Poems


 

Alice Walker: “A picture Story For The Curious”
Anaïs Nin “Risk”
Anne Sexton “Courage”
Audre Lorde “For Each of You”
Countee Cullen: “Incident”
Emily Dickinson: “Friday I Tasted Life”
Hafiz: “With That Moon Language”
Khalil Gibran: “A Tear And A Smile”
Len Krisak: “Intelligences”
Marianne Williamson: “Our Deepest Fear”
Martin Niemöller: “First they came for”
Maya Angelou: “Phenomenal Woman”
Meister Eckhart: “The Hope of Loving”
A Native American author: “Spiritual Warrior”
A Native American author: “To Walk the Red Road”
Oriah Mountain Dreamer: “The Invitation”
Parmahansa Yogananda: “Samadhi”
Percy Bysshe Shelly: “Love’s Philosophy”
Robinson Jefferson: “Vulture”
Rumi: “I Was Dead Then Alive”
Stephen Spender: “Rough”
Thich Nhat Hahn: “A Teacher Looking For His Disciple”
Thich Nhat Hahn: “Drink Your Tea”
Thich Nhat Hahn: “You are me”
Walter De La Mare: “The Listeners”

 

A Picture Story For The Curious

By Alice Walker

I get to meditate in a chair! Or against the wall with my legs stretched out! (Or even in bed!)

I get to see maybe half of what I’m looking at! (This changes everything!)

I get to dance
like the tipsy old men
I adored
when I was an infant!
(They never dropped me!)

I get to spend time with myself whenever I want! I get to ride a bicycle with tall handlebars! (My posture improves!)

I get to give up learning to sail! I get to know I will never speak German!

I get to snuggle all
morning
with my snuggler
of choice:
counting the hours
by how many times
we get up
to pee!

I get to spend time with myself whenever I want!

I get to eat chocolate with my salad.

Or even as a first course!

I get to forget!

I get to paint with colors I mix myself!

Colors I’ve never seen before.

I get to sleep with my dog & pray never to outlive my cat!

I get to play music without reading a note!

I get to spend time with myself whenever I want!

I get to sleep in a hammock under the same stars wherever I am!

I get to spend time with myself whenever I want!

I get to laugh at all the things I don’t know & cannot find!

I get to greet people I don’t remember as if I know them very well. After all, how different can they be? I get to grow my entire garden in a few pots!

I get to spend time with myself whenever I want!

I get to see & feel the suffering of the whole world & to take a nap when I feel like it anyway!

I get to spend time with myself whenever I want!

I get to feel more love than I ever thought existed!

Everything appears to be made of the stuff!

I feel this especially for You!

Though I may not remember exactly which You you are!

How cool is this!

Still, I get to spend time with myself whenever I want!

And that is just a taste as the old people used to say down in Georgia when I was a child of what you get for getting old. Reminding us, as they witnessed our curiosity about them, that no matter the losses, there’s something fabulous going on at every stage of Life, something to let go of, maybe, but for darn sure, something to get!

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Courage

By Anne Sexton (1928)

It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,

as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

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For Each of You

By Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Be who you are and will be
learn to cherish
that boisterous Black Angel that drives you
up one day and down another
protecting the place where your power rises
running like hot blood
from the same source
as your pain.

When you are hungry
learn to eat
whatever sustains you
until morning
but do not be misled by details
simply because you live them.

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Risk

By Anaïs Nin

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

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Incident

By Countee Cullen (1903-)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee;
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.

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Friday I tasted life

By Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel.
A Circus passed the house–
still I feel the red in my mind though the drums are out.
The Lawn is full of south and the odors tangle,
and I hear to-day for the first time the river in the tree. ”

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With That Moon Language

By Hafiz

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, ‘Love me.’
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in
this world is
dying to
hear?

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A Tear And A Smile

By Khalil Gibran 1883-

I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart
For the joys of the multitude.
And I would not have the tears that sadness makes
To flow from my every part turn into laughter.
I would that my life remain a tear and a smile.
A tear to purify my heart and give me understanding
Of life’s secrets and hidden things.
A smile to draw me nigh to the sons of my kind and
To be a symbol of my glorification of the gods.
A tear to unite me with those of broken heart;
A smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.
I would rather that I died in yearning and longing than that I live Weary and despairing.
I want the hunger for love and beauty to be in the
Depths of my spirit,for I have seen those who are
Satisfied the most wretched of people.
I have heard the sigh of those in yearning and Longing, and it is sweeter than the sweetest melody.
With evening’s coming the flower folds her petals
And sleeps, embracingher longing.
At morning’s approach she opens her lips to meet
The sun’s kiss.
The life of a flower is longing and fullfilment.
A tear and a smile.
The waters of the sea become vapor and rise and come
Together and area cloud.
And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys
Until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls weeping
To the fields and joins with brooks and rivers to Return to the sea, its home.
The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
A tear and a smile.
And so does the spirit become separated from
The greater spirit to move in the world of matter
And pass as a cloud over the mountain of sorrow
And the plains of joy to meet the breeze of death
And return whence it came.
To the ocean of Love and Beauty—-to God.

