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Poem: ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou
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Poem: ‘Lucretius’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Lucilla, wedded to Lucretius, found
Her master cold; for when the morning flush
Of passion and the first embrace had died 
Between them, tho' he loved her none the less, 
Yet often when the woman heard his foot 
Return from pacings in the field, and ran 
To greet him with a kiss, the master took 
Small notice, or austerely, for his mind 
Half buried in some weightier argument, 
Or fancy-borne perhaps upon the rise 
And long roll of the hexameter -- he past 
To turn and ponder those three hundred scrolls
Left by the Teacher, whom he held divine. 
She brook'd it not, but wrathful, petulant 
Dreaming some rival, sought and found a witch 
Who brew'd the philtre which had power, they said 
To lead an errant passion home again. 
And this, at times, she mingled with his drink, 
And this destroy'd him; for the wicked broth 
Confused the chemic labor of the blood, 
And tickling the brute brain within the man's 
Made havoc among those tender cells, and check'd 
His power to shape. He loathed himself, and once 
After a tempest woke upon a morn 
That mock'd him with returning calm, and cried:

"Storm in the night! for thrice I heard the rain 
Rushing; and once the flash of a thunderbolt -- 
Methought I never saw so fierce a fork -- 
Struck out the streaming mountain-side, and show'd 
A riotous confluence of watercourses 
Blanching and billowing in a hollow of it, 
Where all but yester-eve was dusty-dry.

"Storm, and what dreams, ye holy Gods, what dreams!
For thrice I waken'd after dreams. Perchance
We do but recollect the dreams that come
Just ere the waking. Terrible: for it seem'd
A void was made in Nature, all her bonds
Crack'd; and I saw the flaring atom-streams
And torrents of her myriad universe,
Ruining along the illimitable inane,
Fly on to clash together again, and make
Another and another frame of things
For ever. That was mine, my dream, I knew it -- 
Of and belonging to me, as the dog
With inward yelp and restless forefoot plies
His function of the woodland; but the next! 
I thought that all the blood by Sylla shed 
Came driving rainlike down again on earth, 
And where it dash'd the reddening meadow, sprang 
No dragon warriors from Cadmean teeth, 
For these I thought my dream would show to me, 
But girls, Hetairai, curious in their art, 
Hired animalisms, vile as those that made 
The mulberry-faced Dictator's orgies worse 
Than aught they fable of the quiet Gods. 
And hands they mixt, and yell'd and round me drove 
In narrowing circles till I yell'd again 
Half-suffocated, and sprang up, and saw -- 
Was it the first beam of my latest day?

"Then, then, from utter gloom stood out the 
The breasts of Helen, and hoveringly a sword 
Now over and now under, now direct, 
Pointed itself to pierce, but sank down shamed 
At all that beauty; and as I stared, a fire, 
The fire that left a roofless Ilion, 
Shot out of them, and scorch'd me that I woke.

"Is this thy vengeance, holy Venus, thine, 
Because I would not one of thine own doves, 
Not even a rose, were offered to thee? thine, 
Forgetful how my rich proemion makes 
Thy glory fly along the Italian field, 
In lays that will outlast thy deity?

"Deity? nay, thy worshippers. My tongue 
Trips, or I speak profanely. Which of these 
Angers thee most, or angers thee at all?
Not if thou be'st of those who, far aloof
From envy, hate and pity, and spite and scorn, 
Live the great life which all our greatest fain 
Would follow, centred in eternal calm.

"Nay, if thou canst, 
Goddess, like ourselves
Touch, and be touch'd, then would I cry to thee
To kiss thy Mavors, roll thy tender arms
Round him, and keep him from the lust of blood
That makes a steaming slaughter-house of Rome.

"Ay, but I meant not thee; I meant riot her
Whom all the pines of Ida shook to see
Slide from that quiet heaven of hers, and tempt
The Trojan, while his neatherds were abroad
Nor her that o'er her wounded hunter wept
Her deity false in human-amorous tears; 
Nor whom her beardless apple-arbiter
Decided fairest. Rather, O ye Gods,
Poet-like, as the great Sicilian called
Calliope to grace his golden verse -- 
Ay, and this Kypris also -- did I take
That popular name of thine to shadow forth
The all-generating powers and genial heat
Of Nature, when she strikes thro' the thick blood
Of cattle, and light is large, and lambs are glad
Nosing the mother's udder, and the bird
Makes his heart voice amid the blaze of flowers;
Which things appear the work of mighty Gods.

