Every Monday and Friday since July 2016, we publish a poem or prose text from our 'translation workshop'.

We've named this section of the site "Omer", in memory of Omer Hadžiselimović, one of the founders of Samizdat.


From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,

And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.

Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,

I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.


Randahl Jarrell, January 28, 2022 






Man, looking into the sea —

taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have it to yourself —

it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing

but you cannot stand in the middle of this:

the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.

The firs stand in a procession — each with an emerald turkey-foot at the top— reserved as their contours, saying nothing;

repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;

the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.

There are others besides you who have worn that look —

whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate them

for their bones have not lasted;

men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave,

and row quickly away — the blades of the oars   

moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such thing as death.

The wrinkles progress upon themselves in a phalanx — beautiful under networks of foam, 

and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;

the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as heretofore—

the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath them

and the ocean, under the pulsation of light-houses and noise of bell-buoys,

advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped things are bound to sink — 

in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor consciousness.


Marianne Moore, January 24, 2022 






Cliff Klingenhagen had me in to dine  
With him one day; and after soup and meat,  
And all the other things there were to eat,  
Cliff took two glasses and filled one with wine  
And one with wormwood. Then, without a sign
For me to choose at all, he took the draught  
Of bitterness himself, and lightly quaffed  
It off, and said the other one was mine.  
And when I asked him what the deuce he meant  
By doing that, he only looked at me
And smiled, and said it was a way of his.  
And though I know the fellow, I have spent  
Long time a-wondering when I shall be  
As happy as Cliff Klingenhagen is.


Edwin Arlington Robinson, January 21, 2022 






The blue booby lives

on the bare rocks

of Galapagos

and fears nothing.

It is a simple life:

they live on fish,

and there are few predators.   

Also, the males do not   

make fools of themselves   

chasing after the young   

ladies. Rather,

they gather the blue

objects of the world

and construct from them

a nest — an occasional   

Gaulois package,

a string of beads,

a piece of cloth from   

a sailor’s suit. This   

replaces the need for   

dazzling plumage;   

in fact, in the past   

fifty million years

the male has grown

considerably duller,   

nor can he sing well.   

The female, though,

asks little of him —

the blue satisfies her   

completely, has   

a magical effect

on her. When she returns

from her day of

gossip and shopping,

she sees he has found her   

a new shred of blue foil:   

for this she rewards him   

with her dark body,

the stars turn slowly

in the blue foil beside them   

like the eyes of a mild savior.


James Tate, January 17, 2022 






Inne i den väldiga romanska kyrkan

trängdes turisterna i halvmörkret.
Valv gapande bakom valv och ingen överblick.
Några ljuslågor fladdrade.
En ängel utan ansikte omfamnade mig
och viskade genom hela kroppen:
”Skäms inte för att du är människa, var stolt!
Inne i dig öppnar sig valv bakom valv oändligt.
Du blir aldrig färdig, och det är som det skall.”
Jag var blind av tårar
och föstes ut på den solsjudande piazzan
tillsammans med Mr och Mrs Jones,

Herr Tanaka och Signora Sabatini
och inne i dem alla öppnade sig

valv bakom valv oändligt.


Tomas Tranströmer, January 14, 2022




          Strhni dům, postav loď.

                         (sumerská hliněná tabulka)


Všechno se to odehrává na lodi.

Těžká mužská hlava

na cizím ženském rameni.

Pijící chlap

opřený o okap.


o bezpečí.

Komíhající se hák.

Sedm nebohých věřících,

zpívajících v závětří,

s košilemi zastrčenými do kalhot.

Přísahání a sliby,

pod ohnutým plechem se zákazem.

Nový strach.

Tvůj červený kabát tam,

kde se můj život zdál

tak soběstačný.

Všechno se děje na lodi.


