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Best Famous Donkey Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Donkey poems. This is a select list of the best famous Donkey poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Donkey poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of donkey poems.

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Written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti | Create an image from this poem

Bird With Two Right Wings

 And now our government
a bird with two right wings
flies on from zone to zone
while we go on having our little fun & games
at each election
as if it really mattered who the pilot is
of Air Force One
(They're interchangeable, stupid!)
While this bird with two right wings
flies right on with its corporate flight crew
And this year its the Great Movie Cowboy in the cockpit
And next year its the great Bush pilot
And now its the Chameleon Kid
and he keeps changing the logo on his captains cap
and now its a donkey and now an elephant
and now some kind of donkephant
And now we recognize two of the crew
who took out a contract on America
and one is a certain gringo wretch
who's busy monkeywrenching
crucial parts of the engine
and its life-support systems
and they got a big fat hose
to siphon off the fuel to privatized tanks
And all the while we just sit there
in the passenger seats
without parachutes
listening to all the news that's fit to air
over the one-way PA system
about how the contract on America
is really good for us etcetera
As all the while the plane lumbers on
into its postmodern
manifest destiny

Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

Suicide Note

 "You speak to me of narcissism but I reply that it is 
a matter of my life" - Artaud

"At this time let me somehow bequeath all the leftovers 
to my daughters and their daughters" - Anonymous

despite the worms talking to 
the mare's hoof in the field; 
despite the season of young girls 
dropping their blood; 
better somehow 
to drop myself quickly 
into an old room.
Better (someone said) not to be born and far better not to be born twice at thirteen where the boardinghouse, each year a bedroom, caught fire.
Dear friend, I will have to sink with hundreds of others on a dumbwaiter into hell.
I will be a light thing.
I will enter death like someone's lost optical lens.
Life is half enlarged.
The fish and owls are fierce today.
Life tilts backward and forward.
Even the wasps cannot find my eyes.
Yes, eyes that were immediate once.
Eyes that have been truly awake, eyes that told the whole story— poor dumb animals.
Eyes that were pierced, little nail heads, light blue gunshots.
And once with a mouth like a cup, clay colored or blood colored, open like the breakwater for the lost ocean and open like the noose for the first head.
Once upon a time my hunger was for Jesus.
O my hunger! My hunger! Before he grew old he rode calmly into Jerusalem in search of death.
This time I certainly do not ask for understanding and yet I hope everyone else will turn their heads when an unrehearsed fish jumps on the surface of Echo Lake; when moonlight, its bass note turned up loud, hurts some building in Boston, when the truly beautiful lie together.
I think of this, surely, and would think of it far longer if I were not… if I were not at that old fire.
I could admit that I am only a coward crying me me me and not mention the little gnats, the moths, forced by circumstance to suck on the electric bulb.
But surely you know that everyone has a death, his own death, waiting for him.
So I will go now without old age or disease, wildly but accurately, knowing my best route, carried by that toy donkey I rode all these years, never asking, “Where are we going?” We were riding (if I'd only known) to this.
Dear friend, please do not think that I visualize guitars playing or my father arching his bone.
I do not even expect my mother's mouth.
I know that I have died before— once in November, once in June.
How strange to choose June again, so concrete with its green breasts and bellies.
Of course guitars will not play! The snakes will certainly not notice.
New York City will not mind.
At night the bats will beat on the trees, knowing it all, seeing what they sensed all day.
Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

