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Mary Evelyn Robinson Poetry
Collected and edited by Mary Helen Stitzel Benford, her great niece.
Mystery of Silence
There is silence of mind that encircles the spheres
Returning full laden with wisdom of years;
There is silence of night when the world is asleep,
Like the silence of death in ocean’s lone deep.
There is silence of prayer to whatever God
Is revealed to the mind of a poor earthly clod;
There is silence of hope and silence of fear
When the grim reaper comes to claim one we hold dear.
There’s the silence of heart break; too proud to be heard,
The silence of pain too poignant for word;
There is silence of stars, as we bid them good night,
Not hearing their glorious paeans of flight.
Through an impending silence, diffusing all space,
Comes the love or the hate which envelops a race.
In silence we learn through our soul searching strife
That the eternal self builds the beautiful life.
Note: This poem won the silver loving cup.
The gypsies live way down the road,
Beside the Clear Stream Spring.
They look so lazy in the grove,
With dogs, and horses, and everything.
The children seldom wash their faces –
They play all day out in the sun.
But they have been so many places
It makes you wish you were one.
But my pa says “gypsies might steal”,
So you better stay away –
Don’t wander off down in the field
Or they might snatch you any day.
My Pal, Lee
My dog’s named Lee. He’s tan and white.
He plays with me ‘till almost night.
I give him water and feed him meat
And keep home from off the street.
He’ll “play like dead”, if I say so,
And loves to bring back sticks I throw!
He’ll stand right up on his hind legs
And “speak” for bread – that’s how he begs!
He’ll jump up quick when I say “stand”.
He’ll hold his paw to shake your hand.
I’ll never part with my dog, Lee,
‘Cause I love him and he loves me.
Now I have something all my own
That no one else can take.
It’s something I can’t give away
And something I can’t break!
It’s something I can’t even hide,
But something you can’t see –
Because it’s just my own birthday
And it belongs to me!
A la Gertrude Stein
‘A rose is a rose is a rose,’
But nobody know how it grows,
Or why spring showers
Bring such lovely flowers –
Yet, the rose is a rose is a rose.
Jack Frost came out while the children slept,
Decorated the windows, and then he crept
Around the place to find him a bite –
He seemed to be hungry this cold winter night.
There wasn’t a shrub that the snow had left
So Jack could get a small bite for himself.
He had to go hungry, and hide in his den,
And wait ’till ’twas warmer to come out again!
The Wading Pool
The water glided on the sand
As smooth as stream in Fairy Land,
Until it rushed against the rocks
And spattered into tiny drops.
They sparkled in a sunlight beam
And made the rainbow colors gleam!
Way down below, a shining pool
Moved, lazy as a boy to school.
It sent a vagrant stream beyond
To tell the story to the pond:
How happy children came to play
In its cool waters every day.
“And then at night” the small stream said,
“I slept right there in my cool bed!”
It moved so slowly through the land
That wild things came to drink and stand
Beneath the shade trees on its banks –
Maybe they stood, returning thanks.
A Frog and A Bug
I saw a big frog,
As he sat on a log,
That reached out over the creek.
I want a nice bug,”
He said, as he made a big leap.
He leaped like a flash!
But the bug ran out of his reach.
“Boom, boom! – Oh, ker-chug!
Who’d eat an old bug?
Not me, I don’t like his meat.”
So the big green frog
Leaped back on the log,
And boomed to his mate down the creek!
A Five Year Old Spends a Year on the Farm
My mother cried when I came here
To live on Gran’pa’s farm.
The doctor said I’d die in there
So then she let me come.
My Gran’ma cooks me everything
A boy could want to eat.
Sometime she says “That chicken wing?
Why give the child some meat.”
And Gran’pa acts like I was big,
And lets me come along.
I take a hoe so I can dig,
And sing the field hands’ song.
My Gran’pa taught me how to call
A crow, so he will come.
He takes me fishing, spring to fall
When Saturday’s work is done.
Now Mother’s come to take me home,
To put me in a school.
I wish she’d leave us all alone –
We’re working on the pool.
I think that it would be more fun
Than saying a-b-c’s.
I’d learn how every thing is done
‘Bout farming and ‘bout bees.
