Archive for October, 2019

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Halloween by John Kendrick Bangs

The ghosts of all things past parade,
Emerging from the mist and shade
That hid them from our gaze,
And, full of song and ringing mirth,
In one glad moment of rebirth,
And again they walk the ways of earth
As in the ancient days.

The beacon light shines on the hill,
The will-o’-wisps the forests fill
With flashes filched from noon;
And witches on their broomsticks spry
Speed here and yonder in the sky,
And lift their strident voices high
Unto the Hunter’s Moon.

The air resounds with tuneful notes
From myriads of straining throats,
All hailing Folly Queen;
So join the swelling choral throng,
Forget your sorrow and your wrong,
In one glad hour of joyous song
To honor Hallowe’en!


Date: 1910

By: John Kendrick Bangs (1862-1922)

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Skin Spinners by Joan Delano Aiken

Poets, clustered like spiders, sing
shrilly of the gadfly’s wing
and make of air and dust and flesh
a subtle and a silver mesh,
study the seasons and the trends
times, fashions, tides, for their own ends;
all is foretold, all comes to pass
spun, spinning, in a web of glass;
brooding above the throng of flies
they watch with penetrating eyes
and turn the living and the dead
impartially to daily bread.

From: Aiken, Joan, The Skin Spinners: Poems, 1976, The Viking Press: New York, p. 57.

Date: 1960

By: Joan Delano Aiken (1924-2004)

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Nightmares by Siv Cedering Fox

Some say the nightmare is
a horse
that starts to gallop in a dream
and scares the sleeping one awake.

Some say the nightmare is
a sea
where storms have made the waves so big
that they frighten me.

I do not know
what nightmares are,
I only know
they are.

But though the nightmares come
at times,
they do not come as often as
the pretty horse, as often as
the calmer sea, that bring
all other dreams to me.

From: Fox, Siv Cedering, The Blue Horse and Other Night Poems, 1979, The Seabury Press: New York, p. 24.

Date: 1979

By: Siv Cedering Fox (1939-2007)

Monday, 28 October 2019

The Witch’s Cat by Ian Serraillier

‘My magic is dead,’ said the witch. ‘I’m astounded
That people can fly to the moon and around it.
It used to be mine and the cat’s till they found it.
My broomstick is draughty, I snivel with cold
As I ride to the stars. I’m painfully old,
And so is my cat;
But planet-and-space-ship,
Rocket or race-ship
Never shall part me from that.’

She wrote and advertisement, ‘Witch in a fix
Willing to part with the whole bag of tricks,
Going cheap at the price at eighteen and six.’
But no one was ready to empty his coffers
For out-of-date rubbish. There weren’t any offers—
Except for the cat.
‘But planet-and-space-ship,
Rocket or race-ship
Never shall part me from that.’

The tears trickled fast, not a sentence she spoke
And she stamped on her broom and the brittle stick broke,
And she dumped in a dustbin her hat and her cloak,
Then clean disappeared, leaving no prints;
And no one at all has set eyes on her since
Or her tired old cat.
‘But planet-and-space-ship,
Rocket or race-ship
Never shall part me from that.’

From: Livingston, Myra Cohn (ed.), Why Am I Grown So Cold?: Poems of the Unknowable, 1982, Atheneum: New York, p. 173.

Date: 1972

By: Ian Serraillier (1912-1994)

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Spell to Banish Fear by Jeni Couzyn

By the warmth of the sun
By the baby’s cry
By the lambs on the hill
I banish thee.

By the sweetness of the song
By the warm rain falling
By the hum of grass

From: Fisher, Robert (ed.), Witch Words: Poems of Magic and Mystery, 1987, Faber and Faber: London, p. 13.

Date: 1977

By: Jeni Couzyn (1942- )

Saturday, 26 October 2019

The Witch’s House by Laura Benét

Its wicked little windows leer
Beneath a mouldy thatch,
And village children come and peer
Before they lift the latch.

A one-eyed crow hops to the door,
Fat spiders crowd the pane,
And dark herbs scattered on the floor
Waft fragrance down the lane.

It sits so low, the little hutch,
So secret, shy and squat,
As if in its mysterious clutch
It nursed one knew not what.

That beggars passing by the ditch
Are haunted with desire
To force the door, and see the witch
Vanish in flames of fire.


