
Ignore me. This request is knotted –
I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I won’t promise anything. I am a magic
that can deafen you like a rainstorm or a well.
 _
I am clear on introduction, the five minute flirt,
the ending of old news.
Broken color, this kind of wanting,
its tawdriness, its awkward uncertainties.
 _
Once there was a hill thick with red maples
and a small brook
emerging from black briars.
There was quiet: no wind
to snatch the cries of birds flung above
where I sat and didn’t know you yet.
 _
What are music or books if not ways
to trap us in rumors? The freedom of fine cages!
I did not want bad music, I did not want
faulty scholarship; I wanted only to know
 _
what I had missed, early on –
that ironic half-salute of the truly lost.

Flirtation by Rita Dove

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After all, there’s no need
to say anything
at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares
like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.
Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs
and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart
is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!
Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.
There are ways
to make of the moment
a topiary
so the pleasure’s in
walking through

Rosa by Rita Dove

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How she sat there,
the time right inside a place
so wrong it was ready.

That trim name with
its dream of a bench
to rest on. Her sensible coat.

Doing nothing was the doing.
The clean flame of her gaze
carved by a camera flash.

How she stood up
when they bent down to retrieve
her purse. That courtesy.

Testimonal by Rita Dove

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Back when the earth was new
and heaven just a whisper,
back when the names of things
hadn’t had time to stick;

back when the smallest breezes
melted summer into autumn,
when all the poplars quivered
sweetly in rank and file . . .

the world called, and I answered.
Each glance ignited to a gaze.
I caught my breath and called that life,
swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet.

I was pirouette and flourish,
I was filigree and flame.
How could I count my blessings
when I didn’t know their names?

Back when everything was still to come,
luck leaked out everywhere.
I gave my promise to the world,
and the world followed me here.