Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Day 895: A Way To A Happy New Year

 

 Out with the old... and in with the new!



A Way To A Happy New Year - Robert Brester

To leave the old with a burst of song;
To recall the right and forgive the wrong;
To forget the things that bind you fast
to the vain regrets of the year that’s past;

To have the strength to let go your hold
of the not worthwhile of the days grown old:
To dare go forth with a purpose true,
To the unknown task of the year that’s new;

To help your brother/sister along the road,
to do his work and lift his load;
To add your gift to the world’s good cheer,
is to have and to give a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Day 894: Carol of the Birds


Have you heard the birds recently? They've been singing so loudly the past few days, 'flinging alleluias over the sea', 'Robins and hidden wrens whose shiny notes/Tinsel the precincts of the winter sun.' This is such a beautiful brilliant poem.



Carol of the Birds - Anne Stevenson

Feet that could be clawed but are not …
Arms that might have flown but did not …
No one said "Let there be angels!" but the birds

Whose choirs fling alleluias over the sea,
Herring gulls, black backs carolling raucously
While cormorants dry their wings on a rocky stable.

Plovers that stoop to sanctify the land
And scoop small, roundy mangers in the sand,
Swaddle a saviour each in a speckled shell.

A chaffinchy fife unreeling in the marsh
Accompanies the tune a solo thrush
Half sings, half talks in riffs of wordless words,

As hymns flare up from tiny muscled throats,
Robins and hidden wrens whose shiny notes
Tinsel the precincts of the winter sun.

What loftier organ than these pipes of beech,
Pillars resounding with the jackdaws’ speech,
And poplars swayed with light like shaken bells?

Wings that could be hands, but are not …
Cries that might be pleas but cannot
Question or disinvent the stalker’s gun,

Be your own hammerbeam angels of the air
Before, in the maze of space, you disappear,
Stilled by our dazzling anthrocentric mills.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Day 893: Christmas Card


It's freezing at the moment! With a dusting of frost to prove it. Christmas card scenes are lovely, but tremendously cold, as Ted Hughes reminds us here.


Christmas Card - Ted Hughes

You have anti-freeze in the car, yes,
   But the shivering stars wade deeper.
Your scarf’s tucked in under your buttons,
   But a dry snow ticks through the stubble.
Your knee-boots gleam in the fashion,
   But the moon must stay

      And stamp and cry
      As the holly the holly
      Hots its reds.

Electric blanket to comfort your bedtime
   The rover no longer feels its stones.
Your windows are steamed by dumpling laughter
   The snowplough’s buried on the drifted moor.
Carols shake your television
   And nothing moved on the road but the wind

      Hither and thither
      The wind and three
      Starving sheep.

Redwings from Norway rattle at the clouds
   But comfortless sneezers puddle in pubs.
The robin looks in at the kitchen window
   But all care huddles to hearths and kettles.
The sun lobs one wet snowball feebly
   Grim and blue

      The dusk of the coombe
      And the swamp woodland
      Sinks with the wren.

See old lips go purple and old brows go paler.
   The stiff crow drops in the midnight silence.
Sneezes grow coughs and coughs grow painful.
   The vixen yells in the midnight garden.
You wake with the shakes and watch your breathing
   Smoke in the moonlight – silent, silent.

      Your anklebone
      And your anklebone
      Lie big in the red.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Day 892: Christmas Greeting



Christmas Greeting - Lewis Carroll

Lady, dear, if Fairies may
For a moment lay aside
Cunning tricks and elfish play,
'Tis at happy Christmas-tide.

We have heard the children say -
Gentle children, whom we love -
Long ago on Christmas Day,
Came a message from above,

Still, as Christmas-tide comes round,
They remember it again -
Echo still the joyful sound
"Peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Yet the hearts must childlike be
Where such heavenly guests abide;
Unto children, in their glee,
All the year is Christmas-tide!