Flee On Your Donkey

 Because there was no other place
to flee to,
I came back to the scene of the disordered senses,
came back last night at midnight,
arriving in the thick June night
without luggage or defenses,
giving up my car keys and my cash,
keeping only a pack of Salem cigarettes
the way a child holds on to a toy.
I signed myself in where a stranger puts the inked-in X's— for this is a mental hospital, not a child's game.
Today an intern knocks my knees, testing for reflexes.
Once I would have winked and begged for dope.
Today I am terribly patient.
Today crows play black-jack on the stethoscope.
Everyone has left me except my muse, that good nurse.
She stays in my hand, a mild white mouse.
The curtains, lazy and delicate, billow and flutter and drop like the Victorian skirts of my two maiden aunts who kept an antique shop.
Hornets have been sent.
They cluster like floral arrangements on the screen.
Hornets, dragging their thin stingers, hover outside, all knowing, hissing: the hornet knows.
I heard it as a child but what was it that he meant? The hornet knows! What happened to Jack and Doc and Reggy? Who remembers what lurks in the heart of man? What did The Green Hornet mean, he knows? Or have I got it wrong? Is it The Shadow who had seen me from my bedside radio? Now it's Dinn, Dinn, Dinn! while the ladies in the next room argue and pick their teeth.
Upstairs a girl curls like a snail; in another room someone tries to eat a shoe; meanwhile an adolescent pads up and down the hall in his white tennis socks.
A new doctor makes rounds advertising tranquilizers, insulin, or shock to the uninitiated.
Six years of such small preoccupations! Six years of shuttling in and out of this place! O my hunger! My hunger! I could have gone around the world twice or had new children - all boys.
It was a long trip with little days in it and no new places.
In here, it's the same old crowd, the same ruined scene.
The alcoholic arrives with his gold culbs.
The suicide arrives with extra pills sewn into the lining of her dress.
The permanent guests have done nothing new.
Their faces are still small like babies with jaundice.
Meanwhile, they carried out my mother, wrapped like somebody's doll, in sheets, bandaged her jaw and stuffed up her holes.
My father, too.
He went out on the rotten blood he used up on other women in the Middle West.
He went out, a cured old alcoholic on crooked feet and useless hands.
He went out calling for his father who died all by himself long ago - that fat banker who got locked up, his genes suspened like dollars, wrapped up in his secret, tied up securely in a straitjacket.
But you, my doctor, my enthusiast, were better than Christ; you promised me another world to tell me who I was.
I spent most of my time, a stranger, damned and in trance—that little hut, that naked blue-veined place, my eyes shut on the confusing office, eyes circling into my childhood, eyes newly cut.
Years of hints strung out—a serialized case history— thirty-three years of the same dull incest that sustained us both.
You, my bachelor analyst, who sat on Marlborough Street, sharing your office with your mother and giving up cigarettes each New Year, were the new God, the manager of the Gideon Bible.
I was your third-grader with a blue star on my forehead.
In trance I could be any age, voice, gesture—all turned backward like a drugstore clock.
Awake, I memorized dreams.
Dreams came into the ring like third string fighters, each one a bad bet who might win because there was no other.
I stared at them, concentrating on the abyss the way one looks down into a rock quarry, uncountable miles down, my hands swinging down like hooks to pull dreams up out of their cage.
O my hunger! My hunger! Once, outside your office, I collapsed in the old-fashioned swoon between the illegally parked cars.
I threw myself down, pretending dead for eight hours.
I thought I had died into a snowstorm.
Above my head chains cracked along like teeth digging their way through the snowy street.
I lay there like an overcoat that someone had thrown away.
You carried me back in, awkwardly, tenderly, with help of the red-haired secretary who was built like a lifeguard.
My shoes, I remember, were lost in the snowbank as if I planned never to walk again.
That was the winter that my mother died, half mad on morphine, blown up, at last, like a pregnant pig.
I was her dreamy evil eye.
In fact, I carried a knife in my pocketbook— my husband's good L.
Bean hunting knife.
I wasn't sure if I should slash a tire or scrape the guts out of some dream.
You taught me to believe in dreams; thus I was the dredger.
I held them like an old woman with arthritic fingers, carefully straining the water out— sweet dark playthings, and above all, mysterious until they grew mournful and weak.
O my hunger! My hunger! I was the one who opened the warm eyelid like a surgeon and brought forth young girls to grunt like fish.
I told you, I said— but I was lying— that the kife was for my mother .
and then I delivered her.
The curtains flutter out and slump against the bars.
They are my two thin ladies named Blanche and Rose.
The grounds outside are pruned like an estate at Newport.
Far off, in the field, something yellow grows.
Was it last month or last year that the ambulance ran like a hearse with its siren blowing on suicide— Dinn, dinn, dinn!— a noon whistle that kept insisting on life all the way through the traffic lights? I have come back but disorder is not what it was.
I have lost the trick of it! The innocence of it! That fellow-patient in his stovepipe hat with his fiery joke, his manic smile— even he seems blurred, small and pale.
I have come back, recommitted, fastened to the wall like a bathroom plunger, held like a prisoner who was so poor he fell in love with jail.
I stand at this old window complaining of the soup, examining the grounds, allowing myself the wasted life.
Soon I will raise my face for a white flag, and when God enters the fort, I won't spit or gag on his finger.
I will eat it like a white flower.
Is this the old trick, the wasting away, the skull that waits for its dose of electric power? This is madness but a kind of hunger.
What good are my questions in this hierarchy of death where the earth and the stones go Dinn! Dinn! Dinn! It is hardly a feast.
It is my stomach that makes me suffer.
Turn, my hungers! For once make a deliberate decision.
There are brains that rot here like black bananas.
Hearts have grown as flat as dinner plates.
Anne, Anne, flee on your donkey, flee this sad hotel, ride out on some hairy beast, gallop backward pressing your buttocks to his withers, sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out any old way you please! In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That's what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it— the fool's disease.
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

