Poetry Sunday: Poems by Lee Harlin Bahan

 272: Bad trip

Life runs away, not stopping for a break,
and Death pounds right behind like infantry,
and past and present things embattle me,
and eventualities also attack,

and memory and anticipation rock
my heart—up, down, back, forth—so, honestly,
if not for showing myself a little mercy,
I now would be past thoughts that make me ache.

If some place did my sad heart good, I head
there in my mind; then, on the other hand,
I see wild gusts put sailing on in doubt;

I see a storm in port, the pilot dead
on his feet, masts broken, fabric flapping, and
the pretty lights I used to make for, out.


289: Castiglione

Torch of my soul, the fairest of the fair,
whom Heaven showed friendship and courtesy
while here, has gone back, somewhat soon for me,
to her native country and deserving star.

Now I begin to wake and comprehend
that her sweet, stern face tempered my desire
and youthful lusts with which I was on fire,
for the better. I thank her for it and

for high-minded advice, that, with her looks
and gentle ridicule, made me think how
I might be saved from the fever in my blood.

Oh, subtle arts with apposite effects:
one works with words, the other quirks her brow.
I make her famous and she makes me good.


321: Laura in Disguise at Sunset

Is this my firebird’s birthplace, where she decked
herself in gold and crimson plumes, and kept
my heart beneath her wings, and is adept
as ever at getting it to sigh and speak?

O sweet rootstock from which I grew sick,
where has the face gone from whose good looks leapt
sparks keeping me on fire, alive and rapt?
Unique on earth, you rejoice with Heaven’s flock.

And since you left me destitute and lonely,
sad to say, I always am returning
where I enshrine and bless your memory,

watching the shadows flicker, hills burning
black where you flew into eternity,
and once upon a time your eyes created morning.


From A Year of Mourning: Poems 271-322 of Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta © Lee Harlin Bahan, 2017. Used by permission of Able Muse Press and available here.


Lee Harlin Bahan is the author of A Year of Mourning, translations of poems 271-322 from Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, a special honoree for the 2016 Able Muse Book Award. Bahan earned her MFA through the Division of Continuing Studies of Indiana University-Bloomington where Migration Solo, her MFA thesis, won the first Indiana Poetry Chapbook Contest and was published by the Writers Center Press of Indianapolis. A second chapbook, Notes to Sing, was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press, the publisher of a forthcoming book, To Wrestle with the Angel: Sonnets from Petrarch’s “Chapbook” of 1337. Bahan has taught at DePauw University and was an Artist in Education for the Indiana Arts Commission and a resident at the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts. Her poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, and the North American Review, and her translations have appeared in Natural Bridge, Southern Humanities Review, and Flying Island. She lives with her husband in a hundred-year-old farmhouse outside Medora, IN. [Author photo by Pat Bahan.]


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  • Ivette February 25, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Hi, love reading these amazing poems which describes so much of each writer. I am not a poet yet I love to express my inner most feeling in writing and just yesterday I wrote a few lines that cam from my heart as a poet. Am I a poet? I don’t know.
    Where can I post some of what I wrote and can someone tell me if they constitute as poetry?