Spike Milligan |
'Twas midnight in the schoolroom
And every desk was shut
When suddenly from the alphabet
Was heard a loud "Tut-Tut!"
Said A to B, "I don't like C;
His manners are a lack.
For all I ever see of C
Is a semi-circular back!"
"I disagree," said D to B,
"I've never found C so.
From where I stand he seems to be
An uncompleted O.
C was vexed, "I'm much perplexed,
You criticise my shape.
I'm made like that, to help spell Cat
And Cow and Cool and Cape.
"He's right" said E; said F, "Whoopee!"
Said G, "'Ip, 'Ip, 'ooray!"
"You're dropping me," roared H to G.
"Don't do it please I pray.
"Out of my way," LL said to K.
"I'll make poor I look ILL.
To stop this stunt J stood in front,
And presto! ILL was JILL.
"U know," said V, "that W
Is twice the age of me.
For as a Roman V is five
I'm half as young as he.
X and Y yawned sleepily,
"Look at the time!" they said.
"Let's all get off to beddy byes.
They did, then "Z-z-z.
Robert Frost |
A lantern light from deeper in the barn
Shone on a man and woman in the door
And threw their lurching shadows on a house
Near by, all dark in every glossy window.
A horse's hoof pawed once the hollow floor,
And the back of the gig they stood beside
Moved in a little.
The man grasped a wheel,
The woman spoke out sharply, "Whoa, stand still!"
"I saw it just as plain as a white plate,"
She said, "as the light on the dashboard ran
Along the bushes at the roadside--a man's face.
You must have seen it too.
"I didn't see it.
Are you sure----"
"Yes, I'm sure!"
"--it was a face?"
"Joel, I'll have to look.
I can't go in,
I can't, and leave a thing like that unsettled.
Doors locked and curtains drawn will make no difference.
I always have felt strange when we came home
To the dark house after so long an absence,
And the key rattled loudly into place
Seemed to warn someone to be getting out
At one door as we entered at another.
What if I'm right, and someone all the time--
Don't hold my arm!"
"I say it's someone passing.
"You speak as if this were a travelled road.
You forget where we are.
What is beyond
That he'd be going to or coming from
At such an hour of night, and on foot too.
What was he standing still for in the bushes?"
"It's not so very late--it's only dark.
There's more in it than you're inclined to say.
Did he look like----?"
"He looked like anyone.
I'll never rest to-night unless I know.
Give me the lantern.
"You don't want the lantern.
She pushed past him and got it for herself.
"You're not to come," she said.
"This is my business.
If the time's come to face it, I'm the one
To put it the right way.
He'd never dare--
Listen! He kicked a stone.
Hear that, hear that!
He's coming towards us.
Joel, go in--please.
Hark!--I don't hear him now.
But please go in.
"In the first place you can't make me believe it's----"
"It is--or someone else he's sent to watch.
And now's the time to have it out with him
While we know definitely where he is.
Let him get off and he'll be everywhere
Around us, looking out of trees and bushes
Till I sha'n't dare to set a foot outdoors.
And I can't stand it.
Joel, let me go!"
"But it's nonsense to think he'd care enough.
"You mean you couldn't understand his caring.
Oh, but you see he hadn't had enough--
Joel, I won't--I won't--I promise you.
We mustn't say hard things.
You mustn't either.
"I'll be the one, if anybody goes!
But you give him the advantage with this light.
What couldn't he do to us standing here!
And if to see was what he wanted, why
He has seen all there was to see and gone.
He appeared to forget to keep his hold,
But advanced with her as she crossed the grass.
"What do you want?" she cried to all the dark.
She stretched up tall to overlook the light
That hung in both hands hot against her skirt.
"There's no one; so you're wrong," he said.
What do you want?" she cried, and then herself
Was startled when an answer really came.
" It came from well along the road.
She reached a hand to Joel for support:
The smell of scorching woollen made her faint.
"What are you doing round this house at night?"
" A pause: there seemed no more to say.
And then the voice again: "You seem afraid.
I saw by the way you whipped up the horse.
I'll just come forward in the lantern light
And let you see.
--Joel, go back!"
She stood her ground against the noisy steps
That came on, but her body rocked a little.
"You see," the voice said.
" She looked and looked.
"You don't see--I've a child here by the hand.
"What's a child doing at this time of night----?"
Every child should have the memory
Of at least one long-after-bedtime walk.