from the Ansty Experience

they seek to celebrate the word
not to bring their knives out on a poem
dissecting it to find a heart
whose beat lies naked on a table
not to score in triumph on a line
no sensitive would put a nostril to
but simply to receive it as an
offering glimpsing the sacred there

poem probes the poet's once-intention
but each time said budges its truth
afresh (leaving the poet's self
estranged from the once-intending man)
and six ears in the room have tuned
objectives sifting the coloured strands
the words have hidden from the poet
asking what world has come to light

people measured by their heartbeats
language can't flout that come-and-go
to touch the heartbeat in a poem
calls for the brain's surrender
a warm diffusion of the mind
a listening to an eery silence
the words both mimic and destroy
(no excuses slipping off the tongue)

and when a poem works the unknown
opens a timid shutter on a world
so familiar it's not been seen
before - and then it's gone bringing
a frisson to an altered room
and in a stuttering frenzy dusty
attributes are tried to resurrect
a glimpse of what it's like inside

a truth (the glow a glow-worm makes)
this is not (not much) what happens
there's serious concern and banter
there's opacity there's chit-chat
diversions and derailings from
a line some avalanche has blocked
(what a fine pass through the mountains)
poetry and fidgets are blood-brothers

it's within all these the cosmos calls
that makes these afternoons a rich
adventure through a common field
when three men moving towards death
(without alacrity but conscious of it)
find youth again and bubble with
its springs - opening worn valves
to give such flow their own direction

there's no need of competition
no wish to prove that one of us
holds keys the others don't to the
sacral chambers - no want to find
consensus in technique or drench 
the rites of words in orthodox 
belief - difference is essential
and delightful (integrity's all)

quality's a private quarrel
between the poem and the poet - taste
the private hang-up of receivers
mostly migrained by exposure
to opinions not their own - fed
from a culture no one bleeds in
sustained by reputations manured
by a few and spread by hearsay

these meetings are a modest vow
to let each poet speak uncluttered
from establishment's traditions
and conditions where passions rippling
from the marrow can choose a space
to innocent themselves and long-held
tastes for carlos williams gurney
poems to siva (to name a few)

can surface in a side-attempt 
to show unexpected lineage from
the source to present patterns
of the poet - but at the core
of every poem read and comment made
it's not the poem or the poet
being sifted to the seed but
poetry itself given the works

the most despised belittled
enervated creative cowcake
of them all in the public eye
prestigious when it doesn't matter
to the clapped-out powers and turned
away from when too awkward and 
impolitic to confront - ball
to be bounced from high art to low

when fights break out amongst the teachers
and shakespeare's wielded as a cane
as the rich old crusty clan reverts
to the days it hated him at school
but loved the beatings - loudhailer
broken-down old-banger any ram-it-
up-your-**** and suck-my-prick to those
who want to tear chintz curtains down

and shock the cosy populace to taste
life at its rawest (most obscene)
courtesan to fashion and today's 
ploy - advertisement's gold gimmick
slave of beat and rhythm - dead but
much loved donkey in the hearts of all
who learned di-dah di-dah at school
and have been stuck in the custard since

