An Invitation To Join In
In sharing this Poetry page with friends and well-wishers my hope is to stimulate a dialogue about poetry.
I invite you to submit, via the Contact page, a favourite published poem which you have read so that we can share it here. It would be greatly appreciated if you'd add a few words on what it is you like about the poem.
Night, and the rush through empty air.
How small each burst, how held in space,
how we wait for just such a rush of scenes,
how I try to be in more than one window
when you look up and the train goes by
too fast to read. How can you see me,
small in the rush through empty air,
so small in the stream of window light?
Look up, my love, don't read the words.
You know the words. They're not my words.
Poem posted on Wednesday 14th November 2018.
You can't persuade the carnival to stay.
Wish all you like, it has to go away.
Don't let the way it moves on get you down.
If it stayed put, how could it come to town?
How could there be the oompah and the thump
Of drums, the trick dogs barking as they jump?
The girl in pink tights and gold headache-band
Still smiling upside down in a hand stand?
These wonders get familiar by the last
Night of the run. A miracle fades fast.
You spot the pulled thread on a leotard.
Those double somersaults don't look so hard.
Can't you maintain your childish hunger? No.
They know that in advance. They have to go,
Not to return until they're something new
For anybody less blasé than you.
The carnival, the carnival. You grieve,
Knowing the day must come when it will leave.
But that was why her silver slippers shone -
Because the carnival would soon be gone.
Poem posted on Sunday 11th November 2018.
A handbrake turn on a hair-pin bend.
Merry-go-round? No, the waltzer.
A touch as bold as rum and peppermint.
Chewing gum and whelks, a whiff
of diesel, crocus, cuckoo spit.
The moves of a half-broken pony.
A poacher's tickle and snare.
I will lay you down
on a bed of nettles and blackthorn.
Your body will give way like grain,
your body will veer:
smoke over a torched field
as the wind takes and turns it.
The grip of bluebells.
The grip of wattle and daub.
As near as twelve lay-bys,
as far as a Friday night lock-in.
By this are we bound.
Poem posted on Wednesday 7th November 2018.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Notes: Robert Lee Frost was born on 26 March 1874 in San Francisco, California, USA. Although an American poet, his poetry was initially published in England. During his lifetime he received many literary honours and awards and in 1961 was named Poet Laureate of Vermont. Frost died on 29 January 1963 in Boston, Mass., and is buried in the Bennington Cemetery, Vermont.
See also Frost's 'The Road Not Taken', posted here on Wednesday 29 Nov. 2017.
Poem posted on Saturday 3rd November 2018.
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me;
"Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill".
Robert Louis Stevenson
Poem posted on Wednesday 31st October 2018.
In the Great Rift, the wildebeest wheel and run,
Spooked by a pride of lions which would kill,
In any thousand of them, only one
Or two were they to walk or just stand still.
They can't see that, nor can we see the tide
Of land go slowly out on either side,
As Africa and Asia come apart
Inexorably like a broken heart.
We measure everything by our brief lives
And pity most a life cut shorter yet.
Granddaughters get smacked if they play with knives,
Or should be, to make sure they don't forget.
So think the old folk, by their years made wise,
Believing what they've seen before their eyes,
And knowing what time is, and where it goes.
Deep on the ocean floor, the lava flows.
Poem posted on Saturday 27th October 2018.
We have no choice.
It is in our particulars and variables
to write noise.
One among us, a knight,
drank his weaponry
and woke to speak swords.
He called for feathers.
Hurt by his cries
they choked him with feathers.
A stranger might think us blessed.
Poem posted on Wednesday 24th October 2018.
I have crawled out at last
far as I dare onto a bough
of country that is suspended
between sky and sea.
From what was I escaping?
There is a rare peace here,
though the aeroplanes buzz me,
reminders of that abyss,
deeper than sea or sky, civilisation
could fall into. Strangers
advance, inching their way
out, so that the branch bends
further away from the scent
of the cloud blossom. Must
I console myself
with reflections? There are
times even the mirror
is misted by one breathing
over my shoulder. Clinging
to my position, witnessing
the seasonal migrations,
I must try to content
myself with the perception
that love and truth have
no wings, but are resident
like me here, practising
their sub-song quietly in the face
of the bitterest of winters.
R.S. Thomas (from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M. Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Saturday 20th October 2018.
He built a sentence as he would a house of cards.
His father's compass proposed the invisible.
The world rushed into telephones and streetlamps.
Electromagnetism was the family business.
At sixteen he finessed a paper on the state of the ether.
He admired the scientific as an insistence on standing apart
but found himself too close or too much alone.
He professed a lack of imagination
but a disposition towards abstract thought.
He conceived reality without fixture
and in contemplation, emptied himself of himself.
He put ideas into words as if addressing an envelope
and slipped past mathematics till he needed it.
Poem posted on Wednesday 17th October 2018.
(the final poem, from 'Spurn Sextet')
Round the point it turns and seeps;
The sea-borne tide creeps
Across the empty shining flats
Of liquid river mud,
Rippling, rippling on itself in calm advance,
Slowly to quench the shallows' thirst.
The sun, to the right,
Arcs low to view itself the more
In the punctual water's washing flood;
And blazoned gongs of evening hues evaporate
To hide the far-stretched shore,
Except for pinioned points of marking light.
The tide has turned. Yes. It soon shall peak
At the zenith of a stealthy race
With itself to swim ahead;
And I, within my windowed walls, will seek
To climb aboard the gangway to my launch of sleep,
And cruise to rest's embrace -
Moor my bobbing rafts of thought on tidal hold
In the haven of my bed.
Robin Dermond Horspool, 2017.
'Spurn Sextet', Poems in Praise of The Point.
Poem posted on Saturday 13th October 2018.
Let this friendly window
lit by the evening sun
be the beacon;
but listen well
to the smouldering language
lighting up the windows
of the cottage down the road.
Note: Written on holiday in Wales at a time when protesters were burning homes sold to/for holiday occupiers: 'Trehafod', Welsh: summer dwelling.
Poem posted on Wednesday 10th October 2018.
The Coast : Norfolk
As on the highway's quiet edge
He mows the grass beside the hedge,
The old man has for company
The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
A poppied field, a cow and calf,
The finches on the telegraph.
Across his faded back a hone
He slowly, slowly scythes alone
In silence of the wind-soft air,
With ladies' bedstraw everywhere,
With whitened corn, and tarry poles,
And far-off gulls like risen souls.
Poem posted on Saturday 6th October 2018.
One more mountain, just the one,
one more trip away with Mum,
one more apple rhubarb pie,
one more amber-lilac sky.
One more chocolate - plain and dark,
a peacock and a national park.
Arctic iceberg, Shetland sheep
and one more really good night's sleep.
One more day of blazing heat,
one more friend I'd like to meet,
one more bike ride, one more hike, I'd
talk to every bird and bee,
I'd soak them up, I'd set them free
with paint, with words, perhaps a song.
Life is short and life is long,
so quickly please, before it's gone,
just one more poem.
Note: This poem is printed here by the kind permission of Laura Mucha, and taken from her website.
Poem posted on Wednesday 3rd October 2018.
We walk the golden way, my love,
where bitter waters run.
We gaze into the overloaded view
Like the fields, give up your shape,
Be neither his nor hers, my love,
be mine, unbutton.
