John Betjeman |
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
Shel Silverstein |
Well, my daddy left home when I was three,
and he didn't leave much to Ma and me,
just this old guitar and a bottle of booze.
Now I don't blame him because he run and hid,
but the meanest thing that he ever did was
before he left he went and named me Sue.
Well, he must have thought it was quite a joke,
and it got lots of laughs from a lot of folks,
it seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
and some guy would laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell you, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue.
Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean.
My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
Roamed from town to town to hide my shame,
but I made me a vow to the moon and the stars,
I'd search the honky tonks and bars and kill
that man that gave me that awful name.
But it was Gatlinburg in mid July and I had
just hit town and my throat was dry.
I'd thought i'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon in a street of mud
and at a table dealing stud sat the dirty,
mangy dog that named me Sue.
Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
from a worn-out picture that my mother had
and I knew the scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old
and I looked at him and my blood ran cold,
and I said, "My name is Sue.
How do you do?
Now you're gonna die.
" Yeah, that's what I told him.
Well, I hit him right between the eyes and he went down
but to my surprise he came up with a knife
and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair
right across his teeth.
And we crashed through
the wall and into the street kicking and a-gouging
in the mud and the blood and the beer.
I tell you I've fought tougher men but I really can't remember when.
He kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laughin' and then I heard him cussin',
he went for his gun and I pulled mine first.
He stood there looking at me and I saw him smile.
And he said, "Son, this world is rough and if
a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
and I knew I wouldn't be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said 'Goodbye'.
I knew you'd have to get tough or die.
that name that helped to make you strong.
Yeah, he said, "Now you have just fought one
helluva fight, and I know you hate me and you've
got the right to kill me now and I wouldn't blame you
if you do.
But you ought to thank me
before I die for the gravel in your guts and the spit
in your eye because I'm the nut that named you Sue.
Yeah, what could I do? What could I do?
I got all choked up and I threw down my gun,
called him pa and he called me a son,
and I came away with a different point of view
and I think about him now and then.
Every time I tried, every time I win and if I
ever have a son I think I am gonna name him
Bill or George - anything but Sue.
Jack Prelutsky |
it came today to visit
and moved into the house
it was smaller than an elephant
but larger than a mouse
first it slapped my sister
then it kicked my dad
then it pushed my mother
oh! that really made me mad
it went and tickled rover
and terrified the cat
it sliced apart my necktie
and rudely crushed my hat
it smeared my head with honey
and filled the tub with rocks
and when i yelled in anger
it stole my shoes and socks
that's just the way it happened
it happened all today
before it bowed politely
and softly went away
More great poems below...
Judith Viorst |
My pants could maybe fall down when I dive off the diving board.
My nose could maybe keep growing and never quit.
Miss Brearly could ask me to spell words like stomach and special.
(Stumick and speshul?)
I could play tag all day and always be "it.
Jay Spievack, who's fourteen feet tall, could want to fight me.
My mom and my dad--like Ted's--could want a divorce.
Miss Brearly could ask me a question about Afghanistan.
Somebody maybe could make me ride a horse.
My mother could maybe decide that I needed more liver.
My dad could decide that I needed less TV.
Miss Brearly could say that I have to write script and stop printing.
(I'm better at printing.
Chris could decide to stop being friends with me.
The world could maybe come to an end on next Tuesday.
The ceiling could maybe come crashing on my head.
I maybe could run out of things for me to worry about.
And then I'd have to do my homework instead.
Stephen Dunn |
To hold a damaged sparrow
under water until you feel it die
is to know a small something
about the mind; how, for example,
it blames the cat for the original crime,
how it wants praise for its better side.
And yet it's as human
as pulling the plug on your Dad
whose world has turned
to feces and fog, human as--
Well, let's admit, it's a mild thing
as human things go.
But I felt the one good wing
flutter in my palm--
the smallest protest, if that's what it was,
I ever felt or heard.
Reminded me of how my eyelid has twitched,
the need to account for it.
Hard to believe no one notices.
Shel Silverstein |
"A genuine anteater,"
The pet man told me dad.