"The Gods! and if I go my work is left
Unfinish'd -- if I go. The Gods, who haunt
The lucid interspace of world and world,
Where never creeps a cloud, or moves a wind,
Nor ever falls the least white star of mow
Nor ever lowest roll of thunder moans,
Nor sound of human sorrow mounts to mar
Their sacred everlasting calm! and such,
Not all so fine, nor so divine a calm
Not such, nor all unlike it, man may gain
Letting his own life go. The Gods, the Godsl
If all be atoms, how then should the Gods
Being atomic not be dissoluble,
Not follow the great law? My master held
That Gods there are, for all men so believe.
I prest my footsteps into his, and meant
Surely to lead my Memmius in a train
Of fiowery clauses onward to the proof
That Gods there are, and deathless. Meant? I meant?
I have forgotten what I meant, my mind
Stumbles, and all my faculties are lamed.

"Look where another of our Gods, the Sun
Apollo, Delius, or of older use
All-seeing Hyperion -- what you will -- 
Has mounted yonder; since he never sware,
Except his wrath were wreak'd on wretched man,
That he would only shine among the dead
Hereafter -- tales! for never yet on earth 
Could dead flesh creep, or bits of roasting ox
Moan round the spit -- nor knows he what he sees;
King of the East altho' he seem, and girt
With song and flame and fragrance, slowly lifts
His golden feet on those empurpled stairs
That climb into the windy halls of heaven
And here he glances on an eye new-born,
And gets for greeting but a wail of pain;
And here he stays upon a freezing orb
That fain would gaze upon him to the last; 
And here upon a yellow eyelid fallen
And closed by those who mourn a friend in vain,
Not thankful that his troubles are no more.
And me, altho' his fire is on my face
Blinding, he sees not, nor at all can tell
Whether I mean this day to end myself.
Or lend an ear to Plato where he says,
That men like soldiers may not quit the post
Allotted by the Gods. But he that holds
The Gods are careless, wherefore need he care 
Greatly for them, nor rather plunge at once,
Being troubled, wholly out of sight, and sink
Past earthquake -- ay, and gout and stone, that break
Body toward death, and palsy, death-in-life,
And wretched age -- and worst disease of all,
These prodigies of myriad nakednesses,
And twisted shapes of lust, unspeakable,
Abominable, strangers at my hearth
Not welcome, harpies miring every dish,
The phantom husks of something foully done,
And fleeting thro' the boundless universe,
And blasting the long quiet of my breast
With animal heat and dire insanity?

"How should the mind, except it loved them, clasp
These idols to herself? or do they fly
Now thinner, and now thicker, like the flakes
In a fall of snow, and so press in, perforce
Of multitude, as crowds that in an hour
Of civic tumult jam the doors, and bear
The keepers down, and throng, their rags and the
The basest, far into that council-hall
Where sit the best and stateliest of the land?

³Can I not fling this horror off me again, 
Seeing with how great ease Nature can smile 
Balmier and nobler from her bath of storm, 
At random ravage? and how easily 
The mountain there has cast his cloudy slough, 
Now towering o'er him in serenest air, 
A mountain o'er a mountain, -- ay, and within 
All hollow as the hopes and fears of men?

"But who was he that in the garden snared
Picus and Faunus, rustic Gods? a tale
To laugh at -- more to laugh at in myself -- 
For look! what is it? there? yon arbutus
Totters; a noiseless riot underneath
Strikes through the wood, sets all the tops quivering -- ;
The mountain quickens into Nymph and Faun,
And here an Oread -- how the sun delights
To glance and shift about her slippery sides,
And rosy knees and supple roundedness,
And budded bosom-peaks -- who this way runs
Before the rest! -- a satyr, a satyr, see,
Follows; but him I proved impossible
Twy-natured is no nature. Yet he draws
Nearer and nearer, and I scan him now
Beastlier than any phantom of his kind
That ever butted his rough brother-brute
For lust or lusty blood or provender.
I hate, abhor, spit, sicken at him; and she
Loathes him as well; such a precipitate heel,
Fledged as it were with Mercury's ankle-wing,
Whirls her to me -- ;but will she fling herself
Shameless upon me? Catch her, goatfoot! nay,
Hide, hide them, million-myrtled wilderness,

