Showing posts with label Anne Spencer (1882-1975). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anne Spencer (1882-1975). Show all posts

Anne Spencer – Translation

Anne Spencer – Translation

We trekked into a far country,
My friend and I.
Our deeper content was never spoken,
But each knew all the other said.
He told me how calm his soul was laid
By the lack of anvil and strife.
"The wooing kestrel," I said, "mutes his mating-note
To please the harmony of this sweet silence."
And when at the day's end
We laid tired bodies 'gainst
The loose warm sands,
And the air fleeced its particles for a coverlet;
When star after star came out
To guard their lovers in oblivion—
My soul so leapt that my evening prayer
Stole my morning song!

Anne Spencer – At the Carnival

Anne Spencer – At the Carnival

Gay little Girl-of-the-Diving-Tank,
I desire a name for you,
Nice, as a right glove fits;
For you—who amid the malodorous
Mechanics of this unlovely thing,
Are darling of spirit and form.
I know you—a glance, and what you are
Sits-by-the-fire in my heart.
My Limousine-Lady knows you, or
Why does the slant-envy of her eye mark
Your straight air and radiant inclusive smile?
Guilt pins a fig-leaf; Innocence is its own adorning.
The bull-necked man knows you—this first time
His itching flesh sees form divine and vibrant health
And thinks not of his avocation.
I came incuriously—
Set on no diversion save that my mind
Might safely nurse its brood of misdeeds
In the presence of a blind crowd.
The color of life was gray.
Everywhere the setting seemed right
For my mood. Here the sausage and garlic booth
Sent unholy incense skyward;
There a quivering female-thing
Gestured assignations, and lied
To call it dancing;
There, too, were games of chance
With chances for none;
But oh! Girl-of-the-Tank, at last!
Gleaming Girl, how intimately pure and free
The gaze you send the crowd,
As though you know the dearth of beauty
In its sordid life.
We need you—my Limousine-Lady,
The bull-necked man and I.
Seeing you here brave and water-clean,
Leaven for the heavy ones of earth,
I am swift to feel that what makes
The plodder glad is good; and
Whatever is good is God.
The wonder is that you are here;
I have seen the queer in queer places,
But never before a heaven-fed
Naiad of the Carnival-Tank!
Little Diver, Destiny for you,
Like as for me, is shod in silence;
Years may seep into your soul
The bacilli of the usual and the expedient;
I implore Neptune to claim his child to-day!

Anne Spencer – Gilgamesh

Anne Spencer – Gilgamesh

We lived on a lake with Muscovy ducks.
Interior decorators flush with furniture plans,
the ducks thrust with the thrust of youth.

We met at the gay community center, called Compass,
in Lake Worth, where they sponsored “The Coming Out Group,”
with Forest, our skilled leader. Transsexuals met before.
You were fifty, I thirty-nine—
somewhat late to begin a life together for the first time;
we had begun to see announcements in the New York Times,
so we knew it was possible to print:
“Paul O’Shaughnessy and Spencer Reece were joined on a celery green love-seat . . .”
Five years we had, not forever, but something still.

Our consent took a long time.
There were lulls. We played Scrabble:
I arranged the tiles and you kept score.
Sometimes we rolled the dice and read the I Ching.
We went about our days unseen and we loved that.
I placed too many books against the walls—
Capote, Madame Bovary, a biography of Anne Boleyn.
You complained about the clutter.
“Where will guests put their suitcases?” you asked.
Sometimes, we squabbled about money.
Often, you stretched out upon the double bed,
your skin no longer young, pebbled, freckled, known by me.

The city was jammed under your nails from construction work,
callused hands that knew bar-joists. Yours was an Irish body
formed and punished by the tin-colored rains around Croagh Patrick.
Beyond you, manatees, scarred by propellers,
huddled in the power plant’s warm waters.
Palm fronds and their shadows shook wildly as pornography.

On the edges of our dreams was the sea,
which the moon walked across with soft footsteps.

Our dog, a Lab-mix named Butch, chewed a bone at your bare feet.
Butch moved like a shadow on the sea’s floor.
Big and black, he came to us abused—
who does such a thing and why is it permanent?
We fed him a daily Xanax tablet before he pulled us
on his manic journeys that had no arrivals.

