T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot | |
En l’an trentiesme do mon aage
Que toutes mes hontes j’ay beues.
PIPIT sate upright in her chair
Some distance from where I was sitting;
Views of the Oxford Colleges
Lay on the table, with the knitting.
Daguerreotypes and silhouettes,
Here grandfather and great great aunts,
Supported on the mantelpiece
An Invitation to the Dance.
I shall not want Honour in Heaven
For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney
And have talk with Coriolanus
And other heroes of that kidney.
I shall not want Capital in Heaven
For I shall meet Sir Alfred Mond.
We two shall lie together, lapt
In a five per cent.
I shall not want Society in Heaven,
Lucretia Borgia shall be my Bride;
Her anecdotes will be more amusing
Than Pipit’s experience could provide.
I shall not want Pipit in Heaven:
Madame Blavatsky will instruct me
In the Seven Sacred Trances;
Piccarda de Donati will conduct me.
But where is the penny world I bought
To eat with Pipit behind the screen?
The red-eyed scavengers are creeping
From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green;
Where are the eagles and the trumpets?
Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps.
Over buttered scones and crumpets
Weeping, weeping multitudes
Droop in a hundred A.
Ellis Parker Butler | |
Just as the sun was setting
Back of the Western hills
Grandfather stood by the window
Eating the last of his pills.
And Grandmother, by the cupboard,
Knitting, heard him say:
“I ought to have went to the village
To fetch some more pills today.
Then Grandmother snuffled a teardrop
“It is jest like I suz
T’ th’ parson—Grandfather’s liver
Ain’t what it used to was:
“It’s gittin’ torpid and dormant,
It don’t function like of old,
And even them pills he swallers
Don’t seem no more t’ catch hold;
“They used to grab it and shake it
And joggle it up and down
And turn dear Grandfather yaller
Except when they turned him brown;
“I remember when we was married
His liver was lively and gay,
A kickin’ an’ rippin’ an’ givin’
Dear Ezry new pains ev’ry day;
“It used to turn clear over backwards
An’ palpitate wuss’n a pump
An’ give him the janders and yallers
An’ bounce around thumpty-thump;
“But now it is torpid and dormant
And painless and quiet and cold;
Ah, me! all’s so peaceful an’ quiet
Since Grandfather’s liver ’s grown old!
Then Grandmother wiped a new teardrop
And sighed: “It is just like I suz
T’ th’ parson: Grandfather’s liver
Ain’t what it used to was.
Ogden Nash | |
Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to
But there comes a day when your eyes
are all right but your arm isn't long
to hold the telephone book where you can read it,
And your friends get jocular, so you go
to the oculist,
And of all your friends he is the joculist,
So over his facetiousness let us skim,
Only noting that he has been waiting for you ever since
you said Good evening to his grandfather clock under
the impression that it was him,
And you look at his chart and it says SHRDLU QWERTYOP,
and you say Well, why SHRDNTLU QWERTYOP? and he
says one set of glasses won't do.
You need two.
One for reading Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason and
Keats's "Endymion" with,
And the other for walking around without saying Hello
to strange wymion with.
So you spend your time taking off your seeing glasses to put
on your reading glasses, and then remembering that your
reading glasses are upstairs or in the car,
And then you can't find your seeing glasses again because
without them on you can't see where they are.
Enough of such mishaps, they would try the patience of an
I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining
years saluting strange women and grandfather clocks.
More great poems below...
Barry Tebb | |
Richard Chessick, John Gedo, James Grotstein and Vamik Voltan
What darknesses have you lit up for me
What depths of infinite space plumbed
With your finely honed probes
What days of unending distress lightened
With your wisdom, skills and jouissance?
Conquistadores of the unconscious
For three decades how often have I come to you
And from your teachings gathered the manna
Of meaning eluding me alone in my northern eyrie?
Chance or God’s guidance – being a poet I chose the latter –
Brought me to dip my ankle like an amah’s blessing
Into the Holy Ganges of prelude and grosse fuge
Of ego and unconscious, wandering alone
In uncharted waters and faltering
Until I raised my hand and found it grasped
By your firm fingers pulling inexorably shoreward.
Did I know, how could I know, madness
Would descend on my family, first a sad grandfather
Who had wrought destruction on three generations
Including our children’s?
