Sunday, 31 August 2014

Day 772: Goodbye Summer!

 'Your soul joins with the birds in wistful brood
Crying for lost summer days, for childhood.'

Today is the official last day of summer (sigh).  And I for one can't help but reminisce about the days that have gone by in a seeming speedy mirage - where did they go??! Seems like only last week I was googling summer poems to post in the yellow nectar of a sun-warm morning, now it's autumn ones and there's a chill outside! (I'm sure you've noticed the seasonal influence to the poems here, it's a defining structure I adhere to when selecting poems as I feel poetry is a vital aid to adjusting and appreciating each season as it comes and goes, and in doing so of course, being able to see the world around us anew.) 

And now it's time to say goodbye to summer, a very hard thing to do,  especially when summer is the most anticipated season of the year and the most agreeable. It's always a sad time of year when autumn chimes its wind-down tone and we reluctantly and helplessly acquiesce. I think the term 'wistful brood' is just the perfect one to describe it.

The End of Summer - Shannon Georgia Schaubroeck

The summer days are fading, as they must
From endless hours to short and fleeting light.
The bird's once bright, immortal tune, now cries
A melancholy aura to the dusk.
The children fiercely climb, and dream, and race
Before their wild and unchained days depart
And yet beneath the zeal lies a half heart
For there isn't time, there's only enough space.
The sun seems low, a hazy orange sphere
Now reminiscing sweetly of the days
When endlessly before you summer lay
And as in the deep, crimson dusk you stir
Your soul joins with the birds in wistful brood
Crying for lost summer days, for childhood.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Day 771: August Moonrise

Watching the moon rise is occasion here for Sara Teasdale to reflect on a life enchanted by beauty, or rather Beauty, that all-encompassing romantic ideal.

August Moonrise - Sara Teasdale

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.
I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me. 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Day 770: Late August

Late August - Margaret Atwood

This is the plum season, the nights
blue and distended, the moon
hazed, this is the season of peaches

with their lush lobed bulbs
that glow in the dusk, apples
that drop and rot
sweetly, their brown skins veined as glands

No more the shrill voices
that cried Need Need
from the cold pond, bladed
and urgent as new grass

Now it is the crickets
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside
our window, burst
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

The air is still
warm, flesh moves over
flesh, there is no


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Day 769: End of Summer

'...and I knew/That part of my life was over...'

There's a melancholy in the air right now, with summer coming to an end. Always a bittersweet time of year.

End of Summer -  Stanley Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Day 768: Heron

Have you ever watched a heron take flight? It's exactly as described here, clumsy and cumbersome and well, funny.  (This poem is taken from the very lovely anthology: 'The Poetry of Birds', edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee.)

The Heron - Paul Farley
One of the most begrudging avian take-offs
is the heron's fucking hell, all right, all right,
I'll go the garage for your flaming fags

cranky departure, though once they're up
their flight can be extravagant. I watched
one big spender climb the thermal staircase,
a calorific waterspout of frogs
and sticklebacks, the undercarriage down
and trailing. Seen from antiquity
you gain the Icarus thing; seen from my childhood
that cursing man sets out for Superkings,
though the heron cares for neither as it struggles
into its wings then soars sunwards and throws
its huge overcoat across the earth.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Day 767: The Best Time of the Year

Ah yes, and let's enjoy the last of them.  

The Best Time of The Day - Raymond Carver
Cool summer nights.
Windows open.
Lamps burning.
Fruit in the bowl.
And your head on my shoulder.
These the happiest moments in the day.

Next to the early morning hours,
of course. And the time
just before lunch.
And the afternoon, and
early evening hours.
But I do love
these summer nights.
Even more, I think,
than those other times.
The work finished for the day.
And no one who can reach us now.
Or ever.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Day 766: Lessons in Life


Simple but powerful.

First Memory - Louise Gluck

Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was—
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.

The Everlasting Monday

Thou shalt have an everlasting
Monday and stand in the moon.

The moon's man stands in his shell,
Bent under a bundle
Of sticks. The light falls chalk and cold
Upon our bedspread.
His teeth are chattering among the leprous
Peaks and craters of those extinct volcanoes.

He also against black frost
Would pick sticks, would not rest
Until his own lit room outshone
Sunday's ghost of sun;
Now works his hell of Mondays in the moon's ball,
Fireless, seven chill seas chained to his ankle.
- See more at:

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Day 765: Stardust

Stardust - Kay Ryan

Stardust is
the hardest thing
to hold out for.
You must
make of yourself
a perfect place —
something still
upon which
something settles —
something like
sugar grains on
something like
metal, but with
none of the chill.
It’s hard to explain.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Day 764: So Much Happiness

All kinds of lovely in this poem - 

So Much Happiness - Naomi Shibab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Day 763: Indian Summer

 Feisty Friday with Dorothy Parker, whose birthday falls today.

