Carol Ann Duffy |
I put two yellow peepers in an owl.
I fix the grin of Crocodile.
I sew the slither of an eel.
I jerk, kick-start, the back hooves of a mule.
I hold the red rag to a bull.
I spread the feathers of a gull.
I screw a tight snarl to a weasel.
I stitch the flippers on a seal.
I pierce the heartbeat of a quail.
I like her to be naked and to kneel.
My motionless, my living doll.
And afterwards I like her not to tell.
Walt Whitman |
(The war is completed—the price is paid—the title is settled beyond recall;)
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked! let none evade!
Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for a new distribution of roles;
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that which was behind advance to the
Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn’d inside out! let meanings be freely criminal, as well
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of drudgery!
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do you know your destination?)
Let men and women be mock’d with bodies and mock’d with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! let it die, or pass stillborn to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let it also pass, a dwarf, to other
Let contradictions prevail! let one thing contradict another! and let one line of my poems
Let the people sprawl with yearning, aimless hands! let their tongues be broken! let their
be discouraged! let none descend into their hearts with the fresh lusciousness of love!
(Stifled, O days! O lands! in every public and private corruption!
Smother’d in thievery, impotence, shamelessness, mountain-high;
Brazen effrontery, scheming, rolling like ocean’s waves around and upon you, O my
For not even those thunderstorms, nor fiercest lightnings of the war, have purified the
—Let the theory of America still be management, caste, comparison! (Say! what other
Let them that distrust birth and death still lead the rest! (Say! why shall they not lead
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! let the days be darker than the nights! let
slumber bring less slumber than waking time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it was all made!
Let the heart of the young man still exile itself from the heart of the old man! and let
heart of the old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! let scenery take the applause of the audience! let there be
under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man’s inalienable right! every one who can tyrannize, let him
tyrannize to his satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate, greed, indecency, impotence, lust,
taken for granted above all! let writers, judges, governments, households, religions,
philosophies, take such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst women!
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists, moralists, lawyers, and
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—let the mudfish, the lobster, the
mussel, eel, the sting-ray, and the grunting pig-fish—let these, and the like of
put on a perfect equality with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the corpses of those who have died of the
filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none but fools!
Let men among themselves talk and think forever obscenely of women! and let women among
themselves talk and think obscenely of men!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public, naked, monthly, at the peril of our
lives! let our bodies be freely handled and examined by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth be mention’d the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, custom, authority, precedents, pallor,
dyspepsia, smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-keepers be put in prison! let those
were prisoners take the keys! Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever bawling! let an idiot or
insane person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the American, and the Australian, go armed
the murderous stealthiness of each other! let them sleep armed! let none believe in good
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be scorn’d and derided off from the
Let a floating cloud in the sky—let a wave of the sea—let growing mint, spinach,
onions, tomatoes—let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers! let the few seize on what
choose! let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnish’d with genitals! let substances be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but still through any of them, not a single
savior, knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon him!
Let them affright faith! let them destroy the power of breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent! let them dance on, while seeming lasts!
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! let them still teach only what they have been taught!
Let insanity still have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!
Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person again tread the black person under his heel! (Say! which is trodden
heel, after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in mirrors! let the things
still continue unstudied!
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself!
(What real happiness have you had one single hour through your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless years of death! (What do you
death will do, then?)
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?
Dylan Thomas |
The bows glided down, and the coast
Blackened with birds took a last look
At his thrashing hair and whale-blue eye;
The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck.
Then good-bye to the fishermanned
Boat with its anchor free and fast
As a bird hooking over the sea,
High and dry by the top of the mast,
Whispered the affectionate sand
And the bulwarks of the dazzled quay.
For my sake sail, and never look back,
Said the looking land.
Sails drank the wind, and white as milk
He sped into the drinking dark;
The sun shipwrecked west on a pearl
And the moon swam out of its hulk.
Funnels and masts went by in a whirl.
Good-bye to the man on the sea-legged deck
To the gold gut that sings on his reel
To the bait that stalked out of the sack,
For we saw him throw to the swift flood
A girl alive with his hooks through her lips;
All the fishes were rayed in blood,
Said the dwindling ships.
Good-bye to chimneys and funnels,
Old wives that spin in the smoke,
He was blind to the eyes of candles
In the praying windows of waves
But heard his bait buck in the wake
And tussle in a shoal of loves.
Now cast down your rod, for the whole
Of the sea is hilly with whales,
She longs among horses and angels,
The rainbow-fish bend in her joys,
Floated the lost cathedral
Chimes of the rocked buoys.
