Widower – Julia Copus

I believe it was a calm evening,
when the sky was least expecting it,

the ancient volcano snapped awake
and oozed a country, which hardened, formed

per second per second through the years
to shape the landscape we scambled through

that last summer together, searching
for the dusty chapels underground,

paintings of Christ with the eyes scratched out.
She looked so small beneath them even then.

Her first time abroad, and soo after the earth
reached up and kissed her, full on the mouth.

And now I’m here in this tea-garden
we visited – city of two

continents, they call it – I like that,
the cool water running in between.

I like the honesty of the place,
the way it speaks of uncertainty,

like the first stars twitching at the brim
of the parasol. Even the sea,

which has so much to say to us, can’t
stop its lip from trembling at the shore.

(to Contents)


If It is True by Richard Ntiru

If it is true
that the world talks too much
then lets all keep quiet
and hear the eloquence
of silence

If it is true
that the world sees too much
then let’s all close our eyes
and see the inner vision
beneath the closed eyes

if it is true
that the world hears too much
then let’s wax our ears
and listen to the chastity of inner music
that defies betrayal
by the wayward wind

If it is true
that the world moves too much
then let’s stand statuestill
and imitate the stubborn will
of trees
that move without being peripatetic

for the dumb don’t tell lies

for the blind can’t be peeping toms

for the deaf cannot eavesdrop

for the crippled can’t trespass.

(to Contents)


A Dead Mole by Andrew Young.

Strong-shouldered mole,
That so much lived below the ground,
Dug, fought and loved, hunted and fed,
For you to raise a mound
Was as for us to make a hole;
What wonder now that being dead
Your body lies here stout and square
Buried within the blue vault of the air?

(to Contents)


To his lost lover by Simon Armitage

Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance… for instance,

how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush

at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery –

two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of some heavy weather –

walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.

How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips

from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit

or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart

was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.

Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.

And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,

then another,
or knew her

favourite colour,
her taste, her flavour,

and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair

into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved

when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home

through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand

to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.

And never almost cried,
and never once described

an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt

nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh

wept by the heart,
where it hurts,

or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.

Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,

a pilot light,
or stayed the night,

or steered her back to that house of his,
or said “Don’t ask me how it is

I like you.
I just might do.”

How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand

were a solid ball
of silver foil

and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.

But said some things and never meant them –
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.

And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.

(to Contents)


Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath

Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.

A little light is filtering from the water flowers
Their leaves do not wish us to hurry:
They are round and flat and full of dark advice.

Cold words shake from the oar.
The spirit of blackness is in us, it is in the fishes.
A snag is lifting a valedictory, pale hand;
Stars opening among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of abandoned souls.

(to Contents)


This Lunar Beauty by WH Auden

This lunar beauty
Has no history,
Is complete and early;
If beauty later
Bear any feature
It had a lover
And is another.

This like a dream
Keeps other time,
And daytime is
The loss of this;
For time is inches
And the heart’s changes
Where ghost has haunted,
Lost and wanted.

But this was never
A ghost’s endeavour
Nor, finished this,
Was ghost at ease;
And til it pass
Love shall not near
The sweetness here
Nor sorrow take
His endless look.

(to Contents)


Wasteland Limericks by Wendy Cope


In April one seldom feels cheerful;
Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;
Clairvoyants distress me,
Commuters depress me--
Met Stetson and gave him an earful.


She sat on a mighty fine chair,
Sparks flew as she tidied her hair;
She asks many questions,
I make few suggestions--
Bad as Albert and Lil--what a pair!


The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep;
Tiresias fancies a peep--
A typist is laid,
A record is played--
Wei la la. After this it gets deep.


A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot
About birds and his business--the lot,
Which is no surprise,
Since he'd met his demise
And been left in the ocean to rot.


No water. Dry rocks and dry throats,
Then thunder, a shower of quotes
From the Sanskrit and Dante.
Da. Damyata. Shantih.
I hope you'll make sense of the notes.

(to Contents)


The Other Tiger by Jorge Luis Borges

A tiger comes to mind. The twilight here
Exalts the vast and busy Library
And seems to set the bookshelves back in gloom;
Innocent, ruthless, bloodstained, sleek
It wanders through its forest and its day
Printing a track along the muddy banks
Of sluggish streams whose names it does not know
(In its world there are no names or past
Or time to come, only the vivid now)
And makes its way across wild distances
Sniffing the braided labyrinth of smells
And in the wind picking the smell of dawn
And tantalizing scent of grazing deer;
Among the bamboo's slanting stripes I glimpse
The tiger's stripes and sense the bony frame
Under the splendid, quivering cover of skin.
Curving oceans and the planet's wastes keep us
Apart in vain; from here in a house far off
In South America I dream of you,
Track you, O tiger of the Ganges' banks.

