"Morning Song of Senlin" by Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)
It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning When the light drips through the shutters like the dew, I arise, I face the sunrise, And do the things my fathers learned to do. Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die, And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet Stand before a glass and tie my tie. 

Vine leaves tap my window, Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, The robin chirps in the chinaberry treeRepeating three clear tones. 

It is morning. I stand by the mirror And tie my tie once more. While waves far off in a pale rose twilight Crash on a white sand shore. I stand by a mirror and comb my hair: How small and white my face!— The green earth tilts through a sphere of air And bathes in a flame of space. There are houses hanging above the stars And stars hung under a sea… And a sun far off in a shell of silence Dapples my walls for me… 

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning Should I not pause in the light to remember God? Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable, He is immense and lonely as a cloud. I will dedicate this moment before my mirror To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair. Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence! I will think of you as I descend the stair. 

Vine leaves tap my window, The snail-track shines on the stones, Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree Repeating two clear tones. 

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence, Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep. The walls are about me still as in the evening, I am the same, and the same name still I keep. The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion, The stars pale silently in a coral sky. In a whistling void I stand before my mirror, Unconcerned, I tie my tie. 

There are horses neighing on far-off hills Tossing their long white manes, And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk, Their shoulders black with rains… 
It is morning. I stand by the mirror And surprise my soul once more; The blue air rushes above my ceiling, There are suns beneath my floor… 

… It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness And depart on the winds of space for I know not where, My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket, And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair. There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven, And a god among the stars; and I will go Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak And humming a tune I know… 

Vine-leaves tap at the window, Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree Repeating three clear tones.

(Audio version here)

"Morning Song of Senlin" by Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning 
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew, 
I arise, I face the sunrise, 
And do the things my fathers learned to do. 
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops 
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die, 
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet 
Stand before a glass and tie my tie. 

Vine leaves tap my window, 
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, 
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones. 

It is morning. I stand by the mirror 
And tie my tie once more. 
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight 
Crash on a white sand shore. 
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair: 
How small and white my face!— 
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air 
And bathes in a flame of space. 
There are houses hanging above the stars 
And stars hung under a sea… 
And a sun far off in a shell of silence 
Dapples my walls for me… 

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning 
Should I not pause in the light to remember God? 
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable, 
He is immense and lonely as a cloud. 
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror 
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair. 
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence! 
I will think of you as I descend the stair. 

Vine leaves tap my window, 
The snail-track shines on the stones, 
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree 
Repeating two clear tones. 

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence, 
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep. 
The walls are about me still as in the evening, 
I am the same, and the same name still I keep. 
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion, 
The stars pale silently in a coral sky. 
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror, 
Unconcerned, I tie my tie. 

There are horses neighing on far-off hills 
Tossing their long white manes, 
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk, 
Their shoulders black with rains… 

It is morning. I stand by the mirror 
And surprise my soul once more; 
The blue air rushes above my ceiling, 
There are suns beneath my floor… 

… It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness 
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where, 
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket, 
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair. 
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven, 
And a god among the stars; and I will go 
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak 
And humming a tune I know… 

Vine-leaves tap at the window, 
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, 
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree 
Repeating three clear tones.

(Audio version here)

Happiness
John hadGreat BigWaterproof Boots on;John had aGreat BigWaterproofHat;John had aGreat Big WaterproofMackintosh—And that(Said John)IsThat.
-A.A. Milne

Happiness

John had
Great Big
Waterproof
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
Waterproof
Hat;
John had a
Great Big
Waterproof
Mackintosh—
And that
(Said John)
Is
That.

-A.A. Milne

"Ode to a Man in Dress Clothes" by Gretchen Marquette, via this month’s Harper’s.
(Thank you, Stefan)

"Ode to a Man in Dress Clothes" by Gretchen Marquette, via this month’s Harper’s.

(Thank you, Stefan)

On my public radio show Bullseye, we close every episode with an essay by me that recommends some piece of culture. This week, I wrote about William Carlos Williams’ spectacular poem “Danse Russe,” but also about what it’s like to be a dad and live well. This piece is short, and I think you’ll like it. The episode it came from, with George Saunders and Maria Bamford, is one that I’m very, very proud of.

If you do like it, you should subscribe to it, free, in iTunes. Or ask your local public radio station to carry it.

William Carlos Williams, “Danse Russe”

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

Maru Mori brought me

a pair

of socks

which she knitted herself

with her sheep-herder’s hands,

two socks as soft

as rabbits.

____

The moral

of my ode is this:

beauty is twice

beauty

and what is good is doubly

good

when it is a matter of two socks

made of wool

in winter.

From “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda (trans. by Robert Bly)

via The Sunday Best

Shirt by Robert Pinsky (via The Sunday Best)

The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped up to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the patern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Inspired by mill-owners inventing it from the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
to wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.