Where the anchor rode like a gull
Miles over the moonstruck boat
A squall of birds bellowed and fell,
A cloud blew the rain from its throat;
He saw the storm smoke out to kill
With fuming bows and ram of ice,
Fire on starlight, rake Jesu's stream;
And nothing shone on the water's face
But the oil and bubble of the moon,
Plunging and piercing in his course
The lured fish under the foam
Witnessed with a kiss.
Whales in the wake like capes and Alps
Quaked the sick sea and snouted deep,
Deep the great bushed bait with raining lips
Slipped the fins of those humpbacked tons
And fled their love in a weaving dip.
Oh, Jericho was falling in their lungs!
She nipped and dived in the nick of love,
Spun on a spout like a long-legged ball
Till every beast blared down in a swerve
Till every turtle crushed from his shell
Till every bone in the rushing grave
Rose and crowed and fell!
Good luck to the hand on the rod,
There is thunder under its thumbs;
Gold gut is a lightning thread,
His fiery reel sings off its flames,
The whirled boat in the burn of his blood
Is crying from nets to knives,
Oh the shearwater birds and their boatsized brood
Oh the bulls of Biscay and their calves
Are making under the green, laid veil
The long-legged beautiful bait their wives.
Break the black news and paint on a sail
Huge weddings in the waves,
Over the wakeward-flashing spray
Over the gardens of the floor
Clash out the mounting dolphin's day,
My mast is a bell-spire,
Strike and smoothe, for my decks are drums,
Sing through the water-spoken prow
The octopus walking into her limbs
The polar eagle with his tread of snow.
From salt-lipped beak to the kick of the stern
Sing how the seal has kissed her dead!
The long, laid minute's bride drifts on
Old in her cruel bed.
Over the graveyard in the water
Mountains and galleries beneath
Nightingale and hyena
Rejoicing for that drifting death
Sing and howl through sand and anemone
Valley and sahara in a shell,
Oh all the wanting flesh his enemy
Thrown to the sea in the shell of a girl
Is old as water and plain as an eel;
Always good-bye to the long-legged bread
Scattered in the paths of his heels
For the salty birds fluttered and fed
And the tall grains foamed in their bills;
Always good-bye to the fires of the face,
For the crab-backed dead on the sea-bed rose
And scuttled over her eyes,
The blind, clawed stare is cold as sleet.
The tempter under the eyelid
Who shows to the selves asleep
Mast-high moon-white women naked
Walking in wishes and lovely for shame
Is dumb and gone with his flame of brides.
Susannah's drowned in the bearded stream
And no-one stirs at Sheba's side
But the hungry kings of the tides;
Sin who had a woman's shape
Sleeps till Silence blows on a cloud
And all the lifted waters walk and leap.
Lucifer that bird's dropping
Out of the sides of the north
Has melted away and is lost
Is always lost in her vaulted breath,
Venus lies star-struck in her wound
And the sensual ruins make
Seasons over the liquid world,
White springs in the dark.
Always good-bye, cried the voices through the shell,
Good-bye always, for the flesh is cast
And the fisherman winds his reel
With no more desire than a ghost.
Always good luck, praised the finned in the feather
Bird after dark and the laughing fish
As the sails drank up the hail of thunder
And the long-tailed lightning lit his catch.
The boat swims into the six-year weather,
A wind throws a shadow and it freezes fast.
See what the gold gut drags from under
Mountains and galleries to the crest!
See what clings to hair and skull
As the boat skims on with drinking wings!
The statues of great rain stand still,
And the flakes fall like hills.
Sing and strike his heavy haul
Toppling up the boatside in a snow of light!
His decks are drenched with miracles.
Oh miracle of fishes! The long dead bite!
Out of the urn a size of a man
Out of the room the weight of his trouble
Out of the house that holds a town
In the continent of a fossil
One by one in dust and shawl,
Dry as echoes and insect-faced,
His fathers cling to the hand of the girl
And the dead hand leads the past,
Leads them as children and as air
On to the blindly tossing tops;
The centuries throw back their hair
And the old men sing from newborn lips:
Time is bearing another son.
Kill Time! She turns in her pain!
The oak is felled in the acorn
And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.
He who blew the great fire in
And died on a hiss of flames
Or walked the earth in the evening
Counting the denials of the grains
Clings to her drifting hair, and climbs;
And he who taught their lips to sing
Weeps like the risen sun among
The liquid choirs of his tribes.