Thus, forgetting tricks and play
For a moment, Lady dear,
We would wish you, if we may,
Merry Christmas, Glad New Year!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Day 891: White Christmas


According to the national forecast, we are to have snow showers today. Here's hoping!


White Christmas - Simon Armitage

For once it is a White Christmas,
so white that the roads are impassable
and my wife is snowbound
in a town untroubled by tractor or snowplough.
In bed, awake, alone.  She calls

and we pass on our presents by telephone.
Mine is a watch, the very one
I would have chosen.  Hers is a song,
the one with the line Here come the hills of time
and it sits in its sleeve,

unsung and unopened.  But the dog downstairs
is worrying, gnawing, howling,
so I walk her through clean snow
along the tow-path to the boat-house at a steady pace,
then to my parents' place

where my Mother is Marie Curie, in the kitchen
discovering radium, and my Father is Fred Flintstone,
and a guest from the past has a look on her face meaning
lie and I'll have your teeth for a necklace, boy,
your eyeballs for earrings,

your bullshit for breakfast,
and my two-year-old niece is the baby Jesus,
passing between us with the fruit of the earth
and the light of the world - Christingle - a blood orange
spiked with a burning candle.

We eat, but the dog begs at the table,
drinks from the toilet, sings in the cellar.
Only baby Jesus wanders with me down the stairs
with a shank of meat to see her, to feed her.
Later, when I stand to leave

my Father wants to shake me by the hand
but my arms are heavy, made of base metal,
and the dog wants to take me down the back lane, back
to an empty house again.  A car goes by
with my sister inside

and to wave goodnight
she lifts the arm of the sleeping infant Christ,
but I turn my wrist to notice the time.  There and then
I'm the man in the joke, the man in a world of friends
where all the clocks are stopped,

synchronising his own watch.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Day 890: Reindeer Report

 



Reindeer Report - UA Fanthorpe 
Chimneys: colder.
Flightpaths: busier.
Driver: Christmas (F)
Still baffled by postcodes.
Children: more
And stay up later.
Presents: heavier.
Pay: frozen.
Mission in spite
Of all this
Accomplished –
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Day 889: Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth ~ by Josephine Wall

Happy Christmas and peace to all.


Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem - Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Day 888: Christmas Eve


Well it's Christmas Eve. I could not decide which of these two poems to post today, so what the heck, I'll just post them both. A very Merry Christmas, peace and goodwill to you all. I hope you enjoy the holidays, and as UA Fanthorpe advises, expect miracles :)
 

Not the Millennium - UA Fanthorpe 

Wise Men are busy being computer literate.
There should be a law against confusing
Religion with mathematics.
There was a baby. Born where?
And when? The sources mention
Massacres, prophecies, stars;
They tell a good story, but they don’t agree.
So we celebrate at the wrong midnight.
Does it matter? Only (dull) science expects
An accurate audit. The economy of heaven
Looks for fiestas and fireworks every day,
Every day.
Be realistic, says heaven:
Expect a miracle.


***


Christmas Eve: Nearing Midnight In New York- Langston Hughes

The Christmas trees are almost all sold
And the ones that are left go cheap
The children almost all over town
Have almost gone to sleep.

The skyscraper lights on Christmas Eve
Have almost all gone out
There’s very little traffic
Almost no one about.

Our town’s almost as quiet
As Bethlehem must have been
Before a sudden angel chorus
Sang PEACE ON EARTH
GOOD WILL TO MEN!

Our old Statue of Liberty
Looks down almost with a smile
As the Island of Manhattan
Awaits the morning of the Child.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Day 887: Star-Silver

 



Star-Silver - Carl Sandburg

The silver of one star
plays cross-lights against pine-green
And the play of this silver cross-wise against the green is an old story.
Thousands of years.

And sheep grazers on the hills by night
watching the woolly four-footed ramblers
watching a single silver star.
Why does this story never wear out?

