“Light in Dark,” by Josephine Preston Peabody from Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1911)


Light in Dark

It was the twilight made you look
So kindly and so far.
It was the twilight gave your eyes
A shadow, and a star.

For loveliness is not to keep
Unto the skies alone;
And though the glories may be gone,
The heart will have its own.

Some likeness of a dream is shed
From all fair things, too far;
And so your eyes have left to me
A shadow and a star.

from Fortune and Men’s Eyes, by Josephine Preston Peabody
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1911

Available on the Internet Archive Link.

This is one in a series of neglected poems from the Internet Archive.

“Never,” by Bernice Kenyon, from Night Sky (1951)



I will not come today–
I cannot come tomorrow.
I am gone far away
Beyond the realm of sorrow;
Beyond the reach of sleep,
And past the firmament
I am gone. No word is sent.
I am submerged, sunk deep
In the black basalt of eternity.
So call no name–you will call hopelessly.
But let the turning sky be fair and blue,
With what I loved the most: the eternal hue
Of hope and wonder, that is always you.

from Night Sky, by Bernice Kenyon
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951

In memory of Bill Andrews, August 29, 1955 – October 3, 2014

“When You Go Away,” by Sally Kinsolving from David and Bath-sheba (1922)


When You Go Away

When you go away
Then I enter your room,
And suddenly
A faint and lingering scent
Of cigarettes
Stabs me,
Like the perfume of bruised violets
In the quiet gloom
Of twilight, and I begin to look
Around me and I see
A book
That is open on its face
In the place
Where you laid it.
And I find ashes still scattered on the floor.
And my heart beats faster when I remember
That before you left
I loved to kneel and brush them out of the way.
Because I knew that you had spilled them
And would spill more. . . .
And then I look into the mirror until it seems
As empty as a house of dreams.
Or the white-pillowed bed where recently you lay,
And I shut the door
Quietly —
And go away.

from David and Bath-sheba, and other poems, by Sally Kinsolving
Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company, 1922

Available on the Internet Archive Link.

This is one of a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“In Time of Swallows,” from In Time of Swallows, by Mae Winkler Goodman (1951)


In Time of Swallows

The pear is weighted now with more than fruit–
In hordes they come, a winged avalanche,
Descending on the tree from tip to root,
Shaking the leaves, bending each silver branch.
They overflow the meadows for miles around
In multitudes, spilling their liquid song;
This is the time of swallows; along the ground,
On fence posts, bushes, these living beads are strung.
And then, in thousands, they reclaim the sky,
Sailing across the soft blue sea of air,
A bright, light-winged armada; we watch them fly
To what far destination; suddenly aware
Of the year’s waning, as the quick eye follows
The end of summer in the flight of swallows.

from In Time of Swallows: 52 American Birds, by Mae Winkler Goodman, illustrated by William E. Scheele
New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1951

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Incendiary,” by Nina Frances Layard, from Poems (1890)


The Incendiary

Pull down the stars;
Here let us have a game
Of patent pattern;
You bowl with Mars,
And I will take an aim
With belted Saturn.

Come, lend a hand;
The bright thing there is wasting,
Not serving Hodges;
Well make a stand,
And give the star a basting:
Till it dislodges.

Well sink the scale
And light the rich man’s winders:
I’ve tar and matches.
When we turn tail,
And all the house in cinders,
Hindmost he catches.

How now, you dolts?
Why tremble in your boots.
My sucking Platos,
At thunder-bolts,
Or little star that shoots,
Or — hot potatoes?

We have no fear;
And if you talk of reverence,
And all that twaddle.
We love our beer,
And hope to see no severance
‘Twixt screw and paddle.

Who cares for caste
In these new days of level?
We didn’t make it.
As for the past.
It may go to the devil
An’ he will take it.

Hold!— there is God?
I almost had forgotten
The Book–His letter–
But paths are trod,
And the old ways get rotten
And we want better;

And, as I say,
The old road is too straight,
We’d have it wider.
There’s room to pray,
But to be mad and hate.
Or drunk on cider.

There’s hardly space.
Or so our mother taught us
When she lay dying.
I see her face,
And how her look besought us
For some replying.

My mother! — yes!
All right, my lads. I’11 come;
You needn’t doubt it;
But I confess
Just now I’m flummoxed some;
I’ll—think about it.

from Poems, by Nina Frances Layard
London and New York: Longmans, Green and Company, 1890

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Low Tide,” by Lynette Roberts, from The New British Poets


Low Tide

Every waiting moment is a fold of sorrow
Pierced within the heart.
Pieces of mind get torn off emotionally
In large wisps.

Like a waif I lie, stillbound to action:
Each waiting hour I stare and see not,
Hum and hear not, nor care I how long
The lode mood lasts.

My eyes are raw and wide apart
Stiffened by the salt bar
That separates us.

You so far;
I at ease at the hearth
Glowing for a welcome
From your heart.

Each beating moment crosses my dream
So that wise things cannot pass
As we had planned.

Woe for all of us : supporting those
Who like us fail to steel their hearts,
But keep them wound in clocktight rooms,
Ill found. Unused. Obsessed by time.

Each beating hour
Rings false.

from The New British Poets: An Anthology, edited by Kenneth Rexroth
New York City: New Directions, 1948

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Knowledge,” from The Shoes that Danced, and Other Poems, by Anna Hempstead Branch



Once I thought that healing came
From the angels wings.

Now the bruised hands of men
Seem the kindest things.

Once I thought to pluck and eat

The fruit of Paradise.
Now I break with these their bread

With unsaddened eyes.

Once I thought to find on earth
Love, perfect and complete.

Now I know it carries wounds
In its hands and feet.

from The Shoes that Danced, and Other Poems, by Anna Hempstead Branch
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1905

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Afternoon Tea,” from Some Poems, by Clara Louise Lawrence (1914)


Afternoon Tea

An attractive table, round and neat.
Presided over by faces sweet;
Wafers and candy by fair hands passed.
And I’m having my afternoon tea, at last.

Luxurious pillows, an easy chair;
Odors of violets filling the air.
The mingling voices of women and men.
Discussing events that are and have been.

My thoughts are dreamily lifting to things
More ideal than commonplace brings.
When a bit of gossip commands my ear.
Wafted from someone to someone near.

Touching lightly a woman’s name;
Adding a thoughtless word of blame.
Oh, why could they not let that scandal rest.
Who welcomed her once as an honored guest?

My illusion is ended; no longer the light
Of the sweet-scented room is delicious and bright;
For gossip, that poison, has sifted, I see.
To the very dregs of the afternoon tea.

from Some Poems, by Clara Louise Lawrence
Carlton, Pennsylvania: Publisher unknown, 1914

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“To Myself,” from Spicewood, by Lizette Woodworth Reese


To Myself

Girl, I am tired of blowing hot and cold;
Of being that with that, and this with this;
A loosened leaf no bough would ever miss,
At the wind’s whim betwixt the sky and mould.
Of wearing masks. Oh, I would rend them all
Into the dust that by my door is blown;
Of my old secret bare me to the bone.
Myself at last, none other! I would call:——
“I had a lover once. This is the face
He lauded April-high and April-deep,
As fair a flower as hers of Camelot;
And yet he loved it but an April’s space.
This is myself indeed. Now hear me weep.
I had a lover once, but he forgot.”

from Spicewood, by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Baltimore : Norman, Remington Company, 1920

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.


“The Palace-Burner,” from Poems by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt


The Palace-Burner

[Paris, 1871]
A Picture in a Newspaper.

She has been burning palaces. “To see
The sparks look pretty in the wind!” Well, yes
And something more. But women brave as she
Leave much for cowards, such as I, to guess.

But this is old, so old that everything
Is ashes here, the woman and the rest.
Two years are oh! so long. Now you may bring
Some newer pictures. You like this one best?

You wish that you had lived in Paris then?
You would have loved to bum a palace, too?
But they had guns in France, and Christian men
Shot wicked little Communists like you.

You would have burned the palace? — Just because
You did not live in it yourself! Oh! why
Have I not taught you to respect the laws?
You would have burned the palace would not I?

Would I? … Go to your play. . . . Would I, indeed?
I? Does the boy not know my soul to be
Languid and worldly, with a dainty need
For light and music? Yet he questions me.

Can he have seen my soul more near than I?
Ah! in the dusk and distance sweet she seems,
With lips to kiss away a baby’s cry,
Hands fit for flowers, and eyes for tears and dreams.

