Archive for December, 2017

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Longest Day of the Year by Michael Harlow

One word one word and then another,
one word and another, waiting for the
light to come stealing in, you ask what
is it that love dares the self to do?

All he wanted was to put his shoes out
in the moonlight.  To hear music be the
saint of laughter again.  And all that
time rehearsing his lines in the dark;

the love-mess of it all – when so much
forgetting is always about remembering;
on the long walk backwards to meet
himself coming the other way, but didn’t

It’s just that I’m made of clouds, he said,
so many of my words have lost their
happiness. That endless dream of being
awake forever and there is no one there

How the longest day of the year keeps
getting shorter.  And I am too much alone;
if you love me will I love you too, will you?
It seemed to matter that there was no
marvellous music anymore:  all that he

could hear one word one word and then
another, waiting for the light to come
stealing in, all that he could hear was
how he lives in the buried talk of others;
inside the long history of goodbye.

From: Harlow, Michael, The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap, 2013, Auckland University Press: Auckland, pp. [unnumbered].
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=p9RaAwAAQBAJ)

Date: 2009

By: Michael Harlow (1937- )

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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Shemuel by Edward Ernest Bowen

Shemuel, the Bethlehemite,
Watched a fevered guest at night;
All his fellows fared afield,
Saw the angel host revealed;
He nor caught the mystic story,
Heard the song, nor saw the glory.

Through the night they gazing stood,
Heard the holy multitude;
Back they came in wonder home,
Knew the Christmas kingdom come,
Eyes aflame, and hearts elated;
Shemuel sat alone, and waited.

Works of mercy now, as then,
Hide the angel host from men;
Hearts atune to earthly love
Miss the angel notes above;
Deeds, at which the world rejoices,
Quench the sound of angel voices.

So they thought, nor deemed from whence
His celestial recompense.
Shemuel, by the fever bed,
Touched by beckoning hands that led,
Died, and saw the Uncreated;
All his fellows lived, and waited.

From: Bowen, Edward E., Harrow Songs and Other Verses, 1886, Longmans, Green, and Co.: London, pp. 76-77.
(https://archive.org/details/harrowsongsother00bowerich)

Date: 1886

By: Edward Ernest Bowen (1836-1901)

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World by Sherman Joseph Alexie, Junior

The morning air is all awash with angels
—Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”

The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.

I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?

Who is blessed among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because

He’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. “Hey, Ma,”

I say, “Can I talk to Poppa?” She gasps,
And then I remember that my father

Has been dead for nearly a year. “Shit, Mom,”
I say. “I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—

How did I forget?” “It’s okay,” she says.
“I made him a cup of instant coffee

This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—

And I didn’t realize my mistake
Until this afternoon.” My mother laughs

At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days

And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52923/grief-calls-us-to-the-things-of-this-world

Date: 2007

By: Sherman Joseph Alexie, Junior (1966- )

Monday, 18 December 2017

If Beauty Came to You by William Kean Seymour

If Beauty came to you,
Ah, would you know her grace,
And could you in your shadowed prison view
Unscathed her face?

Stepping as noiselessly
As moving moth-wings, so
Might she come suddenly to you or me
And we not know.

Amid these clangs and cries,
Alas, how should we hear
The shy, dim-woven music of her sighs
As she draws near.

Threading through monstrous, black,
Uncharitable hours,
Where the soul shapes its own abhorrèd rack
Of wasted powers?

From: Seymour, William Kean, “If Beauty Came to You” in Seymour, William Kean (ed.), Miscellany of Poetry 1919, 2011, Project Gutenberg: Salt Lake City, Utah, p. [unnumbered].
(http://www.gutenberg.org/files/9652/9652-h/9652-h.htm)

Date: 1919

By: William Kean Seymour (1887-1975)

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Consumption by Amelia Alderson Opie

Consumption*, fairest of Death’s craving brood!
But, ah! most treacherous, hence, thou smiling fate,
From those I love! for thou art skilled to play
A dread variety of hopes and fears
Upon the heart’s best feelings. Specious foe,
Thy flattering hand paints the poor victim’s cheek
With roses mocking health’s rich bloom, and gives
The sinking eye such lustre as adorns
Love’s eager glance. Thou cloth’st thy destined prey
In glowing charms it ne’er could boast before,
As victims were of old with flowers adorned
Before they bled in pagan sacrifice:…
And as the schoolboy, whose expected sport
Adown some favourite walk thick gathering clouds
And falling rains prevent, if he behold
One partial gleam of sunshine, thinks (fond youth)
That general splendour’s gradual blaze is near,….
So, hanging o’er thy victim’s restless bed
With breath suspended, vainly anxious friends
Watch thy fair seemings, which to them appear
Pledges that danger’s past,….pledges assure
As to the Patriarch’s eye the radiant arch
Of ever-varying hues:….but, even then,
In that confiding moment, (treacherous power!)
Death steals upon security, and grasps
Thy lovely conquest, triumphing the while,
And smiling midst the beauty thou hast made.

