*The poems reproduced below are featured in Rachel Duane’s piece “Four Humble Creatures” in Issue 1 of Notes on American Letters.
An August Midnight
A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands. . . .
Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
—My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
‘God’s humblest, they!’ I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.
When the mole goes digging
He never meets a soul;
The stars are inattentive
To the notions of the mole.
He digs his frantic tunnel
Through chalk and clay and slime
His never-ending tunnel
A mouthful at a time.
Alone: no planet bothers
To tell him where to dig:
For moles are very little
And worlds are very big.
And when his tunnel ceases
The little mole lies stark,
And at his back is dimness
And at his head, the dark.
So to the mole all honor
And the labors of the mole,
With doubtfulness for tunnel
And ignorance for goal
The little caterpillar creeps
Awhile before in silk it sleeps.
It sleeps awhile before it flies.
And flies awhile before it dies.
And that’s the end of three good tries.
HARDY, THOMAS. “AN AUGUST MIDNIGHT.”
MAYO, E.L. “THE MOLE.” COLLECTED POEMS. ATHENS: THE OHIO UNIVERSITY PRESS/SWALLOW PRESS, 1981.
MCCORD, DAVID. “COCOON.” ONE AT A TIME. LITTLE BROWN & CO., 1949. (FIRST APPEARED IN THE NEW YORKER)