Can he have seen my soul? And could she wear
Such utter life upon a dying face:
Such unappealing, beautiful despair:
Such garments soon to be a shroud with grace?

Would I burn palaces? The child has seen
In this fierce creature of the Commune here,
So bright with bitterness and so serene,
A being finer than my soul, I fear.

from Poems, by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt
London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1894

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Most of the poems in this two-volume collection, taken from over a half-dozen previous books by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, a Kentucky-born poet who lived from 1836 to 1919, fall into the same category of delicate, decorative, and deadly-dull poetry that American and British men and women of the Victorian era produced in brain-numbing quantities. Romantic poetry utterly devoid of passion and utterly unworthy of rediscovery.

And then there are a few like this, in which the poet acknowledges that the firebrand Communiste is “a bring finer than my soul,” suggesting that a life spent writing delicate, decorative poems is not perhaps the fullest realization of her potential. They’re like little whispers of sedition — whispers it might have taken another hundred years for anyone to really hear.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.


“The Hotel,” from You and I, by Harriet Monroe (1914)


The Hotel

The long resounding marble corridors, the shining parlors with shining women in them.

The French room, with its gilt and garlands under plump little tumbling painted loves.

The Turkish room, with its jumble of many carpets and its stiffly squared un-Turkish chairs.

The English room, all heavy crimson and gold, with spreading palms lifted high in round green tubs.

The electric lights in twos and threes and hundreds, made into festoons and spirals and arabesques, a maze and magic of bright persistent radiance.

The people sitting in corners by twos and threes, and cooing together under the glare.

The long rows of silent people In chairs, watching with eyes that see not while the patient band tangles the air with music.

The bell-boys marching in with cards, and shouting names over and over into ears that do not heed.

The stout and gorgeous dowagers In lacy white and lilac, bedizened with many jewels, with smart little scarlet or azure hats on their gray-streaked hair.

The business men in trim and spotless suits, who walk In and out with eager steps, or sit at the desks and tables, or watch the shining women.

The telephone girls forever listening to far voices, with the silver band over their hair and the little black caps obliterating their ears.

The telegraph tickers sounding their perpetual chit-chit-chit from the uttermost ends of the earth.

The waiters. In black swallow-tails and white aprons, passing here and there with trays of bottles and glasses.

The quiet and sumptuous bar-room, with purplish men softly drinking in little alcoves, while the bar-keeper, mixing bright liquors, is rapidly plying his bottles.

The great bedecked and gilded cafe, with its glitter of a thousand mirrors, with its little white tables bearing gluttonous dishes whereto bright forks, held by pampered hands, flicker daintily back and forth.

The white-tiled, immaculate kitchen, with many little round blue fires, where white-clad cooks are making spiced and flavored dishes.

The cool cellars filled with meats and fruits, or layered with sealed and bottled wines mellowing softly in the darkness.

The invisible stories of furnaces and machines, burrowing deep down into the earth, where grimy workmen are heavily laboring.

The many-windowed stories of little homes and shelters and sleeping-places, reaching up into the night like some miraculous, high-piled honeycomb of wax-white cells.

The clothes inside of the cells — the stuffs, the silks, the laces; the elaborate delicate disguises that wait in trunks and drawers and closets, or bedrape and conceal human flesh.

The people inside of the clothes, the bodies white and young, bodies fat and bulging, bodies wrinkled and wan, all alike veiled by fine fabrics, sheltered by walls and roofs, shut in from the sun and stars.

The souls inside of the bodies — the naked souls; souls weazened and weak, or proud and brave; all imprisoned in flesh, wrapped in woven stuffs, enclosed in thick and painted masonry, shut away with many shadows from the shining truth.

God inside of the souls, God veiled and wrapped and imprisoned and shadowed in fold on fold of flesh and fabrics and mockeries; but ever alive, struggling and rising again, seeking the light, freeing the world.

from You and I, by Harriet Monroe
New York: The Macmillian Company, 1914

This poem is Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel in miniature, with all the glittering details of a big city hotel in an era when they were the great crossroads of social and business life for those who could afford the price of entry. And I love that last line, which to me captures what is going on in most of us every day, whatever name or spirit we associate with God.

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Train Window,” from Sun-Up and Other Poems, by Lola Ridge (1920)


Train Window

Small towns
Crawling out of their green shirts …
Tubercular towns
Coughing a little in the dawn …
And the church …
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule–
That’s where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz . . .
How many codes for a wireless whisper
And corn flatter than it should be
And those chits of leaves
Gadding with every wind?
Small towns
From Connecticut to Maine:
Tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz . . . tzz-tzz. .

from Sun-Up and Other Poems, by Lola Ridge
New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1920

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“How Like a Woman,” from Poems, by Alice and Caroline Duer (1896)

Women in tea-room

How Like a Woman

I wanted you to come to-day —
Or so I told you in my letter —
And yet, if you had stayed away,
I should have liked you so much better.
I should have sipped my tea unseen,
And thrilled at every door-bell’s pealing,
And thought how nice I could have been
Had you evinced a little feeling.

I should have guessed you drinking tea
With someone whom you loved to madness;
I should have thought you cold to me,
And reveled in a depth of sadness.
But, no! you came without delay
I could not feel myself neglected:
You said the things you always say,
In ways not wholly unexpected.

If you had let me wait in vain,
We should, in my imagination,
Have held, what we did not attain,
A most dramatic conversation.
Had you not come, I should have known
At least a vague anticipation,
Instead of which, I grieve to own,
You did not give me one sensation.

from Poems, by Alice and Caroline Duer
New York: George H. Richmond & Co., 1896

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Alice Duer married Henry Wise Miller a few years after publishing this book of poems with her sister Caroline, and became Alice Duer Miller, who wrote “Forsaking All Others,” a verse short novel featured here recently (post).

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Theodore Dreiser,” from Precipitations, by Evelyn Scott (1920)


Theodore Dreiser

The man body jumbled out of the earth, half, formed,
Clay on the feet.
Heavy with the lingering might of chaos.
The man face so high above the feet
As if lonesome for them like a child.
The veins that beat heavily with the music they but half understood
Coil languidly around the heart
And lave it in the death stream
Of a grand impersonal benignance.

from Precipitations, by Evelyn Scott
New York: Nicholas L. Brown, 1920

I could hardly imagine a less likely subject for a poem than Theodore Dreiser, but this sketch by Evelyn Scott is close to perfection, both in its imagery and in the clay-footedness of that last line, which might have come straight off the pages of one of Dreiser’s novels.

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Take Their Little Necks,” by Loureine Aber, from We. the Musk Chasers


Take Their Little Necks

I ask you to be fierce, Chicago,
As a drowning man in the first spasm
Fierce first of all to your women.
Trip them when they come mincing down the Avenue,
Take their little necks and squeeze them,
(Women grow scatter-brained with no fingers at them,
There is no white glory to them if they are not hurt,
Oh, the unhurt women you see ogling at the shops.
Paint and cloth!)

And when you get a chance at men.
Be fierce with them;
It is their hands have made you,
Their insistent, silly howling for the moon.
When they wrought you, Chicago,
They wrought pigstys out of gauze.
And fine dreams.

from We, the Musk Chasers, by Loureine Aber
Chicago: Ralph Fletcher Seymour, 1921

Available on the Internet Archive: Link.

I like this poem because the poet’s voice is ferocious. She invites Sandburg’s Hog Butcher of the World, City of Big Shoulders, to wring the necks of her men and women with the facts of the real world.

We, the Musk Chasers–one of the odder titles of its time–was Loureine Aber’s only book, and at that, was a cheap paperback edition from a minor Chicago publisher. A graduate of Oberlin College, she had a number of poems published in Harriet Monroe’s magazine, including a feature spot right after Wallace Stevens in the October 1921 issue. She worked in advertising and then in the offices of the Leschin Apparel Company and boarded with a fellow Oberlin graduate, Lillian Blackwell Dial, and her husband. She died in 1930, a few days past her 37th birthday.

She was in her late 20s when she wrote “Take Their Little Necks.” She’d already been out, presumably on her own, for some years. Was she writing out of frustration with her own situation or with the fact that so many others hadn’t yet come to share her outlook on the world? Another poem in the collection, “You Will Never Go Picking Wild Flowers,” tells a well-to-do woman that she can never be carefree again because “You must go stiff now/Furs in storage/Diamonds in vault/Limousine waiting.” And was to make of “Four Corners of a Room”? Is this a celebration of limits or a declaration of resignation?

