Archive for December, 2012

Monday, 31 December 2012

Iowa & Other Accidents by Kate Northrop

There was snow that afternoon covering the road
which twisted toward the secret
of water, the mysterious surge

of sludge & loam, the living
Mississippi, unlike the rest of the Midwest,

drawing itself through landscape. There was an appointment
you were keeping

in Moline: a cheap hotel, booze, a little blow. On the Lower
East Side, a woman

spills her martini, makes a gesture
like erasure, or regret. It was almost Christmas.
In the rear view

suddenly, the car you will always describe as oncoming
must have slipped into a skid

and now, rising up over the bank,
it startles you—that reflection. In Moline

the maid corners the bed, straightens the clean
line of sheet. Almost Christmas. On the road,
swirls of snow.  On the road

the car hovering behind you, a witness,
unfortunate & so unlike the audience permitted
the distance of fictions, the artifice

of plot. And worse, of course, the law

of cause & effect: I looked up,
it started to fall.  You must attach

subject to verb, must say
I saw, and did, in your rear view, the car you’d thought
nothing of,

the gray sedan lifting slowly from the common snow,
turning, and the accident
always there, about to happen.

From: http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/1119/

Date: 2002

By: Kate Northrop (?- )

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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Envy by Mary Lamb

This rose-tree is not made to bear
The violet blue, nor lily fair,
Nor the sweet mignionet:
And if this tree were discontent,
Or wished to change its natural bent,
It all in vain would fret.

And should it fret, you would suppose
It ne’er had seen its own red rose,
Nor after gentle shower
Had ever smelled its rose’s scent,
Or it could ne’er be discontent
With its own pretty flower.

Like such a blind and senseless tree
As I’ve imagined this to be,
All envious persons are:
With care and culture all may find
Some pretty flower in their own mind,
Some talent that is rare.

From: http://poetryoutloud.org/poem/182549

Date: 1809

By: Mary Lamb (1764-1847)

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Oh, Fortune! How Thy Restlesse Wavering State by Elizabeth I

Writ with charcoal on a shutter while prisoner at Woodstock.

Oh, Fortune! how thy restlesse wavering state
Hath fraught with cares my troubled witt!
Witnes this present prisonn, whither fate
Could beare me, and the joys I quitt.
Thou causedest the guiltie to be losed
From bandes, wherein are innocents inclosed:
Causing the guiltles to be straite reserved,
And freeing those that death had well deserved.
But by her envie can be nothing wroughte,
So God send to my foes all they have thoughte.
                                        ELIZABETH Prisoner.
A.D. M.D.LV.

From: http://tudorhistory.org/poetry/elizabeth.html

Date: 1555

By: Elizabeth I (1533-1602)

Friday, 28 December 2012

A Country Visit by Jared Carter

When my grandmother
brought me, many years ago,
we played hide and seek
among the stones. But today,
finding her will not be hard.

First asking his leave,
I clear the weeds from the grave
of my grandfather,
knowing that for many years
he has looked out in this way.

Let us close the gate,
and drive back to the home place.
Up in the old trees
there will still be mourning doves
calling among the shadows.

What is it you fear,
now that autumn is ending?
We two still have time
to bring in the last parsley,
and rake walnuts from the grass.

It is difficult
to contemplate giving up
those two lovely words,
here and now, but I shall not
be needing them much longer.

The sun will still rise
in the east, and the new moon,
and the evening star.
It is only this window
that seems darkened now with mist.

From: http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv7n1/tanka/Carter.html

Date: 2009

By: Jared Carter (1939- )

Thursday, 27 December 2012

To the Canary Bird by Jones Very

I cannot hear thy voice with other’s ears,
Who make of thy lost liberty a gain;
And in thy tale of blighted hopes and fears
Feel not that every note is born with pain.
Alas! That with thy music’s gentle swell
Past days of joy should through thy memory throng,
And each to thee their words of sorrow tell
While ravished sense forgets thee in thy song.
The heart that on thy past and future feeds,
And pours in human words its thoughts divine,
Though at each birth the spirit inly bleeds,
Its song may charm the listening ear like thine,
And men with gilded cage and praise will try
To make the bard like thee forget his native sky.

From: http://transcendentalism.tamu.edu/authors/very/verypoems.html#canary

Date: 1837

By: Jones Very (1813-1880)

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

In the Secular Night by Margaret Atwood

In the secular night you wander around
alone in your house. It’s two-thirty.
Everyone has deserted you,
or this is your story;
you remember it from being sixteen,
when the others were out somewhere, having a good time,
or so you suspected,
and you had to baby-sit.
You took a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream
and filled up the glass with grape juice
and ginger ale, and put on Glenn Miller
with his big-band sound,
and lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up the chimney,
and cried for a while because you were not dancing,
and then danced, by yourself, your mouth circled with purple.

Now, forty years later, things have changed,
and it’s baby lima beans.
It’s necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You’d be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.

There is so much silence between the words,
you say. You say, The sensed absence
of God and the sensed presence
amount to much the same thing,
only in reverse.
You say, I have too much white clothing.
You start to hum.
Several hundred years ago
this could have been mysticism
or heresy. It isn’t now.
Outside there are sirens.
Someone’s been run over.
The century grinds on.