Date: 1921

By: Laura Benét (1884-1979)

Friday, 25 October 2019

The Fire of Love by Charles Sackville

The fire of love in youthful blood,
Like what is kindled in brushwood,
But for a moment burns;
Yet in that moment makes a mighty noise;
It crackles, and to vapor turns,
And soon itself destroys.
But when crept into aged veins
It slowly burns, and then long remains,
And with a silent heat,
Like fire in logs, it glows and warms ’em long,
And though the flame be not so great,
Yet is the heat as strong.


Date: 1690

By: Charles Sackville (1638-1706)

Thursday, 24 October 2019

America by James Monroe Whitfield

America, it is to thee,
Thou boasted land of liberty, –
It is to thee I raise my song,
Thou land of blood, and crime, and wrong.
It is to thee, my native land,
From whence has issued many a band
To tear the black man from his soil,
And force him here to delve and toil;
Chained on your blood-bemoistened sod,
Cringing beneath a tyrant’s rod,
Stripped of those rights which Nature’s God
Bequeathed to all the human race,
Bound to a petty tyrant’s nod,
Because he wears a paler face.
Was it for this, that freedom’s fires
Were kindled by your patriot sires?
Was it for this, they shed their blood,
On hill and plain, on field and flood?
Was it for this, that wealth and life
Were staked upon that desperate strife,
Which drenched this land for seven long years
With blood of men, and women’s tears?
When black and white fought side by side,
Upon the well-contested field, –
Turned back the fierce opposing tide,
And made the proud invader yield –
When, wounded, side by side they lay,
And heard with joy the proud hurrah
From their victorious comrades say
That they had waged successful war,
The thought ne’er entered in their brains
That they endured those toils and pains,
To forge fresh fetters, heavier chains
For their own children, in whose veins
Should flow that patriotic blood,
So freely shed on field and flood.
Oh no; they fought, as they believed,
For the inherent rights of man;
But mark, how they have been deceived
By slavery’s accursed plan.
They never thought, when thus they shed
Their heart’s best blood, in freedom’s cause.
That their own sons would live in dread,
Under unjust, oppressive laws:
That those who quietly enjoyed
The rights for which they fought and fell,
Could be the framers of a code,
That would disgrace the fiends of hell!
Could they have looked, with prophet’s ken,
Down to the present evil time,
Seen free-born men, uncharged with crime,
Consigned unto a slaver’s pen, –
Or thrust into a prison cell,
With thieves and murderers to dwell –
While that same flag whose stripes and stars
Had been their guide through freedom’s wars
As proudly waved above the pen
Of dealers in the souls of men!
Or could the shades of all the dead,
Who fell beneath that starry flag,
Visit the scenes where they once bled,
On hill and plain, on vale and crag,
By peaceful brook, or ocean’s strand,
By inland lake, or dark green wood,
Where’er the soil of this wide land
Was moistened by their patriot blood, –
And then survey the country o’er,
From north to south, from east to west,
And hear the agonizing cry
Ascending up to God on high,
From western wilds to ocean’s shore,
The fervent prayer of the oppressed;
The cry of helpless infancy
Torn from the parent’s fond caress
By some base tool of tyranny,
And doomed to woe and wretchedness;
The indignant wail of fiery youth,
Its noble aspirations crushed,
Its generous zeal, its love of truth,
Trampled by tyrants in the dust;
The aerial piles which fancy reared,
And hopes too bright to be enjoyed,
Have passed and left his young heart seared,
And all its dreams of bliss destroyed.
The shriek of virgin purity,
Doomed to some libertine’s embrace,
Should rouse the strongest sympathy
Of each one of the human race;
And weak old age, oppressed with care,
As he reviews the scene of strife,
Puts up to God a fervent prayer,
To close his dark and troubled life.
The cry of fathers, mothers, wives,
Severed from all their hearts hold dear,
And doomed to spend their wretched lives
In gloom, and doubt, and hate, and fear;
And manhood, too, with soul of fire,
And arm of strength, and smothered ire,
Stands pondering with brow of gloom,
Upon his dark unhappy doom,
Whether to plunge in battle’s strife,
And buy his freedom with his life,
And with stout heart and weapon strong,
Pay back the tyrant wrong for wrong,
Or wait the promised time of God,
When his Almighty ire shall wake,
And smite the oppressor in his wrath,
And hurl red ruin in his path,
And with the terrors of his rod,
Cause adamantine hearts to quake.
Here Christian writhes in bondage still,
Beneath his brother Christian’s rod,
And pastors trample down at will,
The image of the living God.
While prayers go up in lofty strains,
And pealing hymns ascend to heaven,
The captive, toiling in his chains,
With tortured limbs and bosom riven,
Raises his fettered hand on high,
And in the accents of despair,
To him who rules both earth and sky,
Puts up a sad, a fervent prayer,
To free him from the awful blast
Of slavery’s bitter galling shame –
Although his portion should be cast
With demons in eternal flame!
Almighty God! ‘t is this they call
The land of liberty and law;
Part of its sons in baser thrall
Than Babylon or Egypt saw –
Worse scenes of rapine, lust and shame,
Than Babylonian ever knew,
Are perpetrated in the name
Of God, the holy, just, and true;
And darker doom than Egypt felt,
May yet repay this nation’s guilt.
Almighty God! thy aid impart,
And fire anew each faltering heart,
And strengthen every patriot’s hand,
Who aims to save our native land.
We do not come before thy throne,
With carnal weapons drenched in gore,
Although our blood has freely flown,
In adding to the tyrant’s store.
Father! before thy throne we come,
Not in the panoply of war,
With pealing trump, and rolling drum,
And cannon booming loud and far;
Striving in blood to wash out blood,
Through wrong to seek redress for wrong;
For while thou ‘rt holy, just and good,
The battle is not to the strong;
But in the sacred name of peace,
Of justice, virtue, love and truth,
We pray, and never mean to cease,
Till weak old age and fiery youth
In freedom’s cause their voices raise,
And burst the bonds of every slave;
Till, north and south, and east and west,
The wrongs we bear shall be redressed.