It strikes me now as evening fills my soul
That the tiger addressed in my poem
Is a shadowy beast, a tiger of symbols
And scraps picked up at random out of books,
A string of labored tropes that have no life,
And not the fated tiger, the deadly jewel
That under sun or stars or changing moon
Goes on in Bengal or Sumatra fulfilling
Its rounds of love and indolence and death.
To the tiger of symbols I hold opposed
The one that's real, the one whose blood runs hot
As it cuts down a herd of buffaloes,
And that today, this August third, nineteen
Fifty-nine, throws its shadow on the grass;
But by the act of giving it a name,
By trying to fix the limits of its world,
It becomes a fiction not a living beast,
Not a tiger out roaming the wilds of earth.

We'll hunt for a third tiger now, but like
The others this one too will be a form
Of what I dream, a structure of words, and not
The flesh and one tiger that beyond all myths
Paces the earth. I know these things quite well,
Yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me
In this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest,
And I go on pursuing through the hours
Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.

(to Contents)


Sailing to Byzantium by WB Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees -
Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

(to Contents)


Defrosting a Chicken by Simon Armitage

He was spark out, but at noon, on the beach,
entertained the thought that a fly might land
on a tingle of nerves, just beyond reach.
Save him connecting his brain to his hand.

Donkeys down on the shore were refugees
or latter-day saints, and along Pine Walk
pines grew obliquely, charmed by the salt breeze.
Wax-coated needles wouldn't sink. Loose talk.

On the prom, retired expatriates swarmed
around shrinkwrapped heaps of the Daily Mail.
Waves were never the tide but ripples, spawned
by moon-coloured ships of war. The sun's nail

by dusk - rusty, blunt - useless against ice.
For supper he ate the sleep from his eyes.

(to Contents)


The Soul Mine by Gwyneth Lewis

The guidebook directed us to a nunnery
where no one spoke English.
Nearby, a quarry
was blasting fro granite,
working to free
buildings and walls from the rockery
of rubble. In a dark chapel
a nun, almost silent, mined the air
making a statue of breathing and prayer.

Heroic sisters! They are the quarry
of a spirit that hunts them.
Love is predatory,
best met with stillness
and passivity.
The smashed heart is its own safety.
Water flows, soft, from the rock.
Minds and minerals submit to their loads:
cold stones that women kiss explode.

(to Contents)


I'm My Own Mother, Now by Stella Chipasula

Mother, I am mothering you now;
Alone, I bear the burden of continuity.
Inside me, you are coiled
like a hard question without an answer.
On the far bank of the river
you sit silently, your mouth shut,
watching me struggle with this bundle
that grows like a giant seed, in me.
In your closed fist you hide
the riddles of the fruit or clay child
you told before you turned your back
and walked, fading, into the mist.
But, mother, I am mothering you now;
new generations pass through my blood,
and I bear you proudly on my back
where you are no longer a question.

(to Contents)


My Head is Immense by Charles Nokan

My head is immense
I have a toad's eyes
A horn stands on the nape of my neck
But a magical music surges
from me.
What tree exhales such rare
Dark beauty, how can you spring
from a toad's wallow? How can you
flow from lonely ugliness?
You who took on, you think
that the voice of my instrument
buys my freedom, that I am fluidity, thought
which flies.
No, there is nothing in me
but a pool of sadness.

(to Contents)


Wulf (anon.)

Prey, it's as if my people have been handed prey.
They'll tear him to pieces if he comes with a troop.

O, we are apart.

Wulf is on one island, I on another,
a fastness that land, a fen prison.
Fierce men roam there, on that island;
they'll tear him to pieces if he comes with a troop.

O, we are apart.

How I have grieved for my Wulf's wide wanderings.
When rain slapped the earth and I sat apart weeping,
when the bold warrior wrapped his arms about me,
I seethed with desire and yet with such hatred.
Wulf, my Wulf, my yearning for you
and your seldom coming have caused my sickness,
my mourning heart, not mere starvation.
Can you hear, Eadwacer? Wulf will spirit
our pitiful whelp to the woods.
Men easily savage what was never secure,
our song together.

