Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A Pretty Song

A Pretty Song - Mary Oliver

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.

Which is the only way to love, isn't it?
This isn't a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.

Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.

And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song,
And I say to my heart: rave on.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Starry Dreams


That lovely last verse! 'The sky was starry to the very rind...' (*sigh*)

Dreams - Linda Pastan 

Dreams are the only 
afterlife we know;
the place where the children
we were
rock in the arms of the children
we have become.

They are as many as leaves
in their migrations,
as birds whose deaths we learn of
by the single feather
left behind: a clue,
a particle of sleep

caught in the eye.
They are as irretrievable as sand
when the sea creeps up
its long knife glittering
in its teeth
to claim its patrimony.

Sometimes my father 
in knickers and cap
waits on that shore,
the dream of him
a wound
not even morning can heal.

The dog's legs pump
in his sleep;
your closed eyelids flicker
as the reel unwinds:
watcher and watched,
archer and bull's-eye.

Last night I dreamed a lover in my arms
and woke innocent.
The sky was starry to the very rind,
his smile still burning there
like the tail of a comet
that has just blazed by.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Illumination, Luminate

Don't Allow the Lucid Moment to Dissolve - Adam Zagajewski

Don’t allow the lucid moment to dissolve
Let the radiant thought last in stillness
though the page is almost filled and the flame flickers
We haven’t risen yet to the level of ourselves
Knowledge grows slowly like a wisdom tooth
The stature of a man is still notched
high up on a white door
From far off, the joyful voice of a trumpet
and of a song rolled up like a cat
What passes doesn’t fall into a void
A stoker is still feeding coal into the fire
Don’t allow the lucid moment to dissolve
On a hard dry substance
you have to engrave the truth

Translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski

Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Song With No End

a song with no end - Charles Bukowski

when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
I know what he

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as

Thursday, 25 June 2015


This poem encapsulates a lot of what summer is really about. The ripe days of living.

Midsummer - Louise Gluck

On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry,   
the boys making up games requiring them to tear off  the girls’ clothes   
and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer
and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones   
leaping off  the high rocks — bodies crowding the water.

The nights were humid, still. The stone was cool and wet,
marble for  graveyards, for buildings that we never saw,   
buildings in cities far away.

On cloudy nights, you were blind. Those nights the rocks were dangerous,   
but in another way it was all dangerous, that was what we were after.   
The summer started. Then the boys and girls began to pair off   
but always there were a few left at the end — sometimes they’d keep watch,
sometimes they’d pretend to go off  with each other like the rest,
but what could they do there, in the woods? No one wanted to be them.   
But they’d show up anyway, as though some night their luck would change,   
fate would be a different fate.

At the beginning and at the end, though, we were all together.
After the evening chores, after the smaller children were in bed,   
then we were free. Nobody said anything, but we knew the nights we’d meet   
and the nights we wouldn’t. Once or twice, at the end of summer,   
we could see a baby was going to come out of all that kissing.

And for those two, it was terrible, as terrible as being alone.   
The game was over. We’d sit on the rocks smoking cigarettes,   
worrying about the ones who weren’t there.

And then finally walk home through the fields,   
because there was always work the next day.   
And the next day, we were kids again, sitting on the front steps in the morning,   
eating a peach.  Just that, but it seemed an honor to have a mouth.   
And then going to work, which meant helping out in the fields.   
One boy worked for an old lady, building shelves.   
The house was very old, maybe built when the mountain was built.

And then the day faded. We were dreaming, waiting for night.   
Standing at the front door at twilight, watching the shadows lengthen.   
And a voice in the kitchen was always complaining about the heat,
wanting the heat to break.

Then the heat broke, the night was clear.   
And you thought of  the boy or girl you’d be meeting later.   
And you thought of  walking into the woods and lying down,   
practicing all those things you were learning in the water.   
And though sometimes you couldn’t see the person you were with,
there was no substitute for that person.

The summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting.
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending messages:   
You will leave the village where you were born   
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something you left behind, even though   
you can’t say what it was,
and eventually you will return to seek it.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

How Birds Sing

How Birds Sing - Kay Ryan 

One is not taxed;
one need not practice;
one simply tips
the throat back
over the spine axis
and asserts the chest.
The wings and the rest
compress a musical
squeeze which floats
a series of notes
upon the breeze.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Summer Music

Let the music of summer begin! 

