Ted Hughes |
The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.
So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!
And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.
Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.
Ogden Nash |
How wise I am to have instructed the butler
to instruct the first footman to instruct the second
footman to instruct the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered
into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and a
woman who can't sleep with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between
flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people
one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or
the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the
windowsill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all right,
it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of
the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and
combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.
Raymond Carver |
He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong
More great poems below...
Bob Kaufman |
On yardbird corners of embryonic hopes, drowned in a heroin tear.
On yardbird corners of parkerflights to sound filled pockets in space.
On neuro-corners of striped brains & desperate electro-surgeons.
On alcohol corners of pointless discussion & historical hangovers.
On television corners of cornflakes & rockwells impotent America.
On university corners of tailored intellect & greek letter openers.
On military corners of megathon deaths & universal anesthesia.
On religious corners of theological limericks and
On radio corners of century-long records & static events.
On advertising corners of filter-tipped ice-cream & instant instants
On teen-age corners of comic book seduction and corrupted guitars,
On political corners of wamted candidates & ritual lies.
On motion picture corners of lassie & other symbols.
On intellectual corners of conversational therapy & analyzed fear.
On newspaper corners of sexy headlines & scholarly comics.
On love divided corners of die now pay later mortuaries.
On philosophical corners of semantic desperadoes & idea-mongers.
On middle class corners of private school puberty & anatomical revolts
On ultra-real corners of love on abandoned roller-coasters
On lonely poet corners of low lying leaves & moist prophet eyes.
Sharon Olds |
How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away.
How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God.
They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.
David Lehman |
His first infidelity was a mistake, but not as big
As her false pregnancy.
Later, the boy found out
He was born three months earlier than the date
On his birth certificate, which had turned into
A marriage license in his hands.
Had he been trapped
In a net, like a moth mistaken for a butterfly?
And why did she--what was in it for her?
It took him all this time to figure it out.
The barroom boast, "I never had to pay for it,"
Is bogus if marriage is a religious institution
On the operating model of a nineteenth-century factory.
On the other hand, women's lot was no worse then
Than it is now.
The division of labor made sense
In theories developed by college boys in jeans
Who grasped the logic their fathers had used
To seduce women and deceive themselves.
The pattern repeats itself, the same events
In a different order obeying the conventions of
A popular genre.
Winter on a desolate beach.
While there's snow still on the balcony and,
In the window, a plane flies over the warehouse.
The panic is gone.
But the pain remains.
And the apple,
The knife, and the honey are months away.
Sylvia Plath |
How far is it?
How far is it now?
The gigantic gorilla interior
Of the wheels move, they appall me ---
The terrible brains
Of Krupp, black muzzles
Revolving, the sound
Punching out Absence! Like cannon.
It is Russia I have to get across, it is some was or other.
I am dragging my body
Quietly through the straw of the boxcars.
Now is the time for bribery.
What do wheels eat, these wheels
Fixed to their arcs like gods,
The silver leash of the will ----
And their pride!
All the gods know destinations.
I am a letter in this slot!
I fly to a name, two eyes.
Will there be fire, will there be bread?
Here there is such mud.
It is a trainstop, the nurses
Undergoing the faucet water, its veils, veils in a nunnery,
Touching their wounded,
The men the blood still pumps forward,
Legs, arms piled outside
The tent of unending cries ----
A hospital of dolls.
And the men, what is left of the men
Pumped ahead by these pistons, this blood
Into the next mile,
The next hour ----
Dynasty of broken arrows!
How far is it?
There is mud on my feet,
Thick, red and slipping.
It is Adam's side,
This earth I rise from, and I in agony.
I cannot undo myself, and the train is steaming.
Steaming and breathing, its teeth
Ready to roll, like a devil's.
There is a minute at the end of it
A minute, a dewdrop.
How far is it?
It is so small
The place I am getting to, why are there these obstacles ----
The body of this woman,
Charred skirts and deathmask
Mourned by religious figures, by garlanded children.
And now detonations ----
Thunder and guns.
The fire's between us.
Is there no place
Turning and turning in the middle air,
Untouchable and untouchable.
The train is dragging itself, it is screaming ----
Insane for the destination,
The face at the end of the flare.
