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Better than Laughter

Better than Laughter

Copyright Date: 1946
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 76
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  • Book Info
    Better than Laughter
    Book Description:

    Better than Laughter was first published in 1946. This first collection of the poems of Mildred Louise Boie reflects the free and perceptive spirit of a young woman who followed a fascinating variety of paths. Upon release from the American Red Cross, she served in Italy, France, and Germany, assisting in civilian relief, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by the United States Army for meritorious service. She taught at Smith College and at the University of Minnesota and was an associate editor of the Atlantic Monthly. A number of these poems have been previously published in the Atlantic Monthly, American Mercury, Harper’s, Poet Lore, New York Times, Christian Register, Radcliffe Quarterly, and Vineyard Gazette.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6162-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Better than Laughter
    (pp. 1-4)

    Sorrow is better than laughter,

    For by the sadness of the countenance

    Is the heart made better,

    Sang Ecclesiastes.

    Therefore suffer, eat remorse,

    And wear its retribution on the naked heart.

    And so I sought out tragedy,

    Corroded by tears, and shirted with frustration,

    The fantasies of childhood

    Compelling the want and the will regressively.

    But now I have walked these futile wastes,

    Now I have choked on crumbs,

    Forgoing the fresh full loaf,

    Now I have worn out youth

    Making my own swamplands,

    And felt God’s fist in my face

    For presuming that tears would make

    Other faces better,...


    • Walk in Shadow
      (pp. 6-6)

      We walk in shadow, in the stippled shade

      Of knotty consciousness; we cannot grade

      Our roads of action evenly, or find

      A straight-cut channel for the tumbling mind;

      The thickets of desire are brambled still

      And still impale and thorn the pushing will.

      But sometimes in the shooting dawn of love

      We see an acre, clear of brush, above

      The tangled lowlands; sometimes in the noon

      Of work we see the cool, the coming moon;

      And sometimes in the resting night we ride

      Through wilderness of self on an unfailing tide....

    • When Grown
      (pp. 7-7)

      If then we look for love again when grown,

      Love is no daisy simple as the day

      Quickly to pick and careless for nosegay,

      But like a root must rivet stubborn stone.

      Love is no country road on random sand

      With underbrush a pastoral of song,

      But like arterial highways built yearlong

      Must straddle the difficult and smoky land.

      Then built, then grown, its life goes on, and by

      Functioning proves its function, making good

      The plan the original draftsmen understood,

      To take us to our place in earth and sky....

    • The Eviction
      (pp. 8-8)

      During the time he told her that

      He wished to be free she never stirred,

      But with still eyes and fingers sat

      Staring as if she had not heard.

      He stammered that he would return,

      If she needed him she had but to call;

      He never dreamed her one concern

      Was how to evict him once for all.

      Her only thought was how to start

      Destroying the love he left behind,

      Locking the chambers of the heart,

      And clanging the shutters of the mind....

    • This Country
      (pp. 9-11)

      Do you know where we are going?

      Do you know what roadless land we enter

      By our own road, road our feet make going,

      By our own light lighting the way invisible?

      In a sharing joy at fruit trees singing,

      At the sudden fire under the snow,

      We are running, mouths now wordless with laughter,

      We are hearing, ears a-dazzle, this music,

      We are looking each away from the other

      At us both ahead, and part of this country.

      Do you know what country this is?

      The mountains, beautiful in snow, now rise

      Before us out of early meadows; they...

    • Winter-Bound
      (pp. 12-13)

      The woman winter-bound in house

      Watches the swift and singing snow

      Dancing over the mountain tops,

      Looks with loving fleeting glances

      While hands are busy with food, and loves

      The white excitement now in air

      But thinks how fields, how hearts will freeze

      In their deceptive, needed warmth.

      The young man comes; he shouts at the door

      Flinging it open to bright cold,

      Stamping live snow all over the house,

      Shouting, “Come for a climb in the snow!”

      And when she speaks with silent mouth—

      ‘Didn’t you see it snowing snow?

      Well come along! Didn’t we say

      We’d dare the...

    • Before the Last Bright Rocket
      (pp. 14-15)

      What Catherine wheel, what holiday,

      What bursting star, my love, my stranger,

      At midnight broke to scatter noon?

      What dream awoke to bring us danger,

      To wash the sleep of years away

      And lift our eyelids none too soon?

