Poems about rejection


(Rejection playlist) **Art: Grafitti by Banksy, on the side of the Hustler Club on Manhattan’s West Side (New York, NY, US), 2013 (source)

“Ask about my wailing from the prayers” by Ahmet Pasha (d. 1497, Ottoman Turkey)
–  from Ottoman Lyric Poetry: An Anthology

Ask about my wailing from the prayers
of the bird of dawn
Ask about my suffering from the wounded heart

Ask the letter, damp with tears, about the fire
of my sighs
Ask the burning pen as it writes the tale
of my grief

I know desire for your shining cheeks
from the candle of the moon
Ask about the pleasure of your lips
from sugar and from honey (…)

“Carta a un desterrado” (Letter to an exile) by Claribel Alegría (b. 1924; Estelí, Nicaragua; essayist, novelist, journalist) – from These Are Not Sweet Girls: Poetry by Latin American Women

Mi querido Odiseo:
Ya no es posible más
esposo mío
que el tiempo pase y vuele
y no te cuente yo
de mi vida en Itaca.
Hace ya muchos años
que te fuiste
tu ausencia nos pesó
a tu hijo
y a mí.

Empezaron a cercarme
eran tantos
tan tenaces sus requiebros
que apiadándose un dios
de mi congoja
me aconsejó tejer
una tela sutil
que te sirviera a ti
como sudario.
Si llegaba a concluirla
tendría yo sin mora
que elegir un esposo.

My dear Odysseus:
It’s no longer possible
my husband
that time goes flying by
without me telling you
of my life in Ithaca
Many years have gone by
since you left
your absence weights
on your son
and me.

My suitors began
to fence me in.
There were so many
and so tenacious in their flattery
that a god, taking pity
on my anguish
advised me to weave
a subtle
interminable cloth
that would serve
as your shroud.
If I finished
I would have to choose
a husband without delay. (…)

“Mary’s Song” by Marion Emily Angus (1865-1946; Sunderland, England; 20th century Scottish renaissance) – from The Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry

I wad ha’e gi’en him my lips tae kiss,
Had I been his, had I been his;
Barley breid and elder wine,
Had I been his as he is mine.

The wanderin’ bee it seeks the rose;
Tae the lochan’s bosom the burnie goes;
The grey bird cries at evenin’s fa’,
‘My luve, my fair one, come awa’ .’

My beloved sall ha’e this he’rt tae break,
Reid, reid wine and the barley cake;
A he’rt tae break, an’ a mou’ tae kiss,
Tho’ he be nae mine, as I am his.

“Murmuring” by Kofi Anyidoho (b. 1947; Wheta, Ghana; literature professor; Ewe poet)
– from The New African Poetry: An Anthology

I met a tall broadchest
strolling down deepnight
with my fiancée in his arms
She passed me off for a third cousin
On her mama’s side of a dried-up family tree

I nodded and walked away
Murmuring unnameable things to myself

“The Rejection” by Robert Ayton (or Aytoun) (1570-1638; Scotland; civil lawyer)
– from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

Shall feare to seeme untrue
To vowes of constant duty
Make mee disgest disdaines undue
From an inconstant beautie?
Noe, I doe not affect
In vowes to seeme soe holy
That I would have the world to check
My constancy with folly. (…)

{see also “Upon his Unconstant Mistress”}

“Take Me in Your Arms, Miss Moneypenny-Wilson” by Patrick Barrington (1908-1990; Ireland; Irish peer) – from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

Deaf to my cries, Miss Moneypenny-Wilson,
Deaf to my sighs, Miss B.,
Deaf to my songs and the story of my wrongs,
Deaf to my minstrelsy;

Deafer than the newt to the sound of a flute,
Deafer than a stone to the sea;
Deafer than a heifer to the sighing of a zephyr
Are your deaf ears to me. (…) Days by Samuel Beckett, produced by Theatre Y (Chicago, Illinois, US), 2014 (source)

“Cascando” by Samuel Beckett (1906-1989; Foxrock, Dublin, Ireland; novelist, playwright, theatre director, essayist; Modernist, Avant-Garde) – from Ireland’s Love Poems

saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love (…)

“Los suspiros” (Sighs) by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870; Seville, Spain; short-story writer, playwright, literary columnist, sketch artist; Post-romanticism)
– from Spanish Poetry: A Dual Language Anthology, 16th-20th Centuries

Los suspiros son aire y van al aire!
Las lágrimas son agua y van al mar!
Dime, mujer, cuando el amor se olvida
¿sabes tú adónde va?

Sighs are air and go into the air!
Tears are water and go to sea!
Tell me woman when love is forgotten
Do you know where it goes?

“An Expostulation” by Isaac John Bickerstaffe (1733-1812?; Dublin, Ireland; playwright, libretitist) – from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

When late I attempted your pity to move,
What made you so deaf to my prayers?
Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
But–why did you kick me downstairs?

“Many Will Love You” by Mathilde Blind (pseudonym Claude Lake) (1841 – 1896; Mannheim, Germany) – from Victorian Women Poets: A New Annotated Anthology

Many will love you; you were made for love;
For the soft plumage of the unruffled dove
Is not so soft as your caressing eyes.
You will love many; for the winds that veer
Are not more prone to shift their compass, dear,
Than your quick fancy flies.

Many will love you; but I may not, no;
Even though your smile sets all my life aglow,
And at your fairness all my senses ache.
You will love many; but not me, my dear,
Who have no gift to give you but a tear
Sweet for your sweetness’ sake.

“Pożegnanie z Marią” (Farewell to Maria) by Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951; Ukraine / Poland; short-story writer, journalist; Auschwitz survivor) – from Holocaust Poetry

Jeżeli żyjesz — to pamiętaj,
że jestem. Ale do mnie nie idz.
W tej nocy czarnej, opuchniętej
snieg się do szyb płatami klei.

I gwiżdże wiatr. I nagi kontur
drzew bije w okno. I nade mna
jak dym zagasłych miast i frontów
płynie niezmierna, głucha ciemnosć.

