Charles Bukowski |
either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you
when i was a young man
I felt these things were
I had bad blood,a twisted
mind, a pecarious
I was hard as granite,I
leered at the
I trusted no man and
I was living a hell in
small rooms, I broke
things, smashed things,
walked through glass,
I challenged everything,
was continually being
out of fights,in and aout
of my mind.
women were something
to screw and rail
at,i had no male
I changed jobs and
cities,I hated holidays,
algebra angred me,
opera sickened me,
charlie chaplin was a
and flowers were for
peace an happiness to me
were signs of
tenants of the weak
but as I went on with
my alley fights,
my suicidal years,
my passage through
any number of
began to occur to
that I wasn't diffrent
others, I was the same,
they were all fulsome
glossed over with petty
the men I fought in
alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging,
inching, cheating for
the lie was the
weapon and the
darkness was the
cautiously, I allowed
myself to feel good
I found moments of
peace in cheap
just staring at the
knobs of some
or listening to the
rain in the
the less i needed
the better i
maybe the other life had worn me
I no longer found
in topping somebody
or in mounting the
body of some poor
whose life had
slipped away into
I could never accept
life as it was,
i could never gobble
down all its
but there were parts,
tenous magic parts
open for the
I re formulated
I don't know when,
but the change
something in me
i no longer had to
prove that i was a
I did'nt have to prove
I began to see things:
coffe cups lined up
behind a counter in a
or a dog walking along
or the way the mouse
on my dresser top
with its body,
it was fixed,
a bit of life
caught within itself
and its eyes looked
and they were
then- it was
I began to feel good,
I began to feel good
in the worst situations
and there were plenty
like say, the boss
behind his desk,
he is going to have
to fire me.
I've missed too many
he is dressed in a
suit, necktie, glasses,
he says, "i am going
to have to let you go"
"it's all right" i tell
He must do what he
must do, he has a
wife, a house, children.
expenses, most probably
I am sorry for him
he is caught.
I walk onto the blazing
the whole day is
(the whole world is at the
throat of the world,
everybody feels angry,
everybody is despondent,
I welcomed shots of
peace, tattered shards of
I embraced that stuff
like the hottest number,
like high heels,breasts,
(dont get me wrong,
there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism
that overlooks all
basic problems justr for
the sake of
this is a sheild and a
The knife got near my
I almost turned on the
but when the good
I did'nt fight them off
like an alley
I let them take me,
i luxuriated in them,
I bade them welcome
I even looked into
once having thought
myself to be
I now liked what
a bit ripped and
but all in all,
not too bad,
better at least than
some of those movie
like the cheeks of
and finally I discovered
real feelings fo
like this morning,
as I was leaving,
for the track,
i saw my wif in bed,
her head there
centuries of the living
and the dead and
but his music still
there in the
room, weeds growing,
the earth turning,
the toteboard waiting for
I saw the shape of my
she so still,
i ached for her life,
just being there
i kissed her in the,
got down the stairway,
got into my marvelous
fixed the seatbelt,
backed out the
feeling warm to
down to my
foot on the gas
I entered the world
drove down the
past the houses
full and emptey
i saw the mailman,
Larry Levis |
--The Carpathian Frontier, October, 1968
--for my brother
Once, in a foreign country, I was suddenly ill.
I was driving south toward a large city famous
For so little it had a replica, in concrete,
In two-thirds scale, of the Arc de Triomphe stuck
In the midst of traffic, & obstructing it.
But the city was hours away, beyond the hills
Shaped like the bodies of sleeping women.
Often I had to slow down for herds of goats
Or cattle milling on those narrow roads, & for
The narrower, lost, stone streets of villages
I passed through.
The pains in my stomach had grown
Gradually sharper & more frequent as the day
Wore on, & now a fever had set up house.
In the villages there wasn't much point in asking
Anyone for help.
In those places, where tanks
Were bivouacked in shade on their way back
From some routine exercise along
The Danube, even food was scarce that year.
And the languages shifted for no clear reason
From two hard quarries of Slavic into German,
Then to a shred of Latin spliced with oohs
Even when I tried the simplest phrases,
The peasants passing over those uneven stones
Paused just long enough to look up once,
Then they turned
Quickly away, vanishing quietly into that
Moment, like bark chips whirled downriver.
It was autumn.