      What pricked the tongue, what touched the springs

      Behind the paneled walls of reason?

      What made the hour no longer numb,

      And brought the flower out of season,

      Its color changing with copper rings

      Around the heart it sprouted from?

      This the astonished eye must see

      To taste, the infidel ear must witness;

      This the arrested blood must feel—

      This love...

    • The Deserted
      (pp. 16-16)

      What soul is this that wailing beats the shore

      With the wild sea onrushing cold before

      And the forest dark behind, a briared door?

      Who hears the gusty thunder toss the trees?

      Who feels the angry rivers split and seize

      The earth, and bring the mountains to their knees?

      Whose eyes propped open with two spears of light

      Must watch all living things take screaming flight,

      Hunting the wild seascape through storm and night?

      Whose quartered heart now feels the storm eclipse

      The sun, and blind with falling heaven, grips

      Its fire, and tastes its death upon her lips?


    • The Bird Again
      (pp. 17-17)

      This day I saw the bird again,

      Though the tree froze, and the sky shook;

      It flashed through time like unseasonal rain

      Breaking in stars the winter brook.

      Gold in its voice, and gold on its breast,

      It rose before the incredulous eye—

      Certain as sun, and feathered with rest,

      Answering now the when and why.

      What drew the bird across my snow,

      What stroked the direction of its wing,

      Even the ignorant self may know

      Who saw love come, who heard it sing....

    • Therefore Quiet
      (pp. 18-18)

      For if you move, you draw your given blood

      Back to the veins the relaxing heart unbinds,

      And if you speak, you frighten creeping mood

      That now spins secret love between our minds.

      Therefore be quiet—let me stay my own

      Until our veins in stopless union flow,

      Until my mind accepts, with yours at one,

      Unfrightened, knowing heart to you may go.

      As seed, stirring before the earth, and earth

      Before the sun, and sun ahead of eye,

      So blood before the heart, before the birth

      Of knowing, mind before a sign or cry,

      Feels spring before the spring...

    • This Midnight
      (pp. 19-19)

      Who in the whirlwind of the fall has seen

      Ether descending, and the full blue moon

      Flying immobile on its silver screen,

      Must blinded stare, and beg the opportune,

      The feared and wordless one, for proofs

      This midnight and this hope will hold the noon.

      Then the pursued give chase: the deer whose hoofs

      Scatter with mica the icy stone,

      Whose emerald eyes transfix the mountain roofs,

      Bay at the huntress’ heels, with single tone

      Leap down the forest glades of sky.

      So the wild heart runs, not to run alone,

      So the blood bays, and so the limbs will...

    • Out of Such Summer
      (pp. 20-20)

      This is our summer, after frozen spring,

      Our trees that fly with joy, our flowers that sing,

      Our laughing thunderheads hung on the blue wall

      Of our horizon, breaking the night’s fall.

      Covering us our sun, thicker than air,

      Beneath our eyes at dawn and everywhere

      The moment after—white on the prairie roads,

      Burning the shadows black, heavy on hay loads.

      Bigger the harvest moon, red on the hills,

      Turning to gold as gold gathers and spills,

      And northern lights sudden and wild and green,

      Like water jewels, given and taken before seen.

      Up from our childhood the wondering...

    • No Poetry
      (pp. 21-22)

      On any spring or winter night

      It might have happened just the same—

      Our house alive with people, bright

      With bottles, talk, and fire flame;

      You sitting back in the corner chair

      Thinking of me, talking to them,

      Blowing your rings of laughter where

      The silence cleared for an interim;

      I jumping up to fill a glass

      Or get a sandwich, light a flare

      For waiting wits, and while I pass

      Around the room unnoticed hear

      Their words: “—a perfect pair, don’t you?”

      “Too perfect and content for me;

      Isn’t it dull, the people who

      Calm down to domesticity?”...

    • From What Childhood
      (pp. 23-23)

      What is it? What scent now stalks these thirty years

      Like a familiar voice making me turn

      To stare up the street as the south wind clears

      The garden hedge? Is it the cinnamon fern

      We used to pretend was a tropical palm?

      Or the red clover bending over our faces

      In hide-and-seek? Out of what summer calm,

      What well of memory, what childhood oasis?

