Michael Ondaatje |
All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
--all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.
When I thought of daughters
I wasn't expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say 'like'
I mean of course 'love'
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.
One day I'll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it.
For if you close your ears
only nothing happens.
You will never change.
I don't care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories.
don't be fooled by anyone but yourself.
This is the first lecture I've given you.
You're 'sweet sixteen' you said.
I'd rather be your closest friend
than your father.
I'm not good at advice
you know that, but ride
until they grow dark.
Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
--but that is greed.
And sometimes I've gone
into my purple world
and lost you.
One afternoon I stepped
into your room.
You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
--all those possible worlds!--
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.
I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don't care
but I'll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever.
If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don't recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon's
yellow suburban annunciation.
in his frightening mask
William Blake |
Love and harmony combine,
And round our souls entwine
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.
Joys upon our branches sit,
Chirping loud and singing sweet;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet
Innocence and virtue meet.
Thou the golden fruit dost bear,
I am clad in flowers fair;
Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
And the turtle buildeth there.
There she sits and feeds her young,
Sweet I hear her mournful song;
And thy lovely leaves among,
There is love, I hear his tongue.
There his charming nest doth lay,
There he sleeps the night away;
There he sports along the day,
And doth among our branches play.
Marge Piercy |
The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh
of bone and sinew
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe.
She is manufactured like a sports sedan.
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned
Cecile had been seduction itself in college.
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel,
her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed
in the dark red lipstick of desire.
She visited in '68 still wearing skirts
tight to the knees, dark red lipstick,
while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt,
lipstick pale as apricot milk,
hair loose as a horse's mane.
I thought in my superiority of the moment,
whatever has happened to poor Cecile?
She was out of fashion, out of the game,
disqualified, disdained, dis-
membered from the club of desire.
Look at pictures in French fashion
magazines of the 18th century:
century of the ultimate lady
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
Paniers bring her hips out three feet
each way, while the waist is pinched
and the belly flattened under wood.
The breasts are stuffed up and out
offered like apples in a bowl.
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
never meant for walking.
On top is a grandiose headache:
hair like a museum piece, daily
ornamented with ribbons, vases,
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
of a hairdresser turned loose.
The hats were rococo wedding cakes
that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
Here is a woman forced into shape
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
a woman made of pain.
How superior we are now: see the modern woman
thin as a blade of scissors.
She runs on a treadmill every morning,
fits herself into machines of weights
and pulleys to heave and grunt,
an image in her mind she can never
approximate, a body of rosy
glass that never wrinkles,
never grows, never fades.
sits at the table closing her eyes to food
hungry, always hungry:
a woman made of pain.
A cat or dog approaches another,
they sniff noses.
They sniff asses.
They bristle or lick.
in love as often as we do,
But they fall
in love or lust with furry flesh,
not hoop skirts or push up bras
rib removal or liposuction.
It is not for male or female dogs
that poodles are clipped
to topiary hedges.
If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves
like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads?
Why should we want to scourge our softness
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
Why should we punish each other with scorn
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?
When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?
More great poems below...
Robert Herrick |
TO THE HONOURED MR ENDYMION PORTER, GROOM OF
THE BED-CHAMBER TO HIS MAJESTY
Sweet country life, to such unknown,
Whose lives are others', not their own!
But serving courts and cities, be
Less happy, less enjoying thee.
Thou never plough'st the ocean's foam
To seek and bring rough pepper home:
Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove
To bring from thence the scorched clove:
Nor, with the loss of thy loved rest,
Bring'st home the ingot from the West.
No, thy ambition's master-piece
Flies no thought higher than a fleece:
Or how to pay thy hinds, and clear
All scores: and so to end the year:
But walk'st about thine own dear bounds,
Not envying others' larger grounds:
For well thou know'st, 'tis not th' extent
Of land makes life, but sweet content.
When now the cock (the ploughman's horn)
Calls forth the lily-wristed morn;
Then to thy corn-fields thou dost go,
Which though well soil'd, yet thou dost know
That the best compost for the lands
Is the wise master's feet, and hands.
There at the plough thou find'st thy team,
With a hind whistling there to them:
And cheer'st them up, by singing how
The kingdom's portion is the plough.
This done, then to th' enamell'd meads
Thou go'st; and as thy foot there treads,
Thou seest a present God-like power
Imprinted in each herb and flower:
And smell'st the breath of great-eyed kine,
Sweet as the blossoms of the vine.