The yellow heat of marigold,
saxifrage and celandine
is not what burns your throat, my love,
just what fills your mind.
Poem posted on Saturday 29th September 2018.
It was the bottles that did it,
In the shopping bag
pulling against my fingers
leaving them stiff and bruised,
the way my small son,
so eager to go to school
on that very first day,
dragged against my hand,
his own safe and square
and dependable, while I,
in that moment of separation
felt a bruise spreading
from my empty hand
to the stiff smile on my face.
This poem by Nuala Fagan is shared by Susan Benton; our thanks go to both.
Poem posted on Wednesday 26th September 2018.
I am the echo of the man you knew.
Launched from the look-out to the other side
Of this blue valley, my voice calls to you
All on its own, and more direct for that.
My line of sweet talk you could not abide
Came from the real man. It will all be gone -
Like glitter back to the magician's hat -
Soon now, and only sad scraps will remain.
His body that betrayed you has gone on
To do the same for him. Like veils of rain,
He is the cloud that his tears travel through.
When the cloud lifts, he will be gone indeed.
Hearing his cry, you'll see the ghost gums break
Into clear air, as all the past is freed
From false hopes. No, I nowhere lie awake
To feel this happen, but I know it will.
At the last breath, my throat was full of song;
The proof, for a short while, is with you still.
Though snapped at sharply by the whipbird's call,
It has not stopped. It lingers for your sake:
Almost as if I were not gone for long -
And what you hear will not fade as I fall.
Poem posted on Saturday 22nd September 2018.
Dreams of Separation
I keep leaving the room.
Each aspect or urgency that finds no place
in the current arrangement
takes itself outside.
They gather softly, like a wood, and wait.
Each night another room grows empty.
I find myself mostly outside.
The howling mansion.
The hyper-dimensional wood.
Poem posted on Wednesday 19th September 2018.
Never ate better
than lunch prepared by Vegan
I pick one window,
produce fantasies from facts
that I'll never know.
Accompanying watercolour painted by my daughter Jeannie Clarke - you can see more of her work here !
Haiku posted on Saturday 8th September 2018.
I could write you reams
still unchronicled by this
old man on his dreams.
Accompanying watercolour portrait of me painted by my talented daughter Jeannie Clarke - you can see more of her work here.
Haiku posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018.
On A Thin Gold Chain
Opals have storms in them, the legend goes:
They brim with water held in place by force
To stir the dawn, to liquefy the rose,
To make the sky flow. They are cursed, of course:
Great beauty often is. But they are blessed
As well, so long as she herself gives light
Who wears them. Shoulders bare, you were the guest
At the garden table on a summer night
Whose face lent splendour to the candle flame
While that slight trinket echoing your eyes
Swam in its colours. What a long, long game
We've played. Quick now, before somebody dies:
Have you still got that pendant? Can I see?
And have you kept it dark to punish me?
Poem posted on Saturday 1st September 2018.
Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun's light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M. Dent, 1993)
Please see 'They' (posted Sat. 28th Oct 17)
Poem posted on Wednesday 29th August 2018.
A Dutch Landscape for Isla McGuire
I was telling you what Fromentin said
about walking around inside the painting
when, half-blind, you pulled out a spyglass
and settled at an irrelevant distance.
Two weeks later when we said goodbye,
your gaze sought me inside myself
like someone peering through a telescope
across dark fields.
You saw your patients through their sleep
as if the body, now unframed, were space
unfolding into space, field in field.
And somewhere in the dark, the child.
How long the sky retains its brightness
when sky is so much of it.
Poem posted on Saturday 25th August 2018.
Only our love hath no decay;
This no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday,
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.
-from 'The Anniversary'
Poem posted on Wednesday 22nd August 2018.
Some marched, some sailed, some flew to join the war,
And not a few were brought home on their shields.
My heart is with those voiceless ones. They were
The harvest of the broken-hearted fields,
And I drew fortune from their bitter lack
Of any luck. Silent, my father stands
Before me now, as if he had come back,
While this lament, whose beauty never ends,
Not even with its final grandeur, casts
Its nets of melody to hold me still
Beneath his empty eyes. How long it lasts,
That spell, though it is just a little while.
Then he is gone again. The world returns:
Babylon, where the Tower of Babel burns.
Poem posted on Saturday 18th August 2018.
A dance between movement and space,
between image and imperative.
Each step an arrival
of the familiar within the unknown.
The gravity of form
and the mechanism of each gesture
as profound ad dissolved
as the body's memory of a stranger
who said nothing but in passing
met with you in stillness
wanting to go no faster than this.
Poem posted on Wednesday 15th August 2018.
Windows Is Shutting Down
Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.
Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must of meant to had.
The meteor have it. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.
Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.
Pome posted on Saturday 11th August 2018.
The stillness of paintings!
Move stealthily so
as not to disturb.
They are not asleep.
They keep watch on
our taste. It is not they
are being looked at
but we by faces
which over the centuries
keep their repose. Such eyes
they have as steadily,
while crowds come and
crowds go, burn on
with art's crocus flame
in their enamelled sockets.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M. Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Wednesday 8th August 2018.
My niece is heading here to stay with us.
Before she leaves home she takes careful stock
Of what she might not know again for years.
The berries (so she writes) have been brought in,
But she'll be gone before the peaches come.
On days of burning sun, the air is tinged
With salt and eucalyptus. 'Why am I
Leaving all this behind? I feel a fool.'
But I can tell from how she writes things down
The distance will assist her memories
To take full form. She travels to stay still.
I wish I'd been that smart before I left.
Instead, I have to dig deep for a trace
Of how the beach was red hot underfoot,
The green gold of the Christmas beetle's wing.
Poem posted on Saturday 4th August 2018
A bird that can sing itself to earth as sky mirror
as if to prove there is no fall that is not reflection.
I will not - three notes, ultra coloratura.
On a clear day, life streams violet from black feathers.
Ice takes softer shape, black feathers.
I mean I will not speak of this - this colour - again.
Poem posted on Wednesday 1st August 2018.
By the Cam
Tonight I think this landscape could
easily swallow me: I'm smothering
in marshland, wet leaves, brown
creepers, puddled in
rain and mud, one little gulp and
I'll be gone without a splutter:
into the night, flood, November, rot and
river-scud. Scoopwheeled for drainage.
And by winter the fen will be brittle and
pure again, an odd, tough, red leaf frozen
out of its year into the ice of the gutter.
Poem posted on Saturday 28th July 2018.
Sowing Peas and Singing
Sowing peas and singing,
I heard a thrush chopping
the morning-brittle air into crotchets
and splintering semi-quavers
high above my own
At the end of one cadenza
the thrush slid off its stave
to snatch a worm
one of us had awakened -
captive treble clef
in a pincered beak; replete
the thrush excreted, delicately,
perhaps to emphasize a point,
struck up aloft, regained its higher register
and, with a farewell encore,
stilled my sowing,
killed my singing.
(from 'Slipping The Tugs')
Poem posted on Wednesday 25th July 2018.
So great a storm I rose in the night,
my mind in the hills, a dream of lateness.
What was it in my countenance
that made them harness thirty horses?
When at last they pulled together
we travelled with such speed and force
the driver threw the reins aside:
'Everything that's for us is against us.
We're going nowhere tonight.'