But the Doctor says I’m sound –
Ma says Gran’pa spoils me;
He lets me walk in the new plowed ground
And pick up things I see,
Like arrow heads, the Indians had.
I keep them for my own.
I hate to leave this place so bad –
I wish she hadn’t come.
But Gran’pa say “Son, go on home
And get an education;
Come back to live when you are grown,
I’ll give you this plantation.”
I saw old Santa
When he came last night –
He looked like my dolly;
He was all pink and white!
He wasn’t great big
Like the ones in town –
He was just little bitty –
‘Bout this big around!
He was tiny, not tall –
‘Bout big as an elf;
And I tried to catch him
To keep him myself!
But I couldn’t hold him;
He slipped out of sight
With “G’by little girl,
‘Till next Christmas night!”
He ran up the chimney
And jumped in his sleigh,
Whistled to he reindeer
And went bounding away.
Grandma Told Me Stars Fell on Alabama
They were not truly stars that fell
But meteors in flight.
So bright the sky you couldn’t tell
If it were day or night.
You see, my dear, the angels came
Down South to live in Heaven,
‘Bove Alabama –they liked the name
And said they’d stay forever.
One night, each took its bedtime light,
As custom used to be –
The little candles burned so bright
To let the angels see.
Now when each one had gone to bed
It tossed away its light!
Then pulled a cloud for cover-let
And watched the candles flight.
The candles flamed as down they came –
Lighting from Moon to Mars.
The angles laughed, they liked the game;
It looked liked falling stars!
Autumn’s Crowning Day
Cool autumn fans the green and crimson leaves,
That wave farewell to mates upon the trees,
Before they sail against the sky with mirth.
Then, tumbling, wave glad colors back to earth.
The cricket sings his golden song at last
And hides himself for warmth deep in the grass.
A winged cloud now sweeps in unaware
And blackbirds chatter from boughs almost bare.
Some scattered snow flakes whirling in the air
Announce to us Thanksgiving Day is here.
So, don the colors of your favorite team
And join the throng at the football game.
Written November 26, 1936
When my eyes close in final sleep
My body goes to rest,
I choose that none be called to preach,
Because I’d like that best.
Read just a word, and sing a song
Then place me in my tomb.
Not all the speeches, short or long
Can change my house of gloom.
And when the dust falls, as it must,
Remember, I’m your guest,
And I have asked that this last task
Be done as I request.
And the when all is said and done,
Just have a simple prayer –
A silent thought from those I’ve taught,
To bless me everywhere.
Written April 25, 1933
I saw kitty Tom,
Go lie on the rug,
Then he licked on his claw
With his tongue!
Then he wiped off his face
With his little black paw –
But that didn’t hide his disgrace
‘Cause I saw
That naughty black cat
Lie right down there and purr,
When I knew he’d eaten a rat –
All but the fur!
What is a poem until it is read?
The meaning is part of how it is said.
And what is a voice? You judge by the sound –
It’s servile or sharp, or rich, full and round.
Or what is a heart until it is broke?
A pumping machine where life is a joke.
And what then is music until it is played?
Some hieroglyphs such as savages make.
What is bereavement until you have known
The loss of a loved one you claimed as your own?
What does life mean until it is past?
Does failure or triumph mean ought at the last?
Half clad creature
Searching garbage cans.
Work that pays a pittance.
Steal or starve; no help.
Where ignorance and poverty
Indifference is high-bred.
50 Years After
There are some who are with us in spirit here
And some who couldn’t come this year;
And I wonder if time on her deathless page
Is dipping her pen to write “Old Age”.
When your hair is gray and you have lost your teeth
It may not mean you’re old.
When you have to be careful about your feet
It’s still not a sign you’re old.
You can dye your hair and buy new teeth,
And walk with a stick the save your feet.
Just call it style, not age.
But when you forget and your mind won’t work,
And you sit and doze while your task you shirk,
And nothing matters from day to day
And you don’t even try to have your own way,
For then you’re old – you’re almost sped,
Be it few or many years over your head
For the thing you were has escaped from its place
And your body is living on borrowed grace
Written for the 50th class reunion, class of 1899 API - today Auburn University.
First Day at School
“Now, Johnny dear. I’ll come for you
At twelve o’clock today.