Beyond each village the wind
Threw gusts of yellowing leaves across the road.
The goats I passed were thin, gray; their hind legs,
Caked with dried ****, seesawed along--
Not even mild contempt in their expressionless,
Pale eyes, & their brays like the scraping of metal.
Except for one village that had a kind
Of museum where I stopped to rest, & saw
A dead Scythian soldier under glass,
Turning to dust while holding a small sword
At attention forever, there wasn't much to look at.
Wind, leaves, goats, the higher passes
Locked in stone, the peasants with their fate
Embroidering a stillness into them,
And a spell over all things in that landscape,
That was the trouble; it couldn't be
Compared to anything else, not even the sleep
Of some asylum at a wood's edge with the sound
Of a pond's spillway beside it.
But as each cramp
Grew worse & lasted longer than the one before,
It was hard to keep myself aloof from the threadbare
World walking on that road.
Even as they moved, the peasants, the herds of goats
And cattle, the spiralling leaves, at least were part
Of that spell, that stillness.
After a while,
The villages grew even poorer, then thinned out,
Then vanished entirely.
An hour later,
There were no longer even the goats, only wind,
Then more & more leaves blown over the road, sometimes
Covering it completely for a second.
And yet, except for a random oak or some brush
Writhing out of the ravine I drove beside,
The trees had thinned into rock, into large,
Tough blonde rosettes of fading pasture grass.
Then that gave out in a bare plateau.
Easing the Dacia down a winding grade
In second gear, rounding a long, funneled curve--
In a complete stillness of yellow leaves filling
A wide field--like something thoughtlessly,
Mistakenly erased, the road simply ended.
I stopped the car.
There was no wind now.
I expected that, & though I was sick & lost,
I wasn't afraid.
I should have been afraid.
To this day I don't know why I wasn't.
I could hear time cease, the field quietly widen.
I could feel the spreading stillness of the place
Moving like something I'd witnessed as a child,
Like the ancient, armored leisure of some reptile
Gliding, gray-yellow, into the slightly tepid,
Unidentical gray-brown stillness of the water--
Something blank & unresponsive in its tough,
Pimpled skin--seen only a moment, then unseen
As it submerged to rest on mud, or glided just
Beneath the lustreless, calm yellow leaves
That clustered along a log, or floated there
In broken ringlets, held by a gray froth
On the opaque, unbroken surface of the pond,
Which reflected nothing, no one.
And then I remembered.
When I was a child, our neighbors would disappear.
And there wasn't a pond of crocodiles at all.
And they hadn't moved.
They couldn't move.
Lived in the small, fenced-off backwater
Of a canal.
I'd never seen them alive.
Were in still photographs taken on the Ivory Coast.
I saw them only once in a studio when
I was a child in a city I once loved.
I was afraid until our neighbor, a photographer,
Explained it all to me, explained how far
Away they were, how harmless; how they were praised
In rituals as "powers.
" But they had no "powers,"
The next week he vanished.
Someone had cast a spell & that the crocodiles
Swam out of the pictures on the wall & grew
Silently & multiplied & then turned into
Shadows resting on the banks of lakes & streams
Or took the shapes of fallen logs in campgrounds
In the mountains.
They ate our neighbor, Mr.
They ate his whole family.
That is what I believed,
that someone had cast a spell.
I did not
Know childhood was a spell, or that then there
Had been another spell, too quiet to hear,
Entering my city, entering the dust we ate.
No one knew it then.
No one could see it,
Though it spread through lawnless miles of housing tracts,
And the new, bare, treeless streets; it slipped
Into the vacant rows of warehouses & picked
The padlocked doors of working-class bars
And union halls & shuttered, empty diners.
And how it clung! (forever, if one had noticed)
To the brothel with the pastel tassels on the shade
Of an unlit table lamp.
Farther in, it feasted
On the decaying light of failing shopping centers;
It spilled into the older, tree-lined neighborhoods,
Into warm houses, sealing itself into books
Of bedtime stories read each night by fathers--
The books lying open to the flat, neglected
Light of dawn; & it settled like dust on windowsills
Downtown, filling the smug cafés, schools,
Banks, offices, taverns, gymnasiums, hotels,
Newsstands, courtrooms, opium parlors, Basque
Restaurants, Armenian steam baths,
French bakeries, & two of the florists' shops--
Their plate glass windows smashed forever.
