Poems by Mimi Josephson (1911–1998)
- Love's Loneliness
- First Anniversary
Genesis of a Poem
- More Than This
- Unanswered, Unanswerable
- I shall not mourn
- Autumn speaks
- Winter in the Mind
- The Sculptor
- To Dylan Thomas
- Rhododendrons at Cefn On
- To T. L. B.
- We are the Whole Ones
- Late Love
- Which Little Land?
- To my love, who misunderstands my love
I sit at my window at night
- If there should be but this
- To Walk Among the Golden Ones
- A Bird Sings
- Chagrin d'amour
- Another Agony in another Garden
- When the spring breezes softly sigh
- Journey to Love
Voices in my ears -
Voices calling, laughing, talking;
So many . . . . . . but never your longed for voice
Bringing melody into my toneless loneliness.
Faces all about me -
Faces cheerful, smiling friendly;
So many . . . . . . but never your beloved face
Bringing warmth into my wintry loneliness.
Hands near me -
Hands gesturing, beckoning, welcoming;
So many . . . . . . but never your caressing hands
Bringing healing to my aching loneliness.
Ah! my love, come soon to me;
People my empty world -
Banish my exceeding loneliness.
No outward symbol passed,
No portent cast
Its forward-telling lay,
As hand first touched hand
A year ago today.
No wedding words were spoken,
No marriage token
Changed between us on that gay
A year ago today.
Yet are we joined firmly,
And love warmly:
O! let us pray
To keep untarnished ever,
Those bright bonds we forged
A year ago today.
Climb, lithe liana,
Strive ever higher;
To reach the vaulted blue.
Through light-blocked, night-locked ages
You cling, frail flower,
Knowing each hour
Must bring you nearer to that fabled fire.
Now in your dowried gold
- With daring bold
You take these caging bars
And make them ladders to the stars.
Genesis of a Poem
I must work, you said;
Go look at the moon -
Or write a poem!
But the moon is overcast
So a poem it must be:
For this is an order -
And an order from you
Must be implemented, convoluted,
Splintered into fragmented thought; sought
In every deepness of my mind, to find
Patterns that marshal into order -
Perhaps to splendour,
That shimmers, coruscates,
Mirrors words, those slim swords
That carve, refine and point
Into minutest darts
The longing, thronging
Yearnings of my heart,
That I may be forever part
Of all that is and shall be
New and fresh,
Yet lasting: tasting every drop of life
While this and other lives remain.
So, swiftly conceived, tenderly wrought,
The poem is done:
The clouds have parted now, wind-blown,
And I, obedient still,
Raise my eyes to the beckoning moon.
More Than This
I have known the golden scorch
of the sun's fierce embrace.
I have felt the silver thrust of the moon's pale kiss.
The star-gemmed cloak of a darker night
has clad me in its folds.
But still I yearn for more than this.
The cold, sharp sword of winter's snow
has pierced my soul with swift delight.
The ling'ring, langorous summer skies
have showered their radiance at my feet.
But still I long for more than this.
For none of these,
nor all of these
can ease me from a moment' pain.
The moving stairway ever rolls more swiftly
than my chain-bound feet.
And as each night grows into dawn,
my heart is filled with sick despair.
I know that life will give not more;
for me there is no more than this.
And from my aching finger-tips
I drop the pieces of my broken dreams.
A pure, clear light irradiates my soul
and warms into articulate life
my hitherto frost-frozen thoughts,
that beat in impotence upon a prison door
that held me, as if forever,
in a cold cramped cell
of unfulfilled desires;
Of longings vague, unutterable,
with searching fingers groping wild
on the high, smooth walls of time.
Ah! to speak one word - -
to trace one line
To forge one link
in the endless, unending chain!
To leave behind but one small ineffaceable sign;
and not to know, through all eternity,
the utter blankness of a wasted life!
Our Love will Not Die
Our love will not die, sweet,
when we have died.
It will live on in a thousand different ways.
In the soft breezes
that caress the cheeks of sleeping children.
In the sweet perfumed heart
of a creamy sun-slushed rose.
It will live on where softly-running streams
gently brush their pebbly banks.
For love like ours is not for now
and not for us alone.
It is a part of all eternity;
a tiny, infinitesimal part
of the great, unknowable Plan.