It is only four corners of a room
That keep me from becoming God.
I might leap out and spin stars,
I might address myself to grass
And long windy nights.
But these four corners hold me,
They have memories in them.

They will keep me fast

I am glad to be kept from being God.

It is certainly tempting to weave a whole story for Loureine Aber out of the lines of We, the Musk Chasers.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Night at Scheveningen,” by F. V. Branford, from Titans and Gods (1922)


Night at Scheveningen

The North Sea shakes
His ranks in
The moon,
Beats and breaks
His flanks in
The dune.

And pitiless
On rock and century.
And cityless
My soul is as the sea.

from Titans and Gods, by F. V. Branford
London: Christophers, 1922

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Sitting here tonight in a hotel on the beach at Scheveningen, looking out into the dunes, I wondered if I could find any poem about this most unpoetic sounding place.

En hier is het. Wie had dat gedacht?

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Unhappy Few,” by Thomas McAfee, from Poems and Stories


The Unhappy Few

–after reading Weldon Kees

Most of us spend most of our lives
Climbing in and out of wombs,
Bitching about bad coffee and too wet
Martinis. Most of us lust for, more than love,
Our wives, waitresses, and celluloid sirens.

But a few seem to move to the total horror
Of ennui, to wake tired at morning,
To be glad to face another alley, rather
Than to go on for another hour with the sheets,
Fighting the nightmares that gang up.

Those few are real and positive. They know
What misery and terror really are.
They’re usually the very last ones to bitch.
They go off somewhere to drink in a bar
Or cry or quietly to kill themselves.

from Poems and Stories, by Thomas McAfee
Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1960

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“Cadillac Square: 1933,” by John Malcolm Brinnin, from Selected Poems

cadillac square

Cadillac Square: 1933

Whoever know a city, know this square:
The loud and quaking air
That breaks on brick or scales the sun-choked glass,
The travelers who pass
One minute of one day and nevermore,
The neo-Grecian door
Poised like the needle’s eye, open and shut
For the mythical feet
Of some squat nobleman of fields and mines,
Industrial scenes,
Or eggshell yachts afloat in summer water,
The pink expensive daughter
With a flair for shady friends and maybe Bach,
The colonnaded house and the Chinese cook.

In early spring this heartlike acre shines:
Canyoned streets, carlines
Flow with violence of union, men
Learn faith in fathers then;
The butcher from the suburb and the clerk
Hear the organizers speak
The echoing language of the pioneer,
And in that press they cheer
With such a swirling and reproachless voice
The city swims in noise;
Those sooty faces and grime-sculptured hands
Live where the river bends,
They own the rotted gardens made to green
Where but the fossils of machines have lain.

All interweaves among the changing years:
Progress is in arrears
Until some chanticleering message raids
The disparate multitudes,
Or the bark of some command, made sharp with hate,
Sends Property’s gunmen out.
Poised in that infinity of death
Or life, or barely both,
The human balance sways; away, away,
The bleak night and the day,
The bankers couched in limousines, the poor
Jackknifed against a door,
The bankers conscious of defeat, the poor
Jackknifed, oblivious, against a door.

from The Selected Poems of John Malcolm Brinnin
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link)

“Elegy Before the Time,” by William Dickey, from The Interpreter’s House


Elegy Before the Time

From Kansas City, the
last bleeding station-stop
of mother’s cancer, goes
west and then south, writes
“Having become myself
my fiction’s hero, will
pause at tonight’s hotel,
called (letterhead translates)
Inn of the Last Resort,
(amused) tomorrow will
taken sudden steps to go
into Mexico, write
nothing to anyone.”

Like a cheap dog thereafter
in grey timorousness
will his hallucinations
attend his heel
to lick at the least call?
Heroic, in the bar
back of the best streets,
he, in a diamond vest,
gold pieces in his ears,
muscles like a hoopsnake,
cheerfully will impart
his daddy’s wisdom with
new lies in a new night.

Or if that keepsake fails,
the coin in his hand turns
to a useless penny, he
cursed for a male witch,
eyes superstitiously full,
flesh softer than human,
“having become himself
his fiction’s hero” may
dance to a smart blaze,
staccato feet bound
fast to the fire’s end,
his clumsy hands told
gestures of departure.

Why worry, lovey? He,
mother in her fat tomb,
auntie on her pension,
Kansas City an act done
in an indecent story,
now suffers his own air,
breathes himself wholly.
And if he takes off
all clothes, smarts
in another country’s love, if
he takes off his heart, bleeds
untranslated blood, still
it is his fiction.

But I agree, I
cannot leave it there, and
wait the improbable card
postmarked Champs Elysees:
“Everything dandy, death
easily managed. Find
fine company; Ambrose Bierce,
all others who disappeared
stopping by for a drink.
Having become themselves
their fictions, are
spoken with new tongues.
Write to me. Love me. Yours.”

from The Interpreter’s House, by William Dickey
Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1963

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“The Drought,” by Edwin Ford Piper, from Barbed Wire and other poems


The Drought

The light of noon comes reddened from a sky
A-blur with dust; the irritable wind
Burns on your cheek, and leans against your garments
Like a hot iron. Cloud after cloud, the dust
Sweeps the road, rattles on the dirty canvas
Of the schooner so dispiritedly drawn
By drooping horses. On the whitening grass,
With bright and helpless eyes, a meadow-lark
Sits open-beaked, and desperately mute.
The thin, brown wheat that was too short to cut
Stands in the field; the feeble corn, breast high,
Shows yellowed leaf and tassel. With slack line
The bearded, gaunt, stoop-shouldered driver sits
As if in sleep some mounting wave of sorrow
Had overpassed him, and he still dreamed on.
Within the schooner children’s voices wail;
A mother’s tones bring quiet. The sun glares,
The wind drones and makes dirty all the sky.
The horses scarcely fight the vicious flies.

This is departure, but there are who stay.

from Barbed Wire and Other Poems, by Edwin Ford Piper
Chicago: The Midland Press

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“For Instance,” by Robert McAlmon, from The Best Poems Of 1926


For Instance

and jewelry, rightly displayed,
have an equal amount of fascination.

Carrots, for instance,
ferntops, bodies, and hair roots
so bound together in bunches
bunches laid in rows
of oblong heaps with magnitude,
are sufficient to arrest any seeing eye.

Cabbages with a purplish tinge,
when of grandeur, with widespread petals,
as they rest in heaps
catching the dawn’s first filtering of sunlight,
compare satisfyingly with roses enmassed,
with orchids, sunflowers, tulips,
or variegated flowers
extravagantly scattered.

While as to onions,
little can excel their decorative effect
when green tubes, white bulbs, and grey hair roots
rest in well arranged, paralleled piles
about which buxom women congregate,
laughing and chattering in wholesome vulgarity.

a cool indifference to the gash of knives,
to the crush of kind,
or to any destiny whatsoever,
has granted the vegetables an arrogance of identity
one would be foolhardy to strive after
with heated impressionable imagination.

given their color,
scent and freshness,
too easily attain a cool supremacy of being
for our fumbling competition.

from The Best Poems Of 1926, edited by L. A. G. Strong
New York City: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1926

Robert McAlmon was a pivotal figure in the American avant-garde of the 1920s, both in Greenwich Village and Paris. His press, Contact Editions, published Hemingway’s first book of fiction, Three Stories & Ten Poems, as well as Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All, and Robert Coates’ The Eater of Darkness. After his death, Kay Boyle assembled his memoirs, along with some of her own, into one of the best accounts of the period, Being Geniuses Together (1970).

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“A Lilt,” from Cobblestones: A Book of Poems, by David Sentner


A Lilt

I grasped the greasy subway strap
And read the lurid advertisements
I chewed my gum voraciously
Inhaled strange fumes pugnaciously.
I heard the grating of the wheels
And felt that the chords
Of my city soul
Were in perfect tune.

from Cobblestones: A Book of Poems, by David Sentner
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921

David Sentner’s Cobblestones was published by Alfred A. Knopf as the result of a poetry competition held among undergraduates of (then) Columbia College. Sentner’s book received a fair amount of press when it was published, due the fact that he was a wounded veteran of World War One. Sentner lost his sight in one eye while serving with the 27th Division in France, and founded the Columbia Comeback Club, which represented nearly 800 veterans attending the school after the war.