Miss Jones will show you what to do,
So, you be good and stay.”
At ten o’clock my son walked in –
“You came alone?” I cried.
Oh, yes, I knew the way.
He looked distressed and sighed:
“That teacher talked and talked.
I wanted to go and play.
She don’t know nothing that I know,
So, I just run’d away!”
Lights Out – The old Year Dies
The lights go out. I hide my tears
As trooping, single file, past years
March by. Each takes its stand,
Reviews the past, then joins its band.
The years of youth are bent with care
Instead of love and play. How dare
They show so much of bitterness
Where should have been love’s soft caress?
Ambition, next, bears in one hand
A withered laurel wreath; a wand
Is in the other. It points somewhere –
Wil-0 the Wisp, beyond us here.
Then years of toil come trooping by
And to ‘full life’ the give the lie.
The mind can slave, the soul can strive
But love alone makes one alive.
Next sorrow passing, at my feet
Lays down its burden. In my grief
A stifled sob tears at my soul
For I alone must bear this load!
Ah, joy can lightly bear its part,
But grief lies heavy on the heart;
This year, in black, with measured tread
Has laid two wreaths upon my dead
A year of semi-madness passed –
Ah, it is well that can not last
Ten nondescript, lone years go by,
Such bitter years the heart to try.
I only knew their full intent
With conscience clear those years were spent.
Then comes romance – a long lost dream
The year brings love, real love, it seems.
The next year sweeps with ruthless hand
And bears him to the mystic land.
The Reaper seals the silent door
And I shall never see him more.
I strain my eyes for future years
But being blinded so by tears
I see but dimly a faint light
To guide me as the years will go.
I’ll meet my fate bravely come the morrow
I’ll make song of jot or sorrow.
Oh, hear the bells! The light is here!
A joyful cry – a glad New Year!
I thank “whatever gods may be”
That though Fate lashed me in her sea
I was not broken on the rocks;
Triumphant still, I stand her shocks!
Written November 22, 1936
What is Poetry?
It’s the exotic odor of flowers
Transfusing a tropical night;
Or wind as it sings, so wrathful
Swaying stalwart old trees in its might.
Wild waves as they rush on a sea cliff,
Dashing spray with a heart breaking moan,
Like the muffled tone of a tolling bell
The was rung for one of your own.
It’s a moonlit garden where lovers
Plight faith forever and aye!
It’s beauty of mountains mirrored
In a deep still lake by day.
It’s the flight of a soul reminiscing –
It’s the song of a bird at dawn,
As day fades the stars from heaven –
It’s the glow of a dew drenched morn.
It’s the soul of thought in rhythm,
It’s music and art set free;
It’s a patriot’s dream of freedom –
All those are poems to me.
For Alabama Day
Give us a day when every man
Is free from serfdom’s tyrant hand,
When education is his right –
With understanding he may fight
The spoiler who is stepped in self,
Who buys his place with ill gained wealth.
Let children in this state of ours
Be trained to use the latent powers,
That leaders from their group may spring
Full capable of anything
That will promote our future good
And build our state on real manhood.
The American Nun: The School Teacher
“Should any teacher marry she automatically loses her position.”
She’ll rise at dawn, make right her house
Go teach all day, then like a mouse
That finds its hole, she’ll come back home
To empty rooms – she lives alone.
No childish hands will e’er reach out
To welcome her with noisy shout.
Through poverty, renouncing all,
She can not answer to loves’ call.
She takes her chair’s accustomed place
Before the fire, brown brick to face
Night after night, brick seemed to say
We’re here, we’re constant, night and day.
“And why should you be lonely, pray?
You have your work and books, why play?
Let those who’ve life and love be gay
Your work denies you that”, they say.
“Let warmth of fire dry lonely tears;
Old age will come with none who cares –
The time is short – work must be done;
Who lives with thought lives not alone!”
This was written after a trip to Europe. The Dutch called her an American Nun, because she was a school teacher and in the early part of the 20th century female teachers lost their jobs if they married.
Today’s the day; it comes again
Year after year to say to men
You fought each other, maimed and killed
And all for what? Ah, some man willed
That it should be. Was it for gain
So many died? So many slain?