      The iodine-rusted seaweed I never knew

      In prairie years; the box that spices this

      Trim island lane with yearlong green first grew

      For me in England; new smells will not dismiss

      The teasing old ones...

    • To My Mother
      (pp. 24-24)

      From what pure coral reef of memory

      Echoes this image, water-bright,

      Of your quick figure bending over me?

      From sleeping shadows edged with light

      The shoulders loom into love, the oval head

      Answers invisibly my cry,

      And the hand loosens the contracting dread

      That winds about the breath and eye.

      What memory? Falling through time I stand

      Waist-high beside you again to find

      That sunken world, our only common land,

      The buried home in the buried mind.

      These homeless years I eat and sleep without

      Remembering my sucking past;

      I have not shared my thirst, my crusts of doubt,



    • Five O’Clock Hour
      (pp. 26-26)

      Stop on the five o’clock steps, the door

      Closed on the tidy desk, the notes

      Holding tomorrow asleep; once more

      Breathe the night’s peace into your throats

      And look at the lights blossom on tree,

      On shining street; the neon signs

      Like wheels of fire impossibly

      Real and diurnal; willows and pines

      Lacing the pink and citied sky

      With the water, free of boat and swan,

      With the grass yellow to darkened eye,

      The benches empty, the strollers gone.

      This is your hour, hung between

      Office and home, efficiency filed

      And love to come. This is your scene,

      Free of...

    • Will the Class Please . . .
      (pp. 27-27)

      You do not know how loved you are

      Who bow above your books, hasty

      With pen and sprawling careless of

      Your shape. Minds centered in your ears,

      You see no room of you as whole,

      Taut breasts in sweaters bright like fruit,

      Heads dark and sorrel, sunshine-streaked,

      Legs compassed slim in riding breeches,

      In silk, or skin brown still with summer.

      You cannot watch the light that flares

      Across your faces in response

      To sounds from one who talks of books

      And thinks behind her casual voice

      How beautiful in youth you are,

      How loved in your young-woman beauty....

    • You the President
      (pp. 28-29)

      When I see you in chapel, black-robed and calm,

      Speaking honestly of things complex,

      Speaking simply of the beautiful,

      Your words glinting with humor;

      When I sit passively across from you

      At Wednesday meetings of the faculty,

      And marvel at the clicking of your mind

      Ten revolutions ahead of anyone else’s,

      And catch your bright eyes glancing

      Keen and tender at us

      Your workers and this your work;

      When I meet you on the campus

      Or at tea or in conversation

      And never give you sign

      How much you stretch my mind,

      How full of love and excitement

      I am...

    • Two Cambridges
      (pp. 30-30)

      I heard the rain fall slowly, dripping clear

      From leaves, and church bells ringing once again

      As I had heard them ring with quiet cheer

      A hundred times in gentle English rain;

      And with the sound remembered rooks in elms,

      High in their ragged villages, and saw

      Michaelmas daisies—blue that overwhelms

      The heart with spring as autumn mists withdraw.

      I caught again the tantalizing smell

      Of musty cloister, street, and college hall;

      Tasted the pools where willow shadows fell

      Green-gold upon the brown; felt beauty call

      My memory back with old nostalgic pain

      To Cambridge, dim and beautiful in...

    • Girls in Sunlight
      (pp. 31-31)

      What these hard browning bodies stretched in sun

      Have felt or wanted, kept from doing or done,

      No one can tell however many he sees

      Hunching their hips to tan their undersides,

      Stretching their legs in great immobile strides

      To catch the stain even behind the knees.

      And for what end they court with insolence

      Of nudity the sun fire’s welting, tense

      Embrace on breast and buttock, face and thigh,

      They will not say—whether to store its heat

      For men, or therapeutically complete

      The circuits of their volatile supply.

      What mysteries remain to tantalize

      Even the ordered minds that...

    • Mist in Air
      (pp. 32-32)

      The immigrant fog pushed on,

      Sliding over the hills

      And stippling the valleys leading from the sea.

      A moving hand of white,

      It washed its earthlings in unearthliness;

      Even the ugly school across the street

      It wreathed in mist and veils;

      Even the children ran in beauty there—

      The dark white shapes of children blunting through the mist;

      Even the black-robed sisters, standing at the door

      With drums and faces stern,

      It wreathed in gentleness;

      Even the shouldering truth:

      The Irish rule the Commonwealth. Everywhere

      A Celtic mist blurs the cold New England air....