This didn’t impress the New York Times’ reviewer, though. “Prize poets are generally bad, for some reason,” he quipped, and found this held true for Sentner as well. “Just what these poems prove besides the facts that the writer does not know trees and that he is a gum-chewing poet (rather a modern figure) it is hard to see.”

Cobblestones was Sentner’s first and last book of poems. He died in 1975, apparently having left poetry behind nearly a half century before.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“Letters Found Near a Suicide,” by Frank Horne, from The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949


Letters Found Near a Suicide

To all of you

My little stone
Sinks quickly
Into the bosom of this deep, dark pool
Of oblivion . . .
I have troubled its breast but little
Yet those far shores
That knew me not
Will feel the fleeting, furtive kiss
Of my tiny concentric ripples . . .

This is the first of eleven short poems that comprise the “Letters Found Near a Suicide,” which was first published in The Crisis, the journal of the NAACP. Horne submitted the collection to a contest run by the magazine and came in second, behind Countee Cullen and ahead of Langston Hughes (who co-edited the anthology I took this from).

Horne’s accomplishments were remarkable and diverse. He trained and practiced professionally as an ophthalmologist, wrote poetry, and was active in the NAACP and other black political organizations. He served in numerous positions in government and in government advisory functions, particularly related to public housing. Strongly aligned with the Democratic Party, he was the target of Civil Service Loyalty Board investigations, accused of being Communist-friendly, and eventually left the U. S. Housing Authority to take a position on the New York City Civil Rights Commission. He published his only book, Haverstraw, a collection of poems, in 1963. There appear to be no copies of it for sale now. He died in 1975. You can find an extensive article devoted to Horne’s career, along with the full set of “Letters” at the Hidden Cause blog (link).

from The Poetry Of The Negro, 1746 1949: An Anthology, edited by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps
Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1951

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“Song of the Drunken Business Man,” from Mid-American Chants, by Sherwood Anderson


“Song of the Drunken Business Man”

Don’t try, little one, to keep hold of me.
Go home! There’s a place for you by the fire.
Age is waiting to welcome you, love—
Go home and sit by the fire.

Into the naked street I ran,
Roaring and bellowing like a cow;
Shaking the walls of the houses down,
Proclaiming my dream of black desire.

Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole,
Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole.

If there’s a thing in this world that’s good it’s guts.
I’m a blackbird hovering over the land:
Go on home! Let me alone.

Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole,
Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole.

Do you know, little dove, I admire your lips—
They’re so red.
What are you doing out in the street?
Take my arm! Look at me!
Ah, you be gone. I’m sixty-five years old tonight,
Now what’s the use of beginning again.

Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole,
Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole.

Well, I’m tired. I ache. What’s the use?
I can’t meet the note. I have a son.
Let’s go home. It’s twelve o’clock.
I’m going to get that boy into West Point yet.

Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole,
Eighteen letters in a pigeon-hole.

from Mid-American Chants, by Sherwood Anderson, New York: John Lane Co., 1918

This is a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

“Sociability of the Subconscious,” from The Pursuit of Happiness by Benjamin R. C. Low


Sociability of the Subconscious

Thought gives it rarely. It must happen so.
The perfect hour blooms up unheralded.
Perpend. “Let’s take our books with us, and go
Out to the cabin for a quiet read !” she said.
In lazy mood
I took my tome and followed after.
(The back way for adventure.) Soon
Across the warm, gold afternoon,
She led me, with light feet and laughter,
Into a wood.
A sabbath journey only, through the pines.
One cleft of sunlight caught it; good bark brown,
With easy roof and unassuming lines;
Door open; a play cabin. We sat down.

There was, I think, some virtue in the clothes we wore:
She, a stout skirt and simple sailor blouse,
No hat, and sneakers; I,
Old flannels, outlawed many years before,
A tennis shirt and shoes. (Comfort allows
The mood care’s quirks deny.)
We squandered little time on speech:
Each took a corner of the window; guided
Plump pillows to best use, and then subsided
Into a swoon of silence, each.

Books held the foreground. Books were of that hour
Pre-eminent, we thought.
(In winter’s footprints April hides her flower.)
We read; while fortune wrought,
Not romance, but a rarer thing, diviner.
I read John Milton; she, an Olive Schreiner.
Books held the foreground. Half-sensed, all the while,
Were soft intrusions, seas,
Far-heard when winds touch trees;
Sweet, distant laughter dwindled to a smile;
The Peter Piper of a motor-boat,
Throbbing beneath bright voices, then
A pool of silence, stirred a
By seagulls in falsetto, a harsh note.
But mostly — peace. One almost felt the sun
A-westering, while one small bee
Droned all the world indulgence, in his run
Round one small room: so still were we.
And all the while, I was aware of her;
Reading anew
L’ Allegro, Penseroso, Lycidas,
The Cyriack, and the Blindness
. Ghostlier
As, eyes drawn down, I watched the old friends pass,
That still room grew.

I was aware of her in a new way.
Milton absorbed me. I remember well
The joy of winging that proud upper air,
And, once, how scrannel keyed the seagulls. (They
Still own it.) Whence it came I cannot tell,
But we waked, somehow, and–I was aware.

An inroad ended it:
A megaphone
Called: “We are starting!” Books closed, out we ran,
The world of common-sense resumed. No plan.
Neither intended it.
The hour unknown.
But something wrought with us. I was aware. . . .
We waked in some eternity, it seems,
Brains are but barriers of, with their poor dreams.
Who runs may read; only–such hours are rare.

from The Pursuit of Happiness, and Other Poems, New York: John Lane Co., 1919

This is a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

From The Biographical Dictionary Of Contemporary Poets. The Who’s Who Of American Poets (1938), we learn that Benjamin Low was born in Massachussetts, earned his bachelor’s at Yale and a law degree from Harvard and practiced insurance law in New York City.

One wonders if he ever compared poetical notes with Wallace Stevens–though Low was no match the Hartford’s man. Of another of Low’s books of poetry, Saturday Review wrote, “there is ever and again the glitter of the true precious metal in this thin vein of ore.” This lovely vignette of an hour captured alone/together reading is certainly one.

“The Rats in Council,” from Old Saws, Newly Set, by George Linley


The Rats in Council

A certain colony of rats,
Was ravaged by a chief of cats,
The foe his rounds so slily went,
No rat his skill could circumvent;
So that, as none from home dare stray,

Their rations dwindled day by day;
And visions of that demon gaunt
Grim Famine, ‘gan their hearts to daunt.
One noon (’twas after a good dinner,
Which made the rat race somewhat thinner,)
Grimalkin, with complacent air,
Went forth to court a neighb’ring fair.

The coast is clear, with hearts elate,
The chiefs in council hold debate.
A knowing Rat, grown grey with age,
By all his brethren deem’d a sage,
Describes a remedy most pat,
Which is — forthwith to bell the Cat;
So that, the tinkling larum may show,
The whereabouts of the prowling foe.

Th’ assembled multitude agree
No means could shorter, surer be;
And, as the orator speaks well,
Propose to him to hang the bell.
To this, however, he demurr’d;
I bell the Cat, the thing’s absurd!
Methinks, if I the plan devise,
Others the scheme should realize.”

From rat to rat the word goes round,
But not a volunteer is found,
With military pluck or zeal
To battle for the common weal.
Too oft we find that talkers fluent,
When call’d to action, play the truant.

From Old Saws, Newly Set: Fables in Verse, by George Linley the Younger
Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one of a series of neglected poems found on the Internet Archive.

“Mason Street, 11 P. M.,” from A City of Caprice, by Neill Wilson




Mason Street, Eleven P. M.

Spangles flashing, slippers twinkling.
Round and round she goes.
To the mad piano’s tinkling.
On her tippy-toes.
Waiter! Has the girl no inkling
Of the word repose?

Flagellate ’em! Fast, Professor,
Beat the ivories hard!
Never pace a minute lesser.
While the night is starred.
Waiter! Who’s the giddy dresser
Glancing hitherward?

Cheek allures and lips abet it.
Mistress with the eyes.
Speak then: do we pirouette it
Where the sachet flies?
Ah, the prospect dazzles? Let it!
Evening star, arise!

