"Ars Poetica"

By Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute   

As a globed fruit,

 

Dumb

As old medallions to the thumb,

 

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone

Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

 

A poem should be wordless   

As the flight of birds.

 

                         *               

 

A poem should be motionless in time   

As the moon climbs,

 

Leaving, as the moon releases

Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

 

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,   

Memory by memory the mind—

 

A poem should be motionless in time   

As the moon climbs.

 

                         *               

 

A poem should be equal to:

Not true.

 

For all the history of grief

An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

 

For love

The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

 

A poem should not mean   

But be.