And a baby, slung in a feed box back in a barn in a Bethlehem slum
A baby's first cry,
mixing with the crunch of a mule's teeth on Bethlehem Christmas corn
Baby fists, softer than snowflakes of Norway

The vagabond mother of Christ
and the vagabond men of wisdom
all in a barn on a winter night
and a baby there in swaddling clothes on hay
Why does this story never wear out?

The sheen of it all--is a star, silver and a pine, green
For the heart of a child asking a story
The red and hungry, red and hankering heart
Calling for cross-lights of silver and green

Monday, 22 December 2014

Day 886: Christmas Light



Christmas Light - May Sarton

When everyone had gone
I sat in the library
With the small silent tree,
She and I alone.
How softly she shone!

And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love's presence near.

Love distant, love detached
And strangely without weight,
Was with me in the night
When everyone had gone
And the garland of pure light
Stayed on, stayed on.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Day 885: Foster the Light

 

Because this poem is by Dylan Thomas, it requires more than one reading and there's just too many exquisitely wrought lines to quote, but this one does make an impression: 'starboard smile.' Yes. Here's to the light returning. Happy Solstice. 

 

Foster the Light - Dylan Thomas

Foster the light nor veil the manshaped moon,
Nor weather winds that blow not down the bone,
But strip the twelve-winded marrow from his circle;
Master the night nor serve the snowman's brain
That shapes each bushy item of the air
Into a polestar pointed on an icicle.

Murmur of spring nor crush the cockerel's eggs,
Nor hammer back a season in the figs,
But graft these four-fruited ridings on your country;
Farmer in time of frost the burning leagues,
By red-eyed orchards sow the seeds of snow,
In your young years the vegetable century.

And father all nor fail the fly-lord's acre,
Nor sprout on owl-seed like a goblin-sucker,
But rail with your wizard's ribs the heart-shaped planet;
Of mortal voices to the ninnies' choir,
High lord esquire, speak up the singing cloud,
And pluck a mandrake music from the marrowroot.

Roll unmanly over this turning tuft,
O ring of seas, nor sorrow as I shift
From all my mortal lovers with a starboard smile;
Nor when my love lies in the cross-boned drift
Naked among the bow-and-arrow birds
Shall you turn cockwise on a tufted axle.

Who gave these seas their colour in a shape,
Shaped my clayfellow, and the heaven's ark
In time at flood filled with his coloured doubles;
O who is glory in the shapeless maps,
Now make the world of me as I have made
A merry manshape of your walking circle.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Day 884: Lute Music




Lute Music - Richard Rexroth

The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once—

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Day 883: Snowfall


Snow is the exact opposite to the hustle and bustle of this time of year isn't it? Lovely quiet, tender and calming. The perfect antidote.


Snowfall - May Sarton

With no wind blowing
It sifts gently down,
Enclosing my world in
A cool white down,
A tenderness of snowing.

It falls and falls like sleep
Till wakeful eyes can close
On all the waste and loss
As peace comes in and flows,
Snow-dreaming what I keep.

Silence assumes the air
And the five senses all
Are wafted on the fall
To somewhere magical
Beyond hope and despair.

There is nothing to do
But drift now, more or less
On some great lovingness,
On something that does bless,
The silent, tender snow.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Day 882: Christmas Mail

 

Is there anything more exciting and lovely than receiving Christmas cards in the post? 
This is the time of year when our local posties become harbingers of all good tidings and cheer.
And it's bound to rub off on them, as Ted Kooser demonstrates magically here.


Christmas Mail - Ted Kooser 

Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Day 881: Snow Angel


The more I read this poem, the more I love it. It is full of quiet wonder and hushed awe, the 'glory' of how love can take simple things and transform them into magic.


A Glory - Simon Armitage 

Right here you made an angel of yourself,
free-falling backwards into last night's snow,
indenting a straight, neat, crucified shape,
then flapping your arms, one stroke, a great bird,
to leave the impression of wings. It worked.
Then you found your feet, sprang clear of the print
and the angel remained, fixed, countersunk,
open wide, hosting the whole of the sky.