Petr Hruška, January 10, 2022




I was the slightest in the House —
I took the smallest Room —
At night, my little Lamp, and Book —
And one Geranium —

So stationed I could catch the Mint
That never ceased to fall —
And just my Basket —
Let me think — I'm sure —
That this was all —

I never spoke — unless addressed —
And then, 'twas brief and low —
I could not bear to live — aloud —
The Racket shamed me so —

And if it had not been so far —
And any one I knew
Were going — I had often thought
How noteless — I could die —


Emily Dickinson, January 7, 2022






About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just

walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


Wystan Hugh Auden, January 3, 2022






As for 1907, it's neither here
not there. But Auden is born this year!
This birth is the greatest of all prologues!
Still, Pavlov gets interested in dogs.
Next door Mendeleev, his bearded neighbor
who gave the universe the table
of its elements, slips into a coma.
The Cubists' first show, while Oklahoma
becomes the Union's 46th
state. Elsewhere New Zeland seeks
to fly the Union Jack. Lumiere
develops the colored pictures ere
anyone else (we all owe it to him!)
The Roman Pope takes a rather dim
view of modernism: jealous Iago!
Having squashed (4-0) Detroit, Chicago
forever thirsting for Gloria Mundi
wins the World Series. In Swinemunde
Nicholas the IInd meets the German Kaiser
for a cup of tea. That, again, is neither
here not there, like Kalamazoo.

And Carl Hagenbeck opens his cageless zoo
where walruses swim, lions pace, birds fly
proving: animals also can live a lie.

The man of the year, you won't believe,
is Joseph Stalin, then just a tried.
He is young; he is twenty-eight;
but History's there, and he cannot wait.

(Joseph Dzhugashvili, alias Stalin)

"My childhood was rotten, I lived in mud.
I hold up banks 'cause I miss my dad.
So to help the party, for all my troubles
one day I took four hundred grand in roubles.
Thus far, it was the greatest heist
in the Russian history after Christ.
Some call me eager, some call me zealous;
I just like big figures with their crowd of zeroes."

Joseph Brodsky, December 31, 2021






The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found

A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,

Killed. It had been in the long grass.


I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.

Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world

Unmendably. Burial was no help:


Next morning I got up and it did not.

The first day after a death, the new absence

Is always the same; we should be careful


Of each other, we should be kind

While there is still time.


Philip Larkin, December 27, 2021 






Civilisation is hooped together, brought
Under a rule, under the semblance of peace
By manifold illusion; but man's life is thought,
And he, despite his terror, cannot cease
Ravening through century after century,
Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come
Into the desolation of reality:
Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and good-bye, Rome!

Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,
Caverned in night under the drifted snow,
Or where that snow and winter's dreadful blast
Beat down upon their naked bodies, know
That day bring round the night, that before dawn
His glory and his monuments are gone.


William Butler Yeats, December 24, 2021 






Since I lost you, my darling, the sky has come near,

And I am of it, the small sharp stars are quite near,

The white moon going among them like a white bird

       among snow-berries,

And the sound of her gently rustling in heaven like a

       bird I hear.


And I am willing to come to you now, my dear,

As a pigeon lets itself off from a cathedral dome

To be lost in the haze of the sky, I would like to come,

And be lost out of sight with you, and be gone like foam.


For I am tired, my dear, and if I could lift my feet,

My tenacious feet from off the dome of the earth

To fall like a breath within the breathing wind

Where you are lost, what rest, my love, what rest! 


David Herbert Lawrence, December 20, 2021 






The blue jay scuffling in the bushes follows

Some hidden purpose, and the gust of birds

That spurts across the field, the wheeling swallows,

Has nested in the trees and undergrowth.

Seeking their instinct, or their poise, or both,

One moves with an uncertain violence

Under the dust thrown by a baffled sense

Or the dull thunder of approximate words.


On motorcycles, up the road, they come:

Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boys,

Until the distance throws them forth, their hum

Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.

In goggles, donned impersonality,

In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,

They strap in doubt – by hiding it, robust –

And almost hear a meaning in their noise.


Exact conclusion of their hardiness

Has no shape yet, but from known whereabouts

They ride, direction where the tyres press.