plaything political-tool pop-
star's goo - poetry's been made to garb
itself in all these rags and riches
this age applauds the eye - is one 
of outward exploration - the earth
(in life) and universe (in fiction)
are there for scurrying over - haste
is everything and the beat is all

fireworks feed the fancy - a great ah
rewards the enterprise that fills
night skies with flashing bountifuls
of way-out stars - poetry has to be
in service to this want (is fed
into the system gracelessly)
there can be no standing-still or
stopping-by no take a little time

and see what blossoms here - we're into
poetry in motion and all that ****
and i can accept it all - what stirs
the surface of the ocean ignores
the depths - what talks the hindlegs off
the day can't murder dreams - that's not
to say the depths and dreams aren't there
for those who need them - it's commonplace

they hold the keystones of our lives
i fear something else much deeper
the diabolical self-deceiving
(wilful destruction of the spirit)
by those loudspeaking themselves
as poetry's protectors - publishers
editors literature officers
poetry societies and centres

all all jumping on the flagship
competition's crock of gold
find the winners pick the famous
all the hopefuls cry please name us
aspiring poets search their wardrobes
for the wordy swimsuit likely
to catch the eyeful of the judges
(winners too in previous contests

inured to the needle of success
but this time though now they are tops
totally pissed-off with the process
only here because the money's good)
winners' middle name is wordsworth
losers swallow a dose of shame
organisers rub their golden hands
pride themselves on their discernment

these jacks have found the beanstalk
castle harp and the golden egg
the stupid giant and his frightened wife
who let them steal their best possessions
whose ear for poetry's so poor
they think fum rhymes with englishman
and so of course they get no prizes
thief and trickster now come rich

poetry's purpose is to hit the jackpot
so great the lust for poetic fame
thousands without a ghost of winning
find poems like mothballs in their drawers
sprinkle them with twinkling stardust
post them off with copperplate cheques
the judges wipe their arses on them
the money's gone to a super cause

everyone knows it's just a joke
who gets taken - the foolish and vain
if they're daft enough and such bad poets
more money than sense the best advice 
is - keep it up grannies the cause
is noble and we'll take your cheque
again and again and again
it's the winners who fall in the bog

to win is to be preened - conceit
finds a little fluffy nest dear
to the feted heart and swells there
fed (for a foetal space) on all 
the praisiest worms but in the nest 
is a bloated thing that sucks (and chokes)
on hurt that has the knack of pecking
where there's malice - it grows two heads

winners by their nature soon become
winged and weighted - icarus begins
to prey upon their waking dreams 
prometheus gnawed by eagles 
the tight-shut box epimetheus
gave pandora about to burst
apart - yeats's centre cannot hold
being poets they know the references

and they learn the lesson quickly
climb upon others as they would
climb on you - in short be ruthless
or be dead they mostly fade away
being too intact or too weak-willed
to go the shining way with light-
ning bolts at every second bend 
agents breathing fire up their pants

those who withstand the course become
the poets of their day (and every one
naturally good as gold - exceptions
to the rule - out of the hearing
and the judgment of their rivals)
the media covet the heartache
and the bile - love the new meteor
can't wait to blast it from the heavens

universities will start the cult
with-it secondary teachers catch
the name on fast - magazines begin
to taste the honey on the plate
and soon another name is buzzing 
round the bars where literary pass-
ons meet to dole out bits of hem
i accept it all - it's not for me

above it all the literary lions
(jackals to each other) stand posed
upon their polystyrene mountains
constructed by their fans and foes
alike (they have such need of them)
disdaining what they see but terror-
stricken when newcomers climb up 
waving their thin bright books

for so long they've dubbed themselves
the intellectual cream - deigning
to hand out poems when they're asked
(for proper recompense in cash
or fawning) - but well beyond the risk
of letting others turn the bleeders
down so sure they are they're halfway
to the gods (yet still need preening)

