Summer Poems

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 While I am mindful that parts of the world are baking, the state of the Great British Summer so far is dismal, breaking records for rainfall.

The weather for the last three weeks has been a palate of grey skies, rain, drizzle and clouds. 

So, instead of  soaking up the sun, I am sharing places in these poems where many of the experiences are summer are virtual and born of a whimsical blend of imagination and memory.

The irony here is that the yearning anticipation and expectations associated with experiences of summer and travel can be just as elusive as the summer weather itself.

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Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

                               by Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure--
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one--
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table--
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.


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                                                                      by Rita Dove

I love the hour before takeoff, 
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls.
Soon we shall be summoned to the gate,soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail
and the baby’s exhausted mother
waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand asleep on his duffel bag, listens, perched like a seal trained for the plunge. 
Even the lone executive who has 
wandered this far into summer with his lasered itinerary,
briefcase knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself into this hall.
He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

                                            Image source One of several lakes at the Carl Sandburg estate in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

        Back Yard

                                                               by Carl Sandburg

Shine on, O moon of summer.  
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,  
All silver under your rain to-night.  
An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.  
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
     to-night they are throwing you kisses.
An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
     cherry tree in his back yard.  
The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
     white thoughts you rain down.  
     Shine on, O moon,  
Shake out more and more silver changes. 


             Summer X - Rays 
              Nina Cassian

Fabulous days
with endless swims,
with algae around my waist
and convex tears on my cheeks.

Far away on the shore:
children shouting,
dogs with golden rings
circling their muzzles,
and rumors of abandoned memories.

I know what's awaiting me—
the winter of my discontent.
I have a reservation
outside on a hard bench
holding a bag of frostbitten potatoes.

That's why I swim so far out,
willing prisoner
inside the sea's immense green magnifying glass.

Despite all my inner crumblings,
I'm still able to recognize a perfect day:
sea without shadow,
sky without wrinkles,
air hovering over me like a blessing.

How did this day escape
the aggressor's edicts?
I'm not entitled to it, 
my well-being is not permitted.

Drunk, as with some hint of freedom,
we bump into each other,
and laugh raucously
on an acutely superstitious scale
knowing that it's forbidden.

Could it be just a trap
this perfection
this impeccable air,
this water unpolluted by fear?

Let's savor it as long as we can:
quickly, quickly, quickly.

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                          The Bargain 
                                                                 Cyrus Cassells 

In the transatlantic fury
when I feared
I might not survive
to see Florence,
clutching an elfin
Love Sonnets of Shakespeare,
I implored:
Lord, let me live
long enough to dare
a love poem

In time, of course, the skies
stopped glowering.
And in the Tuscan summer's imperial
segue into autumn,
poetry burgeoned—

It's not only the active grace,
the glory between us:
these praise songs spring
from a holy bargain,
from my deepest desire
to live.
                                    All poems from here 

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