Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Ursula K. Le Guin
Photo by Wes Guderian

Ars Lunga

I sit here perpetually inventing new people
as if the population boom were not enough
and not enough terror and problems
God knows, But I know too,
that's the point. Never fear enough
to match delight, nor a deep enough abyss,
nor time enough, and there are always a few
stars missing.

I don't want a new heaven and new earth,
only the old ones.
Old sky, old dirt, new grass.
Nor life beyond the grave,
God help me, or I'll help myself
by living all these lives
nine at once or ninety
so that death finds me at all times
and on all sides exposed,
unfortressed, undefended,
inviolable, vulnerable, alive.

For the New House

May this house be full of kitchen smells
and shadows and toys and nests of mice
and roars of rage and waterfalls of tears
and deep sexual silences and sounds
of mysterious origin never explained
and troves and keepsakes and a lot of junk
and a flowing like a warm wind only slower
blowing the leaves of trees and books and the fish-years
of a child's life silvery flickering
quick, quick, in the slow incessant gust
that billows out the curtains for a moment
all those years from now, age.
May the sills and doorframes
be in blessing blest at every passing.
May the roof but not the rooms know rain.
May the windows know clearly
the branch and flower of the apple tree.
And may you be in this house
as the music is in the instrument.

Song for a Daughter

Mother of my granddaughter,
listen to my song:
A mother can't do right,
a daughter can't be wrong.

I have no claim whatever
on amnesty from you;
nor will she forgive you
for anything you do.

So are we knit together
by force of opposites,
the daughter that unravels
the skein the mother knits.

One must be divided
so that one be whole,
and this is the duplicity
alleged of woman's soul.

To be that heavy mother
who weighs in every thing
is to be the daughter
whose footstep is the Spring.

Granddaughter of my mother,
listen to my song:
Nothing you do will ever be right,
nothing you do is wrong.


We make too much history.

With or without us
there will be the silence
and the rocks and the far shining.

But what we need to be
is, oh, the small talk of swallows
in evening over
dull water under willows.

To be we need to know the river
holds the salmon and the ocean
holds the whales as lightly
as the body holds the soul
in the present tense, in the present tense.



let me

let me be


set me

set me free



only soul



lonely whole






and I'll sing


Ursula K. Le Guin
from Finding My Elegy
new and selected poems
Houghton Mifflin, 2012