Losing sleep because of it, I backtrack
to the place, out of earshot of the streets,
above the fetch and reach of the town.
The scene of the crime. Five-eighths of the monn.
On ground where snow has given up the ghost
it lies on its own, spread-eagled, embossed,
commending itself, star of its own cause.
Priceless thing - the faceless hood of the head,
grass making out through the scored spine, the wings
on the turn, becoming feathered, clipped.

Cattle would trample roughshod over it,
hikers might come with pebbles for the eyes,
a choice of fruit for the nose and the lips;
somebody's boy might try it on for size,
might lie down in its shroud, might suit, might fit. Angel,
from under the shade and shelter of trees
I keep watch, wait for the dawn to take you,
raise you, imperceptibly, by degrees. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Day 880: A Winter Bluejay


'Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?'



A Winter Bluejay - Sara Teasdale

Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
But no,
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
"Oh look!"
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Day 879: So Many Different Kinds of Loneliness


There is a lot of loneliness out there, and within, at this time of year. This poem takes tender note.


Loneliness - Stephen Dunn

So many different kinds,
yet only one vague word.
And the Eskimos
with twenty-six words for snow,

such a fine alertness
to what variously presses down.
Yesterday I saw lovers
hugging in the street,


making everyone around them
feel lonely, and the lovers themselves -
wasn't a deferred loneliness
waiting for them?

There must be words

for what our aged mothers, removed
in those unchosen homes, keep inside,
and a separate word for us
who've sent them there, a word

for the secret loneliness of salesmen,
for how I feel touching you
when I'm out of touch.
The contorted, pocked, terribly ugly man

shopping in the 24-hour supermarket
at 3 a.m. - a word for him-
and something, please,
for this nameless ache here

in this nameless spot.
If we paid half as much attention
to our lives as Eskimos to snow...
Still, the little lies,


the never enough.
No doubt there must be Eskimos
in their white sanctums, thinking
just let it fall, accumulate.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Day 878: Snow Queen Meditations #3


'Under my ribs a diamond splinter now
Sticks, and has taken root; I know
Only this frozen spear that drives me through.'

Most metaphorical readings of the figure of the snow queen amount to this: an ice queen not made of pure cruelty but hardened by inflicted hurt, her defiant unfeeling or 'frozen' state a method of self-preservation and self-protection, what Adrienne Rich talks of here in this striking interpretation.



The Snow Queen - Adrienne Rich

Child with a chip of mirror in his eye
Saw the world ugly, fled to plains of ice
Where beauty was the Snow Queen's promises.
Under my lids a splinter sharp as his
Has made me wish you lying dead
Whose image digs the needle deeper still.

In the deceptive province of my birth
I had seen yes turn no, the saints descend,
Their sacred faces twisted into smiles,
The stars gone lechering, the village spring
Gush mud and toads---all miracles
Befitting an incalculable age.

To love a human face was to discover
The cracks of paint and varnish on the brow;
Soon to distrust all impulses of flesh
That strews its sawdust on the chamber floor,
While at the window peer two crones
Who once were Juliet and Jessica.

No matter, since I kept a little while
One thing intact from that perversity---
Though landscapes bloomed in monstrous cubes and coils.
In you belonged simplicities of light
To mend distraction, teach the air
To shine, the stars to find their way again.

Yet here the Snow Queen's cold prodigious will
Commands me, and your face has lost its power,
Dissolving to its opposite like the rest.
Under my ribs a diamond splinter now
Sticks, and has taken root; I know
Only this frozen spear that drives me through.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Day 877: Snow Queen Meditations #2



Snow Queen - Helen Dunmore

Long long I have looked for you,
snowshoeing across the world
across the wild white world

with my heart in my pocket
and my black greased boots
to keep the cold out,

past cathedrals and pike marshes
I've tracked you,
so long have I looked for you.