(Anglo-Saxon; translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland)

(to Contents)


from Approaches to How They Behave by WS Graham


What does it matter if the words
I choose, in the order I choose them in,
Go out into a silence I know
Nothing about, there to be let
In and entertained and charmed
Out of their master's orders? And yet
I would like to see where they go
And how without me they behave.


Before I know it they are out
Afloat in the head which freezes them.
Then I suppose I take the best
Away and leave the others arranged
Like floating bergs to sink a convoy.


And what are you supposed to say
I asked a new word but it kept mum.
I had secretly admired always
What I thought it was here for.
But i was wrong when I looked it up
Between the painted boards. It said
Something it was never very likely
I could fit into a poem in my life.


Backwards the poem's just as good.
We human angels as we read
Read back as we gobble the words up.
Allowing the poem to represent
A recognizable landscape
Sprouting green up or letting green
Wit hall its weight of love hang
to gravity's sweet affection,
Arse-versa it is the same object,
Even although the last word seems
To have sung first, or the breakfast lark
Sings up from the bottom of the sea.


Is the word? Yes Yes. But I hear
A sound without words from another
Person I can't see at my elbow.
A sigh to be proud of. You? Me?


Having to construct the silence first
To speak out on I realise
The silence even itself floats
At my ear-side with a character
I have not met before. Hello
Hello I shout but that silence
Floats steady, will not be marked
By an off-hand shout. For some reason
It refuses to be broken now
By what I thought was worth saying.
If I wait a while, if I look out
At the heavy greedy rooks on the wall
It will disperse. Now I construct
A new silence I hope to break.

(to Contents)



All poets in this blog in alphabetical order. Numbers after the poet's name (2, 3, 4, etc.) refer to more poems by them (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.).

(Alternatively, you can get back to the chronological list here.)

- Anon 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
- Armitage, Simon 2
- Atwood, Margaret
- Auden, WH 2
- Bhaskaracharya
- Bishop, Elizabeth 2
- Blake, William
- Borges, Jorge Luis 2
- Brown, George Mackay 2 3 4
- Campion, Thomas
- Catullus
- Celan, Paul
- Clare, John 2
- Copus, Julia 2 3 4
- Chipasula, Stella
- Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
- Cope, Wendy 2
- Dante
- Das, Nitoo 2
- de Souza, Eunice
- Donaldson, Julia
- Donne, John
- Douglas, Keith
- Duffy, Carol Ann
- Dyer, Catherine
- Elson, Rebecca
- Fainlight, Ruth
- Francis, Matthew
- Frost, Robert
- Graham, WS 2 3
- Graves, Robert 2
- Gregory, Augusta (Lady Gregory)
- Gunn, Thom
- Gurney, Ivor 2 3
- Hadfield, Jen
- Hardy, Thomas
- Hill, Geoffrey
- Holub, Miroslav 2
- Hopkins, Gerard Manley 2
- Hughes, Ted 2
- Hughes, Langston

The Wild Man of the Woods (anon.)

Dismal is this life,
to be without a soft bed;
a cold frosty dwelling
harshness of snowy wind.

Cold icy wind,
faint shadow of a feeble sun,
the shelter of a single tree
on top of the level moor.

Enduring the shower,
stepping along deer-paths,
traversing greenswards
on a morning of raw frost...

(Irish; author unknown; 12th Century; trans. Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson)

(to Contents)


Wood Not Yet Out by Alice Oswald

closed and containing everything, the land
leaning all round to blok it from the wind,
a squirrel sprinting in startles and sees
sections of distance tilted through the trees
and where you jump the fence a flap of sacking
does for a stile, you walk through webs, the cracking
bushtwigs break their secrecies, the sun
vanishes up, instantly come and gone.
once in, you hardly notice as you move,
the wood keeps lifting up its hope, I love
to stand among the last trees listening down
to the releasing branches where I've been -
the rain, thinking I've gone, crackles the air
and calls by name the leaves that aren't yet there

(to Contents)


The Making of Eve by Julia Copus

And kneeling one day at the sea's edge God
scooped a fist of mud from the earth and pressed it
into a shape called man. Its coldness spread

like an ache through his fingers and as He
stooped to warm them by chance a small
cloud of breath seeped into the shape and it lived.

But by and by when the sun was high up
in hte sky man began to crack and fall
into pieces. Then God lifted some salt

water into his cupped hands and called it
woman, smoothing it into the fractured clay.
Now whenever man got hot he hankered for

a long cool sip from woman and she
assented sometimes wanting a place
to rest safe from the tireless assaults

of the wind and craving for a while
a different sort of medium to move in.