Indian Summer - Dorothy Parker

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Day 762: Monet Refuses the Operation

At 83, the great Impressionist painter Claude Monet, blind for several years (but still painting) eventually agreed to an operation to have cataracts removed and his sight restored.  
In this poem, Lisel Mueller speaks in his voice, outlining the reasons why he refused the operation beforehand, mainly we see, to uphold the quality he chiefly sought in art - the pageant of moving light and air - which his deteriorating vision accentuated. The result is the image of a man who saw beauty everywhere; and the entire poem a lesson in looking, an invitation to do likewise.

Monet Refuses the Operation - Lisel Mueller 
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent.  The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases.  Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Day 761: Sunflower Theory

'Like every flower, she has a little/ theory, and what she thinks/ is up.' 

More sunflowers, as promised. Have you seen any yet in bloom, August's mascots?

The more I read this poem the more I like it. It's such a simple little poem, but with a lot of weight behind it too. Sunflowers always serve well as a symbol of strength, resolve, and big beaming buoyant never-give-up hope.

Sunflower - Frank Steele

You’re expected to see   
only the top, where sky   
scrambles bloom, and not   
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off   
tall, green darkness beneath.   
Like every flower, she has a little   
theory, and what she thinks   
is up.  I imagine the long   
climb out of the dark   
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o’clocks   
up there to the dream she keeps   
lifting, where it’s noon all day.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Day 760: Juicy Language

In keeping with the peaches from yesterday, here's a poem that playfully delves into the rich succulence of language, using the fruit as a reference point. Delicious. 

Peaches - Peter Davison

A mouthful of language to swallow:
stretches of beach, sweet clinches,
breaches in walls, pleached branches;
britches hauled over haunches;
hunched leeches, wrenched teachers.

What English can do: ransack
the warmth that chuckles beneath
fuzzed surfaces, smooth velvet
richness, plashy juices.
I beseech you, peach,
clench me into the sweetness
of your reaches.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Day 759: Peaches

There's something indescribably delicious about peaches, isn't there? They're the mascot fruit of summer, orbs of sunset-coloured delight, that taste like sun on a sunkissed summer's day.

In this poem, Li-Young Lee, a much-loved American poet renowned for his tender lyrics, equates peaches most fittingly and beautifully, with joy. The result is gorgeous, a poem that blossoms forth from the page.

From Blossoms - Li-Young Lee 

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward   
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into   
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Day 758: The Guest House

The Guest House - Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Day 757: The Laughing Heart

Today I feel like hearing once again (I have posted it here before, maybe even twice...) Charles Bukowski's 'The Laughing Heart' because it is such a classic, the kind of poem that embeds itself in your psyche once you hear it and reverberates around there endlessly. And also, because it's Bukowski's birthday today, 16 August 1920.

Like Bukowski's other poems, it is simple yet full of wisdom, and unlike most of them, it is unabashedly optimistic.  The short film of it above is pretty cool, read appropriately, by Tom Waits.


*Email subscribers can click here to watch:

The Laughing Heart - Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous.
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Day 756: Lunar Love

I thought this poem on the full moon, full of love as it is, was fitting to end a week which started with a gorgeous Supermoon. The moon is many things to many people, but I think Ted Kooser has captured something special here about our relationship to it - or rather it's relationship to us. The benevolence he hints at is a balm right now.

(*You might also enjoy listening to this song, which I think complements this poem perfectly: Sing to the Moon by Laura Mvula)

Full Moon - Ted Kooser

We see only
the moon's fixed face,
as you know. It never turns aside
in pain, in anger, or disgust. It is thus
the good parent, holding the earth
at arm's length, gripping its shoulders
with cool white hands, turning
and turning it as if it were
saying goodbye, as if it were taking
one last long look. But the moon
with its homely, familiar face,
has been wishing that we fare well
every evening for millions of years,
fully knowing that we would be back
in the morning, ready to try.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Day 755: Witness

Back to the moon today, this poem is also relevant to what is going on in the world at the moment, the many terrible atrocities that can't be ignored.


Why Are Your Poems So Dark? - Linda Pastan

Isn't the moon dark too,   
most of the time?   

And doesn't the white page   
seem unfinished   

without the dark stain   
of alphabets?   

When God demanded light,   
he didn't banish darkness.   

Instead he invented   
ebony and crows   

and that small mole   
on your left cheekbone.   

