“After Apple-Picking”—A Poem by Robert Frost, 1914

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My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Art by Richard Bawden (Royal Watercolor Society)

“But first they feel… “

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Photo: South Platte River, Deckers, Colorado. Photographer unknown (Flickr).

A Poem a Day—#1: “The Dream of a Common Language” by Leigh Stein

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The Dream of a Common Language

after Adrienne Rich

On Wednesdays I take the train past Yankee Stadium,
to a place where it is never a given that I speak the language,
to a place where graffiti covers the mural they painted to hide
the graffiti, to a place where the children call me Miss Miss
Miss Miss Miss
and I find in one of their poems, a self-portrait,
the line I wish I was rish. The dream of a common language

is the language of one million dollars, of basketball, of plátanos.
Are the kids black? my boyfriend wants to know. Dominican.
It’s different. When asked to write down a question
they wish they could ask their mom or dad, one boy writes,
Paper or plastic? A girl in the back of the class wants to know
Why don’t I have lycene, translating the sound of the color

of my skin into her own language. The best poet
in sixth grade is the girl who is this year repeating
sixth grade. When I tell her teacher of her talent
she says, At least now we know she’s good
at something
. To speak their language, I study
the attendance list, practice the cadence of their names.

Yesterday I presented a black and white portrait of a black man,
his bald head turned away from us, a spotted moth resting
on one shoulder. I told them this is a man serving a life
sentence in Louisiana. Is this art? Without hesitation,
one girl said no, why would anybody
want to take a picture
of that.

—Leigh Stein

from Poem-a-Day, 365 Poems for Every Occasion, Abrams Image, 2015


Leigh Stein is the author of the poetry collection Dispatch from the Future (Melville House, 2012). She lives in Brooklyn and teaches poetry in New York City’s public schools. She has also written a memoir: Land of Enchantment; and a novel: The Fallback Plan. Stein is co-founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit literary organization Out of the Binders. For her advocacy work, she has been called a “leading feminist” by the Washington Post, and a “woman of influence” by New York Business Journal.

“Today”—A Poem by Mary Oliver

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Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors
into the temple.

– Mary Oliver