You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With
poems & poets
Though you are in your shining days,
Voices among the crowd
And new friends busy with your praise,
Be not unkind or proud,
But think about old friends the most:
Time’s bitter flood will rise,
Your beauty perish and be lost
For all eyes but these eyes.
Daniel Johnson's poem "In the Absence of Sparrows,” written for his friend—the journalist James Foley—was featured in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2014.
American reporter James Foley, who was killed in Syria on August 19, was—and is—a brother to me. In the wake of his senseless slaughter, I am publishing “In the Absence of Sparrows,” which I wrote during his 656-day captivity. In so doing, I intend to reclaim his image and memory. And I hope to stamp out the numbing vision of Jim in an orange jumpsuit, kneeling in a desert expanse, his captor clad in black, standing above him.
I first met Jim in 1996 when we signed up for Teach for America. Following a stint as a ski lift operator in the Rocky Mountains, I arrived at our teacher training in Houston. Jim shipped in from Milwaukee after spending the summer working at a bottling factory. “Good to meet you, bro,” Jim remarked when we first met. Broad-shouldered and smiling, he was wearing a Milwaukee Bucks jersey and high
nocturne A night scene. John Donne was the first English poet to employ the term nocturnal to designate a genre in “A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy’s Day, being the shortest day” (1633). Donne sets his poem at midnight (“’Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s”) and creates an elegy on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, by borrowing from the night offices of the Roman Catholic canonical hours. In early church writings, the term nocturnes (Nocturni or Nocturna) refers to “night prayer” or night vigil. The notion of associating night with spiritual contemplation goes back at least as far as the Neo-Platonists. “I shall sing of Night, mother of gods and men,” one Orphic hymn begins. “The night is often the secret site of initiation, purification, and other threshold activities bridging the relation between what is human and what is not human and providing a context for changed roles and states of being,” Susan Stewart writes, pointing to the Japanese tradition of night
elegy: A poem of mortal loss and consolation. The word elegy derives from the Greek élegos, "funeral lament.” It was among the first forms of the ancients, though in Greek literature it refers to a specific verse form as well as the emotions conveyed by it. Any poem using the particular meter of the elegiac couplet or elegiac distich was termed an elegy. It was composed of a heroic or dactylic hexameter followed by a pentameter. Here are two lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Elegiac Verse” (1882):
So the Hexameter, rising and singing, with cadence sonorous,
Falls; and in refluent rhythms back the Pentameter flows.
There were elegies, chanted aloud and traditionally accompanied by the flute, on love (amatory complaints) and war (exhortatory martial epigrams) as well as death. But, as Peter Sacks puts it, “Behind this array of topics there may have lain an earlier, more exclusive association of the flute song’s elegiacs with the expression of