Posts tagged ‘poetry’

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.


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.


Date: 2015

By: Miriam Nash (1985- )

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Light the Festive Candles by Aileen Lucia Fisher


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.


Date: 1967

By: Aileen Lucia Fisher (1906-2002)

Monday, 11 December 2017

Sonnet XXI: His Charitable Hope: and their Eternall Repose by Gabriel Harvey

Let memory of grose abuses sleepe:
Who over-shooteth not in recklesse youth?
Were sinnes as redd, as reddest scarlet deepe,
A penitentiall Hart preventeth ruth.
Well-wishing Charity presumes the best:
Nothing impossible to powreful Trueth:
Body to Grave, and Soule to Heaven addrest,
Leave upon Earth, the follies of their youth.
Some Penury bewaile: some feare Arrest:
Some Parmaes force: some Spanyardes gold addread:
Some underly the terrible inquest:
Some carry a Jelous: some a climing Head.
We that are dead, releasd from living woes,
Soundly enjoy a long, and long Repose.

From: Harvey, Gabriel and Grosart, Alexander B. (ed.), The Works of Gabriel Harvey, D.C.L., in Three Volumes, For the First Time Collected and Edited, Volume I, 1884, The Huth Library: London, pp. 249-250.

Date: 1592

By: Gabriel Harvey (c1552-1631)

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Milord I Thanke You Hartely by Marie (Mercy) Harvey Collyn

*The Thursday before Neweyeares day (being on the Satterday), the maide, by counsell of on she trustid well, excusid herself on this wise to Milord:-

Milord I thanke you hartely
For your late liberalitie;
I would I were hable to requite
Your lordships bowntie with the like.
Marry, mie hart is not so franke
But mie habilitie is as scante;
Therefore, in steade of a leifer gift,
I bequeath you this paper for a shift.
You se I am disposid to rime,
Though it be cleen out of time.
I hope your L. will have me excused
As longe as you feel not yourself abusid.
To be short, Milord, thus it is, Iwis,
I could not be at home according to prommis.
I would not, perhaps it may to you seem;
I pray you, Milord, do not so misdeem.
Truly I was sent for to spend this good time
A fewe miles of with a kinsman of mine.
Whether mi father in hast wuld so faine have me goe,
That I could not nor durst not for mielife say noe.

So that I was faint
At his commaundiment
To take a jornye
That I litle ment.
I pray you, Milord,
Have me excusid,
Though by mie frends
I be thus rulid.

The truth is, I am not mine owne maide,
My frends to disobey I am afraide.
An other time as good
To speake your minde;
In  the meane time if you seeke
You can not but finde.
Your honors to commaund
In anie honest demaund.

*This poem was written by the then 17-year-old Marie (Mercy) Harvey to Philip Howard, the Earl of Surrey (also 17 at the time) excusing herself from her promise to meet him (and reminding him of their differences in station and the fact that he was already married) several days after he had attempted to rape her. It survived because her brother, Gabriel Harvey, kept a dossier on the affair which included the letters Philip Howard sent to Marie and her responses.

From: Scott, Edward John Long (ed.), Letter-Book of Gabriel Harvey, A.D. 1573-1580, 1884, Camden Society: London, pp. 153-155.

Date: 1574

By: Marie (Mercy) Harvey Collyn (c1556-after 1608)

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Joseph, I’m Pregnant by the Holy Ghost by Kilian McDonnell

“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man…
planned to dismiss her quietly.”  —Matthew 1:19

Life was simple before that angel
pushed open the kitchen door,
announced light and trouble, as though
a foe had roiled the bottom of the well
and now the pail brings up only

murky water. I’m chosen for some
terrible grace beyond the well.
After short light long dark,
left to stumble through Sinai

Desert. No manna to gather, no quail
to catch. Nothing. When I tell Joseph
I’m pregnant by the Holy Ghost,
he stares, ox dumb in hurt. I’ve asked

him to believe that I, God’s
Moses-girl, part seas, give Torah. He turns, leaves
without a word. Why should my dearest

love believe? Yahweh’s not fair.
Where is the voice of light? Where
the pillar of fire? My man drops
me cold, as though I were a concubine

dismissed without a drachma for cheating
on her master’s blanket with that
swarthy Roman soldier from the barracks.
Joseph doesn’t expose me; I will not

be stoned. My heart eats Yahweh’s
cinders; I drink the last date wine
gone sour at the dregs.
God does nothing. But I carry life.

