The Love of Boys—A Poem about Men & Love from The Poems of Tibullus & Sulpicia, ca. 55-19 BC

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(trans. by AS Kline)

IV The Love of Boys

“So the protective shadows might be yours,
and your head not be harmed by sun or snow,
Priapus, what skill of yours captivates lovely lads?
For sure, you’ve no shining beard, or well-groomed hair:
naked you fulfil your role in the cold of cloudy winter,
naked too in the dry time of the Dog-Star’s heat.”
So I: then the rustic child of Bacchus answered me, so,
the god who’s armed with the curving hook.
“Oh beware of trusting the crowd of tender boys:
since they always offer a true cause for love.
This one pleases, that keeps a tight rein on his horse:
that one breaks the still waters with his snowy breast:
this one for his audacious bravery: while that one’s
virgin modesty mantles his tender cheeks.
But don’t let boredom seize you, if at first he denies you
fiercely: gradually his neck will yield to the yoke.
Length of time has taught lions to comply with man,
with length of time soft water wears away rock:
time ripens the grapes on the sunny slopes,
time drives the bright constellations on their sure course.
Don’t be afraid to swear: the winds bear vain oaths of love
over the lands and over the surface of the sea.
Huge thanks to Jove: the Father himself denied their power,
so that foolish Love might swear anything in passion:
and Diana lets you swear by her arrows with impunity
and Minerva lets you swear by her hair.
But if you linger you’re lost: how swift time flies!
The day does not stand idle or return.
How quickly the earth loses its rich purple hues,
how quickly the high poplar its lovely leaves.
How the horse is despised when weak old age’s fate
arrives, he who once shot from the starting gate at Elis.
I’ve seen a young man on whom later years now pressed
mourning his foolishness in days gone by.
Cruel gods! The snake renewed sheds his years:
but fate grants no delays to beauty.
Only for Bacchus and Phoebus is youth eternal:
and unshorn hair is fitting for both those gods.
You’ll yield to your boy in whatever he wants to try:
love always wins the most by deference.
You’ll not refuse to go, though he intends long journeys,
and the Dog-Star bakes the earth with parching drought,
though the brimming rainbow, threatens coming storm,
painting the heavens with its purple hues.
If he wants to sail the blue waves in a boat, with the oar
drive the light vessel through the waves yourself.
Don’t complain at submitting yourself to hard labour
or roughening your hands unused to work:
while you still please, if he wants to trap deep valleys,
don’t let your shoulders refuse to bear the hunting nets.
If he wants to fight, try to play at it with a light hand:
often leave your flank exposed so he can win.
Then he’ll be gentle with you, then you may snatch
that precious kiss: he’ll struggle but let you take it.
At first he’ll let you snatch it, later he’ll bring it himself
when asked, and then even want to hang about your neck.
Sadly alas these times now produce wretched arts:
now tender boys are accustomed to wanting gifts.
You, whoever you are, who first taught the sale of love
may a fateful stone press down on your bones.
Boys, love the Muses and the learned poets,
let no golden gifts outweigh the Muses.
Through poetry Nisus’s lock of hair’s still purple,
without verse no ivory gleams on Pelop’s shoulder.
He the Muses name, shall live, while earth bears oaks,
while heaven bears stars, while rivers carry water.
But he who cannot hear the Muses, he who sells love,
let him follow the chariot of Idaean Ops, and traverse
three hundred cities with his wanderings,
and cut at his worthless limbs, in the Phrygian way.
Venus wants room for blandishments: she favours
complaining suppliants and wretched weeping.”
These things the god’s mouth told me, to sing to Titius:
but Titius’s wife forbids him to remember them.
Let him listen to her: but you praise me as master,
you whom sadly a wily boy possesses, by wicked art.
Each has his own glory: let despised lovers consult me:
my doors are open wide to everyone.
A time will come when a loyal crowd of young men
shall lead my aged self along, carrying the laws of Venus.
Alas how Marathus torments me with love’s delay!
…’

“As a Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party”—A Witch’s Poem by Stephanie M. Wytovich

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Mismatched outfits drenched in earl grey design,
the ladies stretch their legs,
their platform heels dusted with tea cakes
against a heralded cry for the haberdashery
as rogue buttons line the floor.