Turned out, it was an aunt eater,
And now my uncle's mad!
Charles Webb |
Treacherous as trap door spiders,
they ambush children's innocence.
"Why is there g h in light? It isn't fair!"
Buddha declared the world illusory
as the p sound in psyche.
said the same of God from France,
Olympus of silent letters, n'est -ce pas?
Polite conceals an e in the same way
"How are you?" hides "I don't care.
Physics asserts the desk I lean on,
the brush that fluffs my hair,
are only dots that punctuate a nullity
complete as the g sound in gnome,
the c e in Worcestershire.
Passions lurk under the saint's bed,
mute as the end of love.
They glide toward us, yellow eyes
gleaming, hushed as the finality
of hate, malice, snake.
As easily predict the h in lichen,
as laws against throttling rats,
making U-turns on empty streets.
Such nonsense must be memorized.
"Imagine dropkicking a spud,"
"If e breaks off
your toe, it spoils your potato.
Like compass needles
pointing north, silent letters
show the power of hidden things.
Voiced by our ancestors,
but heard no more, they nudge
our thoughts toward death,
infinity, our senses' inability
to see the earth as round,
circling the sun in a universe
implacable as "Might Makes Right,"
ineffable as tomorrow's second r,
incomprehensible as imbroglio's g,
the e that finishes inscrutable,
the terrifying k in "I don't know.
Charles Webb |
"Don't overdo it," Dad yelled, watching me
Play shortstop, collect stamps and shells,
Roll on the grass laughing until I peed my pants.
"Screw him," I said, and grabbed every cowry
I could find, hogged all the books I could
From Heights Library, wore out the baseball
Diamond dawn to dusk, and—parents in Duluth—
Gorged on bountiful Candy dusk to dawn.
Not until a Committee wrote of my poems,
"Enthusiasm should be tempered,"
Did I change my song.
I write now
The way I live: calm and sober, steering
Toward the Golden Mean.
Was right to withhold funds.
I'd have bought
A hundred box turtles with lemon-speckled shells,
Flyfished for rainbows six months straight,
Flown to the Great Barrier Reef and dived
Non-stop among pink coral and marble cones,
Living on chocolate malts, peaches, and barbecue.
I'd have turned into a ski bum, married
Ten women in ten states, written nothing
Poetry would glance at twice, instead
Of rising at 5:00 as I do now, writing
'Til noon about matters serious and deep,
Teaching 'til 6:00, eating a low-fat meal
High in fiber and cruciferous vegetables,
Then bed by 9:00, alarm clock set
Five minutes late: my one indulgence of the day.
Sophie Hannah |
Where they have been, if they have been away,
or what they've done at home, if they have not -
you make them write about the holiday.
One writes My Dad did.
What? Your Dad did what?
That's not a sentence.
Never mind the bell.
We stay behind until the work is done.
You count their words (you who can count and spell);
all the assignments are complete bar one
and though this boy seems bright, that one is his.
He says he's finished, doesn't want to add
anything, hands it in just as it is.
My Dad did.
What? What did his Dad?
You find the 'E' you gave him as you sort
through reams of what this girl did, what that lad did,
and read the line again, just one 'e' short:
This holiday was horrible.
My Dad did.
Raymond Carver |
On the Columbia River near Vantage,
Washington, we fished for whitefish
in the winter months; my dad, Swede-
They used belly-reels,
pencil-length sinkers, red, yellow, or brown
flies baited with maggots.
They wanted distance and went clear out there
to the edge of the riffle.
I fished near shore with a quill bobber and a cane pole.
My dad kept his maggots alive and warm
under his lower lip.
Lindgren didn't drink.
I liked him better than my dad for a time.
He lets me steer his car, teased me
about my name "Junior," and said
one day I'd grow into a fine man, remember
all this, and fish with my own son.
But my dad was right.
he kept silent and looked into the river,
worked his tongue, like a thought, behind the bait.
Robert William Service |
Mumsie and Dad are raven dark
And I am lily blonde.
''Tis strange,' I once heard nurse remark,
'You do not correspond.