Psyche’s nearest rival, spritely
Condiment of art.
Hug, oh hug me not so tightly.
Let me breathe, dear heart.
Less inured am I to nightly
Passion a la carte.

Listen, Circe’s little sister.
Once embraced, endeared:
You have scorched my soul; I blister.
Even as I feared.
Waiter! Chasers two! I kissed her.
And it tasted weird.

Pound the box. Professor! Shocking
Though the modern Eve,
And a lady’s lost her stocking,
I decline to leave.
What, the hour so soon for locking?
Halts all make-believe?

Gently, waiter. Friend, confessor,
Where’s the sidewalk, please?
Hail, the honest milkman! Yessir,
Morning air agrees.
Man! but couldn’t that professor
Castigate those keys?

The mix of traditionally poetic language and then-contemporary slang in this poem–and in most of those in this collection–is awkward and unstable. On its own, the whole book could easily remain forgotten. I just featured it as an excuse to post a few of the dozen or so photographs that appear ahead of the poems. Look closely at the last: you can see the reflections of the two women in the store window they are passing. I always like old photos that remind us that a photograph only captures an instant. Most of the picture is filled with things that are fixed–for years at least. But here we also catch the women a moment before they turn the corner and disappear.

from A City of Caprice, by Neill Compton Wilson
San Francisco: Overland Press, 1920

Available on the Internet Archive (Link).

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“For a Wordfarer,” from Green Armor on Green Ground, by Rolfe Humphries


For a Wordfarer

Speak them slowly, space them so:
Say them soft, or sing them low,
Words whose way we may not know any more.
Still, before the days go,

Sing them low, or say them soft.
Such a little while is left
To counterpoint the soundless drift of Time,
Let rhyming fall and lift.

Space them so, with lift and fall
Decent in their interval,
Late, archaic, who could say?–but always
Graceful, musical.

from Green Armor on Green Ground, which is subtitled, “Poems in the Twenty-four Official Welsh Meters and Some, in Free Meters, on Welsh Themes,” by Rolfe Humphries
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956

Available on the Internet Archive (link)

Humphries writes that this poem is written in a meter known as “Englyn Unodl Crwca”:

This is also a four line stanza, reversing the pattern of Englyn unodl union, in that the syllable count of the lines runs seven, seven, ten, six, respectively. The same principles apply in the echoing of the syllables that follow the main rhyme in the long line.

“Words for Time,” from New and Selected Poems, by Thomas H. Ferril


Words for Time

Ask a boy on his back
In a track the buffalo cut
How long it takes that cloud
To cross that butte.

How many turns of calico tied to a spoke
Of a wheel
Make a mile
Make a century?

Ask dew on the ox-bow:
Where did the century go?
Ask lantern light on the butternut sleeve
In the evening.

Tonight I was watching a jet-plane lag behind
The spokes of light a hub of sunken sun
Was turning in the under-West
Behind the Rocky Mountains.

The jet-plane, for an instant of twelve mountains,
Held its own with a span of apricot sky
But lost to a fanning blade of choke-cherry;
Nearer, a snow-white-pitch-black magpie bird
Sauntered the West wind faster.

What shall I tell the children about Time?
Children who never counted the sing-back sway
Of the shoes of a single-footer horse,
Surrey by goldenrod or pung by snow,
But know the red light from the green
And when to go
And go
And go so soon
Over and under the poles of the earth
And toss the earth like a toy balloon.

Shall I tell them Time is countable repetition:
Tree-ring, heart-beat, Ocean’s coral accrual?
Shall I speak allegory: Time has teeth,
Forgives, is foolish, yawns, rubs like a river,
Is bald, is nick, is nurse, is pale avenger?

Big Time, small Time, war Time, your Time?
Hickory-dickory Geiger Time?
The mouse ran up the isotope,
Five . . . ten . . . fifteen . . . twenty . . .
Twenty-five . . . thirty . . . thirty-five . . . forty . . .
Where you are you shall burn up
In your hiding place or not!

I’ll say those things for all those things are true,
And I will tell the children Time is Love,
Like a slogan to laugh at on a greeting card,
Like a One-I-Love song made of daisy petals,
Like bidding the mountains sloughing off to sea
Good wayfaring, my hills, goodbye, goodbye!

Let boys and girls grow old and die one day,
Well taught that Time itself does not exist
Where nothing can go faster than the light
That let me love that magpie’s wing tonight:
Love of watching, recognizing, naming,
Knowing why similar ash of men and cattle
Leaves talismans that differ as a hymn
Might differ from an idle opal mine.

And I will tell them . . .
No, I’ll let them learn it:
All constellations, bench-marks, citadels
Continuing and lost and starting over
Within a whisper: “Was it all right with you?”
Passion into slumber into being.

Thomas Hornsby Ferril was a Denver newspaper editor and poet who saw his city grow and change through most of the 20th century, dying at age 92 in 1988. The introduction to this collection was written by novelist H. L. Davis, whose Winds of Morning (published the same year as Ferril’s collection) was one of the first books I featured on this site (link). That novel and this poem have in common the theme of the passing of time in the West–as Davis noted in his introduction:

Time and continuity may seem commonplace elements from which to develop individuality in poetry. Other poets have written about time and its effect on things ostensibly stable and permanent; writers as far back as Xenophon have paid homage to the power of renewal that gives continuity to the human spirit. But with most of them, such things are incidental and minor, reasoned reflections touched on in passing. In Ferril’s poetry, they are fundamental and all-pervading, underlying and coloring thought, emotion, even instinct.

In origin, much of this may be due to environment. The plateau region of the Rocky Mountains has always had, for some strange reason, an intensely stimulating effect on the efflorescence of stock poetical pronouncements about everlasting hills and the earth abiding unchanged and unchanging. The record for generations has brilliantly corroborated and extended the application of the old critical note that the best British poets always wrote their worst poetry in Switzerland. The truth is that hills do change; they shift, alter shape, switch colors and textures; rivers flood, change course, dry up and cut new channels for themselves; grasslands gully out, silt up and saturate with alkali, wind-strip and bank into new grasslands a couple of counties away. This process has been noted often enough in books — Shakespeare’s forty-fourth sonnet, for instance, or any textbook on geology — but reading or reasoning about it is not the same thing as having it happen visibly and persistently, until it becomes a part of one’s inmost consciousness. People in the plateau area of the Rockies are exposed to it from childhood; they come to take it for granted, except when, as sometimes can happen, one of them develops into a poet.

Davis also writes that these poems “… were written primarily to be read aloud, and Ferril’s Library of Congress recordings of some of them do give them a depth and closeness of rhythm that the printed page misses. But even on the printed page, as stages in the achievement of a precise and far-ranging literary artist, they are well able to speak for themselves.”

This poem also makes me think of my grandfather, who was born in a sod house in western Nebraska in 1901, rode a mule to school and studied by a kerosene lamp, and who lived to ride in jet planes and see men walk on the moon on his television. He wasn’t much for poetry, but I’ll bet he’d have appreciated Ferril’s work.

from New and Selected Poems, by Thomas Hornsby Ferril
New York City: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1903

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Dawn in the City,” from Hesperus, and other poems, by Charles de Kay (1880)


Dawn in the City

The city slowly wakes:
Her every chimney makes
Offering of smoke against the cool white skies.
Slowly the morning shakes
The lingering shadowy flakes
Of night from doors and windows, from the city’s eyes.

A breath through heaven goes:
Leaves of the pale sweet rose
Are strewn along the clouds of upper air.
Healer of ancient woes,
The palm of dawn bestows
Peace on the feverish brow, comfort on grim despair.

Now the celestial fire
Fingers the sunken spire.
Crocket by crocket swiftly creepeth down;
Brushes the maze of wire.
Dewy, electric lyre,
And with a silent hymn one moment fills the town.

A sound of pattering hoofs
Above the emergent roofs
And anxious bleatings tell the passing herd;
Scared by the piteous droves,
A shoal of scurrying doves
Veering, around the island of the church has whirred.

Soon through the smoky haze
The park begins to raise
Its outlines clearer into daylit prose;
Ever with fresh amaze
The sleepless fountains praise
Mom that has gilt the city as it gilds the rose.

High in the clearer air
The smoke now builds a stair
Leading to realms no wing of bird has found;
Things are more foul, more fair;
A distant clock somewhere
Strikes, and the dreamer starts at clear reverberant sound.

