Saturday, 31 August 2013

Day 407: In Memory of a Great Poet


Today our country is still and stunned with the grief that our great poet is dead. 

When a poet dies, it's a national loss of huge proportion. Our world feels a little less without him. This is the closest poem I can find to express it: Auden's sombre verse for Yeats when he died.

In Memory of WB Yeats - WH Auden
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
The snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.


Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress.

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Day 406: Personal Helicon

'I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.'

RIP Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate, who died today aged 74. As Auden wrote for Yeats: 'Earth receive an honoured guest, WB Yeats is laid to rest,' same be said for him. 

Personal Helicon - Seamus Heaney

for Michael Longley

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

*Read more Seamus Heaney poems here:

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Day 405: Objects of Affection

Love reveals magic to us, simple as that. It's like suddenly seeing the world anew with 20/20 dream vision. 

My Love Reveals Objects - Isabel Fraire

My love reveals objects
silken butterflies
concealed in his fingers

his words
splash me with stars

night shines like lightning
under the fingers of my love

My love invents worlds where
jeweled glittering serpents live

worlds where music is the world

worlds where houses with open eyes
contemplate the dawn

My love is a mad sunflower that forgets
fragments of sun in the silence

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Day 404: How to Heal a Broken Heart


Good advice -

Untitled - Michael Leuing
When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring
Let it go.  Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Day 403: Bee Box

This poem read on a surface level is about - well - the arrival of a bee-box. It's based on true experience as Sylvia Plath herself was a beekeeper for a period of time.

But go beyond the surface and you'll find an allegory that is as deep as it is dark. The poem is really  a projection of her own psychological state.  The bees represent her troubled subconcsious 'dark, dark' - it's no secret that Plath was depressed and near to suicide at many points in her life. This box to her, is the prison of her mental state, it is always there and she is always aware of it: 'I have to live with it overnight/and I can't keep away from it'.  It is dangerous, just like the bees, especially if she were to open it and be swarmed by the thoughts there, - 'small, taken one by one, but my god, together!'

I'm sure we can all relate to this poem on some level. There are thoughts we just don't want to face at times, lest we be stung by them.  The poem ends with her imagining the bees free, 'the box is only temporary'. It is of more significance when we realise that the poem was written not long before her last and successful suicide attempt.

The language here, as in all of her poetry, is striking in its originality and aptness. Her writing I think is unparallelled in its intensity of figurative language and searing psychological honesty.

The Arrival of the Bee Box - Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Day 402: Center of the Universe

A little cosmic musing for a Monday -

Center - Billy Collins

At the first chink of sunrise,
the windows on one side of the house
are frosted with stark orange light,

and in every pale blue window
on the other side
a full moon hangs, a round, white blaze.

I look out one side, then the other,
moving from room to room
as if between countries or parts of my life.

Then I stop and stand in the middle,
extend both arms
like Leonardo's man, naked in a perfect circle.

And when I begin to turn slowly
I can feel the whole house turning with me,
rotating free of the earth.

The sun and moon in all the windows
move, too, with the tips of my fingers,
the solar system turning by degrees

with me, morning's egomaniac,
turning on the hallway carpet in my slippers,
taking the cold orange, blue, and white

for a quiet, unhurried spin,
all wheel and compass, axis and reel,
as wide awake as I will ever be.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Day 401: A Thousand Eyes

Why is it that in the night, there are multiple more answers to our questions, more possibilities, dreams, than in the day?

The Night has a Thousand Eyes - Francis William Bourdillon
 The night has a thousand eyes,
      And the day but one;
 Yet the light of the bright world dies
      With the dying sun.

 The mind has a thousand eyes,
      And the heart but one:
 Yet the light of a whole life dies
       When love is done.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day 400: Redemption


Oh look, day 400 already! And here's a perfect poem that describes what I (and I hope you) have gotten out of these poem a days.