Poem posted on Saturday 21st July 2018.
I remember, I remember
I remember, I remember
The house were I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping through at morn:
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!
I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The violets and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday, -
The tree is living yet!
I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!
I remember, I remember
The first trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
Bot now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heav'n
Than when I was a boy.
(1799 - 1845)
Poem posted on Wednesday 18th July 2018.
She was wearing coral taffeta trousers
Someone had brought her from Isfahan,
And a little gold coat with pomegranate blossoms,
And the coral-hafted feather fan,
But she ran down a Kentish lane in the moonlight,
And skipped in the pool of moon as she ran.
She cared not a rap for all the big planets,
For Betelgeuse or Aldebaran,
And all the big planets cared nothing for her,
That small impertinent charlatan,
But she climbed on a Kentish style in the moonlight,
And laughed at the sky through the sticks if her fan.
(1892 - 1962)
Poem posted on Saturday 14th July 2018.
Day's fondest moments are at dawn,
Refreshed by his long sleep, the light
Kisses the languid lips of Night
Ere she can rise and hasten on.
All glowing from his dreamless rest
He holds her closely to his breast,
And sees her dusky eyes grow dim,
Till, lo! she dies for love of him.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
(1850 - 1919)
Poem posted on Wednesday 11th July 2018.
They made the grey stone
Blossom, setting it on a branch
Of the mind; airy cathedrals
Grew, trembling at the tip
Of their breathing; delicate palaces
Hung motionless in the gold,
Unbelievable sunrise. They praised
With rapt forms such as the blind hand
Dreamed, journeying to its sad
Nuptials. We come too late
On the scene, pelted with the stone
Flowers' bitter confetti.
(from ' Collected Poems 1945-1990, J.M. Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Saturday 7th July 2018.
To My Mother
Most near, most dear, most loved and most far,
Under the window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais, most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her, -
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.
She will not glance up at the bomber, or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all my faith, and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.
(1913 - 1991)
Poem posted on Wednesday 4th July 2018.
On the Grasshopper and Cricket
The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's - he takes the lead
In summer luxury, - he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.
(1795 - 1821)
Poem posted on Saturday 30th June 2018.
Suggesting this work by American poet Raymond Carver, LJ Watson says:-
"... I wanted to send over one of my favourite poems. It's a Raymond Carver and it made me think of the Summer Solstice and celebrating the longest day of the year. Also I love how Carver is so succinct with his words yet still conveys so much meaning and such a vivid story. I hope you like it."
Suppose I Say Summer
Suppose I say summer,
write the word "hummingbird",
put it in an envelope,
take it down the hill to the box.
When you open my letter you will recall those days and how much, just how
much, I love you.
I'm sure our readers will appreciate this poem, LJ, and I hope be moved to send us the text of one of their own favourite published poems. Maurice.
Poem posted on Wednesday 27th June 2018.
Jack Sparling writes:-
"I thought I'd share a poem that stuck with me when I read it at school, I like the themes of growing up and independence using Batman's sidekick Robin metaphorically."
Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
to grow up, then let me loose to wander
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
as you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
in the gutter ... well, I turned the corner.
Now I've scotched that 'he was like a father
to me' rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
on that 'he was like an elder brother'
story, let the cat out on that caper
with the married woman, how you took her
downtown on expenses in the motor.
Holy roll-me-over-in the-clover,
I'm not playing ball boy any longer
Batman, now I've doffed that off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
now I'm taller, harder, stronger, older.
Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
you without a shadow, stewing over
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
next to nothing in the walk-in larder,
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
you baby, now I'm the real boy wonder.
Thank you for sharing this favourite with us, Jack.
Poem posted on Saturday 23rd June 2018.
Welcome to Wales
Come to Wales
To be buried: the undertaker
Will arrange it for you. We have
The sites and a long line
Of clients going back
To the first milkman who watered
His honour. How they endow
Our country with their polished
Memorials! No one lives
In our villages, but they dream
Of returning from the rigours
Of the pound's climate. Why not
Try it? We can always raise
Some mourners, and the amens
Are ready. This is what
Chapels are for; their varnish
Wears well and will go
With most coffins. Let us
Quote you; our terms
Are the lowest, and we offer,
Dirt cheap, a place where
It is lovely to lie.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M. Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Wednesday 20th June 2018.
Drawn from his fold on the mean mountain
the brittle man of Wales shuffles blank dominoes
and builds, on the shards of his father's dreams,
this meaner mountain, where grieving winds
polish the grim sarcophagus at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
We watch - but from a decent distance - the dismembering
of another's way of life, hewn, sawn, split and split again
to a wafer thin, then leaving the man spitting the dust
of his own drear day, well entertained we drive away
past trim rhododendron mountains, to tea and toast
on a silver tray with damask cloth at Betws-y-Coed,
and ladies with trim white hair and brown moustaches.
(from 'Slipping The Tugs')
Poem posted on Saturday 16th June 2018.
Sunday started with a buzzard trepanning
the treetops across the valley's head.
A wren sharpened its quick knife
on the bright steel of day.
In clear tones a chaffinch ministered matins
without a trace of dialect, and magpies
debated the case for black and white.
The sunlit afternoon was witnessed,
in Jehovah's name, by two young men,
one black, one white; black spoke the word
while white held the watchtower.
A rabbit plundered the private plot
and we forgave its trespass,
on Sunday at Blaenwern.
(from 'Slipping The Tugs')
Poem posted on Wednesday 13th June 2018.
We began by being very close.
Moving nearer I found
he was further off, presence
being replaced by shadow;
the nearer the light, the larger
the shadow. Imagine the torment
of the discovery that it was growing
small. Is there a leak somewhere
in the mind that would comprehend
him? Not even to be able to say,
pointing: Here Godhead was spilled.
I had a belief once that even
a human being left his stain
in places where he had occurred.
Now it is all clinical light
pouring into the interstices
where mystery could linger
questioning credentials of the divine
fossil, sterilising our thought
for its launching into its own outer space.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990, J.M. Dent, 1993. For biog details see 'They' posted Sat. 28.10.17)
Poem posted on Saturday 9th June 2018.
A Worm fed on the Heart of Corinth
A worm fed on the heart of Corinth,
Babylon and Rome:
Not Paris raped tall Helen,
But this incestuous worm,
Who lured her vivid beauty
To this amorphous sleep.
England! famous as Helen
Is thy betrothal sung
To him the shadowless,
More amorous than Solomon.
1890 - 1918
For biographical detail scroll back to 'Returning, We hear the Larks', posted Wed 1st November 2017.
Poem posted on Wednesday 6th June 2018.
On the Other Side of the Door
On the other side of the door
I can be a different me,
As smart and as brave and as funny or strong
As a person could want to be.
There's nothing too hard for me to do,
There's no place I can't explore
Because everything can happen
On the other side of the door.
On the other side of the door
I don't have to go alone.
If you come, too, we can sail tall ships
And fly where the wind has flown.
And wherever we go, it is almost sure
We'll find what we were looking for
Because everything can happen
On the other side of the door.
Jeffrey Arnold Moss (1942 - 1998) was an American composer, lyricist and playwright, best known as the writer of the TV programme 'Sesame Street'.
Poem posted on Saturday 2nd June 2018.
