The Great Others

Sweetness by Stephen Dunn

Just when it has seemed I couldn't bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumble through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn't leave a stain,
no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet . . .

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don't care

where it's been, or what bitter road
it's traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.


The Pasture by Robert Frost

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan't be gone long. --You come too.
I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan't be gone long. --You come too.


Ode to my Joy by Pablo Neruda

Joy,
green leaf
resting on the window sill,
tiny brightness
newly born,
musical elephant,
dazzling
coin,
occasional
fragile gust of wind
but
more often
everlasting bread,
hope realized,
and duty properly done:
I scorned you, joy-
I was given bad advice.
The moon
lured me along its paths.
Ancient poets
lent me their glasses
and I drew
a dark halo
around everything I saw,
a black crown on every flower,
a melancholy kiss
on each pair of beloved lips,
But there's still time.
Let me make it up to you.
I thought
the bush caught up in the storm
had only to singe
my heart,
that rain had only to drench
my clothes
in the crimson land of mourning,
that if I closed
my eyes to the rose
and caressed the open wound,
suffering my share of everyone's pain-
that only then was I aiding my fellow man.
In this I erred.
I had lost my way,
so today I call on you, joy.

You are
as necessary
as earth.

You warm
our hearths
like fire.

You are perfect,
like bread.

You are musical,
like the water of a river.

You make gifts of honey
circulating like a bee.

Joy,
I was a moody youth:
I found your mop of hair
shocking.

But when its abundance
showered down on my chest
I discovered it wasn't true.

Today, joy,
I ran into you on the street,
far from any book.
Come with me:

I want to go with you
house to house,
I want to go from town to town,
flag to flag.
You aren't just for me.
We will go to islands,
and seas.
We will go to mines,
and forests.
Not only will I be greeted
by solitary woodsmen,
poor washerwomen, or gruff and stately
stonecutters,
all of them bearing your bouquets:
there will also be crowds
and gatherings,
lumberjacks and longshoremen,
and brave boys
fighting their fight.

Around the world with you
and with my song!
With the star's winking flight
and the sea spray's
delight

I will deliver them all
because to all
I owe my joy.

let no one question why I should want
to give the world's wonders
to all mankind:
I learned the hard way
it's my earthly duty
to spread joy-
and I do this through my song.