Saturday, 31 October 2015

Pumpkin Piece

I love the way you don't know what this poem is describing until about midway in...!  Eeew.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween - Mac Hammond

The butcher knife goes in, first, at the top
And carves out the round stemmed lid,
The hole of which allows the hand to go
In to pull the gooey mess inside, out –
The walls scooped clean with a spoon.
A grim design decided on, that afternoon,
The eyes are the first to go,
Isosceles or trapezoid, the square nose,
The down-turned mouth with three
Hideous teeth and, sometimes,
Round ears. At dusk it’s
Lighted, the room behind it dark.
Outside, looking in, it looks like a
Pumpkin, it looks like ripeness
Is all. Kids come, beckoned by
Fingers of shadows on leaf-strewn lawns
To trick or treat. Standing at the open
Door, the sculptor, a warlock, drops
Penny candies into their bags, knowing
The message of winter: only the children,
Pretending to be ghosts, are real.

Friday, 30 October 2015



Very good...

Batty - Shel Silverstein

The baby bat
Screamed out in fright,
'Turn on the dark,
I'm afraid of the light'.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Little Red-Cap

Fairytales, in their original format, (not the sugared Disney kind) are extremely creepy. Scary, violent, grotesque and some, disturbingly dark. 

None so more than Little Red Riding Hood, the tale of a young girl being lured into the woods by the Big Bad Wolf (no need to further decipher the allegory...)  Carol Ann Duffy explores the tale (which was originally called Little Red-Cap) in this poem from an askance (but still creepy) view. Cue goosebumps.

Little Red-Cap - Carol Ann Duffy

At childhood’s end, the houses petered out
into playing fields, the factory, allotments
kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men,
the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan,
till you came at last to the edge of the woods.
It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf.

He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud
in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw,
red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears
he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!
In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me,
sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink,

my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.
The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,
away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,
my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer
snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes

but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night,
breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.
I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for
what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?
Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws
and went in search of a living bird – white dove –

which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth.
One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,
licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back
of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.
Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,
warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.

But then I was young – and it took ten years
in the woods to tell that a mushroom
stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds
are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf
howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,
season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe

to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon
to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf
as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw
the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.
I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.
Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Field of Skulls

Yep, this is definitely one to give you shivers. The scariest thing of all? Real monsters. 
Field of Skulls - Mary Karr
Stare hard enough at the fabric of night,   
and if you're predisposed to dark—let’s say   
the window you’ve picked is a black
postage stamp you spend hours at,
sleepless, drinking gin after the I Love   
Lucy reruns have gone off—stare

like your eyes have force, and behind
any night’s taut scrim will come the forms   
you expect pressing from the other side.   
For you: a field of skulls, angled jaws
and eye-sockets, a zillion scooped-out crania.   
They’re plain once you think to look.

You know such fields exist, for criminals
roam your very block, and even history lists   
monsters like Adolf and Uncle Joe
who stalk the earth’s orb, plus minor baby-eaters   
unidentified, probably in your very midst. Perhaps   
that disgruntled mail clerk from your job

has already scratched your name on a bullet—that’s him   
rustling in the azaleas. You caress the thought,
for it proves there’s no better spot for you
than here, your square-yard of chintz sofa, hearing   
the bad news piped steady from your head. The night   
is black. You stare and furious stare,

confident there are no gods out there. In this way,   
you’re blind to your own eye’s intricate machine   
and to the light it sees by, to the luck of birth and all   
your remembered loves. If the skulls are there—
let’s say they do press toward you
against night’s scrim—could they not stare
with slack jawed envy at the fine flesh
that covers your scalp, the numbered hairs,   
at the force your hands hold?

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

This Living Hand


The Romantics knew how to do spooky, being so taken with the metaphysical and supernatural. Vampires were a common muse for them and lots of long ballads have been written on that subject matter by the big names of the movement -  Keats 'Lamia' for one and Coleridge's 'Christabel' - but both too long to post here.

But here is a poem by Keats about life after death, about ghosts and an eerie promise of eternal love. I like this one because it's short (unusual, for Keats) and well, has an undeniably creepy feel to it with unintentional suggestions of a disembodied hand. Whatever about love beyond the grave, I think this kind of promise takes it a bit too far, don't you? 