The whole wide world with sorrow filled
That some might show themselves more skilled
In slaughter? They died in vain
If what they suffered comes again.
God rest the souls of lives they spilled
And give us peace – thy love fulfilled.
Written November 11, 1936
(dedicated to -,-,-, “lost awhile”)
If all the love that’s in my heart
Were poured into the sea,
The waves would rise like mountains high
Encircling you and me.
If all the loves that’s in my heart
Could reach the great beyond
T’would plead with Heaven’s highest court
To shield you from all harm.
If all the love that’s in my heart
Could bring you back you me,
There’s naught could take you from my arms
Through all Eternity!
Written August 27, 1936
Note: "Years ago I was in the first automobile that drove down a remote road in Lee Co., Alabama. We came upon a group of darkies picking cotton. Such excitement prevailed when they saw us that the driver stopped and began blowing the horn – hence this bit of reminiscence.”
Git down on your knees, it’s time to pray.
Yonder comes Jesus a ridin’ dis way!
Ain’t no horses to pull him erlong –
‘Gin praisin’ de Lord by singin’ a song.
Look at de white folks a ridin’ too,
Oh, Lordy! Listen! Dare’s Gabriel’s horn –
It’s judgment Day, jes show’s you’re born.
Praise de lord!
Stop dat runnin’, fall on your knees!
You can’t hide out behind dem trees!
Now sing and pray. I’ll go down and see –
Ef it ain’t Mars john! Skeered de wits outer me!
Hallelujah, Glory be!
In the Hush of the Night
Far out in the woods on a wakeful night
There are sounds in the air only silence can hear
The cricket’s soft chirp, an insect’s dull flight,
The bull-frog’s bass drum, katy-dids fiddling near.
Golden lamp of the firefly flashing on leaves
Where a crick, or a cheep, form the sheltered deep
Is a low lullaby in the great spreading trees
Near a murmuring brook that sings in its sleep.
When reluctantly, dawn, on the dew-drenched hill
Awakens the trees’ choir
All the past is forgot as feathered throats fill
The renascent morn with an exquisite splendor!
Dedicated to the down-trodden of the world.
What spark has kindled in man’s soul
Throughout the eons past?
It’s liberty, it’s liberty,
It’s freedom, which must last.
What lifts him up when bout with chains
Held close by ruthless hands?
It’s hope that lives, it’s hope that gives
Him courage to with-stand.
Man may be crushed to earth by might –
The intangible lives on!
Hope wakes again and makes again
The freeman’s coming dawn.
Fourth of July on the Lake Shore
Like breeze that swept the heat away, now here, now there,
The crowd surged past, now back, now forth, unheeded
By two who were alone in this vast multitude.
They read and laughed and talked, watching the
shadows on the waves –
The spray – the white caps dancing madly on a
surface gently swaying --
While over all, lay like a gentle frost, a rose
Reflection from a sun kissed cloud on the horizon.
Then the silence of understanding love.
Fate chances few such days to mortals;
But in the crowd was one who saw and understood
Recalled such a day long past,
Stifled a sob, and walked silent on.
Written 1919, revised 1932.
Full glorious strains of beauty fill the air;
The mystery of resurrection told,
How Mary, seeking Him entombed, made bold
To ask the man she saw to tell her where
They’d borne the master – for he was not there.
She knew him not, as shivering with cold
Of early morn, blinded by tears, her soul
Cried out in anguish, seeking him in prayer.
Then Jesus spoke to her, and Mary saw
A miracle had come to pass, for He
Who spoke was He who in the tomb had slept.
She started forward with cry of joy!
The master bad her touch Him not, but be
The bearer of good news to those who wept!
Night Blooming Cereus
Oh, glamorous mystery of night
Whose perfume drowns the drowsy air –
So delicate, so pure, so white!
You steal my heart, you are so fair!
Were you a princess in your tower
Until enchantment – magic spell
By Ogre made, at midnight hour?
Did you escape in some lone dell?
What happened there so long ago
That made you find a hiding place
Beneath a leaf, and dare not show –
Until dark night – your pallid face.
“Far From the Madding Crowd”
The twilight sky is painted red and gold:
Tall oaks stretch forth moss laden boughs that make
Long shadows like a benediction fall
Across deep mirrored pools at sleeping streams.