They scare a flight of birds across the field:

Much that is natural, to the will must yield.

Men manufacture both machine and soul,

And use what they imperfectly control

To dare a future from the taken routes.


It is a part solution, after all.

One is not necessarily discord

On earth; or damned because, half animal,

One lacks direct instinct, because one wakes

Afloat on movement that divides and breaks.

One joins the movement in a valueless world,

Choosing it, till, both hurler and the hurled,

One moves as well, always toward, toward.


A minute holds them, who have come to go:

The self-defined, astride the created will

They burst away; the towns they travel through

Are home for neither bird nor holiness,

For birds and saints complete their purposes.

At worst, one is in motion; and at best,

Reaching no absolute, in which to rest,

One is always nearer by not keeping still.


Thom Gunn, December 17, 2021 




The sun has burst the sky
Because I love you
And the river its banks.

The sea laps the great rocks
Because I love you
And takes no heed of the moon dragging it away
And saying coldly 'Constancy is not for you'.
The blackbird fills the air
Because I love you
With spring and lawns and shadows falling on lawns.

The people walk in the street and laugh
I love you
And far down the river ships sound their hooters
Crazy with joy because I love you.

Jenny Joseph, December 13, 2021 





Angel of fire and genitals, do you know slime,
that green mama who first forced me to sing,
who put me first in the latrine, that pantomime
of brown where I was beggar and she was king?
I said, "The devil is down that festering hole."
Then he bit me in the buttocks and took over my soul.
Fire woman, you of the ancient flame, you
of the Bunsen burner, you of the candle,
you of the blast furnace, you of the barbecue,
you of the fierce solar energy, Mademoiselle,
take some ice, take come snow, take a month of rain
and you would gutter in the dark, cracking up your brain.

Mother of fire, let me stand at your devouring gate
as the sun dies in your arms and you loosen it's terrible weight.


Anne Sexton, December 10, 2021 




Far far from gusty waves these children's faces.

Like rootless weeds, the hair torn round their pallor:

The tall girl with her weighed-down head. The paper-

seeming boy, with rat's eyes. The stunted, unlucky heir

Of twisted bones, reciting a father's gnarled disease,

His lesson, from his desk. At back of the dim class

One unnoted, sweet and young. His eyes live in a dream

Of squirrel's game, in tree room, other than this.


On sour cream walls, donations. Shakespeare's head,

Cloudless at dawn, civilized dome riding all cities.

Belled, flowery, Tyrolese valley. Open-handed map

Awarding the world its world. And yet, for these

Children, these windows, not this map, their world,

Where all their future's painted with a fog,

A narrow street sealed in with a lead sky

Far far from rivers, capes, and stars of words.


Surely, Shakespeare is wicked, the map a bad example.

With ships and sun and love tempting them to steal —

For lives that slyly turn in their cramped holes

From fog to endless night? On their slag heap, these children

Wear skins peeped through by bones and spectacles of steel

With mended glass, like bottle bits on stones.

All of their time and space are foggy slum.

So blot their maps with slums as big as doom.


Unless, governor, inspector, visitor,

This map becomes their window and these windows

That shut upon their lives like catacombs,

Break O break open till they break the town

And show the children to green fields, and make their world

Run azure on gold sands, and let their tongues

Run naked into books the white and green leaves open

History theirs whose language is the sun.


Stephen Spender, December 6, 2021 






(The fantasia of a fallen gentleman on a cold, bitter night.)

Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,

In the flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.

Now see I

That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.

Oh, God, make small

The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,

That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.


Thomas Ernest Hulme, December 3, 2021 






The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.

The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut

Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.

Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion


Lie still as the sun. The boa-constrictor’s coil

Is a fossil.  Cage after cage seems empty, or

Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.

It might be painted on a nursery wall.