I locked with the horns of madness,
Trusted my learning, won from you at whose feet I sat
Alone and in spirit; yet not once did you let me down,
In ward rounds, staying on after the other visitors –
How few and lost – had gone, chatting to a charge nurse
While together we made our case
To the well meaning but unenlightened psychiatrist,
Chair of the department no less, grumbling good-naturedly
At our fumbling formulations of splitting as a diagnostic aid.
When Cyril’s nightmare vision of me in a white coat
Leading a posse of nurses chasing him round his flat
With a flotilla of ambulances on witches’ brooms
Bringing his psychotic core to the fore and
The departmental chairman finally signing the form.
Cyril discharged on Largactil survived two years
To die on a dual carriageway ‘high on morphine’
And I learned healing is caring as much as knowing,
The slow hard lesson of a lifetime, the concentration
Of a chess master, the footwork of a dancer,
The patience of a scholar and a saint’s humility,
While I have only a poet’s quickness, a journalist’s
Ability to speed-read and the clumsiness
Of a circus clown.
Chris Tusa | |
My grandmother’s teeth stare at her
from a mason jar on the nightstand.
The radio turns itself on,
sunlight crawls through the window,
and she thinks she feels her bright blue eyes
rolling out her head.
She’s certain her blood has turned to dirt,
that beetles haunt the dark hollow of her bones.
The clock on the kitchen wall is missing its big hand.
The potatoes in the sink are growing eyes.
She stares at my grandfather standing in the doorway,
his smile flickering like the side of an axe.
Outside, in the yard, a chicken hops
through the tall grass, looking for its head.
Delmore Schwartz | |
The children of the Czar
Played with a bouncing ball
In the May morning, in the Czar's garden,
Tossing it back and forth.
It fell among the flowerbeds
Or fled to the north gate.
A daylight moon hung up
In the Western sky, bald white.
Like Papa's face, said Sister,
Hurling the white ball forth.
While I ate a baked potato
Six thousand miles apart,
In Brooklyn, in 1916,
Aged two, irrational.
When Franklin D.
Was an Arrow Collar ad.
O Nicholas! Alas! Alas!
My grandfather coughed in your army,
Hid in a wine-stinking barrel,
For three days in Bucharest
Then left for America
To become a king himself.
I am my father's father,
You are your children's guilt.
In history's pity and terror
The child is Aeneas again;
Troy is in the nursery,
The rocking horse is on fire.
Child labor! The child must carry
His fathers on his back.
But seeing that so much is past
And that history has no ruth
For the individual,
Who drinks tea, who catches cold,
Let anger be general:
I hate an abstract thing.
Brother and sister bounced
The bounding, unbroken ball,
The shattering sun fell down
Like swords upon their play,
Moving eastward among the stars
Toward February and October.
But the Maywind brushed their cheeks
Like a mother watching sleep,
And if for a moment they fight
Over the bouncing ball
And sister pinches brother
And brother kicks her shins,
Well! The heart of man in known:
It is a cactus bloom.
The ground on which the ball bounces
Is another bouncing ball.
The wheeling, whirling world
Makes no will glad.
Spinning in its spotlight darkness,
It is too big for their hands.
A pitiless, purposeless Thing,
Arbitrary, and unspent,
Made for no play, for no children,
But chasing only itself.
The innocent are overtaken,
They are not innocent.
They are their father's fathers,
The past is inevitable.
Now, in another October
Of this tragic star,
I see my second year,
I eat my baked potato.
It is my buttered world,
But, poked by my unlearned hand,
It falls from the highchair down
And I begin to howl
And I see the ball roll under
The iron gate which is locked.
Sister is screaming, brother is howling,
The ball has evaded their will.
Even a bouncing ball
And is under the garden wall.
I am overtaken by terror
Thinking of my father's fathers,
And of my own will.
Anne Sexton | |
Sing me a thrush, bone.
Sing me a nest of cup and pestle.
Sing me a sweetbread fr an old grandfather.
Sing me a foot and a doorknob, for you are my love.
Oh sing, bone bag man, sing.
Your head is what I remember that Augusty
you were in love with another woman but
taht didn't matter.
I was the gury of your
bones, your fingers long and nubby, your
forehead a beacon, bare as marble and I worried
you like an odor because you had not quite forgotten,
bone bag man, garlic in the North End,
the book you dedicated, naked as a fish,
naked as someone drowning into his own mouth.