    • Deep South
      (pp. 33-33)

      This is an alien land to me—these fields

      So turbulently red, and oaks so stark

      Despite their moss, this salty marsh that yields

      No fruit, these men with faces strange and dark.

      Here where the shacks lean desolate and bleak,

      And buzzards feed, and lakes grow inky from

      The cypress roots, I breathe a South still weak

      With fear, and wish that I had never come....

    • Kleptomaniac
      (pp. 34-34)

      Although I own no house or field,

      I get the fruits that gardens yield.

      A cheerful thief, I cut the edge

      Of honesty at every hedge,

      Robbing the lilacs of their load

      Of perfumed spigots by the road.

      When no one’s up, I look around

      And see what loam the bluebells found

      To claim for spreading roots, what shade

      The apple trees and cherries made

      For lilies of the valley, what

      New vine turns green against the hot

      South wall, and how the tulips glow

      Like bulbs incased in wax below

      The palmy forests of the ferns,

      The thickets where...

    • Housebound
      (pp. 35-35)

      Though no sun shines through the roof of rain,

      The light falls down each wavering windowpane,

      Lying in seven columns on the sea-blue floor.

      Though no wind moves the saturated air,

      The linden trees are stirring, their own fair

      Breath like a wave of memory curling up the shore.

      Though no spring love retunes the molting birds

      So August-silent, fledgling-free, their words

      Pierce the inner ear with fluted intensity.

      And though the gray-hung, heavy, soundless day

      Was designed for washing island summer away,

      Fragrant and shining, budding with song, it blossoms in me....

    • November Sea
      (pp. 36-36)

      How wearily this day the wintered sea

      Lies on the shore; grown old with the year, and gray,

      It moves with muffled roar, and stonily

      Throws up no jeweled crests and plumes of spray.

      Widowed of smiling skies, it smiles no more,

      But hangs the small horizon with thick veils,

      And spends its foggy breath upon the shore

      Where now the same gray granite mood prevails.

      Yet one who loves the sea in every mood

      Finds in its quiet gloom some loveliness,

      And gathers from its strength the fortitude

      With which to face the winter, and no less

      Treasures the...

    • Snowfall
      (pp. 37-37)

      Out for a walk in first snowfall,

      The white as strange on autumn as

      On South, we hold this interval

      Of whitened time, now happy past

      All need of talking, looking full

      At water-darkness and snow-light.

      Untouching fall the clouds snow-dull

      Upon the mountain tops, and bright

      Lie pale-armed trees in brittle pond.

      Silent stand we in valley ringed

      With shadows, silent walk while round

      Us falls the white-robed, singing rain.

      Then home, heads down against the wind,

      Cheeks winter-apple hard with cold,

      To loose the stung, ecstatic mind

      Full-packed with snow still pure and whole....

    • Winter Piece
      (pp. 38-39)

      Now at the hour of five

      This winter afternoon,

      This hour when dusk descends

      Behind the brightening moon

      To etch the trees with black

      But leave their branches clear

      Against the snow-lit sky,

      Where misted stars appear,

      Into the arms of the night

      The soft gray shadows crawl,

      And twilight turns to dark

      During one snowflake’s fall.

      All things that make this world

      Familiar now are lost

      To sight. Between the twigs

      Made musical with frost,

      A few small soundless birds

      Still flicker restless wings,

      And a rabbit nibbles a bush

      Where one dry berry clings.

      Over the ghostly snow...

    • Joyful All
      (pp. 40-40)

      Lift up your heads, sing out, sing out,

      O singers skiing across the hills

      With heels of wind and wings of snow,

      With winter hollied, the pines in bud,

      And mountains joining hands as we go,

      The clouds on fire, the sun in flood,

      The stars of the universe keeping time—

      A thousand cymbals for Christmas time.

      Lift up your heads, sing out, sing out,

      O singers working under the roofs

      In shop and kitchen and study hall,

      Filling the hungry with all good things,

      Building the neighbor’s cradle and stall,

      Warming the hands the cold heart brings,

      And clothing...


