POEMS

Some poems we have shared so far...

Into the hour - Elizabeth Jennings


I have come into the hour of a white healing.

 Grief's surgery is over and I wear

The scar of my remorse and of my feeling.

I have come into a sudden sunlit hour

When ghosts are scared to corners. I have come

Into the time when grief begins to flower

Into a new love. It had filled my room

Long before I recognized it. Now

I speak its name. Grief finds its good way home.

The apple-blossom's handsome on the bough

And Paradise spreads round. I touch its grass.

I want to celebrate but don't know how.

I need not speak though everyone I pass

Stares at me kindly. I would put my hand

Into their hands. Now I have lost my loss


In some way I may later understand.

I hear the singing of the summer grass.

And love, I find, has no considered end,


Nor is it subject to the wilderness

Which follows death. I am not traitor to

A person or a memory. I trace

Behind that love another which is running

Around, ahead. I need not ask its meaning.

Blade of Grass - Brian Patten

You ask for a poem.

I offer you a blade of grass.

You say it is not good enough.

You ask for a poem.

I say this blade of grass will do.

It has dressed itself in frost,

It is more immediate

Than any image of my making.

You say it is not a poem,

It is a blade of grass and grass

Is not quite good enough.

I offer you a blade of grass.

You are indignant.

You say it is too easy to offer grass.

It is absurd.

Anyone can offer a blade of grass.

You ask for a poem.

And so I write you a tragedy about

How a blade of grass

Becomes more and more difficult to offer,

And about how as you grow older

A blade of grass

Becomes more difficult to accept.

Walking Away - C.Day-Lewis

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –

A sunny day with leaves just turning,

The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play

Your first game of football, then, like a satellite

Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away


Behind a scatter of boys. I can see

You walking away from me towards the school

With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free

Into a wilderness, the gait of one

Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away

Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,

Has something I never quite grasp to convey

About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching

Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.


I have had worse partings, but none that so

Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly

Saying what God alone could perfectly show –

How selfhood begins with a walking away,

And love is proved in the letting go.

The Death Bed - Siegfried Sassoon

He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped 

Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls; 

Aqueous like floating rays of amber light, 

Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.

Silence and safety; and his mortal shore 

Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death. 


Someone was holding water to his mouth. 

He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped 

Through crimson gloom to darkness; and forgot 

The opiate throb and ache that was his wound. 

Water—calm, sliding green above the weir; 

Water—a sky-lit alley for his boat, 

Bird-voiced, and bordered with reflected flowers 

And shaken hues of summer: drifting down, 

He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept. 


Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward, 

Blowing the curtain to a gummering curve. 

Night. He was blind; he could not see the stars 

Glinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud; 

Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green, 

Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes. 


Rain—he could hear it rustling through the dark; 

Fragrance and passionless music woven as one; 

Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showers 

That soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweeps 

Behind the thunder, but a trickling peace, 

Gently and slowly washing life away. 


He stirred, shifting his body; then the pain 

Leaped like a prowling beast, and gripped and tore 

His groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs. 

But someone was beside him; soon he lay 

Shuddering because that evil thing had passed. 

And death, who'd stepped toward him, paused and stared. 

Light many lamps and gather round his bed. 

Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live. 

Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet. 

He's young; he hated war; how should he die 

When cruel old campaigners win safe through? 


But death replied: “I choose him.” So he went, 

And there was silence in the summer night; 

Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep. 


Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.

Recension Day - Duncan Forbes

Unburn the boat, rebuild the bridge,
Reconsecrate the sacrilege,
Unspill the milk, decry the tears,
Turn back the clock, relive the years
Replace the smoke inside the fire,
Unite fulfilment with desire,
Undo the done, gainsay the said,
Revitalise the buried dead,
Revoke the penalty and the clause,
Reconstitute unwritten laws,
Repair the heart, untie the tongue,
Change faithless old to hopeful young,
Inure the body to disease
And help me to forget you please.

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower

Written by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Joanna Macy

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower

and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.

