Poems by ModPo’ers: Lowell Murphree

Still and All

Still and all, if you ask in that way, I might reply – “peace.”
Although the wind would likely disagree and would be
Pressed to bring the gushing creek to share the thought

Among our loose wrapped memories are few 
With ribbons tied — 
No disappointment showing

The fireplace chafes at 
Keeping all that pent up sun between the blackened dogs
And calmly turning twisted pine unto soot

Something’s wild and vengeful
In your eyes – something like to hate that 
Shakes the earth and strips the forest bare

Tornados, hurricanes, wars and derision, 
Let these come Christmas Eve. 
We’ll find some virtue in combatting 
Joy in gritting our bared gnashing teeth

It’s when becalmed our canyons start to gape
Our wolves are still, I 
Know my insides come unzipped 

It’s then I cannot stand or understand 
The shepherd or the sheep 
But longing (though I wish it weren’t so) 
And thoroughly betrayed by — Love. 

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Poems by Modpo’ers: Mark Herron

Winter Solstice

The shortest day is upon us, and our structures
Built to observe, like Stone Henge, the pyramids
Track the sun’s alignment, demonstrate this day
We look out, on this, the closest day to Heaven

If each concentric sphere were like our world
They too would face the Sun, not this Earth
Our guiding constellations – people and animals
They would turn their backs on us as well

We watch the Sun each year; we map his path
Beloved being, like us, we wonder at your span

Like fond farewell, the Sun but lingers in the sky
Again, we pray the days run longer from here
In hope, dread, we measure on this shortest day
For a longer tomorrow, another beautiful year

December 14, 2013 meeting of the DC Politics and Prose Poets Society

Today Isn’t Everything

by Pablo Neruda


Something of yesterday clings to today,

a flag or a potsherd;

or simply a notion of light,

the scum on a midnight’s aquarium,
an unwithering thread—
essential tenacity, gold in the air:
something persists, whatever passes away
a little diminished, to fall under the arrows
of the hostile sun and its combats.

Else, why

in the glowing autonomy

of the positive day

that we lived

did a portent of seagulls

stay on, circling back as if it would stagger

the mix of its blue with the blue

that had vanished?

I tell you:

Inside the light

your soul makes its circle,

refining itself to extinction, 

or enlarging its rings like the stroke of a bell.

And between death and rebirth

the space is less grand

than we thought, the frontier

less implacable.

Light’s shape is round as a ring

and we move ourselves by its movements.


Translation: Ben Belitt
From Late and Posthumous Poems: 1968-1974

A favorite poem of my favorite high school math teacher

A Prayer
By John Drinkwater (1882–1937)

LORD, not for light in darkness do we pray,
Not that the veil be lifted from our eyes,
Nor that the slow ascension of our day
            Be otherwise.

Not for a clearer vision of the things        5
Whereof the fashioning shall make us great,
Not for the remission of the peril and stings
            Of time and fate.

Not for a fuller knowledge of the end
Whereto we travel, bruised yet unafraid,        10
Nor that the little healing that we lend
            Shall be repaid.

Not these, O Lord. We would not break the bars
Thy wisdom sets about us; we shall climb
Unfetter’d to the secrets of the stars        15
            In Thy good time.

We do not crave the high perception swift
When to refrain were well, and when fulfil,
Nor yet the understanding strong to sift
            The good from ill.        20

Not these, O Lord. For these Thou hast reveal’d,
We know the golden season when to reap
The heavy-fruited treasure of the field,
            The hour to sleep.

Not these. We know the hemlock from the rose,        25
The pure from stain’d, the noble from the base,
The tranquil holy light of truth that glows
            On Pity’s face.

We know the paths wherein our feet should press,
Across our hearts are written Thy decrees:        30
Yet now, O Lord, be merciful to bless
            With more than these.

Grant us the will to fashion as we feel,
Grant us the strength to labour as we know,
Grant us the purpose, ribb’d and edged with steel,        35
            To strike the blow.

Knowledge we ask not—knowledge Thou hast lent,
But, Lord, the will—there lies our bitter need,
Give us to build above the deep intent
            The deed, the deed.