Posts Tagged ‘poem’

To the New Year

January 1, 2015

By W. S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

via the Poetry Foundation. Happy 2015, everyone. ♥

[little tree]

December 25, 2014

By E. E. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see          i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look          the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”
Christmas in Innsbruck, 2009.

Spirits of the Dead

October 20, 2014


Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.

From “Spirits of the Dead” by Edgar Allan Poe via The Poetry Foundation.


July 4, 2014


So much cold
even the moon can’t swallow it
or the harbour in its fishy dark. You
balance your breath like a bowl of dry
ice. It’s all a mistake, this body,
this job, this love. Somewhere inside
where the heart spins hard on its string
is an animal watching. It scratches
at night, perhaps a beak or a tusk,
is neither kind nor unkind, just restless.

So much rain
even the deepest hill can’t filter it
or the river with its open gills. You
carry your heart like a full dish of blood.
It’s all such a blessing, this body,
this job, this love. Somewhere inside
where the lungs stretch their intricate wings
is an animal watching. It wriggles
at night and shows its belly or its tender scales,
is neither kind nor unkind, just restless.


Tiffany Atkinson, via The Guardian.

And you are you, none other

September 22, 2012


Not for these lovely blooms that prank your chambers did I come. Indeed,
I could have loved you better in the dark;
That is to say, in rooms less bright with roses, rooms more casual, less aware
Of History in the wings about to enter with benevolent air
On ponderous tiptoe, at the cue “Proceed.”
Not that I like the ash-trays over-crowded and the place in a mess,
Or the monastic cubicle too unctuously austere and stark,
But partly that these formal garlands for our Eighth Street Aphrodite are a bit too Greek,
And partly that to make the poor walls rich with our un-aided loveliness
Would have been more chic.

Yet here I am, having told you of my quarrel with the taxi-driver over a line of Milton, and you laugh; and you are you, none other.
Your laughter pelts my skin with small delicious blows.
But I am perverse: I wish you had not scrubbed—with pumice, I suppose—
The tobacco stains from your beautiful fingers. And I wish I did not feel like your mother.


Oh, Edna. You’re a dependable trick.

“Rendezvous”, in Hunstman, What Quarry? (1939). via brklynGirl.

September 17, 2012

“Late August”, Margaret Atwood.

via Fox on the Run

Chronic by D A Powell

May 18, 2012

were lifted over the valley, its steepling dustdevils
the redwinged blackbirds convened
vibrant arc their swift, their dive against the filmy, the finite air

the profession of absence, of being absented, a lifting skyward
then gone
the moment of flight: another resignation from the sweep of earth

jackrabbit, swallowtail, harlequin duck: believe in this refuge
vivid tips of oleander
white and red perimeters where no perimeter should be

               here is another in my long list of asides:
why have I never had a clock that actually gained time?
that apparatus, which measures out the minutes, is our own image
                         forever losing

and so the delicate, unfixed condition of love, the treacherous body
the unsettling state of creation and how we have damaged—
isn’t one a suitable lens through which to see another:
               filter the body, filter the mind, filter the resilient land

and by resilient I mean which holds
              which tolerates the inconstant lover, the pitiful treatment
the experiment, the untried & untrue, the last stab at wellness

choose your own adventure: drug failure or organ failure
cataclysmic climate change
or something akin to what’s killing bees—colony collapse

more like us than we’d allow, this wondrous swatch of rough

why do I need to say the toads and moor and clouds—
in a spring of misunderstanding, I took the cricket’s sound

and delight I took in the sex of every season, the tumble on moss
the loud company of musicians, the shy young bookseller
anonymous voices that beckoned to ramble
             to be picked from the crepuscule at the forest’s edge

until the nocturnal animals crept forth
             their eyes like the lamps in store windows
                          forgotten, vaguely firing a desire for home

hence, the body’s burden, its resolute campaign:  trudge on

and if the war does not shake us from our quietude, nothing will

I carry the same baffled heart I have always carried
             a bit more battered than before, a bit less joy
for I see the difficult charge of living in this declining sphere

by the open air, I swore out my list of pleasures:
sprig of lilac, scent of pine
the sparrows bathing in the drainage ditch, their song

the lusty thoughts in spring as the yellow violets bloom
              and the cherry forms its first full buds
the tonic cords along the legs and arms of youth
              and youth passing into maturity, ripening its flesh
growing softer, less unattainable, ruddy and spotted plum

daily, I mistake—there was a medication I forgot to take
there was a man who gave himself, decently, to me & I refused him

in a protracted stillness, I saw that heron I didn’t wish to disturb
was clearly a white sack caught in the redbud’s limbs

I did not comprehend desire as a deadly force until—
              daylight, don’t leave me now, I haven’t done with you—
                            nor that, in this late hour, we still cannot make peace

if I, inconsequential being that I am, forsake all others
how many others correspondingly forsake this world

               light, light: do not go
I sing you this song and I will sing another as well

D.A. Powell, “Chronic” from Chronic, Graywolf Press, 2009/here.