But who runs like the rest past these arrives

At a cage where the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized, 

As a child at a dream, at a jaguar hurrying enraged

Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes     


On a short fierce fuse. Not in boredom –

The eye satisfied to be blind in fire,

By the bang of blood in the brain deaf the ear –

He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to him


More than to the visionary his cell:

His stride is wildernesses of freedom:

The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.

Over the cage floor the horizons come.


Ted Hughes, November 29, 2021 






The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript

Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.


When evening quickens faintly in the street,

Wakening the appetites of life in some

And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,

I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning

Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,

If the street were time and he at the end of the street,

And I say, "Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript."


Thomas Stearns Eliot, November 26, 2021 





Your hands easy

weight, teasing the bees

hived in my hair, your smile at the

slope of my cheek. On the

occasion, you press

above me, glowing, spouting

readiness, mystery rapes

my reason.


When you have withdrawn

your self and the magic, when

only the smell of your

love lingers between

my breasts, then, only

then, can I greedily consume

your presence.


Maya Angelou, November 22, 2021






Sent en natt när livet står och väger

månen borta mörkret viskar

sjunger lockar ser jag på gatan silhuetten av en häst


tecknad under skenet av en lampa. Den frustar, stampar

och jag ser att pojken som försöker hålla den är rädd.

Två vuxna män med lugna röster talar om hur han ska göra.


Svart som kol och vild är hästen och jag står en stund

och ser den dansa, känner doften ända hit

av hetta liv och längtan. Först då gråten.


Ylva Gislén, November 19, 2021




To die—takes just a little while—

They say it doesn't hurt—

It's only fainter—by degrees—

And then—it's out of sight—


A darker Ribbon—for a Day—

A Crape upon the Hat—

And then the pretty sunshine comes—

And helps us to forget—


The absent—mystic—creature—

That but for love of us—

Had gone to sleep—that soundest time—

Without the weariness—


Emily Dickinson, November 15, 2021






V letištní hale navlečená do šatů tak tvrdě modrých, jako by ji do nich někdo chvatně nasoukal. Nacpal tam všecko a pak pozapínal. A pak postrčil kupředu. Žena udeřená modrými šaty.

Ve velké letištní hale chtěl jsem myslet na blížící se zkázu, na paluby od velrybí krve, tající ledovce, na jejich hrdý svislý pád. Teď vedle mne čeká na svůj let žena v modrých šatech. Naslouchá jménům hlášených měst, která jsou přebíjena dalšími a bez ustání zvětšují svět.


Petr Hruška, November 12, 2021





Jag ärvde en mörk skog dit jag sällan går. Men det kommer

en dag när de döda och levande byter plats. Då sätter sig skogen

i rörelse. Vi är inte utan hopp. De svåraste brotten förblir

ouppklarade trots insats av många poliser. På samma sätt

finns någonstans i våra liv en stor ouppklarad kärlek. Jag ärvde

en mörk skog men idag går jag i en annan skog, den ljusa.

Allt levande som sjunger slingrar viftar och kryper! Det är vår

och luften är mycket stark. Jag har examen från glömskans

universitet och är lika tomhänt som skjortan på tvättstrecket.


Tomas Tranströmer, November 8, 2021






I think of you as a great king, cold and austere;

The throne is not gold but iron, the stones of the high

       hall are black basalt blocks, and the pavement also,

With blood in the corners:

Yet you are merciful; it is for you we labor,

And after a time you give us eternal peace.


I think of you as a mean little servant, but steward of

       the estate,

Pale and a hunchback, shuffling along the corridors,

Tapping at every door.  You have the keys of the



You are the arbiter of the games and bestower of prizes.

For you the young men sweat and the boys play battle,

      for your award

Their hot young lives: what can they win with their

      lives –

Whether they bide at home or bleed on the capes of


Or add columns of figures or the fates of Europe –

But eternal peace?

You sit and watch men fighting, and to you they come.

You watch the victors go home, and to you they come.