And cavern-shadowing laurels, hide! do I wish -- 
What? -- ;that the bush were leafless? or to whelm
All of them in one massacre? O ye Gods
I know you careless, yet, behold, to you
From childly wont and ancient use I call -- 
I thought I lived securely as yourselves -- 
No lewdness, narrowing envy, monkey-spite,
No madness of ambition, avarice, none;
No larger feast than under plane or pine
With neighbors laid along the grass, to take
Only such cups as left us friendly-warm,
Affirming each his own philosophy
Nothing to mar the sober majesties
Of settled, sweet, Epicurean life.
But now it seems some unseen monster lays
His vast and filthy hands upon my will,
Wrenching it backward into his, and spoils
My bliss in being; and it was not great,
For save when shutting reasons up in rhythm,
Or Heliconian honey in living words,
To make a truth less harsh, I often grew
Tired of so much within our little life
Or of so little in our little life -- 
Poor little life that toddles half an hour
Crown'd with a flower or two, and there an end -- 
And since the nobler pleasure seems to fade,
Why should I, beastlike as I find myself,
Not manlike end myself? -- our privilege -- ;
What beast has heart to do it? And what man
What Roman would be dragg'd in triumph thus?
Not I; not he, who bears one name with her
Whose death-blow struck the dateless doom of kings,
When, brooking not the Tarquin in her veins,
She made her blood in sight of Collatine
And all his peers, flushing the guiltless air,
Spout from the maiden fountain in her heart.
And from it sprang the Commonwealth, which breaks
As I am breaking now!

"And therefore now
Let her, that is the womb and tomb of all
Great Nature, take, and forcing far apart
Those blind beginnings that have made me man,
Dash them anew together at her will
Thro' all her cycles -- into man once more,
Or beast or bird or fish, or opulent flower.
But till this cosmic order everywhere
Shatter'd into one earthquake m one day
Cracks all to pieces, -- and that hour perhaps
Is not so far when momentary man
Shall seem no more a something to himself,
But he, his hopes and hates, his homes and fanes
And even his bones long laid within the grave,
The very sides of the grave itself shall pass,
Vanishing, atom and void, atom and void,
Into the unseen for ever, -- till that hour,
My golden work in which I told a truth
That stays the rolling Ixionian wheel,
And numbs the Fury's ringlet-snake, and plucks
The mortal soul from out immortal hell
Shall stand. Ay, surely; then it fails at last
And perishes as I must, for O Thou
Passionless bride, divine Tranquillity,
Yearn'd after by the wisest of the wise
Who fail to find thee, being as thou art
Without one pleasure and without one pain, 
Howbeit I know thou surely must be mine
Or soon or late, yet out of season, thus 
I woo thee roughly, for thou carest not
How roughly men may woo thee so they win -- ;
Thus -- thus -- the soul flies out and dies in the air

With that he drove the knife into his side.
She heard him raging, heard him fall, ran in,
Beat breast, tore hair, cried out upon herself
As having fail'd in duty to him, shriek'd
That she but meant to win him back, fell on him
Clasp'd, kiss'd him, wail'd. He answer'd, "Care not thou!
Thy duty? What is duty? Fare thee well!"

Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Sunday Poem: ‘Marigolds’ by Robert Graves

 With a fork drive Nature out, 
She will ever yet return; 
Hedge the flowerbed all about, 
Pull or stab or cut or burn, 
She will ever yet return. 

Look: the constant marigold 
Springs again from hidden roots. 
Baffled gardener, you behold 
New beginnings and new shoots 
Spring again from hidden roots.
Pull or stab or cut or burn, 
They will ever yet return. 

Gardener, cursing at the weed, 
Ere you curse it further, say: 
Who but you planted the seed
In my fertile heart, one day? 
Ere you curse me further, say! 
New beginnings and new shoots 
Spring again from hidden roots. 
Pull or stab or cut or burn, 
Love must ever yet return.

