Welcome to my Poety Quota

Finding time for some beauty and peace.


Poems at least weekly. Recommendations welcomed. Enjoy! 

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Inversnaid

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Drugged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins 

Cold

It felt so cold, the snowball which wept in my hands,
and when I rolled it along in the snow, it grew
till I could sit on it, looking back at the house,
where it was cold when I woke in my room, the windows
blind with ice, my breath undressing itself on the air.
Cold, too, embracing the torso of snow which I lifted up
in my arms to build a snowman, my toes, burning, cold
in my winter boots; my mother’s voice calling me in
from the cold. And her hands were cold from peeling
then dipping potatoes into a bowl, stopping to cup
her daughter’s face, a kiss for both cold cheeks, my cold nose.
But nothing so cold as the February night I opened the door
in the Chapel of Rest where my mother lay, neither young, nor old,
where my lips, returning her kiss to her brow, knew the meaning of cold.

 

Carol Ann Duffy

Sea Canes

Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf’s drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk

on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the dreaming motion

of owls leaving earth’s load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.

The sea canes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger

that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring moonlight, further than despair,
strong as the wind, that through dividing caves

brings those we love before us as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.

 

Derek Walcott

Water

The memory of going to the beach every New Year’s eve
Is one I share with cousins and most people raised black
How the elders would forbid us from going in too deep
To giggle, to splash in our black tights and Shoprite plastic bags wrapped around our new weaves, forbid us from riding the wave,
For fear that we would be a mass of blackness swept by the tide
And never to return
Like litter.
The elders forbid us as if the ocean has food poisoning
I often wonder why I feel as if I am drowning every time I look out into the sea
This and feeling incredibly small
And I often hear this joke
About Black people not being able to swim,
Or being scared of water;
We are mocked
And we have often mocked ourselves
For wiping our faces the way that we do when we come out of the water-
Compare it to how they do it all bay-watch like
And how we so ratchet-like with our postures and kink.
Yet every time our skin goes under
It’s as if the reeds remember that they were once chains
And the water, restless, wishes it could spew all of the slaves and ships onto shore
Whole as they had boarded, sailed and sunk
Their tears are what have turned the ocean salty,
This is why our irises burn every time we go under.
Every December sixteenth, December 24th and December 31st
Our skin re-traumatises the sea
They mock us
For not being able to throw ourselves into something that was instrumental in trying to execute our extinction.
For you, the ocean is for surf boards, boats and tans
And all the cool stuff you do under there in your bathing suits and goggles
But we, we have come to be baptised here
We have come to stir the other world here
We have come to cleanse ourselves here
We have come to connect our living to the dead here
Our respect for water is what you have termed fear
The audacity to trade and murder us over water
Then mock us for being scared of it
The audacity to arrive by water and invade us
If this land was really yours, then resurrect the bones of the colonisers and use them as a compass
Then quit using black bodies as tour guides or the site for your authentic African experience
Are we not tired of dancing for you?
Gyrating and singing on cue
Are we not tired of gathering as a mass of blackness?
To atone for just being here
To beg God to save us from a war we never started
To March for a cause caused by the intolerance for our existence
Raise our hands so we don’t get shot
Raise our hands in church to pray for protection
And we still get shot there too
With our hands raised
Invasion comes naturally for your people
So you have come to rob us of our places of worship too
Come to murder us in prisons too
That is not new either
Too many white people out here acting God
Too many white people out here doing the work of God,
And this God of theirs has my tummy in knots
Him and I have always had a complicated relationship
This blue eyed and blond haired Jesus I followed in Sunday school
Has had my kind bowing to a white and patriarchal heaven
Bowing to a Christ, his son, and 12 disciples
For all we know
the disciples could have been queer, the holy trinity some weird twisted love triangle
And the Holy Ghost transgender
But you will only choose to understand the scriptures that suit your agenda
You have taken the liberty to colonise the concept of God
Gave god a gender, a skin colour and a name in a language we had to twist our mouths around
Blasphemy is wrapping Slavery in the Gospel and calling it freedom
Blasphemy is having to watch my kind use the same gospel to enslave each other
Since the days of Elijah We have been engineered kneel to whiteness
And we are not even sure if the days of Elijah even existed
Because whoever wrote the bible did not include us
But I would rather exist in that god-less holy book than in the history books that did not tell truth
About us
For us
On behalf of us
If you really had to write our stories
Then you ought to have done it in our mother’s tongues
The ones you cut off when you fed them a new language

We never consent
Yet we are asked to dine with the oppressors
And Serve them forgiveness
How, when the only ingredients I have are grief and rage

Another one (who looks like me) died today
Another one (who looks like me) was murdered today

May that be the conversation at the table
And we can all thereafter wash this bitter meal with amnesia

And go for a swim after that
Just for fun.
Just for fun.

Koleka Putuma

 

Home

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

 

Warsan Shire

Born Yesterday

Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love —
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you’re a lucky girl.

But if it shouldn’t, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull —
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled
Catching of happiness is called.

Philip Larkin

The Way We Live

Pass the tambourine, let me bash out praises

to the Lord God of movement, to Absolute

non-friction, flight, and the scary side:

death by avalanche, birth by failed contraception.

Of chicken tandoori and reggae, loud, from tenements,

commitment, driving fast and unswerving

friendship. Of tee-shirts on pulleys, giros and Bombay,

barmen, dreaming waitresses with many fake-gold

bangles. Of airports, impulse, and waking to uncertainty,

to strip-lights, motorways, or that pantheon –

the mountains. To overdrafts and grafting

 

and the slow pulse of wipers as you’re

creeping over Rannoch, while the God of moorland

walks abroad with his entourage of freezing fog,

his bodyguard of snow.

Of endless gloaming in the North, of Asiatic swelter,

to launderettes, anecdotes, passions and exhaustion,

Final Demands and dead men, the skeletal grip

of government. To misery and elation; mixed,

the sod and caprice of landlords.

To the way it fits, the way it is, the way it seems

to be: let me bash out praises – pass the tambourine

 

Kathleen Jamie

For C

After the clash of elevator gates

And the long sinking, she emerges where,

A slight thing in the morning’s crosstown glare,

She looks up toward the window where he waits,

Then in a fleeting taxi joins the rest

Of the huge traffic bound forever west.

 

On such grand scale do lovers say good-bye—

Even this other pair whose high romance

Had only the duration of a dance,

And who, now taking leave with stricken eye,

See each in each a whole new life forgone.

For them, above the darkling clubhouse lawn,

 

Bright Perseids flash and crumble; while for these

Who part now on the dock, weighed down by grief

And baggage, yet with something like relief,

It takes three thousand miles of knitting seas

To cancel out their crossing, and unmake

The amorous rough and tumble of their wake.

 

We are denied, my love, their fine tristesse

And bittersweet regrets, and cannot share

The frequent vistas of their large despair,

Where love and all are swept to nothingness;

Still, there’s a certain scope in that long love

Which constant spirits are the keepers of,

 

And which, though taken to be tame and staid,

Is a wild sostenuto of the heart,

A passion joined to courtesy and art

Which has the quality of something made,

Like a good fiddle, like the rose’s scent,

Like a rose window or the firmament.

 

Richard Wilbur