Archive for December, 2019

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Two Gates by Denise Low

I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.

I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.

From: https://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/2015/01/01/5-great-new-years-poems/

Date: 2010

By: Denise Low (1949- )

Monday, 30 December 2019

What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black (Reflections of an African-American Mother) by (Victoria) Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs

1963

What shall I tell my children who are black
Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin
What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb,
Of how beautiful they are when everywhere they turn
They are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black.
Villains are black with black hearts.
A black cow gives no milk. A black hen lays no eggs.
Bad news comes bordered in black, black is evil
And evil is black and devils’ food is black…

What shall I tell my dear ones raised in a white world
A place where white has been made to represent
All that is good and pure and fine and decent.
Where clouds are white, and dolls, and heaven
Surely is a white, white place with angels
Robed in white, and cotton candy and ice cream
and milk and ruffled Sunday dresses
And dream houses and long sleek cadillacs
And angel’s food is white…all, all…white.

What can I say therefore, when my child
Comes home in tears because a playmate
Has called him black, big lipped, flatnosed
and nappy headed? What will he think
When I dry his tears and whisper, “Yes, that’s true.
But no less beautiful and dear.”
How shall I lift up his head, get him to square
His shoulders, look his adversaries in the eye,
Confident of the knowledge of his worth,
Serene under his sable skin and proud of his own beauty?

What can I do to give him strength
That he may come through life’s adversities
As a whole human being unwarped and human in a world
Of biased laws and inhuman practices, that he might
Survive. And survive he must! For who knows?
Perhaps this black child here bears the genius
To discover the cure for…Cancer
Or to chart the course for exploration of the universe.
So, he must survive for the good of all humanity.
He must and will survive.
I have drunk deeply of late from the foundation
Of my black culture, sat at the knee and learned
From Mother Africa, discovered the truth of my heritage,
The truth, so often obscured and omitted.
And I find I have much to say to my black children.

I will lift up their heads in proud blackness
With the story of their fathers and their fathers
Fathers. And I shall take them into a way back time
of Kings and Queens who ruled the Nile,
And measured the stars and discovered the
Laws of mathematics. Upon whose backs have been built
The wealth of continents. I will tell him
This and more. And his heritage shall be his weapon
And his armor; will make him strong enough to win
Any battle he may face. And since this story is
Often obscured, I must sacrifice to find it
For my children, even as I sacrificed to feed,
Clothe and shelter them. So this I will do for them
If I love them. None will do it for me.
I must find the truth of heritage for myself
And pass it on to them. In years to come I believe
Because I have armed them with the truth, my children
And my children’s children will venerate me.
For it is the truth that will make us free!

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/146263/what-shall-i-tell-my-children-who-are-black-reflections-of-an-african-american-mother

Date: 1968

From: (Victoria) Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs (1915-2010)

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Scene from a Marriage by Richard James Allen

you are my context
without you
i’m a picture
wandering out
of its frame
a blotch of colours
a mess of sky.

From: https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/allen-richard-james/poems/scene-from-a-marriage-0162019

Date: 1995

By: Richard James Allen (1960- )

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Prologue from “The Lost Lover” by Delarivier Manley

The first Adventurer for her fame I stand,
The Curtain’s drawn now by a Lady’s Hand,
The very Name you’d cry bolas Impotence,
To Fringe and Tea they shou’d confine their. Sence,
And not outstrip the bounds of Providence.
I hope then Criticks, since the Case is so,
You’l scorn to Arm againsti a Worthless Foe,
But curb your Spleen and gall, and trial make,
How our fair Warriour gives her first Attack.
Now all ye chattering Insects straight be dumb,
The Men of Wit and Sense are hither come,
Ask not this Mask to Sup, nor that to show
Some Face more ugly than a Fifty Beau,
Who, if our Play succeeds, will surely say,
Some private Lover helpt her on her way,
As Female Wit were barren like the Moon,
That borrows all her influence from the Sun.
The Sparks and Beaus will surely prove our Friends,
For their good Breeding must make them commend
What Billet Deux so e’re: a Lady sends.
She knew old Thread-bare Topicks would not do,
But Beaus a Species thinks it self still new,
And therefore the resolved to Coppy you.