At the Railway Station, Upway
'There is not much I can do,
For I have no money that's quite my own!'
Spoke the pitying child -
A little boy with a violin
At the station before the train came in, -
But I can play my fiddle to you,
And a nice one 'tis, and good in tone!'
The man in the handcuffs smiled;
The constable looked, and he smiled, too,
As the fiddle began to twang;
And the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang
With grimful glee:
'This life so free
Is the thing for me!'
And the constable smiled, and said no word,
As if unconscious of what he heard;
And so they went on till the train came in -
The convict, and boy with the violin.
Poem posted on Wednesday 30th May 2018.
I heard that they've got Einstein's brain
just sitting in a jar.
I don't know where they keep it,
but I hope it isn't far.
I need to go and borrow it
to help me with this test.
I've answered twenty questions
but on every one I guessed.
If someone asks you where I've gone,
then kindly please explain
I'll be right back; I've just gone out
to look for Einstein's brain.
American Children's Poet Laureate, 2013.
Poem posted on Saturday 26th May 2018.
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue, deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.-
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under the green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come coughing from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
(1893 - 1918)
Some poems fit comfortably into seasonal slots: today's poem, kindly shared with us by Charlotte Jenkins, doesn't fit comfortably into any time slot; nor should it.
Wilfred Edward Slater Owen was born in Oswestry, Shropshire. From the age of nineteen he became immersed in poetry; his sole ambition, to be a poet. The 'Great War' made him a soldier poet. Sadly, he was killed by a bullet on 4th November 1918, just a week before the armistice. Arguably the greatest of our WW1 poets, he is one of sixteen commemorated on a stone in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, on which is carved, in Owen's own words, 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The Poetry is in the pity'.
Poem posted on Wednesday 23rd May 2018.
Solo in Three Parts
boy is brown and blessed
with a wheelchair, arms and hands
for manoeuvring it, and knees
to grip the cello. When the wheelchair stops
his hands tune the cello to the wind
and the strings are his voice.
boy is black and blessed
with ostrich legs; his arms and hands
ebony back-scratchers, just one
is strong enough to hold the begging bowl
that plays a hollow tune
and his belly is the echo.
boy is blond and blessed
with a father in Wisconsin
who fought his war and went.
This child of dust holds a paper cornet
of peanuts for sale at Ho Chi Minh,
and listens for the music in the wind.
(from 'Slipping The Tugs')
Written after seeing three separate, though not disparate, harrowing items on TV world news, in the very early 1980s.
Poem posted on Saturday 19th May 2018.
(i.m. Alice Maud Gray, 1890 - 1970)
Often she calls us back to her
time, ten shillings a week and all
the fresh air of a sooty Hull street,
guarding herself against neighbours,
two bricks in her half-starved grate;
time fear changed its name
from Zeppelin to Relief Office,
her sewing machine indispensable
luxury, gone for a child's new shoes;
Time of her once higher-standing
headstrong on an unglued wooden chair
stippling the stairway walls two-tone
distemper, old gold going modern;
time humming-happy crotcheting
the milk-white woollen poodle
to dress her bottle of cologne
with love she handed down;
time and time again a trim size ten,
vulnerable, tough as a hill-bred cob,
sniffing in rain and wind,
tongue sharp as her brain;
time with her at our table
where again today she sits in
on talk from Rawcliffe Grove
to East Mount Avenue; how
we'd walk her to her bus for home,
the mystery of the dark
Italian eyes her secret
kept beyond our lost goodbyes.
(from 'And Saturday Is Christmas', Shoestring Press, 2011)
Poem posted on Wednesday 16th May 2018.
Letter to N.Y.
In your letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures are you pursuing:
taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,
and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,
and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,
and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.
Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.
Elizabeth Bishop was born on 8th February 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, and when she was only eight months old her father died. Five years later her mother, having become mentally ill, was institutionalised to live the rest of her life in an asylum. Elizabeth was to endure an unsettled childhood and youth being shuttled from pillar to post to live with one faction of the family after another, some in straitened circumstances, others more well-to-do. Against this background it is hardly surprising that there was never a close relationship between mother and daughter. As an adult, Elizabeth settled in Boston, Mass., where she died on 6th October 1979, a successful poet and Pulizer Prize winner.
'Letter to N.Y.' is written as a letter about a letter which doesn't yet exist other than in the fretful imaginings of the poet. As such, its composition is, in the best sense of the word, clever. An admirable achievement!
Poem posted on Saturday 12th May 2018.
Bee! I'm expecting you!
Bee! I'm expecting you!
Was saying yesterday
To somebody you know
That you were due -
The Frogs got Home last Week -
Are settled and at work -
Birds, mostly black -
The Clover warm and thick -
You'll get my letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me -
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on 10th December 1830 at the family home in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. She never married, and was destined to live a reclusive life writing her own brand of poetry which publishers felt obliged to tweak in line with with convention. She grew to favour dressing in white, and when she died on 15th May 1886, she was buried in a white coffin in the West Cemetery, Triangle Street, Amherst. Dickinson's poetry gained in popularity after her death, and is still widely quoted today.
Poem posted on Wednesday 9th May 2018.
Seaside Golf 
How low it flew, how left it flew,
It hit the dry-stone wall
And plunging, disappeared from view
A shining brand new ball -
I'd hit the damned thing on the head,
It made me wish that I were dead.
And up the fairway, steep and long,
I mourned my gloomy plight;
I played an iron sure and strong,
A fraction to the right,
I knew that when I reached my ball
I'd find it underneath the wall.
And so I did. I chipped it low
And thinned it past the pin
And to and fro, and to and fro
I tried to get it in;
Until, intoning oaths obscene
I holed it out in seventeen.
Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves
They really get me down;
In-coming tides, Atlantic waves
I wish that I could drown
And Sloane Street voices in the air
And black retrievers everywhere.
Sir Robin Butler
Poem posted on Saturday 5th May 2018.
How straight it flew, how long it flew,
It cleared the rutty track
And soaring, disappeared from view
Beyond the bunker's back -
A glorious, sailing, bounding drive
That made me glad I was alive.
And down the fairway, far along
It glowed a lonely white;
I played an iron sure and strong
And clipp'd it out of sight,
And spite of grassy banks between
I knew I'd find it on the green.
And so I did. It lay content
two paces from the pin;
A steady putt and then it went
Oh, most securely in.
The very turf rejoiced to see
That quite unprecedented three.
Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves
And thyme and mist in whiffs,
In-coming tide, Atlantic waves
Slapping the sunny cliffs,
Lark song and sea sounds on the air
And splendour, splendour everywhere.
Sir John Betjeman
Note: This poem was suggested by my very good friend John (Tiger) Alderton, as also is the riposte due to follow on Saturday.
Poem posted on Wednesday 2nd May 2018.
The Hippopotamus's Birthday
He has opened all his parcels
but the biggest and the last.
His hopes are at their highest
And his heart is beating fast
O happy hippopotamus
What lovely gift is there?
He cuts the string. The world stands still.
A pair of boots appear!
O little hippopotamus,
The sorrows of the small!
He dropped two tears to mingle
With the flowing Senegal;
And the 'Thank you' that he uttered
Was the saddest ever heard
In the Senegambian jungle
From the mouth of beast or bird.
