Mercury Day poetry to prepare you for the end of world

Since so many people seem to be obsessing about the world’s coming to an end this year — on Dec. 21, to be precise — I thought a little end of the world poetry might be appropriate.

This one’s from W.B. Yeats (who knew lots about Vedic philosophy, by the by):


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Posted by Steve

Mercury day poetry: Issa haiku on the new year

New year, new poem. That is:

New Year’s Day–
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

That’s from Kobayashi Issa. And, yes, I realize that we missed last week. I blame the holidays, but I feel above average.

Posted by Steve

Mercury Day Poetry: “Spring and Fall”

There’s a little maple tree outside our front door that sometimes has trouble deciding when Winter’s coming. Even in December, Southern California weather never sends a clear message, and the little tree is perpetually confused. Right now, half the leaves have gone gold, and the other half are still green. A few scattered leaves surround it, as if they were reluctant to let go.

If you take a close look at the branches, everywhere it’s pushed out a yellowed leaf, a tiny green bud is already sprouting. It’s made me wonder if the tree has a message for me about change. In that vein, today’s poem is from Gerard Manley Hopkins. In the poem, the poet ponders the lesson of the woods. The little girl he’s walking with begins to cry when she sees the leaves dropping from trees. “That time of year thou mayest in me behold,” says Shakespeare. “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” counters Shelley.

Spring and Fall

to a young child
MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older         
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:        
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Posted by Bobbie

Mercury Day poem: ‘Mercury in Retrograde’

I’ll admit: I don’t know anything about the poet who wrote this piece. I am going entirely with a continuation of our Mercury Retrograde theme for the day.

This one is by Sheryl Luna, from 2005. Here’s a link to the Poetry Foundation for more.


Mercury in Retrograde


The day ended badly with a broken ankle,

a jinxed printer, and a dead car. The dry yellow grass

against the sunset saved me. Roosters


pranced across a lawn of shit, proudly plumed

in black feathers, bobbing before the gray goats.

It was the first day I saw god in the quiet,


and found a mustard seed was very small.

There I had been for years cursing “why?”

and all the gold in the sun fell upon me.


There was a white mare in the midst

of brown smog, majestic in the refinery

clouds. Even the radio wouldn’t work!


My mother limps and her hair falls out.

The faithful drive white Chevy trucks

or yellow Camrys, and I’m here golden


on the smoking shock-less bus.

I lost language in this want, each poem

dust, Spanish fluttered


as music across the desert, even weeds

tumbled unloved. The police sirens seared

the coming night, dogs howled helplessly



Lo I walk the valley of death, love

lingers in my hard eyes. Mañana never

comes just right. I mend myself in the folds


of paper songs, ring my paper bells

for empty success. Quiero Nada,

if I sing long enough, I’ll grow dreamlike

and find a flock of pigeons, white under

wings lifting awkward bodies like doves

across the silky blue-white sky.

Posted by Steve

Mercury Day poetry: ‘O Captain! My Captain!’

I toyed, of course, with posting a poem related to Thanksgiving or just plain thankfulness. Instead, more tangential, a poet of America, who exalted its great promise but also saw its rough troubles: Walt Whitman.

You might know this one from a movie…

Uncle Walt, from the Baltimore Sun

O Captain! My Captain

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Posted by Steve

Mercury day poetry: Kenney’s ‘Solstice’

This week’s poem comes from one of our favorite poets (and a good friend), Richard Kenney. This one is from his volume, Orrery. As the title might suggest, Kenney is a poet who is keenly aware of the movements of the planets.


Christmas: quince, persimmon,

pomegranate, rose;

glass flowers twirling

in a glass case,

closed. A candle blown–

Now the world is locked and motionless.

Binoculars left on the sill are laced

with hoar frost– frozen compass rose.

The only color left across

this stark, inert field of view

is the red stem of the thermometer

itself. I watch it shrink back down

its bulb. This world will be too hard.

I press my wrist against

the bull’s-eye windowpane a moment,

imagining my own blood

shrinking back along the glassworks

of the veinous system

to the heart.

Posted by Bobbie

Mercury Day poetry: One to comfort ahead of 11/11/11

Despite my dismissal of the whole “11/11/11” thing, I figure it doesn’t hurt to be safe rather than sorry.

So, for some comfort heading into Friday’s momentous date: a poem by William Carlos Williams:

Peace on Earth

The Archer is wake!
The Swan is flying!
Gold against blue
An Arrow is lying.
There is hunting in heaven–
Sleep safe till tomorrow.
The Bears are abroad!
The Eagle is screaming!
Gold against blue
Their eyes are gleaming!
Sleep safe till tomorrow.
The Sisters lie
With their arms intertwining;
Gold against blue
Their hair is shining!
The Serpent writhes!
Orion is listening!
Gold against blue
His sword is glistening!
There is hunting in heaven–
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

Posted by Steve