Thursday, 31 January 2013

Day 223: Thesaurus, Love of Words

Billy Collins likes to play around with language and play he does here!

With 'thesaurus' specifically - why it could be the name of 'a prehistoric beast' or 'some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book', a 'treasury' of words where families of them gather together. And most endearingly - poems as 'small chapels' where 'weddings' for words take place - how lovely!  

What a swell poem!

Thesaurus - Billy Collins

It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 222: In Defence of Adultery

Hmmm, a tricky subject adultery, but it's dealt with well here in this poem. And what lovely descriptions, especially -  'We don't fall in love: it rises through us/ the way certain music does...'

Here is a poem that doesn't malign adulterers, but empathises with them. They are not to blame, for 'love is an autocrat/and won't be disobeyed...' True enough - or, is it?

In Defence of Adultery - Julia Copus

We don't fall in love: it rises through us
the way that certain music does -
whether a symphony or ballad -
and it is sepia-coloured,
like split tea that inches up
the tiny tube-like gaps inside
a cube of sugar lying by a cup.
Yes, love's like that: just when we least
needed or expected it
a part of us dips into it
by chance or mishap and it seeps
through our capillaries, it clings
inside the chambers of the heart.
We're victims, we say: mere vessels,
drinking the vanilla scent
of this one's skin, the lustre
of another's eyes so skilfully
darkened with bistre. And whatever
damage might result we're not
to blame for it: love is an autocrat
and won't be disobeyed.
Sometimes we manage
to convince ourselves of that.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Day 221: Ways to Live

Art by Katalin Szegedi

Are you in on the secret? 

Ways to Live - William Stafford
19-21 July

1 India

In India in their lives they happen
again and again, being people or
animals. And if you live well
your next time could be even better.

That's why they often look into your eyes
and you know some far-off story
with them and you in it, and some
animal waiting over at the side.

Who would want to happen just once?
It's too abrupt that way, and
when you're wrong, it's too late
to go back - you've done it forever.

And you can't have that soft look when you
pass, the way they do it in India.

2 Having It Be Tomorrow

Day, holding its lantern before it,
moves over the whole earth slowly
to brighten that edge and push it westward.
Shepherds on upland pastures begin fires
for breakfast, beads of light that extend
miles of horizon. Then it's noon and
coasting toward a new tomorrow.

If you're in on that secret, a new land
will come every time the sun goes
climbing over it, and the welcome of children
will remain every day new in your heart.
Those around you don't have it new,
and they shake their heads turning grey every
morning when the sun comes up. And you laugh.

3 Being Nice And Old

After their jobs are done old people
cackle together. They look back and shiver,
all of that was so dizzying when it happened;
and now if there is any light at all it
knows how to rest on the faces of friends.
And any people you don't like, you just turn
the page a little more and wait while they
find out what time is and begin to bend
lower; or youcan turn away
and let them drop off the edge of the world.

4 Good Ways To Live

At night outside it all moves or
almost moves - trees, grass,
touches of wind. The room you have
in the world is ready to change.
Clouds parade by, and stars in their
configurations. Birds from far
touch the fabric around them - you can
feel their wings move. Somewhere under
the earth it waits, that emanation
of all things. It breathes. It pulls you
slowly out through doors or windows
and you spread in the thin halo of night mist.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Day 220: Today

Yes, those rainy days and dark clouds are necessary for us to grow. Very true. Here's how Mary Oliver sees/says it:

Today - Mary Oliver

Today is the day of
dark clouds and slow rain.
The little blades of corn
are so happy.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Day 219: Postscript

What is the point of poetry? What can poetry do? I think Seamus Heaney provides the answer here -  'catch the heart off guard and blow it open.'

Postscript - Seamus Heaney 

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Day 218: Happiness

A good reason to get up early in the mornings - if only for the dawn moment when 'Such beauty that for a minute/death and ambition, even love,/doesn't enter into this.'