I wonder, Mr.
Bone man, what you're thinking
of your fury now, gone sour as a sinking whale,
crawling up the alphabet on her own bones.
Am I in your ear still singing songs in the rain,
me of the death rattle, me of the magnolias,
me of the sawdust tavern at the city's edge.
Women have lovely bones, arms, neck, thigh
and I admire them also, but your bones
They are the tough
ones that get broken and reset.
I just can't
answer for you, only for your bones,
round rulers, round nudgers, round poles,
numb nubkins, the sword of sugar.
I feel the skull, Mr.
Skeleton, living its
own life in its own skin.
Anne Sexton | |
In my dream,
drilling into the marrow
of my entire bone,
my real dream,
I'm walking up and down Beacon Hill
searching for a street sign --
namely MERCY STREET.
I try the Back Bay.
And yet I know the number.
45 Mercy Street.
I know the stained-glass window
of the foyer,
the three flights of the house
with its parquet floors.
I know the furniture and
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,
I know the cupboard of Spode
the boat of ice, solid silver,
where the butter sits in neat squares
like strange giant's teeth
on the big mahogany table.
I know it well.
Where did you go?
45 Mercy Street,
kneeling in her whale-bone corset
and praying gently but fiercely
to the wash basin,
at five A.
dozing in her wiggy rocker,
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower
on her forehead to cover the curl
of when she was good and when she was.
And where she was begat
and in a generation
the third she will beget,
with the stranger's seed blooming
into the flower called Horrid.
I walk in a yellow dress
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,
enough pills, my wallet, my keys,
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?
I hold matches at street signs
for it is dark,
as dark as the leathery dead
and I have lost my green Ford,
my house in the suburbs,
two little kids
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me
and a husband
who has wiped off his eyes
in order not to see my inside out
and I am walking and looking
and this is no dream
just my oily life
where the people are alibis
and the street is unfindable for an
Pull the shades down --
I don't care!
Bolt the door, mercy,
erase the number,
rip down the street sign,
what can it matter,
what can it matter to this cheapskate
who wants to own the past
that went out on a dead ship
and left me only with paper?
I open my pocketbook,
as women do,
and fish swim back and forth
between the dollars and the lipstick.
I pick them out,
one by one
and throw them at the street signs,
and shoot my pocketbook
into the Charles River.
Next I pull the dream off
and slam into the cement wall
of the clumsy calendar
I live in,
and its hauled up
Edgar Lee Masters | |
"What will you do when you come to die,
If all your life long you have rejected Jesus,
And know as you lie there, He is not your friend?"
Over and over I said, I, the revivalist.
Ah, yes! but there are friends and friends.
And blessed are you, say I, who know all now,
You who have lost, ere you pass,
A father or mother, or old grandfather or mother
Some beautiful soul that lived life strongly,
And knew you all through, and loved you ever,
Who would not fail to speak for you,
And give God an intimate view of your soul,
As only one of your flesh could do it.
That is the hand your hand will reach for,
To lead you along the corridor
To the court where you are a stranger!
Robert William Service | |
As home from church we two did plod,
"Grandpa," said Rosy, "What is God?"
Seeking an answer to her mind,
This is the best that I could find.
God is the Iz-ness of our Cosmic Biz;
The high, the low, the near, the far,
The atom and the evening star;
The lark, the shark, the cloud, the clod,
The whole darned Universe - that's God.
Some deem that others there be,
And to them humbly bend the knee;
To Mumbo Jumbo and to Joss,
To Bud and Allah - but the Boss
Is mine .
While there are suns and seas
MY timeless God shall dwell in these.
In every glowing leaf He lives;
When roses die His life he gives;
God is not outside and apart
From Nature, but her very heart;
No Architect (as I of verse)
He is Himself the Universe.
Said Rosy-kins: "Grandpa, how odd
Is your imagining of God.
To me he's always just appeared
A huge Grandfather with a beard.
Robert William Service | |
In all the pubs from Troon to Ayr
Grandfather's father would repair
With Bobby Burns, a drouthy pair,
The glass to clink;
And oftenwhiles, when not too "fou,"
They'd roar a bawdy stave or two,
From midnight muk to morning dew,
And drink and drink.
