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Best Famous Vernon Scannell Poems

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by Vernon Scannell |

Wife Killer

 He killed his wife at night. 
He had tried once or twice in the daylight 
But she refused to die. 

In darkness the deed was done, 
Not crudely with a hammer-hard gun 
Or strangler's black kid gloves on. 

She just ceased being alive, 
Not there to interfere or connive, 
Linger, leave or arrive. 

It seemed almost as though 
Her death was quite normal and no 
Clue to his part would show. 

So then, with impunity, 
He called up that buttocky beauty 
He had so long longed to see 

All covering gone: the double 
Joggle of warm weighty bubbles 
Was sweet delirious trouble. 

And all night, all night he enjoyed her; 
Such sport in her smooth dimpled water; 
Then daylight came like a warder. 

And he rose and went down to the larder 
Where the mouse-trap again had caught a 
Piece of stale gorgonzola. 

His wife wore her large woollen feet. 
She said that he was late 
And asked what he wanted to eat, 

But said nothing about the murder--- 
And who, after all, could have told her? 
He said that he fancied a kipper.

by Vernon Scannell |

Where Shall We Go?

 Waiting for her in the usual bar
He finds she's late again.
Impatience frets at him,
But not the fearful, half-sweet pain he knew
So long ago.

That cherished perturbation is replaced
By styptic irritation
And, under that, a cold
Dark current of dejection moves
That this is so.

There was a time when all her failings were
Delights he marvelled at:
It seemed her clumsiness, 
Forgetfulness and wild non-sequiturs
Could never grow

Wearisome, nor would he ever tire
Of doting on those small
Blemishes that proved 
Her beauty as the blackbird's gloss affirms
The bridal snow.

The clock above the bar records her theft
Of time he cannot spare;
Then suddenly she's here.
He stands to welcome and accuse her with 
A grey 'Hello'.

And sees, for one sly instant, in her eyes
His own aggrieved dislike
Wince back at him before
Her smile draws blinds. 'Sorry I'm late,' she says.
'Where shall we go?'

by Vernon Scannell |

They Did Not Expect This

 They did not expect this. Being neither wise nor brave 
And wearing only the beauty of youth's season 
They took the first turning quite unquestioningly 
And walked quickly without looking back even once. 

It was of course the wrong turning. First they were nagged 
By a small wind that tugged at their clothing like a dog; 
Then the rain began and there was no shelter anywhere, 
Only the street and the rows of houses stern as soldiers. 

Though the blood chilled, the endearing word burnt the tongue. 
There were no parks or gardens or public houses: 
Midnight settled and the rain paused leaving the city 
Enormous and still like a great sleeping seal. 

At last they found accommodation in a cold 
Furnished room where they quickly learnt to believe in ghosts; 
They had their hope stuffed and put on the mantelpiece 
But found, after a while, that they did not notice it. 

While she spends many hours looking in the bottoms of teacups 
He reads much about association football 
And waits for the marvellous envelope to fall: 
Their eyes are strangers and they rarely speak. 
They did not expect this.

by Vernon Scannell |

The Terrible Abstractions

 The naked hunter's fist, bunched round his spear, 
Was tight and wet inside with sweat of fear; 
He heard behind him what the hunted hear. 

The silence in the undergrowth crept near; 
Its mischief tickled in his nervous ear 
And he became the prey, the quivering deer. 

The naked hunter feared the threat he knew: 
Being hunted, caught, then slaughtered like a ewe 
By beasts who padded on four legs or two. 

The naked hunter in the bus or queue 
Under his decent wool is frightened too 
But not of what his hairy forebear knew. 

The terrible abstractions prowl about 
The compound of his fear and chronic doubt; 
He keeps fires burning boldly all night through, 
But cannot keep the murderous shadows out.

by Vernon Scannell |

The Men Who Wear My Clothes

 Sleepless I lay last night and watched the slow 
Procession of the men who wear my clothes: 
First, the grey man with bloodshot eyes and sly 
Gestures miming what he loves and loathes. 

Next came the cheery knocker-back of pints, 
The beery joker, never far from tears, 
Whose loud and public vanity acquaints 
The careful watcher with his private fears. 

And then I saw the neat mouthed gentle man 
Defer politely, listen to the lies, 
Smile at the tedious tale and gaze upon 
The little mirrors in the speaker's eyes. 

The men who wear my clothes walked past my bed 
And all of them looked tired and rather old; 
I felt a chip of ice melt in my blood. 
Naked I lay last night, and very cold.

by Vernon Scannell |

Silver Wedding

 Silver Wedding

The party is over and I sit among
The flotsam that its passing leaves,
The dirty glasses and fag-ends:
Outside, a black wind grieves.