Finally it tried to infiltrate the exact
Center of my city, a small square bordered
With palm trees, olives, cypresses, a square
Where no one gathered, not even thieves or lovers.
It was a place which no longer had any purpose,
But held itself aloof, I thought, the way
A deaf aunt might, from opinions, styles, gossip.
I liked it there.
It was completely lifeless,
Sad & clear in what seemed always a perfect,
I saw it first as a child,
Looking down at it from that as yet
Unvandalized, makeshift studio.
I remember leaning my right cheek against
A striped beach ball so that Mr.
Who was Japanese, who would be sent the next week
To a place called Manzanar, a detention camp
Hidden in stunted pines almost above
The Sierra timberline--could take my picture.
I remember the way he lovingly relished
Each camera angle, the unwobbling tripod,
The way he checked each aperture against
The light meter, in love with all things
That were not accidental, & I remember
The care he took when focusing; how
He tried two different lens filters before
He found the one appropriate for that
Sensual, late, slow blush of afternoon
Falling through the one broad bay window.
I remember holding still & looking down
Into the square because he asked me to;
Because my mother & father had asked me please
To obey & be patient & allow the man--
Whose business was failing anyway by then--
To work as long as he wished to without any
Irritations or annoyances before
He would have to spend these years, my father said,
Far away, in snow, & without his cameras.
Hirata did not work.
His toys gleamed there.
That much was clear to me .
That was the day I decided I would never work.
It felt like a conversion.
Play was sacred.
My father waited behind us on a sofa made
From car seats.
One spring kept nosing through.
I remember the camera opening into the light .
And I remember the dark after, the studio closed,
The cameras stolen, slivers of glass from the smashed
Bay window littering the unsanded floors,
And the square below it bathed in sunlight .
Hirata died, months later,
From complications following pneumonia.
His death, a letter from a camp official said,
Was purely accidental.
I didn't believe it.
Diseases were wise.
Diseases, like the polio
My sister had endured, floating paralyzed
And strapped into her wheelchair all through
That war, seemed too precise.
Like photographs .
Except disease left nothing.
Disease was like
And equation that drank up light & never ended,
Not even in summer.
Before my fever broke,
And the pains lessened, I could actually see
Myself, in the exact center of that square.
How still it had become in my absence, & how
Immaculate, windless, sunlit.
I could see
The outline of every leaf on the nearest tree,
See it more clearly than ever, more clearly than
I had seen anything before in my whole life:
Against the modest, dark gray, solemn trunk,
The leaves were becoming only what they had to be--
Calm, yellow, things in themselves & nothing
More--& frankly they were nothing in themselves,
Nothing except their little reassurance
Of persisting for a few more days, or returning
The year after, & the year after that, & every
Year following--estranged from us by now--& clear,
So clear not one in a thousand trembled; hushed
And always coming back--steadfast, orderly,
Taciturn, oblivious--until the end of Time.
Barry Tebb |
For Brenda Williams
La lune diminue; divin septembre.
Divine September the moon wanes.
Pierre Jean Jouve
Themes for poems and the detritus of dreams coalesce:
This is one September I shall not forget.
The grammar-school caretaker always had the boards re-blacked
And the floors waxed, but I never shone.
The stripes of the red and black blazer
You could never see things that way:
Your home had broken windows to the street.
You had the mortification of lice in your hair
While I had the choice of Brylcreem or orange pomade.
Four children, an alcoholic father and
An Irish immigrant mother.
I did not make it like Alan Bennett,
Who still sends funny postcards
About our Leeds childhood.
Of your’s, you could never speak
And found my nostalgia
Forgetting your glasses for the eleven plus,
No money for the uniform for the pass at thirteen.
It wasn’t - as I imagined - shame that kept you from telling
But fear of the consequences for your mother
Had you sobbed the night’s terrors
Of your father’s drunken homecomings,
Your mother sat with the door open
In all weathers while you, the oldest,
Waited with her, perhaps
Something might have been done.
He never missed a day’s work digging graves,
Boasting he could do a six-footer
Single-handed in two hours flat.
That hackneyed phrase
‘He drank all his wages’
Doesn’t convey his nightly rages
The flow of obscenities about menstruation
While the three younger ones were in bed
And you waited with your mother
To walk the streets of Seacroft.