This Living Hand - John Keats
This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d – see here it is –
I hold it towards you.

Monday, 26 October 2015


One of my favourite weeks of the year for posting poems: the run-up to Halloween. Expect spooky-themed poems all week dear reader!

I've done this for the past few years here and every year am met with the slight trepidation of not being able to find yet more fitting poems. But never fear, (aha) that is never the case with poetry, it's such an inexhaustible medium as I always find out, a bottomless pit (see what I did there?) of new-spun delights. If you are looking for classic Halloween poems then you can have a look at my posts from a few Octobers ago, as they were always the first ones to be posted. And if you have any suggestions for Halloween themed poems, please let me know!

Today's poem is my favourite kind of Halloween poem - that with an emotional core and spooky overlay that only serves to sharpen its point (much like a ghost itself really when you think about it...)

What is the most haunting thing of all? Love lost of course, its endless regret  a shadowy spectre that follows you everywhere. I love the last line in this poem so much. What a truly scary contemplation it is - if the past is our 'resting place',  then what does that say about our present and future?

Ghost - Michael R.Burch

White in the shadows
I see your face,
unbidden. Go, tell

Love it is commonplace;
tell Regret it is not so rare.

Our love is not here
though you smile,
full of sedulous grace.

Lost in darkness, I fear
the past is our resting place.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Elegy For The Leaves

Leaves - Ted Hughes

Who’s killed the leaves?
Me, says the apple, I’ve killed them all.
Fat as a bomb or a cannonball
I’ve killed the leaves.

Who sees them drop?
Me, says the pear, they will leave me all bare
So all the people can point and stare.
I see them drop.

Who’ll catch their blood?
Me, me, me, says the marrow, the marrow.
I’ll get so rotund that they’ll need a wheelbarrow.
I’ll catch their blood.

Who’ll make their shroud?
Me, says the swallow, there’s just time enough
Before I must pack all my spools and be off.
I’ll make their shroud.

Who’ll dig their grave?
Me, says the river, with the power of the clouds
A brown deep grave I’ll dig under my floods.
I’ll dig their grave.

Who’ll be their parson?
Me, says the Crow, for it is well-known
I study the bible right down to the bone.
I’ll be their parson.

Who’ll be chief mourner?
Me, says the wind, I will cry through the grass
The people will pale and go cold when I pass.
I’ll be chief mourner.

Who’ll carry the coffin?
Me, says the sunset, the whole world will weep
To see me lower it into the deep.
I’ll carry the coffin.

Who’ll sing a psalm?
Me, says the tractor, with mu gear grinding glottle
I’ll plough Up the stubble and sing through my throttle.
I’ll sing the psalm.

Who’ll toll the bell?
Me, says the robin, my song in October
Will tell the still gardens the leaves are over.
I’ll toll the bell.

Friday, 23 October 2015


When I came across this poem for the first time yesterday, it was love at first read. A stumbled-upon gift that stilled time for a few beautiful seconds.

As with all of Seamus Heaney's work, this poem is subtly clever, so linguistically astute yet at the same time, laden with authentic emotion. Perfection. 

The Rescue - Seamus Heaney 

In drifts of sleep I came upon you
Buried to your waist in snow.
You reached your arms out: I came to
Like water in a dream of thaw.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Fall, Falling, Fallen

I think what Edward Hirsch manages to do in this poem is illuminate a little how and why autumn is the most poetic season. 

Fall - Edward Hirsch 

Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Over The Weather

Well,  I do love this poem. A lot.

What if instead of being 'under the weather' we could just get 'over the weather'?

(Thanks to the lovely Calm Things )

Over the Weather - Naomi Shihab Nye,

We forget about the spaciousness
above the clouds

but it's up there.The sun's up there too.

When words we hear don't fit the day,
when we worry
what we did or didn't do,
what if we close our eyes,
say any word we love
that makes us feel calm,
slip it into the atmosphere
and rise?