Farther the tide of dark
Drains from each square and park:
Here is a city fresh and new-create,
Wondrous as though the ark
Should once again disbark
On a remoulded world its safe and joyous freight.

Ebbs all the dark, and now
Life eddies to and fro
By pier and alley, street and avenue:
The myriads stir below,
As hives of coral grow——
Vaulted above, like them, with a fresh sea of blue.

from Hesperus, and other poems, by Charles de Kay
New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1880

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

Like much poetry, particularly from before the World Wars, this suffers from an overly poetic vocabulary, but I appreciate the details that capture a cityscape from the days of coal and wood fires, horses and cattle in the streets, and noises much different from those we would now encounter. “The real background to these formative years, however, was the sound of hooves; the metallic thunder of the big animals drawing the carriages called landaus, the lighter trip-trop of the hansom cabs,” wrote Bryher in her memoir, The Heart to Artemis.

And one detail here sets the time precisely: “Brushes the maze of wire.” This is after the invention of the telephone (1876), after the first proliferation of subscriber lines by Western Electric and other early telephone companies, and before the practices of burying cables and using distribution frames. As more and more people signed up for the novelty service, companies stacked up row upon row of cross-arms, each supporting up to a dozen wire pairs. For a time, people could look up and truly see a maze of wire above their heads.

“Conchology,” by Sarah Hoare




Delightful task, to trace the hand,
In the minute as in the grand,
Of sovereign Deity !
   ‘Tis holy exercise of mind,
Most valued by the most refin’d.
And by the heaven-exalted mind
   Enjoy’d with ecstacy.


Behold beneath, around, above,
Proofs of immeasurable love.
   Illimitable powers;
Those powers the host of Heaven illume,
And give the summer’s varied bloom.
Its treasury of sweet perfume,
   Its fascinating flowers.


Still may thy lore, Oh Linne! charm,
Still with the love of science warm
   The young, the gay, the wise,
Still may the treasures of thy page,
Give youth a charm, and solace age.
And oft retirement’s hour engage,
   And sorrows tranquillize.


Cheer’d by th’ amusement they bestow,
I’ve sought the flowers that earliest blow,
   From spring till winter lour’d;
Fresh breezes cool’d my fev’rish vein.
Amusement dissipated pain.
Gay health reviv’d my sinking frame,
   And healing balsam pour’d.


Nor less Testacea have I sought,
With deepest admiration fraught.
   Of all their vivid dyes;
Their well proportion’d spires’ ascent,
Their foliaceous ornament.
Their varied charms, so competent,
   To dazzle and surprise.

from Poems on conchology and botany: with plates and notes, by Sarah Hoare
London: Simpkin & Marshal / Bristol: Wright and Bagnall, 1831

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Sustenance,” by Robert Bagg



If you starve anything,
A race, a flower, a fever,
Fear it will rise and cling
To you, for you can never
Kill something true for good
By cutting off its food.

I knew a sinner once,
God was his meat and drink.
He wouldn’t look askance
At Christ, or say he shrank
Because the world had given
No saints lately to heaven.

from Madonna of the Cello, by Robert Bagg
Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Further Document on the Human Brain,” by W. R. Moses


Further Document on the Human Brain

This is a bit of rope that lies in the street.
And the stuff of oakum, but it is not blood
Out of half-naked seamen, nor the smoke
Grey from gun-mouths over the rough blue water
Where oaken old vessels would battle as they could.

This is waste-paper, flicked by a dust-filled breeze.
And what they make books on, but no feathered pen
In the hand of one who wore a ready dagger.
Wrote thunderous plays, praised his wine and tobacco,
And kept his whores in Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

This is a fringe of a woman’s fine black hair
Just seen past another; it is sheeting, cool
And crisply smooth to sheathe one’s limbs between.
Behind a locked door; and a heart that makes its throbbing
Noticed much more than in class-rooms in a school.

from Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry, edited by Ann Winslow
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935

In Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry, Allen Tate writes:

The feature of Moses’ work that most forcibly strikes me is the conscious control of his material. I believe he must have stated his problem to himself somewhat in these terms: given the desire to achieve all the shock of immediacy so brilliantly achieves in a poem like Crane’s Paraphrase; but given, too, the desire for the greater range of presentation and commentary that is possible only if the poem is removed from its inciting event, is there any way in which they might be combined, so that they actually reinforce and define each other?

In each of Moses’ poems lurks a hidden generalization that we do not merely infer, as we do with all poetry; it is the conscious selector of the material.

You can find this and two other poems by Moses from the The American Review in 1934: link. Moses’ work was the subject of a commemorative issue of the Kansas Quarterly in 1982.

“Leaves on the Capitol Grass,” by James Dawson


Leaves on the Capitol Grass

Sons of a young land prematurely old,
Gone grey about the hills, stagnant of air,
We walk the prim lots in the growing cold
And comb the brown leaves from the land’s dead hairs,
We watch the old men pass, folding their coats
About their greying necks; we see them pass,
Coughing a little in their drying throats,
Parking their buicks by the aged grass.
Old men, we see you, we who rake the leaves,
Who count the dried leaf-veins in every one,
We know the young land ages now and grieves,
Who see you passing when your day is done.
What does it matter what we think of you?
The leaves are dead. The land is dying too.

from Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry, edited by Ann Winslow
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935

Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry provides this short biography of Dawson:

James Dawson was born in New Bern, North Carolina, July 1, 1910. He received an A. B. degree at the University of North Carolina and is now a graduate student at Georgetown University. In the intervals of securing an education he has been a printer’s devil, a sailor, a chain-carrier for surveyors, and a teller in a country bank.

From a St. Andrew’s Society newsletter from 1963, we learn that he served in the Navy in World War Two, and went on to become an advertising and P.R. executive. His four poems in Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry appear to be the sum of his published work.

“Travelogue in a Shooting Gallery,”by Kenneth Fearing, from Afternoon of a Pawnbroker (1943)


Travelogue in a Shooting Gallery

There is a jungle, there is a jungle, there is a vast, vivid, wild,
wild, marvelous, marvelous, marvelous jungle,
Open to the public during business hours,
A jungle not very far from an Automat, between a hat store
there, and a radio shop.

There, there, whether it raihs, or it snows, or it shines,
Under the hot, blazing, cloudless, tropical neon skies that
the management always arranges there,
Rows and rows of marching ducks, dozens and dozens and
dozens of ducks, move steadily along on smoothly-oiled ballbearing feet,

Ducks as big as telephone books, slow and fearless and out
of this world,
While lines and lines of lions, lions, rabbits, panthers, elephants, crocodiles, zebras, apes,
Filled with jungle hunger and jungle rage and jungle love,
Stalk their prey on endless, endless rotary belts through
never-ending forests, and burning deserts, and limitless veldts,

To the sound of tom-toms, equipped with silencers, beaten
by thousands of savages hidden there.
And there it is that all the big game hunters go, there the
traders and the explorers come,

Leanfaced men with windswept eyes who arrive by streetcar,
auto or subway, taxi or on foot, streetcar or bus,
And they nod, and they say, and they need no more:
‘There . . . there . . .
There they come, and there they go.”

And weighing machines, in this civilized jungle, will read
your soul like an open book, for a penny at a time,
and tell you all,
There, there, where smoking is permitted,
In a jungle that lies, like a rainbow’s end, at the very end of every trail,
There, in the only jungle in the whole wide world where
ducks are waiting for streetcars,
And hunters can be psychoanalyzed, while they smoke and wait for ducks.

from Afternoon Of A Pawnbroker And Other Poems, by Kenneth Fearing
New York City: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“A Working Philosophy,” from Blind Children, by Israel Zangwill


A Working Philosophy

The solar system turns without thine aid.
Live, die ! The universe is not afraid.
What is, is right ! If aught seems wrong below,
Then wrong it is — of thee to leave it so.
Then wrong it first becomes for human thought,
Which else would die of dieting on naught.
Tied down by race and sex and creed and station,
Go, learn to find thy strength in limitation,
To do the little good that comes to hand.
Content to love and not to understand ;
Faithful to friends and country, work and dreams,
Knowing the Real is the thing that seems.
While reverencing every nobleness.
In whatsoever tongue, or shape, or dress,
Speak out the word that to thy soul seems right.
Strike out thy path by individual light;
‘Tis contradictory rays that give the white.

