Poems for memorization and reading aloud
Fall 2004

1. Limericks
2. I Hear America Singing Walt Whitman
3. I, Too, Sing America Langston Hughes
4. Poem (I loved my friend) (to F. S.) Langston Hughes
5. Love After Love  Derek Walcott

6. Going Home
 Wislawa Szymborska
7. Auto-Lullaby
 Franz Wright
8. This Moment  Eavan Boland
9. "Secrets" is a daily word
 Emily Dickinson
10. Thoughts
 Sara Teasdale
11. 2 little whos...  E.E. Cummings
12. Delay Elizabeth Jennings
13. Please Mrs Butler Allan Ahlberg
14. Solitude Anna Akhmatova
15. After Years Ted Kooser
16. A New Poet
Linda Pastan
17. After Love Maxine Kumin
18. What We Miss Sarah Manguso
19. Cosmetics Do No Good Steve Kowit
     (after Vidyapati)

20. Song (She Sat And Sang Alway) Christina Rossetti
21. The Porcupine Ogden Nash

1. Limericks           
A fractious old person named Laurel,
Whose temper disposed him to quarrel,
Was most impolite
When he knew he was right
And his language when wrong was immoral.

An eccentric who lived in Lachine
Had peculiar ideas on hygiene.
'Twas better, he guessed
To bathe fully dressed
As it kept the enamelwork clean.

A wonderful bird is the Ibid.
His color is pale and insibid.
He stands like a sage
At the foot of the page
To tell where the passage was cribbèd.

(See ibis)
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2. I Hear America Singing p. 76          
Walt Whitman  American (1819-1892)
Painter: George Caleb Bingham  American (1811-1879)

I hear America singing,
the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his
as it should be, blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures
his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work,
or leaves off work,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench,
the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's
on his way in the morning,
or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat,
the deck hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The delicious singing of the mother,
or of the young wife at work,
or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her
and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day –
at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths
their strong melodious songs.

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3. I, Too, Sing America p. 77          
Langston Hughes  American (1902-1967)
Painter: Romare Bearden  African-American (1914-88)

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed —

I, too, am America.

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4. Poem p. 80           
(I loved my friend) (to F. S.)
Langston Hughes  American (1902-1967)

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There is nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began, —
I loved my friend.

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5. Love After Love          
Derek Walcott  St. Lucian/Trinidadian (1930- )

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

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6. Going Home          
Wislawa Szymborska  Polish (1923- )

He came home. Said nothing.
It was clear, though, that something had gone wrong.
He lay down fully dressed.
Pulled the blanket over his head.
Tucked up his knees.
He's nearly forty, but not at the moment.
He exists just as he did inside his mother's womb,
clad in seven walls of skin, in sheltered darkness.
Tomorrow he'll give a lecture
on homeostasis in metagalactic cosmonautics.
For now, though, he has curled up and gone to sleep.

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7. Auto-Lullaby          
WA: Sunday, July 11, 2004:
Listen: http://mail.publicradio.org/site/R?i=a4Lyu-5o589p-GW9jh2-kg
Franz Wright  Austrian-American (1953- )

Think of a sheep
knitting a sweater;
think of your life
getting better and better.

Think of your cat
asleep in a tree;
think of that spot
where you once skinned your knee.

Think of a bird
that stands in your palm.
Try to remember
the Twenty-first Psalm.

Think of a big pink horse
galloping south;
think of a fly, and
close your mouth.

If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.

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8. This Moment          
Eavan Boland  Irish (1944- )

A neighbourhood.
At dusk.

Things are getting ready
to happen
out of sight.

Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruit.

But not yet.


One tree is black.
One window is yellow as butter.

A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
this moment.

Stars rise.
Moths flutter.
Apples sweeten in the dark.

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9. "Secrets" is a daily word         
Emily Dickinson  American (1830-1886)

"Secrets" is a daily word
Yet does not exist —
Muffled — it remits surmise —
Murmured — it has ceased —
Dungeoned in the Human Breast
Doubtless secrets lie —
But that Grate inviolate —
Goes nor comes away
Nothing with a Tongue or Ear —
Secrets stapled there
Will emerge but once — and dumb —
To the Sepulchre —

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10. Thoughts p. 81         
Sara Teasdale  American (1884-1933)

When I am all alone
Envy me most,
Then my thoughts flutter round me
In a glimmering host;

Some dressed in silver,
Some dressed in white,
Each like a taper
Blossoming light;

Most of them merry,
Some of them grave,
Each of them lithe
As willows that wave;

Some bearing violets,
Some bearing bay,
One with a burning rose
Hidden away –

When I am all alone
Envy me then,
For I have better friends
Than women and men.