Happiness - Raymond Carver

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Day 217: Don't Forget

'there is always somebody or something 
waiting for you...'

don't forget - Charles Bukowski

there is always somebody or something
waiting for you,
something stronger, more intelligent,
more evil, more kind, more durable,
something bigger, something better,
something worse, something with
eyes like the tiger, jaws like the shark,
something crazier than crazy,
saner than sane,
there is always something or somebody
waiting for you
as you put on your shoes
or as you sleep
or as you empty a garbage can
or pet your cat
or brush your teeth
or celebrate a holiday
there is always somebody or something
waiting for you.

keep this fully in mind
so that when it happens
you will be as ready as possible.

meanwhile, a good day to
if you are still there.
I think that I am---
I just burnt my fingers on

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Day 216: I Do Not Love You Except Because...

I love you, I love you not.... I love you. Because I love you. Even through hate. Through cold and fire. Blindly. Because - I love you.

'Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel

I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You - Pablo Neruda

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

I love you only because it's you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Day 215: The Moon a Balloon

This sounds good! - 

who knows if the moon’s - ee cummings 

who knows if the moon’s
a balloon,coming out of a keen city
in the sky—filled with pretty people?
(and if you and i should

get into it,if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we’d go up higher with all the pretty people

than houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away sailing into a keen
city which nobody’s ever visited,where

                   Spring)and everyone’s
in love and flowers pick themselves

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Day 214: Up/Down

It's hard to get up when you feel down; as it is hard to feel down when you're up - up, up, and away, floating on a dream, on a high of hope, horizon surrounding you. Hard to even get up, out of bed, when you're down - down, down, in the dumps, after the balloons have burst, down and dank and dreary and everything flat and monotone.

But poetry understands, sees the situation in all its detail and significance. What causes this? Is it 'the future tense, immense as outer space' or the 'drowned events' of the past, 'pressing you down like sea-water, like gelatin' as Margaret Atwood asks? Sometimes sharing is understanding. And poetry is healing.  And Margaret Atwood's poetry is strangely compelling in its accuracy and empathy.

Up - Margaret Atwood 

You wake up filled with dread.
There seems no reason for it.
Morning light sifts through the window,
there is birdsong,
you can't get out of bed.

It's something about the crumpled sheets
hanging over the edge like jungle
foliage, the terry slippers gaping
their dark pink mouths for your feet,
the unseen breakfast - some of it
in the refrigerator you do not dare
to open - you do not dare to eat.

What prevents you? The future. The future tense,
immense as outer space.
You could get lost there.
No. Nothing so simple. The past, its destiny
and drowned events pressing you down,
like sea water, like gelatin
filling your lungs instead of air.

Forget that and let's get up.
Try moving your arm.
Try moving your head.
Pretend the house is on fire
and you must run or burn.
No, that one's useless.
It's never worked before.

Where is it coming from, this echo,
this huge No that surrounds you,
silent as the folds of the yellow
curtains, mute as the cheerful

Mexican bowl with its cargo
of mummified flowers?
(You chose the colours of the sun,
not the dried neutrals of shadow.
God knows you've tried.)

Now here's a good one:
You're lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Day 213: Slough

Because it's George Orwell day today - here's a poem about modern British culture (written in 1937 by John Betjeman) - the innate inertia of industrialisation and its effect on suburban life. Needless to say, it caused uproar when it was published...

Slough - John Betjeman

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town -
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women's tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad,
They've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It's not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus - Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Day 212: First Snow

Snow is magical - here's proof:

First Snow - Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! Flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! And only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain - not a single
answer has been found -
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Day 211: Snow Day!


Yay, it's finally here - snow!!! 'A revolution of snow/its white flag waving over everything...'

This poem describes a snow day exactly, 'the world fallen under this falling', and trying to 'porpoise' (ha, what a great word!) through the drifts. 

Snow days cause chaos - the 'anarchic cause of snow', but also fun and excitement and an erasing of normal; and most of all, the noiseless weather giving cause for contemplation - 'the grandiose silence of snow.' 

Snow Day - Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children's School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with -- some will be delighted to hear --

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School,
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and -- clap your hands -- the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Day 210: Ships & Seas & Sinkings

Some ships, they don't make their destinations - for whatever reasons.

To The Harbormaster - Frank O'Hara 

I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Day 209: Subjective Universe

Feel like a bit of The Beats today and their outside-the-box/mind thinking. 'the Universe is subjective...' and 'mind is outer space' - it is indeed.