Note: E.V. Rieu was celebrated for his translation of Homer's classic 'The Odyssey', but here, in a lighter moment, he shares his own brand of humour.
Poem posted on Saturday 28th April 2018.
Evans? Yes, many a time
I came down his bare flight
Of stairs into the gaunt kitchen
With its wood fire, where crickets sang
Accompaniment to the black kettle's
Whine, and so into the cold
Dark to smother in the thick tide
Of night that drifted about the walls
Of his stark farm on the hill ridge.
It was not the dark filling my eyes
And mouth appalled me; not even the drip
Of rain like blood from the one tree
Weather-tortured. It was the dark
Silting the veins of that sick man
I left stranded on the vast
And lonely shore of his bleak bed.
(from 'Poetry For Supper', 1958)
Note: for biog detail scroll to 'They', Sat 28 Oct 2017.
Poem posted on Wednesday 25th April 2018.
The Skye Boat Song
Speed, bonny boat, like a bird on the wing
Onward, the sailors cry!
Carry the lad that's born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.
Loud the winds cry, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air.
Baffled our foes stand by the shore.
Follow they will not dare.
Many's the lad fought on that day
well the claymore could wield,
When the night came silently lay
Dead on Culloden's field.
Burned are our homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men.
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Scotland will rise again!
Sir Harold Boulton
(from 'A Poem for Every Night of the Year', Macmillan Children's Books, 2016)
The Battle of Culloden was fought on 16th April 1746 between a British Loyalist army under command of the Duke of Cumberland and a Scottish force commanded by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). Stuart was the 'young pretender' to the British crown, which had been seized from his grandfather King James II in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. 'The Skye Boat Song' paints a romantic image of Charles's flight after his defeat.
Poem posted on Saturday 21st April 2018.
The Hurt Boy and the Birds
The hurt boy talked to the birds
and fed them the crumbs of his heart.
It was not easy to find the words
for secrets he held underneath his skin.
The hurt boy spoke of a bully's fist
that made his face a bruised moon -
his spectacles stamped to ruin.
It was not easy to find the words
for things that nightly hissed
as if his pillow was a hide-away for creepy-crawlies -
the note sent to the girl he fancied
held high in mockery.
But the boy talked to the birds
and their feathers gave him welcome -
Their wings taught him new ways to become.
Afro-Guayanese poet and playwright, now living in Britain.
Holder of the Queen'd Gold Medal for Poetry.
Poem posted on Wednesday 18th April 2018.
The Buddha sat silently
under a tree.
He sat and he waited
He sat like a statue
and scarcely stirred.
Out of his lips
came never a word.
He sat through the hours
of an Orient night,
and, just at the edges
of opening light,
up in the heaven,
so sharp and so far,
glimmered the spark
of a wakening star.
Sitting in stillness,
the sight that he saw
pierced him through
to the innermost core.
And all he could say
in his moment of bliss
was simply and purely
'What is this?'.
(from 'A Poem for Every Night of the Year', Macmillan Children's Books, 2016).
Tony Mitton's introduction to this poem explains, 'The story has been passed down that the Buddha (Saddhartha Gautama) achieved a sudden and powerful experience of understanding after many years of study and practice. Exhausted by the efforts he had made to get to grips with the meaning of his life, he gave up and sat down under the Bodhi tree, vowing not to get up until some answer presented itself to him. After sitting all night in meditation he caught sight of the morning star rising. The clarity and power of the moment that followed is sometimes called his Enlightenment (or Awakening). In spite of his already great learning and wisdom, all he could say in response to the experience was, 'What is this?'. '.
Poem posted on Saturday 14th April 2018.
The Fertile Year
Don't let them kid you being old's all sad,
nine weepy apertures, rheumatic pains -
they'll come of course but, till they do, be glad
for one who's found senility brings gains.
The writer's trough cuts deep and leaves behind
its threat of more, though, buoyed by caring friends,
can be survived; one surfaces to find
that paucities, like plethoras, have ends.
Blank days and workbooks, as they fill with love
and words of love, become the panacea
long sought; a recharged pen begins to move
inquisitive along the fertile year,
age peels away, reveals a young man's brain
and maybe, on the page, a poem again.
(from 'And Saturday Is Christmas', Shoestring Press, 2011)
Were I publishing this poem today for the first time, I should be pleased to add an 's' at the title's end. Although, the writing has changed; become shorter. But then, so has the writer.
Poem posted on Wednesday 11th April 2018.
Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
(1879 - 1955)
Wallace Stevens, American prize-winning poet and philosopher of aesthetics, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania,USA on 2nd October 1855. As one of America's most widely read and respected poets, he was also thought of by some as one of the most purposely difficult poets. I doubt many would call 'Of Mere Being' an easy poem, but whether or not it is intentionally difficult is debatable. It would be interesting to have Readers' Comments on this. Could the word 'mere' of the title equate to 'utter', 'simple' or 'pure'? Does 'the palm' mean an aim, destination or some kind of reward? Why is the wind moving slowly? Is this because it's weakening, dying down, just as imagination and all further thought concludes in death? As a classical scholar, Stevens might be said to have written in a mind-zone beyond the average so, wilfully difficult or not, he certainly sets his readers a stiff questionnaire. But are we ourselves making the poem difficult? Is 'Of Mere Being' simply making us mindful of the fact that from the moment we begin to be (to live) we are simultaneously beginning not to be (to die)?
Wallace Stevens died on 2nd August 1955 and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.
Poem posted on Saturday 7th April 2018.
Each In His Own Tongue
A fire mist and a planet -
A crystal and a cell -
A jellyfish and a saurian,
And caves where the cavemen dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod -
Some call it Evolution.
And others call it God.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the goldenrod -
Some of us call it Autumn,
And others call it God.
Like tides on a crescent sea beach,
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come swelling and surging in -
Come from the mystic ocean,
Whose rim no foot has trod -
Some of us call it Longing,
And others call it God.
A picket posted on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humbled and homeless,
The straight, hard pathway plod -
Some call it Consecration
And others call it God.
William Herbert Carruth, American educator and poet, was born in Osawatomie, Kansas on 5th April 1859 and died on 15th December 1924. He taught at the University of Kansas and at Stanford University. The poem we post today is a favourite, worldwide.
Poem posted on Wednesday 4th April 2018.
Loveliest of Trees
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
(1859 - 1936)
Alfred Edward Housman was born on 26th March 1859 at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England. Classical scholar and poet, he became professor of Latin, first at University College, London, and later at the University of Cambridge. He is renowned as the author of 'A Shropshire Lad', a cycle of 63 poems, which was turned down by the first publisher to whom he offered the book. He must personally have rated the work highly because he then subscribed to its publication. His persistence was rewarded when, after a slow start, 'A Shropshire Lad' went on to win wide and lasting acclaim.
Housman died on 30th April 1936 at Cambridge. His ashes are buried just outside St. Laurence's Church, Ludlow, Shropshire, England.
Poem posted on Saturday 31st March 2018.
He and She
When he came in, she was there.
When she looked at him,
he smiled. There were lights
in time's wave breaking
on an eternal shore.
Seated at table -
no need for the fracture
of the room's silence; noiselessly
they conversed. Thoughts mingling
were lit up, gold
particles in the mind's stream.
Were there currents between them?
Why, when he thought darkly,
would the nerves play
at her lips' brim? What was the heart's depth?