The Uses of Poetry - Harvey Shapiro

This was a day when I did nothing,
aside from reading the newspaper,
taking both breakfast and lunch by myself
in the kitchen, dozing after lunch
until the middle of the afternoon. Then
I read one poem by Zbigniew Herbert
in which he thanked God for the many beautiful
things in this world, in a voice so absurdly
truthful, the entire wrecked day was redeemed.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Day 399: Roses in the Rain

To cut flowers or not to cut? A very melancholy task  cutting growing flowers from a garden. I always feel selfish after after it. William Carlos Williams feels more than that:

The Act - William Carlos Williams

There were the roses, in the rain.
Don’t cut them, I pleaded. They won’t last, she said.
But they’re so beautiful where they are.
Agh, we were all beautiful once, she said,
and cut them and gave them to me in my hand.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Day 398: Wounds

Louise Gluck is a poet who is not afraid to confront blunt psychological truths. And always in a personal confessional mode, in an effort you feel, to set herself free.

Untrustworthy Speaker - Louise Gluck 

Don’t listen to me; my heart’s been broken.
I don’t see anything objectively.

I know myself; I’ve learned to hear like a psychiatrist.
When I speak passionately,
that’s when I’m least to be trusted.

It’s very sad, really: all my life, I’ve been praised
for my intelligence, my powers of language, of insight.
In the end, they’re wasted—

I never see myself,
standing on the front steps, holding my sister’s hand.
That’s why I can’t account
for the bruises on her arm, where the sleeve ends.

In my own mind, I’m invisible: that’s why I’m dangerous.
People like me, who seem selfless,
we’re the cripples, the liars;
we’re the ones who should be factored out
in the interest of truth.

When I’m quiet, that’s when the truth emerges.
A clear sky, the clouds like white fibers.
Underneath, a little gray house, the azaleas
red and bright pink.

If you want the truth, you have to close yourself
to the older daughter, block her out:
when a living thing is hurt like that,
in its deepest workings,
all function is altered.

That’s why I’m not to be trusted.
Because a wound to the heart
is also a wound to the mind.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Day 397: August Sadness


August isn't a very nice month is it? The dragged-out end of summer, days fading, sun shimmying out and the loom of routine in September, the scythe, and endings, of every kind. 

August - Dorothy Parker

When my eyes are weeds,
And my lips are petals, spinning
Down the wind that has beginning
Where the crumpled beeches start
In a fringe of salty reeds;
When my arms are elder-bushes,
And the rangy lilac pushes
Upward, upward through my heart;

Summer, do your worst!
Light your tinsel moon, and call on
Your performing stars to fall on
Headlong through your paper sky;
Nevermore shall I be cursed
By a flushed and amorous slattern,
With her dusty laces' pattern
Trailing, as she straggles by. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Day 396: Logic of Love

In my own experience of writing poetry, I love using mathematical metaphors to explain love. Yep, two seeming contradictive schools of thought, but sometimes you'll find applying the logic of maths to love can provide a comfort (- there is a semblance of reason to this madness after all!) and often yield  beautiful results.

I love this poem by XJ Kennedy on the logic of parallel lines and how from this he fits hope into a story of impossible love:

Geometry - XJ Kennedy

They say who play at blindman's bluff
    and strive to fathom space
That a straight line drawn long enough
    regains its starting place
and that two lines laid parallel
    which neither stop nor swerve
at last will meet, for, strange to tell,
    space throws them both a curve.

Such guesswork lets my hopes abide,
    for though today you spurn
my heart and cast me from your side
    one day I shall return;
and though at present we may go
    our lonely ways, a tether
shall bind our paths till time be through
    and we two come together. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Day 395: After Enlightenment


Another beautiful poem from Anne Sexton in which she perfectly expresses the joy of finding  enlightenment, the epiphany and ecstasy of it noted through her surreal descriptions of a city at night: the street lights on the river  'all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening/their mouths as wide as opera singers,' and the stars 'my little campaigners'. 

I love her view that truth has a 'charm' and the 'constants' of it we try so hard to 'hoard' in night and then wake in morning, in the cold light of day only to fnd them 'gone.' How true.