Cosmopolitan Greetings - Allen Ginsberg

Stand up against governments, against God.
Stay irresponsible.
Say only what we know & imagine.
Absolutes are Coercion.
Change is absolute.
Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions.
Observe what’s vivid.
Notice what you notice.
Catch yourself thinking.
Vividness is self-selecting.
If we don’t show anyone, we’re free to write anything.
Remember the future.
Freedom costs little in the U.S.
Advise only myself.
Don’t drink yourself to death.
Two molecules clanking us against each other require an observer to become
scientific data.
The measuring instrument determines the appearance of the phenomenal
world (after Einstein).
The universe is subjective..
Walt Whitman celebrated Person.
We are observer, measuring instrument, eye, subject, Person.
Universe is Person.
Inside skull is vast as outside skull.
What’s in between thoughts?
Mind is outer space.
What do we say to ourselves in bed at night, making no sound?
“First thought, best thought.”
Mind is shapely, Art is shapely.
Maximum information, minimum number of syllables.
Syntax condensed, sound is solid.
Intense fragments of spoken idiom, best.
Move with rhythm, roll with vowels.
Consonants around vowels make sense.
Savour vowels, appreciate consonants.
Subject is known by what she sees.
Others can measure their vision by what we see.
Candour ends paranoia. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Day 208: Dialect of the Heart

'What we feel most has no name...'

Oh what a joy it is to find a new poet! And to revel in their words. But look, this poem is saying that language simply doesn't cut it when it comes to love. But the poet's unending vocation/quest - to find a language that will adequately express our kaleidoscope of emotions - will guarantee that sometimes, it does come close. And those are the times, it can wound us with its clarity.

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart - Jack Gilbert

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Day 207: Swan, Beauty, Life

Swans are always related to beauty aren't they? And they're described most beautifully here - 'An armful of white blossoms,/a perfect commotion of silk and linen... a snowbank, a bank of lilies...' No one pays as much attention to beauty as Mary Oliver I think.

But more than that-  'And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?' Mary Oliver puts it to us - have we figured out what beauty is for? And if we have, have we changed our lives in wake of that revelation?

Makes you think, doesn't it?

The Swan - Mary Oliver 

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air,
an armful of white blossoms
a perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings: a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
a shrill dark music, like the rain pelting the trees,
  like a waterfall
knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
a white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light
  of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Day 206: Sudden Death

What is it they say about death? That the thought of it, the realisation of how it can strike at any minute, the suddenness and finality of it, instantly adds more value to life and shines a light on its treasures?  This is certainly the case for Billy Collins here.

Picnic, Lightning - Billy Collins

It is possible to be struck by a
meteor or a single-engine plane while
reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians
are flattened by safes falling from
rooftops mostly within the panels of
the comics, but still, we know it is
possible, as well as the flash of
summer lightning, the thermos toppling
over, spilling out on the grass.
And we know the message can be
delivered from within. The heart, no
valentine, decides to quit after
lunch, the power shut off like a
switch, or a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body's
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore. This is
what I think about when I shovel
compost into a wheelbarrow, and when
I fill the long flower boxes, then
press into rows the limp roots of red
impatiens -- the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth from the
sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then
the soil is full of marvels, bits of
leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam. Then
the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the
clouds a brighter white, and all I
hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone, the small
plants singing with lifted faces, and
the click of the sundial as one hour
sweeps into the next. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Day 205: Melancholy

When 'the melancholy fit shall fall' on you, look to beauty for a cure, 'glut thy sorrow on a morning rose'. For both are linked.

Ode on Melancholy - John Keats

No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips;
Ay, in the very temple of delight
Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Day 204: Age is No Crime

'age is no crime/but the shame/of a deliberately/wasted/life/among so many/deliberately/wasted/lives/is.' 

I hate when people define themselves in terms of age (and especially, limit themselves in terms of age.) Age has no power over us.  It is not how old we are, but how much life is in us. Sometimes I wish I could explain this to those age-obsessed people! But Bukowski says it best here - blunt as a bullet, as always.

be kind - Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person's
no matter how
foolish or
one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are
but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to
not their fault?
whose fault?
I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
among so many

Friday, 11 January 2013

Day 203: Frog Prince

Oh the frog prince. Whatever became of him...? Marge Piercy knows ha -  a humorous indictment against marriage! 