Jak strasznie cicho! Po cóż było
aż dotad żyć? Już tylko gorycz.
Nie wracaj do mnie. Moja miłosć
jest zżarta ogniem krematorium.

If you are living, remember
I’m alive. But don’t come to me.
In this black, swollen night
snowflakes cling to the windows

And the wind whistles. And naked shapes
of trees slap the window. And above me like
smoke from charred cities and battle fronts
drifts the deaf, measureless silence.

This appalling silence! Why have I
lived so long? Now, only bitterness.
Don’t come back to me. My love
burned away in the flames of the crematorium. (…)寒林山水図屏風 (Lone Traveler in Wintry Mountains) by Yosa Buson, 1778 (source)

“Through snow” by Yosa Buson (1716-1784; Settsu Province, Japan; painter)
– from The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets

Through snow,
Lights of homes
That slammed their gates on me.

“Like” by Cathleen Calbert (b. 1955; Jackson, Michigan, US; English professor)
– from Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website

I listened like a chimpanzee,
like a defrocked priest,
like the last dying fish
in an unclean fishbowl
atop a dead woman’s bureau,
to her words as if
I had a red ribbon tied around my neck
a coughdrop lodged in my larynx,
hairball in my idiotic kitty-licking throat
like I was the cat falling
sixty floors from a luxury building (…)

“Shall I Come, Sweet Love” by Thomas Campion (1567-1620; London, England; composer for lute and masques, writer of a musical treatise)
– from The Oxford Anthology of English Poetry: Volume I: Spenser to Crabbe

SHALL I come, sweet Love, to thee
When the evening beams are set?
Shall I not excluded be?
Will you find no feignèd let?
Let me not, for pity, more               5
Tell the long hours at your door.

Who can tell what thief or foe,
In the covert of the night,
For his prey will work my woe,
Or through wicked foul despite?              10
So may I die unredrest
Ere my long love be possest.

But to let such dangers pass,
Which a lover’s thoughts disdain,
’Tis enough in such a place            15
To attend love’s joys in vain:
Do not mock me in thy bed,
While these cold nights freeze me dead.

“The Spring” by Thomas Carew (1595-1640; Kent, England; courtier, diplomatic secretary)
– from The Cavalier Poets: An Anthology

The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array
Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.
Now all things smile, only my love doth lour;
Nor hath the scalding noonday sun the power
To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold
Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.  (…)

{see also “To my Inconstant Mistress”: “When thou, poor excommunicate / From all the joys of love, shalt see”}

“To Juventius” by Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 BC; Verona, Italy; neoteric style of poetry) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Could there never be found in folk so thronging (Juventius!)
Any one charming thee whom thou couldst fancy to love,
Save and except that host from deadliest site of Pisaurum,
Wight than a statue gilt wanner and yellower-hued,
Whom to thy heart thou takest and whom thou darest before us
Choose? But villain what deed doest thou little canst wot!

“Per simulare il bruciore del cuore” (To simulate the burning of the heart) by Patrizia Cavalli (b. 1949; Todi, Italy; translator of Moliere and Shakespeare) – from New Italian Poets

Per simulare il bruciore del cuore, l’umiliazione
dei visceri, per fuggire maledetta
e maledicendo, per serbare castità
e per piangerla, per escludere la mia bocca
dal sapore pericoloso di altre bocche
e spingerla insaziata a saziarsi dei veleni del cibo
nell’apoteosi delle cene quando il ventre
già gonfio continua a gonfiarsi;
per toccare solitudini irraggiungibili e lì
ai piedi di un letto di una sedia
o di una scala recitare l’addio

To simulate the burning of the heart, the humiliation
of the viscera, to flee cursed
and cursing, to horde chastity
and to cry for it, to keep my mouth
from the dangerous taste of other mouths
and push it unfulfilled to fulfill itself with the poisons of food,
in the apotheosis of dinners when the already
swollen belly continues to swell;
to touch unreachable solitude and there
at the foot of a bed, a chair
or the stairs to recite a goodbye, (…)

“Sir, I have remained so overcome” by Marino Ceccoli (1300s, Italy)
– from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Sir, I have remained so overcome, that I can no longer suffer your attacks; my
strength has abandoned me so, that my body is half dead.
In my miserable heart I feel a mortal blow; such that my heart has no hope of
finding salvation; your disdain of me has been so cruel, that I am beside myself. (…)

“True Blue Lou” by Sam Coslow (1902-1982, New York, US; composer, film producer)  & Leo Robin (1900-1984; Pennsylvania, US; composer, lyricist) (Annette Hanshaw rendition) – from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

Say, she was a dame in love with a guy
She stuck to him, but didn’t know why
Everyone blamed her, still they all named her
True Blue Lou

He gave her nothing, she gave him all
But when he had his back to the wall
Who fought to save him, smiled and forgave him
True Blue Lou

He got a break and went away to get a new start
But poor kid, she never got a break
Except the one way down in her heart (…)

“To Helene: On a Gift-ring carelessly lost” by George Darley (1795–1846; Dublin, Ireland; novelist, literary critic, short story writer, author of mathematical texts)
– from The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse

I SENT a ring—a little band
Of emerald and ruby stone,
And bade it, sparkling on thy hand,
Tell thee sweet tales of one
Whose constant memory              5
Was full of loveliness, and thee.

A shell was graven on its gold,—
‘Twas Cupid fix’d without his wings—
To Helene once it would have told
More than was ever told by rings:      10
But now all ‘s past and gone,
Her love is buried with that stone. (…)

“The Request of Alexis” by Sarah Dixon (1671/2-1765; Kent, England)
– from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

Give, give me back that Trifle you despise,
Give back my Heart, with all its Injuries:
Tho’ by your Cruelty it wounded be,
The Thing is yet of wond’rous Use to me.
A gen’rous Conqueror, when the Battle’s won,
Bestows a Charity on the Undone:
If from the well aim’d Stroke no Hope appear,
He kills the Wretch, and shews Compassion there:
But you, Barbarian! keep alive Pain,
A lasting Trophy of Unjust Disdain.