“Your father murdered your mother”
As Auntie Margaret said,
Should a witness
Your mother’s growing cancer went diagnosed, but unremarked
Until the final days
She was too busy auxiliary nursing
Or working in the Lakeside Caf?.
It was her wages that put bread and jam
And baked beans into your stomachs.
Her final hospitalisation
Was the arena for your father’s last rage
Her fare interfering with the night’s drinking;
He fought in the Burma Campaign but won no medals.
Some kind of psychiatric discharge- ‘paranoia’
Lurked in his papers.
The madness went undiagnosed
Until his sixtieth birthday.
You never let me meet him
Even after our divorce.
In the end you took me on a visit with the children.
A neat flat with photographs of grandchildren,
Stacks of wood for the stove, washing hung precisely
In the kitchen, a Sunday suit in the wardrobe.
An unwrinkling of smiles, the hard handshake
Of work-roughened hands.
One night he smashed up the tidy flat.
The TV screen was powder
The clock ticked on the neat lawn
‘Murder in Seacroft Hospital’
Emblazoned on the kitchen wall.
I went with you and your sister in her car to Roundhay Wing.
Your sister had to leave for work or sleep
You had to back to meet the children from school.
For Ward 42 it wasn’t an especially difficult admission.
My first lesson: I shut one set of firedoors while the charge nurse
Bolted the other but after five minutes his revolt
Was over and he signed the paper.
The nurse on nights had a sociology degree
And an interest in borderline schizophrenia.
After lightsout we chatted about Kohut and Kernberg
And Melanie Klein.
Your father was occasionally truculent,
Barricading himself in on one home leave.
Nothing out of the way
For a case of that kind.
The old ladies on the estate sighed,
Single men were very scarce.
Always a gentleman, tipping
His cap to the ladies.
There seems to be objections in the family to poetry
Or at least to the kind that actually speaks
And fails to lie down quietly on command.
Yours seems to have set mine alight-
I must get something right.
Adrienne Rich |
the quality of being complete; unbroken condition; entirety
A wild patience has taken me this far
as if I had to bring to shore
a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor
old sweaters, nets, spray-mottled books
tossed in the prow
some kind of sun burning my shoulder-blades.
Splashing the oarlocks.
Your fore-arms can get scalded, licked with pain
in a sun blotted like unspoken anger
behind a casual mist.
The length of daylight
this far north, in this
forty-ninth year of my life
The light is critical: of me, of this
long-dreamed, involuntary landing
on the arm of an inland sea.
The glitter of the shoal
depleting into shadow
I recognize: the stand of pines
violet-black really, green in the old postcard
but really I have nothing but myself
to go by; nothing
stands in the realm of pure necessity
except what my hands can hold.
Nothing but myself?.
After so long, this answer.
As if I had always known
I steer the boat in, simply.
The motor dying on the pebbles
cicadas taking up the hum
dropped in the silence.
Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere --
even from a broken web.
The cabin in the stand of pines
is still for sale.
I know this.
Know the print
of the last foot, the hand that slammed and locked the door,
then stopped to wreathe the rain-smashed clematis
back on the trellis
for no one's sake except its own.
I know the chart nailed to the wallboards
the icy kettle squatting on the burner.
The hands that hammered in those nails
emptied that kettle one last time
are these two hands
and they have caught the baby leaping
from between trembling legs
and they have worked the vacuum aspirator
and stroked the sweated temples
and steered the boat there through this hot
misblotted sunlight, critical light
the skin these hands will also salve.
Allen Ginsberg |
In the depths of the Greyhound Terminal
sitting dumbly on a baggage truck looking at the sky
waiting for the Los Angeles Express to depart
worrying about eternity over the Post Office roof in
the night-time red downtown heaven
staring through my eyeglasses I realized shuddering
these thoughts were not eternity, nor the poverty
of our lives, irritable baggage clerks,
nor the millions of weeping relatives surrounding the
buses waving goodbye,
nor other millions of the poor rushing around from
city to city to see their loved ones,
nor an indian dead with fright talking to a huge cop
by the Coke machine,
nor this trembling old lady with a cane taking the last
trip of her life,
nor the red-capped cynical porter collecting his quar-
ters and smiling over the smashed baggage,
nor me looking around at the horrible dream,
nor mustached negro Operating Clerk named Spade,
dealing out with his marvelous long hand the
fate of thousands of express packages,
nor fairy Sam in the basement limping from leaden
trunk to trunk,
nor Joe at the counter with his nervous breakdown
smiling cowardly at the customers,
nor the grayish-green whale's stomach interior loft
where we keep the baggage in hideous racks,
hundreds of suitcases full of tragedy rocking back and
forth waiting to be opened,
nor the baggage that's lost, nor damaged handles,
nameplates vanished, busted wires & broken
ropes, whole trunks exploding on the concrete
nor seabags emptied into the night in the final
Yet Spade reminded me of Angel, unloading a bus,
dressed in blue overalls black face official Angel's work-
pushing with his belly a huge tin horse piled high with
looking up as he passed the yellow light bulb of the loft
and holding high on his arm an iron shepherd's crook.