And Grandfather, with eye aglow
And proper pride, would often show
An old armchair where long ago
The Bard would sit;
Reciting there with pawky glee
"The Lass that Made the Bed for Me;"
Or whiles a rhyme about the flea
That ne'er was writ.
Then I would seek the Poet's chair
And plant my kilted buttocks there,
And read with joy the Bard of Ayr
In my own tongue;
The Diel, the Daisy and the Louse
The Hare, the Haggis and the Mouse,
(What fornication and carouse!)
When I was young.
Though Kipling, Hardy, Stevenson
Have each my admiration won,
Today, my rhyme-race almost run,
My fancy turns
To him who did Pegasus prod
For me, Bard of my native sod,
The sinner best-loved of God -
Rare Robbie Burns.
Robert William Service | |
Great Grandfather was ninety-nine
And so it was our one dread,
That though his health was superfine
He'd fail to make the hundred.
Though he was not a rolling stone
No moss he seemed to gather:
A patriarch of brawn and bone
Was Great Grandfather.
He should have been senile and frail
Instead of hale and hearty;
But no, he loved a mug of ale,
A boisterous old party.
'As frisky as a cold,' said he,
'A man's allotted span
I've lived but now I plan to be
Then one night when I called on him
Oh what a change I saw!
His head was bowed, his eye was dim,
Down-fallen was his jaw.
Said he: 'Leave me to die, I pray;
I'm no more bloody use .
For in my mouth I found today--
A tooth that's loose.
Robert William Service | |
This morning on my pensive walk
I saw a fisher on a rock,
Who watched his ruby float careen
In waters bluely crystalline,
While silver fishes nosed his bait,
Yet hesitated ere they ate.
Nearby I saw a mother mid
Who knitted by her naked child,
And watched him as he romped with glee,
In golden sand, in singing sea,
Her eyes so blissfully love-lit
She gazed and gazed and ceased to knit.
And then I watched a painter chap,
Grey-haired, a grandfather, mayhap,
Who daubed with delicate caress
As if in love with loveliness,
And looked at me with vague surmise,
The joy of beauty in his eyes.
Yet in my Morning Rag I read
Of paniked peoples, dark with dread,
Of flame and famine near and far,
Of revolution, pest and war;
The fall of this, the rise of that,
The writhing proletariat.
I saw the fisher from his hook
Take off a shiny perch to cook;
The mother garbed her laughing boy,
And sang a silver lilt of joy;
The artist, packing up his paint,
Went serenely as a saint.
The sky was gentleness and love,
The sea soft-crooning as a dove;
Peace reigned so brilliantly profound
In every sight, in every sound.
Alas, what mockery for me!
Can peace be mine till Man be free?
Etheridge Knight | |
Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.
their dark eyes, they know mine.
I know their style,
they know mine.
I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.
I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins.
I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).
I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle.
The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say).
He's discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space.
My father's mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everbody's birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him.
There is no
place in her Bible for "whereabouts unknown.
Philip Levine | |
A man roams the streets with a basket
of freestone peaches hollering, "Peaches,
peaches, yellow freestone peaches for sale.
My grandfather in his prime could outshout
the Tigers of Wrath or the factory whistles
along the river.
for yellow freestone peaches, downriver
wakened from a dream of work, Zug Island danced
into the bright day glad to be alive.
Full-figured women in their negligees
streamed into the streets from the dark doorways
to demand in Polish or Armenian
the ripened offerings of this new world.
Josef Prisckulnick out of Dubrovitsa
to Detroit by way of Ellis Island
raised himself regally to his full height
of five feet two and transacted until
the fruit was gone into those eager hands.
Thus would there be a letter sent across
an ocean and a continent, and thus
would Sadie waken to the news of wealth
without limit in the bright and distant land,
and thus bags were packed and she set sail
Some of this is true.
The women were gaunt.
All day the kids dug
in the back lots searching for anything.
The place was Russia with another name.
Joe was five feet two.
to gray ashes the west wind carried off,
then Rovno went, then the Dnieper turned to dust.
We sat around the table telling lies
while the late light filled an empty glass.
Bread, onions, the smell of burning butter,
small white potatoes we shared with no one
because the hour was wrong, the guest was late,
and this was Michigan in 1928.