Just Once - Anne Sexton

Just once I knew what life was for.
In Boston, quite suddenly, I understood;
walked there along the Charles River,
watched the lights copying themselves,
all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening
their mouths as wide as opera singers;
counted the stars, my little campaigners,
my scar daisies, and knew that I walked my love
on the night green side of it and cried
my heart to the eastbound cars and cried
my heart to the westbound cars and took
my truth across a small humped bridge
and hurried my truth, the charm of it, home
and hoarded these constants into morning
only to find them gone.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Day 394: Garden

A bit of French and romance on a Sunday...

The Garden - Jacques Prévert

Des milliers et des milliers d'années 
Ne sauraient suffire 
Pour dire 
La petite seconde d'éternité 
Où tu m'as embrassé 
Où je t'ai embrassèe 
Un matin dans la lumière de l'hiver 
Au parc Montsouris à Paris 
A Paris 
Sur la terre 
La terre qui est un astre

Thousands upon thousands of years
are not enough
to tell you
the tiny second of eternity
wherein you kissed me
and wherein I kissed you
one morning in the light of winter
in Park Montsouris in Paris
in Paris
on earth
the earth who is a star.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Day 393: Bee Day

Today is National Honey Bee Awareness Day! So here is Carol Ann Duffy's beautiful benediction to bees (I've posted it before, but I think the occasion calls for it again!) And 'guard them' we must for they are the 'batteries of orchards, gardens,' of utmost importance.  

Read more on the importance of bees here:

Virgil's Bees - Carol Ann Duffy

Bless air's gift of sweetness, honey
from the bees, inspired by clover,
marigold, eucalyptus, thyme,
the hundred perfumes of the wind.
Bless the beekeeper

                             who chooses for her hives
a site near water, violet beds, no yew,
no echo. Let the light lilt, leak, green
or gold, pigment for queens,
and joy be inexplicable but there
in harmony of willowherb and stream,
of summer heat and breeze,
                                            each bee's body
at its brilliant flower, lover-stunned,
strumming on fragrance, smitten.

                                                  For this,
let gardens grow, where beelines end,
sighing in roses, saffron blooms, buddleia;
where bees pray on their knees, sing, praise
in pear trees, plum trees; bees
are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Day 392: Logic & Wonder

There will forever be things beyond logic... theorems will turn into butterlfies, proven into unproven, and fact into wonder.

Geometry - Rita Dove
I prove a theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

As the walls clear themselves of everything
but transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them. I am out in the open

and above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they've intersected.
They are going to some point true and unproven. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Day 391: An August Day Song

Finally, a song that describes August in all of  its miserable end-of-summer rainy melancholy. (The month here so far has been nothing but gray skies and rain, an inevitable drip-by-drip back to our default weather - and it supposed to be the last hurrah of summer! Talk about miserable! 'barefoot blues') 
And one for today especially, 'and the sky coloured heavy gray' wondering 'will a smile break through?'

August Day - Hall & Oates (words by Sara Allen, music by Daryl Hall)

I saw the sun, though it didn’t shine
Gave up no shadows, gave out no way to know the time
No wind to blow the silver leaves
The drone of clever talk just stopped
The air hangs out, hesitates to carry a thought
Away from me
And the sky colored heavy gray
August day

Stir the dust and carve a rhyme
Barefoot blues watch and wait till suppertime
Will a smile break through
Distant thunder and the slow dance
Static lightning sky daring me to take a chance
And say that I love you
And the sky colored heavy gray
August day

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Day 390: Reading the Signs

Yes it is so important to be true: to oursleves, to others, and the way. 
(I love nearly all the lines in here that confront this unflinchingly, most especially - 'For it is 
important that awake people be awake.') 
Superb new-find poem! Enjoy. 

A Ritual to Read to Each Other - William Stafford
 If you don't know the kind of person I am
 and I don't know the kind of person you are
 a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
 and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

 For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
 a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
 sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
 storming out to play through the broken dyke.

 And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
 but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
 I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
 to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

 And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
 a remote important region in all who talk:
 though we could fool each other, we should consider -
 lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

 For it is important that awake people be awake,
 or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
 the signals we give - yes, no, or maybe -
 should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Day 389: Year of Meteors

We're in meteor season - the Perseids to be exact, the August meteor shower. 