And yet they claim me as their own,
Born of their flesh and bone.
To doubt their parenthood I dread,
But now to girlhood grown,
The thought is haunting in my head
That I am not their own:
If so, my radiant bloom of youth
Would wither in the truth.
'Twould give me anguish deep to know
A fondling babe was I;
And that a maid in wedless woe
Left me to live or die:
I'd rather Mother lied and lied
To save my pride.
I love them both and they love me;
I am their all, they say.
Yet though the sweetest home have we,
To know I'm theirs I pray.
If not, please dear ones, never tell .
The truth would be of hell.
Robert William Service |
My Daddy used to wallop me for every small offense:
"Its takes a hair-brush back," said he, "to teach kids common-sense.
And still to-day I scarce can look a hair-brush in the face.
Without I want in sympathy to pat a tender place.
For Dad declared with unction: "Spare the brush and spoil the brat.
The dear old man! What e'er his faults he never did do that;
And though a score of years have gone since he departed hence,
I still revere his deity, The God of Common-sense.
How often I have played the ass (Man's universal fate),
Yet always I have saved myself before it was too late;
How often tangled with a dame - you know how these things are,
Yet always had the gumption not to carry on too far;
Remembering that fancy skirts, however high they go,
Are not to be stacked up against a bunch of hard-earned dough;
And sentiment has little weight compared with pounds and pence,
According to the gospel of the God of Common-sense.
Oh blessing on that old hair-brush my Daddy used to whack
With such benign precision on the basement of my back.
Oh blessings on his wisdom, saying: "Son, don't play the fool,
Let prudence be your counselor and reason be your rule.
Don't get romantic notions, always act with judgment calm,
Poetical emotions ain't in practice worth a damn/
let solid comfort be your goal, self-interest your guide.
Then just as if to emphasize, whack! whack! the brush he plied.
And so I often wonder if my luck is Providence,
or just my humble tribute to the God of Common-sense.
Robert William Service |
To buy for school a copy-book
I asked my Dad for two-pence;
He gave it with a gentle look,
Although he had but few pence.
'Twas then I proved myself a crook
And came a moral cropper,
I bought a penny copy-book
And blued the other copper.
I spent it on a sausage roll
Gulped down with guilt suggestion,
To the damnation of my soul
And awful indigestion.
Poor Dad! His job was hard to hold;
His mouths to feed were many;
Were he alive a millionfold
I'd pay him for his penny.
Now nigh the grave I think with grief,
Though other sins are many,
I am a liar and a thief
'Cause once I stole a penny:
Yet be he pious as a friar
It is my firm believing,
That every man has been a liar
And most of us done thieving.
Robert William Service |
God's truth! these be the bitter times.
In vain I sing my sheaf of rhymes,
And hold my battered hat for dimes.
And then a copper collars me,
Barking: "It's begging that you be;
Come on, dad; you're in custody.
And then the Beak looks down and says:
"Sheer doggerel I deem your lays:
I send you down for seven days.
So for the week I won't disturb
The peace by singing at the curb.
I don't mind that, but oh it's hell
To have my verse called doggerel.
Eugene Field |
Aha! a traitor in the camp,
A rebel strangely bold,--
A lisping, laughing, toddling scamp,
Not more than four years old!
To think that I, who've ruled alone
So proudly in the past,
Should be ejected from my throne
By my own son at last!
He trots his treason to and fro,
As only babies can,
And says he'll be his mamma's beau
When he's a "gweat, big man"!
You stingy boy! you've always had
A share in mamma's heart;
Would you begrudge your poor old dad
The tiniest little part?
That mamma, I regret to see,
Inclines to take your part,--
As if a dual monarchy
Should rule her gentle heart!
But when the years of youth have sped,
The bearded man, I trow,
Will quite forget he ever said
He'd be his mamma's beau.
Renounce your treason, little son,
Leave mamma's heart to me;
For there will come another one
To claim your loyalty.
And when that other comes to you,
God grant her love may shine
Through all your life, as fair and true
As mamma's does through mine!