Today the Wind

for Elizabeth

Today the wind through winter’s unclad bones
Drowns in its woeful howl my soul’s discant;
Beyond, a distant hunter’s oliphant
Salutes the dead beneath their frost-bound stones.

Today the wind sweet music’s loss bemoans,
No more to laud, beneath this canopy
Of slate-grey clouds, thy beauty’s panoply:
Boreas blows his low, hibernal drones.

Oh, be it given me to turn the groans
Of the expiring year to song, and grant
That thy fair radiance release my chant,
On love’s warm wings, to heaven’s starry zones!


The Higher Charms

for Elizabeth

It was a dream, or so I thought,
The subtle fire behind thy look…
Rare the creature that ever caught
My fancy, save within a book,
And rarer still the lass who both
The inner and the outer eye
Could please so keenly by her troth,
And make me sigh.

“No dream!” the voice of all things real
Exclaimed, though not in words, to me.
“The hour has come to break the seal
“Of one last scroll, obscure to thee,
“The scroll of Highest Being whose charms
“Ignite thy true love’s beaming eye
“That captivates, and then disarms,
“To make thee sigh.”

On looking up, at once I knew
Why some men faint and some men flee,
Why some fatigue the ocean blue
With wandering from sea to sea,
But why the best reel in the ropes
To moor their boat for love’s bright eye,
And hang their honor, fortune, hopes,
Upon a sigh.


Love’s Gift

for Elizabeth

We twain look on each other to behold
The sacrifice of each in worldly death,
That Love alone inspire our souls with breath,
Beyond the setting of our suns of old.

Love’s gift is blood. The thorn and not the rose
Gives royal weight to the perduring crown;
And yet, be it of straw or rag or down,
Love’s pillow soothes the head of fortune’s woes.

All pastimes waste, all fleeting pleasures cloy,
The land of desires lay bare and in ruin;
Its sky is a void no bird ever flew in,
Its happiness a counterfeit of joy.

Lift thy fair countenance to heaven’s rain
Of benedictions falling from on high:
Love is the hierophant of earth and sky,
The minister of jubilance and pain.

Here is the gate. Here, take its golden key:
Love’s secret garden blooms in every season,
Beyond the noise of argument and reason,
Receive its Sacrament on bended knee!

©Joseph Charles MacKenzie


Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet, the only American to have won Scottish International Poetry Competition. His poetry has appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), US News and World Report, Google News, and many other outlets. He writes primarily for the Society of Classical Poets (New York) and Trinacria (New York). MacKenzie has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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14 Responses

  1. Evan Mantyk

    Dear, Mr. MacKenzie, I have recently attempted a love poem and it has illuminated for me, further, your exquisite command of verse as well as the purity of the theme: love that is devotional, monogamous, selfless, and deeply spiritual. It is a rarity and precious treasure in this day and age. Thank you!

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Mr. Mantyk,

      The qualities you have discerned in these verses are wholly derivative, a mere reflection of the incomparable beauty and virtue of the woman who inspired them.

      All good wishes!

  2. David Watt

    There are numerous memorable lines within this trio of love poems.
    I was particularly struck by the expressiveness of the following couplets:
    ‘To moor their boat for love’s bright eye,
    And hang their honor, fortune, hopes,
    Upon a sigh.’
    and also:
    ‘And yet, be it of straw or rag or down,
    Love’s pillow soothes the head of fortune’s woes.’

    Thank you for these uplifting poems.

  3. James Sale

    Some lovely expressions in these fine poems, and my favourite is the brilliant last stanza to The Higher Charms, which exactly captures the disturbing nature of the female to the male. People talk of non-heterosexual sex as if this were living ‘adventurously’, or living on the ‘edge’. How boring to be ‘straight’; however, the reality, as Joseph Mackenzie’s poem illustrates, is just the reverse: it is the ‘otherness’ of women that is such an insoluble and mystical mystery, and attraction. In same sex how could there be mystery, for we know ourselves? What is there about a man I don’t already know, already feel, for I am one? But the presence of a woman, that is altogether and absolutely different. It is, of course, why it is such a powerful metaphor for the rapprochement between God and mankind: the Bride and the Bridegroom, the divine and the human. I would point out that Mackenzie’s use – as a verb – of the word ‘fatigue’ is especially telling. Excellent work.

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Mr. Sale,

      What I appreciate most about your comment is that it is underwritten by the Christian perspective characterizing all my work, albeit more explicitly represented in the third poem, but which you have nevertheless and quite correctly discerned in the second as well. And you certainly lead us to think (something you do quite often!) of all those wonderful realities—by no means limited to the Mystical Marriage or the dynamics of men and women—the crass denial of which has rendered modernism utterly incapable of producing amatory verse in any meaningful sense. You address the crisis indirectly but through profound insight for which I think we can all of us be grateful, indeed.

  4. C.B. Anderson


    Once again you have managed to unite the love of the divine with connubial love, but this should surprise no one. The Holy Sacraments unite the lover and the beloved instantaneously, on all possible levels. And is this not how we should conceive the idea (and ideal) of heaven on earth?

  5. Bruce E. Wren

    Beautiful, Joseph. I am amazed at how your lyric capacity waxes with the years, instead of waning. I am awaiting a new publication… perhaps similar to Sonnets to Christ the King, but rather your lyrical works that are not sonnets? Have a blessed Lent.

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you, Bruce, for your kind remarks about the waxing of lyric verse which, in my particular case, is the fruit of contemplation. And yes, I have received many requests for a new book of love poems not necessarily limited to the sonnet form by any means and have decided to pursue this project to completion.


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