So we will not drink too deep of love;
but save some sweetness
to enrich the lives of future lovers;
who, when they feel the magic touch of hand on hand,
will, all-unknowing, thank our kind frugality
and bless the fragrant mem'ry of our ever-living love.
Yet must I question still.
Show me Thy countenance, O Lord
Teach me Thy will?
My will thou knowest -- Do good
To others. Praise Me. Thus it ever was
and shall be to the end.
My countenance, my child?
It is reflected in the kindly eyes
Of one who knows Me well,
Of him who guides thy prentice hand
And teaches thee to sing My praise,
That gentle man
Thou proudly namest thy friend.
I shall Not Mourn
I shall not mourn when the lilacs die.
Though they fade to grey
And muffle with cold earth,
I know another Spring
Will light their purple lamps anew.
Bird song will thrill again;
Pale winter skies
Will deepen to a richer hue;
A thousand, thousand lovely things
Will be re-born,
But you, who so much loved the Spring,
Will not return.
Yet still, that you may sleep in peace,
Lest tears of mine disturb your rest
I will not mourn.
Autumn speaks low-voiced in the vale
That once knew old Iolo's step,
And where he trod
She whispers in the ceasless stir
Of fallen leaves;
Rustles through the late-stacked sheaves
Of garnered grain;
Sighs with the gently-falling rain
On earth soft-kissed;
Murmurs, muted, through the cloaking mist
Caressing castle walls;
Faintly echoes the birds' departing calls.
And sadly, sadly as evening falls,
Autumn mourns with the trees bereft
And grieves for the dying year.
Winter in the Mind
(To an impatient young writer)
There is a time
for birth, and for begetting,
And God's wise-chosen hours
Of rest, and of forgetting.
Those thoughts that seem to die, to be
Inanimate, congealed in sealing frost,
Are not forever lost
But cradled deep, in sleep
They lose identity;
Yet will awake in spring, to sing
With new-wrought melody.
God chose his brightest, finest tools
To fashion Wales.
With practised and unfaltering stroke
He drove His sculptor's chisel keen
Into chaotic masses wild
And in a moment, lo! Snowdonia smiled
And proudly tooke her place
Among the mountain-ranges of the world.
Then with a bounty wide
He placed tall trees to soften
And caress the mountain-side..
The hills He moulded with a tender care
And drew a misty veil about their brows
To shield them from the sun's hot stare.
Deep valleys then most lovingly were shaped
And all their new-born nakedness
With verdure, blossom-starred, He draped.
And now, the final task, to carve
With firm, and skilful hand
The beauteous bays, that, crystal-foamed
Make lovelier still this lovely land.
To Dylan Thomas
(on reading his "Collected Poems")
We, who humbly ply our trade in lesser spheres,
Striving to subjugate those elements
That marshal meekly at your least command
Salute you - word-weaver, magic-maker!
High-pinnacled you stand
Larger than mortal, younger brother of the gods,
And with a gracious hand,
Those gifts they lavished at your birth
You now, with greater love, bestow upon this Earth.
Rhododendrons at Cefn On
The clouds have wept all morning,
But now, smiling through a haze of tears,
The mid-day sun arches a seven-hued girdle
Over the mountain high;
And at its feet,
In a tumult of crimson, amethyst, coral, mauve,
The rhododendrons with the rainbow vie
And air their petaled garments
Under a new-washed sky.
To T. L. B.
He was kind past all believing.
Now he is gone beyond all thanking.
Too far to know my gratitude
For help and understanding.
And yet perhaps, in that quiet land
That lies beyond the evening star,
(If this be not the end)
He will look down and see
That in my heart I murmur always,
- I thank thee, friend.
You are far,
immeasurably far from me.
I stretch out my hand to a dead star
that never lived.
I release you from the broken vows
you never made.
And I absolve you from the sin
of being loved too much.
So I watch by the grave of my empty heart
and I pray for the soul of a still-born love.
The sadness of beauty and beauty of sadness are mine
While I mourn through a million nights, alone,
We are the Whole Ones
Do not pity us - who have no sight:
We see with an intenser light.
The trivial outward patterns wrought by man
Are no reflection of God's plan.
Those lustrous maps of His design
Are not encompassed by a line
Drawn by any earthy hand
And seeming banned
To those who have no eyes.
