Friday, June 18, 2010

Three poems with the word "axiom"

Poems that contain  "number" are numerous; those with "axiom" are less easily found.  Here are 3 of them -- by 19th century American poet, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), by Canadian poet and fiction writer, Margaret Atwood (b 1939), and by a poet from Virginia, Lesley Wheeler, whose work I recently have come to know.  I particularly enjoy Lesley's poems about parenthood--because they ring true and also because when I was a parent of young children I was not finding time to write.

First, a poem of Nature, #191 by Emily Dickinson:  

  The Skies can't keep their secret!
  They tell it to the Hills --
  The Hills just tell the Orchards --
  And they -- the Daffodils!

  A Bird -- by chance-- that goes that way--
  Soft overhears the whole --
  If I should bribe the little Bird --
  Who knows but she would tell?

  I think I won't -- however --
  It's finer -- not to know --
  If Summer were an Axiom --
  What sorcery had Snow?

  So keep your secret -- Father!
  I would not -- if I could,
  Know what the Sapphire Fellows, do
  In your new-fashioned world.

  Here, next, is Margaret Atwood's poem, Axiom.

   Axiom: you are a sea.
   Your eye -
   lids curve over chaos

   My hands
   where they touch you, create
   small inhabited islands

   Soon you will be
   all earth: a known
   land, a country.

"Axiom" is from The Animals in That Country (1968); it also may be found in Atwood's Selected Poems: 1965-75 .    Next, by Lesley Wheeler, a professor of English at Washington and Lee University:

Primer for an Anxious Girl

If winter were an axiom,
I would spell it for her--
every daughter should study
the abrupt freeze

lest she be caught abroad
in it.  If night were an
equation, we would solve
it by candlelight--feathers

plus an ache in the throat.
She worries these rules
till they are threadbare
and cannot keep her warm.

I explain and explain
insomnia.  Wish I could
unlatch the silk lid
of her head, reach precisely

in, rearrange the corridors
of sleep.  That way, my love.
Pat the purple masses
of snow, round the corner

where gale becomes zephyr.
a waiting cradle rocks
beneath the firmamental lilac.

"Primer for an Anxious Girl" is from Wheeler's 2009 collection, Heathen.

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