In full blown splendor bright azaleas lean
Beyond the brink, and nod quite knowingly,
As though they heard much talk of beauty rare;
Well pleased, they blush and courtesy their thanks.
Wild fowl in stately pageant cross the pool
While overhead belated wings seek rest.
A soft good night is rustled by the leaves
And silence spreads her mantle on the earth.
Oh, blessed hush that claims life’s distraught nerves;
With toil-racked world forgot, here heart and soul
Enrapt, may find a peaceful interlude
As Dusk lets down the somber shade of night.
Written August 1937
Such a gorgeously beautiful rose!
Yet who really know how it grows,
Or why the spring showers
Bring such lovely flowers –
Why the rain and the sun
And soil work as one
Making foliage and thorn,
Painting colors of Dawn
On its soft petaled, dew drenched face
While its perfume envelopes the place?
A silence fell like autumn dew –
The time to part had come.
Each sought in other’s eyes anew
That spark which shines from some
Deep smoldering flame, that fires the soul
To light love’s endless grace.
Impassioned hands now frame a face
And trembling reach beyond –
A moment held in close embrace
And then forever gone!
For Death, the Reaper, garnered one
And one was left alone.
Grant us we pray, our souls may stay
With body, while we live.
Help age and youth to know the truth;
Blind ignorance forgive.
Be kind, oh, Lord, to all the horde
That need a “tempered wind”.
Thy love be king in everything
We do for self or friend.
When shadows fall, and evening’s call
Come faintly from afar,
Oh guide our barque, while in the dark
Alone, we “Cross the bar”.
Note: Won 2nd in religious poetry contest.
Who Stole the Lock off the Hen House Door
Who stole the lock off the hen house door?
Old Smoke found track inside on the floor.
And he ran from there to Old Pick’s door.
And the ducks saying sometime before
We know it was gone, “Pick stole”, no more:
So Pick stole the lock off the hen house door!
The turkeys, too at their morning chore
Sang out “Pick, Pick” as they ate from the floor,
Where the lock was gone form the hen house door!
We have all the proff that we need, therefore,
Chaunticleer will don his old claymore
And bring back the lock for the hen house door!
Signed: Goose-a-Loose, Chief Investigator
Hen-Pen, Chief Clerk
Fragment: A Little Bird Told
Then mother said “Why were you naughty?”
I looked at her with surprise.
“Oh, well,” she said, “my little daughter,
You wonder why I am so wise?”
A little bird out in the trees
Reports to me the things he sees.”
I always wondered how she knew
Whatever happened out at play.
I couldn’t say a thing or do
A naughty trick but what she’d say
“Nice little girls don’t act that way.”
Was it the sparrow or the jay?
Why send you my purse with it empty
Script is something I do not possess,
Earth, water and air I have plenty
And grant you your share, but no less.
If the spark of the divine that illumes me
May be kindled into a great flame
Light the world so that others may see
Then not to know how would be a shame.
I am just an American teacher
With degrees B. S. and M. A.
But would gladly become and instructor
To pass on the truth, if I may.
Only the heart that bides alone
On holidays can know each year
The dull, deep pain of long lost home,
With naught but ghosts of past for cheer.
A holiday the youngster says –
To me a day of aching heart,
For ghosts of erstwhile happy days
Go trooping, silent, by my hearth.
The day is long, and when the night
Throws silent shadows in my room
I sit and dream in soft twilight
Of happiness that passed too soon.
The hours pass as thus I deam,
For loneliness comes with the years:
Ah, someone comes, it must not seem
This day has bathed my soul in tears.
Written November 26, 1936
What can a “po gal” give a man?
Can’t decide – see’f you can:
He walks right in with Santa’s box
Of hankies, shirts, ties and sox:
With cigarettes, and even toys
That he can use to make a noise;
An envelope full of “mazuma”
With shining bottle of good humor
What he “ain’t got”, you can’t find any –
Just give the man a good luck penny!
Written Christmas 1947
I’m glad God let me live
To see this day; --
And know your love;
I go upon my way.
Knowing that you are mine
And have been so
Throughout all time,
Will be all time to come.