Here thou behold'st thy large sleek neat
Unto the dew-laps up in meat:
And, as thou look'st, the wanton steer,
The heifer, cow, and ox draw near,
To make a pleasing pastime there.
These seen, thou go'st to view thy flocks
Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox,
And find'st their bellies there as full
Of short sweet grass, as backs with wool:
And leav'st them, as they feed and fill,
A shepherd piping on a hill.
For sports, for pageantry, and plays,
Thou hast thy eves, and holydays:
On which the young men and maids meet,
To exercise their dancing feet:
Tripping the comely country Round,
With daffadils and daisies crown'd.
Thy wakes, thy quintels, here thou hast,
Thy May-poles too with garlands graced;
Thy Morris-dance; thy Whitsun-ale;
Thy shearing-feast, which never fail.
Thy harvest home; thy wassail bowl,
That's toss'd up after Fox i' th' hole:
Thy mummeries; thy Twelve-tide kings
And queens; thy Christmas revellings:
Thy nut-brown mirth, thy russet wit,
And no man pays too dear for it.
To these, thou hast thy times to go
And trace the hare i' th' treacherous snow:
Thy witty wiles to draw, and get
The lark into the trammel net:
Thou hast thy cockrood, and thy glade
To take the precious pheasant made:
Thy lime-twigs, snares, and pit-falls then
To catch the pilfering birds, not men.
--O happy life! if that their good
The husbandmen but understood!
Who all the day themselves do please,
And younglings, with such sports as these:
And lying down, have nought t' affright
Sweet Sleep, that makes more short the night.
Walt Whitman |
WHY! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best—mechanics, boatmen,
Or among the savans—or to the soiree—or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring—yet each distinct, and in its place.
To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.
To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships, with men
What stranger miracles are there?
Roger McGough |
Let me die a youngman's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death
When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party
Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides
Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one
Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death
Philip Levine |
A good man is seized by the police
and spirited away.
someone brags that he shot him once
through the back of the head
with a Walther 7.
65, and his life
ended just there.
Those who loved
him go on searching the cafés
in the Barrio Chino or the bars
near the harbor.
A comrade swears
he saw him at a distance buying
two kilos of oranges in the market
of San José and called out, "Andrés,
Andrés," but instead of turning
to a man he'd known since child-
hood and opening his great arms
wide, he scurried off, the oranges
tumbling out of the damp sack, one
after another, a short bright trail
left on the sidewalk to say,
Farewell! Farewell to what? I ask.
I asked then and I ask now.
heard the story fifty years ago;
it became part of the mythology I
hauled with me from one graveyard
to another, this belief in the power
of my yearning.
The dead are every-
where, crowding the narrow streets
that jut out from the wide boulevard
on which we take our morning walk.
They stand in the cold shadows
of men and women come to sell
themselves to anyone, they stride
along beside me and stop when I
stop to admire the bright garlands
or the little pyramids of fruit,
they reach a hand out to give
money or to take change, they say
"Good morning" or "Thank you," they
turn with me and retrace my steps
back to the bare little room I've
come to call home.
they stand beside me staring out
over the soiled roofs of the world
until the light fades and we are
all one or no one.
They ask for
so little, a prayer now and then,
a toast to their health which is
our health, a few lies no one reads
incised on a dull plaque between
a pharmacy and a sports store,
the least little daily miracle.
Robert Southey |
And they have drown'd thee then at last! poor Phillis!
The burthen of old age was heavy on thee.
And yet thou should'st have lived! what tho' thine eye
Was dim, and watch'd no more with eager joy
The wonted call that on thy dull sense sunk
With fruitless repetition, the warm Sun
Would still have cheer'd thy slumber, thou didst love
To lick the hand that fed thee, and tho' past
Youth's active season, even Life itself
Poor old friend! most earnestly
Would I have pleaded for thee: thou hadst been
Still the companion of my childish sports,
And, as I roam'd o'er Avon's woody clifts,
From many a day-dream has thy short quick bark
Recall'd my wandering soul.
I have beguil'd
Often the melancholy hours at school,
Sour'd by some little tyrant, with the thought
Of distant home, and I remember'd then
Thy faithful fondness: for not mean the joy,
Returning at the pleasant holydays,
I felt from thy dumb welcome.
Sometimes have I remark'd thy slow decay,
Feeling myself changed too, and musing much
On many a sad vicissitude of Life!
Ah poor companion! when thou followedst last
Thy master's parting footsteps to the gate
That clos'd for ever on him, thou didst lose
Thy truest friend, and none was left to plead
For the old age of brute fidelity!