(to Contents)


Arizona Nature Myth by James Michie

Up in the heavenly saloon
Sheriff sun and rustler moon
gamble, stuck in the sheriff's mouth
The fag end of an afternoon.

There in the bad town of the sky
Sheriff, nervy, wonders why
He's let himself wander so far West
On his own; he looks with a smoky eye

At the ruslter opposite turning white,
Lays down a king for Law, sits tight
Bluffing. On it that crooked moon
Plays an ace and shoots for the light.

Spurs, badge, and uniform red,
(It looks like blood, but he's shamming dead),
Down drops the marshal, and under cover
Crawls out dogwise, ducking his head.

But Law that don't get its man ain't Law.
Next day, faster on the draw,
Sheriff creeping up from the other side,
Blazes his way in through the back door.

But moon's not there. He's hidden out on
A galloping phenomenon,
A wonder horse, quick as light.
Moon's left town. Moon's clean gone.

(to Contents)


Truly by RS Thomas

No, I was not born
to refute Hume, to write
the first poem with no
noun. My gift was

for evasion, taking
cover at the approach
of greatness, as of
ill-fame. I looked truth

in the eye, and was not
abashed at discovering
it squinted. I fasted
at import's table, so had

an appetite for the banal,
the twelve baskets full left
over after the turning
of the little into so much.

(to Contents)


An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin

Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainess of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends could see:
A sculptor's sweet comissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
Their air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

(to Contents)


In Opposition by Rebecca Elson

One moon between us,
Two seasons,
What else?
A few stars,
No wind.

In these moments
When we both walk,
How odd,
How we stand
The soles of our feet

Only the planet's breadth.

(to Contents)


Beni Hassan by Louis MacNeice

It came to me on the Nile my passport lied
Calling me dark who am grey. In the brown cliff
A row of tombs, of portholes, stared and stared as if
They were the long-dead eyes of beasts inside
Time's cage, black eyes on eyes that stared away
Lion-like focussed on some different day
On which, on a long-term view, it was I, not they, had died.

(to Contents)


To read only children's books by Osip Mandelshtam

To read only children's books, treasure
Only childish thoughts, throw
Grown-up things away
And rise from deep sorrows.

I'm tired to death of life,
I accept nothing it can give me,
But I love my poor earth
Because it's the only one I've seen.

In a far-off garden I swung
On a simple wooden swing,
And I remember dark tall firs
In a hazy fever.

(trans. James Greene)

(to Contents)


Warning to Children by Robert Graves

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness,
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree,
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off:
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel –
Children leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head,
Finds himself enclosed by dappled
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
and white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still untied upon his knee.
And, if he then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which he says
He lives – he then unties the string.

(to Contents)


I think it rains by Wole Soyinka

I think it rains
That tongues may loosen from the parch
Uncleave roof-tops of the mouth, hang
Heavy with knowledge

I saw it raise
The sudden cloud, from ashes. Settling
They joined in a ring of grey; within,
The circling spirit

Oh it must rain
These closures on the mind, binding us
In strange despairs, teaching
Purity of sadness

And how it beats
Skeined transparencies on wings
Of out desires, searing dark longings
In cruel baptisms

Rain-reeds, practised in
The grace of yielding, yet unbending
From afar, this your conjugation with my earth
Bares crouching rocks.

(to Contents)


Inventory by Jorge Luis Borges

To reach it, a ladder has to be set up. There is no stair.
What can we be looking for in the attic
but the accumulation of disorder?
There is a smell of damp.
The late afternoon enters by way of the laundry.
The ceiling beams loom close, and the floor has rotted.
Nobody dares put a foot on it.
A folding cot, broken.
A few useless tools,
the dead one’s wheelchair.
The base for a lamp.
A Paraguyan hammock with tassels, all frayed away.
Equipment and papers.
An engraving of Aparicio Saravia’s general staff.
An old charcoal iron.
A clock stopped in time, with a broken pendulum.
A peeling gilt frame, with no canvas.
A cardboard chessboard, and some broken chessmen.
A stove with only two legs.
A chest made of leather.
A mildewed copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, in intricate Gothic lettering.
A photograph which might be of anybody.
A worn skin, once a tiger’s.
A key which has lost its lock.
What can we be looking for in the attic
except the flotsam of disorder?
To forgetting, to all forgotten objects I have just erected this monument
(Unquestionably less durable than bronze) which will be lost among them.