It was the racks, I realized, sitting myself on top of
them now as is my wont at lunchtime to rest
my tired foot,
it was the racks, great wooden shelves and stanchions
posts and beams assembled floor to roof jumbled
--the Japanese white metal postwar trunk gaudily
flowered & headed for Fort Bragg,
one Mexican green paper package in purple rope
adorned with names for Nogales,
hundreds of radiators all at once for Eureka,
crates of Hawaiian underwear,
rolls of posters scattered over the Peninsula, nuts to
one human eye for Napa,
an aluminum box of human blood for Stockton
and a little red package of teeth for Calistoga-
it was the racks and these on the racks I saw naked
in electric light the night before I quit,
the racks were created to hang our possessions, to keep
us together, a temporary shift in space,
God's only way of building the rickety structure of
to hold the bags to send on the roads, to carry our
luggage from place to place
looking for a bus to ride us back home to Eternity
where the heart was left and farewell tears
A swarm of baggage sitting by the counter as the trans-
continental bus pulls in.
The clock registering 12:15 A.
, May 9, 1956, the
second hand moving forward, red.
Getting ready to load my last bus.
Creek Richmond Vallejo Portland Pacific
Fleet-footed Quicksilver, God of transience.
One last package sits lone at midnight sticking up out
of the Coast rack high as the dusty fluorescent
The wage they pay us is too low to live on.
reduced to numbers.
This for the poor shepherds.
I am a communist.
Farewell ye Greyhound where I suffered so much,
hurt my knee and scraped my hand and built
my pectoral muscles big as a vagina.
May 9, 1956
Henry Van Dyke |
A tale that the poet Rückert told
To German children, in days of old;
Disguised in a random, rollicking rhyme
Like a merry mummer of ancient time,
And sent, in its English dress, to please
The little folk of the Christmas trees.
A little fir grew in the midst of the wood
Contented and happy, as young trees should.
His body was straight and his boughs were clean;
And summer and winter the bountiful sheen
Of his needles bedecked him, from top to root,
In a beautiful, all-the-year, evergreen suit.
But a trouble came into his heart one day,
When he saw that the other trees were gay
In the wonderful raiment that summer weaves
Of manifold shapes and kinds of leaves:
He looked at his needles so stiff and small,
And thought that his dress was the poorest of all.
Then jealousy clouded the little tree's mind,
And he said to himself, "It was not very kind
"To give such an ugly old dress to a tree!
"If the fays of the forest would only ask me,
"I'd tell them how I should like to be dressed,—
"In a garment of gold, to bedazzle the rest!"
So he fell asleep, but his dreams were bad.
When he woke in the morning, his heart was glad;
For every leaf that his boughs could hold
Was made of the brightest beaten gold.
I tell you, children, the tree was proud;
He was something above the common crowd;
And he tinkled his leaves, as if he would say
To a pedlar who happened to pass that way,
"Just look at me! don't you think I am fine?
"And wouldn't you like such a dress as mine?"
"Oh, yes!" said the man, "and I really guess
I must fill my pack with your beautiful dress.
So he picked the golden leaves with care,
And left the little tree shivering there.
"Oh, why did I wish for golden leaves?"
The fir-tree said, "I forgot that thieves
"Would be sure to rob me in passing by.
"If the fairies would give me another try,
"I'd wish for something that cost much less,
"And be satisfied with glass for my dress!"
Then he fell asleep; and, just as before,
The fairies granted his wish once more.
When the night was gone, and the sun rose clear,
The tree was a crystal chandelier;
And it seemed, as he stood in the morning light,
That his branches were covered with jewels bright.