We are more wise -
With patient care
With patient and divining hearts
We piece togeter locking parts
And so we make a life:
We feel no inner strife
But joyous and revealing love
That images bright visions forged above.
I speak my love in a whisper -
I breathe it on the midnight air
Caressing gardened, closed-petal beauty
No more fair
Than the moon' light
New-silvering your silvered hair.
I chant my love, low-toned, in a psalm,
Echoing safely the high bird's song
Thrilling the day's awakening:
Only for your finger tips momentary touch
Renewing me, making me strong.
For my love is quiet - moth-winged gentle -
Seeking no more
Than to see warm happiness
Thrust deep to your life's core.
I stand apart:
Finding you in my world
Is riches; - it reaches
And fulfills my undemanding heart.
As unshackled limbs, too long confined
- still numb, through chains are loosed -
Painfully, with wariness - warm back to life
from bonded slavery;
So my lately-shuttered mind,
Bewildereld, still half-blind,
Tests its slow returning strength;
Tentatively tries a word, a phrase
Once feebled power will grow
Soon glow, with incandescent rays:
While vibrant, plangent, taut-plucked strings
Counterpoint their singing praise.
I turn my eyes to suns that rise
With each fresh morning's flight,
To grasp, retain, return, reflect
This new-found light.
Which Little Land?
Child of Israel -
Child of Wales.
Torn between two loyalties,
two duties, two demanding loves.
Ah! which one shall I serve -
which little land?
For Isralel needs another voice,
a singer bold to tell the world
of ancient hopes but now fulfilled;
of mighty strivings to be born anew
and how, triumphant now, she stands -
a home where all the exiled ones
may rest and praise their God.
But yet - this Wales - this kindly land
that gave me birth and nurtured me,
where God has taught my thoughts to sing
- a country worthy of my praise
and seeking, too, a newer bard
to show the peoples of the earth
how she has borne her heritage
and still maintains her ancient pride.
Is it not meet O Cambria, then,
that I should raise my voice for thee?
Then which one shall I serve?
since love for each tears at my heart!
For which land shall I sing -
which little land?
I did not think
The striving mind could pause,
Could halt and turn its turning wheel
Backward through time -
Until I sought
To know more than all wisdom taught.
I could not tell
The urgent world would fade,
Would lose its live magnetic call
Forward through time -
With half a lifetime smoothed away.
I had not thought to find in love's wild flood
The calm that stills the seeking in the blood
Nor feel, though knowing living breath
The quiet unquesting peace of death.
I do not feel myself growing old
Though the last each year's surrender
Appears to have added a score more of months to life
I am only old as my heart is.
And it will be the same heart and just as young.
The high song of
That I heard first when I was ten, and again
Will sound just as achingly sweet Afterwards.
The scientists, the rationalists and so many other
learned men will say
"How can there be enough room afterwards for all the
Countless beings who have lived on this planet
for myriads of years, to go on existing Aterwards"?
But how much room does a smile need, or an idea,
or a thought, or an image -
Just as much room now as Afterwards
And above all, how much space will
Love need and kindness and caring and gladness
Just as much or as little now as Afterwards
There is intoxication deeper far
Than vine-fruit e'er can bring,
When passion pours the potent draught
And senses sing
Of kisses warm as southern wines
That bruise the love-ripe lips,
While limbs grow linguid at the touch
Of moth-winged finger tips.
Think not tomorrow must be fair
Because rose flushed this evening's sky -
Cannot full-pettalled promise
While in the bud still die?
May not a swallow soaring
Change course and earthward fly?
Does woman never waver -
Did never lover lie?
To my Love, who Misunderstands my Love
Forgive me love, if, ravished with delight
Your splendid body gives to me,
I seem to be
Indifferent to all else you bring beside.
In contemplation, when you've left a while
A deeper, richer joy I find
In your fine mind -
And gentle spirit that is my soul's guide.
So know, companion of my heart,
That when I say I love,
I swear by heaven above
I love you wholly, not in just the part.
I sit at my Window at Night
I sit at my window at night
and wait for my love.
The soft, slow moths' wings of awakening desire
beat through my blood.
The moonbeams lighty the torch
for passion's brighter fire,
While i await my love.
Through one interminable moment
in eternity's endless chain,
my acquiescing body
awaits my love.