a poem from one of them is like 
the loaves and fishes jesus touched
and rendered food for the five thousand
they too can walk on water in
their home - or so the reviewers say
poetry from their mouths is such a gift
if you don't read or understand it
you'll be damned - i accept all that

but what i can't accept is (all 
this while) the source and bed of what
is poetry to me as cracked and parched -
condemned ignored made mock of 
shoved in wilderness by those 
who've gone the gilded route (mapped out 
by ego and a driving need to claim
best prick with a capital pee)

it's being roomed with the said poem
coming back and back to the same
felt heartbeat having its way with words
absorbing the strains and promises
that make the language opt for paths
no other voice would go - shifting
a dull stone and knowing what bright
creature this instinct has bred there

it's trusting the poet with his own map
not wanting to tear it up before
the ink is dry because the symbols
he's been using don't suit your own
conception of terrain you've not
been born to - it's being pleased
to have connections made in ways
you couldn't dream of (wouldn't want to)
Written by G K Chesterton | Create an image from this poem

The Donkey

 When forests walked and fishes flew 
And figs grew upon thorn, 
Some moment when the moon was blood, 
Then, surely, I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening bray And ears like errant wings— The devil's walking parody Of all four-footed things: The battered outlaw of the earth Of ancient crooked will; Scourge, beat, deride me—I am dumb— I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour— One far fierce hour and sweet: There was a shout around my head And palms about my feet.

Written by Sylvia Plath | Create an image from this poem

Fiesta Melons

 In Benidorm there are melons,
Whole donkey-carts full

Of innumerable melons,
Ovals and balls,

Bright green and thumpable
Laced over with stripes

Of turtle-dark green.
Chooose an egg-shape, a world-shape, Bowl one homeward to taste In the whitehot noon : Cream-smooth honeydews, Pink-pulped whoppers, Bump-rinded cantaloupes With orange cores.
Each wedge wears a studding Of blanched seeds or black seeds To strew like confetti Under the feet of This market of melon-eating Fiesta-goers.
Written by C K Williams | Create an image from this poem


 The first morning of Three Mile Island: those first disquieting, uncertain, 
mystifying hours.
All morning a crew of workmen have been tearing the old decrepit roof off our building, and all morning, trying to distract myself, I've been wandering out to watch them as they hack away the leaden layers of asbestos paper and disassemble the disintegrating drains.
After half a night of listening to the news, wondering how to know a hundred miles downwind if and when to make a run for it and where, then a coming bolt awake at seven when the roofers we've been waiting for since winter sent their ladders shrieking up our wall, we still know less than nothing: the utility company continues making little of the accident, the slick federal spokesmen still have their evasions in some semblance of order.
Surely we suspect now we're being lied to, but in the meantime, there are the roofers, setting winch-frames, sledging rounds of tar apart, and there I am, on the curb across, gawking.
I never realized what brutal work it is, how matter-of-factly and harrow- ingly dangerous.
The ladders flex and quiver, things skid from the edge, the materials are bulky and recalcitrant.
When the rusty, antique nails are levered out, their heads pull off; the underroofing crumbles.
Even the battered little furnace, roaring along as patient as a donkey, chokes and clogs, a dense, malignant smoke shoots up, and someone has to fiddle with a cock, then hammer it, before the gush and stench will deintensify, the dark, Dantean broth wearily subside.
In its crucible, the stuff looks bland, like licorice, spill it, though, on your boots or coveralls, it sears, and everything is permeated with it, the furnace gunked with burst and half-burst bubbles, the men themselves so completely slashed and mucked they seem almost from another realm, like trolls.
When they take their break, they leave their brooms standing at attention in the asphalt pails, work gloves clinging like Br'er Rabbit to the bitten shafts, and they slouch along the precipitous lip, the enormous sky behind them, the heavy noontime air alive with shim- mers and mirages.
Sometime in the afternoon I had to go inside: the advent of our vigil was upon us.
However much we didn't want to, however little we would do about it, we'd understood: we were going to perish of all this, if not now, then soon, if not soon, then someday.
Someday, some final generation, hysterically aswarm beneath an at- mosphere as unrelenting as rock, would rue us all, anathematize our earthly comforts, curse our surfeits and submissions.
I think I know, though I might rather not, why my roofers stay so clear to me and why the rest, the terror of that time, the reflexive disbelief and distancing, all we should hold on to, dims so.
I remember the president in his absurd protective booties, looking absolutely unafraid, the fool.
I remember a woman on the front page glaring across the misty Sus- quehanna at those looming stacks.
But, more vividly, the men, silvered with glitter from the shingles, cling- ing like starlings beneath the eaves.
Even the leftover carats of tar in the gutter, so black they seemed to suck the light out of the air.
By nightfall kids had come across them: every sidewalk on the block was scribbled with obscenities and hearts.
Written by Sylvia Plath | Create an image from this poem