When we visited your Aunt Annie in the nursing home,
her walker dominated the room like an empty kennel.
She did not know who I was, her senility rendering me oblique.
Long ago, when your mother died,
your father sent a letter and a photograph of the four children to Killeen,
asking Aunt Annie to come. As she strove across the sea,
she watched the Connemara ponies disappear,
then Knock, Letterfrack, Roundstone, and Cashel Bay blurred,
blurred and blurred until they were nothing but green.
She left Ireland for good and raised you
and your three sisters—Joan, Ann, and Maureen.
In America, she went about her days unseen.
On her day off, she lit four candles for each one of you
at the Shrine of St. Anthony on Arch Street, in Boston.
She never married. She adored you.
When we visited, she kept saying:
“Paul, Paul, I have to get the cows across the stream.”

We overlooked Pelican Lake in Juno Beach
where caregivers and patients from the Alzheimer’s Support Group
awkwardly commenced their semi-detached dates,
eating potato chips off paper plates
and feeding their broken bits to the ducks.
Eyes vacantly connected in Florida,
where born-agains with failed marriages sent pamphlets
to Jews so they could be saved by Christ:
to conquer and subdue was what Florida was for.
There, we napped while the ducks strutted and preened
with greasy black-green plumes and speckled red pates;
it looked like they had mashed crayons on their heads—
a sort of evolutionary mishap. Developers demanding more room,
the ducks were sated, companioned, unbundling with poop.

A retired couple volunteered,
instructing residents in the tango—
the lady had white stained tights, the man a tambourine.
The tango emoted from a boom box
as the residents gathered in a crescent moon of wheelchairs.
Aunt Annie watched and talked about her cows, the stream.
We stood behind her like groomsmen.
Out the windows, Boston pontificated.

You were distracted, distracted
until one day you said, “I do not desire you.”
You had always been honest.
You wanted a younger man, between twenty and twenty-five.
The day blued around us—
our book of changes came to a close.
Your Christ-kiss issued no more.
You were what you had always been, only more so—
Irish and unavailable, darling.

The horizon became a handsaw.
When I could not reach what I loved the world was rent.

A friend had a stillborn, and her marriage ended.
She did not name the infant.
I had coffee with her at the Greek restaurant we liked.
She talked about going back to teach at Dreyfoos, the arts high school,
and one student, in particular, an effeminate male
with acne who dreamt of Juilliard, a way out.
Florida luxuriated out the window—
the fire bush, the cornflower blue plumbago, the Mexican petunia.
I sold my library, my piano. I boarded a train.
Seagulls diminished, gray specks, gray motes.
The therapist in Fort Lauderdale made no more appointments for us.
The migrant day laborers
out in Pahokee and Canal Point on Lake Okeechobee gleaned
and went about their days unseen.
The orange groves’ fragile hemispheres wobbled on their stems.
Sugar cane fields burned. Electrical poles gleamed.
Buck hoists and bucket trucks broke through the possum’s sedge.
The Everglades sighed its nervous extinction.

Aunt Annie had lost her index finger in Coventry, during the Blitz.
Repeatedly, she rubbed the stump.

Perhaps you walk now there with your young men,
meaty St. Augustine grass under your feet,
moving discreetly, undetected, perhaps you speak of dissatisfactions,
of politics. The Atlantic narrowing to a flushed, sanguine strip,
the fishing boats alone in the dark, murmuring,
hooking, perhaps the young men love you at first sight
and plead with you to stay. I95 and a1a pulsing down
Palm Beach County’s spits like blood, perhaps
your face tightens tenderly in response to what you see.

Anne Spencer – Lines to a Nasturtium

Anne Spencer – Lines to a Nasturtium

        A lover muses 

Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa,
I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar,
Into your flaming heart;
Then did I hear crisp crinkled laughter
As the furies after tore him apart?
A bird, next, small and humming,
Looked into your startled depths and fled...
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter
Than human eyes as mine can see,
Set the stricken air waves drumming
In his flight.

Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty,
I cannot see, I cannot hear your fluty
Voice lure your loving swain,
But I know one other to whom you are in beauty
Born in vain;
Hair like the setting sun,
Her eyes a rising star,
Motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar
All your competing;
Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet,
Cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet...
Ah, how the senses flood at my repeating,
As once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies
Beating, beating.

Anne Spencer – The Wife-Woman

Anne Spencer – The Wife-Woman

Maker-of-Sevens in the scheme of things
From earth to star;
Thy cycle holds whatever is fate, and
Over the border the bar.
Though rank and fierce the mariner
Sailing the seven seas,
He prays as he holds his glass to his eyes,
Coaxing the Pleiades.

I cannot love them; and I feel your glad,
Chiding from the grave,
That my all was only worth at all, what
Joy to you it gave,
These seven links the Law compelled
For the human chain—
I cannot love them; and you, oh,
Seven-fold months in Flanders slain!

A jungle there, a cave here, bred six
And a million years.
Sure and strong, mate for mate, such
Love as culture fears;
I gave you clear the oil and wine;
You saved me your hob and hearth—
See how even life may be ere the
Sickle comes and leaves a swath.

But I can wait the seven of moons,
Or years I spare,
Hoarding the heart's plenty, nor spend
A drop, nor share—
So long but outlives a smile and
A silken gown;
Then gaily I reach up from my shroud,
And you, glory-clad, reach down.

Anne Spencer – Before the Feast of Shushan

Anne Spencer – Before the Feast of Shushan

Garden of Shushan!
After Eden, all terrace, pool, and flower recollect thee:
Ye weavers in saffron and haze and Tyrian purple,
Tell yet what range in color wakes the eye;
Sorcerer, release the dreams born here when
Drowsy, shifting palm-shade enspells the brain;
And sound! ye with harp and flute ne'er essay
Before these star-noted birds escaped from paradise awhile to
Stir all dark, and dear, and passionate desire, till mine
Arms go out to be mocked by the softly kissing body of the wind—
Slave, send Vashti to her King!

The fiery wattles of the sun startle into flame
The marbled towers of Shushan:
So at each day's wane, two peers—the one in
Heaven, the other on earth—welcome with their
Splendor the peerless beauty of the Queen.

Cushioned at the Queen's feet and upon her knee
Finding glory for mine head,—still, nearly shamed
Am I, the King, to bend and kiss with sharp
Breath the olive-pink of sandaled toes between;
Or lift me high to the magnet of a gaze, dusky,
Like the pool when but the moon-ray strikes to its depth;
Or closer press to crush a grape ‘gainst lips redder
Than the grape, a rose in the night of her hair;
Then—Sharon's Rose in my arms.

And I am hard to force the petals wide;
And you are fast to suffer and be sad.
Is any prophet come to teach a new thing
Now in a more apt time?
Have him ‘maze how you say love is sacrament;
How says Vashti, love is both bread and wine;
How to the altar may not come to break and drink,
Hulky flesh nor fleshly spirit!

I, thy lord, like not manna for meat as a Judahn;
I, thy master, drink, and red wine, plenty, and when
I thirst. Eat meat, and full, when I hunger.
I, thy King, teach you and leave you, when I list.
No woman in all Persia sets out strange action
To confuse Persia's lord—
Love is but desire and thy purpose fulfillment;
I, thy King, so say!

Anne Spencer – Letter To My Sister

Anne Spencer – Letter To My Sister

It is dangerous for a woman
to defy the gods;
To taunt them with the tongue's thin tip,
Or strut in the weakness
of mere humanity,
Or draw a line daring them to cross;
The gods own the searing lightning,
The drowning waters, tormenting fears
And anger of red sins.

Oh, but worse still if you mince timidly--
Dodge this way or that, or kneel or pray,
Be kind, or sweat agony drops
Or lay your quick body over
your feeble young;
If you have beauty or none, if celibate
Or vowed--the gods are Juggernaut,
Passing over . . . over . . .

This you may do:
Lock your heart, then, quietly,
And lest they peer within,
Light no lamp when dark comes down
Raise no shade for sun;
Breathless must your
breath come through
If you'd die and dare deny
The gods their god-like fun.

