Long Island Sound
Emma Lazarus, 1849 – 1887
I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,—by a fresh soft breeze o’erblown.
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.
The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.
Emma Lazarus was a Jewish American poet, perhaps best known for her poem “A New Colossus,” which is engraved on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. She lived a short life, in which she wrote a great, beautiful body of work, much of it about Jewish identity and history, and about New York, the city in which she was born and lived out her life.
The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she’s a daytime sleeper.
By the Universe deserted,
she’d tell it to go to hell,
and she’d find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well
into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.
Insomnia is by one of my favorites, Elizabeth Bishop, and in keeping with the poem a month theme, seemed fitting for hot, humid, summery August, in which sleep has eluded me on several nights. The purpose of the poem a month project, by the way, is simply to read more poetry, because I find that now that I work in the sciences, I still read fiction, but I read very little verse, and I miss it. It adds a loveliness and thoughtfulness to life that is worth chasing after.