The long crescendo of my quickening pulse
sings to the echo of a mounting joy.
The earth arrests its flight through space
one golden hour,
and life waits breathless,
while I turn, and greet my love.
If there should be But This
If there should be but this -
That you have touched my hand
One moment with your own;
Yet should I count myself much blessed.
And should I know for one sweet hour
Your weayr head at rest, upon my breast,
And press upon your tired eyes
A tender healing kiss -
Beloved, this were more than bliss.
But if, while in my arms
You know delight for but a little space -
I shall be very sure
That God has touched me with his grace.
To Walk Among the Golden Ones
To walk among the golden ones --
to see their radiance undimmed
by the unfeeling mist that circles
To know the fineness of great minds,
Who commune with the gods on equal terms,
and walk the giddy heights
of fame's fair pinnacles.
To lightly trouch with fevered fingers
the moon-lustred shadow of the least of these,
and dare to humbly cast a fleeting glance
at those who satiate themselves
with nectar-perfumed honey
at the tables of the gods.
A Bird Sings
A bird sings in my heart, and beats
against my breast.
A young, frail bird as yet;
but baby birds have wings to fly.
A flame burns in my mind, and curls
about my brain.
A dim, faint glow as yet;
but tiny flames can lessen winter's chill.
A flower grows in my soul,
and fills my spirit
A furled bud as yet;
but full of promise of its future scent.
Can I release the bird
'Tis not for me to say. If God so wills -
the flower will bloom,
the flame will burn,
and the bird will soar.
And I shall walk the earth with gladdened heart,
that from my womb has spring this three-fold birth.
And all my life henceforth must be
but one long striving to repay
His trust in me.
At last I am released from the intolerable pain of nothingness.
My soul can soar aloft to the crystalline heights
of a sharp sky image
through the cloud-clad frame of a limitless dream.
I climb the velvet-cushioned treads of an aerial stair.
They cannot dull the sharp-pointed bliss
of a God-given freedom.
Sweet freedom to hold with bloodless fingers of desire
The pale proud passion of the longing for life.
I shall never again be chained to despair,
for this once-opened door can never be closed.
I may stay at the threshold or soar to the stars;
I may sip at the cup or drink to the fill
to the last sweet drop of intoxicant fire.
He said "To love is delight."
Fool! to love is to die a thousand deaths
in the moment of one's rebirth.
He said "To love is divine."
Poor child! To reach the red centre of the rose
you must press to your breast the thorns of desire.
He said yet again "To love is ecstasy."
He little knows. Has he touched the deepest depths
of dark despair? Then dare he speak of love.
Another Agony in another Garden
It seemed this tree, deep-thrusting, must endure
Till life and time should end;
So firm, so strongly-tentacled its roots.
But torrent, storm and tearing wind,
Have wrenched it from the caring earth
To which it clung and drew its strength.
And now, athwart the path,
With shattered leaves and savaged blooms,
Its twisted branches stretch in mute appeal.
Only the harsh, indifferent thorns retain
Their power and force, to lacerate once more
My battered heart.
When the Spring Breezes Softly Sigh
When the spring breezes softly sigh
Through budding, new-clothed trees;
You will walk the woods
And think you hear my voice.
When the warm summer zephyrs
Bend the langourous, flow'r-changed branch;
You will rest awhile
And dream you feel my kiss.
When the hustling, rustling autumn winds
Carpet the earth with leafy red and gold;
You will turn your head
And long to hear my step.
But when winter's cold and icy blast
Knocks vainly at your window-pane;
You will sleep sweetly in your warm soft bed.
And I beside you, love
And no more need for dreams.
Journey to Love
I am a river, swiftly, surely, eagerly, inevitably flowing to the sea;
You are the sea - the wide, deep and mighty sea.
Mighty in strength and knowledge;
Deep in wisdom and understanding
Boundedly wide in love and compassion
All-enveloping, all-caressing, all healing -
My lover the sea.
From so far off did the river come
Winding and twisting the way, sharp-ricked, root-blocked
From afar to her lover the sea,
The magical, legendary, whispered of sea.
On her way birds sang of him:
Blossoms quivering in perfumed pride
Told of his splendour to his soon-to-be bride.
She has come now, the river is come, to the sea,
Mingles and is lost in her lover, the sea.