But fare thee well! mine is no narrow creed,
And HE who gave thee being did not frame
The mystery of life to be the sport
Of merciless man! there is another world
For all that live and move--a better one!
Where the proud bipeds, who would fain confine
INFINITE GOODNESS to the little bounds
Of their own charity, may envy thee!
Friedrich von Schiller |
See how, like lightest waves at play, the airy dancers fleet;
And scarcely feels the floor the wings of those harmonious feet.
Ob, are they flying shadows from their native forms set free?
Or phantoms in the fairy ring that summer moonbeams see?
As, by the gentle zephyr blown, some light mist flees in air,
As skiffs that skim adown the tide, when silver waves are fair,
So sports the docile footstep to the heave of that sweet measure,
As music wafts the form aloft at its melodious pleasure,
Now breaking through the woven chain of the entangled dance,
From where the ranks the thickest press, a bolder pair advance,
The path they leave behind them lost--wide open the path beyond,
The way unfolds or closes up as by a magic wand.
See now, they vanish from the gaze in wild confusion blended;
All, in sweet chaos whirled again, that gentle world is ended!
No!--disentangled glides the knot, the gay disorder ranges--
The only system ruling here, a grace that ever changes.
For ay destroyed--for ay renewed, whirls on that fair creation;
And yet one peaceful law can still pervade in each mutation.
And what can to the reeling maze breathe harmony and vigor,
And give an order and repose to every gliding figure?
That each a ruler to himself doth but himself obey,
Yet through the hurrying course still keeps his own appointed way.
What, would'st thou know? It is in truth the mighty power of tune,
A power that every step obeys, as tides obey the moon;
That threadeth with a golden clue the intricate employment,
Curbs bounding strength to tranquil grace, and tames the wild enjoyment.
And comes the world's wide harmony in vain upon thine ears?
The stream of music borne aloft from yonder choral spheres?
And feel'st thou not the measure which eternal Nature keeps?
The whirling dance forever held in yonder azure deeps?
The suns that wheel in varying maze?--That music thou discernest?
No! Thou canst honor that in sport which thou forgettest in earnest.
William Blake |
Thou fair hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, while the sun rests on the mountains light,
Thy bright torch of love; Thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves; and when thou drawest the
Blue curtains, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep.
Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes
And wash the dusk with silver.
Soon, full, soon,
Dost thou withdraw; Then, the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares thro' the dun forest.
The fleece of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew; Protect them with thine influence.
Golden Apollo, that thro' heaven wide
Scatter'st the rays of light, and truth's beams,
In lucent words my darkling verses dight,
And wash my earthy mind in thy clear streams,
That wisdom may descend in fairy dreams,
All while the jocund hours in thy train
Scatter their fancies at thy poet's feet;
And when thou yields to night thy wide domain,
Let rays of truth enlight his sleeping brain.
For brutish Pan in vain might thee assay
With tinkling sounds to dash thy nervous verse,
Sound without sense; yet in his rude affray,
(For ignorance is Folly's leasing nurse
And love of Folly needs none other's curse)
Midas the praise hath gain'd of lengthen'd ears,
For which himself might deem him ne'er the worse
To sit in council with his modern peers,
And judge of tinkling rimes and elegances terse.
And thou, Mercurius, that with wing?d brow
Dost mount aloft into the yielding sky,
And thro' Heav'n's halls thy airy flight dost throw,
Entering with holy feet to where on high
Jove weighs the counsel of futurity;
Then, laden with eternal fate, dost go
Down, like a falling star, from autumn sky,
And o'er the surface of the silent deep dost fly:
If thou arrivest at the sandy shore
Where nought but envious hissing adders dwell,
Thy golden rod, thrown on t 1000 he dusty floor,
Can charm to harmony with potent spell.
Such is sweet Eloquence, that does dispel
Envy and Hate that thirst for human gore;
And cause in sweet society to dwell
Vile savage minds that lurk in lonely cell
O Mercury, assist my lab'ring sense
That round the circle of the world would fly,
As the wing'd eagle scorns the tow'ry fence
Of Alpine hills round his high a?ry,
And searches thro' the corners of the sky,
Sports in the clouds to hear the thunder's sound,
And see the wing?d lightnings as they fly;
Then, bosom'd in an amber cloud, around
Plumes his wide wings, and seeks Sol's palace high.