"Then I should think you'd try to find
Somewhere to walk----"
"The highway as it happens--
We're stopping for the fortnight down at Dean's.
"But if that's all--Joel--you realize--
You won't think anything.
You understand that we have to be careful.
This is a very, very lonely place.
Joel!" She spoke as if she couldn't turn.
The swinging lantern lengthened to the ground,
It touched, it struck it, clattered and went out.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
The news came down on the Castlereagh, and went to the world at large,
That twenty thousand travelling sheep, with Saltbush Bill in charge,
Were drifting down from a dried-out run to ravage the Castlereagh;
And the squatters swore when they heard the news, and wished they were well away:
For the name and the fame of Saltbush Bill were over the country-side
For the wonderful way that he fed his sheep, and the dodges and tricks he tried.
He would lose his way on a Main Stock Route, and stray to the squatters' grass;
He would come to a run with the boss away, and swear he had leave to pass;
And back of all and behind it all, as well the squatters knew,
If he had to fight, he would fight all day, so long as his sheep got through:
But this is the story of Stingy Smith, the owner of Hard Times Hill,
And the way that he chanced on a fighting man to reckon with Saltbush Bill.
'Twas Stingy Smith on his stockyard sat, and prayed for an early Spring,
When he started at sight of a clean-shaved tramp, who walked with a jaunty swing;
For a clean-shaved tramp with a jaunty walk a-swinging along the track
Is as rare a thing as a feathered frog on the desolate roads out back.
So the tramp he made for the travellers' hut, to ask could he camp the night;
But Stingy Smith had a bright idea, and called to him, "Can you fight?"
"Why, what's the game?" said the clean-shaved tramp, as he looked at him up and down;
"If you want a battle, get off that fence, and I'll kill you for half-a-crown!
But, Boss, you'd better not fight with me -- it wouldn't be fair nor right;
I'm Stiffener Joe, from the Rocks Brigade, and I killed a man in a fight:
I served two years for it, fair and square, and now I'm trampin' back,
To look for a peaceful quiet life away on the outside track.
"Oh, it's not myself, but a drover chap," said Stingy Smith with glee,
"A bullying fellow called Saltbush Bill, and you are the man for me.
He's on the road with his hungry sheep, and he's certain to raise a row,
For he's bullied the whole of the Castlereagh till he's got them under cow --
Just pick a quarrel and raise a fight, and leather him good and hard,
And I'll take good care that his wretched sheep don't wander a half a yard.
It's a five-pound job if you belt him well -- do anything short of kill,
For there isn't a beak on the Castlereagh will fine you for Saltbush Bill.
"I'll take the job," said the fighting man; "and, hot as this cove appears,
He'll stand no chance with a bloke like me, what's lived on the game for years;
For he's maybe learnt in a boxing school, and sparred for a round or so,
But I've fought all hands in a ten-foot ring each night in a travelling show;
They earned a pound if they stayed three rounds, and they tried for it every night.
In a ten-foot ring! Oh, that's the game that teaches a bloke to fight,
For they'd rush and clinch -- it was Dublin Rules, and we drew no colour line;
And they all tried hard for to earn the pound, but they got no pound of mine.
If I saw no chance in the opening round I'd slog at their wind, and wait
Till an opening came -- and it always came -- and I settled 'em, sure as fate;
Left on the ribs and right on the jaw -- and, when the chance comes, make sure!
And it's there a professional bloke like me gets home on an amateur:
For it's my experience every day, and I make no doubt it's yours,
That a third-class pro is an over-match for the best of the amateurs --"
"Oh, take your swag to the travellers' hut," said Smith, "for you waste your breath;
You've a first-class chance, if you lose the fight, of talking your man to death.
I'll tell the cook you're to have your grub, and see that you eat your fill,
And come to the scratch all fit and well to leather this Saltbush Bill.
'Twas Saltbush Bill, and his travelling sheep were wending their weary way
On the Main Stock Route, through the Hard Times Run, on their six-mile stage a day;
And he strayed a mile from the Main Stock Route, and started to feed along,
And when Stingy Smith came up Bill said that the Route was surveyed wrong;
And he tried to prove that the sheep had rushed and strayed from their camp at night,
But the fighting man he kicked Bill's dog, and of course that meant a fight.
So they sparred and fought, and they shifted ground, and never a sound was heard
But the thudding fists on their brawny ribs, and the seconds' muttered word,
Till the fighting man shot home his left on the ribs with a mighty clout,
And his right flashed up with a half-arm blow -- and Saltbush Bill "went out".