Move down! Move down!

They each float to new spots,
their honey-soaked spoons dripping nectar
on their plates,
such beehive gossip
against poison clouds and milk.

The clock strikes thirteen
inside strawberry hookah rings,
laughter and lullabies paint blueberry scones
on flying saucers,
their girlish whispers slathered in apricot jam,
sprinkled with pecans and preserves.

No room! No room!

They pin their hair back with shards of bone,
as soft curls frame their heart-shaped faces,
their fingernails tapping on both table and tea pot.

Uniformed in madness, they hold hands in sisterhood,
the women all a flutter on cushions stuffed
with soaked butterfly wings,
bodies rising, minds expanding,
their dresses swishing, dancing in the air.

Move down! No ROOM!

They crack their necks
remove their matcha-stained ribbons,
the scent of burning around them,
a boiling high-pitched hiss
amongst a table stained with tarot and tears.

They open their weeping eyes to blood,
sip the sacred tea as their heart beats slow,
each girl rising, never to stop,
forever a sleeping witch in the sky.

***

Image: Vintage divination teacup , ca.late 1800s (Pinterest).


9A1398FE-5A70-4D38-A8D1-81AF74A70C60Originally appeared in Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, Edited by Doug Murano (Crystal Lake, 2017)

“After Apple-Picking”—A Poem by Robert Frost, 1914

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My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Art by Richard Bawden (Royal Watercolor Society)

A Poem a Day #7: “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith

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Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

(Waxwing, Issue IX, Summer 2016)

A Poem a Day #8: “There’s a certain slant of light…” by Emily Dickinson

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There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

(Poem #320, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson)

A Poem a Day—#2: “Design” by Robert Frost

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Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witch’s broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

—Robert Frost, 1936

A Poem a Day—#1: “The Dream of a Common Language” by Leigh Stein

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The Dream of a Common Language

after Adrienne Rich

On Wednesdays I take the train past Yankee Stadium,
to a place where it is never a given that I speak the language,
to a place where graffiti covers the mural they painted to hide
the graffiti, to a place where the children call me Miss Miss
Miss Miss Miss
and I find in one of their poems, a self-portrait,
the line I wish I was rish. The dream of a common language

is the language of one million dollars, of basketball, of plátanos.
Are the kids black? my boyfriend wants to know. Dominican.
It’s different. When asked to write down a question
they wish they could ask their mom or dad, one boy writes,
Paper or plastic? A girl in the back of the class wants to know
Why don’t I have lycene, translating the sound of the color

of my skin into her own language. The best poet
in sixth grade is the girl who is this year repeating
sixth grade. When I tell her teacher of her talent
she says, At least now we know she’s good
at something
. To speak their language, I study
the attendance list, practice the cadence of their names.

Yesterday I presented a black and white portrait of a black man,
his bald head turned away from us, a spotted moth resting
on one shoulder. I told them this is a man serving a life
sentence in Louisiana. Is this art? Without hesitation,
one girl said no, why would anybody
want to take a picture
of that.

—Leigh Stein

from Poem-a-Day, 365 Poems for Every Occasion, Abrams Image, 2015


Leigh Stein is the author of the poetry collection Dispatch from the Future (Melville House, 2012). She lives in Brooklyn and teaches poetry in New York City’s public schools. She has also written a memoir: Land of Enchantment; and a novel: The Fallback Plan. Stein is co-founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit literary organization Out of the Binders. For her advocacy work, she has been called a “leading feminist” by the Washington Post, and a “woman of influence” by New York Business Journal.