    • Verge
      (pp. 42-42)

      Who once has known insanity

      Must thread electric life alone,

      Must insulate the ear and eye

      Lest any thought explode the bone;

      Must walk on water, lest a stone

      Splinter the glass around her mind;

      So ring the heart-valves, hold the head

      In brittle-bright rigidity;

      Never look back, never unwind

      The slow dark winding days to see

      If scar be healed or flesh be dead,

      If mind be doomed with ill inbred.

      Dreading to hear, she hears the roar

      Increase of dynamos that wheel

      Too fast for safety, but before

      “Stop” cries, fear of the stop will steel

      The muscled...

    • Profit a Woman
      (pp. 43-43)

      For life my life and I connive;

      I lash my flesh to make it free,

      Put out my eyes that I may see,

      And kill my life to keep alive.

      I drug my senses with fresh pain,

      I crowd my mind to empty it,

      Carve up my wants to make them fit,

      And siphon self from every vein.

      Grinding my heart I grind a stone,

      Smother my soul that I may breathe,

      Deny my love and so bequeath

      Life without love to life alone.

      And life, repaying loyalty,

      Doles out my lifeblood drop by drop

      To keep me counting, lest...

    • In Corpore Sano
      (pp. 44-44)

      If I could go one night to bed

      With peace laid straight inside my head;

      If I could sleep one whole night through

      Coiled in the dark, void of the hue

      And cry of consciousness in me;

      If I could wake one time to see

      Nothing ahead and nothing behind,

      No spears in soul, no snakes in mind;

      If I could taste one crust of day

      Unmolded with my hope’s decay,

      Or drink a single hour without

      Feeling the crack of my drought-

      Infested heart, I might again

      Live seconds through, and yet stay sane....

    • River
      (pp. 45-45)

      River, siren no more to me;


      Husbanded at home and calm,

      Sure of my returning, free

      Of ear enchantment, waits for me.

      River, sing

      Peace to other ears, and psalm

      Rest in ice to those who bring

      Sickness for water’s covering.

      River, touch not tongue or palm

      Lest this body, burning like throat

      Parched for ice, choose this remote

      Beauty alone and slake the breath

      With river death....

    • If Heart Has Died
      (pp. 46-46)

      Now March has come to promise spring,

      Hanging green signs on everything,

      Now starlings, robins, crows, and jays

      Shout lustily for longer days,

      Now snowdrops dare to leave their beds

      And lift the snow with fragile heads,

      And crocuses can part the grass

      To glow like candles at Easter mass,

      And winds grow warm and smell of earth

      That now exhales the winter’s dearth,

      Now, now, I should grow light of heart

      And let the springtime take a part

      Of me as well. I too should find

      Joy in the month, and hang my mind

      With fresh green hopes; with...

    • Playing in Snow
      (pp. 47-48)

      I morning-wakened watched the snow

      Draw sky to roof with heavy light,

      Shortening city streets below,

      Shutting them in with fields of white.

      I homesick-hearted thought to be

      A child again in a midwest town,

      Waking with prophet cock to see

      Old featherbeds come shaking down.

      Legs lifting skis in herringbones,

      And stomach pressing the running sled,

      Hands crunching snow for fort of stones

      And statueing snow with coal-eyed head,

      I kicked the covers and took to the street,

      All muscles twinging with memory,

      Certain in snow that I would meet

      Children whose play would play for me.

      But doors...

    • Have Done
      (pp. 49-49)

      And now have done with this despair,

      Though dreams and dragons shrill the air,

      Though split hopes edge you everywhere,

      Have done, have done with this despair.

      And now have done with loving too,

      For love but drags old arrows through

      Your flesh and clots the residue

      Of reason dryly left to you.

      And having done with both of these

      You may pull straight your crooked knees,

      You may see forests less their trees,

      And days uncheckered with disease.

      But once discharge the atmosphere

      Of danger and storm, habit will shear

      Courage too close, the heart too near

      For having...

    • Savior
      (pp. 50-50)

      Snow soft falling, falling years of hours,

      Fills my hands and icicles my heart,

      Color-blinds my eyes with ashen showers;

      Snow still falling stoppingly athwart

      Warmth of blood, and drowning breath with white,

      Quenches quick each hope at fiery start,

      Until I fear all light is snow, and sight

      Never to come in death of drowning snow,

      Snow so blinding white, so heavy light.

      And then he comes, he swims in swirling snow

      Not like a drowning body—like a man

      Who dives for joy, stroking the waves aglow,

      Parting the billowed depths of snow with fan-

      Spread arms, rippling...