In his famous poem 'Year of Meteors', Whitman documents the personal and political happenings of the year in which he witnessed a meteor shower (note the veiled mention of Lincoln), but what is he really getting at in his depiction of the meteors? Well that is the question that has baffled critics for years. Was it even a real physical phenomenon he was referring to or a metaphorical one? 

Therein lies the mystery! And the oeuvre to personal interpretation...

Year of Meteors (1859-60) - Walt Whitman 

Year of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs,
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad,
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
scaffold in Virginia,
(I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch'd,
I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling
with age and your unheal'd wounds you mounted the scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States,
The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships
and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill'd with
immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold,
Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would welcome give,
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young
prince of England!
(Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds as you pass'd with your
cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;)
Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was
600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not
to sing;
Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting
over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly light over
our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
Of such, and fitful as they, I sing--with gleams from them would
gleam and patch these chants,
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good--year of forebodings!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange--lo! even here one
equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this chant,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Day 388: Monday Motivation


Let's go! 

Even If You Grab A Piece of Time - Ruth Forman
Conjure something glowing
Take this day
You were born with hands for spinning
Talent for dreams and making them real

Roll the hours like yarn
Spin something that makes you feel full
And big and open to talk

Make this day your own square
In your own life quilt
So shining it brighten the whole of your years
This far
Make this day like one of God's seven. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Day 387: Morning Song

Morning is always a sort of shock to the system. When we awake from 'the starless waters of sleep' into the light of the day, we are disorientated and maybe for a split-second, in our most existential mode of the day: Who am I? Where am I? What to do for the day? Does what I do matter? I want to matter. I want to make this day count. What is this world I'm in? I love this world I'm in.  

What I love about this time of day is that the world is alive with newness and possibilities. So many things to do today, so many things that could be done!
I think we all carry these sentiments with us, beneath the sometimes hectic hustle and bustle of course. Wouldn't this be a great way of starting the day? -

 Morning Song of Senlin- Conrad Aiken
 It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
 When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
 I arise, I face the sunrise,
 And do the things my father learned to do.
 Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
 Pale in the saffron mist and seem to die
 And I myself upon a swiftly tilting planet
 Stand before a glass and tie my tie,

 Vine leaves tap my window,
 Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
 The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
 Repeating three clear tones.

 It is morning. I stand by the mirror
 And tie my tie once more.
 While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
 Crash on a white sand shore.
 I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
 How small and white my face! -
 The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
 And bathes in a flame of space.
 There are houses hanging above the stars
 And stars hung under a sea...
 And a sun far off in a shell of silence
 Dapples my walls for me...

 It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
 Should I not pause in the light to remember god?
 Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
 He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
 I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
 To him alone, for him I will comb my hair.
 Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
 I will think of you as I descend the star.

 Vine leaves tap my window,
 The snail track shines on the stones.
 Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
 Repeating two clear tones.

 It is morning, I awake from a cloud of silence,
 Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
 The walls are about me still as in the evening,
 I am the same, and the same name still I keep.

 The earth revolves around with me, yet makes no motion,
 The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
 In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
 Unconcerned, and tie my tie.

 There are horses neighing on far-off hills
 Tossing their long white manes,
 And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
 Their shoulders black with the rains...
 It is morning. I stand by the mirror
 And surprise my soul once more;
 The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
 There are suns beneath my floor...

   ... it is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
 And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
 My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
 And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
 There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
 And a god among the stars; and I will go
 Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
 And humming a tune I know...

 Vine-leaves tap at the window,
 Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
 The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
 Repeating three clear tones.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Day 386: Star of Starfish

One of the most fascinating and peculiar creatures on the planet has to be the starfish. What is their purpose? And why do they look both so strange and so lovely?

This poem does a great job of describing them in their entirety:

Starfish - John Wedgewood Clarke

Star of wonder, star of teeth,
Star of feet that breathe as they're squeezed,
Star with an eye at the end of each ray,
Star of zip-fastener undersides,

Star of childhood drowned in the sea,
Star in a white tray, under the knife,
Star of guts that come out to devour,
Star without centre, brain all over,

Star of Latin and death and spines,
Star of cuts slicing star from fish,
Star of labels digesting these innards
into star of wonder and function unknown.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Day 385: Courage


This is the kind of poem that can open the heart like a parachute, a blooming flower  - 'wake to the wings of roses' -  and start a fire there. 