In your star-blue palace
I wandered and could not find you
in your winter garden
I picked icicles,

my fingers burned on your gate
of freezing iron
I have the pain
of it yet on my palm.

through clanging branches
and black frost-fall
I dared not call

so I slide above worlds of ice
where the fishes kiss

and the drowned farmer
whips on his cart
through bubbles of glass

and his dogs prance
at the tail-end, frozen
with one leg cocked
and yellow urine
twined in thickets of ice.
I stamp my boot
and the ice booms.

I have looked so long
I am wild and white
as your creatures, I might
be one of your own.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Day 876: Snow Queen Meditations #1

 
 'Now you know: this is the place
where water insists on being ice...'

Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Snow Queen' is essential seasonal/magical reading. A story open to many re-interpretations (Disney's 'Frozen' for one), it has also inspired many poems, some of which I'd like to share here. 

Love and more specifically, lack of love, seem to be the main themes prevalent in them. In this poem from Sandra Gilbert, we are offered a meditation on the nature of personalities and how some people just can't be saved from cruel influences or tragic fates. How love sometimes, is not enough to compete with the cold, in whatever form that may be.



The Last Poem About the Snow Queen - Sandra Gilbert

'Then it was that little Gerda walked into the Palace,
through the great gates, in a biting wind…She saw Kay,
and knew him at once; she flung her arms round his neck,
held him fast, and cried, “Kay, little Kay, have I found you at last.
But he sat still, rigid and cold.'
-Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen”


You wanted to know “love” in all its habitats, wanted
to catalog the joints, the parts, the motions, wanted
to be a scientist of romance: you said
you had to study everything, go everywhere,
even here, even
this ice palace in the far north.

You said you were ready, you’d be careful.
Smart girl, you wore two cardigans, a turtleneck,
fur lined boots, scarves,
a stocking cap with jingle bells.
And over the ice you came, gay as Santa,
singing and bringing gifts.

Ah, but the journey was long, so much longer
than you’d expected, and the air so thin,
the sky so high and black.
What are these cold needles, what are these shafts of ice,
you wondered on the fourteenth day.
What are those tracks that glitter overhead?

The one you came to see was silent,
he wouldn’t say “stars” or “snow,”
wouldn’t point south, wouldn’t teach survival.

And you’d lost your boots, your furs,
now you were barefoot on the ice floes, fingers blue,
tears freezing and fusing your eyelids.

Now you know: this is the place
where water insists on being ice,
where wind insists on breathlessness
where the will of the cold is so strong
that even the stone’s desire for heat
is driven into the eye of night.

What will you do now, little Gerda?
Kay and the Snow Queen are one, they’re a single
pillar of ice, a throne of silence -
and they love you
the way the teeth of winter
love the last red shred of November.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Day 875: Wind in Words

 

Well it's been a stormy few days here! We're currently experiencing a 'weather bomb' here in Ireland with high winds and extreme wintry weather. And this is just the pitch perfect poem to describe it. Ted Hughes' way with words whishes through this poem like a terrific gale of cobweb-blasting articulation.



Wind - Ted Hughes

This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Day 874: Winter Haiku


                                                      



Winter Solitude - Basho

Winter solitude -
in a world of one colour
   the sound of wind.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Day 873: Skater


I just love this poem!  Sheer metaphorical brilliance and concise precision from Ted Kooser.


Skater - Ted Kooser

She was all in black but for a yellow pony tail
that trailed from her cap, and bright blue gloves
that she held out wide, the feathery fingers spread,
as surely she stepped, click-clack, onto the frozen
top of the world. And there, with a clatter of blades,
she began to braid a loose path that broadened
into a meadow of curls. Across the ice she swooped
and then turned back and, halfway, bent her legs
and leapt into the air the way a crane leaps, blue gloves
lifting her lightly, and turned a snappy half-turn
there in the wind before coming down, arms wide,
skating backward right out of that moment, smiling back
at the woman she'd been just an instant before.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Day 872: The Silent Poem

 
                                                           

Well this is one unique poem. I was intrigued by the title of it and checked it out with the burning question in mind -  how can a poem be silent exactly? 