Or did you mean to ask   
"Why are you sad so often?"   

Ask the moon.   
Ask what it has witnessed.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Day 754: Happy/Sad

Still the world is reeling from the death of actor Robin Williams, who took his own life, after a long battle with depression. It's so hard to understand and callously ironic too - how could someone who seemed so jovial and played so many comic roles, who brought a smile to so many people, (I am thinking particularly here of his role in Patch Adams) be so sad? It's a tragic lesson of life that sometimes the funniest people are also the saddest. Depression is no discriminator. His death hopefully, will raise more awareness and understanding of the nature of this debilitating disease.

In light of all this, I can't stop thinking of this poem ever since yesterday. It's one I encountered on the syllabus for Junior Cert English students and have since, always remembered. A simple but powerful and poignant reminder that there are cracks beneath the veneer, tears beneath the smiles of even the brightest most entertaining people. Be on the watch. Be careful. Treat everyone with compassion. Happiness and sadness are two sides of the one coin after all; a coin that life is continually tossing into the air. 

Clown - Phoebe Hesketh

He was safe
behind the whitened face
and red nose of his trade,
vocation more certain
than doctor’s or priests
to cheer and heal.
Hidden away from himself
he could always make us laugh
turning troubles like jackets
inside out, wearing
our rents and patches.
Tripping up in trousers too long
he made us feel tall;
and when we watched him
cutting himself down,
missing the ball,
we knew we could cope.

What we never knew
was the tightrope he walked
when the laughter had died.
Nowhere to hide in the empty night,
no one to catch his fall.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Day 753: O Captain My Captain

So very sad to hear the news of actor Robin William's death yesterday. This poem I thought appropriate - from the film Dead Poet's Society, Walt Whitman's famous elegy for Abraham Lincoln.

O Captain! My Captain! - Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            The arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Day 752: August Moon

Did you see the Supermoon last night? August's Full Moon, the biggest and brightest of the year so far. Pretty spectacular! I don't think poets will ever tire of this much-loved muse.

103 - Emily Dickinson

The moon was but a chin of gold
A night or two ago,
And now she turns her perfect face
Upon the world below.

Her forehead is of amplest blond;
Her cheek like beryl stone;
Her eye unto the summer dew
The likest I have known.

Her lips of amber never part;
But what must be the smile
Upon her friend she could bestow
Were such her silver will!

And what a privilege to be
But the remotest star!
For certainly her way might pass
Beside your twinkling door.

Her bonnet is the firmament,
The universe her shoe,
The stars the trinkets at her belt,
Her dimities of blue.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Day 751: Sunset

'one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star...'
What feelings does watching a sunset evoke in us?  Hard to decipher really, but here Rilke offers his explanation.

Sunset - Rainer Maria Rilke

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs -

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Day 750: Reverie in Open Air

Reverie in Open Air - Rita Dove

I acknowledge my status as a stranger:
Inappropriate clothes, odd habits
Out of sync with wasp and wren.
I admit I don't know how
To sit still or move without purpose.
I prefer books to moonlight, statuary to trees.

But this lawn has been leveled for looking,
So I kick off my sandals and walk its cool green.
Who claims we're mere muscle and fluids? 

My feet are the primitives here.
As for the rest—ah, the air now
Is a tonic of absence, bearing nothing
But news of a breeze.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 749: Emperor of Ice-Cream

What if I told you the subject matter of this poem was death, a wake to be exact?  Oh yes. And the theme? Why life goes on of course, seize the day, eat the ice-cream, eat, drink and be merry before the opportunity passes. The only power worth having in this life is the ability to enjoy it,  hence 'the only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.' 'Let the lamp affix its beam' to life being lived. 'Let be be the finale of seem.' Stop dithering, just be.

I love the sense of cheerful fatalism the poem creates and the giddy silliness Stevens (as always) adds to such a solemn occasion. Here's to seizing the day...or the ice-cream!

The Emperor of Ice-Cream - Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Day 748: Fireflies


Fireflies in the Garden - Robert Frost

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Day 747: Manzano Sunflowers

You can expect to see a lot of sunflowers here this month - they are the official flower of August after all! Here's a lovely narrative poem to start us off.

Manzano Sunflowers - Dale Harris

You missed Indian Market
And of course the sunflowers.
As usual they swept across August
At first a few, a yellow trickle along the fence line
Then more, making pools in the pasture
And splashing down into the arroyo
Then incredibly many more,
Dappling the distance,
As though a giant hand had buttered the land.

