Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year's Eve

There's something about the New Year isn't there - full of hope for new beginnings on one hand, and on the other, remembrances of past deflated hopes and endings. But still, I think hope for the future is always the more buoyant feeling.

Happy New Year to you all, may it be hopeful and buoyant and bright.

The Year - Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.

New Year - Lucille Clifton

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that I catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even forty-six but
i am running into a new year and i beg what i
love and
i leave to forgive me

Monday, 26 December 2016

The Wren Boys

 Wren Boys

The Wren-Boys - Carol Ann Duffy

The old year, a tear in the eye of time;
frost on the blackthorn, the ditches glamorous
with rime; on the inbreath of air,
the long, thoughtful pause before snow.

A star on the brow of a mule in a field
and the mule nuzzling the drystone wall
where a wren, size of a child’s lost purse,
hides in a hole. St. Stephen’s Day.

Eight bells from the Church. Next to the Church,
the Inn. Next to the Inn, and opposite,
a straight furlong of dwellings. End of the line,
a farm. Top of the hill, the Big House –

everywhere musky with peat from the first fires
as though the hour had started the day
with a neat malt; like your man has here
who bangs on door after door with his holly-stick.

Quick boys! Up for the wren! Then the Wren-Boys
flinging open the doors in their green-laced boots,
daft caps, red neckerchiefs, with cudgels and nets;
one with a cage held aloft on the tip of a ribboned staff.
Hedge-bandit, song-bomb, dart-beak, the wren
hops in the thicket, flirt-eye; shy, brave,
grubbing, winter’s scamp, but more than itself –
ten requisite grams of the world’s weight.

And here’s the craic: that the little bird
had betrayed a saint with its song,
or stolen a ride on an eagle’s back
to fly highest; traitor and cheat.

But poets named it Dryw, druid and wren,
sought its hermit tune for a muse;
sweethearts thought it a foolproof blessing for love.
Which was true for the wren? None of the above.

Over the wall, over the field, was the wood
to where the Wren-Boys stomped in a singing gang:
We’ll chase him from bush to bush
and from tree to tree. One had a fiddle,

one had a penny-whistle, another a drum,
one had thirty feathers poked in his hat.
So through the holly, the hazel, the ash,
the brackeny floor, they hunted the wren.

Five hours in, they had startled a fox
which ran like the hounds; had bagged a nest
with five blue unhatched eggs; scarpered
from a cache of poteen stashed in an oak.

On a twig, a robin watched them go,
safe in its myth. It had started to snow
and the boots of the boys blotted the page of the field
as they made for the margins – the ditches and hedgerows.

The priest was supping a pint of stout in the pub,
a small icon of his holy self, clocking the top shelf.
The farmer was sat by the fire with his dog.
Four widows were sharing a Christmas nog.

And the sky went falling, falling, down to the earth
till a lad was sent to fetch the mule to its stall,
and the bell had a muffled, sorrowful sound
and up at the Big House all the lights came on.

And the clouds came grieving, grieving, down to the land,
but could they find that feckin wran,
as they thrashed, poked, joshed and joked
along the lane where weddings and funerals came.

Who it was who plonked his arse on a stile
and yanked the wipe from his neck, the plumes
from his brother’s hat, to fashion a dummy bird,
no living man can tell; nor hear their boisterous glee

as they caged the raggedy wren and swaggered,
whistling, fiddling, drumming, back up the road –
The wren, the wren, the Lord of all birds,
On St. Stephen’s Day was caught on the furze . . .

Sing holly, sing ivy, sing ivy, sing holly,
a drop just to drink it will drown melancholy . . .
away round the bend in dwindling violet light
into their given lives, snow-ghosts, gone . . .

to boast at each house with a verse, a sock
for farthings, threepennies, sixpences, florins;
then toast that the wren was out with the old
and in with the new was the robin.

Which would have been news to the wren,
had it understood claptrap, mythology, fable,
warm in its communal roost in the stable
over the heads of the dozing beasts –

while the Wren-Boys boozed and danced at the Inn;
one with a widow, one with the farmer’s daughter,
one with a sweetheart, one with a sozzled priest.
Later, the snow settled, a star in the east.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

A Time Like This

Related image

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Wishing you peace and joy and a light in the heart at this time.

Into the Darkest Hour - Madeline L'Engle

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss-
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight-
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve

Image result for street lantern in the snow

Christmas Eve - Carol Ann Duffy

Time was slow snow sieving the night,
a kind of love from the blurred moon;
your small town swooning, unabashed,
was Winter’s own.

Snow was the mind of Time, sifting
itself, drafting the old year’s end.
You wrote your name on the window-pane
with your young hand.

And your wishes went up in smoke,
beyond where a streetlamp studied
the thoughtful snow on Christmas Eve,
beyond belief,

as Time, snow, darkness, child, kindled.
Downstairs, the ritual lighting of the candles.