Well as you can see (and hear), it uses no sentences, no linking words at all, (no hands!) just a list of say-what-you-see observations, just the nouns alone as your mind recognises them upon encountering. How silence would speak in other words, which begs the question -  is there really such a thing as silence when the mind is constantly registering what it sees? Even though there's no traditional syntax here, no lyrical or metrical tweaking, (although the words are all lovely sounding compound words), a poem it is.  Conjuring not just a scene but a feeling, a landscape of the mind, as visual as it is veritable. 



The Silent Poem - Robert Francis 

backroad leafmold stonewall chipmunk
underbrush grapevine woodchuck shadblow

woodsmoke cowbarn honeysuckle woodpile
sawhorse bucksaw outhouse wellsweep

backdoor flagstone bulkhead buttermilk
candlestick ragrug firedog brownbread

hilltop outcrop cowbell buttercup
whetstone thunderstorm pitchfork steeplebush

gristmill millstone cornmeal waterwheel
watercress buckwheat firefly jewelweed

gravestone groundpine windbreak bedrock
weathercock snowfall starlight cockcrow 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Day 871: Winter Love

 

This short love poem is deliberately vague, but beautiful too.



She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep - Robert Graves

She tells her love while half asleep,
   In the dark hours,
     With half words whispered low;
As earth stirs in her winter sleep
   And puts out grass and flowers
      Despite the snow,
      Despite the falling snow.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Day 870: Moon Story




What is it that makes the moon so magical? How is it that its presence can be illuminating, enabling, transforming? Why it is so associated with dreams and romance and wishing and most specifically, the fulfillment of these? How can it affect us so?

This poem by the late Mark Strand, captures the magical mystery of the moon charmingly. How it can lead us into 'those places where what you had wished for happens,' its 'lone syllable like a sentence poised at the edge of sense.'

 
Moon - Mark Strand

Open the book of evening to the page
where the moon, always the moon appears

between two clouds, moving so slowly that hours
will seem to have passed before you reach the next page

where the moon, now brighter, lowers a path
to lead you away from what you have known

into those places where what you had wished for happens,
its lone syllable like a sentence poised

at the edge of sense, waiting for you to say its name
once more as you lift your eyes from the page

close the book, still feeling what it was like
to dwell in that light, that sudden paradise of sound.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Day 869: O You Skating!

The enthusiasm of this poem is endearing and impossible not to read aloud! 
 
O You Skating - ee cummings
Spring is past, and Summer's past,
 Autumn's come, and going;
Weather seems as though at last
 We might get some snowing.
Spring was good, and Summer better,
 But the best of all is waiting,-
Madame Winter-don't forget her.-
   O
        You
            Skating!
           
Spring we welcomed when we met,
 Summer was a blessing;
Autumn points to school, but yet
 Let's be acquiescing.
Spring had many precious pleasures;
 Winter's on a different rating;
She has greater, richer treasures,-
   O
       You
           Skating!
         
Gleam of ice, and glint of steel,
 Jolly, snappy weather;
Glide on ice and joy of zeal,
 All, alone, together.
Fickle Spring!  Who can imprint her?-
 Faithless while she's captivating;
Here's to trusty Madame Winter.-
   O
       You
           Skating!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Day 868: The Lives of Winter Trees

Tree Roots by Erica Pochybova

The common misconception is that trees are dead in winter, barren, bare, their branches a dearth. But this is not entirely the case. Below the surface, their roots are 'riotous' to use the words of Rumi, preparing for spring. And their branches against the sky seem like a kind of writing do they not? Billy Collins thought so. Alice Oswald has termed their appearance as 'wishbone trees' due to the exposed shape of the branches - look closely and you will see that this is indeed a true comparison. And I just love the sentiment here in Ted Kooser's short poem, seconding this notion, full of vivacity and optimism and 'great joy' made manifest.


