1. A River

    In Madurai,
    city of temples and poets,
    who sang of cities and temples,
    every summer
    a river dries to a trickle
    in the sand,
    baring the sand ribs,
    straw and women’s hair
    clogging the watergates
    at the rusty bars
    under the bridges with patches
    of repair all over them
    the wet stones glistening like sleepy
    crocodiles, the dry ones
    shaven water-buffaloes lounging in the sun
    The poets only sang of the floods.

    He was there for a day
    when they had the floods.
    People everywhere talked
    of the inches rising,
    of the precise number of cobbled steps
    run over by the water, rising
    on the bathing places,
    and the way it carried off three village houses,
    one pregnant woman
    and a couple of cows
    named Gopi and Brinda as usual.

    The new poets still quoted
    the old poets, but no one spoke
    in verse
    of the pregnant woman
    drowned, with perhaps twins in her,
    kicking at blank walls
    even before birth.

    He said:
    the river has water enough
    to be poetic
    about only once a year
    and then
    it carries away
    in the first half-hour
    three village houses,
    a couple of cows
    named Gopi and Brinda
    and one pregnant woman
    expecting identical twins
    with no moles on their bodies,
    with different coloured diapers
    to tell them apart.

    By A K Ramanujan

  2. Joy in the Woods

    There is joy in the woods just now,
    The leaves are whispers of song,
    And the birds make mirth on the bough
    And music the whole day long,
    And God! to dwell in the town
    In these springlike summer days,
    On my brow an unfading frown
    And hate in my heart always—

    A machine out of gear, aye, tired,
    Yet forced to go on—for I’m hired.

    Just forced to go on through fear,
    For every day I must eat
    And find ugly clothes to wear,
    And bad shoes to hurt my feet
    And a shelter for work-drugged sleep!
    A mere drudge! but what can one do?
    A man that’s a man cannot weep!
    Suicide? A quitter? Oh, no!

    But a slave should never grow tired,
    Whom the masters have kindly hired.

    But oh! for the woods, the flowers
    Of natural, sweet perfume,
    The heartening, summer showers
    And the smiling shrubs in bloom,
    Dust-free, dew-tinted at morn,
    The fresh and life-giving air,
    The billowing waves of corn
    And the birds’ notes rich and clear:—

    For a man-machine toil-tired
    May crave beauty too—though he’s hired.

    by Claude McKay.

  3. Redwing Blackbird

    Feet firmly perch
    thinnest stalks, reeds, bulrush.
    Until all at once, they attend my
    female form, streaked throat, brownness.

    Three fly equidistant
    around me, flashing.
    Each, in turn, calls territorial
    trills, beckons ok-a-li, ok-a-li!

    Spreads his wings, extends
    inner muscle quivering red
    epaulet bands uniquely bolden.

    Turn away each suitor,
    mind myself my audience.
    Select another to consider,
    He in turn quiver thrills.

    Leave for insects.
    Perhaps one male follows.
    Maybe a few brood of young,
    line summertime.

    Silver Maple samaras
    wing wind, spread clusters
    along with mine, renewing Prairie.

    As summer closes, I leave
    dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies,
    mosquitoes, moths, spiders, crickets for

    grain, see, Sunflower;
    join thousands to flock Sky—
    grackles, blackbirds, cowbirds, starlings—
    Swarming like distant smoke clouds, rising.

    By Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

  4. Anthem

    After the Fourth of July

    On this night of the mid-
    summer festival of fire,
    where liquid explosives
    look like the arch and ache
    of the willow tree

    so near your grave, on this
    night of the awaiting mid-
    wife who lulled you in-
    to this world, the light
    all violet because the Earth and stars
    inclined toward each other,
    she also sleeps, she who was
    your first deliverer, guiding you out

    of your mother—her bluing
    skin no small sign of the future
    cyanosis of her spirit for no
    small journey was it to this
    country to bring you to birth
    in this torch

    song heat and an anthem of a free
    nation’s conception of combustions:
    rosins, petroleum, tallow, arsenic
    and worse, as you, too, fell from the sky

    of her body with me
    a microscopic egg inside—
    half the composition
    that made up my own
    toss and tumble to this crash
    of ground I sit over and bless
    while you lie under, under
    the willow, under this world
    that no midwife
    nor wavelength can under-
    standably reach. So I stand

    in this over-
    determined fire forced out
    like bullets upon a target—
    the pulled trigger releasing
    the hammer that strikes
    the impacted mixture—
    hailstorm and hymn

    of memories. And the outstretched womb
    involutes and the abdominal wall tightens
    and inside all abandoned encasements
    the night over the day darkens.

    By Susan Hahn.

  5. Bed in Summer

    In winter I get up at night
    And dress by yellow candle-light.
    In summer, quite the other way,
    I have to go to bed by day.

    I have to go to bed and see
    The birds still hopping on the tree,
    Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
    Still going past me in the street.

    And does it not seem hard to you,
    When all the sky is clear and blue,
    And I should like so much to play,
    To have to go to bed by day?

    By Robert Louis Stevenson

  6. The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

    The house was quiet and the world was calm.
    The reader became the book; and summer night
    Was like the conscious being of the book.
    The house was quiet and the world was calm.
    The words were spoken as if there was no book,
    Except that the reader leaned above the page,
    Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
    The scholar to whom the book is true, to whom
    The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
    The house was quiet because it had to be.
    The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
    The access of perfection to the page.
    And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
    In which there is no other meaning, itself
    Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
    Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

    By Wallace Stevens

  7. The Wild Geese

    Horseback on Sunday morning,
    harvest over, we taste persimmon
    and wild grape, sharp sweet
    of summer’s end. In time’s maze
    over fall fields, we name names
    that went west from here, names
    that rest on graves. We open
    a persimmon seed to find the tree
    that stands in promise,
    pale, in the seed’s marrow.
    Geese appear high over us,
    pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
    as in love or sleep, holds
    them to their way, clear,
    in the ancient faith: what we need
    is here. And we pray, not
    for new earth or heaven, but to be
    quiet in heart, and in eye
    clear. What we need is here.

    By Wendell Berry

  8. I know I am but summer to your heart

    I know I am but summer to your heart,
    And not the full four seasons of the year;
    And you must welcome from another part
    Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
    No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
    Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
    And I have loved you all too long and well
    To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
    Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
    I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
    That you may hail anew the bird and rose
    When I come back to you, as summer comes.
    Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
    Even your summer in another clime.

    By Edna St. Vincent Millay

  9. The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

    Here at the wolf’s throat, at the egress of the howl,
    all along the avenue of deer-blink and salmon-kick
    where the spider lets its microphone down
    into the cave of the blackberry bush—earth echo,
    absence of the human voice—wait here
    with a bee on your wrist and a fly on your cheek,
    the tiny sun and tiny eclipse.
    It is time to be grateful for the breath
    of what you could crush without thought,
    a moth, a child’s love, your own life.
    There might never be another chance.
    How did you find me, the astonished mother says
    to her four-year-old boy who’d disappeared
    in the crowds at the music festival.
    I followed my heart, he shrugs,
    so matter-of-fact you might not see
    behind his words
    (o hover and feed, but not too long)

    the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown.

    By Tim Bowling

  10. Back Yard

    Shine on, O moon of summer.
    Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
    All silver under your rain to-night.

    An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.
    A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
    to-night they are throwing you kisses.

    An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
    cherry tree in his back yard.

    The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
    white thoughts you rain down.

    Shine on, O moon,
    Shake out more and more silver changes.

    By Carl Sandburg