He fell face down, and towards the blow; and their hearts with fear were filled,
For he lay as still as a fallen tree, and they thought that he must be killed.
So Stingy Smith and the fighting man, they lifted him from the ground,
And sent back home for a brandy-flask, and they slowly fetched him round;
But his head was bad, and his jaw was hurt -- in fact, he could scarcely speak --
So they let him spell till he got his wits; and he camped on the run a week,
While the travelling sheep went here and there, wherever they liked to stray,
Till Saltbush Bill was fit once more for the track to the Castlereagh.
Then Stingy Smith he wrote a note, and gave to the fighting man:
'Twas writ to the boss of the neighbouring run, and thus the missive ran:
"The man with this is a fighting man, one Stiffener Joe by name;
He came near murdering Saltbush Bill, and I found it a costly game:
But it's worth your while to employ the chap, for there isn't the slightest doubt
You'll have no trouble from Saltbush Bill while this man hangs about.
But an answer came by the next week's mail, with news that might well appal:
"The man you sent with a note is not a fighting man at all!
He has shaved his beard, and has cut his hair, but I spotted him at a look;
He is Tom Devine, who has worked for years for Saltbush Bill as cook.
Bill coached him up in the fighting yard, and taught him the tale by rote,
And they shammed to fight, and they got your grass, and divided your five-pound note.
'Twas a clean take-in; and you'll find it wise -- 'twill save you a lot of pelf --
When next you're hiring a fighting man, just fight him a round yourself.
And the teamsters out on the Castlereagh, when they meet with a week of rain,
And the waggon sinks to its axle-tree, deep down in the black-soil plain,
When the bullocks wade in a sea of mud, and strain at the load of wool,
And the cattle-dogs at the bullocks' heels are biting to make them pull,
When the off-side driver flays the team, and curses tham while he flogs,
And the air is thick with the language used, and the clamour of men and dogs --
The teamsters say, as they pause to rest and moisten each hairy throat,
They wish they could swear like Stingy Smith when he read that neighbour's note.
Barry Tebb |
for Daniel Weissbort
Some poems meant only for my eyes
About a grief I can’t let go
But I want to, want to throw
It away like an old worn-out cloak
Or screw up like a ball of over-written
Trash and toss into the corner bin.
I said it must come up or out
I don't know which but either way
Will do, I know I can't write in the vein
Of ‘Bridge’ this time, it takes an optimistic view,
Bright day stuff, sunlight on
Roundhay Park's Childrens’ Day
Or just wandering round the streets
With Margaret, occasionally stopping
To whisper or to kiss.
Now over sixty I wonder
How and where to go from here
Daniel your rolled out verse
Unending Kaddish gave me hints
But what can you or anyone say
About our son, the other one, who from
Such a bright childhood came to such
Dreamless sleep is better than the consciousness
Of bitter days; I sit in silent prayer and read
Of Job, the Prodigal, the Sermon on the Mount.
I read and think and sigh aloud to my silent,
I write him letters long or short
About the weather or a book I've read and hope
His studies are kept up.
I can’t say ‘How much
Do you drink? Is it more or less or just the same?’
Its your own life
But then its partly one we shared for years
From birth along a road I thought we went
Along as one.
Some years ago I sensed a change,
An invisible glass wall between us, between
It seemed you and everyone, the way friends
Hurried past, patting your shoulder in passing,
A joke in the pub, the Leeds boy who'd made good
Then threw it all away for drink.
Your boxed-up books, texts in five languages
Or six, the well-thumbed classics worn cassettes
Of Bach, Tippett’s ‘Knot Garden’, invitation
Cards, the total waste, my own and your’s and her’s.
Love does not seem an answer
That you want to know,
The hours, the years of waiting
Gather loss on loss until
My hopes are brief as days
That rush and go like speeding trains
That never stop.
You drink, I pay,
You ramble through an odd text-book
And go and eat and drink and talk
And lose your way, then phone
‘To set things straight’ but nothing’s
Ever straight with you, the binges
Start and stop, a local train that
Locals know will never go beyond
The halt where only you get off.
Dorothy Parker |
Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven's sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.
Of all the thunderous ages, you're the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)
A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
High in young pride you hold your noble head,
Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
(Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)
Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,
Yours is a spirit like a Mayday song.
(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)
"Whatever is, is good" - your gracious creed.