I shall bury the wounded like pupas,
I shall count and bury the dead.
Let their souls writhe in like dew,
Incense in my track.
The carriages rock, they are cradles.
And I, stepping from this skin
Of old bandages, boredoms, old faces
Step up to you from the black car of Lethe,
Pure as a baby.
T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot |
Look, look, master, here comes two religious caterpillars.
The Jew of Malta.
The sapient sutlers of the Lord
Drift across the window-panes.
In the beginning was the Word.
In the beginning was the Word.
Superfetation of ,
And at the mensual turn of time
Produced enervate Origen.
A painter of the Umbrian school
Designed upon a gesso ground
The nimbus of the Baptized God.
The wilderness is cracked and browned
But through the water pale and thin
Still shine the unoffending feet
And there above the painter set
The Father and the Paraclete.
The sable presbyters approach
The avenue of penitence;
The young are red and pustular
Clutching piaculative pence.
Under the penitential gates
Sustained by staring Seraphim
Where the souls of the devout
Burn invisible and dim.
Along the garden-wall the bees
With hairy bellies pass between
The staminate and pistilate,
Blest office of the epicene.
Sweeney shifts from ham to ham
Stirring the water in his bath.
The masters of the subtle schools
Are controversial, polymath.
G K Chesterton |
Isaiah Bunter has disappeared into the interior of the Solomon Islands, and it is feared that he may have been devoured by the natives, as there has been a considerable revival of religious customs among the Polynesians.
--A real paragraph from a real Paper; only the names altered.
It was Isaiah Bunter
Who sailed to the world's end,
And spread religion in a way
That he did not intend.
He gave, if not the gospel-feast,
At least a ritual meal;
And in a highly painful sense
He was devoured with zeal.
And who are we (as Henson says)
That we should close the door?
And should not Evangelicals
All jump at shedding Gore?
And many a man will melt in man,
Becoming one, not two,
When smacks across the startled earth
The Kiss of Kikuyu.
When Man is the Turk, and the Atheist,
Essene, Erastian, Whig,
And the Thug and the Druse and the Catholic
And the crew of the Captain's gig.
Belinda Subraman |
I remember India:
palm trees, monkey families,
fresh lime juice in the streets,
the sensual inundation
of sights and smells
and excess in everything.
I was exotic and believable there.
I was walking through dirt
in my sari,
to temples of the deities
following the lead
of my Indian in-laws.
I was scooping up fire with my hands,
glancing at idols that held no meaning for me,
being marked by the ash.
They smiled at the Western woman,
acting religious, knowing
it was my way of showing respect.
It was an adventure for me
but an arm around their culture for them.
To me it was living a dream
I knew I could wake up from.
To them it was the willingness
to be Indian that pleased.
We were holding hands
across a cultural cosmos,
knowing there were no differences
hearts could not soothe.
They accepted me
as I accepted them,
baffled but in love
with our wedded mystery.
Pablo Neruda |
Neither clown nor child nor black
nor white but verticle
and a questioning innocence
dressed in night and snow:
The mother smiles at the sailor,
the fisherman at the astronaunt,
but the child child does not smile
when he looks at the bird child,
and from the disorderly ocean
the immaculate passenger
emerges in snowy mourning.
I was without doubt the child bird
there in the cold archipelagoes
when it looked at me with its eyes,
with its ancient ocean eyes:
it had neither arms nor wings
but hard little oars
on its sides:
it was as old as the salt;
the age of moving water,
and it looked at me from its age:
since then I know I do not exist;
I am a worm in the sand.
the reasons for my respect
remained in the sand:
the religious bird
did not need to fly,
did not need to sing,
and through its form was visible
its wild soul bled salt:
as if a vein from the bitter sea
had been broken.
Penguin, static traveler,
deliberate priest of the cold,
I salute your vertical salt
and envy your plumed pride.
George Herbert |
Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.
The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.
True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.
Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.
Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodness of the deed.
Neither ought other men's abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.
It's true, we cannot reach Christ's forti'eth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet we are bid, 'Be holy ev'n as he, '
In both let's do our best.
Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand, and more:
May strengthen my decays.
Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev'ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.
Robert Graves |
For me, the naked and the nude
(By lexicographers construed
As synonyms that should express
The same deficiency of dress
Or shelter) stand as wide apart
As love from lies, or truth from art.