"Aha!" said the tree.
"This is something great!"
And he held himself up, very proud and straight;
But a rude young wind through the forest dashed,
In a reckless temper, and quickly smashed
The delicate leaves.
With a clashing sound
They broke into pieces and fell on the ground,
Like a silvery, shimmering shower of hail,
And the tree stood naked and bare to the gale.
Then his heart was sad; and he cried, "Alas
"For my beautiful leaves of shining glass!
"Perhaps I have made another mistake
"In choosing a dress so easy to break.
"If the fairies only would hear me again
"I'd ask them for something both pretty and plain:
"It wouldn't cost much to grant my request,—
"In leaves of green lettuce I'd like to be dressed!"
By this time the fairies were laughing, I know;
But they gave him his wish in a second; and so
With leaves of green lettuce, all tender and sweet,
The tree was arrayed, from his head to his feet.
"I knew it!" he cried, "I was sure I could find
"The sort of a suit that would be to my mind.
"There's none of the trees has a prettier dress,
"And none as attractive as I am, I guess.
But a goat, who was taking an afternoon walk,
By chance overheard the fir-tree's talk.
So he came up close for a nearer view;—
"My salad!" he bleated, "I think so too!
"You're the most attractive kind of a tree,
"And I want your leaves for my five-o'clock tea.
So he ate them all without saying grace,
And walked away with a grin on his face;
While the little tree stood in the twilight dim,
With never a leaf on a single limb.
Then he sighed and groaned; but his voice was weak—
He was so ashamed that he could not speak.
He knew at last that he had been a fool,
To think of breaking the forest rule,
And choosing a dress himself to please,
Because he envied the other trees.
But it couldn't be helped, it was now too late,
He must make up his mind to a leafless fate!
So he let himself sink in a slumber deep,
But he moaned and he tossed in his troubled sleep,
Till the morning touched him with joyful beam,
And he woke to find it was all a dream.
For there in his evergreen dress he stood,
A pointed fir in the midst of the wood!
His branches were sweet with the balsam smell,
His needles were green when the white snow fell.
And always contented and happy was he,—
The very best kind of a Christmas tree.
Derek Walcott |
Those five or six young guys
lunched on the stoop
that oven-hot summer night
whistled me over.
So, I stop.
MacDougal or Christopher
Street in chains of light.
A summer festival.
I wasn't too far from
home, but not too bright
for a ******, and not too dark.
I figured we were all
one, wop, ******, jew,
besides, this wasn't Central Park.
I'm coming on too strong? You figure
right! They beat this yellow ******
black and blue.
During all this, scared
on case one used a knife,
I hung my olive-green, just-bought
sports coat on a fire plug.
I did nothing.
each other, really.
gives them a few kcks,
The spades, the spicks.
My face smashed in, my bloddy mug
pouring, my olive-branch jacket saved
from cuts and tears,
I crawled four flights upstairs.
Sprawled in the gutter, I
remember a few watchers waved
loudly, and one kid's mother shouting
like "Jackie" or "Terry,"
"now that's enough!"
It's nothing really.
They don't get enough love.
You know they wouldn't kill
Just playing rough,
like young Americans will.
Still it taught me somthing
If it's so tough,
Vladimir Mayakovsky |
Past one o’clock.
You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits.
Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.
Denise Levertov |
Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?
Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone gardens illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after their children were killed
there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
A dream ago, perhaps.
Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
it is not remembered.
most were peasants; their life
was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
When bombs smashed those mirrors
there was time only to scream.
There is an echo yet
of their speech which was like a song.
It was reported their singing resembled
the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now.
Robert William Service |
Is it not strange? A year ago to-day,
With scarce a thought beyond the hum-drum round,
I did my decent job and earned my pay;
Was averagely happy, I'll be bound.
Ay, in my little groove I was content,
Seeing my life run smoothly to the end,
With prosy days in stolid labour spent,
And jolly nights, a pipe, a glass, a friend.
In God's good time a hearth fire's cosy gleam,
A wife and kids, and all a fellow needs;
When presto! like a bubble goes my dream:
I leap upon the Stage of Splendid Deeds.
I yell with rage; I wallow deep in gore:
I, that was clerk in a drysalter's store.
Stranger than any book I've ever read.