You wear your joy of living like a crown.
Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
(Drop it, I tell you- put that kitten down!)
You are God's kindliest gift of all - a friend.
Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,
You ask but leave to follow to the end.
(Couldn't you wait until I took you out?)
Barry Tebb |
Sitting in outpatients
With my own minor ills
Dawn’s depression lifts
To the lilt of amitryptilene,
A double dose for a day’s journey
To a distant ward.
The word was out that Simmons
Had died eighteen months after
An aneurism at sixty seven.
The meeting he proposed in his second letter
Could never happen: a few days later
A Christmas card in Gaelic - Nollaig Shona -
Then silence, an unbearable chasm
Of wondering if I’d inadvertently offended.
A year later a second card explained the silence:
I joined the queue of mourners:
It was August when I saw the Guardian obituary
Behind glass in the Poetry Library.
How astonishing the colour photo,
The mane of white hair,
The proud mien, the wry smile,
Perfect for a bust by Epstein
Or Gaudier Brjeska a century earlier.
I stood by the shelves
Leafing through your books
With their worn covers,
Remarking the paucity
Of recent borrowings
And the ommisions
From the anthologies.
“I’m a bit out of fashion
But still bringing out books
Armitage didn’t put me in at all
The egregarious Silkin
Tried to get off with my wife -
May he rest in peace.
I can’t remember what angered me
About Geoffrey Hill, quite funny
In a nervous, melancholic way,
A mask you wouldn’t get behind.
Harrison and I were close for years
But it sort of faded when he wrote
He wanted to hear no more
Of my personal life.
I went to his reading in Galway
Where he walked in his cosy regalia
Crossed the length of the bar
To embrace me, manic about the necessity
Of doing big shows in the Balkans.
I taught him all he knows, says aging poet!
And he’s forgotten the best bits,
He knows my work, how quickly
vanity will undo a man.
Tom Blackburn was Gregory Fellow
In my day, a bit mad
But a good and kind poet.
I read your last book
The Company of Children,
You sent me to review -
Your best by so far
It seemed an angel
Had stolen your pen -
The solitary aging singer
Whispering his last song.
Russell Edson |
The Captain becomes moody at sea.
afraid of water; such bully amounts that prove the
A glass of water is one thing.
A man easily downs
it, capturing its menace in his bladder; pissing it
A few drops of rain do little harm, save to
remind of how grief looks upon the cheek.
One day the water is willing to bear your ship
upon its back like a liquid elephant.
The next day
the elephant doesn't want you on its back, and
says, I have no more willingness to have you
there; get off.
At sea this is a sad message.
The Captain sits in his cabin wearing a
parachute, listening to what the sea might say.
Russell Edson |
There was once a man who disguised himself as a
housefly and went about the neighborhood depositing
Well, he has to do something hasn't he? said someone to
Of course, said someone else back to someone.
Then what's all the fuss? said someone to someone else.
Who's fussing? I'm just saying that if he doesn't get off the
wall of that building the police will have to shoot him off.
Oh that, of course, there's nothing so engaging as a dead
I love dead flies, the way they remind me of individuals
who have met their fate .
David Lehman |
He woke up in New York City on Valentine's Day,
The body in the booth next to his was still warm,
He had bought her a sweater, a box of chocolate
Said her life wasn't working he looked stricken she said
You're all bent out of shape, accusingly, and when he
She went from being an Ivy League professor of French
To an illustrator for a slick midtown magazine
They agreed it was his fault.
But for now they needed
To sharpen to a point like a pencil the way
The Empire State Building does.
What I really want to say
To you, my love, is a whisper on the rooftop lost in the wind
And you turn to me with your rally cap on backwards rooting
For a big inning, the bases loaded, our best slugger up
And no one out, but it doesn't work that way.
Like the time
Kirk Gibson hit the homer off Dennis Eckersley to win the game:
It doesn't happen like that in fiction.
In fiction, we are
On a train, listening to a storyteller about to reach the climax
Of his tale as the train pulls into Minsk, his stop.
My stop, he says, stepping off the train, confounding us who
Can't get off it.
"You can't leave without telling us the end,"
We say, but he is already on the platform, grinning.
"End?" he says.
"It was only the beginning.
Stevie Smith |
I like to get off with people,
I like to lie in their arms
I like to be held and lightly kissed,
Safe from all alarms.
I like to laugh and be happy
With a beautiful kiss,
I tell you, in all the world
There is no bliss like this.