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11. 2 little whos...        
E.E. Cummings  American (1894-1962)

2 little whos
(he and she)
under are this
wonderful tree

smiling stand
(all realms of where
and when beyond)
now and here

(far from a grown
-up i&you-
ful world of known)
who and who

(2 little ams
and over them this
aflame with dreams
incredible is)

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12. Delay          
Elizabeth Jennings  American/English (1926-2001)

The radiance of the star that leans on me
Was shining years ago. The light that now
Glitters up there my eyes may never see,
And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until
Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse
Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful
And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

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13. Please Mrs Butler          
WA Wednesday, 12 March 2003:

Listen: http://www.writersalmanac.org/play/audio.php?media=/2003/03/10_wa&start=00:00:10:43.0&end=00:00:15:43.0
Allan Ahlberg  English (1938- )

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps copying my work, Miss.
What shall I do?

Go and sit in the hall, dear.
Go and sit in the sink.
Take your books on the roof, my lamb.
Do whatever you think.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.
What shall I do?

Keep it in your hand, dear.
Hide it up your vest.
Swallow it if you like, my love.
Do what you think best.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps calling me rude names, Miss.
What shall I do?

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.
Run away to sea.
Do whatever you can, my flower.
But don't ask me!

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14. Solitude         
Anna Akhmatova  Russian (1889-1966)

So many stones have been thrown at me,
That I'm not frightened of them anymore,
And the pit has become a solid tower,
Tall among tall towers.
I thank the builders,
May care and sadness pass them by.
From here I'll see the sunrise earlier,
Here the sun's last ray rejoices.
And into the windows of my room
The northern breezes often fly.
And from my hand a dove eats grains of wheat...
As for my unfinished page,
The Muse's tawny hand, divinely calm
And delicate, will finish it.

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15. After Years          
Ted Kooser  American (1939- )

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier

slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

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16. A New Poet         
Linda Pastan  American (1932- )

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page.
                                         In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day – the odor of truth
and of lying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

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17. After Love         
WA Wednesday, 4 February, 2004:

Listen: http://www.writersalmanac.org/play/audio.php?media=/2004/02/02_wa&start=00:00:10:41.0&end=00:00:15:41.0
Maxine Kumin  American (1925- )

Afterward, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries

These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in.

Spoons of our fingers, lips
admit their ownership.

The bedding yawns, a door
blows aimlessly ajar

and overhead, a plane
singsongs coming down.

Nothing is changed, except
there was a moment when

the wolf, the mongering wolf
who stands outside the self

lay lightly down, and slept.

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18. What We Miss          
WA Monday, 30 June 2003:

Listen: http://www.writersalmanac.org/play/audio.php?media=/2003/06/30_wa&start=00:00:00:09.0&end=00:00:05:09.0
Sarah Manguso  American (1974- )

Who says it's so easy to save a life? In the middle of an interview for
the job you might get you see the cat from the window of the
seventeenth floor just as he's crossing the street against traffic, just as
you're answering a question about your worst character flaw and lying
that you are too careful. What if you keep seeing the cat at every
moment you are unable to save him? Failure is more like this than like
duels and marathons. Everything can be saved, and bad timing pre-
vents it. Every minute, you are answering the question and looking
out the window of the church to see your one great love blinded by
the glare, crossing the street, alone.

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19. Cosmetics Do No Good          
WA Friday, 11 June, 2004:

Listen: http://www.writersalmanac.org/play/audio.php?media=/2004/06/07_wa&start=00:00:21:15.0&end=00:00:26:15.0
after Vidyapati
Steve Kowit
 American (1938- )

Cosmetics do no good:
no shadow, rouge, mascara, lipstick —
nothing helps.
However artfully I comb my hair,
embellishing my throat & wrists with jewels,
it is no use — there is no
semblance of the beautiful young girl
I was
& long for still.
My loveliness is past.
& no one could be more aware than I am
that coquettishness at this age
only renders me ridiculous.
I know it. Nonetheless,
I primp myself before the glass
like an infatuated schoolgirl
fussing over every detail,
practicing whatever subtlety
may please him.
I cannot help myself.
The God of Passion has his will of me
& I am tossed about
between humiliation & desire,
rectitude & lust,
disintegration & renewal,
ruin & salvation.

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20. Song (She Sat And Sang Alway)         
Christina Rossetti  English (1830-1894)

She sat and sang alway
By the green margin of a stream,
Watching the fishes leap and play
Beneath the glad sunbeam.

I sat and wept alway
Beneath the moon's most shadowy beam,
Watching the blossoms of the May
Weep leaves into the stream.

I wept for memory;
She sang for hope that is so fair:
My tears were swallowed by the sea;
Her songs died on the air.

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21. The Porcupine         
Ogden Nash  American (1902-1971)

Any hound a porcupine nudges
Can't be blamed for harboring grudges.
I know one hound that laughed all winter
At a porcupine that sat on a splinter.


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WA = Writer's Almanac of Minnesota Public Radio, hosted by Garrison Keillor
Page numbers are for the Freshman English textbook,
Laura Stark Johnson. Reading in the Content Areas: Literature 2. 2003. Taipei: Crane. 96pp..

Karen Steffen Chung (US English)
Colin R. Whiteley (RP)

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