Lovers without reproach will gaze
On bodies naked and ablaze;
The Hippocratic eye will see
In nakedness, anatomy;
And naked shines the Goddess when
She mounts her lion among men.
The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman's trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin.
The naked, therefore, who compete
Against the nude may know defeat;
Yet when they both together tread
The briary pastures of the dead,
By Gorgons with long whips pursued,
How naked go the sometime nude!
William Topaz McGonagall |
Good people of high and low degree,
I pray ye all be advised by me,
And don't believe what the clergy doth say,
That by going to the theatre you will be led astray.
No, in the theatre we see vice punished and virtue rewarded,
The villain either hanged or shot, and his career retarded;
Therefore the theatre is useful in every way,
And has no inducement to lead the people astray.
Because therein we see the end of the bad men,
Which must appall the audience - deny it who can
Which will help to retard them from going astray,
While witnessing in a theatre a moral play.
The theatre ought to be encouraged in every respect,
Because example is better than precept,
And is bound to have a greater effect
On the minds of theatre-goers in every respect.
Sometimes in theatres, guilty creatures there have been
Struck to the soul by the cunning of the scene;
By witnessing a play wherein murder is enacted,
They were proven to be murderers, they felt so distracted,
And left the theatre, they felt so much fear,
Such has been the case, so says Shakespeare.
And such is my opinion, I will venture to say,
That murderers will quake with fear on seeing murder in a play.
Hamlet discovered his father's murderer by a play
That he composed for the purpose, without dismay,
And the king, his uncle, couldn't endure to see that play,
And he withdrew from the scene without delay.
And by that play the murder was found out,
And clearly proven, without any doubt;
Therefore, stage representation has a greater effect
On the minds of the people than religious precept.
We see in Shakespeare's tragedy of Othello, which is sublime,
Cassio losing his lieutenancy through drinking wine;
And, in delirium and grief, he exclaims -
"Oh, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!"
A young man in London went to the theatre one night
To see the play of George Barnwell, and he got a great fright;
He saw George Barnwell murder his uncle in the play,
And he had resolved to murder his uncle, but was stricken with dismay.
But when he saw George Barnwell was to be hung
The dread of murdering his uncle tenaciously to him clung,
That he couldn't murder and rob his uncle dear,
Because the play he saw enacted filled his heart with fear.
And, in conclusion, I will say without dismay,
Visit the theatre without delay,
Because the theatre is a school of morality,
And hasn't the least tendency to lead to prodigality.
G K Chesterton |
John Grubby who was short and stout
And troubled with religious doubt,
Refused about the age of three
To sit upon the curate's knee;
(For so the eternal strife must rage
Between the spirit of the age
And Dogma, which, as is well known,
Does simply hate to be outgrown).
Grubby, the young idea that shoots,
Outgrew the ages like old boots;
While still, to all appearance, small,
Would have no Miracles at all;
And just before the age of ten
Firmly refused Free Will to men.
The altars reeled, the heavens shook,
Just as he read of in the book;
Flung from his house went forth the youth
Alone with tempests and the Truth.
Up to the distant city and dim
Where his papa had bought for him
A partnership in Chepe and Deer
Worth, say twelve hundred pounds a year.
But he was resolute.
Had found him useful; and Lord Loot,
With whom few other men would act,
Valued his promptitude and tact;
Never did even philanthrophy
Enrich a man more rapidly:
'Twas he that stopped the Strike in Coal,
For hungry children racked his soul;
To end their misery there and then
He filled the mines with Chinamen
Sat in that House that broke the Kings,
And voted for all sorts of things --
And rose from Under-Sec.
With scarce a murmur or a check.
Growlers who gave less
Than generous worship to success,
The little printers in Dundee,
Who got ten years for blasphemy,
(Although he let them off with seven)
Respect him rather less than heaven.
This can still be said:
Never to supernatural dread
Never to unseen deity,
Did Sir John Grubby bend the knee;
Nor was he bribed by fabled bliss
To kneel to any world but this.
The curate lives in Camden Town,
His lap still empty of renown,
And still across the waste of years
John Grubby, in the House of Peers,
Faces that curate, proud and free,
And never sits upon his knee.