There were fathoms in her,
too, and sometimes he crossed
them and landed and was not repulsed.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M. Dent, 1993)
For biog details scroll back to 'They', posted 28. 10. 2017.
Poem posted on Wednesday 28th March 2018.
You've got nice knees.
Your black shoes shine like taxis.
You are the opposite of
all farting and foulness.
Your exciting hair
is like a special moss,
on your chest are two soft medals
like pink half-crowns under your dress.
Your smell is far beyond
the perfumes at parties,
your eyes nail me
on a cross of waiting. Hard is
the way of the worshipper.
But the heart line on my hand
in your army of lovers
I am a private soldier.
Poem posted on Saturday 24th March 2018.
A Slice of Wedding Cake
Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.
Repeat "impossible men": not merely rustic,
Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
How well women behave, and always have behaved).
Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.
Has God's supply of tolerable husbands
Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
At the expense of man?
It might be so.
(1895 - 1985)
From 'Collected Poems', Carcanet Press.
Poem posted on Wednesday 21st March 2018.
'Summer is coming, summer is coming,
I know it, I know it, I know it.
Light again, leaf again, life again, love again,'
Yes, my wild little poet.
Sing the new year in under the blue,
Last year you sang it as gladly.
'New, new, new, new'! Is it then so new
That you should carol so madly?
'Love again, song again,nest again.'
Never a prophet so crazy!
And hardly a daisy as yet, little friend,
See, there is hardly a daisy.
Here again, here, here, here, happy year'!
O warble unchidden, unbidden!
Summer is coming, is coming, my dear,
And all the winters are hidden.
Alfred Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire on 6th August 1809. He was educated at Louth Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge, but returned to Lincolnshire without taking a degree, due to his father's death. In 1829 he was awarded the Cambridge Chancellor's Gold Medal for one of his early pieces, 'Timbuktu'. Tennyson was Poet Laureate from 1850 until his death in Lurgashall, Essex on 16th October 1892.
Poem posted on Saturday 17th March 2018.
This evening in the twilight's gloom
A butterfly flew in my room
Oh what beauty, oh what grace,
Who needs visitors from outer space?
"This second poem", suggests Paul Collins, "reflects the lover of nature, another side of a complex man. The comedy is not far away. Other poems reflect his concern for nature and how we use it".
For biographical details scroll back to 'To a Sorrowing Daughter', posted Saturday 17th February 2018.
Poem posted on Wednesday 14th March 2018.
Less said the better.
The bill unpaid, the dead letter,
No roses at the end
Of Smith, my friend.
Last words don't matter,
And there are none to flatter.
Words will not fill the post
Of Smith, the ghost.
For Smith, our brother,
Only son of loving mother,
The ocean lifted, stirred,
Leaving no word.
John Sleigh Pudney was born in Langley Marish on 19th January 1909 and educated at Gresham's School, Holt. He worked for some time as an estate agent and, as a journalist, for the BBC and the News Chronicle. In WW2 he served with the Royal Air Force.
Pudney wrote short stories and poetry. He died on 10th November 1977.
Poem posted on Saturday 10th March 2018.
The girl in trousers wheeling a red baby
Stops to look in the window of a bread-shop.
One wants to tell her that it's all steam-
Baked muck, but really there's no chance
Of stopping her buying a bogus
Farm-house cob. Reassuring to think
That anyway it will be transformed
To wholesome milk, just as somehow she
Has gathered herself together from
The chaos of parturition and
Appears now with a lacquered bouffant
Top-knot and her old wiles unimpaired.
Why should one trouble to disguise the
Origin of the terrifying
Earth-mother, that lies in wait for men
With her odours of bergamot
Plasma, and her soft rind filled with tripes?
Roy Broadbent Fuller was born in Failsworth, Lancashire on 11th February 1912 and brought up in Blackpool. He made a successful career in the legal profession as a lawyer working for the Woolwich Equitable Building Society. A prize-winning poet, his first publication was 'Poems' in 1939. From 1941 to 1946 he served as an officer in the Royal Navy. Fuller died on 27th September 1991.
Poem posted on Wednesday 7th March 2018.
Vocabulary, sing for me,
in your cage of time,
restless on the bone's perch.
You are dust; then a bird
with new feathers, but always
beating at the mind's bars.
A new Noah, I despatch
you to alight awhile
on steel branches; then call
you home, looking for the metallic
gleam of a new poem in your bill.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990, J.M. Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Saturday 3rd March 2018.
Hen Under Bay-Tree
A squalid, empty-headed Hen,
Resolved to rear a private brood,
Has stolen from the social pen
To this, the noblest solitude.
She feels this tree is magical.
She knows that spice, beneath her breast
That sweet dry death; for after all
Her cradle was the holy East.
Alert she sits, and all alone;
She breathes a time-defying air:
Above her, songbirds many a one
Shake the dark spire, and carol there.
Unworthy and unwitting, yet
She keeps love's vigil glorious;
Immovably her faith is set,
The plant of honour is her house.
Poem posted on Wednesday 28th February 2018.
Dear friend unknown,
why send me your poems?
We are brothers, I admit;
but they are no good.
I see why you wrote them,
but why send them? Why not
bury them, as a cat its faeces?
You confuse charity and art.
They have not equal claims,
though the absence of either
will smell more or less the same.
I use my imagination:
I see a cramped hand gripping
a bent pen, or, worse perhaps,
it was with your foot you wrote.
You wait in an iron bed
for my reply. My letter
could be the purse of gold
you pay your way with past
the giant, Despair.
I lower my standards
and let truth hit me squarely
between the eyes. 'These are great
poems,' I write, and see heaven's
slums with their rags flying,
cripples brandishing their crutches,
and the one, innocent of scansion,
who knows charity is short
and the poem for ever, suffering
my dark lie with all the blandness
with which the round moon suffers an eclipse.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M. Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Saturday 24th February.
'To My Readers'
Here is my house. There is the Sun and the garden with beehives.
You are passing along the road, peering through the slats of my gate
Expecting me to speak. Where shall I start?
Believe me, please, believe me,
one could talk as long as one wants to, about anything:
of Destiny and the snake of goodwill,
of archangels tilling
the land of man,
of heavens towards which we aspire,
of hatred and fall, of sadness and Calvary,
but, above all, about the great passage.
Yet our words are only the tears of those who wished
so much to cry and could not.
Bitter are all those words
and that is why, please, allow me
to pass in silence amongst you,
crossing your road, eyes closed.
(1895 - 1961)
Requesting this poem by his native countryman, Mihai Andrei wrote, "I found this website recently and must say I'm getting really fond of it. I would like to share one of my favourite poems, initially written in Romanian but here is the English translation. I hope you too will enjoy the poem". Thank you Mihai, I do, and I'm sure our readers will welcome it.
Lucian Blaga was born on 9th May 1895 in Lancram near Alba Iulia, Austria-Hungary, later to become Romania. A widely published philosopher and poet, he was elected a titular member of the Romanian Academy in 1936. Blaga died on 6th May 1961 in Cluj and was buried in Lancram.
Poem posted on Wednesday 21st February 2018.
To a Sorrowing Daughter
My darling trembling child,
What ails you?
Please give me your burden,
Give me your sorrow,
Let it bend me to the earth,
I will not fail you,
Ask me to take death,
I will do it.
