Random bits of poetry I have memorized for no reason that I can remember

I like to diss on poetry. It’s snobby, I know. But it’s also funny and you always gotta go for the joke, right? I think my problem with poetry is twofold: One, I never read it unless forced and two, it’s really, really easy to be a very bad poet. It’s like “I’m a poet, I write incomplete sentences and put in weird line breaks. See? Totally poetry!” Bleh.

But as I was sitting here today not doing what I was supposed to, I started reciting a random poem in my head. It was this bit by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

I have no idea where it came from or why I remembered it. I don’t think I ever had to memorize poetry in school, and yet, there it was. It might have been a long-ago remnant of effluvia leftover from when I read Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay back in 2001.

So after reciting poetry to myself, I decided to see how many snippets of poems I had floating around in my brain (this is what the underworked freelancer does with her time). This was much more difficult than you’d think. First, I had to keep separating the song lyrics from the actual poems. Also, I have a lot of Thomas Jefferson speeches floating around in the grey matter.

So here, I present a partial list (I got bored after like 20 minutes) of random poems I have memorized for no reason that I can remember*.

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
[and they all found a bunch of stuff that was supposed to reflect who they are but I can never remember the stuff]
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
— ee cummings

i like my body when it is with your body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
[and a bunch more sexy stuff I don’t remembers]
And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you so quite new
— ee cummings

Nature’s first green is gold,
her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf’s a flower
but only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
As Eden sank to grief
as dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay
— Robert Frost (memorized, of course, because it’s the poem that Ponyboy read to Johnny)

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing
America $2.27 January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me
I won’t write my poems till I’m in my right mind
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
— Allen Ginsberg

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though
He will not see me stopping here,
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near,
Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake,
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep,
Of easy something something that rhymes with mistake

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
— Robert Frost

Christ climbed down from His bare tree this year
and softly stole away into some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night of everybody’s anonymous soul. . .
— Lawrence Ferlinghetti

All that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
Like an angled spar
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too. . .
— Robert Browning

I was a child and she was a child
In this kingdom by the sea, but we loved with a love that was more than love
Me and my Annabel Lee

[a bunch of other stuff]

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams of the beautiful Annabel Lee
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes of the beautiful Annabel Lee
And so, something something I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride
In the sepulchre there by the sea
In her tomb by the something sea.
— Edgar Allen Poe (I can also do bits of The Raven now that I think about it)

We wear the mask that grins and lies
That hides our cheeks and shades our eyes
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
— Paul Laurence Dunbar

* All mistakes and punctuation/formatting errors are due to a faulty memory and the desire to not cheat and Google the poems and appear to be much smarter than I actually am.

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  1. UH 04.Sep.09 at 3:35 pm


  2. UH 04.Sep.09 at 3:37 pm


    From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

  3. Marie 04.Sep.09 at 5:28 pm

    I love this post.
    I think I might copy your idea on my blog & do a post with randomly remembered poetry. What a great idea.

  4. FFJ 05.Sep.09 at 7:43 am

    The untold want by life or land ne’er granted.
    Now voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.

    – Walt Whitman

  5. david 08.Sep.09 at 11:03 am

    We have similar mental archives of poems, but Wallace Stevens and Theodore Roethke also continually bounce around my brain.

    I love that Ferlinghetti poem, it is my personal mantra around the winter holidays.


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