Date: 1853

By: James Monroe Whitfield (1822-1871)

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Reasons to Live by Alison Luterman

for Arlene

The guy with the beautiful waist-length Byronic hair
stands braced in black fish-nets, silver tutu, and high heels
playing his violin without a trace of irony
at the entrance of 24th and Mission
where I’m elbowing through the suits and prostitutes
to get on the 5:13 to Richmond.
Ruby music spills like the blood I’ve been carrying in test-tubes all day,
sweet as raisins and almonds at a Jewish wedding.
That, too, is a reason to live
even when the long tunnel feels endless
and the months stretch out between real kisses.
All of us commuters read so we don’t have to feel
tons of dark water, pressing down on us,
and the steel-lace bridge arcing impossible miles above,
carrying a million cars, a million tiny drivers
like a battalion of sperm aimed at the ovum of evening,
slivers of sun shooting into their tired eyes,
making them wince with beauty. Music is the day’s blood,
it weaves under and over the roar of the train,
the way thought plays its sweet percussion in our wrists and throats
even while we sit so quietly, we can hear the small sounds our hearts make
when they have finished breaking themselves
against the rock of the impossible and the beautiful.
Mother-in-law, musician, friend—you know how hard I tried
to make a bridge, to make a tunnel
between one man and one woman
or between the human and divine in both of us,
between spirit and animal. That I failed is beside the point.
Now I struggle to make the daily trek
between Oakland and the Mission,
and I’m ferried along, I’m even helped
by these currents of invisible music
and the humans who strive in the city—when I turn
to find something beautiful, it is always at my side.
Greed is also a saving grace. I still
want more, you know; another love, another
go-round, and in the meantime more
light, more freedom,
more music that gives the feeling of flying.


Date: 2004

By: Alison Luterman (1958- )

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Excerpt from “A Defence of Women, Against the Author of the Arraignment of Women” by Joanne Sharp

What the Serpent began, men follow that still,
They tempt what they may to make women doe ill.
They will tempt, and provoke, and follow us long:
They deceive us with oathes, and a flattering tongue.
To make a poore Maiden or woman a whore,
They care not how much they spend of their store.
But where is there a man that will any thing give
That woman or maide may with honestie live?
If they yield to lewd counsell they nothing shall want,
But for to be honest, then all things are scant.
It proves a bad nature in men doth remaine,
To make women lewd their purses they straine.
For a woman that’s honest they care not a whit,
Theyle say she is honest, because she lackes wit.
Theyle call women whores,but their stakes theymight save,
There can be no Wbore, but there must be a Knave.
They say that our dressings, and that our attire
Are causes to move them unto lustfull fire.
Of all things which are we evermore finde,
Such thoughts doe arise as are like to the minde.
Mens thoughts being wicked they wracke on us thus,
That scandall is taken, not given by us.
If their sight be so weake, and their frailtie be such,
Why doe they then gaze at our beauty so much?

From: Sowernam, Ester, Ester hath hang’d Haman: Or, An Answer to a lewd Pamphlet, entituled, The Arraignment of Women. With the Arraignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant men, and Husbands, 1617, Nicholas Bourne: London, pp. 50-51.

Date: 1617

By: Joanne Sharp (fl. 1617)