Anything to stop those
(1918 - 2002)
In suggesting this poem Paul Collins writes that it is "from Spike Milligan's 'Hidden Words' published by Penguin ,a collection of his work over many years and reflecting his varied character. The comedian and comic genius I remember. The troubled man I also remember. I didn't learn of the loving father. There are several poems in the collection that reflect this side of Spike".
Terence Alan Milligan, KBE, British-Irish comedian, musician, poet and playwright was born on 16th April 1919 in Ahmadnagar, India where his father was serving in the British Indian Army, and his early education was at schools in Poona and Rangoon. Later, when the family returned to UK, disliking his first name, and having heard the then popular band of 'Spike Jones and his City Slickers' on Radio Luxembourg, in place of 'Terence' he took on that of 'Spike'. A self-taught musician, playing drums, guitar and trumpet, Milligan was said to have perfect pitch and the ability to croon like Bing Crosby.
During WW2, Milligan served in the Royal Artillery (as also did Harry Secombe, with whom he was later to collaborate in writing the ground-breaking radio comedy 'The Goon Show') and Spike saw service in North Africa and Italy.
For most of his life, Milligan suffered extreme bipolar disorder, but never lost his gift for making people laugh. When he died on 27th February 2002, he was buried at St. Thomas church, Winchelsea, East Sussex, having,in preparation, written his own epitaph," I told you I was Ill', but the Chichester diocese refused to allow it, and a compromise of 'Love, Light, Peace', in both Irish and English, was carved on his headstone. We don't know if Milligan would have known this, but Hans Magnus Ensenberger wrote, "The boundaries of art can be defined quite precisely. By the censor." A sad thought, but true, QED.
Poem posted on Saturday 17th February 2018.
Maybe it was always there.
Like that house you've walked past
on your way to work, oblivious
to its red door all these years.
A swarm of bees first registered
in a moment of stillness, buzzing
between your ears. Or what others
call ringing, whirring, whistling,
even a neighbour banging
in the upstairs flat. Or maybe
it's just the way silence sounds.
We use the same words - sadness,
tinnitus, red - without knowing
if we mean the same thing,
stranded, each of us, inside our heads
as we listen to phantom sounds
and signal to one another
across a great gulf of air.
(from 'The High Window', Issue 5)
Poem posted on Wednesday 14th February 2018.
How silly that soldier is pointing his gun at the wood:
he doesn't know it isn't any good.
You see, the cold and cruel northern wind
has frozen the whole battalion where they stand.
That's never a corporal: even now he's frozen
you could see he's only a commercial artist
whom they took and put those clothes on,
and told him he was one of the smartest.
Even now they're in ice it's easy to know
what a shock it was, a long shock
that's been coming home to them wherever they go,
with their mazy minds taking stock.
Walk among the innocuous parade
and touch them if you like, they're properly stayed:
keep out of their line of sight and they won't look.
Think of them as waxworks, or think they're struck
with a dumb immobile spell,
to wake in a thousand years with the sweet force
of spring upon them in the merry world. Well,
at least forget what happens when it thaws.
(1920 - 1944)
From 'Collected Poems', Faber and Faber Ltd.
Poem posted on Saturday 10th February 2018.
Don't Bother, I'll Do It Myself
(On bringing up teenagers)
Now I've had his report saying "Just the right sort!
Motivated; a jolly good show!
He's keen, energetic, determined, athletic!"
Well, where is he? Where did he go?
Could this sleeper, this blob, help with one little job?
And exhibit some vigour and health?
I would wake him and ask, it's too much of a task,
So don't bother, I'll do it myself.
In his bedroom I stand with the Pledge in my hand,
And it's tricky to know where to start,
But one thing's for sure, that I can't see the floor,
The place has been taken apart.
Buying food, off I dash, and the plastic I flash,
Round the vast supermarket I fly,
I was straight when I went, but finish up bent
By the weight of the shopping I buy.
I have lost all my charms, grown orang-utan arms,
As I lope along clearing each shelf,
So it would have been great if you'd washed up your plate,
But don't bother, I'll do it myself!
(from 'Surgically Enhanced', Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 2006)
Poem posted on Wednesday 7th February 2018.
At the Edge of the Wood
First, boys out of school went out of their way home
To detonate the windows; each smash
Piping with delight and skipping with fright
Of a ghost of the old man popping over his hedge,
Shrieking and nodding from the gate.
Then the game palled, since it was only breaking the silence.
The rain sluiced through the starred gaps,
Crept up walls and into the brick; frost bit and munched;
Weeds craned in and leant on the doors.
Now it is a plot without trees let into the wood
Piled high with tangle and tousle
Buried parapets and roots picking at the last mortar
Though the chimney still stands sheathed in leaves
And you can see for the time being where in a nook
A briony burst its pot with a shower of roots
And back through the press of shrubs and stems
Deep-coils into the woods.
Peter Redgrove (1932 - 2003)
From 'Contemporary Verse', OUP 1981.
Peter William Redgrove, poet, novelist, science journalist and playwright, was among the most prolific writers in mid 20th century England. Born on 2nd January 1933 at Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, UK, he was educated at Taunton School and Queens' College, Cambridge. Winner of a number of awards, Redgrove died on 16th June, 2003.
Poem posted on Saturday 3rd February 2018.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
(1930 - 2017)
"We often describe life as being like a journey in which there is always movement and change. This can be in terms of the stages of life through which we move - it is also an internal spiritual journey deep into ourselves to learn firstly to understand, then to accept and finally to love ourselves in all our humanness. The West Indian poet, Derek Walcott, captures this sense of inner journeying in his lovely poem, Love after Love. He describes the destination as being able to 'greet yourself arriving at your own door' where 'you will love again the stranger who was yourself.' This is surely a journey worth taking and the ultimate home coming!
I love this poem."
These are the words written by Shelagh Devereux in support of a poem she holds very dearly. There is nothing left for me to say, except that I'm pleased to commend to you both Walcott's poem and Shelagh's insightful presentation.
Sir Derek Alton Walcott, KCSL, OBE, OCC, was a Saint Lucian poet and playwright. Born on 23rd January 1930 at Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies. Among his numerous awards was the Queen's Medal for Poetry and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. Over the years, Walcott held many teaching posts including Professor of Poetry, University of Essex. He died on 17th March 2017 in Cap Estate, St. Lucia, was given a state funeral and buried in Morne Fortuné, south of Castries.
Poem posted on Wednesday 31st January 2018.
Lettera al mondo (bozza)
Non temo la morte
ma quanto lascerò
Lascio al futuro
una bozza del presente
e l'ultima pagina bianca
Portate alla mia tomba
fiori di carta
per ogni poesia mai scritta
Letter to the world (draft)
I'm not afraid of death
but how much I shall leave
I leave to the future
a draft of the present
and the last page blank
Bring to my grave
flowers of paper
for all the unwritten poems
Translator: Maurice Rutherford
Poem posted on Saturday 27th January 2018.
Disgust tempered by an exquisite
charity, wrapping life's claws
in purest linen - this man
has history to supper,
eats with a supreme tact
from the courses offered to him.
Waiting at table
are the twin graces, patience
and truth, with the candles'
irises in soft clusters
flowering on thin stalks.
Where did he come from?