Walking Beside a Creek - Ted Kooser

Walking beside a creek
in December, the black ice
windy with leaves,
you can feel the great joy
of the trees, their coats
thrown open like drunken men,
the lifeblood thudding
in their tight, wet boots.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Day 867: White Moon




There's a gorgeous big white moon rising early these evenings. Have you seen it? It's December's Cold Moon, almost snow white in colour and striking against a pink winter sky. Carl Sandburg is the perfect moon muser to describe it.




White Moon - Carl Sandburg


White moon comes in on a baby face.
The shafts across her bed are flimmering.

Out on the land White Moon shines,
Shines and glimmers against gnarled shadows,
All silver to slow twisted shadows
Falling across the long road that runs from the house.

Keep a little of your beauty
And some of your flimmering silver
For her by the window to-night
Where you come in, White Moon.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Day 866: December Weather


Although many of us are waiting, frosty breath baited, for snow, it doesn't seem likely this year in Ireland. But for now I can be satisfied with these calm days as John Updike describes them here, 'no special weather' therefore no 'impediment'. There's a beauty in these days, a 'contemplative' grey yes, offering all kind of music.
 


December, Outdoors - John Updike

Clouds like fish shedding scales are stretched
thin above Salem. The calm cold sea
accepts the sun as an equal, a match:
the horizon a truce, the air all still.
Sun, but no shadows somehow, the trees
ideally deleafed, a contemplative gray
that ushers into the woods (in summer
crammed with undergrowth) sheer space.

How fortunate it is to move about
without impediment, Nature having
no case to make, no special weather to plead,
unlike some storm-obsessed old symphonist.
The day is piano; I see buds so subtle
they know, though fat, that this is no time to bloom.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Day 865: Hello December


I am so excited about this month here as I have a lovely selection of poems lined up that channel 
the wonder and magic of the season just beautifully. I hope you will join me :)  



December (from The Months) - Linda Pastan

The white dove of winter
sheds its first
fine feathers;
they melt

as they touch
the warm ground
like notes
of a once familiar

music; the earth
shivers and
turns towards
the solstice.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Day 864: RIP Mark Strand

Mark Strand 1934-2014
 'When I read poetry, I want to feel myself suddenly larger . . . in touch with—or at least close to—what I deem magical, astonishing. I want to experience a kind of wonderment. And when you report back to your own daily world after experiencing the strangeness of a world sort of recombined and reordered in the depths of a poet’s soul, the world looks fresher somehow. Your daily world has been taken out of context. It has the voice of the poet written all over it, for one thing, but it also seems suddenly more alive—not as routinely there.'  ~ Mark Strand

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Mark Strand yesterday. Every time a poet dies, I think every other living poet and poetry lover feels their loss as that of a comrade, a mentor, an inspiration.

A former Poet Laureate of America, Strand was also a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. His 2007 collection of 'New Selected Poems' is a book I read every winter. He writes a lot about winter and a lot about death, his poems subtle and eloquent meditations on the human condition. You might be familiar most with his riotous ode to poetry: 'Eating Poetry', or the beautiful winter anthem: 'Lines for Winter' or 'The Coming of Light'. Rereading him now again, I will be posting more of his poems here over the next few weeks.

*(You can read the above mentioned poems and more here: Mark Strand.)




The End - Mark Strand

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Day 863: Grace

 

Grace - Alice Walker

Gives me a day
too beautiful
I had thought
to stay indoors
& yet
washing my dishes
straightening
my shelves
finally
throwing out
the wilted
onions
shrunken garlic
cloves
I discover
I am happy
to be inside
looking out.
This, I think,
is wealth.
Just this choosing
of how
a beautiful day
is spent.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Day 862: Winter Trees




Winter Trees - William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Day 861: Thanks for Thanksgiving

'There's not a day in all the year but holds some hidden treasure...'