Summer Music - May Sarton

Summer is all a green air—
From the brilliant lawn, sopranos
Through murmuring hedges
Accompanied by some poplars;
In fields of wheat, surprises;
Through faraway pastures, flows
To the horizon's blues
In slow decrescendos.

Summer is all a green sound—
Rippling in the foreground
To that soft applause,
The foam of Queen Anne's lace.
Green, green in the ear
Is all we care to hear—
Until a field suddenly flashes
The singing with so sharp
A yellow that it crashes
Loud cymbals in the ear,
Minor has turned to major
As summer, lulling and so mild,
Goes golden-buttercup-wild.

Monday, 22 June 2015


postcard from cape cod - Linda Pastan

just now I saw
one yellow
across buzzard's bay
how brave I thought
or foolish
like sending
a poem
across months
of silence
and on such

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Summer Solstice

Warm Summer Sun - Mark Twain

Warm summer sun,
    Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
    Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
    Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
    Good night, good night.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Swallow of Summer


Swallows in flight always seem to remind me of writing: the daring swoop and soar of it, free-falling finesse, all those aerial acrobatics, the feeling of naturally letting oneself go, trusting sky, cartwheeling in jubilant confidence in one's own element. Work, that is play, play that is work. 

I know Hughes is talking about something else entirely in this poem - the different nature and conflict of work and play - but I just love the descriptions of the summer swallow in it, 'a blue-dark knot of glittering voltage,' 'a boomerang of rejoicing shadow.'  Fantastic! 

Work and Play - Ted Hughes

The swallow of summer, she toils all the summer,
A blue-dark knot of glittering voltage,
A whiplash swimmer, a fish of the air.
But the serpent of cars that crawls through the dust
In shimmering exhaust
Searching to slake
Its fever in ocean
Will play and be idle or else it will bust.

The swallow of summer, the barbed harpoon,
She flings from the furnace, a rainbow of purples,
Dips her glow in the pond and is perfect.
But the serpent of cars that collapsed on the beach
Disgorges its organs
A scamper of colours
Which roll like tomatoes
Nude as tomatoes
With sand in their creases
To cringe in the sparkle of rollers and screech.

The swallow of summer, the seamstress of summer,
She scissors the blue into shapes and she sews it,
She draws a long thread and she knots it at the corners.
But the holiday people
Are laid out like wounded
Flat as in ovens
Roasting and basting
With faces of torment as space burns them blue
Their heads are transistors
Their teeth grit on sand grains
Their lost kids are squalling
While man-eating flies
Jab electric shock needles but what can they do?

They can climb in their cars with raw bodies, raw faces
And start up the serpent
And headache it homeward
A car full of squabbles
And sobbing and stickiness
With sand in their crannies
Inhaling petroleum
That pours from the foxgloves
While the evening swallow
The swallow of summer, cartwheeling through crimson,
Touches the honey-slow river and turning
Returns to the hand stretched from under the eaves -
A boomerang of rejoicing shadow.

Monday, 15 June 2015



We are celebrating Yeats' 150th birthday here in Ireland with a variety of events and publications. You can check out the myriad of content under the hashtag #Yeats2015. In the mean time, here is one one of my favourites of his short poems, lyrical as ever and softly tuned:

Where My Books Go - WB Yeats

All the words that I gather,
   And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
  And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
  And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
  Storm darkened or starry bright.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015



It's June already, can you believe it? The start of summer. Gold-gilded, lovely, honey-warm, yellow sunny June. Mary Oliver captures its essence in this poem I think.

Honey Locust - Mary Oliver 
Who can tell how lovely in June is the

    honey locust tree, or why

a tree should be so sweet and live

    in this world? Each white blossom

on a dangle of white flowers holds one green seed -

    a new life. Also each blossom on a dangle of flower

         holds a flask

of fragrance called Heaven, which is never sealed.

    The bees circle the tree and dive into it. They are crazy

with gratitude. They are working like farmers. They are as

    happy as saints. After awhile the flowers begin to

wilt and drop down into the grass. Welcome

shines in the grass.

                                         Every year I gather

handfuls of blossoms and eat of their mealiness; the honey

     melts in my mouth, the seeds make me strong,

both when they are crisps and ripe, and even at the end

when their petals have turned dully yellow.
                                                                                So it is
if the heart has devoted itself to love, there is

    not a single inch of emptiness. Gladness gleams
all the way to the grave.