Anne Spencer – For Jim, Easter Eve

Anne Spencer – For Jim, Easter Eve

If ever a garden was Gethsemane,
with old tombs set high against
the crumpled olive tree--and lichen,
this, my garden, has been to me.
For such as I none other is so sweet:
Lacking old tombs, here stands my grief,
and certainly its ancient tree.

Peace is here and in every season
a quiet beauty.
The sky falling about me
evenly to the compass . . .

What is sorrow but tenderness now
in this earth-close frame of land and sky
falling constantly into horizons
of east and west, north and south;
what is pain but happiness here
amid these green and wordless patterns,--
indefinite texture of blade and leaf:

Beauty of an old, old tree,
last comfort in Gethsemane.

Anne Spencer – Life-Long, Poor Browning

Anne Spencer – Life-Long, Poor Browning

Life-long, poor Browning never knew Virginia,
Or he'd not grieved in Florence for April sallies
Back to English gardens after Euclid's linear:
Clipt yews, Pomander Walks, and preached alleys;

Primroses, prim indeed, in quiet ordered hedges,
Waterways, soberly, sedately enchanneled,
No thin riotous blade even among the sedges,
All the wild country-side tamely impaneled . . .

Dead, now, dear Browning, lives on in heaven,--
(Heaven's Virginia when the year's at its Spring)
He's haunting the byways of wine-aired leaven
And throating the notes of the wildings on wing;

Here canopied reaches of dogwood and hazel,
Beech tree and redbud fine-laced in vines,
Fleet clapping rills by lush fern and basil,
Drain blue hills to lowlands scented with pines . . .

Think you he meets in this tender green sweetness
Shade that was Elizabeth . . . immortal completeness!

Anne Spencer – White Things

Anne Spencer – White Things

Most things are colorful things-
-the sky, earth, and sea.
Black men are most men;
but the white are free!
White things are rare things;
so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered

Finding earth-plains fair plains,
save greenly grassed,
They strewed white feathers of
cowardice, as they passed;

The golden stars with lances fine,
The hills all red and darkened pine,
They blanched with their want of power;
And turned the blood in a ruby rose
To a poor white poppy-flower.

Anne Spencer – Lady, Lady

Anne Spencer –Lady, Lady

Lady, Lady, I saw your face,
Dark as night withholding a star . . .
The chisel fell, or it might have been
You had borne so long the yoke of men.
Lady, Lady, I saw your hands,
Twisted, awry, like crumpled roots,
Bleached poor white in a sudsy tub,
Wrinkled and drawn from your rub-a-dub.

Lady, Lady, I saw your heart,
And altered there in its darksome place
Were the tongues of flames the ancients knew,
Where the good God sits to spangle through.

Anne Spencer – Earth, I thank you

Anne Spencer –Earth, I thank you

Earth, I thank you
for the pleasure of your language
You’ve had a hard time
bringing it to me
from the ground
to grunt thru the noun
To all the way
feeling seeing smelling touching
I am here!

Anne Spencer – Requiem

Anne Spencer –Requiem

Oh, I who so wanted to own some earth,
Am consumed by the earth instead:
Blood into river
Bone into land
The grave restores what finds its bed.
Oh, I who did drink of Spring’s fragrant clay,
Give back its wine for other men:
Breath into air
Heart into grass
My heart bereft — I might rest then.

Anne Spencer – Taboo

Anne Spencer –Taboo

Being a Negro Woman is the world’s most exciting
game of “Taboo”: By hell there is nothing you can
do that you want to do and by heaven you are
going to do it anyhow —
We do not climb into the jim crow galleries
of scenario houses we stay away and read
I read garden and seed catalogs, Browning,
Housman, Whitman, Saturday Evening Post
detective tales, Atlantic Monthly, American
Mercury, Crisis, Opportunity, Vanity Fair,
Hibberts Journal, oh, anything.
I can cook delicious things to eat. . .
we have a lovely home—one that
money did not buy—it was born and evolved
slowly out of our passionate, poverty-
stricken agony to own our own home.