The rod bends low, divining land,
And through the sundered water crawls
A garden holding to her hand
With birds and animals
With men and women and waterfalls
Trees cool and dry in the whirlpool of ships
And stunned and still on the green, laid veil
Sand with legends in its virgin laps
And prophets loud on the burned dunes;
Insects and valleys hold her thighs hard,
Times and places grip her breast bone,
She is breaking with seasons and clouds;
Round her trailed wrist fresh water weaves,
with moving fish and rounded stones
Up and down the greater waves
A separate river breathes and runs;
Strike and sing his catch of fields
For the surge is sown with barley,
The cattle graze on the covered foam,
The hills have footed the waves away,
With wild sea fillies and soaking bridles
With salty colts and gales in their limbs
All the horses of his haul of miracles
Gallop through the arched, green farms,
Trot and gallop with gulls upon them
And thunderbolts in their manes.
O Rome and Sodom To-morrow and London
The country tide is cobbled with towns
And steeples pierce the cloud on her shoulder
And the streets that the fisherman combed
When his long-legged flesh was a wind on fire
And his loin was a hunting flame
Coil from the thoroughfares of her hair
And terribly lead him home alive
Lead her prodigal home to his terror,
The furious ox-killing house of love.
Down, down, down, under the ground,
Under the floating villages,
Turns the moon-chained and water-wound
Metropolis of fishes,
There is nothing left of the sea but its sound,
Under the earth the loud sea walks,
In deathbeds of orchards the boat dies down
And the bait is drowned among hayricks,
Land, land, land, nothing remains
Of the pacing, famous sea but its speech,
And into its talkative seven tombs
The anchor dives through the floors of a church.
Good-bye, good luck, struck the sun and the moon,
To the fisherman lost on the land.
He stands alone in the door of his home,
With his long-legged heart in his hand.
A R Ammons |
You'll rejoice at how many kinds of shit there are:
gosling shit (which J.
Williams said something
was as green as), fish shit (the generality), trout
shit, rainbow trout shit (for the nice), mullet shit,
sand dab shit, casual sloth shit, elephant shit
(awesome as process or payload), wildebeest shit,
horse shit (a favorite), caterpillar shit (so many dark
kinds, neatly pelleted as mint seed), baby rhinoceros
shit, splashy jaybird shit, mockingbird shit
(dive-bombed with the aim of song), robin shit that
oozes white down lawnchairs or down roots under roosts,
chicken shit and chicken mite shit, pelican shit, gannet
shit (wholesome guano), fly shit (periodic), cockatoo
shit, dog shit (past catalog or assimilation),
cricket shit, elk (high plains) shit, and
tiny scribbled little shrew shit, whale shit (what
a sight, deep assumption), mandril shit (blazing
blast off), weasel shit (wiles' waste), gazelle shit,
magpie shit (total protein), tiger shit (too acid
to contemplate), moral eel and manta ray shit, eerie
shark shit, earthworm shit (a soilure), crab shit,
wolf shit upon the germicidal ice, snake shit, giraffe
shit that accelerates, secretary bird shit, turtle
shit suspension invites, remora shit slightly in
advance of the shark shit, hornet shit (difficult to
assess), camel shit that slaps the ghastly dry
siliceous, frog shit, beetle shit, bat shit (the
marmoreal), contemptible cat shit, penguin shit,
hermit crab shit, prairie hen shit, cougar shit, eagle
shit (high totem stuff), buffalo shit (hardly less
lofty), otter shit, beaver shit (from the animal of
alluvial dreams)—a vast ordure is a broken down
cloaca—macaw shit, alligator shit (that floats the Nile
along), louse shit, macaque, koala, and coati shit,
antelope shit, chuck-will's-widow shit, alpaca shit
(very high stuff), gooney bird shit, chigger shit, bull
shit (the classic), caribou shit, rasbora, python, and
razorbill shit, scorpion shit, man shit, laswing
fly larva shit, chipmunk shit, other-worldly wallaby
shit, gopher shit (or broke), platypus shit, aardvark
shit, spider shit, kangaroo and peccary shit, guanaco
shit, dolphin shit, aphid shit, baboon shit (that leopards
induce), albatross shit, red-headed woodpecker (nine
inches long) shit, tern shit, hedgehog shit, panda shit,
seahorse shit, and the shit of the wasteful gallinule.
Pablo Neruda |
In the storm-tossed
lives the rosy conger,
of snowy flesh.
And in Chilean
along the coast,
was born the chowder,
thick and succulent,
a boon to man.
You bring the conger, skinned,
to the kitchen
(its mottled skin slips off
like a glove,
grape of the sea
exposed to the world),
the tender eel
to serve our appetites.
its irate fragrance,
blend the minced garlic
until the onion
is the color of gold.
when the savor is
set in a sauce
combining the liquors
of the ocean
and the clear water
released from the light of the onion,
you add the eel
that it may be immersed in glory,
that it may steep in the oils
of the pot,
shrink and be saturated.