Pupating against the time
he was needed, he emerged
with wings furled, unrecognised
by the pundits; has spread
them now elegantly
to dazzle, curtains drawn
with a new nonchalance
between barbarism and ourselves.
Patron without condescension
of the art, he teaches flight's
true purpose, which is,
sensitive but not too blinded
by some inner radiance, to be
in delicatest orbit about it.
(from 'Collected Poems 1945-1990', J.M.Dent, 1993)
Poem posted on Wednesday 24th January 2018.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Note: For biographical information see Frost's 'The Road Not Taken', posted Wed 29th Nov 2017.
This deceptively profound poem was sent in by Chris Marchese, and it is a pleasure to share it with you. Regrettably, Chris didn't give us an insight into how the poem moves him and why it is a favourite of his. I know why I find it a powerful work, but I'd welcome your own response for posting on these pages.
Poem posted on Saturday 20th January 2018.
There Are Some Men
There are some men
who should have mountains
to bear their names to time.
Grave-markers are not high enough
and sons go far away
to lose the fist
their father's hand will always seem.
I had a friend:
he lived and died in mighty silence
and with dignity,
left no book, son, or lover to mourn.
Nor is this a mourning-song
but only a naming of this mountain
on which I walk,
fragrant, dark and softly white
under the pale of mist.
I name this mountain after him.
1934 - 2016
Sending us this poem on the same day an acquaintance of his was killed in a car crash, Brian Jones writes, "Feeling a bit melancholy...He was someone I kept running into again and again and we always hit it off. I meant to have them over for dinner and now, poof, they just aren't there to invite to dinner anymore. Crazy. Whilst in this melancholic mood, I opened up randomly to this page in a Leonard Cohen poetry book:"
In thanking Brian for both the poem and his explanation of its sudden increase in importance to him, I'm once more reminded - if ever I needed reminding - of the power of poetry/song/music to help us come to terms and cope with our microscopic place in this vast, 'crazy' world. Our heartache at any time, unique as it feels to us, is immediately shown to be universal, part of the human package. Fortunately for us, a similar case might be argued for joyous artistic creations.
Leonard Norman Cohen CC GOQ was born on 21 September 1934 in Westmount, Quebec, Canada. Poet, songwriter and novelist, he must be well-known the world over, if mostly for his musical work and his published poems. He died on 7 November 2016 at his home in Los Angeles, USA.
Poem posted on Wednesday 17th January 2018.
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
Robert Hayden (originally Asa Bundy Sheffey) was born on 4th August 1913 in Detroit, Michigan, USA and died on 25th February 1980 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His parents having separated before his birth, he was fostered by neighbours named Hayden and brought up in a Detroit ghetto known locally as 'Paradise Valley'. The Hayden's home was blighted by anger, arguments, beatings and constant fear, the effects of which stayed with Robert throughout his life. In youth he suffered from depressions and, probably seeking some kind of relief, he found refuge in books, and became a voracious reader. He attended Detroit City College. Later, studying for a Master's degree, he worked under W.H. Auden. Various teaching posts followed and he worked as poet, essayist and educator. From 1976 - 1978 he served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, later to be known simply as US Poet Laureate - an honour he had previously declined.
'Those Winter Sundays', from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden edited by Frederick Glaysher, 1966.
Requesting this poem Susan Benton writes, "I love the detail in this poem, the cold and bleak words:- blueblack cold, cracked, ached, splintering, breaking, chronic anger, austere.
For me it suggests the naivety and complacency of youth, accepting without expressing appreciation the acts of fatherly love routinely performed".
Poem posted on Saturday 13th January 2018.
Two poetic observations on thawing:-
A field snapped with frost and stitched with brittle docks,
a metal gate where I hung, still, like the horses there -
the grey standing gentle over the bay mare, held
inside their listening; wick-wick of a pigeon,
the chat of a jackdaw flock. Each second was a frozen bead,
but lovely to the touch. Once, he barely whisked his tail,
I watched. Then shifting my weight against the gate,
both turned and the mare lifted, nut-bright, out of her dream
then came slowly, and again on, slowly; the sky stretched
drum-skin, the sun low and sucked to a thin sweet.
She looked to the grey as if to say, should I? and a man
came, walking his dog. The mare whickered. Grand !
said the man. It is, I said, some strange thing thawing,
and she brought me her breath, timid to my hand.
Sally Goldsmith is an author writing in a number of genres including plays and features for BBC Radio 4, among them two Sony Radio Award winners. Her poem 'Thaw' won a commendation in the National Poetry Competition, 2012.
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from the elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
Poems posted on Wednesday 10th January 2018.
Sleet Storm on the Merritt Parkway
I look out at the white sleet covering the still streets
As we drive through Scarsdale -
The sleet began falling as we left Connecticut,
And the winter leaves swirled in the wet air after cars
Like hands suddenly turned over in a conversation.
Now the frost has nearly buried the short grass of March.
Seeing the sheets of sleet untouched on the wide streets,
I think of the many comfortable homes stretching for miles,
Two and three stories, solid, with polished floors,
With white curtains in the upstairs bedrooms,
And small perfume flagons of black glass on the window sills,
And warm bathrooms with guest towels, and electric lights -
What a magnificent place for a child to grow up!
And yet the children end in the river of price-fixing,
Or in the snowy field of the insane asylum.
The sleet falls - so many cars moving toward New York -
Last night we argued about the Marines invading Guatemala in 1947,
The United Fruit Company had one water spigot for 200 families,
And the ideals of America, our freedom to criticize,
The slave systems of Rome and Greece, and no one agreed.
Robert Elwood Bly, born in Minnesota, USA in 1926, is a poet who likes poetry read aloud. He listens to his own language as he writes, and doesn't stand in the way of natural idiom, rhyme, alliteration or the play of opposites as they occur. Listen to the playful sibilance of line 7; note the sudden substitution, childhood innocence replaced by the asylum field, and all the contradictions implicit in the closing few lines. And if you didn't notice the guest towels along the way, reflect that a good proportion of this poem existed in the imagination of the poem's speaker travelling along a motorway for passenger cars only, without the distraction of heavy goods vehicles, and space to ponder the human condition, the striving for comfort in the harshness of winter, both the seasonal one and the one we each separately travel toward.
Robert Bly's books are published by Harper & Row, Inc., New York.
Poem posted on Saturday 6th January 2018.
The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze ...
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
(1885 - 1968)
'My Country' was requested by John Rutherford (Family? Yes, a nephew), who wrote that it is one of the poems "on the concept of home that touch my emotions and help me to peer a little better through the mists of confusion about what this life is all about, particularly the sense of longing that we often feel for something or somewhere or someone that we do not have currently in our lives."
Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar OBE, Australian poet and fiction writer was born on 1st July 1885 at Point Piper, Sydney. Her poem 'My Country' quickly became a widely know favourite in Australia, the opening lines of stanza 2 becoming almost a second national anthem, so deeply did it touch the population's spirit. Dorothea was active in Sydney literary circles throughout the 1930s but it later life poor health brought an end to her writing and for her last 11 years she lived in a nursing home in Randwick, where she died on 14th January 1968. She was buried in Waverley cemetery on the eastern outskirts of Sydney, Australia, her own beloved "brown country".
Poem posted on Wednesday 3rd January 2018.