You have a sister named Life, an opulent treacherous


Blonde and a harlot, a great promiser, and very cruel


Even the meanest minds after some time

Understand her tricks and her guile.  You have a cousin

      named Christ

To whom men turn; but presently all to you.  To you

      the conquerors

And to you the pale saints.  The lions of the desert

And the sky-swimming eagles flock to your feet.  Athens

      and Rome

Turned to adore you; and America will, no doubt of


We are intelligent too; we shall turn and bow down our



Robinson Jeffers, November 5, 2021







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.


William Butler Yeats, November 1, 2021





By a mad miracle I go intact


Among the common rout

Thronging sidewalk, street,


And bickering shops;

Nobody blinks a lid, gapes,

Or cries that this raw flesh

Reeks of the butcher’s cleaver,

Its heart and guts hung hooked

And bloodied as a cow’s split frame

Parceled out by white-jacketed assassins.


Oh no, for I strut it clever

As a greenly escaped idiot,

Buying wine, bread,

Yellow-casqued chrysanthemums -

Arming myself with the most reasonable items

To ward off, at all cost, suspicions

Roused by thorned hands, feet, head

And that great wound

Squandering red

From the flayed side.


Even as my each mangled nerve-end

Trills its hurt out

Above pitch of pedestrian ear,

So, perhaps I, knelled dumb by your absence,

Alone can hear

Sun’s parched scream,

Every downfall and crash

Of gutted star,

And, more daft than any goose,


This cracked world’s incessant gabble and hiss.


Sylvia Plath, October 29, 2021





(This Marble Monument

Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be

One against whom there was no official complaint,

And all the reports on his conduct agree

That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word he was a saint,

For in everything he did he served the Greater Community

Except for the War till the day he retired

He worked in a factory and never got fired,

But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.

Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,

For his Union reports that he paid his dues,

(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)

And our Social Psychology workers found

That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink

The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day

And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way

Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured

And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.

Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare

He was fully sensible to advantages of the Instalment Plan

And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,

A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.

Our researchers into Public Public Opinion are content                                    That he held the proper opinions for the time of year –

When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war he went.

He was married and added children to the population

Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,

And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd-

Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.


Wystan Hugh Auden, October 25, 2021






Země podarovává ohněm, člověk mečem.

– Domy vysmívající se nebesům,

zpupné železo, nestoudný kámen –

Je sváteční den na konečné stanici metra,

sedím na betonové lavičce a pozoruji děti

drnkající dřevěnými šavličkami

o žebra plotu doprovod k své písni.

Vítr občas zabubnuje na tenisové dvorce

a hlas mikrofonů hlásí jména vítězů.

Kdo je vítěz, kdo poražený?

Kdo je vítěz, kdo poražený dnešního dne?


– Mladá žena mně nabízí ke koupi kytici růží:

„Jsou z dobré půdy, pane.“

Jiří Kolář, October 22, 2021






The eye can hardly pick them out
From the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and mane;
Then one crops grass, and moves about
- The other seeming to look on -
And stands anonymous again

Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps
Two dozen distances sufficed
To fable them: faint afternoons
Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps,
Whereby their names were artificed
To inlay faded, classic Junes -

Silks at the start: against the sky
Numbers and parasols: outside,
Squadrons of empty cars, and heat,
And littered grass: then the long cry
Hanging unhushed till it subside
To stop-press columns on the street.

Do memories plague their ears like flies?
They shake their heads. Dusk brims the shadows.
Summer by summer all stole away,
The starting-gates, the crowd and cries -
All but the unmolesting meadows.
Almanacked, their names live; they

Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,
Or gallop for what must be joy,
And not a fieldglass sees them home,
Or curious stop-watch prophesies:
Only the grooms, and the grooms boy,
With bridles in the evening come.


Philip Larkin, October 18, 2021






Every weathered human face is a story in itself.

And an enormous mystery to me for whom

sifting through living masks is the same as digging

through archeological sites. Buried deep beneath

the wrinkles, as if under the folds of sand dunes,

are the answers to the questions whether a scar on

the chin is from a sword or a razor blade, a crater

above the lip, from a shrapnel or a lust bite.


