An Autumn Sunset
By Edith Wharton
Leaguered in fire
The wild black promontories of the coast extend
Their savage silhouettes;
The sun in universal carnage sets,
And, halting higher,
The motionless storm-clouds mass their sullen threats,
Like an advancing mob in sword-points penned,
That, balked, yet stands at bay.
Mid-zenith hangs the fascinated day
In wind-lustrated hollows crystalline,
A wan Valkyrie whose wide pinions shine
Across the ensanguined ruins of the fray,
And in her hand swings high o’erhead,
Above the waster of war,
The silver torch-light of the evening star
Wherewith to search the faces of the dead.
Lagooned in gold,
Seem not those jetty promontories rather
The outposts of some ancient land forlorn,
Uncomforted of morn,
Where old oblivions gather,
The melancholy unconsoling fold
Of all things that go utterly to death
And mix no more, no more
With life’s perpetually awakening breath?
Shall Time not ferry me to such a shore,
Over such sailless seas,
To walk with hope’s slain importunities
In miserable marriage? Nay, shall not
All things be there forgot,
Save the sea’s golden barrier and the black
Dead to all shames, forgotten of all glories,
Shall I not wander there, a shadow’s shade,
A spectre self-destroyed,
So purged of all remembrance and sucked back
Into the primal void,
That should we on the shore phantasmal meet
I should not know the coming of your feet?
A Night in the Field
Jay Parini, 1948
I didn’t mean to stay so late
or lie there in the grass
all summer afternoon and thoughtless
as the kite of sun caught in the tree-limbs
and the crimson field began to burn,
then tilt way.
I hung on
handily as night lit up the sky’s black skull
and star-flakes fell as if forever—
fat white petals of a far-off flower
like manna on the plains.
A ripe moon lifted in the east,
its eye so focused,
knowing what I knew but had forgotten
of the only death I’ll ever really need
to keep me going.
Did I sleep to wake or wake to sleep?
I slipped in seams through many layers,
soil and subsoil, rooting
in the loamy depths of my creation,
where at last I almost felt at home.
But rose at dawn in rosy light,
beginning in the dew-sop long-haired grass,
having been taken, tossed,
having gone down, a blackened tooth
in sugary old gums, that ground