“Love’s Deity” by John Donne (1572-1631; London, England; metaphysical poet)
– from Sound and Sense: an Introduction to Poetry

I long to talk with some old lover’s ghost,
Who died before the god of love was born.
I cannot think that he, who then lov’d most,
Sunk so low as to love one which did scorn.
But since this god produc’d a destiny,
And that vice-nature, custom, lets it be,
I must love her, that loves not me. (…)

{see also “The Damp”: “WHEN I am dead, and doctors know not why”} An engraving by Thomas Cheesman for The Fables of John Dryden, 1797 (source)

“Disdain Punished” from Theodore and Honoria (Fables Ancient and Modern) by John Dryden (1631-1700; Aldwincle, Northamptonshire, UK; literary critic, playwright, librettist) – from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

This noble Youth to Madness lov’d a Dame,
Of high Degree, Honoria was her Name;               10
Fair as the Fairest, but of haughty Mind,
And fiercer than became so soft a kind;
Proud of her Birth; (for equal she had none;)
The rest she scorn’d; but hated him alone.
His Gifts, his constant Courtship, nothing gain’d;             15
For she, the more he lov’d, the more disdain’d:
He liv’d with all the Pomp he cou’d devise,
At Tilts and Turnaments obtain’d the Prize,
But found no favour in his Ladies Eyes: (…)

“How Lisa Loved the King” by George Eliot (1819-1880; Warwickshire, England; novelist, short-story writer, essayist, translator of German writing)
– from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

She watched all day that she might see him pass
With knights and ladies; but she said, “Alas!
Though he should see me, it were all as one
He saw a pigeon sitting on the stone
Of wall or balcony: some colored spot
His eye just sees, his mind regardeth not.
I have no music-touch that could bring nigh
My love to his soul’s hearing. I shall die,
And he will never know who Lisa was,–
The trader’s child, whose soaring spirit rose
As hedge-born aloe-flowers that rarest years disclose. (…)

“To J.G. On the News of His Marriage” by “Ephelia” (Mary Stewart?) (1622-1685, England; duchess) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

My Love? alas! I must not call you Mine,
But to your envy’d Bride that Name resign:
I must forget your lovely melting Charms,
And be for ever Banisht from your Arms:
For ever? oh! the Horror of that Sound!
It gives my bleeding Heart a deadly wound:
While I might hope, although my Hope was vain,
It gave some Ease to my unpitty’d Pain,
But now your Hymen doth all Hope exclude,
And but to think is Sin; yet you intrude
On every Thought; if I but close my Eyes,
Methinks your pleasing Form besides me lies;
With every Sigh I gently breath your Name,
Yet no ill Thoughts pollute my hallow’d Flame; (…)

{see also “To My Rival”: “Since you dare Brave me, with a Rivals Name,”}

“And Again” by Alison Fell (b. 1944; Dumfries, Scotland)
– from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

He’s a dark man
melancholic and bitter;
with a hornet’s sting
he bites to the bone

Dreadful in suspicion
he becomes a leech
– he will have me.
He sings it to the telephone wires

Since last year I’ve grown
and knowledgeable:
ruefully I refuse him (…)

“Sweeter Far than the Harp, More Gold than Gold” by “Michael Field”: Katharine Bradley (1846-1914; Birmingham, England) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) (diarists; Aestheticist style) – from The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892-1935

Thine elder that I am, thou must not cling
To me, nor mournful for my love entreat:
And yet, Alcaeus, as the sudden spring
Is love, yea, and to veiled Demeter sweet.
Sweeter than tone of harp, more gold than gold
Is thy young voice to me; yet, ah, the pain
To learn I am beloved now I am old,
Who, in my youth, loved, as thou must, in vain.

“I Can’t Get Started” by George Gershwin (1898-1937; Brooklyn, New York, US; composer, pianist) (Carmen McRae rendition) – from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

I’ve flown around the world in a plane
I’ve settled revolutions in Spain
And the North Pole I have charted
Still I can’t get started with you

On the golf course, I’m under par
Metro Goldwyn have asked me to star
I’ve got a house, a showplace
Still I can’t get no place with you

‘Cause you’re so supreme
Lyrics I write of you, I dream
Dream day and night of you
And I scheme just for the sight of you
Baby, what good does it do?

I’ve been consulted by Franklin D
Greta Garbo has had me to tea
Still I’m broken-hearted
‘Cause I can’t get started with you

“To a Rejected Sonnet” by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898; Liverpool, England; politician, classical scholar, essayist; served as Prime minister) – from A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850

Poor child of sorrow! who didst boldly spring,
Like sapient Pallas, from thy parent’s brain
All armed in mail of proof! and thou wouldst fain
Leap further yet, and on exulting wing
Rise to the summit of the printer’s press!
But cruel hand hath nipped thy buds amain,
Hath fixed on thee the darkling inky stain,
Hath soiled thy splendour and defiled thy dress!
Where are thy “full-orbed moon” and “sky serene”?
And where thy “waving foam” and “foaming wave”?
All, all are blotted by the murderous pen
And lie unhonoured in their papery grave!
Weep, gentle sonnets! Sonneteers, deplore!
And vow–and keep your vow–you’ll write no more!

“Hesitate to Call” by Louise Elisabeth Glück (b. 1943; New York, US; poetry consultant for organizations and government, essayist)
– from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times

Lived to see you throwing
Me aside. That fought
Like netted fish inside me. Saw you throbbing
In my syrups. Saw you sleep. And lived to see
That all that all flushed down
The refuse. Done?
It lives in me.
You live in me. Malignant.
Love, you ever want me, don’t.