Two decades and a half of marriage;
It does not really seem as long,
Of youth's ebullient song.

David, my son, my loved rival,
And Julia, my tapering daughter,
Now grant me one achievement only;
I turn their wine to water.

And Helen, partner of all these years,
Helen, my spouse, my sack of sighs,
Reproaches me for every hurt
With injured, bovine eyes.

There must have been passion once, I grant,
But neither she nor I could bear
To have its ghost come prowling from
Its dark and frowsy lair.

And we, to keep our nuptials warm,
Still wage sporadic war;
Numb with insult each yet strives
To scratch the other raw.

Twenty-five years we've now survived;
I'm not sure either why or how
As I sit with a wreath of quarrels set
On my tired and balding brow.

by Vernon Scannell |

Schoolroom On A Wet Afternoon

 The unrelated paragraphs of morning
Are forgotten now; the severed heads of kings
Rot by the misty Thames; the roses of York
And Lancaster are pressed between the leaves
Of history; Negroes sleep in Africa.
The complexities of simple interest lurk
In inkwells and the brittle sticks of chalk:
Afternoon is come and English Grammar.

Rain falls as though the sky has been bereaved,
Stutters its inarticulate grief on glass
Of every lachrymose pane. The children read
Their books or make pretence of concentration,
Each bowed head seems bent in supplication
Or resignation to the fate that waits
In the unmapped forests of the future.
Is it their doomed innocence noon weeps for?

In each diminutive breast a human heart
Pumps out the necessary blood: desires,
Pains and ecstasies surf-ride each singing wave
Which breaks in darkness on the mental shores.
Each child is disciplined; absorbed and still
At his small desk. Yet lift the lid and see,
Amidst frayed books and pencils, other shapes:
Vicious rope, glaring blade, the gun cocked to kill.

by Vernon Scannell |


 My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
'Bed' seemed a curious name for those green spears,
That regiment of spite behind the shed:
It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
At last he offered us a watery grin,
And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
My son would often feel sharp wounds again.

by Vernon Scannell |

Lesson In Grammar


Perhaps I can make it plain by analogy.
Imagine a machine, not yet assembled,
Each part being quite necessary
To the functioning of the whole: if the job is fumbled
And a vital piece mislaid
The machine is quite valueless,
The workers will not be paid.

It is just the same when constructing a sentence
But here we must be very careful
And lay stress on the extreme importance
Of defining our terms: nothing is as simple
As it seems at first regard.
"Sentence" might well mean to you
The amorous rope or twelve years" hard.

No, by "sentence" we mean, quite simply, words
Put together like the parts of a machine.
Now remember we must have a verb: verbs
Are words of action like Murder, Love, or Sin.
But these might be nouns, depending
On how you use them –
Already the plot is thickening.

Except when the mood is imperative; that is to say
A command is given like Pray, Repent, or Forgive
(Dear me, these lessons get gloomier every day)
Except, as I was saying, when the mood is gloomy –
I mean imperative
We need nouns, or else of course
Pronouns; words like Maid,
Man, Wedding or Divorce.

A sentence must make sense. Sometimes I believe
Our lives are ungrammatical. I guess that some of
Have misplaced the direct object: the longer I live
The less certain I feel of anything I do.
But now I begin
To digress. Write down these simple sentences:--
I am sentenced: I love: I murder: I sin.

by Vernon Scannell |

Makers And Creatures

 It is a curious experience
And one you"re bound to know, though probably
In other realms than that of literature,
Though I speak of poems now, assuming
That you are interested, otherwise,
Of course, you wouldn"t be reading this.
It is strange to come across a poem
In an old magazine, perhaps, and fail
At first to see that it"s your own.
Sometimes you think, grateful and surprised,
"That"s really not too bad", or gloomily:
"Many have done as well and far, far better".
Or, in despair, "My God that"s terrible.
What was I thinking of to publish it".
And then you start to wonder how the great
Poets felt, seeing, surprised, their poems
As strangers, beautiful. And how do all the
Makers feel to see their creatures live:
The carpenter, the architect, the man who
Crochets intricate embroideries
Of steel across the sky. And how does God
Feel, looking at his poems, his creatures?
The swelling inhalation of plump hills,
Plumage of poplars on the pale horizon,
Fishleap flashing in pools cool as silver,
Great horses haunched with glossy muscles
And birds who spray their song like apple juice
And the soft shock of snow. He must feel good
Surprised again by these. But what happens
When He takes a look at Man? Does He say,
"That"s really not too bad", Or does He, as I fear,
Wince ruefully and mutter to Himself:
"What was I thinking of publishing that one"?