The Thin People

 They are always with us, the thin people
Meager of dimension as the gray people

On a movie-screen.
They Are unreal, we say: It was only in a movie, it was only In a war making evil headlines when we Were small that they famished and Grew so lean and would not round Out their stalky limbs again though peace Plumped the bellies of the mice Under the meanest table.
It was during the long hunger-battle They found their talent to persevere In thinness, to come, later, Into our bad dreams, their menace Not guns, not abuses, But a thin silence.
Wrapped in flea-ridded donkey skins, Empty of complaint, forever Drinking vinegar from tin cups: they wore The insufferable nimbus of the lot-drawn Scapegoat.
But so thin, So weedy a race could not remain in dreams, Could not remain outlandish victims In the contracted country of the head Any more than the old woman in her mud hut could Keep from cutting fat meat Out of the side of the generous moon when it Set foot nightly in her yard Until her knife had pared The moon to a rind of little light.
Now the thin people do not obliterate Themselves as the dawn Grayness blues, reddens, and the outline Of the world comes clear and fills with color.
They persist in the sunlit room: the wallpaper Frieze of cabbage-roses and cornflowers pales Under their thin-lipped smiles, Their withering kingship.
How they prop each other up! We own no wilderness rich and deep enough For stronghold against their stiff Battalions.
See, how the tree boles flatten And lose their good browns If the thin people simply stand in the forest, Making the world go thin as a wasp's nest And grayer; not even moving their bones.
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

Eddis Service

 Eddi, priest of St.
Wilfrid In his chapel at Manhood End, Ordered a midnight service For such as cared to attend.
But the Saxons were keeping Christmas, And the night was stormy as well.
Nobody came to service, Though Eddi rang the bell.
"'Wicked weather for walking," Said Eddi of Manhood End.
"But I must go on with the service For such as care to attend.
" The altar-lamps were lighted, -- An old marsh-donkey came, Bold as a guest invited, And stared at the guttering flame.
The storm beat on at the windows, The water splashed on the floor, And a wet, yoke-weary bullock Pushed in through the open door.
"How do I know what is greatest, How do I know what is least? That is My Father's business," Said Eddi, Wilfrid's priest.
"But -- three are gathered together -- Listen to me and attend.
I bring good news, my brethren!" Said Eddi of Manhood End.
And he told the Ox of a Manger And a Stall in Bethlehem, And he spoke to the *** of a Rider, That rode to Jerusalem.
They steamed and dripped in the chancel, They listened and never stirred, While, just as though they were Bishops, Eddi preached them The World, Till the gale blew off on the marshes And the windows showed the day, And the Ox and the *** together Wheeled and clattered away.
And when the Saxons mocked him, Said Eddi of Manhood End, "I dare not shut His chapel On such as care to attend.
Written by Barry Tebb | Create an image from this poem

Bridge Over The Aire Book 3



The halcyon settled on the Aire of our days

Kingfisher-blue it broke my heart in two

Shall I forget you? Shall I forget you?