From Blind Children: Poems, by Israel Zangwill
New York City: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1903

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Question,” from The Music, by Helen Wolfert (1963)


The Question

Sound heard only in
Silence, are you my rush of
Blood in its rivers,

Or the silent spin
Of us through silent space, you
Heard in the silence?


from The Music: Poems, by Helen Wolfert
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1965.

Helen Wolfert (born Helen Herschdorfer) was married to the novelist, journalist and screenwriter Ira Wolfert, whose 1953 book, Married Men, was recently discussed here (post).

“To My Books,” by Henry Vaughan, from The Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations of Henry Vaughan (1856)


To My Books

Bright books! the perspectives to our weak sights,
The clear projections of discerning lights,
Burning and shining thoughts, man’s posthume day,
The track of fled souls, and their milkie way,
The dead alive and busie, the still voice
Of enlarged spirits, kind Heaven’s white decoys!
Who lives with you lives like those knowing flowers,
Which in commerce with light spend all their hours;
Which shut to clouds, and shadows nicely shun.
But with glad haste unveil to kiss the sun.
Beneath you all is dark, and a dead night.
Which whoso lives in wants both health and sight
By sucking you, the wise, like bees, do grow
Healing and rich, though this they do most slow.
Because most choicely; for as great a store
Have we of books as bees of herbs, or more:
And the great task to try, then know, the good,
To discern weeds, and judge of wholesome food,
Is a rare scant performance. For man dyes
Oft ere ’tis done, while the bee feeds and flyes.
But you were all choice flowers; all set and dressed
By old sage florists, who well knew the best;
And I amidst you all am turned a weed.
Not wanting knowledge, but for want of heed.
Then thank thyself, wild fool, that would’st not be
Content to know — what was too much for thee!

From The Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations of Henry Vaughan
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Imperfection,” by Nathalia Crane, from Swear By Night and Other Poems (1936)



If no poor word

Stepped boldly from a sound,
For sake of sense

That while a critic frowned,
No blush could be,

The rose grow dull at times,
And poesy

Resent her perfect rhymes.
Let go the lure —

The striving to unmake;
Behold the truth

Whenever heart may ache —
There is a glory

In a great mistake.

From Swear by the Night and Other Poems, by Nathalia Crane
New York City: Random House, 1936

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Connoisseur,” by Nobody, from Poems, consisting of Tales, Fables, Epigrams, etc., etc. (1770)


Tribuna of the Uffizi, (1772–1778), by Johan Zoffany

In that fam’d Room where Artist strive
True Taste and Genius to revive,
Where Modern Guidos put in Claim,
Contending for the Wreath of Fame;
Where Virtu’s Sons with great Decision,
A Judge allow’d, a Connoisseur,
With Buckram Gait, and Phiz demure,
Noting a Piece, on which the Crowd
Unusual Compliments bestow’d,
His Glass first peeps thro’ with an Air,
(True Connoisseurs short-sighted are)
The Painting carelessly survey’d.
And when inform’d ’twas English made,
Thus to an Elbow-Friend, with Look
Oracularly Cynic, spoke:
“Sure never was Performance seen,
More Gothic, tasteless, lifeless, mean:
Painting! ‘Tis Canvas spoil’d! Oh, Gad!
‘Tis daubing! Execrable! Sad!
No Colouring! Keeping! And such Clare-
! All Englise! All Barbare!
And how unnaturally shows
That ill-made Fly on the vile Rose!
A Fly! ’tis no more like.” When quick,
Pointing toward the Fly his Stick,
To prove his Criticism true,
Away the little Insect flew.

Fromm Poems, consisting of Tales, Fables, Epigrams, etc., etc., by “Nobody”
London: Printed for Mess. Robinson and Roberts, T. Davies, and T. Slack, 1770

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Beerdrinker’s Song,” by James Henry, M. D., from Poems (1856)

Under a Picture of Gambrinus.

GambrInus was a gallant king–
Reigned once in Flanders old,
He was the man invented beer
As I’Ve been often told.

Of malt and hops he brewed his beer
And made it strong and good,
And some of it he bottled up
And some he kept in wood.

The golden crown upon his head,
The beer jug in his hand,
Beerdrinkers, see before ye here
Your benefactor stand.

Beerlovers, paint him on your shields,
Upon your beerpots paint —
‘Twere well a pope did never worse
Than make Gambrinus Saint.

And now fill every man his pot
Till the foam overflows;
No higher praise asks the good old king
Than froth upon the nose.

Bacchus I’ll honor while I live
And while I live love wine,
But still I’ll hold th’ old Flanders king
And beerjug more divine.

While I have wine night’s darkest shades
To me are full moonlight
But keep my beerpot filled all day
And I’ll sleep sound all night.

So blessings on th’ old Flanders king,
And blessings on his beer,
And curse upon the tax on malt,
That makes good drink so dear.

Written while walking from Schopfheim to Gersbach in the Black Forest (Baden), Octob. 6, 1854

From\m Poems, Chiefly Philosophical, in Continuation of My Book and a Half Year’s Poems, by James Henry, M. D
Dresden: C. C. Meinhold and Sons, 1856

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Cracked Record Blues,”by Kenneth Fearing, from Afternoon of a Pawnbroker (1943)


Cracked Record Blues

If you watch it long enough you can see the clock move.
If you try hard enough you can hold a little water in the
          palm of your hand,
If you listen once or twice you know it’s not the needle, or
          the tune, but a crack in the record when sometimes
          a phonograph falters and repeats, and repeats, and
          repeats, and repeats

And if you think about it long enough, long enough, long
          enough, long enough then everything is simple and
          you can understand the times,
You can see for yourself that the Hudson still flows, that the
          seasons change as ever, that love is always love,
Words still have a meaning, still clear and still the same;
You can count upon your fingers that two plus two still
          equals, still equals, still equals, still equals–
There is nothing in this world that should bother the mind.

Because the mind is a common sense affair filled with common
          sense answers to common sense facts,
It can add up, can add up, can add up, can add up earthquakes
          and subtract them from fires,
It can bisect an atom or analyze the planets–
All it has to do is to, do is to, do is to, do is to start at the
          beginning and continue to the end.

from Afternoon Of A Pawnbroker And Other Poems, by Kenneth Fearing
New York City: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Tornado,” by Jack Hirschman, from A Correspondence of Americans (1960)



Amid shambles blown, blown pages of a Gideon,
A farmer with a pitchfork stepped
Before the microphone and said it was a huge
Black arm did it, come sweeping across
The tabletop plain, grizzly, on a binge.

His wife, kind of scared and something shy
Of things stuck right before your face
To talk into, was in the distant field
Pecking at the wreckage of a moviehouse
Fallen out of the sky, for pans.

And still agog, the kid in overalls
Was dancing on shingles, leaping
From tree to tree, his blond crop fluttering,
Yelling to all the buried farmboys
About the swinging tail of the dragon that snapped.

from A Correspondence of Americans, by Jack Hirschman
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Son of Vermont,” from The Collected Poetry of Francesca Falk Miller (1956)


Son of Vermont

Its granite rocks thy sire.
Its soil thy mother’s breast.
Its fiercest storms thy discipline.
Its smiling peace thy rest.

Where, in that solitude,
Among those mountain streams,
Didst thou attune thyself to God
And give thyself to dreams?

They call thee “silent” Is
Not that an attribute,
A spell, born of thy native hills
Before which, man is mute?

One does not prate of power
In idle chatter, where
God dwells. And thou
Met Him in silence there!

from The Collected Poetry of Francesca Falk Miller
Chicago: Privately printed, 1956

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

A rare, perhaps unique specimen: an ode to Calvin Coolidge.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Hartford,” from Wedge of Words: Poems, by Frederic Will (1962)



Where nothing’s uninsured except the slow
Still commotion of spring. That seems the least
Of certainties. (Who called it from the ground,
In parks, or gardens long more orderly?)

Where in the finest print calamities
Are exorcised, where death, as any housewife
Knows, has lost its sting, and pays at last.
(Where policies are read before each meal.)

Where spring, an accident that’s never covered,
Creeps libidinous from house to house,
And trickles, when the last martini’s gone,
Into the actuary’s careful blood.

from Wedge of Words: Poems, by Frederic Will
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Dog in a Car,” from A Star by Day, by David McCord (1950)


Dog in a Car

He grins a little as they drive him by.
Of what his nose needs there’s a fresh supply
Round every corner, up the rainy field:
He has no daily walk of equal yield.
His head hangs out, his tongue out farther still;
His bark is bolder from that window sill.
His nose is longer on the modern breeze—-
His father being Scotch, not Pekingese.