Here on the reeking battlefield I lie,
Under the stars, propped up with smeary dead,
Like too, if no one takes me in, to die.
Hit on the arms, legs, liver, lungs and gall;
Damn glad there's nothing more of me to hit;
But calm, and feeling never pain at all,
And full of wonder at the turn of it.
For of the dead around me three are mine,
Three foemen vanquished in the whirl of fight;
So if I die I have no right to whine,
I feel I've done my little bit all right.
I don't know how -- but there the beggars are,
As dead as herrings pickled in a jar.
And here am I, worse wounded than I thought;
For in the fight a bullet bee-like stings;
You never heed; the air is metal-hot,
And all alive with little flicking wings.
But on you charge.
You see the fellows fall;
Your pal was by your side, fair fighting-mad;
You turn to him, and lo! no pal at all;
You wonder vaguely if he's copped it bad.
But on you charge.
The heavens vomit death;
And vicious death is besoming the ground.
You're blind with sweat; you're dazed, and out of breath,
And though you yell, you cannot hear a sound.
But on you charge.
Oh, War's a rousing game!
Around you smoky clouds like ogres tower;
The earth is rowelled deep with spurs of flame,
And on your helmet stones and ashes shower.
But on you charge.
It's odd! You have no fear.
Machine-gun bullets whip and lash your path;
Red, yellow, black the smoky giants rear;
The shrapnel rips, the heavens roar in wrath.
But on you charge.
Barbed wire all trampled down.
The ground all gored and rent as by a blast;
Grim heaps of grey where once were heaps of brown;
A ragged ditch -- the Hun first line at last.
All smashed to hell.
Their second right ahead,
So on you charge.
There's nothing else to do.
More reeking holes, blood, barbed wire, gruesome dead;
(Your puttee strap's undone -- that worries you).
You glare around.
You think you're all alone.
But no; your chums come surging left and right.
The nearest chap flops down without a groan,
His face still snarling with the rage of fight.
Ha! here's the second trench -- just like the first,
Only a little more so, more "laid out";
More pounded, flame-corroded, death-accurst;
A pretty piece of work, beyond a doubt.
Now for the third, and there your job is done,
So on you charge.
You never stop to think.
Your cursed puttee's trailing as you run;
You feel you'd sell your soul to have a drink.
The acrid air is full of cracking whips.
You wonder how it is you're going still.
You foam with rage.
Oh, God! to be at grips
With someone you can rush and crush and kill.
Your sleeve is dripping blood; you're seeing red;
You're battle-mad; your turn is coming now.
See! there's the jagged barbed wire straight ahead,
And there's the trench -- you'll get there anyhow.
Your puttee catches on a strand of wire,
And down you go; perhaps it saves your life,
For over sandbag rims you see 'em fire,
Crop-headed chaps, their eyes ablaze with strife.
You crawl, you cower; then once again you plunge
With all your comrades roaring at your heels.
Have at 'em lads! You stab, you jab, you lunge;
A blaze of glory, then the red world reels.
A crash of triumph, then .
you're faint a bit .
That cursed puttee! Now to fasten it.
Well, that's the charge.
And now I'm here alone.
I've built a little wall of Hun on Hun,
To shield me from the leaden bees that drone
(It saves me worry, and it hurts 'em none).
The only thing I'm wondering is when
Some stretcher-men will stroll along my way?
It isn't much that's left of me, but then
Where life is, hope is, so at least they say.
Well, if I'm spared I'll be the happy lad.
I tell you I won't envy any king.
I've stood the racket, and I'm proud and glad;
I've had my crowning hour.
Oh, War's the thing!
It gives us common, working chaps our chance,
A taste of glory, chivalry, romance.
Ay, War, they say, is hell; it's heaven, too.
It lets a man discover what he's worth.
It takes his measure, shows what he can do,
Gives him a joy like nothing else on earth.
It fans in him a flame that otherwise
Would flicker out, these drab, discordant days;
It teaches him in pain and sacrifice
Faith, fortitude, grim courage past all praise.
Yes, War is good.
So here beside my slain,
A happy wreck I wait amid the din;
For even if I perish mine's the gain.
Hi, there, you fellows! won't you take me in?
Give me a *** to smoke upon the way.
We've taken La Boiselle! The hell, you say!
Well, that would make a corpse sit up and grin.
Lead on! I'll live to fight another day.