And thou, O warrior maid invincible,
Arm'd with the terrors of Almighty Jove,
Pallas, Minerva, maiden terrible,
Lov'st thou to walk the peaceful solemn grove,
In solemn gloom of branches interwove?
Or bear'st thy AEgis o'er the burning field,
Where, like the sea, the waves of battle move?
Or have thy soft piteous eyes beheld
The weary wanderer thro' the desert rove?
Or does th' afflicted man thy heav'nly bosom move?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe |
My neighbour's curtain, well I see,
Is moving to and fin.
No doubt she's list'ning eagerly,
If I'm at home or no.
And if the jealous grudge I bore
And openly confess'd,
Is nourish'd by me as before,
Within my inmost breast.
Alas! no fancies such as these
E'er cross'd the dear child's thoughts.
I see 'tis but the ev'ning breeze
That with the curtain sports.
Donald Hall |
Snow fell in the night.
At five-fifteen I woke to a bluish
mounded softness where
the Honda was.
Cat fed and coffee made,
I broomed snow off the car
and drove to the Kearsarge Mini-Mart
before Amy opened
to yank my Globe out of the bundle.
Back, I set my cup of coffee
beside Jane, still half-asleep,
thanks in the aquamarine morning.
Then I sat in my blue chair
with blueberry bagels and strong
black coffee reading news,
the obits, the comics, and the sports.
Carrying my cup twenty feet,
I sat myself at the desk
for this day's lifelong
engagement with the one task and desire.
Walt Whitman |
I NEED no assurances—I am a man who is preoccupied, of his own Soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet, and beside the hands and face I am cognizant of,
now looking faces I am not cognizant of—calm and actual faces;
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are latent in any iota of the
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless—in vain I try to
I do not doubt that the orbs, and the systems of orbs, play their swift sports through the
on purpose—and that I shall one day be eligible to do as much as they, and more than
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on, millions of years;
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have their exteriors—and
the eye-sight has another eye-sight, and the hearing another hearing, and the voice
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young men are provided for—and
the deaths of young women, and the deaths of little children, are provided for;
(Did you think Life was so well provided for—and Death, the purport of all Life, is
well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horrors of them—no matter whose
wife, child, husband, father, lover, has gone down, are provided for, to the minutest
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen, any where, at any time, is provided for,
the inherences of things;
I do not think Life provides for all, and for Time and Space—but I believe Heavenly
provides for all.
John Betjeman |
Hunter Dunn, Miss J.
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!
Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn
Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.
Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.
The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.
On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.
By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.
Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surry twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!
Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.
And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
Robert Southey |
Come melancholy Moralizer--come!
Gather with me the dark and wintry wreath;
With me engarland now
The SEPULCHRE OF TIME!
Come Moralizer to the funeral song!
I pour the dirge of the Departed Days,
For well the funeral song
Befits this solemn hour.
But hark! even now the merry bells ring round
With clamorous joy to welcome in this day,
This consecrated day,
To Mirth and Indolence.
Mortal! whilst Fortune with benignant hand
Fills to the brim thy cup of happiness,
Whilst her unclouded sun
Illumes thy summer day,
Canst thou rejoice--rejoice that Time flies fast?
That Night shall shadow soon thy summer sun?
That swift the stream of Years
Rolls to Eternity?
If thou hast wealth to gratify each wish,
If Power be thine, remember what thou art--
Remember thou art Man,
And Death thine heritage!
Hast thou known Love? does Beauty's better sun
Cheer thy fond heart with no capricious smile,
Her eye all eloquence,
Her voice all harmony?
Oh state of happiness! hark how the gale
Moans deep and hollow o'er the leafless grove!
Winter is dark and cold--
Where now the charms of Spring?
Sayst thou that Fancy paints the future scene
In hues too sombrous? that the dark-stol'd Maid
With stern and frowning front
Appals the shuddering soul?
And would'st thou bid me court her faery form
When, as she sports her in some happier mood,
Her many-colour'd robes
Dance varying to the Sun?
Ah vainly does the Pilgrim, whose long road
Leads o'er the barren mountain's storm-vext height,
With anxious gaze survey
The fruitful far-off vale.
Oh there are those who love the pensive song
To whom all sounds of Mirth are dissonant!
There are who at this hour
Will love to contemplate!
For hopeless Sorrow hails the lapse of Time,
Rejoicing when the fading orb of day
Is sunk again in night,
That one day more is gone.
And he who bears Affliction's heavy load
With patient piety, well pleas'd he knows
The World a pilgrimage,
The Grave the inn of rest.