Love Songs in Age

February 21, 2012


She kept her songs, they took so little space,
The covers pleased her:
One bleached from lying in a sunny place,
One marked in circles by a vase of water,
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her,
And coloured by her daughter–
So they had waited, till in widowhood
She found them, looking for something else, and stood

Relearning how each frank submissive chord
Had ushered in
Word after sprawling hyphenated word,
And the unfailing sense of being young
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein
That hidden freshness, sung,
That certainty of time laid up in store
As when she played them first. But, even more,

The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love,
Broke out, to show
Its bright incipience sailing above,
Still promising to solve, and satisfy,
And set unchangeably in order. So
To pile them back, to cry,
Was hard, without lamely admitting how
It had not done so then, and could not now.

Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings, London: Faber, 1973: 12.


So, I had decided not to like Larkin, because all the poems I’d ever known of his had been read to me and mostly forgotten, except for his one about Mr Bleaney, which I’d had read to me several times very poorly and so was forced to remember. That all changed when I was going through mum’s bookcases the other day, was accosted by a silm, winsome little edition of his Whitsun Weddings, and found myself forced to admit that his poems are beautiful. They are smooth and firm and deliberate, yet he works them into things of such conversational subtlety that it seems as though his thoughts are unfolding so freely and perfectly. Perhaps just as there are poems made to be read and held before audiences (the sensory and dramatic grandeur of Paradise Lost comes to mind), there are also poems made to be read, curled up by yourself, in a happy or compassionate intimacy (I’m thinking now of Milton’s sonnets on blindness or his wife). Larkin’s beauty only came to me in privacy.

Anyway. Crudely underthought generalisations aside, Larkin is a total dude, and there might be a lot of him to come over the next little while. Such as this, from “For Sidney Bechet“, which sent me into conniptions of ecstasy when I got to it last night:

On me your voice falls as they say love should,
Like an enormous yes.

You must speak not only of great devastation

February 14, 2012


From Deaf Republic: 4

Ilya Kaminsky


“You must speak not only of great devastation
but of women kissing in the yellow grass!”

I heard this not from a great philosopher
but from my brother Tony

who could do four haircuts in thirteen minutes,
his eyes closed, reciting our National Anthem to the mirror.

“You must drink cucumber vodka and naked sing all night
Unite women and boys of the earth!”

He played the accordion out of tune in a country
where the only musical instrument is the door.

“Speak not only of great devastation”
so said my brother, who could not write or read

but spent his days covered in other people’s hair.


[Poet’s note:] These poems are from the unfinished manuscript Deaf Republic. This story of a pregnant woman and her husband living during an epidemic of deafness and civil unrest was found beneath the floorboards in a house in Eastern Europe. Several versions of the manuscript exist.—IK


From Poetry (May, 2009)/here. I love discovering a poet for the first time!

Croquis Parisien / Parisian Sketch

November 4, 2011

La lune plaquait ses teintes de zinc
Par angles obtus.
Des bouts de fumée en forme de cinq
Sortaient drus et noirs des hauts toits pointus.

Le ciel était gris, la bise pleurait
Ainsi qu’un basson.
Au loin, un matou frileux et discret
Miaulait d’étrange et grêle façon.

Moi, j’allais, rêvant du divin Platon
Et de Phidias,
Et de Salamine et de Marathon,
Sous l’œil clignotant des bleus becs de gaz.

Paul Verlaine, Poèmes Saturniens, 1866.


The moon was laying her plates of zinc
on the oblique.
Like figure fives the plumes of smoke
rose thick and black from the tall roof-peaks.

In the gray sky the breeze wept loud
as a bassoon.
In a funk a stealthy tomcat miaowed,
far away, his shrill strange tune.

Dreaming of Plato, I walked on,
and of Phidias,
of Salamis and Marathon,
under winking eyes of blue jets of gas.

Trans. C. F. MacIntyre, Paul Verlaine: Selected Poems, Berkley: U of California P, 1970: 17.

[I tried translating this myself as I thought one or two parts of MacIntyre’s translation were a little imagistically clunky, but finally baulked at the difficulty of preserving the rhyme – which he seems to be able to magic out of English with enviably little effort, the dude]