I really  admire the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It's such a wonderful idea. To dedicate a day to gathering together and being thankful and grateful for our blessings is a beautiful idea, especially in these modern times when we so often miss or overlook the 'blessings common in our sight.' Unfortunately we do tend to take for granted 'our daily store of pleasures sweet and tender', but the act of being grateful recalls our attention to them, and engenders a greater awareness of them, not to mention appreciation.

There is, as GK Chesterson has put it, happiness and wonder involved in gratitude. Today I am grateful for finding this poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox which narrates the sentiments of Thanksgiving and is full of so many lovely phrases, too many to quote.  As everyday, I am so very grateful for poetry and its ability to pique our attention to the wonder of the world in mere words. 

Happy Thanksgiving!



Thanksgiving - Ella Wheeler Wilcox 
 
 We walk on starry fields of white
   And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
   We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
   To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
   Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
   Upon our thought and feeling.
They hang about us all the day,
   Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
   We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives
   And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
   But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
   To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
   Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
   While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
   Of worry or of trouble.
Farseeing is the soul and wise
   Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
   To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
   To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
   Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
   Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
   As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
   A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Day 860: Deeplier November

 
 'Deeplier, deeplier, loudlier, loudlier...'

November is almost at its end now and winter is certainly getting 'deeplier' and 'loudlier.'  


The Region November - Wallace Stevens

It is hard to hear the north wind again,
And to watch the treetops, as they sway.

They sway, deeply and loudly, in an effort,
So much less than feeling, so much less than speech,

Saying and saying, the way things say
On the level of that which is not yet knowledge:

A revelation not yet intended.
It is like a critic of God, the world

And human nature, pensively seated
On the waste throne of his own wilderness.

Deeplier, deeplier, loudlier, loudlier,
The trees are swaying, swaying, swaying.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Day 859: Poetry Vs Prose

 

Aha, yes.





Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry - Howard Nemerov

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Day 858: Last Days

 
 
 
 
 
 
Last days - Mary Oliver
 
Things are
    changing; things are starting to
        spin, snap, fly off into
            the blue sleeve of the long
               afternoon. Oh and ooh
come whistling out of the perished mouth
     of the grass, as things
turn soft, boil back
      into substance and hue. As everything,
          forgetting its own enchantment, whispers:
              I too love oblivion why not it is full
                   of second chances. Now,
hiss the bright curls of the leaves, Now!
    booms the muscle of the wind.
 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Day 857: Frost at Midnight

 
A classic winter poem this.

 
Frost at Midnight - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
 
The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

                      But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

         Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

         Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon. 
 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Day 856: November Skies



November skies are surprisingly beautiful, full of colour and as John Freeman remarks here, the presence of the 'unvanquished sun.'  It may be winter, but the sun still puts on spectacular shows.


November Skies - John Freeman

Than these November skies
Is no sky lovelier. The clouds are deep;
Into their grey the subtle spies
Of colour creep,
Changing that high austerity to delight,
Till ev'n the leaden interfolds are bright.
And, where the cloud breaks, faint far azure peers
Ere a thin flushing cloud again
Shuts up that loveliness, or shares.
The huge great clouds move slowly, gently, as
Reluctant the quick sun should shine in vain,
Holding in bright caprice their rain.
And when of colours none,
Not rose, nor amber, nor the scarce late green,
Is truly seen, -
In all the myriad grey,
In silver height and dusky deep, remain
The loveliest,
Faint purple flushes of the unvanquished sun.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Day 855: Poems That Are Never Written


True, true, true.



There are Poems - Linda Pastan

There are poems
that are never written,
that simply move across
the mind
like skywriting
on a still day:
slowly the first word
drifts west,
the last letters dissolve
on the tongue,
and what is left
is the pure blue
of insight, without cloud
or comfort.