Ye who have anxiously and fondly watched
Beside a fading friend, unconscious still
The cheek’s bright crimson, lovely to the view,
Like nightshade, with unwholesome beauty bloomed,
And that the sufferer’s bright dilated eye,
Like mouldering wood, owes to decay alone
Its wondrous lustre,….ye who still have hoped
Even in death’s dread presence, but at length
Have heard the summons (O heart-freezing call!)
To pay the last sad duties, and to hear
Upon the silent dwelling’s narrow lid
The first earth thrown, (sound deadliest to the soul!
For, strange delusion! then, and then alone,
Hope seems for ever fled, and the dread pang
Of final separation to begin)….
Ye who have felt all this….O pay my verse
The mournful meed of sympathy, and own,
Own with a sigh, the sombre picture’s just.

*Consumption referred to any fatal wasting disease but, at the era of this poem’s writing, was especially associated with pulmonary tuberculosis. At the start of the nineteenth century, 1 in 4.2 people died of consumption in London (statistic from H D Chalke, 1959, “Some Historical Aspects of Tuberculosis” in Public Health, 74 (3): 83-95). 1.5 million people annually worldwide still die of tuberculosis (statistic from TBFACTS.ORG). Consumption was related to many of the ideals of beauty at this time and through the Victorian era (great article on this here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-tuberculosis-shaped-victorian-fashion-180959029/).

From: Opie, Mrs., Poems, 1811, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London, pp. 125-128.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=M7MDAAAAQAAJ)

Date: 1811

By: Amelia Alderson Opie (1769-1853)

Saturday, 16 December 2017

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear by Edmund Hamilton Sears

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heaven’s all-gracious King” —
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel-sounds
The blessed angels sing.

But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring; —
Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing; —
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When Peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

From: https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/html/1807/4350/poem1834.html

Date: 1849

By: Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)

Friday, 15 December 2017

Forgiving our Fathers by Dick Lourie

Maybe in a dream: he’s in your power
you twist his arm but you’re not sure it was
he that stole your money you feel calmer
and you decide to let him go free

or he’s the one (as in a dream of mine)
I must pull from the water but I never
knew it or wouldn’t have done it until
I saw the street-theater play so close up
I was moved to actions I’d never before taken

maybe for leaving us too often or
forever when we were little maybe
for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous because there seemed
never to be any rage there at all

for marrying or not marrying our mothers
for divorcing or not divorcing our mothers
and shall we forgive them for their excesses
of warmth or coldness shall we forgive them

for pushing or leaning for shutting doors
for speaking only through layers of cloth
or never speaking or never being silent

in our age or in theirs or in their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it–
if we forgive our fathers what is left.

From: https://indigenousliteratures.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/the-poetry-of-smoke-signals/

Date: 1998

By: Dick Lourie (19??- )

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Cold by Robert Francis

Cold and the colors of cold: mineral, shell,
And burning blue. The sky is on fire with blue
And wind keeps ringing, ringing the fire bell.

I am caught up into a chill as high
As creaking glaciers and powder-plumed peaks
And the absolutes of interstellar sky.

Abstract, impersonal, metaphysical, pure,
This dazzling art derides me. How should warm breath
Dare to exist—exist, exult, endure?

Hums in my ear the old Ur-father of freeze
And burn, that pre-post Christian Fellow before
And after all myths and demonologies.

Under the glaring and sardonic sun,
Behind the icicles and double glass
I huddle, hoard, hold out, hold on, hold on.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=26446

Date: 1954

By: Robert Francis (1901-1987)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Lights by Miriam Nash

It’s getting dark again,
a closer dark
that’s harder to shake off,
and I think of the lightkeepers
in their granite towers,
oiling bolts, winding weights
in the nineteenth century dark—
scrubbing dishes, writing the log,
testing the bulbs
of the twentieth century light—
the final keeper
climbing down his ladder
in 1998, at the end of the last shift—
the automated switch, the microchip,

monitored in Edinburgh
where two centuries before,
one Thomas Smith
manufacturer of street lamps

sat with an oil flame
and a Scottish map—
I strike a match over dark reefs
where ships would crack,
the year unhooks its old black hat
to have a go at vanishing
the human world.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/oct/08/top-10-poems-about-light

Date: 2015

By: Miriam Nash (1985- )

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Light the Festive Candles by Aileen Lucia Fisher

(FOR HANUKKAH)

Light the first of eight tonight—
the farthest candle to the right.

Light the first and second, too,
when tomorrow’s day is through.

Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more

Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by

When the Temple was restored,
rescued from the Syrian lord,

And an eight-day feast proclaimed—
The Festival of Lights—well named

To celebrate the joyous day
when we regained the right to pray
to our one God in our own way.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46923/light-the-festive-candles

Date: 1967

By: Aileen Lucia Fisher (1906-2002)