Category Archives: Poetry

Dorothy Parker: But Not Forgotten

I think, no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with you a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not soon forget my hands,
Nor yet the way I held my head,
Nor all the tremulous things I said.
You still will see me, small and white
And smiling, in the secret night,
And feel my arms about you when
The day comes fluttering back again.
I think, no matter where you be,
You’ll hold me in your memory
And keep my image, there without me,
By telling later loves about me.

[Dorothy Parker’s magnificent snarkiness has been a joy to me since I discovered her as a cynical teenager. It’s only as I’ve got older that I’ve appreciated the flashes of real emotion behind the immaculate veneer.]

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Carol Ann Duffy: Text

I tend the mobile now
like an injured bird

We text, text, text
our significant words.

I re-read your first,
your second, your third,

look for your small xx,
feeling absurd.

The codes we send
arrive with a broken chord.

I try to picture your hands,
their image is blurred.

Nothing my thumbs press
will ever be heard.

Absence: a coda

To follow on from today’s post about absence and distance, have a poem.

Who Loves You
Carol Ann Duffy

I worry about you travelling in those mystical machines.
Every day people fall from the clouds, dead.
Breathe in and out and in and out easy.
Safety, safely, safe home.

Your photograph is in the fridge, smiles when the light comes on.
All the time people are burnt in the public places.
Rest where the cool trees drop to a gentle shade.
Safety, safely, safe home.

Don’t lie down on the sands where the hole in the sky is.
Too many people being gnawed to shreds.
Send me your voice however it comes across oceans.
Safety, safely, safe home.

The loveless men and homeless boys are out there and angry.
Nightly people end their lives in the shortcut.
Walk in the light, steadily hurry towards me.
Safety, safely, safe home. (Who loves you?)
Safety, safely, safe home.

Donne: To His Mistress Going To Bed

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful and incredibly inspiring English teacher at A-level – I’d love to credit her here, but that’s probably not appropriate… But her teaching is responsible for my love of Donne and the metaphysical poets, and this is one of my favourite poems. It was joyful and electrifying to read at 17, and still is.

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy ;
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe ofttimes, having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing, though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopp’d there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed-time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’ hill’s shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet, and show
The hairy diadems which on you do grow.
Off with your hose and shoes ; then softly tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven’s angels used to be
Revealed to men ; thou, angel, bring’st with thee
A heaven-like Mahomet’s paradise ; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite ;
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d,
My mine of precious stones, my empery ;
How am I blest in thus discovering thee !
To enter in these bonds, is to be free ;
Then, where my hand is set, my soul shall be.
Full nakedness ! All joys are due to thee ;
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s ball cast in men’s views ;
That, when a fool’s eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul might court that, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus array’d.
Themselves are only mystic books, which we
—Whom their imputed grace will dignify—
Must see reveal’d. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to thy midwife show
Thyself ; cast all, yea, this white linen hence ;
There is no penance due to innocence :
To teach thee, I am naked first ; why then,
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

Epipsychidion (excerpts), by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thy wisdom speaks in me, and bids me dare
Beacon the rocks on which high hearts are wreckt.
I never was attached to that great sect,
Whose doctrine is, that each one should select
Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion, though it is in the code
Of modern morals, and the beaten road
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread,
Who travel to their home among the dead
By the broad highway of the world, and so
With one chained friend, — perhaps a jealous foe,
The dreariest and the longest journey go.

True Love in this differs from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Love is like understanding, that grows bright,
Gazing on many truths; ’tis like thy light,
Imagination! which from earth and sky,
And from the depths of human phantasy,
As from a thousand prisms and mirrors, fills
The Universe with glorious beams, and kills
Error, the worm, with many a sun-like arrow
Of its reverberated lightning.