Creamy miles of quiet.
Giant swoop of blue.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Let Evening Come

Let Evening Come - Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving   
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing   
as a woman takes up her needles   
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned   
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.   
Let the wind die down. Let the shed   
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop   
in the oats, to air in the lung   
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t   
be afraid. God does not leave us   
comfortless, so let evening come. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

The World I Live In


From Mary's new collection -  'Felicity.'

The World I Live In - Mary Oliver 

I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
    reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
    what's wrong with Maybe? 

You wouldn't believe what once or
twice I have seen. I'll just 
  tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will
    you ever, possibly, see one.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Love for October

October has a charm alright, big and bright and gilded gold, all over.

The Love for October - WS Mervin

A child looking at ruins grows younger
but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun

Monday, 12 October 2015

Suburban Love Story

Love it. Every little detail so keenly and perfectly observed, as always.

Her - Billy Collins
There is no noisier place than the suburbs,
someone once said to me
as we were walking along a fairway,
and every day is delighted to offer fresh evidence:

the chainsaw, the leaf-blower blowing
one leaf around an enormous house with columns,
on Mondays and Thursdays the garbage truck
equipped with air brakes, reverse beeper, and merciless grinder.

There’s dogs, hammers, backhoes
or serious earthmovers if today is not your day.
How can the birds get a peep
or a chirp in edgewise, I would like to know?

But this morning is different,
only a soft clicking sound
and the low talk of two workmen working
on the house next door, laying tile I am guessing.

Otherwise, all quiet for a change,
just the clicking of tiles being handled
and their talking back and forth in Spanish
then one of them asking in English

“What was her name?” and the silence of the other.

Sunday, 11 October 2015


Love - Czeslaw Milosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn't always understand.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Bronze Bells of Autumn

I heart this poem. So many swooning true lines.

Bronze Bells of Autumn - Linda Pastan

Although I’ve made a kind of peace
with those I loved who are already dead,
bronze bells of autumn, in their minor key,
toll for the losses still ahead.

The weather tells a narrative of change;
the wind prepares a path the geese will take.
This frost is beautiful, and yet it kills.
The harvest moon drowns in the lake.

I love the dark (it moves so gradually)
but love still more all it will erase:
these swarming leaves, this pungent smoky air,
the youth you were, your aging face.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Poppies in October

Whatever about the poppies in this poem it's the 'dawn of cornflowers' that gets me every time. Sigh.
Poppies in October - Sylvia Plath
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly –
A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky
Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.
Oh my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frosts, in a dawn of cornflowers.
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly --

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.
- See more at:
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly --

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.
- See more at:

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Meeting the Light Completely


What I love about this poem is how the economy of language is complimented so brilliantly by the largeness of emotion.

Meeting the Light Completely - Jane Hirshfield

Even the long-beloved
was once
an unrecognized stranger.

Just so,
the chipped lip
of a blue-glazed cup,
blown field
of a yellow curtain,
might also,
flooding and falling,
ruin your heart.

A table painted with roses.
An empty clothesline.

Each time,
the found world surprises—
that is its nature.

And then
what is said by all lovers:
“What fools we were, not to have seen.”

Friday, 2 October 2015

October Dawn

Hello October.

October Dawn - Ted Hughes

October is marigold, and yet
A glass half full of wine left out

To the dark heaven all night, by dawn
Has dreamed a premonition

Of ice across its eye as if
The ice-age had begun its heave.

The lawn overtrodden and strewn
From the night before, and the whistling green

Shrubbery are doomed. Ice
Has got its spearhead into place.

First a skin, delicately here
Restraining a ripple from the air;

Soon plate and river on pond and brook;
Then tons of chain and massive lock

To hold rivers. Then, sound by sight
Will Mammoth and Sabre-tooth celebrate

Reunion while a fist of cold
Squeezes the fire at the core of the world,

Squeezes the fire at the core of the heart,
And now it is about to start.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

If The Moon Happened Once

If the Moon Happened Once - Kay Ryan 

If  the  moon  happened  once
it wouldn’t matter much,
would it?
One evening’s ticket
punched with a
round or a crescent.
You could like it
or not like it,
as you chose.
It couldn’t alter
every time it rose;
it couldn’t do those
things with scarves
it does.