    • Winter Can Go
      (pp. 51-51)

      Now, heart, let down your triple brass—

      The earth undoes its white cuirass

      And swells beneath the waking grass;

      Winter can go, winter can pass.

      The seed is breaking from its shard,

      And every tree and bush is starred

      With points of green against the hard

      Brown shell of bark; let down your guard.

      Let go your frozen hold on fear;

      Glaciers and snow can disappear,

      All storms pass on, and cold winds veer,

      And spring can come, has come, is here....

    • Beginning Again
      (pp. 52-52)

      This morning, darling, before sky dawning,

      The swans that slept on your pond assumed white

      Sunlight across the purring dark;

      The curtained air, sky, water, all

      Still one, rolled up and fell in place,

      Dissolved in light, and sky with brightness

      Flushed; the water filled with trees

      (The true, the trembling slim Narcissi),

      The meadows ran with fire-haired grass;

      The grave wide forehead of the autumn day,

      So exquisitely blue in degrees of blue,

      Not true but gray and virgin veined,

      The grave wide heaven took all my eye,

      Remained untaken, grave and tender.

      Surrendering the waste of sleep,


    • Vesper
      (pp. 53-53)

      O beautiful dark night,

      Air full of rain not falling,

      Iris and lilac bright

      In the dark, their petals falling,

      Like birds on seas of grass

      Sea-black and water-waving;

      O sky unbright like a pass

      Through mountains edged with waving

      Trees and the kneeling rock,

      Pregnant with stars not pointing

      Earthward, the blackened crock

      Of the moon, the thunder pointing;

      O Earth with the sod for thong

      On roots and the black smell under,

      With million-noted song

      Moving in grass and under;

      O leaves making air in the night,

      And trees alive and darkling;

      O sky and earth and the...

    • Night Watchman
      (pp. 54-54)

      What color heart and length of face

      Marked why by what philosophy,

      What age, whose husband, and which race

      He owns or shows I cannot see—

      Only his shadow on the window shade

      Cutting a minute from the hour,

      Only his footsteps softly laid

      On grass and leaves, his touch on the door,

      First tightening on the restless arm

      The sleep which mind refused to weave,

      Now telling who, turning and warm,

      Makes progress purling the ragged sleave—

      So in half-consciousness, on sod

      And soul, the comforting step of God....

    • Old Maid Teacher
      (pp. 55-55)

      Eyes weighted with print too fine, and arms with books,

      She walks in weariness,

      Sees fresh-eyed men and women full of heart

      Looking in windows bright

      With cakes and turkeys, squash and pumpkin, fruit

      And candied fruit and wine,

      Looking and hurrying, thinking of dinner and bed.

      No home to hurry to,

      She joins no window chimes;

      Unloved and loveless she

      Hurries not, but thinks of love and cries within.

      Crying, she feels the cold wet kiss of snow

      Flying down the wind,

      And lifts her face to sky,

      And turns aside to walk

      The campus. Singing stands the music...

    • To Draw Me Yesward
      (pp. 56-56)

      Encircled by birds that ring the global fog

      Crying their welcome down the wind-carved sail,

      Anchorless I move, no captain or ship’s log

      Marking direction through the smothered gale.

      The mist that grows over the browning moor

      Skips the bright grasses greenly burning the shore,

      Floats the round lighthouse from its rocky perch,

      Sinks the near landmark beyond eye’s search.

      Let the wind under waves arrange this flight;

      Let the land go, the moorings, the heart’s sun;

      Cast off the mind; mindless, lose the house light;

      Let the demanding body’s business have done.

      Seeking that ocean of unconsciousness,

      The self,...

    • This Christmas Too
      (pp. 57-57)

      Never forgetting what the radio

      Now photographs, the papers scream today,

      What guilty frightened hearts of all men know—

      Evil and war abroad, death on the way;

      Remember too the music grave and gay,

      Good news now jobs increase and churches grow,

      And love is stabled warm when people say

      Fröhliches Weihnachteneven in Russian snow.

      Remember little children full of graces,

      Singing around their trees, loved by their mothers

      Even when anger reddens their petal faces,

      And loved by Jesus, English and German brothers.

      Remember gentle blessings shared with others—

      Men of good will, arrogant men in all races,...