“Kinged” by Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas, US; instructional designer, professor, academic journal editor) – from Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry

Crumpled like an embroidered pillowcase
on the floor, the old woman cries
in the smoldering of incense and steamed glass.
She is packing to return to Ohio;
her daughter has told her, “Your two years here
are up. You should go back while the weather
is warm.” She has found money
as a thumb in sponge cake
leaves little impression. A kinged checker,
she is finally moving backwards
in a history of frontiers: Canton
to Hong Kong to Ohio to Seattle. (…)

“Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen,” (A Young Man Loves a Maiden) by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856; Düsseldorf, Germany; essayist, journalist, literary critic) – from The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Vol. 2

Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen,
Die hat einen andern erwählt;
Der andre liebt eine andre,
Und hat sich mit dieser vermählt.

Das Mädchen heiratet aus Ärger
Den ersten besten Mann,
Der ihr in den Weg gelaufen;
Der Jüngling ist übel dran.

Es ist eine alte Geschichte,
Doch bleibt sie immer neu;
Und wem sie just passieret,
Dem bricht das Herz entzwei.

A young man loves a maiden,
Who chose another man instead;
That other loves another one
And she’s the one he wed.

The maiden weds in anger
The first likely lad
That comes across her way;
The young man is ever so sad.

This is an old story,
And yet it remains forever new;
And should it happen to anyone
It will break his heart in two.

“Properzia Rossi” by Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835; Liverpool, Lancashire, UK; wrote biographical poems, essayist; Late Romantic)
– from Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology

Tell me no more, no more
Of my soul’s lofty gifts! Are they not vain
To quench its haunting thirst for happiness?
Have I not lov’d, and striven, and fail’d to bind
One true heart unto me, whereon my own
Might find a resting-place, a home for all
Its burden of affections? I depart,
Unknown, tho’ Fame goes with me; I must leave
The earth unknown. Yet it may be that death
Shall give my name a power to win such tears
As would have made life precious. (…)

“Denial” by George Herbert (1593-1633; Montgomery, Wales; orator, Anglican priest; Metaphysical poet)
– from Five Seventeenth-Century Poets: Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Marvell, Vaughan

When my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears,
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse;
My breast was full of fears
And disorder.

My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasures go,
Some to the wars and thunder
Of alarms. (…)

“Meditation on a Bone” by Alec Derwent (A.D.) Hope (1907-2000; Cooma, New South Wales, Australia; satirist, essayist, poetry reviewer)
– from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

“I loved her as a maiden; I will not trouble Erlend’s detestable wife; better she should be a widow.” (1050 AD)

Words scored upon a bone,
Scratched in despair or rage —
Nine hundred years have gone;
Now, in another age,
They burn with passion on
A scholar’s tranquil page.

The scholar takes his pen
And turns the bone about,
And writes those words again.
Once more they seethe and shout
And through a human brain
Undying hate rings out.

“I loved her when a maid;
I loathe and love the wife
That warms another’s bed:
Let him beware his life!”
The scholar’s hand is stayed;
His pen becomes a knife (…)

“He would not stay for me; and who can wonder” by Alfred Edward (A.E.) Housman (1859-1936; Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, UK; classical scholar, lecturer, letter-writer) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
And went with half my life about my ways.

“Outside the Party” by Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910; New York, US; songwriter, activist for abolitionism and women’s suffrage)
– from She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century

At yon clear window, light-opened before me,
Glances the face I have worshipped so well:
There’s the fine gentleman, grand in his glory;
There, the fair smile by whose sweetness I fell.

This is akin to him, shunned and forsaken,
That at my bosom sobs low, without bread;
Had not such pleading my marble heart shaken,
I had been quiet, long since, with the dead. (…)

“Vermont” by David Ross Huddle (b. 1942; Ivanhoe, Virginia, US; professor, fiction writer, essayist, anthology editor) – from American War Poetry

I’m forty-six. I was twenty-three then.
I’m here with what I’ve dreamed or remembered.
In the Grand Hotel in Vung Tau one weekend
I spent some time with the most delicate
sixteen-year-old girl who ever delivered casual heartbreak to a moon-eyed GI.
I am trying to make it balance, but I
can’t. Believe me, I’ve weighed it out: (…)

“Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered” by Clive James (b. 1939; Kogorah, Sydney, Australia; essayist, literary critic, novelist, broadcaster, memoirist, translator of Dante)
– from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s book —
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs. (…) Volpone, or the Fox by Ben Jonson, produced by the Red Bull Theater Company (New York, NY, US), 2012 (source: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

“Song: To Celia” by Ben Jonson (1572-1637; Westminster, London (UK); playwright, actor, literary critic; popularized comedy of humours, lyric poet) – from Unauthorized Versions: Poems and Their Parodies

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

“Post Ulixem Scriptum” by James Joyce (1882-1941; Rathgar, Ireland; novelist, short-story writer, essayist, letter-writer; Modernist, Avant-Garde)
– from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

Man dear, did you never hear of buxom Molly Bloom at all,
As plump an Irish beauty, Sir, as any Levi-Blumenthal?
If she sat in the viceregal box Tim Healy’d have no room at all,
But curl up in a corner at a glance from her eye.

The tale of her ups and downs would aisy fill a handybook
That would cover the two worlds at once from Gibraltar ‘cross to Sandy Hook.
But now that tale is told, ochone, I’ve lost my daring dandy look:
Since Molly Bloom has left me here alone for to cry. (…)

“Mondo! Perché mi perseguiti?” (World! Why do you hound me?) by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695; San Miguel Nepantia, New Spain (Mexico); scholar, philosopher, Hieronymite nun) – from The Song Atlas: A Book of World Poetry

Mondo ! Perchè mi perseguiti così ?
Ti disturbo io? Davvero? Quando tutto ciò che voglio
è mettere la Bellezza nella mia Comprensione
e non la mia Comprensione nella Bellezza?

Non mi interessa il Denaro e il Lusso
mi dà più soddisfazione
mettere la Ricchezza nella mia Comprensione
della Comprensione nella Ricchezza.

World! why do you hound me like this?
Do I annoy you? Really? When all I want
is to put Beauty in my Understanding,
and not my Understanding in Beauty?

