Michael Donaghy

Machines

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsichord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsichordists prove
Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

Richard Wilbur

A Barred Owl

The warping night-air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

Anthony Thwaite

Simple Poem

I shall make it simple so you understand.
Making it simple will make it clear for me.
When you have read it, take me by the hand
As children do, loving simplicity.

This is the simple poem I have made.
Tell me you understand. But when you do
Don’t ask me in return if I have said
All that I meant, or whether it is true.

Michael Scott on Feynman

There were 183 of us freshmen, and a bowling ball hanging from the three – story ceiling to just above the floor. Feynman walked in and, without a word, grabbed the ball and backed against the wall with the ball touching his nose. He let go, and the ball swung slowly 60 feet across the room and back – stopping naturally just short of crushing his face. Then he took the ball again, stepped forward, and said: “I wanted to show you that I believe in what I’m going to teach you over the next two years.”

James Fenton

The Ideal

This is where I came from.
I passed this way.
This should not be shameful
Or hard to say.

A self is a self.
It is not a screen.
A person should respect
What he has been.

This is my past
Which I shall not discard.
This is the ideal.
This is hard.