I am the mad poet first love

You never got over

You are my blue-eyed

Madonna virgin bride

I shall carve ‘MG loves BT’

On the bark of every 

Wind-bent tree in 

East End Park


The park itself will blossom

And grow in chiaroscuro

The Victorian postcard’s view

Of avenue upon avenue

With palms and pagodas

Lakes and waterfalls and

A fountain from Versailles.
3 You shall be my queen In the Kingdom of Deira Land of many rivers Aire the greatest Isara the strong one Robed in stillness Wide, deep and dark.
4 In Middleton Woods Margaret and I played Truth or dare She bared her breasts To the watching stars.
5 “Milk, milk, Lemonade, round The corner Chocolate spread” Nancy chanted at Ten in the binyard Touching her ****, Her ****, her bum, Margaret joined in Chanting in unison.
6 The skipping rope Turned faster And faster, slapping The hot pavement, Margaret skipped In rhythm, never Missing a beat, Lifting the pleat Of her skirt Whirling and twirling.
7 Giggling and red Margaret said In a whisper “When we were Playing at Nancy’s She pushed a spill Of paper up her You-know-what She said she’d Let you watch If you wanted.
” 8 Margaret, this Saturday morning in June There is a queue at the ‘Princess’ for The matin?e, down the alley by the blank Concrete of the cinema’s side I hide With you, we are counting our picture Money, I am counting the stars in your Hair, bound with a cheap plastic comb.
9 You have no idea of my need for you A lifetime long, every wrong decision I made betrayed my need; forty years on Hear my song and take my hand and move Us to the house of love where we belong.
10 Margaret we sat in the cinema dark Warm with the promise of a secret kiss The wall lights glowed amber on the Crumbling plaster, we looked with longing At the love seats empty in the circle, Vowing we would share one.
11 There is shouting and echoes Of wild splashing from York Road baths; forty years on It stirs my memory and Will not be gone.
12 The ghosts of tramtracks Light up lanes To nowhere In Leeds Ten.
Every road Leads nowhere In Leeds Nine.
Motorways have cut The city’s heart In two; Margaret, Our home lies buried Under sixteen feet Of stone.
13 Our families moved And we were lost I was not there to hear The whispered secret Of your first period.
14 God is courage’s infinite ground Tillich said; God, give me enough To stand another week without her Every day gets longer, every sleep Less deep.
15 Why can’t I find you, Touch you, Bind your straw-gold hair The colour of lank February grass? 16 Under the stone canopy Of the Grand Arcade I pass Europa Nightclub; In black designer glass I watch the faces pass But none is like your’s, No voice, no eyes, No smile at all Like your’s.
17 From Kirkstall Lock The rhubarb crop To Knostrop’s forcing sheds The roots ploughed up Arranged in beds Of perfect darkness Where the buds burst With a pip, rich pink Stalks and yellow leaves Hand-picked by Candle-light to Keep the colour right So every night the Rhubarb train Could go from Leeds To Covent Garden.
18 The smell of Saturday morning Is the smell of freedom How the bounds may grow Slowly slowly as I go.
“Rag-bone rag-bone White donkey stone” Auntie Nellie scoured Her door step, polished The brass knocker Till I saw my face Bunched like a fist Complete with goggles Grinning like a monkey In a mile of mirrors.
19 Every door step had a stop A half-stone iron weight To hold it back and every Step was edged with donkey Stone in yellow or white From the ragman or the potman With his covered cart jingling Jangling as it jerked hundreds Of cups on hooks pint and Half pint mugs and stacks of Willow-patterned plates From Burmantofts.
20 We heard him a mile off Nights in summer when He trundled round the Corner over the cobbles Jamming the wood brake Blocks whoaing the horses With their gleaming brasses And our mams were always Waiting where he stopped.
21 Double summer-time made The nights go on for ever And no-one cared any more How long we played what Or where and we were left Alone and that’s all I wanted Then or now to be left alone Never to be called in from The Hollows never to be Called from Margaret.
22 City of back-to-backs From Armley Heights Laid out in rows Like trees or grass I watch you pass.
23 The Aire is slow and almost Still In the Bridgefield The Joshua Tetley clock Over the Atkinson Grimshaw Print Is stopped at nineteen fifty Four The year I left.
