Nemerov, Howard (1920-)

              I  Invocation

Wasp, climbing the window pane
and falling back on the sill --
What buzz in the brain
And tremor of the will,
What climbing anger you excite
Where my images brim and spill
In failures of the full light.

              II  Lucilius

Lucilius the poet has informed me,
Defending his somewhat pedantic songs,
That "Memory is the Mother of the Muses."
May he continue making love to the mother.

            III  An Old Story

They gathered shouting crowds along the road
To praise His Majesty's satin and cloth-of-gold,
  But "Naked! Naked!" the children cried.

Now when the gaudy clothes ride down the street
No child is found sufficiently indiscreet
  To whisper "No Majesty's inside."

             IV  Mythological Beast

Four-footed, silent, resilient, feathered,
It waits by daylight, standing alert and tethered.
Come night, it bears me through the jungle of 
The images, where are victims enough.

But this fat beast, responsive to my weight,
I know for a wild hunter grown to hate
Patiently the rider in his high seat,
Blind rider who it will pluck down and eat.

             V  The Hunt Goes By

The dogs ran in the woods today,
Their note sounded from far away.
Tonight the shallow snowfall clears
The dogs' track and the deer's.

            VI  Political Reflexion

 loquitur the sparrow in the zoo. 

No bars are set too close, no mesh too fine
To keep me from the eagle and the lion,
Whom keepers feed that I may freely dine.
This goes to show that if you have the wit
To be small, common, cute, and live on shit,
Though the cage fret kings, you may make free with it.

            VII  A Spiral Shell

A twist along the spine begins the form
And hides itself inside a twisted house
Which turns once wide and slow, then speeds to close
Whirled on a point.  Divine and crippled norm,
O Vulcan of the secret forging flame!
A hollow life is beautiful with shame.

            VIII  April

Today was a day of cold spring showers
Between bouts of sun; the fine, literary weather
We used to have so often, Some Boris
    or other bidding farewell
To Nastasya; Lisbeth, Priscilla,
    Jane hastening back to the vicarage
Lest their taffeta crumple; a young man and a bicycle
Posed on the puddled lane.  these days are rare lately,
And I remember college girls who declared
They loved to walk bare-headed in the rain.

             IX  Absent-minded Professor

This lonely figure of not much fun
Strayed out of the folklore fifteen years ago
Forever.  Now on an autumn afternoon,
While the leaves drift past the office window,
His bright replacement, present-minded, stays
At the desk correcting papers, nor ever grieves
For the silly scholar of the bad old days,
Who'd burn the papers and correct the leaves.

The Oxford Book of American Light Verse (Harmon)