From: Manley, Mrs., The Lost Lover; or, The Jealous Husband: A Comedy, 1696, R. Bently, F. Saunders, J. Knapton, and R. Wellington: London, p. [unnumbered].
(http://gateway.proquest.com.rp.nla.gov.au/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&res_id=xri:eebo&rft_id=xri:eebo:image:51767:2)

Date: 1696

By: Delarivier Manley (c1670-1724)

Friday, 27 December 2019

On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas My True Love Phoned Me Up . . . by Dave Calder

Well, I suppose I should be grateful, you’ve obviously gone
to a lot of trouble and expense – or maybe off your head.
Yes, I did like the birds – the small ones anyway were fun
if rather messy, but now the hens have roosted on my bed
and the rest are nested on the wardrobe. It’s hard to sleep
with all that cooing, let alone the cackling of the geese
whose eggs are everywhere, but mostly in a broken smelly heap
on the sofa. No, why should I mind? I can’t get any peace
anywhere – the lounge is full of drummers thumping tom-toms
and sprawling lords crashed out from manic leaping. The
kitchen is crammed with cows and milkmaids and smells of a million stink-bombs
and enough sour milk to last a year. The pipers? I’d forgotten them –
they were no trouble, I paid them and they went. But I can’t get rid
of these young ladies. They won’t stop dancing or turn the music down
and they’re always in the bathroom, squealing as they skid
across the flooded floor. No, I don’t need a plumber round,
it’s just the swans – where else can they swim? Poor things,
I think they’re going mad, like me. When I went to wash my
hands one ate the soap, another swallowed the gold rings.
And the pear tree died. Too dry. So thanks for nothing, love. Goodbye.

From: Calder, Dave, A Big Bunch of Poems, 2010, Other Publications, Liverpool, p. [unnumbered]
(http://www.windowsproject.net/downlds/bigbunch.pdf)

Date: 2010

By: Dave Calder (19??- )

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Boxing Day by Vern Rutsala

In the mud we
begin to understand.
Fictions fall away—
old skin, old hair,

old midnight pledges
scale in wet light.
Whatever was following
has caught up.

It is with us now.
Old vacancy, old tramp
riding the train
whistles, old ugly

come to visit,
old bastard Daddy
crazy drunk, warbling
hello and hacking

like a bullfrog.
We are his favorites.
His dark pockets
are stuffed with gifts—

Christmas candy matted
with lint and tobacco
is peeled out like ore
and it is just for us.

From: Rutsala, Vern, “Boxing Day” in Poetry, January 1972, p. 193.
(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=119&issue=4&page=11)

Date: 1972

By: Vern Rutsala (1934-2014)

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas Comes But Once a Year by Thomas Miller

Those Christmas bells as sweetly chime,
As on the day when first they rung
So merrily in the olden time,
And far and wide their music flung:
Shaking the tall grey ivied tower,
With all their deep melodious power:
They still proclaim to every ear,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

Then he came singing through the woods,
And plucked the holly bright and green;
Pulled here and there the ivy buds;
Was sometimes hidden, sometimes seen —
Half-buried ‘neath the mistletoe,
His long beard hung with flakes of snow;
And still he ever carolled clear,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

He merrily came in days of old,
When roads were few, and ways were foul,
Now staggered, — now some ditty trolled,
Now drank deep from his wassail bowl;
His holly silvered o’er with frost.
Nor never once his way he lost,
For reeling here and reeling there,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

The hall was then with holly crowned,
‘Twas on the wild-deer’s antlers placed;
It hemmed the battered armour round,
And every ancient trophy graced.
It decked the boar’s head, tusked and grim,
The wassail bowl wreathed to the brim.
A summer-green hung everywhere,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

His jaded steed the armed knight
Reigned up before the abbey gate;
By all assisted to alight,
From humble monk, to abbot great.
They placed his lance behind the door,
His armour on the rush-strewn floor;
And then brought out the best of cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

The maiden then, in quaint attire,
Loosed from her head the silken hood,
And danced before the yule-clog fire —
The crackling monarch of the wood.
Helmet and shield flashed back the blaze,
In lines of light, like summer rays,
While music sounded loud and clear,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