Now all that remains is to
drop a dollop of cream
into the concoction,
a heavy rose,
the treasure to the flame,
until in the chowder
the essences of Chile,
and to the table
come, newly wed,
of land and sea,
that in this dish
you may know heaven.
Robert Lowell |
My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
a captive as Racine, the man of craft,
drawn through his maze of iron composition
by the incomparable wandering voice of Ph?dre.
When I was troubled in mind, you made for my body
caught in its hangman's-knot of sinking lines,
the glassy bowing and scraping of my will.
I have sat and listened to too many
words of the collaborating muse,
and plotted perhaps too freely with my life,
not avoiding injury to others,
not avoiding injury to myself--
to ask compassion .
this book, half fiction,
an eelnet made by man for the eel fighting
my eyes have seen what my hand did.
Marianne Moore |
Strong and slippery,
built for the midnight grass-party
confronted by four cats, he sleeps his time away--
the detached first claw on the foreleg corresponding
to the thumb, retracted to its tip; the small tuft of fronds
or katydid-legs above each eye numbering all units
in each group; the shadbones regularly set about the mouth
to droop or rise in unison like porcupine-quills.
He lets himself be flattened out by gravity,
as seaweed is tamed and weakened by the sun,
compelled when extended, to lie stationary.
Sleep is the result of his delusion that one must do as well
as one can for oneself,
sleep--epitome of what is to him the end of life.
Demonstrate on him how the lady placed a forked stick
on the innocuous neck-sides of the dangerous southern snake.
One need not try to stir him up; his prune-shaped head
and alligator-eyes are not party to the joke.
Lifted and handled, he may be dangled like an eel
or set up on the forearm like a mouse;
his eyes bisected by pupils of a pin's width,
are flickeringly exhibited, then covered up.
May be? I should have said might have been;
when he has been got the better of in a dream--
as in a fight with nature or with cats, we all know it.
Profound sleep is not with him a fixed illusion.
Springing about with froglike accuracy, with jerky cries
when taken in hand, he is himself again;
to sit caged by the rungs of a domestic chair
would be unprofitable--human.
What is the good of hypocrisy?
it is permissible to choose one's employment,
to abandon the nail, or roly-poly,
when it shows signs of being no longer a pleasure,
to score the nearby magazine with a double line of strokes.
He can talk but insolently says nothing.
What of it?
When one is frank, one's very presence is a compliment.
It is clear that he can see the virtue of naturalness,
that he does not regard the published fact as a surrender.
As for the disposition invariably to affront,
an animal with claws should have an opportunity to use them.
The eel-like extension of trunk into tail is not an accident.
To leap, to lengthen out, divide the air, to purloin, to pursue.
To tell the hen: fly over the fence, go in the wrong way
in your perturbation--this is life;
to do less would be nothing but dishonesty.
Robert William Service |
Oh you who are shy of the popular eye,
(Though most of us seek to survive it)
Just think of the goldfish who wanted to die
Because she could never be private.
There are pebbles and reeds for aquarium needs
Of eel and of pike who are bold fish;
But who gives a thought to a sheltering spot
For the sensitive soul of a goldfish?
So the poor little thing swam around in a ring,
In a globe of a crystalline crudity;
Swam round and swam round, but no refuge she found
From the public display of her nudity;
No weedy retreat for a cloister discreet,
From the eye of the mob to exempt her;
Can you wonder she paled, and her appetite failed,
Till even a fly couldn't tempt her?
I watched with dismay as she faded away;
Each day she grew slimmer and slimmer.
From an amber hat burned, to a silver she turned
Then swiftly was dimmer and dimmer.
No longer she gleamed, like a spectre she seemed,
One morning I anxiously sought her:
I only could stare - she no longer was there .
She'd simply dissolved in the water.
So when you behold bright fishes of gold,
In globes of immaculate purity;
Just think how they'd be more contented and free
If you gave them a little obscurity.
And you who make laws, get busy because
You can brighten he lives of untold fish,
If its sadness you note, and a measure promote
To Ensure Private Life For The Goldfish.
Geoffrey Hill |
Gasholders, russet among fields.
Milldams, marlpools that lay
Coagulations of frogs: once, with branches and
half-bricks, he battered a ditchful; then sidled away from the stillness
Ceolred was his friend and remained so, even after the day of the lost
fighter: a biplane, already obsolete and irreplaceable, two inches of
heavy snub silver.
Ceolred let it spin through a hole in the
classroom-floorboards, softly, into the rat-droppings and coins.
After school he lured Ceolred, who was sniggering with fright, down to
the old quarries, and flayed him.
Then, leaving Ceolred, he journeyed
for hours, calm and alone, in his private derelict sandlorry named