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Intelligences

By Len Krisak
–for Anthony Lombardy

Because it seemed to some that he was slow,
Or smiled too much at many simple things,
One might have thought him dumb. It was not so.
The way one waits for what the mailman brings,
We listened for his step and watched that door
That said his overcoated form was back
From where he went when we were five and four.
We saw that he had more than just a knack
For lifting us aloft or playing horse.
Both broad of back and smarter than a whip,
My father never took a college course.
And yet, I learned his learning was my light
By kissing, like a bird who bent to sip,
The stubbled cheek he’d turn to me each night.

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Our Deepest Fear

By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

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First they came for

By Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

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Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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The Hope of Loving

By Meister Eckhart

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
warm gaze.
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
kindness
upon
us.

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Spiritual Warrior

By A Native American author (unknown by name but known in spirit)

Life offers us the opportunity to become a Spiritual Warrior.
A warrior is one who bravely goes into those dark areas within
themselves to ferret out the Truth of their being.
It takes great courage, stamina and endurance to
become a Spiritual Warrior.

The path is narrow, the terrain rough and rocky.
You will walk alone: through the dark caves,
up those steep climbs and through the dense thick forest.
You will meet your dark side. The faces of fear, deceit, and
sadness all await your arrival.

No one can take this journey but you.
There comes a time, in each of our lives,
when we are given the choice to follow this path.
Should we decide to embark on this journey,
we can never turn back…. Our lives are changed forever
On this journey, there are many different places we can
choose to slip into and hide. But the path goes on.
The Spiritual Warrior stays the course, wounded at times,
exhausted and out of energy. Many times, the Warrior will
struggle back to their feet to take only a few steps before
falling again.

Rested, they forge on,
continuing the treacherous path.
The journey continues. The Spiritual Warrior
stays the course. Weakened, but never broken.
One day, the battle, loneliness and desperate fights are over.
The sun breaks through the clouds; the birds begin to sing
their sweet melodies. There is a change in the energy.
A deep change within the self.

The warrior has fought the courageous fight.
The battle of the dark night of the soul is won.
New energy now fills the Warrior.
A new path is now laid before them.
A gentler path filled with the inner-knowing
of one who has personal empowerment.

With their personal battle won, they are filled with joy.
A new awareness that they are one with the Spirit beams
as they go forth to show others the way.
They are not permitted to walk the path for others.
They can only love, guide and be a living example
of the Truth of their being.

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To Walk the Red Road

By A Native American author (unknown by name but known in spirit)

To Walk the Red Road,
you have less fear of being wrong,
because you know that life is a journey,
a continuous circle, a sacred hoop.
Mistakes will be made,
and mistakes can be corrected
if you will be humble,
for if you cannot be humble,
you will never know
when you have made a mistake.

If you walk the Red Road,
you know that every sorrow
leads to a better understanding,
every horror cannot be explained,
but can offer growth.

To Walk the Red Road
is to look for beauty in all things.

To Walk the Red Road
is to know you will one day
cross to the Spirit World,
and you will not be afraid…

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The Invitation

By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting
Your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
For love, for your dream,
For the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
If you have been opened by life’s betrayals,
Or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
Mine or your own,
Without moving
To hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy,
Mine or your own,
If you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
Without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,
or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithless and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty
Even when it is not pretty every day,
And if you can source your life
From its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
Yours and mine,
And still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
Weary and bruised to the bone,
And do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
In the center of the fire with me
And not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
From the inside
When all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
With yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep
In the empty moments.

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Samadhi

By Parmahansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952)

All the mobile murmurs of atoms are heard;
The dark earth, mountains, seas are molten liquid!
This flowing sea changes into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows o’er the vapors; they open their veils,
Revealing a sea of shining electrons,
Till, at the last sound of the cosmic drum,
Grosser light vanishes into eternal rays
Of all-pervading Cosmic Joy.
From Joy we come,
For Joy we live,
In the sacred Joy we melt.
I, the ocean of mind, drink all creation’s waves.
The four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Lift aright.
Myself, in everything,
Enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever,
The fitful, flickering shadows of a mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky,
Below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
I, a tiny bubble of laughter,
Have become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

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Love’s Philosophy

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

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Vulture

By Robinson Jefferson (1887-1962)

I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling
high up in heaven.
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, it’s orbit narrowing,
I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight feathers
Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer.

I could see the naked red head between the great wings
Bear downward staring. I said, ‘My dear bird, we are wasting time here.
These old bones will still work; they are not for you.’
But how beautiful he looked, gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the
sea-light over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak
and become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes–
What a sublime end of one’s body, what an enskyment;
what a life after death.

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I Was Dead Then Alive

By Rumi (Ode 1373)

Then new events said to me,
‘Don’t move. A sublime generosity is
coming towards you.’

And old love said, ‘Stay with me.’

I said, ‘I will.’

You are the fountain of the sun’s light.
I am a willow shadow on the ground.
You make my raggedness silky.

The soul at dawn is like darkened water
that slowly begins to say Thank you, thank you.

Then at sunset, again, Venus gradually
Changes into the moon and then the whole nightsky.

This comes of smiling back
at your smile.