The eyes, on the contrary, have no memory. From

them an unbribed future is watching, exactly the

same despair of an anonymous being as of one

always marching at the conqueror’s hip. The mystery

of disappointment! From the eyes of a man stepping

out of life emerges the gloom of one who just

stepped out of a pantry filled with this and that,

without finding that one thing he was looking for.


Milorad Pejić (translated by Esma Hadžiselimović), October 15, 2021




Though the season's begun to speak

Its long sentences of darkness,

The upswept boughs of the larch

Bristle with gold for a week,


And then there is only the willow

To make bright interjection,

Its drooping branches decked

With thin leaves, curved and yellow,


Till winter, loosening these

With a first flurry and bluster,

Shall scatter across the snow-crust

Their dropped parentheses.


Richard Wilbur, October 11, 2021




1906. Time stands at ease.
Having one letter in common with
his subject, Freud adds to our bookshelf
preparing the century for itself.
On the whole, Europeans become much nicer
to each other: in Africa. Still, the Kaiser
when asked of the growth of his navy, lies.
The Japs, for some reason, nationalize
their railroads of whose existence none,
save several spices, had known.
Along the same, so to speak cast-iron
lines, aping the rod of Aaron,
the Simplon Tunnel opens to hit your sight
with a smoking non-stop Vis-a-vis. Aside
from that the civilized world condemns
night shifts (in factories though) for dames.
Prime ministers are leapfrogging in
Russia, as though they've seen
in a crystal ball that the future keeps
no room for these kinds of leaps.
The French Government warily says "pardon"
to Captain Dreyfus, a Jew who's done
ten years in the slimmer on the charge of treason.
Still, this distinction between a prison
and a Jew has no prophetic air.
The U.S. troops have a brief affair
with the Island of Cuba: their first tete-a-tete.
Samuel Beckett is born. Paul Cezanne is dead.

The man of the year is Herr von Pirquet.
He stings like honey-bee.
The sting screams like Prince Hamlet's sick parakeet:
TB or not TB.

(Dr. Clement von Pirquet)

"What I call allergy, you call rash.
I'll give you an analogy: each time you blush,
it shows you're too susceptible to something lurid,
obscene and antiseptical to hope to cure it.
This, roughly, is the principle that guides my needle.
To prove you are invincible it hurts a little;
it plucks from your pale cheeks the blooming roses
and checks their petals for tuberculosis!"


Joseph Brodsky, October 8, 2021






Angel of hope and calendars, do you know despair?

That hole I crawl into with a box of Kleenex,

that hole where the fire woman is tied to her chair,

that hole where leather men are wringing their necks,

where the sea has turned into a pond of urine.

There is no place to wash and no marine beings to stir in.


In this hole your mother is crying out each day.

Your father is eating cake and digging her grave.

In this hole your baby is strangling. Your mouth is clay.

Your eyes are made of glass. They break. You are not brave.

You are alone like a dog in a kennel. Your hands

break out in boils. Your arms are cut and bound by bands


of wire. Your voice is out there. Your voice is strange.

There are no prayers here. Here there is no change.


Anne Sexton, October 4, 2021






Freezing dusk is closing

Like a slow trap of steel

On trees and roads and hills and all

That can no longer feel.

But the carp is in its depth

Like a planet in its heaven.

And the badger in its bedding

Like a loaf in the oven.

And the butterfly in its mummy

Like a viol in its case.

And the owl in its feathers

Like a doll in its lace.


Freezing dusk has tightened

Like a nut screwed tight

On the starry aeroplane

Of the soaring night.

But the trout is in its hole

Like a chuckle in a sleeper.

The hare strays down the highway

Like a root going deeper.

The snail is dry in the outhouse

Like a seed in a sunflower.

The owl is pale on the gatepost

Like a clock on its tower.


Moonlight freezes the shaggy world

Like a mammoth of ice -

The past and the future

 Are the jaws of a steel vice.