A Story Wet as Tears - Marge Piercy

Remember the princess who kissed the frog
so he became a prince? At first they danced
all weekend, toasted each other in the morning
with coffee, with champagne at night
and always with kisses. Perhaps it was
in bed after the first year had ground
around she noticed he had become cold
with her. She had to sleep
with heating pad and down comforter.
His manner grew increasingly chilly
and damp when she entered a room.
He spent his time in water sports,
hydroponics, working on his insect
Then in the third year
when she said to him one day, my dearest,
are you taking your vitamins daily,
you look quite green, he leaped
away from her.
Finally on their
fifth anniversary she confronted him.
“My precious, don’t you love me any
more?” He replied, “Rivet. Rivet.”
Though courtship turns frogs into princes,
marriage turns them quietly back.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Day 202: Morning Melancholy

Yep, 'the elements of disbelief are very strong in the morning.' 

I'm not a morning person by any stretch - and can relate to this poem, in which the melancholy of morning becomes apparent. Especially after night, when all is dreaming, and possible, and believing.

Melancholy Breakfast - Frank O' Hara

Melancholy breakfast
blue overhead blue underneath

the silent egg thinks
and the toaster's electrical
ear waits

the stars are in
"that cloud is hid"

the elements of disbelief are
very strong in the morning

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Day 201: Loss

Oh yes. We are all acquainted with loss, in one way or another. 

One Art - Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Day 200: The Gift of Day

'It was passed from one bird to another, /the whole gift of day...'

And hopefully this gift is also passed from these poems to you the readers, so you stay 'suspended and green' with a vantage point view of the world.  :) 

Birds - Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Day 199: Tattoo

The world is as how we see it. And we are as how we see the world. 

Tattoo - Wallace Stevens
The light is like a spider.
It crawls over the water.
It crawls over the edges of the snow.
It crawls under your eyelids
And spreads its webs there--
Its two webs.

The webs of your eyes
Are fastened
To the flesh and bones of you
As to rafters or grass.

There are filaments of your eyes
On the surface of the water
And in the edges of the snow. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Day 198: Christmas Oratorio

So it's the official end of the Christmas season, January 6th, time to take the decorations down and put away the glitz and magic of the past few weeks, 'The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory'. Into the New Year we turn, while trying to keep the meaning and messages of what has gone before,  'the Time Being to redeem/From insignificance.'
WH Auhen wrote this poem (of which this is only the final excerpt) during the war years (1942 I think) and in it, he melds together the meaning of Christmas with the modern tragedy that was unfolding before him. The effect is startling.

For the Time Being (Christmas Oratorio) - WH Auden

Well, so that is that.
Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done,
That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.


He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Day 197: Lines for Winter

Winter is not just a season. It is also a state. And one that we must keep going through.

Lines for Winter - Mark Strand

for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Day 196: Fragments and Flight

What is every year that goes by? What is time and age? As this poet says, 'On Venus you and I are not even a year old.' 

What is Time but the realisation of the chances it offers ? -  'Then there were two skies./ The one we fly through and the one/we bury ourselves in.' Years that fly by, and then years that we fly.

Fragments for the End of the Year - Jennifer K Sweeney

On average, odd years have been the best for me.

I’m at a point where everyone I meet looks like a version
of someone I already know.

Without fail, fall makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced.

The sky is molting. I don’t know
if this is global warming or if the atmosphere is reconfiguring
itself to accommodate all the new bright suffering.

I am struck by an overwhelming need to go to Iceland.

Despite all awful variables, we are still full of ideas
as possible as unsexed fruit.

I was terribly sorry to be the one to explain to the first graders
the connection between the sunset and pollution.

On Venus you and I are not even a year old.

Then there were two skies.
The one we fly through and the one
we bury ourselves in.

I appreciate my wide beveled spatula which fulfills
the moment I realized I would grow up and own such things.

I am glad I do not yet want sexy bathroom accessories.
Such things.

In the story we were together every time.

On his wedding day, the stone in his chest
not fully melted but enough.

Sometimes I feel like there are birds flying out of me.