The chess master says nothing,
other than moving the silent chess piece.

That I am part of the ploys
of this game makes me
amazingly happy.

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Rough

By Stephen Spender

My parents kept me from children who were rough
and who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes.
Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms.
I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.

They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges
Like dogs to bark at our world. They threw mud
And I looked another way, pretending to smile,
I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled.

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A Teacher Looking For His Disciple

By Thich Nhat Hahn

I have been looking for you, my child,
Since the time when rivers and mountains still lay in obscurity.
I was looking for you when you were still in a deep sleep
Although the conch had many times echoed in the ten directions.
Without leaving our ancient mountain I looked at distant lands
And recognized your steps on so many different paths.
Where are you going, my child?
There have been times when the mist has come
And enveloped the remote village but you are still
Wandering in far away lands.
I have called your name with each breath,
Confident that even though you have lost your
Way over there you will finally find a way back to me.
Sometimes I manifest myself right on the path
You are treading but you still look at me as if I were a stranger
You cannot see the connection between us in our
Former lives you cannot remember the old vow you made.
You have not recognized me
Because your mind is caught up in images concerning a distant future.
In former lifetimes you have often taken my hand
and we have enjoyed walking together.
We have sat together for a longtime at the foot of old pine trees.
We have stood side by side in silence for hours
Listening to the sound of the wind softly calling us
And looking up at the while clouds floating by.
You have picked up and given to me the firstred autumn leaf
And I have taken you through forests deep in snow.
But wherever we go we always return to our
Ancient mountain to be near to the moon and stars
To invite the big bell every morning to sound,
And help living beings to wake up.
We have sat quietly on the An Tu mountain’ with the
Great Bamboo Forest Master
Alongside the frangipani trees in blossom.
We have taken boats out to sea to rescue the boat people as they drift.
We have helped Master Van Hanh design the Thang
Long capital we have built together a thatched hermitage,
And stretched out the net to rescue the nun Trac Tuyen When!
The sound of The rising tide was deafening
On the banks of The Tien Duong river.
Together we have opened the way and stepped
Into the immense space outside of space.
After many years of working to tear asunder the net of time.
We have saved up the light of shooting stars
And made a torch helping those who want to go home
After decades of wandering in distant places.
But still there have been times when the
Seeds of a vagabond in you have come back to life
you have left your teacher, your brothers and sisters
Alone you go…

I look at you with compassion
Although I know that this is not a true separation
(Because I am already in each cell of your body)
And that you may need once more to play the prodigal son.
That is why I promise I shall be there for you
Any time you are in danger.
Sometimes you have lain unconscious on the hot sands of frontier deserts.
I have manifested myself as a cloud to bring you cool shade.
Late at night the cloud became the dew
And the compassionate nectar falls drop by drop for you to drink.
Sometimes you sit in a deep abyss of darkness
Completely alienated from you true home.
I have manifested Myself as a long ladder and
Lightly thrown myself down
So that you can climb up to the area where there is light
To discover again the blue of the sky and the
Sounds of the brook and the birds.
Sometimes I recognised you in Birmingham,
In the Do Linh district or New England.
I have sometimes met you in Hang Chau, Xiamen, or Shanghai
I have sometimes found you in St. Petersburg or East Berlin.
Sometimes, though only five years old, I have
Seen you and recognized you.
Because of the seed of bodhchita, you carry in your tender heart.
Wherever I have seen you, I have always raised
My hand and made a signal to you,
Whether it be in the delta of the North, Saigon or the Thuan An Seaport.
Sometimes you were the golden full moon hanging
Over the summit of The Kim Son Mountain,
Or the little bird flying over the Dai Laoforest during a winter night.
Often I have seen you
But you have not seen me,
Though while walking in the evening mist your clothes have been soaked.
But finally you have always come home.
You have come home and sat at my feet on our ancient mountain
Listening to the birds calling and the monkeys
Screeching and the morning chanting echoing from the Buddha Hall.
You have come back to me determined not to be a vagabond any longer.
This morning the birds of the mountain joyfully welcome the bright sun.
Do you know, my child, that the white clouds
Are still floating in the vault of the sky?
Where are you now?
The ancient mountain is still there in this
Place of the present moment.
Although the white-crested wave still wants to
Go in the other direction,
Look again, you will see me in you and in every leaf and flower bud.
If you call my name, you will see me right away.
Where are you going?
The old frangipani tree offers its fragrant flowers this morning.
You and I have never really been apart. Spring has come.
The pines have put out new shining green needles
And on the edge of the forest, the wild Plum
Trees have burst into flower.

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Drink Your Tea

By Thich Nhat Hahn

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
– slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

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You Are Me

By Thich Nhat Hahn

You are me and I am you.
It is obvious that we are inter-are.
You cultivate the flower in
yourself so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself so
that you do not have to suffer.
I support you you support me.
I am here to bring you peace
you are here to bring me joy.

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The Listeners

By Walter de la Mare

“Is anybody there?” said the Traveler,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence chomped the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor.
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the traveler’s head:
And he smote upon the door a second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no one descended to the Traveler;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his gray eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveler’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:–
“Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Aye, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

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