24 Grimshaw’s home was Half a mile away In Knostrop Hall Margaret and I Climbed the ruined Walls her hair was Blowing in the wind Her eyes were stars In the green night Her hands were holding My hands.
25 Half a century later I look out over Leeds Nine What little’s left is broken Or changed Saturday night Is silent and empty The paths over the Hollows Deserted the bell Of St.
Hilda’s still.
26 On a single bush The yellow roses blush Pink in the amber light Night settles on the Fewstons and the Copperfields No mothers’ voices calling us.
Lilac and velvet clover Grew all over the Hollows It was all the luck We knew and when we left Our luck went too.
27 Solid black Velvet basalt Polished jet Millstone grit Leeds Town Hall Built with it Soaks up the fog Is sealed with smog Battered buttressed Blackened plinths White lions’ paws Were soft their Smiles like your’s.
28 Narrow lanes, steep inclines, Steps, blank walls, tight And secret openings’ The lanes are your hips The inclines the lines Of your thighs, the steps Your breasts, blank walls Your buttocks, tight and Secret openings your Taut vagina’s lips.
29 There is a keening and a honing And a winnowing in the wind I am the surge and flow In Winwaed’s water the last breath Of Elmete’s King.
I am Penda crossing the Aire Camping at Killingbeck Conquered by Aethalwald Ruler of Deira.
30 Life is a bird hovering In the Hall of the King Between darkness and darkness flickering The stone of Scone at last lifted And borne on the wind, Dunedin, take it Hold it hard and fast its light Is leaping it is freedom’s Touchstone and firestone.
31 Eir, Ayer or Aire I’ll still be there Your wanderings off course Old Ea, Old Eye, Dead Eye Make no difference to me.
Eg-an island - is Aire’s True source, names Not places matter With the risings Of a river Ea land-by-water I’ll make my own way Free, going down river To the far-off sea.
32 Poetry is my business, my affair.
My cri-de-coeur, jongleur Of Mercia and Elmete, Margaret, Open your door I am heaping Imbroglios of stars on the floor Meet me by the Office Lock At midnight or by the Town Hall Clock.
33 Nennius nine times have I knocked On the door of your grave, nine times More have I made Pilgrimage to Elmete’s Wood where long I lay by beck and bank Waiting for your tongue to flame With Pentecostal fire.
34 Margaret you rode in the hollow of my hand In the harp of my heart, searching for you I wandered in Kirkgate Market’s midnight Down avenues of shuttered stalls, our secrets Kept through all the years.
From the Imperial on Beeston Hill I watch the city spill glass towers Of light over the horizon’s rim.
35 The railyard’s straights Are buckled plates Red bricks for aggregate All lost like me Ledsham and Ledston Both belong to Leeds But Ledston Luck Is where Aire leads.
36 Held of the Crown By seven thanes In Saxon times ‘In regione Loidis’ Baeda scripsit Leeds, Leeds, You answer All my needs.
37 A horse shoe stuck for luck Behind a basement window: Margaret, now we’ll see What truth there is In dreams and poetry! I am at one with everyone There is poetry Falling from the air And you have put it there.
38 The sign for John Eaton Street Is planted in the back garden Of the transport caf? between The strands of a wire mesh fence Straddling the cobbles of a street That is no more, a washing line And an abandoned caravan.
39 ‘This open land to let’ Is what you get on the Hollows Thousands of half-burned tyres The rusty barrel of a Trumix lorry Concrete slabs, foxgloves and condoms, The Go-Kart Arena’s signboards, Half the wall of Ellerby Lane School.
40 There is a mermaid singing On East Street on an IBM poster Her hair is lack-lustre Her breasts are facing the camera Her tail is like a worn-out brush.
Chimney stacks Blind black walls Of factories Grimy glass Flickering firelight In black-leaded grates.
41 Hunslet de Ledes Hop-scotch, hide and seek, Bogies-on-wheels Not one tree in Hunslet Except in the cemetery The lake filled in For fifty years, The bluebell has rung Its last perfumed peal.
42 I couldn’t play out on Sunday Mam and dad thought us a cut Above the rest, it was another Test I failed, keeping me and Margaret apart was like the Aztecs Tearing the heart from the living flesh.
43 Father, your office job Didn’t save you From the drugs They never gave you.
44 Isaiah, my son, You made it back From Balliol to Beeston At a run via the Playing fields of Eton.
There is a keening and a honing And a winnowing in the wind Winwaed’s water with red bluid blent.