I have no interest in Money and Luxury:
it gives me more satisfaction
to put Wealth in my Understanding
than my Understanding in Wealth. (…)

“Bitch” by Carolyn Kizer (1925-2014; Spokane, Washington, US; editor)
– from The Gift of Tongues: Twenty-five Years of Poetry from Copper Canyon Press

Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’t start growling.
He isn’t a trespasser anymore,
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,
The bitch changes her tone; she begins to whimper.
She wants to snuggle up to him, to cringe.
Down, girl! Keep your distance
Or I’ll give you a taste of the choke-chain.
“Fine, I’m just fine,” I tell him. (…)

“A timid grace sits trembling in her eye” by Charles Lamb (1764-1847; London, England; writer, essayist) – from Great Sonnets

A timid grace sits trembling in her eye,
As loath to meet the rudeness of men’s sight,
Yet shedding a delicious lunar light
That steeps in kind oblivious ecstasy
The care-crazed mind, like some still melody:
Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess
Her gentle sprite: peace, and meek quietness,
And innocent loves, and maiden purity:
A look whereof might heal the cruel smart
Of changed friends, or fortune’s wrongs unkind:
Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart
Of him who hates his brethren of mankind.
Turned are those lights from me, who fondly yet
Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.

“A Girl at Her Devotions” by Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838; Chelsea, London, UK; novelist) – from Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology

She was just risen from her bended knee,
But yet peace seem’d not with her piety;
For there was paleness upon her young cheek,
And thoughts upon the lips which never speak,
But wring the heart that at the last they break.

Alas! how much of misery may be read
In that wan forehead, and that bow’d-down head! —
Her eye is on a picture: woe that ever
Love should thus struggle with a vain endeavour
Against itself: it is a common tale,
And ever will be while earth’s ills prevail
Over earth’s happiness; it tells she strove
With silent, secret, unrequited love. (…)

“The Maid’s Lament” by Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864; Warwick, England; prose writer, essayist, Latin writer) – from The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918

I loved him not; and yet, now he is gone,
I feel I am alone.
I check’d him while he spoke; yet, could he speak,
Alas! I would not check.
For reasons not to love him once I sought,
And wearied all my thought
To vex myself and him: I now would give
My love could he but live
Who lately lived for me, and, when he found
’Twas vain, in holy ground
He hid his face amid the shades of death.
I waste for him my breath (…)

“To Lucasta, going to the Wars” by Richard Lovelace (1617-1657; London, England; political writer, playwright; Cavalier poet) – from The Cavalier Poets: An Anthology

Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.

“Carrefour” by Amy Lowell (1874-1925; Brookline, Massachusetts, US; anthologist, essayist; Imagist movement) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

O You,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wild white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees.

“I Want to Love You Very Much” by ‘Marnia’ (1968-1992; London, England; short-story writer) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

You ask for my love
I am afraid to give what I have
A gentle animal leans on my arm
I hurt you
You look at me with wounded eyes
I slap you
You beg for my love
I leave you.

“Love Poem 1990” by Peter Meinke (b. 1932; Brooklyn, New York, US; short-story writer, writing instructor) – from Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry

When I was young and shiny as an apple in the good
Lord’s garden,
I loved a woman whose beauty like the moon moved
all the humming heavens to music
Till the stars with their tiny teeth burst into song
and I fell on the ground before her while the sky
and she laughed and turned me down softly, I was so
young. (…)

“Ballade of the Outcasts” by Stuart Merrill (1863-1915; Hempstead, New York, US; French writer and translator; Symbolist school) – from American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, Vol. 2

The Voice of the Men.

We are the Vagabonds that sleep
In ditches by the midnight ways
Where wolves beneath the gibbets leap:
Our hands against black Fate we raise
In lifelong turmoil of affrays,
Until we die, in some dark den,
The death of dogs that hunger slays:
For we are hated of all men. (…)

“Renouncement” by Alice Thompson Meynell (1847-1922; London, England; editor, literary critic, essayist, Suffragist)
– from The Oxford Book of Sonnets

I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the thought that lurks in all delight—
The thought of thee—and in the blue heaven’s height,
And in the sweetest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the fairest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away,—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart.

“Love me no more, now let the god depart” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950; Rockland, Maine, US; playwright, activist) – from The Heath Introduction to Poetry

Love me no more, now let the god depart,
If love be grown so bitter to your tongue!
Here is my hand; I bid you from my heart
Fare well, fare very well, be always young.
As for myself, mine was a deeper drouth:
I drank and thirsted still; but I surmise
My kisses now are sand against your mouth,
Teeth in your palm and pennies on your eyes.
Speak but one cruel word, to shame my tears;
Go, but in going, stiffen up my back
To meet the yelping of the mustering years—
Dim, trotting shapes that seldom will attack
Two with a light who match their steps and sing:
To one alone and lost, another thing.

“Those tulip-cheeked ones—what they dared do in the garden!” by Nejati (d. 1509; Constantinople, Ottoman Turkey; lyric poet) – from Ottoman Lyric Poetry: An Anthology

Those tulip-cheeked ones—what they dared to do in the garden!
Besides them, the cypress could not sway,
nor the rosebuds open
They wouldn’t let the wild tulip into the
conversation of the rose
Saying it was a stranger from the distant steppes.

“Meditations in an Emergency” by Frank O’Hara (1926-1966; Baltimore, Maryland, US; art curator) – from The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry

  Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French?

          Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.

          Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change?

          I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

          Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves. (…)

“A diver does not abandon” by Ono no Komachi (825 – 900; Japan; Waka poet)
– from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

A diver does not abandon
A seaweed-filled bay.
Will you then turn away
From this floating, sea-foam body
That waits for your gathering hands?