Robert Graves
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Saturday Poem: ‘Poem for the New Year’ by Kim Addonizio

So far it’s suspiciously similar
to the old year: the same wild cold

wind circling the yard,
and that oozy substance

still clings to the carton of orange juice
I lift from a shelf in the fridge.

Also, I notice that my face
in the bathroom mirror,

fresh from the bed’s wrappings,
looks a bit worn.

Last night, in my neighborhood,
a few guns went off amid the firecrackers,

surely a sign that something new
was entering the world,

though the sounds were identical
to the small-arms fire

emitted from the war documentary
I was watching on TV.

It’s possible
I missed the transition entirely

by not attending a drunken party,
wearing a pointy hat

and tongue-kissing a few strangers,
and so am still living

in the previous year,
where the windows are rattling

in the storm
and the front door suddenly

slams open
and I just as quickly rush to slam it shut.

Kim Addonizio

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Poem: ‘Auld Lang Syne’ by Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus – For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus…

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus…

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us briad hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus…

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

Robert Burns

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Saturday Poem: ‘Remembrance of Christmas Past’ by Judith Viorst

They let the children out of school too early.
I left the Christmas shopping till too late.
Each day we had a holiday excursion,
Which gave us the entire week to wait in line for
Movies by Disney,
Gift-wrapping by Lord & Taylor,
And everyone’s restrooms.

On Christmas Eve we started to assemble
The easy-to-assemble telescope
And fire truck with forty-seven pieces.
By midnight it was plain there was no hope without
An astronomer,
A mechanical engineer,
And two psychiatrists.

We rose at dawn to three boys singing Rudolph.
We listened numbly to their shouts of glee.
The kitten threw up tinsel on the carpet.
The fire truck collided with the tree, requiring

One rug shampoo,
Several Band-aids,
And Scotch before breakfast.

I bought my husband shirts – wrong size, wrong colors,
And ties he said he couldn’t be caught dead in.
I’d hinted Saint Laurent or something furry.
He bought me flannel gowns to go to bed in, also
A Teflon frying pan,
A plaid valise,
And The Weight Watchers Cook Book.

The turkey was still frozen at eleven.
At noon my eldest boy spilled Elmer’s glue.
At five I had a swell Excedrin headache,
The kind that lasts till January two…but
Merry Christmas
And Happy New Year,
I think.

Judith Viorst

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‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth, ‘ I said
‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Literary Advent Calendar: Day Twenty Four

Christmas Eve by Anne Sexton

Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
I could not count the cost
of all your faces, your moods-
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed,
my jewel-fingered lady,
your portrait flickered all night
by the bulbs of the tree.

Your face as calm as the moon
over a mannered sea,
presided at the family reunion,
the twelve grandchildren
you used to wear on your wrist,
a three-months-old baby,
a fat check you never wrote,
the red-haired toddler who danced the twist,
your aging daughters, each one a wife,
each one talking to the family cook,
each one avoiding your portrait,
each one aping your life.

Later, after the party,
after the house went to bed,
I sat up drinking the Christmas brandy,
watching your picture,
letting the tree move in and out of focus.
The bulbs vibrated.
They were a halo over your forehead.
Then they were a beehive,
blue, yellow, green, red;
each with its own juice, each hot and alive
stinging your face. But you did not move.
I continued to watch, forcing myself,
waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.

I wanted your eyes, like the shadows
of two small birds, to change.
But they did not age.
The smile that gathered me in, all wit,
all charm, was invincible.
Hour after hour I looked at your face
but I could not pull the roots out of it.
Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck,
your badly painted flesh-pink skin.
You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.
Then I thought of your body
as one thinks of murder-

Then I said Mary-
Mary, Mary, forgive me
and then I touched a present for the child,
the last I bred before your death;
and then I touched my breast
and then I touched the floor
and then my breast again as if,
somehow, it were one of yours.

Anne Sexton

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Saturday Poem: ‘Christmas Carol’ by Sara Teasdale

The kings they came from out the south,
All dressed in ermine fine;
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
And gifts of precious wine.

The shepherds came from out the north,
Their coats were brown and old;
They brought Him little new-born lambs–
They had not any gold.

The wise men came from out the east,
And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
Did glorify the night.

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The kings they knocked upon the door,
The wise men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
To hear the song begin.

The angels sang through all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.

Sara Teasdale