But the cod is in the tide-rip

Like a key in a purse.

The deer are on the bare-blown hill

Like smiles on a nurse.

The flies are behind the plaster

Like the lost score of a jig.

Sparrows are in the ivy-clump

Like money in a pig.


Such a frost

The flimsy moon

Has lost her wits.


A star falls.


The sweating farmers

Turn in their sleep

Like oxen on spits.


Ted Hughes, October 1, 2021






It is a pity the shock-waves

Of the present population-explosion must push in here too.

They will certainly within a century

Eat up the old woods I planted and throw down my

Stonework: O only the little tower, 

Four-foot-thick-walled and useless may stand for a time.

That and some verses. It is curious that flower-soft verse

Is sometimes harder than granite, tougher than a steel

Cable, more alive than life.


Robinson Jeffers, September 27, 2021





Plötsligt möter vandraren här den gamla
jätteeken, lik en förstenad älg med
milsvid krona framför septemberhavets
svartgröna fästning.

Nordlig storm. Det är i den tid när rönnbärs-
klasar mognar. Vaken i mörkret hör man
stjärnbilderna stampa i sina spiltor
högt över träden.


Tomas Tranströmer, September 24, 2021






There is a Languor of the Life
More imminent than Pain—
'Tis Pain's Successor—When the Soul
Has suffered all it can—

A Drowsiness—diffuses—
A Dimness like a Fog
Envelops Consciousness—

As Mists—obliterate a Crag.

The Surgeon—does not blanch—at pain
His Habit—is severe—
But tell him that it ceased to feel—
The Creature lying there—

And he will tell you—skill is late—
A Mightier than He—
Has ministered before Him—

There's no Vitality.

Emily Dickinson, September 20, 2021







In what other lives or lands

Have I known your lips

Your Hands

Your Laughter brave


Those sweet excesses that

I do adore.

What surety is there

That we will meet again,

On other worlds some

Future time undated.

I defy my body's haste.

Without the promise

Of one more sweet encounter

I will not deign to die.


Maya Angelou, September 17, 2021





White, glittering sunlight fills the market square,

Spotted and sprigged with shadows. Double rows

Of bartering booths spread out their tempting shows

Of globed and golden fruit, the morning air

Smells sweet with ripeness, on the pavement there

A wicker basket gapes and overflows

Spilling out cool, blue plums. The market glows,

And flaunts, and clatters in its busy care.

A stately minster at the northern side

Lifts its twin spires to the distant sky,

Pinnacled, carved and buttressed; through the wide

Arched doorway peals an organ, suddenly –

Crashing, triumphant in its pregnant tide,

Quenching the square in vibrant harmony.


Robert Lowell, September 13, 2021






My wedding-ring lies in a basket
as if at the bottom of a well.
Nothing will come to fish it back up
and onto my finger again.
It lies
among keys to abandoned houses,
nails waiting to be needed and hammered
into some wall,
telephone numbers with no names attached,
idle paperclips.


It can't be given away
for fear of bringing ill-luck.
It can't be sold
for the marriage was good in its own
time, though that time is gone.
Could some artificer
beat into it bright stones, transform it
into a dazzling circlet no one could take
for solemn betrothal or to make promises
living will not let them keep? Change it
into a simple gift I could give in friendship?

Denise Levertov, September 10, 2021






V místnosti odpolední šero, kterému říkám ruské: když rozsvítíš, neuvidíš víc. Leskne se deska stolu, tmavnou postavy kolem. Není důležité, jestli pijí nebo ne, ale spíše pijí. Mluví popaměti. Teď právě o smrti.

Opatrně vyjdu ven. Najednou zjišťuji, že znám cestu k útesům. Roste tam už jen oranžový lišejník na ostrých kamenech. Oranžové skvrny připomínají neznámou nemoc, kterou jsme oba kdysi společně prodělali.


Petr Hruška, September 6, 2021





It came to me the other day: 
Were I to die, no one would say,  
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full 
Of promise – depths unplumbable!”