“Breakfast Poem” by Clare Pollard (b. 1978; Manchester, England; editor, playwright)
– from New Blood

I am egg-shell fragile
and grape-fruit sour
my face blotchy
eyes raisin and soaked in booze
I stench of night sweat
and too tired to shower
to scrub off each ingrain mascara bruise (…)

“To Kalon” by Ezra Pound (1885-1972; Indiana, US / England / Italy; literary magazine editor, translator of Egyptian, Chinese; essayist; Modernist, Imagist movement)
– from The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002

Even in my dreams you have denied yourself to me,
You have sent me only your handmaids.

“Love/a Many Splintered Thing” by Kevin Powell (b. 1966; Jersey City, New Jersey, US; political activist, interviewer, essayist, reality TV personality, anthology editor)
– from In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers

i have this need to feel you
make love out of the sweat
itching our palms give
you to your mother so that she
can give birth to you create an
ocean where love sleeps peacefully
eat out of the same bed we flesh
orgasms scream where cobwebs
imprison courage cry where
your tears gripped my shoulders wrap
my tongue around your waist and
lick the rhythms of your walk
talk until a beat hits me where
it hits me where it hits me
in the space where my heart
used to be you know it’s
blank now dark black no
commercials open land (…) by T. H. Robinson for the The Story of Sir Walter Raleigh by Margaret D. Kelly, depicting a myth of Raleigh stepping out of a crowd of people to lay his coat before Queen Elizabeth to step over a mud puddle (source)

“The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” by Walter Raleigh, Sir (1554-1618; East Devon, England; travel writer, soldier, politician, courtier, spy, American colonizer); in reply to “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe
– from The Broadview Anthology of Poetry

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall. (…)

“Sonnet” by Maimie A. Richardson (fl. 1920s; London, England)
– from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

I still shall smile and go my careless way;
Dawn shall not see my tears,—nor shall night hear
Through broken murmurings thy name sound clear,
Nor catch old dreams of love that drift and sway—
The wistful ghosts of a forgotten day.
Nor shall the lilt of Spring, nor Autumns sere,
Awake my heart to pain, to pulsing fear,
Nor lure me from my days serene and grey.

Only one place my steps may never go,
One moorland path my feet may never climb.
O heart of mine!—the heather springy—sweet,
The loch a silver shimmer far below—
Forget that day, the haunting scent of thyme;
Forget the love all shattered at my feet.

“Sappho’s Address to the Stars” by Mary Robinson (née Darby) (1757-1800; Bristol, England; actress, dramatist, essayist, memoirist, novelist)
– from A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850

Oh! ye bright Stars! that on the ebon fields
Of heaven’s vast empire, trembling seem to stand;
‘Till rosy morn unlocks her portal bland,
Where the proud Sun his fiery banner wields!
To flames, less fierce than mine, your luster yields,
And powers more strong my countless tears command;
Love strikes the feeling heart with ruthless hand,
And only spares the breast which dullness shields.
Since, then, capricious nature but bestows
The fine affections of the soul, to prove
A keener sense of desolating woes,
Far, far from me the empty boast remove;
If bliss from coldness, pain from passion flows,
Ah! who would wish to feel, or learn to love?

{see also Contemns Philosophy: “Where antique woods o’erhang the mountain’s crest;”
Describes The Fascinations of Love: “Weak is the sophistry, and vain the art”
Laments Her Early Misfortunes: “Why do I live to loathe the cheerful day,”
Suspects his Constancy: “Farewell, ye coral caves, ye pearly sands,”
To Phaon: “Can’st thou forget, O! Idol of my Soul!”
To Phaon: “Oh! I could toil for thee o’er burning plains”
To Phaon: “Why art thou changed? O Phaon! Tell me why”}

“Song” by Elizabeth Wilmot, Countess of Rochester (1651-1681; Oxfordshire, England; heiress, wife of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester)
– from Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700): An Anthology

Nothing ades to Loves fond fire
More than scorn and cold disdain
I to cherish your desire
kindness used but twas in vain
you insulted on your Slave
To be mine you soon refused
Hope hope not then the power to have
Which ingloriously you used.

“No, Thank You, John” by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894; London, England; writer of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems; short-story writer, essayist)
– from The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2

I never said I loved you, John:
Why will you tease me day by day,
And wax a weariness to think upon
With always “do” and “pray”?

You Know I never loved you, John;
No fault of mine made me your toast:
Why will you haunt me with a face as wan
As shows an hour-old ghost?

I dare say Meg or Moll would take
Pity upon you, if you’d ask:
And pray don’t remain single for my sake
Who can’t perform the task. (…)

“The Reply to Mr. –“ by Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737; Somerset, England; epistolary novelist, religious essayist)
– from The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose

No: I’m unmoved: nor can thy charming Muse
One tender Thought into my Breast Infuse.
I am from all those sensual motions Free;
And you, in vain, speak pretty things to Me:
For through the Splendid Gallantrys of Love,
Untouch’d, and careless, now I wildly rove,
From all th’ Attacques of those proud Darts secure,
Whose Trifling Force too Tamely you indure;
Nor ought, on Earth’s, so delicate to move
My Nicer Spirit, and exact my Love:
Even Theron’s Lovely and Inticeing Eyes,
Tho’ arm’d with flames, I can at last despise; (…)

“Man-Torpedo-Boat” by Tessa Rumsey (b. 1970; Stamford, Connecticut, US)
– from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century

If he had loved me he would not have designed
the land mine the land mine
that jumps up from black matted soil
to the level of a heart the land mine
that explodes while floating in the air
like an iron cherub like the blameless conjunction
between man and killing machine (…)

“If you should say to me Don’t mention love” by ‘Sa’di’ (Abū-Muhammad Muslih al-Dīn bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī) (1193-1291; Shiraz, Iran)
– from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

If you should say to me “Don’t mention love”
I’ll manage to restrain my tongue by force,
But if you try prohibiting my tears
The Tigris can’t be altered in its course.