A lesser breed on leash or running loose
Would find his comradeship of little use;
A dog transported by the family Ford
Rides far beyond the days he loved or warred.
His ancestors on purely urban smells
Leaned hard enough, but they had nothing else.
They hadn’t won to his synthetic taste:
Investigation kept them out of haste.

You drive a dog from State to other State:
His senses meet with scents he can’t relate.
He hasn’t time. His little nostrils twitch.
Was that a rabbit, mole, or brindle bitch?
His eye grows bright. He reaches out in space.
The local brothers hardly see his face.
He’s whirling through a night of strange impact:
Of atavistic cats he once attacked.

from A Star by Day, by David McCord
Garden City, NJ: Doubleday & Company, 1950
Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Song,” from Poems, by Bessie Rayner Belloc (1852)



When my lady’s blue eyes glisten
With the love I hold so dear,
And for joy to look and listen,
All my pulses thrub and stir!
And I, timid, bow before her,
Scarcely daring kiss her hem,
Holy seems she–I adore her.
Wondering whence so bright a gem!

Gracious maiden! I think rather
That thou art that wandering star,
For whom all the weeping Pleiads
Ever vainly longing are.
Oh! I tremble lest they win her
To go back,–the sisters seven.
Scornful all of me, a sinner.
From their shining walk in Heaven.

from Poems, by Bessie Rayner Belloc
London: John Chapman, 1852

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

I reprint this poem for my own gracious lady’s birthday and for the found art delight of the OCR’d version of its second verse, as preserved for digital eternity:

Gracioiiii maiden ! 1 think rather
Tliat thou art tliat wandering star,
For whom all the weeping Pleiads
Ever Miinl}’ longing are.
Oh ! I tremble lest they \vm her
To go l>aek, — the Kistei*s seven.
Scornful all of nu.% a sinner.
From their shining walk in Heaven.

I dread that the Kistei*s might \vm my gracioiiii maiden. Shudder.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Written on Seeing the Bodies of Two Beautiful Women, Cast Away Near Milford,” from Poems, Now First Collected, by Chandos Leigh (1839)

Written on Seeing the Bodies of Two Beautiful Women, Cast Away Near Milford

A dreary waste of snows around
O’er-spread the inhospitable ground;
The storm-blast scarce had ceased to roar,
There lay two corpses on the shore.
Thou, pamper’d lecher, come and see
These shapes, so oft embraced by thee!
What does it shame thee? look again
These were once women, ay, and vain;
Rock-bruised and mangled now, they seem
More horrid than a ghastly dream.
Now kiss their livid lips, and bless
Their fragrant stench, sweet rottenness.
The gay gold rings bemock their fingers,
Where not one trait of beauty lingers;
But, like the shrivell’d star-fish, lie
Their hands in sand, all witheringly.
We start to see this loathsome clay,
Uncoffin’d, rotting fast away;
Yet, we can bear the noisome pest,
Vice, gathering, blackening in the breast.

from Poems, Now First Collected, by Chandos Leigh, 1st Baron Leigh
London: Edward Moxon, 1839

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Pretty grisly as poems go–a bit like a preliminary sketch for the coroner’s report.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Funerals,” from Poems, by Seumas O’Sullivan (1912)


The Funerals

As I go down Glasnevin way
The funerals pass me day by day,
Stately, sombre, stepping slow
The white-plumed funeral horses go,
With coaches crawling in their wake
A long and slow black glittering snake
(Inside of every crawling yoke
Silent cronies sit and smoke).
Ever more as I grow thinner
Day by day without a dinner,
Every day as I go down
I meet the funerals leaving town;
Soon my procession will be on view,
A hearse, and maybe, a coach or two.

from Poems, by Seumas O’Sullivan
Dublin: Maunsel & Company, Ltd., 1912

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

(Inside of every crawling yoke
Silent cronies sit and smoke).

T’ats a marvelous t’ing, t’at rhoime is!–Ed.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Lines on a Swing,” from The Casket; or, Original and Selected Poetry, an anthology from 1826


Lines on a Swing

Whilst thus I cleave the fanning air,
In swift yet stationary car,
Its motion but too well portrays
The soul’s low flights and dull delays,
Which seems with buoyant zeal to rise,
At times ambitious of the skies;
But check’d by some terrestrial chain,
Too soon, alas! sinks down again.

from The Casket; or, Selected Poetry, an anthology edited by W. J.
Edinburgh: W. Oliphant, 1826

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Love,” from Selected Poetry, by Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650)



Love is the sire, dam, nurse, and seed
Of all that earth, air, waters breed:
All these, earth, water, air, fire.
Though contraries, in love conspire.
Fond painters: Love is not a lad
With bow, and shafts, and feathers clad,
As he is fancied in the brain
Of some loose loving idle swain.
Much sooner is he felt than seen;
His substance subtle, slight, and thin.
Oft leaps he from the glancing eyes;
Oft in some smooth mount he lies;
Soonest he wins, the fastest flies;
Oft lurks he ‘twixt the ruddy lips,
Thence, while the heart his nectar sips,
Down to the soul the poison slips;
Oft in a voice creeps down the ear;
Oft hides his darts in golden hair;
Oft blushing cheeks do light his fires;

Oft in a smooth soft skin retires;
Often in smiles, often in tears,
His flaming heat in water bears;
When nothing else kindles desire,
Even Virtue’s self shall blow the fire.
Love with a thousand darts abounds.
Surest and deepest virtue wounds;
Oft himself becomes a dart,
And love with love doth love impart.
Thou painful pleasure, pleasing pain,
Thou gainful loss, thou losing gain,
Thou bitter sweet, easing disease,
How dost thou by displeasing please?
How dost thou thus bewitch the heart,
To live in hate, to joy in smart,
To think itself most bound when free,
And freest in its slavery?
Every creature is thy debtor;
None but loves, some worse, some better:
Only in love they happy prove

from Selected Poetry, by Phineas Fletcher
Cottingham near Hull: J. R. Tutin, 1904

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

From the Preface

It is difficult to understand why certain poets of undoubted merit–and Phineas Fletcher is a robust and nervous writer whom it is good to know — should long remain neglected while others are frequently reprinted, and therefore, it is to be resumed, continuously read. It may be hoped that a goodly proportion of the readers of John Halifax, Gentleman who have had their curiosity piqued by Mrs Craik’s praise of Phineas Fletcher, will be glad of an opportunity to read some portion of his work.

Phineas Fletcher–son of one who has been described as “civilian, ambassador and poet”–was born in 1582, at the pastoral village of Cranbrook in Kent ; he was educated at Eton and Cambridge, staying at the University, as student and Fellow, from 1600 until 1616. Then for five years he was chaplain at Risley in Derbyshire to Sir Henry Willoughby, and from 1621 until his death, towards the close of 1650, he was rector of Hilgay in Norfolk. Despite the troubled times in which his later years were cast, he appears to have passed a quiet life conducive to contemplation. That his poetical genius was recognised by his contemporaries is shown by some striking tributes.

I like this poem because it reads so well aloud, what with its rhymes, half-rhymes, alliterations, and switching word pairs. There is some good common sense in it, but it’s more fun than profound: a precursor to Ogden Nash, perhaps.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Nine O’Clock Show,” from Poems, 1930-1960, by Josephine Miles (1960)

I’ve decided to introduce a new feature on the site, devoted to bringing back to light neglected poems from collections to be found on the Internet Archive. Each year I promise to spend more time reading poetry, and each year I disappoint myself. So this exercise will not only contribute to the site’s purpose but serve a selfish one at the same time.


Nine O’Clock Show

Going into the show one heard nothing but closing sounds,
Doors closing, shutters drawing down,
Except before the palace and ice cream parlor
One heard the closing of the town,
One heard the shades and shops and nightfall drawing down.

But after Harlow listen what has arisen,
The rustle of feet in leaves and leaves in black,
The suck of straws and slam of a screen door rising,
Rising the racket of frogs in the waking black,
In the town in the field in the heart and the whole way back.

from Poems, 1930-1960, by Josephine Miles
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1960

Available on the Internet Archive: Link