From: McDonnell, Kilian, Yahweh’s Other Shoe, 2006, Liturgical Press: Collegeville, Minnesota, pp. 18-19.

Date: 2006

By: Kilian McDonnell (1921- )

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Crocodile Discourses by Geoffrey Montagu Cookson (James Barton)

“I do not find it written in my slime
That God is Love; yet He is very good;
For first, He filed my teeth exceeding sharp,
And shut them in a trap of triple steel,
Gave me my saurian ancestry, whereby
I walk abroad unquestioned armiger,
And wear unrusted my tough coat of mail.
Also, to deck a brother deity
(For I am more than priest if less than God),
He offers lotus buds, and lends me stars
To float upon my pool; and when I swim
On moonless nights they tremble in the wash
And furrow of my wave. Familiar,
As to a schoolboy ciphers on a slate,
I meditate my deep astrology,
Reading the cycles and conjunctive hours
That ripen for my maw the virgin’s breasts,
The young wife’s womb. They have no time to scream,
I trip so smoothly down the darkling stair
And paddle in the deeps. My pool is called
Silence, the deadener of unseemly noise,
That rends so woundily the clamorous air.
I do not roar like loud and vulgar beasts,
But on a soft bed lay them tenderly,
Striving to calm them, lest they tear the flesh.
There the poor gape, that is their voiceless scream,
No echo has but bubbles. Soft, so soft
The seasoned flesh; the after-dinner sleep,
In reed-brake or thorn-thicket, sanctified
With comfortable closing of the lids
And beatific smile, of blessedness
And the peculiar care of Providence
Humbly acknowledged, sign, misunderstood,
But not the less sincere. Ah, yes, the fool
Hath said ” There is no God,” but I am wise;
Therefore to Him, who for His servant’s food
Fattens the suckling, strews with fin and spawn
My pool, and fills with splash of silver rain,
I give among warm rocks and waterweeds Amphibious thanks.”
Thus far the crocodile,
Reading his thesis theologiæ;
And all admitted it extremely sound.

From: Cookson, Geoffrey, “The Crocodile Discourses” in Wheels, 1920 (Fifth Cycle), 1920, pp. 52-53.

Date: 1912

By: Geoffrey Montagu Cookson (James Barton) (1867-1951)

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Riddle-Song for Duke Ellington by Craig Williamson

Ten tall ballerinas of bone
Danced on a table of ivory stone––
Clothed like blackbirds warbling home––
And their shoes were like windows,
And their shoes were like bone.

From: Williamson, Craig, “A Riddle-Song for Duke Ellington”, College English, Volume 36, Issue 1, 1974, p. 74.

Date: 1974

By: Craig Williamson (1943- )

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hymn to Saint Nicholas by Godric of Finchale

Saint Nicholas, God’s servant dear,
Build us a hall, shining and clear,
So when we travel from birth to death
And move beyond this earthly breath,
Saint Nicholas, you can lead us there.

From: Williamson, Craig (ed. and transl.), The Complete Old English Poems, 2017, University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 1109.

Date: 12th century (original); 2017 (translation)

By: Godric of Finchale (c1065-1170)

Translated by: Craig Williamson (1943- )

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Lost Thing by Stephen Dunn

The truth is
it never belonged to anybody.
It’s not a music box or a locket;
it doesn’t bear our initials.
It has none of the tragic glamour
of a lost child, won’t be found
on any front page. It’s like
the river that confuses
search dogs, like the promise
on the far side of the ellipsis.
Look for it in the margins,
is the conventional wisdom.
Look for it as late afternoon light
drips below the horizon.
But it’s not to be seen.
Nor does it have a heart
or give off any signal.
It’s as if. . . is how some of us
keep trying to reach it.
Once, long ago, I felt sure
I was in its vicinity.


Date: 2006

By: Stephen Dunn (1939- )