(to Contents)


Confrontation by RS Thomas

And there was the serpent
running like water
but more quietly with no desire
to bicker. They see us
with smooth eye; what is a man
in a snake's world? And if
we would come to close,
thye strike us as painfully
as the truth.
xxxxxxxxxxx It is no part
of divine mind to repudiate
its reflections. We must exchange
stare for stare, looking
into that eye as into a dark
crystal, asking if Eden
is where we must continually
seek to charm evil by playing
to it, knowing that it is deaf.

(to Contents)


Hermits by Gwyneth Lewis

I know I could be really good
if I had a private loch and bog
away from the other hermits' cells.
Colman and his bloody bells

disrupt my praying. Ican see
his candles burn across the bay
more hours than mine. It drives me wild,
so crowded are these blessed isles

with would-be saints who all deny
the flesh in more outrageous ways.
I want to be indifferent as stone.
I demand to be holy all on my own.

(to Contents)


Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

(to Contents)


"And I was in the sun" by Dante

And I was in the sun, no more aware
of my ascent than one can be aware
of how a thought will come before it comes.

She it is, Beatrice, guides our climb
from good to better instantaneously -
her action has no measurement in time.

How brilliant in its essence must have been
what shone within the sun, where I had come,
not with its colour but light on light!

Even if I called on genius, art, and skill
I could not make this live before your eyes -
a man must trust and long to see it there.

If our imagination cannot rise
to such a height, no need to be surprised.
No eye has known light brighter than the sun's...

(from Paradise, trans. Mark Musa)

(to Contents)


My Rival’s House by Liz Lochhead

is peopled with many surfaces.
Ormolu and gilt, slipper satin,
lush velvet couches,
cusions so stiff you can’t sink in.
Tables polished clear enough to see distortions in.

We take our shoes off at her door,
shuffle stocking-toed, tiptoe – the parquet floor
is beautiful and its surface must
be protected. Dust
cover, drawn shade,
won’t let the surface colour fade.

Silver sugar-tongs and silver salver
my rival serves us tea.
She glosses over him and me.
I am all edges, a surface, a shell
and yet my rival thinks she means me well.
But what squirms beneath her surface I can tell.
Soon, my rival
capped tooth, polished nail
will fight, fight foul for her survival.
Deferential, daughterly, I sip
and thank her nicely for each bitter cup.

And I have much to thank her for.
This son she bore –
first blood to her –
never, never can escape scot free
the sour potluck of family.
And oh how close
this family that furnishes my rival’s place.

Lady of the house.
Queen bee.

She is far more unconscious,
far more dangerous than me.
Listen, I was always my own worst enemy.
She has taken even this from me.

She dishes up her dreams for breakfast.
Dinner, and her salt tears pepper our soup.
She won’t
give up.

(to Contents)


Water by Philip Larkin

If I were called
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.

(to Contents)


Ariel's Song by Shakespeare

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange:
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Hark! now I hear them,
- Ding-dong, bell!

(to Contents)

The Milestone by the Rabbit-Burrow - by Thomas Hardy

(On Yell'ham Hill)

In my loamy nook
As I dig my hole
I observe men look
At a stone, then sigh
As they pass it by
To some far goal.

Something it says
To their glancing eyes
That must distress
The frail and lame,
And the strong of frame
Gladden or surprise.

Do signs on its face
Declare how far
Feet have to trace
Before they gain
Some blest champaign
Where no gins are?

(to Contents)

Lovesong for Three Children by Alice Oswald

It starts at pitch quiet
when sleep cloths up sound
and the dead tongue keeps
jointing nad disjointing words,

when breathing blows the ear's
doors a little open and
my heart in note form
steals from its instrument O

now it begins to sing
O those three children and
sings it until light
infiltrates this cone of bones

and I can see you,
my voice, hanging in the
belfry emptiness of the throat,
your two ropes swinging slightly.

(to Contents)

The Gobbled Child by WS Graham

To set the scene. It is April
Early with little streams
Of tide running out
Between the kelp and bladders
On the still loch-side.

From the big house behind us
Five-year-old Iain
Comes out to play under
The mewing of terns
and peeping oystercatchers.

His father is up and out
Driving his loud, begulled
Tractor on the high field.
Maggy hums on the green
With a clothes-peg in her teeth.

And Iain with his fair head
Cocked stands listening
To a magic, held shell
And a big beast comes out
Of the loch and gobbles him up.

To set the scene. It is April
Early with little streams
Of tide running out
Between the kelp and bladders
On the still loch-side.

(to Contents)