I tell you, I felt like an elephant
that night, the night of the harvest.
Each furrow put on airs in the moonlight,
and the stars were so much confetti
that took more than one lifetime to fall …

I blundered about, wondered where to sit;
I asked after you. My trunk was so heavy—
and can you believe the effort it took
to lift that enormous head? I cut a figure
in my tux—Madras, scarlet cummerbund—

but my ears, big as pup tents, or two ’40’s
hats, heard everything & gave me away …
I stood in the garden, munching the trees—
I had a case of nerves! When you emerged,
gowned in confetti, I felt like the roar

of the crowd in your ears like small bells—
I was everywhere with good intentions!
When I sat on the bench, how could I know
you’d flip up over me, into the shrubs?
And if I spoke of the mud bath—so cooling,

& a protection against flies—I was only
practicing the lost art of conversation.
I’d forgotten my index cards with the topics,
after all my years wandering the high grasses …
As I watched you limp back to the dance,

I vowed I’d become a gazebo for you, a bower!
Oh, anything to hold you in my arms …
My bleating stopped the music, signaled
everyone into the garden—so embarrassing!
But as they all honked into our presence,

I tell you, I felt like an elephant, seeing
the faces above the collars: lizard, goat, rhino.
Like a high school reunion you pass up,
or waking from a dream, admitting everything …
And you saw it, too—smiling, rubbing my trunk.

— James Cummins, author of Then & Now

The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd

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.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten, -
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

—Sir Walter Raleigh (1600)

For a discussion of this poetry-wars style reply to Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, check out Tweetspeak Poetry’s Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, with Classics professor Karen Swallow Prior

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Sonnet (With Children)

My love is like a deep and placid lake…
Not now, sweetie, Daddy’s busy, OK?
OK: my love’s a deep and peaceful lake…
Here, Daddy can fix it. All better. Now go play.
Um, my love, yes—a rose that blooms in spring…
You tell her Daddy says she has to share.
My love’s… My love’s a lake that blooms—no, that springs…
On the wall?! Her what?! No, wait—I’ll be right there.
OK—love, lake, spring, joy, flower bedding…
And why is the house so quiet now, I wonder?
Ah, fuck it! (Whoops! Don’t say that!) You know where I’m heading.
Don’t touch a thing—I need to get the plunger!
Forgive me, love, but time, as you know, is ticking.
So here: no you, no joy, no life. No kidding.

— Gabriel Spera

For more Gabriel Spera poems, see The Rigid Body

This poem appeared in Every Day Poems

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Sonnet 130: My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing like the Sun

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

—William Shakespeare

For more Shakespeare love poems, see Love Poems & Sonnets of William Shakespeare

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Einstein’s Happiest Moment

Einstein’s happiest moment
occurred when he realized
a falling man falling
beside a falling apple
could also be described
as an apple and a man at rest
while the world falls around them.

And my happiest moment
occurred when I realized
you were falling for me,
right down to the core, and the rest,
relatively speaking, has flown past
faster than the speed of light.

— Richard Berlin

For more Richard Berlin poems, see Secret Wounds

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To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart;
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

—Andrew Marvell

For more love poems, see The Complete Poems of Andrew Marvell

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Good Neighbors

He wondered how she knew about the Cheetos;
he thought he’d washed the orange dust off clean.
Did she note down each case of beef burritos
the dry-ice truck delivered, sight unseen?
And what about the Snickers bags? Did she
use high-powered binoculars to scan?
Did she note down each luscious wheel of Brie,
each sugared soda in its cheerful can?
What was her interest here? What did she make
of diet gone awry? Or his dismay,
as he insanely wolfed each dwindling cake?
What were her thoughts, one whole backyard away?
He thought he’d call her up, ask her to dine.
He’d better buy another box of wine.

—James Cummins, author of Then & Now

This poem is a reprint from Every Day Poems.

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