Anne Sexton - shocking and stunning, punchy and powerful as always. 

Courage - Anne Sexton
It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comfort your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Day 384: In Dreams & In Life

'We don't remember the dream,/but the dream remembers us...'

What We Want - Linda Pastan
What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names-
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Day 383: Life is Fine!


After the initial sorrow that comes with heartbreak, there is almost anger, a fierce willingness to not be beat down by it, a feisty refusal. And if there's one thing I admire it's feistiness!

Forget all the sad laments of heartbreak poems, here's a I'll-be-damned-if-you-gonna-beat-me-down riposte from Langston Hughes:

Life is Fine - Langston Hughes

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love-
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry-
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine! 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Day 382: Talent


Daring to pursue a dream is like walking on a tightrope. I suppose taking any kind of risk is. And we don't like the tightrope walkers do we? Sometimes we're too contented with failure and settling our feet on the ground, that we don't want to be reminded that there are other options out there, other starry possibilities and rewards.

Talent - Carol Ann Duffy

This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net. 

You want him to fall, don't you? 
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds. 
The word applause is written all over him.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Day 381: Butterfly

I finally got to snap a picture of a butterfly yesterday (above) and have been since looking for a poem to go with it. There are many! 

But this one by WS Mervin I love best, likening a butterfly to joy -  how unaware it can take us and how especially, we must be content to accept its fleeting character, for to try to capture it, would be to cause unnecessary pain. Yes, just like Blake expressed in his poem 'Eternity': 'He who binds himself to a joy/does the winged life destroy' but he who 'kisses the joy as it flies/lives in eternity's sunrise.' 

(*Note the vagueness caused by the lack of punctuation - Mervin is famous for this.)
He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy He who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sunrise - See more at:
He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy He who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sunrise - See more at:

One of the Butterflies - WS Mervin

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn to pain

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Day 380: The Buried Life

Why can't we as human beings, just say what we feel? Why can't we just be who we truly want to be?
Why do we have to bury our deepest desires, our 'inmost soul', the best part of us and live a 'buried' half life? Why can't we just 'unlock' our hearts and not live and move 'trick'd in disguises', 'alien' to ourselves?

Here is a poem that pinpoints exactly the psychology of expression and suppression, of what it means to be human, the deep dilemma of being ourselves and finally, the wonder and understanding that awaits us when we do.

The Buried Life - Matthew Arnold

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,
We know, we know that we can smile!
But there's a something in this breast,
To which thy light words bring no rest,
And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.

Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves - and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

But we, my love!- doth a like spell benumb
Our hearts, our voices?- must we too be dumb?

Ah! well for us, if even we,
Even for a moment, can get free
Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd;
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd!

Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby man would be -
By what distractions he would be possess'd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity -
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us - to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves -
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well - but 'tis not true!
And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.
Only - but this is rare -
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd -
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Day 379: Trees

My inspiration for today's poem comes from stumbling across this fantastic project -That Tree - in which a photographer sets out to photograph the same tree for a year in a variety of shots, in an effort to get himself back on track after a near-fatal accident. It's a truly wonderful project and has garnered interest from far and wide. 

Trees - Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Day 378: Forgetting

How to know when to forget and move on? If you really love someone, should you let them go or hold on when it comes to the end? Pablo Neruda takes the selfless approach here, but you can see what he's really hoping for in the last stanza.

If You Forget Me - Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Day 377: August

August - already! I always think of it as a yellow month, dark ochre to be exact, like sunflowers, full of - as Longfellow puts it - 'golden harvests.'

August (from The Poet's Calendar) - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Emperor Octavian, called the August,
  I being his favourite, bestowed his name
Upon me, and I hold it still in trust,
  In memory of him and of his fame.
I am the Virgin, and my vestal flame
  Burns less intensely than the Lion's rage;
Sheaves are my only garlands, and I claim
  The golden Harvests as my heritage.