“Kypris, May she find you very bitter” by Sappho (630 – c. 570 BC; Lesbos, Greece; lyric poet) [tr. Diane J. Rayor] – from Sappho’s Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece

may she find you very bitter
and may Doricha not boast, saying
how she came the second time
to longed-for love

“Return thee, heart” by Alexander Scott (1520?-1582/3, Scotland)
– from The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse

Returne the, hairt, hamewart agane,
And byd quhair thou was wont to be;
Thou art ane fule to suffer pane
For luve of hir that luvis not the.
My hairt, lat be sic fantesie;
Luve nane bot as thay mak the causs;
And lat hir seik ane hairt for the
For feind a crum of the scho fawis. (…)

“Farewell, false Friend!—our scenes of kindness close!” by Anna Seward (1742-1809; Eyam, Derbyshire, UK; letter-writer, botanist, memoirist) – from A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850

Farewell, false Friend! — our scenes of kindness close!
To cordial looks, to sunny smiles farewell!
To sweet consolings, that can grief expel,
And every joy soft sympathy bestows!
For altered looks, where truth no longer glows,
Thou hast prepared my heart; — and it was well
To bid thy pen the unlooked for story tell,
Falsehood avowed, that shame, nor sorrow knows. – (…)

“To —” by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822; Broadbridge Heath, Sussex, UK; lyric and epic poet, dramatist, essayist, novelist; Romantic movement)
– from The Top 500 Poems

One word is too often profaned
For me to profane it,
One feeling too falsely disdained
For thee to disdain it;
One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother,
And pity from thee more dear
Than that from another.

I can give not what men call love,
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not,—
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

“Sonnet 31” from Astrophel and Stella by Philip Sidney (1554-1586; Kent, England; courtier, scholar, soldier) – from A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850

With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What! may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel’st a lover’s case:
I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call ‘virtue’ there—ungratefulness?

{see also “Eighth Song: In a grove most rich of shade”
“Ninth Song: Go, my flock, go get you hence”} illustration by Stevie Smith for her short story “Sunday at Home” (source)

“Lady ‘Rogue’ Singleton” by Stevie Smith (1902-1971; Kingston upon Hull, England; novelist, short-story writer, sketch artist) – from 100 Poems on the Underground

Come, wed me, Lady Singleton,
And we will have a baby soon,
And we will live in Edmonton
Where all the friendly people run.

I could never make you happy, darling,
Or give you the baby you want,
I would always very much rather, dear,
Live in a tent.

I am not a cold woman, Henry,
But I do not feel for you,
What I feel for the elephants and the miasmas
And the general view.

{see also Pad, Pad: “I always remember your beautiful flowers / And the beautiful kimono you wore”}

“Scrabble” by David Starkey (California, US; creative writing professor, anthology editor, textbook author) – from Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry

I was summoned to the porter’s lodge for an overseas call from
California. It was my girlfriend, who just wanted to say that she was
fucking Jeff and they thought it best to tell me themselves, that I
should have known a year away was no good for a relationship.

The porter, an old man with bad hearing, was rolling a cigarette and
leaning in my direction. “No hard feelings. Okay, man?” said my ex-
roommate. (…)

“An Echo” by William Alexander, Earl of Stirling (1567-1640; Clackmannanshire, Scotland; courtier, closet dramatist, epic poet)
– from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

Ah, will no soule giue eare vnto my mone?
Who answers thus so kindly when I crie?
What fostred thee that pities my despaire?
Thou blabbing guest, what know’st thou of my fall?
What did I when I first my faire disclos’d?
Where was my reason, that it would not doubt?
What canst thou tell me of my ladie’s will?
Wherewith can she acquit my loyall part?
What hath she then with me to disaguise?
What haue I done, since she gainst loue repin’d? (…)

“The Maniac” by Agnes Strickland (1796-1874; Suffolk, England; biographer, children’s book writer) – from A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850

Sweet summer flowers were braided in her hair,
As if in mockery of the burning brow
Round which they drooped and withered — singing now
Strains of wild mirth, and now of vain despair,
Came the poor wreck of all that once was fair,
And rich in high endowments, ere deep woe
Like a dark cloud came o’er her, and laid low
Reason’s proud fane, and left no brightness there.
Yet you might deem that grief was with the rest
Of all her cares forgotten, save when songs
And tales she heard of faithful love unblessed,
Of man’s deceit, and trusting maiden’s wrongs.
Then, and then only, in her lifted eyes,
Remembrance beamed, and tears would slowly rise.

“A Leave-Taking” by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909; London, England; verse dramatist, novelist, literary critic)
– from The Oxford Book of English Verse

Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear.
Let us go hence together without fear;
Keep silence now, for singing-time is over,
And over all old things and all things dear.
She loves not you nor me as all we love her.
Yea, though we sang as angels in her ear,
She would not hear. (…)

“Locksley Hall” by Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron (1809-1892; Lincolnshire, England; Poet Laureate during Queen Victoria’s reign, playwright)
– from The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.

And I said, “My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee.”

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.

And she turn’d—her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs—
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes— (…)

“Idyll XX: Neatherd, [or The Young Countryman]” by Theocritus (200s BC; Syracuse, Sicily, Italy; writer of bucolics, mimes, epics, idylls, Aeolic verse) [tr. J. M. Edmonds]
– from The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation

[1] When I would have kissed her sweetly, Eunica fleered at me and flouted me saying, ‘Go with a mischief! What? kiss me miserable clown like thee? I never learned your countrified bussing; my kissing is in the fashion o’ the town. I will not have such as thee to kiss my pretty lips, nay, not in his dreams. Lord, how you look! Lord, how you talk! Lord, how you antic! Your lips are wet and your hands black, and you smell rank. Hold off and begone, or you’ll befoul me!’ Telling this tale she spit thrice in her bosom, and all the while eyed me from top to toe, and mowed at me and leered at me and made much she-play with her pretty looks, and anon did right broadly, scornfully, and disdainfully laugh at me. Trust me, my blood boiled up in a moment, and my face went as red with the anguish of it as the rose with the dewdrops. And so she up and left me, but it rankles in my heart that such a filthy drab should cavil at a well-favoured fellow like me. (…)

“Not from This Anger” by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953; Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales; short-story writer; Modernist) – from The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002

Not from this anger, anticlimax after
Refusal struck her loin and the lame flower
Bent like a beast to lap the singular floods
In a land strapped by hunger
Shall she receive a bellyful of weeds
And bear those tendril hands I touch across
The agonized, two seas.
Behind my head a square of sky sags over
The circular smile tossed from lover to lover
And the golden ball spins out of the skies;
Not from this anger after
Refusal struck like a bell under water
Shall her smile breed that mouth, behind the mirror,
That burns along my eyes.

