Four Poems: Then and Now

Sonnet 19: When I Consider How My Light Is Spent

John Milton (1608-1674)

When I consider how my light is spent,
   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide
   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Oxford, May 30, 1820

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

Ye sacred nurseries of blooming youth!
In whose collegiate shelter England’s flowers
Expand, enjoying through their vernal hours
The air of liberty, the light of truth;
Much have ye suffered from Time’s gnawing tooth,
Yet, O ye spires of Oxford! domes and towers!
Gardens and groves! your presence overpowers
The soberness of reason; till, in sooth,
Transformed, and rushing on a bold exchange,
I slight my own belovéd Cam, to range
Where silver Isis leads my stripling feet;
Pace the long avenue, or glide adown
The stream-like windings of that glorious street,—
An eager novice robed in fluttering gown!

A Chromosome Ballad

Maja Trochimczyk1

The mothers of mothers of mothers

plant seeds, care, and give birth.

The fathers of fathers of fathers

plant seeds, care, and protect.

The mothers and fathers

and sisters and brothers

come here in organized waves.

The mothers and fathers

and sisters and brothers

leave Earth after passing their tests.

When grandmas and grandpas have learned how to live,

when moms, dads, aunts, uncles shared wisdom as if

they each had a thousand-year-old treasure chest

they could open with DNA keys at their best

matched in pairs XX and XY, intertwined XX and XY

strand after strand unwinding in pairs

to give you your eyes of hazel or gray,

your hair blond or brown, skin of varied hues,

your brilliance and talents, your gifts and your moods.

Remember the pathways

they came on and left—

the mothers and fathers

of east and of west.

Old Fashioneds

Catharine Savage Brosman2

Aunt Flora learned to drink them rather late,
but not too late.  They carried her away
delightfully.  She would not hesitate
to have a second, even third.  She’d say,

“Don’t spare the bourbon; extra sugar, please.” 
Her agèd muscles tightened, and her wit,
concise and pointed, flourished with fresh ease.
“A second cherry also.”  In a bit,

she’d start a joke, the shaggy-doggie type,
enchanting us, although we knew it well
already.  Just her smile and gestures—hype
not needed—made it new and fit to tell

again.  She nearly danced, her little feet
alive with pleasure, every charming pound
(not quite one hundred) lively, in a neat
circumference.  She’d sip her drink around

the bar, eat (sparingly), then work the room.
Where were her melancholy then, her years
in bed, the somber winter, Celtic gloom?
Old miseries had melted in the cheers

of friendship and high spirits. Thank the Lord
for whiskey if it filled that ruined lung
with oxygen, expanding the accord
of breath and heart that almost made her young.


1 Maja Trochimczyk is president of Moonrise Press, She serves also as president of the California State Poetry Society and of the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club,;;;

2 Catharine Savage Brosman is professor emerita of French at Tulane University; [email protected]. Her book, Arm in Arm: Poems was published in 2022 by Mercer University Press.

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