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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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