Move back and forth into the change.

What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,

be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,

the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,

say to the silent earth: I flow.

To the rushing water, speak: I am.

German translation:

Stiller Freund der vielen Fernen, fühle,

wie dein Atem noch den Raum vermehrt.

Im Gebälk der finstern Glockenstühle

laß dich läuten. Das, was an dir zehrt,

wird ein Starkes über dieser Nahrung.

Geh in der Verwandlung aus und ein.

Was ist deine leidendste Erfahrung?

Ist dir Trinken bitter, werde Wein.

Sei in dieser Nacht aus Übermaß

Zauberkraft am Kreuzweg deiner Sinne,

ihrer seltsamen Begegnung Sinn.

Und wenn dich das Irdische vergaß,

zu der stillen Erde sag: Ich rinne.

Zu dem raschen Wasser sprich: Ich bin. 

Comfort - Elizabeth Jennings

 

Hand closed upon another, warm.

The other, cold, turned round and met

And found a weather made of calm.

So sadness goes, and so regret.

A touch, a magic in the hand.

Not that the fortune-teller sees

Or thinks that she can understand.

This warm hand binds but also frees.

Nobody - Michael Laskey

If you can't bring yourself to build

a snowman or even to clench

a snowball or two to fling

at the pine tree trunk, at least

find some reason to take you out

of yourself: scrape a patch of grass clear

for the birds maybe; prod at your shrubs

so they shake off the weight, straighten up;

or just stump about leaving prints

of your boots, your breath steaming out.

Promise. Don't let yourself in

for this moment again: the end

of the afternoon, drawing the curtains

on the glare of the garden, a whole

day of snow nobody's trodden.

Cross – P.K. Page

He has leaned for hours against the veranda railing

Gazing the darkened garden out of mind

while she with battened hatches rides out the wind

that will blow for a year or a day, there is no telling.

As to why they are cross she barely remembers now.

That they are cross, she is certain. They hardly speak.

Feel cold and hurt and stony. For a week

have without understanding behaved so.

And will continue so to behave for neither

Can come to that undemanded act of love –

Kiss the sleeping princess or sleep with the frog –

and break the spell which holds them from the other.

Or if one ventures towards it, the other, shy,

dissembles, regrets too late the dissimulation

and sits, hands slack, heart tiny, the hard solution

having again passed by. 

Silly the pair of them. Yet they make me weep.

Two on a desert island, back to back

who, while the alien world howls round them black

go their own ways, fall emptily to sleep.

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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 flound’ring 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.

Beauty - Edward Thomas 

What does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease, 
No man, woman, or child alive could please 
Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh 
Because I sit and frame an epitaph-- 
"Here lies all that no one loved of him 
And that loved no one." Then in a trice that whim 
Has wearied. But, though I am like a river 
At fall of evening when it seems that never 
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while 
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file, 
This heart, some fraction of me, hapily 
Floats through a window even now to a tree 
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale; 
Not like a pewit that returns to wail 
For something it has lost, but like a dove 
That slants unanswering to its home and love. 
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air 
Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there.

The Confirmation - Edwin Muir


Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face.
I in my mind had waited for this long,
Seeing the false and searching for the true,
Then found you as a traveller finds a place
Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong
Valleys and rocks and twisting roads. But you,
What shall I call you? A fountain in a waste,
A well of water in a country dry,
Or anything that’s honest and good, an eye
That makes the whole world bright. Your open heart,
Simple with giving, gives the primal deed,
The first good world, the blossom, the blowing seed,
The hearth, the steadfast land, the wandering sea,
Not beautiful or rare in every part,
But like yourself, as they were meant to be.

Love is not all - Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,

Or nagged by want past resolution's power,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be. I do not think I would.

Words Wide Night - Carol Ann Duffy

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night 
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you. 
The room is turning slowly away from the moon. 

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say 
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing 
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear. 

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine the dark hills I would have to cross 
to reach you. For I am in love with you 

and this is what it is like or what it is like in words. 

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