Friday, 23 December 2016

A Star

Image result for christmas star
Now I know this poem is titled with tomorrow's date, but I think it's quite suitable for today too, a Christmas Eve Eve poem.

December 24, 1971 - Joseph Brodsky

For V.S.
When it’s Christmas we’re all of us magi.
At the grocers’ all slipping and pushing.
Where a tin of halvah, coffee-flavored,
is the cause of a human assault-wave
by a crowd heavy-laden with parcels:
each one his own king, his own camel.

Nylon bags, carrier bags, paper cones,
caps and neckties all twisted up sideways.
Reek of vodka and resin and cod,
orange mandarins, cinnamon, apples.
Floods of faces, no sign of a pathway
toward Bethlehem, shut off by blizzard.

And the bearers of moderate gifts
leap on buses and jam all the doorways,
disappear into courtyards that gape,
though they know that there’s nothing inside there:
not a beast, not a crib, nor yet her,
round whose head gleams a nimbus of gold.

Emptiness. But the mere thought of that
brings forth lights as if out of nowhere.
Herod reigns but the stronger he is,
the more sure, the more certain the wonder.
In the constancy of this relation
is the basic mechanics of Christmas.

That’s what they celebrate everywhere,
for its coming push tables together.
No demand for a star for a while,
but a sort of good will touched with grace
can be seen in all men from afar,
and the shepherds have kindled their fires.

Snow is falling: not smoking but sounding
chimney pots on the roof, every face like a stain.
Herod drinks. Every wife hides her child.
He who comes is a mystery: features
are not known beforehand, men’s hearts may
not be quick to distinguish the stranger.

But when drafts through the doorway disperse
the thick mist of the hours of darkness
and a shape in a shawl stands revealed,
both a newborn and Spirit that’s Holy
in your self you discover; you stare
skyward, and it’s right there:
                                                    a star.

Thursday, 22 December 2016


Image result for handel's messiah
Messiah (Christmas Portions) - Mark Doty
A little heat caught
in gleaming rags,
in shrouds of veil,
   torn and sun-shot swaddlings:

   over the Methodist roof,
two clouds propose a Zion
of their own, blazing
   (colors of tarnish on copper)

   against the steely close
of a coastal afternoon, December,
while under the steeple
   the Choral Society

   prepares to perform
Messiah, pouring, in their best
blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.
   Not steep, really,

   but from here,
the first pew, they’re a looming
cloudbank of familiar angels:
   that neighbor who

   fights operatically
with her girlfriend, for one,
and the friendly bearded clerk
   from the post office

   —tenor trapped
in the body of a baritone? Altos
from the A&P, soprano
   from the T-shirt shop:

   today they’re all poise,
costume and purpose
conveying the right note
   of distance and formality.

   Silence in the hall,
anticipatory, as if we’re all
about to open a gift we’re not sure
   we’ll like;

   how could they
compete with sunset’s burnished
oratorio? Thoughts which vanish,
   when the violins begin.

   Who’d have thought
they’d be so good? Every valley,
proclaims the solo tenor,
   (a sleek blonde

   I’ve seen somewhere before
—the liquor store?) shall be exalted,
and in his handsome mouth the word
   is lifted and opened

   into more syllables
than we could count, central ah
dilated in a baroque melisma,
   liquefied; the pour

   of voice seems
to make the unplaned landscape
the text predicts the Lord
   will heighten and tame.

   This music
demonstrates what it claims:
glory shall be revealed. If art’s
   acceptable evidence,

   mustn’t what lies
behind the world be at least
as beautiful as the human voice?
   The tenors lack confidence,

   and the soloists,
half of them anyway, don’t
have the strength to found
   the mighty kingdoms

   these passages propose
—but the chorus, all together,
equals my burning clouds,
   and seems itself to burn,

   commingled powers
deeded to a larger, centering claim.
These aren’t anyone we know;
   choiring dissolves

   familiarity in an up-
pouring rush which will not
rest, will not, for a moment,
   be still.

   Aren’t we enlarged
by the scale of what we’re able
to desire? Everything,
   the choir insists,

   might flame;
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
   quickened, now,

   by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
   Still time to change.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Winter Solstice

The day the light starts to come back. Happy Winter Solstice.

December 21 - Ted Kooser

Perfectly still this solstice morning, 
in bone-cracking cold. Nothing moving,
or so one might think, but as I walk the road,
the wind held in the heart of every tree
flows to the end of each twig and forms a bud.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Meditations on the Solstice

Image result for snowy landscape

'This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;'

Solstice Poem - Margaret Atwood

Through the slit of our open window, the wind
comes in and flows around us, nothingness
in motion, like time. The power of what is not there.
the snow empties itself down, a shadow turning
to indigo, obliterating
everything out there, roofs, cars, garbage cans,
dead flowerstalks, dog turds, it doesn’t matter.
you could read this as indifference
on the part of the universe, or else a relentless
forgiveness: all of our
scratches and blots and mortal
wounds and patched-up jobs
wiped clean in the snow’s huge erasure.