From: http://margaret-atwood.wikispaces.com/Poem+Analysis

Date: 1995

By: Margaret Atwood (1939- )

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

In the Workhouse: Christmas Day by George Robert Sims

It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
Ad the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They’ve paid for — with the rates.

Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their “Thank’ee kindly, mum’s!'”
So long as they fill their stomachs,
What matter it whence it comes!
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
“Great God!” he cries, “but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died!”

The guardians gazed in horror,
The master’s face went white;
“Did a pauper refuse the pudding?”
“Could their ears believe aright?”
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man would die,
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.

But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose ‘mid silence grim,
For the others had ceased to chatter
And trembled in every limb.
He looked at the guardians’ ladies,
Then, eyeing their lords, he said,
“I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:

“Whose victims cry for vengeance
From their dark, unhallowed graves.”
“He’s drunk!” said the workhouse master,
“Or else he’s mad and raves.”
“Not drunk or mad,” cried the pauper,
“But only a haunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vulture’s feast.

“I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won’t be dragged away;
Just let me have the fit out,
It’s only on Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey on my burning brain;
I’ll tell you the rest in a whisper —
I swear I won’t shout again.

“Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how paupers
The season of Christmas spend;.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watched the captured beast.
Here’s why a penniless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.

“Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You’re doing a noble action
With the parish’s meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors —
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above me,
My Nance was killed by you!

‘Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
I had never been to the parish —
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.

“I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for the woman who’d loved me
Through fifty years of life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief,
That ‘the House’ was open to us,
But they wouldn’t give ‘out relief’.

“I slunk to the filthy alley —
‘Twas a cold, raw Christmas Eve —
And the bakers’ shops were open,
Tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together,
Holding my head awry,
So I came to her empty-handed
And mournfully told her why.

“Then I told her the house was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
and up in her rags she sat,
Crying, ‘Bide the Christmas here, John,
We’ve never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger —
The other would break my heart.’

“All through that eve I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord and weeping,
Till my lips were salt as brine;
I asked her once if she hungered,
And as she answered ‘No’ ,
The moon shone in at the window,
Set in a wreath of snow.

“Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling’s eyes
The faraway look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went.
For she raved of our home in Devon,
Where our happiest years were spent.

“And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more.
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo’d by the Devon shore;
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, ‘Give me a crust — I’m famished —
For the love of God!’ she groaned.

“I rushed from the room like a madman
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying, ‘Food for a dying woman!’
And the answer came, ‘Too late.’
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street
And tore from the mongrel’s clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.

“Back through the filthy byways!
Back through the trampled slush!
Up to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush;
My heart sank down at the threshold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill.
For there, in the silv’ry moonlight,
My Nance lay, cold and still.

“Up to the blackened ceiling,
The sunken eyes were cast —
I knew on those lips, all bloodless,
My name had been the last;
She called for her absent husband —
O God! had I but known! —
Had called in vain, and, in anguish,
Had died in that den — alone.

“Yes, there, in a land of plenty,
Lay a loving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
for a loaf of the parish bread;
At yonder gate, last Christmas,
I craved for a human life,
You, who would feed us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!”

‘There, get ye gone to your dinners,
Don’t mind me in the least,
Think of the happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day.”

From: http://thevictorianist.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/in-workhouse-christmas-day-by-george-r.html

Date: 1879

By: George Robert Sims (1847-1922)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Prelude by Lisa Jarnot

O little fleas
of speckled light
all dancing
like a satellite

O belly green trees
shaded vale
O shiny bobcat
winter trail

Amoebic rampage
squamous cock
a Chinese hairpiece
burly sock

A grilled banana
smashes gates
and mingeless badgers
venerate

The asses of the
winter trees
rock on fat asses
as you please

Be jumpy
or unhinged
with joy
enlightened
fry cakes
Staten hoy.

From: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/242420

Date: 2008

By: Lisa Jarnot (1967- )

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim

Isn’t it rich?
Aren’t we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I’d stopped
Opening doors,
Finally knowing
The one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again
With my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want –
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Quick, send in the clowns.

What a surprise.
Who could foresee
I’d come to feel about you
What you’d felt about me?
Why only now when I see
That you’d drifted away?
What a surprise.
What a cliché.

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother – they’re here.

From: http://artists.letssingit.com/stephen-sondheim-lyrics-send-in-the-clowns-ms8d5sh#axzz2EuNq4th0

Date: 1973

By: Stephen Sondheim (1930- )

Saturday, 22 December 2012

To Mrs. K___, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris by Helen Maria Williams

What crowding thoughts around me wake,
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells
Enclosed within its odorous cells?
Is there no small magician bound
Encrusted in its snowy round?
For magic surely lurks in this,
A cake that tells of vanished bliss;
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last! —
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain;
That speaks of friends for ever fled,
And wakes the tears I love to shed.
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name
From whose fair hand the offering came:
For she recalls the artless smile
Of nymphs that deck my native isle;
Of beauty that we love to trace,
Allied with tender, modest grace;
Of those who, while abroad they roam,
Retain each charm that gladdens home,
And whose dear friendships can impart
A Christmas banquet for the heart!

From: http://www.lesleyannemcleod.com/rw_christmas.html

Date: 1823

By: Helen Maria Williams (1761-1827)