Yet with the entire prairie to expand into,
They prefer crowds of themselves
They mass along the roadside,
Lined up as though a parade were about to pass.
Here and there one stands alone,
But not for long.
Soon his kin will come
And there will be sunflower squalor
There will be sunflower squalor, a floral slum.

Once they are out,
They will not be ignored.
Stretching their skinny stalks,
They top our roofline,
Press against the window screens,
And peep in at the door.
Familiar foot paths to the out buildings are obscured,
And from the road we seem afloat,
Our cabin, an odd tin boat
In a sea of sunflower faces.

They are the most staccato of flowers.
I catch them humming snatches of polkas
And John Phillips Sousa Marches,
Bobbing in the wind to the Boogaloo,
The Boogie Woogie and the Lindy Hop.
I call their names,
Clem, Clarissa, Sarah Jane
To try and tame them.

My neighbor comes by.
She has a field full
They’re useless, she complains.
Her horses can’t eat them.
I should hope not! I exclaim,
After she’s gone.

I don’t remember if you even liked sunflowers
But you liked life
And they are all about that.
Today I wrote to your family, finally.
I expect they are occupying themselves,
With beautiful gestures
In order to get over the grief of you.
As for me, I have sunflowers.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Day 746: True Fame

Love this.

Famous - Naomi Shibab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom   
is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,   
more famous than the dress shoe,   
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men   
who smile while crossing streets,   
sticky children in grocery lines,   
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
but because it never forgot what it could do.  

Monday, 4 August 2014

Day 745: Dulce Et Decorum Est

Today the official commemoration for the centenary of WW1 will begin in Belgium. So I thought it only fitting to post this  most famous of anti-war poems by a poet who fought and died in World WarI - Wilfred Owen. 

Owen was only 22 when he joined the British army to serve in the War and 25 when he died. During the course of his time in the trenches and battlefields, he wrote impassioned poetry against what he saw. This poem Dulce Et Decorum was not just an anti-war poem, with its real and graphic depiction of what being on the battlefield was really like,  it was also an anthem of defiance.

The title comes from the Latin phrase 'Dulce Et Decorum Pro Patria Mori' - 'Sweet and honourable it is to die for one's country' used to peddle the propaganda of enlisting. Owen debunks this myth for what it is: a lie, a farcical tragedy, a motive for mass murder. His rendition of the battlefield is the complete opposite of honour and glory. In the reality of the trenches, the soldiers are not proud marching patriots but pathetic creatures wracked by the experience, 'bent double, like old beggars under sacks.' They stagger and 'trudge' and 'fumble' along - not the expected image of soldiers on the front. The description of the poor man caught in a gas attack is particularly harrowing - 'If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood/Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs...' and is the death Owen uses to show us how there is certainly NOT anything remotely sweet and honourable about young men dying horribly in a war.

Like all the best poems too, Dulce Et Decorum is universal. It does not apply solely to the trenches of WWI, but to every war, even those today, with the essential message that war is horrible and awful and useless.

Dulce Et Decorum Est - Wilfred Owen 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

*(Written 1917/Published posthumously 1920)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Day 744: Moth Night

Moths - Jennifer O' Grady

Adrift in the liberating, late light
of August, delicate, frivolous,
they make their way to my front porch
and flutter near the glassed-in bulb,
translucent as a thought suddenly
wondered aloud, illumining the air
that's thick with honeysuckle and dusk.
You and I are doing our best
at conversation, keeping it light, steering clear
of what we'd like to say.
You leave, and the night becomes
cluttered with moths, some tattered,
their dumbly curious filaments
startling against my cheek. How quickly,
instinctively, I brush them away.
Dazed, they cling to the outer darkness
like pale reminders of ourselves.
Others seem to want so desperately
to get inside. Months later, I'll find
the woolens, snug in their resting places,
full of missing pieces.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Day 743: Last Post

This week begins the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. 

Today's poem is from UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who marked the occasion of the death of the last two remaining British veterans of the War, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, in this poem in 2009. But much more than that, the poem is a moving testament to all the lives lost in the War. She makes reference to Wilfred Owen's infamous 'Dulce Est Decorum' and the whole poem moves as a film reel in hard-hitting format.

Last Post - Carol Ann Duffy

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce - No - Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.

If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Day 742: Frivolous But Fun Advice

A Friday poem...

Advice - XJ Kennedy

Walk with a bluebird in your heart,
Along life's highway ambling.
You'll always have an ample stock
Of songs and eggs for scrambling.

Walk with a rainbow in each eye—
They'll light your way, I'm told,
And you'll find, hanging from each ear,
A big fat pot of gold.

Walk with a skunk beneath each arm—
They just might make you nervous,
But when you want to be alone
Those skunks will prove of service.