Morning Rain – Du Fu

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colors grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain — and lingers on past noon.

Restless Night – Du Fu

As bamboo chill drifts into the bedroom,
Moonlight fills every corner of our
Garden. Heavy dew beads and trickles.
Stars suddenly there, sparse, next aren’t.

Fireflies in dark flight flash. Waking
Waterbirds begin calling, one to another.
All things caught between shield and sword,
All grief empty, the clear night passes.

Market Day – John Clare

With arms and legs at work and gentle stroke
That urges switching tail nor mends his pace,
On an old ribbed and weather beaten horse,
The farmer goes jog trotting to the fair.
Both keep their pace that nothing can provoke
Followed by brindled dog that snuffs the ground
With urging bark and hurries at his heels.
His hat slouched down, and great coat buttoned close
Bellied like hooped keg, and chuffy face
Red as the morning sun, he takes his round
And talks of stock: and when his jobs are done
And Dobbin’s hay is eaten from the rack,
He drinks success to corn in language hoarse,
And claps old Dobbin’s hide, and potters back.

Love For A Hand – Karl Shapiro

Two hands lie still, the hairy and the white,
And soon down ladders of reflected light
The sleepers climb in silence. Gradually
They separate on paths of long ago,
Each winding on his arm the unpleasant clew
That leads, live as a nerve, to memory.

But often when too steep her dream descends,
Perhaps to the grotto where her father bends
To pick her up, the husband wakes as though
He had forgotten something in the house.
Motionless he eyes the room that glows
With the little animals of light that prowl

This way and that. Soft are the beasts of light
But softer still her hand that drifts so white
Upon the whiteness. How like a water-plant
It floats upon the black canal of sleep,
Suspended upward from the distant deep
In pure achievement of its lovely want!

Quietly then he plucks it and it folds
And is again a hand, small as a child’s.
He would revive it but it barely stirs
And so he carries it off a little way
And breaks it open gently. Now he can see
The sweetness of the fruit, his hand eats hers. 

California Winter – Karl Shapiro

It is winter in California, and outside
Is like the interior of a florist shop: 
A chilled and moisture-laden crop
Of pink camellias lines the path; and what
Rare roses for a banquet or a bride, 
So multitudinous that they seem a glut! 

A line of snails crosses the golf-green lawn
From the rosebushes to the ivy bed; 
An arsenic compound is distributed
For them. The gardener will rake up the shells
And leave in a corner of the patio
The little mound of empty shells, like skulls.

By noon the fog is burnt off by the sun
And the world’s immensest sky opens a page
For the exercise of a future age; 
Now jet planes draw straight lines, parabolas, 
And x’s, which the wind, before they’re done, 
Erases leisurely or pulls to fuzz.

It is winter in the valley of the vine.
The vineyards crucified on stakes suggest
War cemeteries, but the fruit is pressed, 
The redwood vats are brimming in the shed, 
And on the sidings stand tank cars of wine, 
For which bright juice a billion grapes have bled.

And skiers from the snow line driving home
Descend through almond orchards, olive farms.
Fig tree and palm tree – everything that warms
The imagination of the wintertime.
If the walls were older one would think of Rome: 
If the land were stonier one would think of Spain.

But this land grows the oldest living things, 
Trees that were young when Pharoahs ruled the world, 
Trees whose new leaves are only just unfurled.
Beautiful they are not; they oppress the heart
With gigantism and with immortal wings; 
And yet one feels the sumptuousness of this dirt.

It is raining in California, a straight rain
Cleaning the heavy oranges on the bough, 
Filling the gardens till the gardens flow, 
Shining the olives, tiling the gleaming tile, 
Waxing the dark camellia leaves more green, 
Flooding the daylong valleys like the Nile. 

On Time – John Milton

Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy plummet’s pace;
And glut thyself with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more than what is false and vain,
And merely mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast intombed,
And last of all thy greedy self consumed,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss,
And Joy shall overtake us like a flood;
When everything that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With truth and peace, and love, shall ever shine
About the supreme throne
Of Him, t’ whose happy-making sight alone
When once our heav’nly-guided soul shall climb,
Then, all this earthly grossness quit,
Attired with stars, we shall forever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time. 

To The Same – John Milton

Cyriack, this three years’ day these eyes, though clear, 
To outward view, of blemish or of a spot, 
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgotten; 
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear 
Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year,
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not 
Against Heaven’s hand or will, nor bate a jot 
Of heart or hope, but still, bear up and steer 
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask? 
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied
In liberty’s defense, my noble task, 
Of which all Europe rings from side to side. 
This thought might lead me through the world’s vain mask 
Content, though blind, had I no better guide.