Welcome to my Poety Quota

Finding time for some beauty and peace.


Poems at least weekly. Recommendations welcomed. Enjoy! 

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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

Port Meadow

A faire felde ful of folke’ (Piers the Plowman)

This long, low, and flat landscape is where Oxford goes all Dutch,
down to the kitsch January skaters whistling along
with hands neatly folded behind their backs, and little
summer sails almost below the horizon among
the slow clouds in a huge sky, suffused with a muted light.

The flora and fauna here are in a pared-down palette
of greys, browns, and sludge green; the horses, waterbirds, meadow
all conspire with the soft floodplain scene. It’s a peopled place
of course: painted landscapes often need, somewhere, a red smudge.
And we trace our own filmy overlays: the black rainbow

bridge is really chalky pink here, zigzags capping
a wild and tangled world, reflected in a fisheye
distorting lens; the flashbacks that frame family picnics
on the small beaches, barefoot avoiding cowpats; walks
from the Perch to the Trout; a friend playing a farting

sousaphone, lyrically, to curious cows; and the birthday
when we drifted low in early morning mist, transparent
paper-thin wisps over river, grass, the silence broken
only by the balloon’s gasps. Secular, we didn’t ascend,
instead there was a long sigh as the land fell away.

David Attwooll

Postcards

I’m thinking about you. What else can I say? 

The palm trees on the reverse 

are a delusion; so is the pink sand. 

What we have are the usual 

fractured coke bottles and the smell 

of backed-up drains, too sweet, 

like a mango on the verge 

of rot, which we have also. 

The air clear sweat, mosquitoes 

& their tracks; birds & elusive. 

Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one 

day after the other rolling on; 

I move up, it’s called 

awake, then down into the uneasy 

nights but never 

forward. The roosters crow 

for hours before dawn, and a prodded 

child howls & howls 

on the pocked road to school. 

In the hold with the baggage 

there are two prisoners, 

their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates 

of queasy chicks. Each spring 

there’s race of cripples, from the store 

to the church. This is the sort of junk 

I carry with me; and a clipping 

about democracy from the local paper. 

Outside the window 

they’re building the damn hotel, 

nail by nail, someone’s 

crumbling dream. A universe that includes you 

can’t be all bad, but 

does it? At this distance 

you’re a mirage, a glossy image 

fixed in the posture 

of the last time I saw you. 

Turn you over, there’s the place 

for the address. Wish you were 

here. Love comes 

in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on 

& on, a hollow cave 

in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.
Margaret Atwood

The World is Too Much with Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon;

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth

Matthew 25:30

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness:

there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.



The first bridge on Constitution. At my feet

the shunting trains trace iron labyrinths.

Steam hisses up and up into the night

which becomes, at a stroke, the Night of the Last Judgment.

From the unseen horizon,

and from the very center of my being,

an infinite voice pronounced these things–

things, not words. This is my feeble translation,

time-bound, of what was a single limitless Word:

 

 

“Stars, bread, libraries of East and West,

playing cards, chessboards, galleries, skylights, cellars,

a human body to walk with on the earth,

fingernails, growing at nighttime and in death,

shadows for forgetting, mirrors which endlessly multiply,

falls in music, gentlest of all time’s shapes,

borders of Brazil, Uruguay, horses and morning,

a bronze weight, a copy of Grettir Saga,

algebra and fire, the charge at Junin in your blood,

days more crowded than Balzac, scent of the honeysuckle,

love, and the imminence of love, and intolerable remembering,

dreams like buried treasure, generous luck,

and memory itself, where a glance can make men dizzy–

 

 

all this was given to you and, with it,

the ancient nourishment of heroes–

treachery, defeat, humiliation.

In vain have oceans been squandered on you, in vain

the sun, wonderfully seen through Whitman’s eyes.

 

 

You have used up the years and they have used up you,

and still, and still, you have not written the poem.”

 

 

Jorge Luis Borges

–Translated by Alastair Reid


In Spanish:

El primer puente de Constitución y a mis pies

Fragor de trenes que tejían laberintos de hierro.

Humo y silbatos escalaban la noche,

Que de golpe fue el juicio Universal. Desde el invisible horizonte

Y desde el centro de mi ser, una voz infinita

Dijo estas cosas (estas cosas, no estas palabras,

Que son mi pobre traducción temporal de una sola palabra):

—Estrellas, pan, bibliotecas orientales y occidentales,

Naipes, tableros de ajedrez, galerías, claraboyas y sótanos,

Un cuerpo humano para andar por la tierra,

Uñas que crecen en la noche, en la muerte,

Sombra que olvida, atareados espejos que multiplican,

Declives de la música, la más dócil de las formas del tiempo,

Fronteras del Brasil y del Uruguay, caballos y mañanas,

Una pesa de bronce y un ejemplar de la Saga de Grettir,

Álgebra y fuego, la carga de Junín en tu sangre,

Días más populosos que Balzac, el olor de la madreselva,

Amor y víspera de amor y recuerdos intolerables,

El sueño como un tesoro enterrado, el dadivoso azar

Y la memoria, que el hombre no mira sin vértigo,

Todo eso te fue dado, y también

El antiguo alimento de los héroes:

La falsía, la derrota, la humillación.

En vano te hemos prodigado el océano,

En vano el sol, que vieron los maravillados ojos de Whitman;

Has gastado los años y te han gastado,

Y todavía no has escrito el poema.

Before You Were Mine

I’m ten years away from the corner you laugh on

with your pals, Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff.

The three of you bend from the waist, holding

each other, or your knees, and shriek at the pavement.

Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.

 

I’m not here yet. The thought of me doesn’t occur

in the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy, movie tomorrows

the right walk home could bring. I knew you would dance

like that. Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close

with a hiding for the late one. You reckon it’s worth it.

 

The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?

I remember my hands in those high-heeled red shoes, relics,

and now your ghost clatters toward me over George Square

till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree,

with its lights, and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?

 

Cha cha cha! You’d teach me the steps on the way home from Mass,

stamping stars from the wrong pavement. Even then

I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello, somewhere

in Scotland, before I was born. That glamorous love lasts

where you sparkle and waltz and laugh before you were mine.

 

Carol Ann Duffy

Words, Wide Night

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.

 

Carol Ann Duffy