Poem – What Our Dead Do

Jan came this morning—

I dreamt of my father

he says
he was riding in an oak coffin

I walked next to the hearse

and father turned to me:
you dressed me nicely

and the funeral is very beautiful

at this time of year so many flowers

it must have cost a lot
don’t worry about it father

—I say—let people see

we loved you

that we spared nothing
six men in black livery

walk nicely at our sides
father thought for a while

and said—the key to the desk

is in the silver inkwell

there is still some money

in the second drawer on the left
with this money—I say—

we will buy you a gravestone

a large one of black marble
it isn’t necessary—says father—

better give it to the poor
six men in black livery

walk nicely at our sides

they carry burning lanterns
again he seemed to be thinking

—take care of the flowers in the garden

cover them for the winter

I don’t want them to be wasted
you are the oldest—he says—

from a little felt bag behind the painting

take out the cuff links with real pearls

let them bring you luck

my mother gave them to me

when I finished high school

then he didn’t say anything

he must have entered a deeper sleep
this is how our dead

look after us

they warn us through dreams

bring back lost money

hunt for jobs

whisper the numbers of lottery tickets

or when they can’t do this

knock with their fingers on the windows
and out of gratitude

we imagine immortality for them

snug as the burrow of a mouse 

Poem – The  Fortune Teller 

Down in the valley come meet me to-night, 

And I’ll tell you your fortune truly 

As ever ’twas told, by the new-moon’s light, 

To a young maiden, shining as newly. 
But, for the world, let no one be nigh, 

Lest haply the stars should deceive me, 

Such secrets between you and me and the sky 

Should never go farther, believe me. 
If at that hour the heavens be not dim, 

My science shall call up before you 

A male apparition — the image of him 

Whose destiny ’tis to adore you. 
And if to that phantom you’ll be kind, 

So fondly around you he’ll hover, 

You’ll hardly, my dear, any difference find 

‘Twixt him and a true living lover. 
Down at your feet, in the pale moonlight, 

He’ll kneel, with a warmth of devotion — 

An ardour, of which such an innocent sprite 

You’d scarcely believe had a notion. 
What other thoughts and events may arise, 

As in destiny’s book I’ve not seen them, 

Must only be left to the stars and your eyes 

To settle, ere morning, between them. 

Poem – The Dream of those Days

The dream of those days when first I sung thee is o’er 

Thy triumph hath stain’d the charm thy sorrows then wore; 

And even the light which Hope once shed o’er thy chains, 

Alas, not a gleam to grace thy freedom remains. 
Say, is it that slavery sunk so deep in thy heart, 

That still the dark brand is there, though chainless thou art; 

And Freedom’s sweet fruit, for which thy spirit long burn’d, 

Now, reaching at last thy lip, to ashes hath turn’d? 
Up Liberty’s steep by Truth and Eloquence led, 

With eyes on her temple fix’d, how proud was thy tread! 

Ah, better thou ne’er hadst lived that summit to gain, 

Denied in the porch, than thus dishonour the fane. 

Poem – The Donkey and His Panniers

A Donkey, whose talent for burdens was wondrous,

So much that you’d swear he rejoic’d in a load,

One day had to jog under panniers so pond’rous,

That — down the poor Donkey fell smack on the road!
His owners and drivers stood round in amaze —

What! Neddy, the patient, the prosperous Neddy,

So easy to drive, through the dirtiest ways,

For every description of job-work so ready!
One driver (whom Ned might have “hail’d” as a “brother”)

Had just been proclaiming his Donkey’s renown

For vigour, for spirit, for one thing or another —

When, lo, ‘mid his praises, the Donkey came down!
But, how to upraise him? – one shouts, t’other whistles,

While Jenky, the Conjurer, wisest of all,

Declar’d that an “over-production of thistles” —

(Here Ned gave a stare) — “was the cause of his fall.”
Another wise Solomon cries, as he passes —

“There, let him alone, and the fit will soon cease;

The beast has been fighting with other jack-asses,

And this is his mode of “transition to peace”.”
Some look’d at his hoofs, and with learned grimaces,

Pronounc’d that too long without shoes he had gone —

“Let the blacksmith provide him a sound metal basis

(The wise-acres said), and he’s sure to jog on.”
Meanwhile, the poor Neddy, in torture and fear,

Lay under his panniers, scarce able to groan;

And — what was still dolefuller – lending an ear

To advisers, whose ears were a match for his own.
At length, a plain rustic, whose wit went so far

As to see others’ folly, roar’d out, as he pass’d —

“Quick — off with the panniers, all dolts as ye are,

Or, your prosperous Neddy will soon kick his last!” 

Poem – Take Back the Virgin Page

Take back the virgin page, 

White and unwritten still; 

Some hand, more calm and sage, 

The leaf must fill. 

Thoughts come, as pure as light 

Pure as even you require; 

But, oh! each word I write 

Love turns to fire. 
Yet let me keep the book: 

Oft shall my heart renew, 

When on its leaves I look, 

Dear thoughts of you. 

Like you, ’tis fair and bright; 

Like you, too bright and fair 

To let wild passion write 

One wrong wish there. 
Haply, when from those eyes 

Far, far away I roam, 

Should calmer thoughts arise 

Towards you and home; 

Fancy may trace some line, 

Worthy those eyes to meet, 

Thoughts that not burn, but shine, 

Pure, calm, and sweet. 
And as, o’er ocean far, 

Seamen their records keep, 

Led by some hidden star 

Through the cold deep; 

So may the words I write 

Tell through what storms I stray — 

You still the unseen light, 

Guiding my way.