“I didn’t want this, not” by Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892-1941; Moscow, Russia; lyric poet, verse playwright) – from The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation

I didn’t want this, not
this (but listen, quietly,
to want is what bodies do
and now we are ghosts only).

“陌上桑 Moshang Sang” (Mulberry up the Lane) by Unknown Chinese (100 CE) [translated by Anne Birrell]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

Section 3(第三段)

Shi jun cong nan lai, wu ma li chi chu.
A prefect from the south is here, his five horses stand pawing the ground.

Shi jun qian li wang, wen shi shei jiashu?
The prefect sends his servant forward to ask, “Whose is the pretty girl?”

Qin shi you hao nü, zi ming wei Luo Fu.
“The Qin clan has a fair daughter, her name is Luofu.”

Luo Fu nian ji he?
“Luofu, how old is she?”

Er shi shang wei zu, shi wu po you yu.
“Not yet quite twenty, a bit more than fifteen.”

Section 4(第四段)

Shi jun xie Luo Fu, ning ke gong zai bu?
The prefect invites Luofu, “Wouldn’t you like a ride with me?”

Luo Fu qian zhi ci: Shi jun yihe yu!
Luofu steps forward and refuses: “You are so silly, Prefect!

Shi jun zi you fu, Luo Fu zi you fu.
You have your own wife, Prefect, Luofu has her own husband! (…)

“The Singing Maid” by Unknown English (1300)
– from One Hundred Middle English Lyrics

Now springes the spray
All for love I am so seek
That slepen I ne may

Als I me rode this endre day
O’ my pleyinge,
Seih I whar a litel may
Began to singe,
‘The clot him clinge!
Way es him I’ love-longinge
Shall libben ay!’ (…)

“Soft wind of the vale” from the Shih-ching by Unknown Chinese (600 BC; Zhou dynasty)
– from The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry

Soft wind of the vale
that brings the turning rain,
peril, foreboding;
Come time of quiet and revelry
you’ll cast me from your company

“Three Things Come Without Seeking” by Unknown Gaelic (600-900 CE; Scotland) [tr. Iain Chrichton Smith] – from The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse

Thig trì rudan gun iarraidh – an t-eagal, an t-eud ’s an gaol

Three things come without seeking – fear, jealousy and love.

“Sometimes with one I love” by Walt Whitman (1819-1892; West Hills, New York, US; essayist, journalist) – from American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, Vol. 1

SOMETIMES with one I love, I fill myself with rage, for fear I effuse
unreturn’d love;
But now I think there is no unreturn’d love–the pay is certain, one
way or another;
(I loved a certain person ardently, and my love was not return’d;
Yet out of that, I have written these songs.)

Sonnet 14: “Except my heart which you bestowed before,” by Mary Wroth (1587-1651/3; Kent, England; romance writer, dramatist) – from The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose

Except my heart which you bestowed before,
And for a sign of conquest gave away
As worthless to be kept in your choice store
Yet one more spotless with you doth not stay.

The tribute which my heart doth truly pay
Faith untouched is, pure thoughts discharge the score
Of debts for me, where constancy bears sway,
And rules as Lord, unharmed by envy’s sore. (…)

“Farewell, love, and all thy laws forever” by Thomas Wyatt, Sir (1503-1542; Allington Castle, Kent, US; ambassador) – from Great Sonnets

Farewell love and all thy laws forever;
Thy baited hooks shall tangle me no more.
Senec and Plato call me from thy lore
To perfect wealth, my wit for to endeavour.
In blind error when I did persever,
Thy sharp repulse, that pricketh aye so sore,
Hath taught me to set in trifles no store
And scape forth, since liberty is lever.
Therefore farewell; go trouble younger hearts
And in me claim no more authority.
With idle youth go use thy property
And thereon spend thy many brittle darts,
For hitherto though I have lost all my time,
Me lusteth no lenger rotten boughs to climb.

“Not Knowing Nijinsky or Diaghilev” by Rachel Zucker (b. 1971; New York, US; co-editor of a book of Women Poets on Mentorship)
– from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century

A certain kind of man asks the same question
again, again until it isn’t a question but
a threat, shove, spit in the eye.
Phyllis says you’re sitting on your power but
I know what I’m sitting on: my ass. Obviously,
running out of language.

My desire is “A pre-electric impulse with a too-small synapse.”
What a tired image that is. I sit on my power.

Finally, in the boxed-up city, night comes on
without a sunset; books push out their backs,
turn stiff arms away, press closer together.

The editor says we have no patience for metaphor. (…)

“The Doors of Sleep” by Marion Angus
“So Suddenly” by Martha Anthony
“The Ugly Heart” by Martha Anthony
“The Answer” by Robert Ayton (or Aytoun)
“The Court of Divine Justice” by Peter Klappert
“To be thought an outcast in my beloved country” by Inna L’vovna Lisnyanskaya (or Lisnianskaia)
“An Angry Valentine” by Myra Cohn Livingstone
“Ah, Nadya, Nadyenka” by Bulat Shalvovich Okudzhava
“Song of Regret” by Pan Chieh-yu
“The Sweaters” by Lucia Maria Perillo
“Among black trees” by Olga Popova
“The End of the Affair” by Epifanio San Juan, Jr. : “On the ceiling of the dim pavilion”
“Cold fountain, cold fountain, refreshing with love” by Unknown
“Eclogue 2: The Lament of Corydon for His Faithless Alexis” by Virgil

One thought on “Rejection”

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