What, though upon his hoary head,
Have fallen many a winter’s snow,
His wreath is still as green and red
As ‘t was a thousand years ago.
For what has he to do with care?
His wassail bowl and old arm-chair
Are ever standing ready there,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

No marvel Christmas lives so long,
He never knew but merry hours,
His nights were spent with mirth and song,
In happy homes, and princely bowers;
Was greeted both by serf and lord,
And seated at the festal board;
While every voice cried “Welcome here,”
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

But what care we for days of old,
The knights whose arms have turned to rust,
Their grim boars’ heads, and pasties cold,
Their castles crumbled into dust?
Never did sweeter faces go,
Blushing beneath the mistletoe,
Than are to-night assembled here,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

For those old times are dead and gone,
And those who hailed them passed away,
Yet still there lingers many a one,
To welcome in old Christmas Day.
The poor will many a care forget,
The debtor think not of his debt;
But, as they each enjoy their cheer,
Wish it was Christmas all the year.

And still around those good old times
We hang like friends full loth to part,
We listen to the simple rhymes
Which somehow sink into the heart,
“Half musical, half melancholy,”
Like childish smiles that still are holy,
A masquer’s face dimmed with a tear,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

The bells which usher in that morn,
Have ever drawn my mind away
To Bethlehem, where Christ was born,
And the low stable where He lay,
In which the large-eyed oxen fed;
To Mary bowing low her head,
And looking down with love sincere,
Such thoughts bring Christmas once a year.

At early day the youthful voice,
Heard singing on from door to door,
Makes the responding heart rejoice,
To know the children of the poor
For once are happy all day long;
We smile and listen to the song,
The burthen still remote or near,
“Old Christmas comes but once a year.”

Upon a gayer happier scene,
Never did holly berries peer,
Or ivy throw its trailing green,
On brighter forms than there are here,
Nor Christmas in his old arm-chair
Smile upon lips and brows more fair,
Then let us sing amid our cheer,
Old Christmas still comes once a year.

From: Vizetelly, Henry (ed.), Christmas with the Poets, a Collection of Songs, Carols, and Verses, Relating to the Festival of Christmas, from the Anglo-Normal Period to the Present Time, 1852, David Bogue: London, pp. 164-168.
(https://archive.org/details/christmaswithpo01chrigoog/)

Date: 1852

By: Thomas Miller (1807-1874)

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Christmas Mail by Theodore J. (Ted) Kooser

Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.

From: https://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org/columns/detail/405

Date: 2012

By: Theodore J. (Ted) Kooser (1939- )

Monday, 23 December 2019

Letter Spoken in Wind by Rachel Galvin

Today we walked the inlet Nybøl Nor
remembering how to tread on frozen snow.
Ate cold sloeberries

that tasted of wind—a white pucker—
spat their sour pits in snow. Along
the horizon, a line of windmills dissolved

into a white field. Your voice
on the phone, a gesund auf dein keppele
you blessed my head. Six months now

since I’ve seen you. There are
traces of you here, your curls still dark
and long, your woven dove,

the room you stayed in: send your syllables,
I am swimming below the tidemark.
Words shed overcoats, come

to me undressed, slender-limbed, they have no
letters yet. It is the festival
of lights, I have no

candles. I light one for each night,
pray on a row
of nine lighthouses.

From: https://poets.org/poem/letter-spoken-wind

Date: 2009

By: Rachel Galvin (1972- )

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Winter Solstice by Gary Young

Birds travel toward the horizon
at a distance which makes them
indistinguishable. We only know
that they seem to be leaving the earth.
The glassy bulbs of the Iris have worked their way
to the surface of the damp soil,
and the roots of the pine tree
rest on the ground like arthritic knuckles,
clumsey, useless, having given up
on everything, even themselves.
I watch the rain fall after a year of drought,
and it settles into the runoff. My yard
is a delta of tiny rivers, and the spirit,
which must be like water, flows quietly away.

From: Young, Gary, “Winter Solstice” in Poetry, December 1977, p. 144. (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=131&issue=3&page=24)

Date: 1977

By: Gary Young (1951- )