I feel it as a pressure,
an added layer:
above the white waterfall of snow
thundering down; then attic, moth-balled
sweaters, nomadic tents,
the dried words of old letters;
then stairs, then children, cats and radiators, peeling paint,
us in our bed, the afterglow
of a smoky fire, our one candle flickering;
below us, the kitchen in the dark, the wink
of pots on shelves; then books and tools, then cellar
and furnace, graying dolls, a bicycle,
the whole precarious geology of house
crisscrossed with hidden mousetrails,
and under that a buried river
that seeps up through the cement
floor every spring,
and the tree roots snouting their slow way
into the drains;
under that, the bones
of our ancestors, or if not theirs, someone’s,
mixed with a biomass of nematodes;
under that, bedrock, then molten
stone and the earth’s fiery core;
and sideways, out into the city, street
and corner store and mall
and underpass, then barns and ruined woodlands, continent
and island, oceans, mists
of story drifting
on the tide like seaweed, animal
species crushed and blinking out,
and births and illnesses, hatred and love infra-
red, compassion fleshtone, prayer ultra-
violet; then rumours, alternate waves
of sad peace and sad war,
and then the air, and then the scintillating ions,
and then the stars. That’s where
we are.

Some centuries ago, when we lived at the edge
of the forest, on nights like this
you would have put on your pelt of a bear
and shambled off to prowl and hulk
among the trees, and be a silhouette of human
fears against the snowbank.
I would have chosen fox;
I liked the jokes,
the doubling back on my tracks,
and, let’s face it, the theft.
Back then, I had many forms:
the sliding in and out
of my own slippery eelskin,
and yours as well; we were each other’s
iridescent glove, the deft body
all sleight-of-hand and illusion.
Once we were lithe as pythons, quick
and silvery as herring, and we still are, momentarily,
except our knees hurt.
Right now we’re content to huddle
under the shed feathers of duck and goose
as the wind pours like a river
we swim in by keeping still,
like trout in a current.
Every cell
in our bodies has renewed itself
so many times since then, there’s
not much left, my love,
of the originals. We’re footprints
becoming limestone, or think of it
as coal becoming diamond. Less
flexible, but more condensed;
and no more scales or aliases,
at least on the outside. Though we’ve accumulated,
despite ourselves, other disguises:
you as a rumpled elephant—
hide suitcase with white fur,
me as a bramble bush. Well, the hair
was always difficult. Then there’s
the eye problems: too close, too far, you’re a blur.
I used to say I’d know you anywhere,
but it’s getting harder.

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.

Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
The walls of the house fold themselves down,
and the house turns
itself inside out, as a tulip does
in its last full-blown moment, and our candle
flares up and goes out, and the only common
sense that remains to us is touch,

as it will be, later, some other
century, when we will seem to each other
even less what we were.
But that trick is just to hold on
through all appearances; and so we do,
and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than It is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.

Monday, 19 December 2016

No Room

 Image result for mary and joseph turned away at the inn

A very relevant poem for our current situation in the world, and to begin my poetry posting for Christmas week.

Advent - Antony Dunn
for Daisy or Milo
O little child, o child to come
knocking at the world's door, for whom,
still, your small universe of womb
is all there is to know, strike dumb
the voices of our worldly gloom;
no room, no room, no room.
O little child, make good the sum
of human love. Of every crumb
create a thousand shares. Presume
this much, at least, that there's one home
from which the answer will not come,
no room, no room, no room.

Monday, 5 December 2016

To A Leaf Falling in Winter

 Image result for leaf falling in winter

To A Leaf Falling in Winter - WS Mervin

At sundown when a day's words
have gathered at the feet of the trees
lining up in silence
to enter the long corridors
of the roots into which they
pass one by one thinking
that they remember the place
as they feel themselves climbing
away from their only sound
while they are being forgotten
by their bright circumstances
they rise through all of the rings
listening again
afterward as they
listened once and they come
to where the leaves used to live
during their lives but have gone now
and they too take the next step
beyond the reach of meaning

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Heart View

 Image result for heart vs brain

The Kingdom - Jane Hirshfield

At times

the heart
stands back
and looks at the body,
looks at the mind,
as a lion
quietly looks
at the not-quite-itself,
moving of shadows and grass.
Wary, but with interest,
considers its kingdom.
Then seeing
all that will be,
heart once again enters—
enters hunger, enters sorrow,
enters finally losing it all.
To know, if nothing else,
what it once owned.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Winter Tree

 Image result for winter tree
The Tree - Sara Teasdale

Oh to be free of myself,
With nothing left to remember,
To have my heart as bare
As a tree in December;

Resting, as a tree rests
After its leaves are gone,
Waiting no more for a rain at night
Nor for the red at dawn;

But still, oh so still
While the winds come and go,
With no more fear of the hard frost
Or the bright burden of snow;

And heedless, heedless
If anyone pass and see
On the white page of the sky
Its thin black tracery.