Summer, do your worst!

Three poems by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) used her talents to speak her mind through a candid pen.
  • Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) used her talents to speak her mind through a candid pen.

August

  • When my eyes are weeds,
  • And my lips are petals, spinning
  • Down the wind that has beginning
  • Where the crumpled beeches start
  • In a fringe of salty reeds;
  • When my arms are elder-bushes,
  • And the rangy lilac pushes
  • Upward, upward through my heart;
  • Summer, do your worst!
  • Light your tinsel moon, and call on
  • Your performing stars to fall on
  • Headlong through your paper sky;
  • Nevermore shall I be cursed
  • By a flushed and amorous slattern,
  • With her dusty laces’ pattern
  • Trailing, as she straggles by. 

A Very Short Song

  • Once, when I was young and true,
  • Someone left me sad —
  • Broke my brittle heart in two;
  • And that is very bad.
  • Love is for unlucky folk,
  • Love is but a curse.
  • Once there was a heart I broke;
  • And that, I think, is worse.

A Dream Lies Dead

  • A dream lies dead here. May you softly go 
  • Before this place, and turn away your eyes, 
  • Nor seek to know the look of that which dies 
  • Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe, 
  • But, for a little, let your step be slow. 
  • And, of your mercy, be not sweetly wise 
  • With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies. 
  • A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know: 
  • Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree — 
  • Though white of bloom as it had been before 
  • And proudly waitful of fecundity — 
  • One little loveliness can be no more; 
  • And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head 
  • Because a dream has joined the wistful dead! 

Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) was an American writer, known for her poetry, short stories, and criticism, much of which was infused with a unique satirical style popular even to this day. Defined by her acerbic wit — she is often considered a successor of sorts to Oscar Wilde — she used her talents to speak her mind through a candid pen about the folly and vanity of the 20th Century. Her poetry, though, often shows an equally tender side to her talent. A founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, she established her literary footing through publication in The New Yorker before heading west to try her hand at Hollywood screenwriting, a career abridged after being blacklisted for her left-wing politics.

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