    • Brief Hearts Be Bold
      (pp. 58-58)

      Now there is neither peace nor hope of peace

      In all the latitudes turned toward this year,

      Let us at least win private truce, and cease

      The war within our hearts, and the hearts’ fear.

      Let personal suns surmount the headlined day,

      The gentle touch disarm the lying word;

      Keep single lives alive; let trust outweigh

      Each crisis, and summer stars alone be heard.

      For in the haven of the loving mind

      The refugees from self can build a new home,

      And in the giving body distrust may find

      A liquid death, and hope reseed its loam.

      Seeing how mortal...

    • Italy or Anywhere
      (pp. 59-59)

      Wide as this Foggia plain, with wheatfields standing up

      In morning sun; full as the Adriatic’s cup

      Curving against Italian skies, brimming with blue,

      My heart, here caught, expands beyond its blood with new

      Dimensions. Deep my love as the central fiery core

      Of Vesuvius, steady as olive trees before

      Full years and empty ones, and rising now

      Like fighter planes with frozen sun on the pilot’s brow,

      Young as our happiest childhood games, day-long, dream-held,

      And old as war we share, with doubting downed and tears quelled.

      O love, fast in your hand hold love, our little earth,


    • After the Sunless Winter
      (pp. 60-61)

      After the sunless winter,

      After the months that dragged through mud, when snow

      Grew on unfriendly mountains and rode south

      Invading the helpless valleys and harassed seas;

      After the sunless winter,

      When raids began at six o’clock, the moon

      Was feared, and the fire chief prayed for still more rain,

      In battered towns no sound but guns, no lights

      But angry fire in the riddled sky;

      After the sunless winter,

      After the spotlight on the crawling death

      From lice, the thieving poverty, the dirt—

      Even though they said, “But Naples never lost

      Its sun before,” the men laughed bitterly


      (pp. 62-62)

      Say she went goldenly, her eyes undimmed,

      Her gracious mind at work, and love on her face;

      Remember now her laughter, pouring full-brimmed

      And failing never, even in flying space.

      Say she walks gently, unforgotten in France

      With all the hidden children living still

      Because she read their danger in advance

      And gave their mothers war-proof stores of skill.

      Tell them her quick intelligence now shines

      Through English hospitals and English hands,

      And like the sun, in Africa defines

      Children’s oases on the hungry sands.

      Show them her sisterhood in Italy,

      Starting the ambulance, the first-aid post,

      Opening doors of...

    • When Fighting Men Return
      (pp. 63-63)

      Not the physician’s but the lover’s hand

      Can dress the jumping nerve and heart, avoid

      The shellshocked regions, deftly understand

      The needed secrets, hated or enjoyed.

      Not the reporter but the listening love

      Hears half the glories, shame, and sleep-torn words,

      Reads what the blinded eyes are speaking of,

      And sets the crippled body free as birds.

      Better than any commanding officer

      The loved one, giving no orders, knows how best

      To channel muscled service and refer

      Power to living jobs and fruitful rest.

      Remember love, when fighting men return,

      And gently give them home, and wait, and learn....

    • We Swim in Secret Seas
      (pp. 64-65)

      My little sister cries before the piano;

      Her narrow shoulders shake beneath her blue sweater,

      Her fingers stretch with pain on the hard new piece,

      And I sit locked in silence with helpless love.

      The ugly woman stands alone in the streetcar

      With eyes clenching her empty ringless hands;

      She refutes her sex with sour bewildered pain,

      And I am frozen to the seat with pity.

      My neighbor stumbles in loneliness; he says

      Too quietly, “My little girl is sick,”

      And all the time his heart screamsI’m afraid

      Alas, poor mortal, how can I tell you of pity?


    • To My Analyst
      (pp. 66-68)

      When casual people ask me what you are,

      Eyes curious behind their hurried glance

      Or fear alive under the veiling voice,

      No single word or image can reply.

      For weighted with my past and undismayed

      You are my present clarity, and bear

      The confident knowledge of my future days.

      You led me through the darkened passages

      Littered with unremembered fears, and blocked

      With cherished guilt and stubborn fantasies;

      With steady probing mind and scalpel word

      You cut beneath the childhood hates that grew

      Like mold over love and hoarded cruelty.

      Bearing uncovered scorn and quick reproach,

      The dust and noise...