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes 
Will greet my overdue demise; 
The wide response will be, I know,  
“I thought he died a while ago.”

For life’s a shabby subterfuge, 
And death is real, and dark, and huge. 
The shock of it will register 
Nowhere but where it will occur. 


John Updike, September 3, 2021






O mud, mud, how fluid! –

Thick as foreign coffee, and with a sluggy pulse.

Speak, speak! Who is it?

It is the bowel-pulse, lover of digestibles.

It is he who has achieved these syllables.


What are these words, these words?

They are plopping like mud.

O god, how shall I ever clean the phone table?

They are pressing out of the many-holed earpiece,

they are looking for a listener.

Is he here?


Now the room is ahiss.  The instrument

Withdraws its tentacle.

But the spawn percolate in my heart. They are fertile.

Muck funnel, muck funnel –

You are too big. They must take you back!

Sylvia Plath, August 30, 2021






In greenwoods once these relics must have known

A rapt, gradual growing,

That are cast here like slag of the old

Engine of grief;


Must have affirmed in annual increase

Their close selves, knowing

Their own nature only, and that

Bringing to leaf.


Say, for the seven cities or a war

Their solitude was taken,

They into masts shaven, or milled into

Oar or plank;


Afterward sailing long and to lost ends,

By groundless water shaken,

Well they availed their vessels till they

Smashed or sank.


Then on the great generality of waters

Floated their singleness,

And in all that deep subsumption they were

Never dissolved;


But shaped and flowingly fretted by the waves’

Ever surpassing stress,

With the gnarled swerve and tangle of tides

Finely involved.


Brought in the end where breakers dump and slew

On the glass verge of the land,

Silver they rang to the stones when the sea

Flung them and turned.


Curious crowns

And scepters they look to me

Here on the gold sand,

Warped, dry, but having the beauty of

Excellence earned.


In a time of continual dry abdications

And of damp complicities,

They are fit to be taken for signs, these emblems

Royally sane,


Which have ridden to homeless wreck, and long revolved

In the lathe of all the seas,

But have saved in spite of it all their dense

Ingenerate grain.


Richard Wilbur, August 27, 2021






I put my mouth
Close to running water:
Flow north, flow south,
It will not matter,
It is not love you will find.

I told the wind:
It took away my words:
It is not love you will find,
Only the bright-tongued birds,
Only a moon with no home.

It is not love you will find:
You have no limbs
Crying for stillness, you have no mind
Trembling with seraphim,
You have no death to come.


Philip Larkin, August 23, 2021





It is not bad. Let them play.

Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane

Speak his prodigious blasphemies.

It is not bad, it is high time,

Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.


What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine

The fleet limbs of the antelope?

What but fear winged the birds, and hunger

Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?

Violence has been the sire of all the world’s values.


Who would remember Helen’s face

Lacking the terrible halo of spears?

Who formed Christ but Herod and Caesar,

The cruel and bloody victories of Caesar?

Violence, the bloody sire of all the world’s values.


Never weep, let them play,

Old violence is not too old to beget new values.

Robinson Jeffers, August 20, 2021






Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;

Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see

A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings

And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.


In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song

Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong

To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside

And hymns in the cozy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.


So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour

With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour

Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast

Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

David Herbert Lawrence, August 16, 2021



You've climbed the mountain. At its top,
the mountain and the climbing stop.
A peak is where the climber finds
his biggest step is not mankind's.

Proud of your stamina and craft
you stand there being photographed
transfixed between nowhere-to-go
and us who give you vertigo.

Well, strike your tent and have your lunch
before you stir an avalanche
of brand-new taxes whose each cent
will mark the speed of your descent.


Joseph Brodsky, August 13, 2021





The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.


Ted Hughes, August 9, 2021






She looked over his shoulder
       For vines and olive trees,
   Marble well-governed cities
      And ships upon untamed seas,
   But there on the shining metal
      His hands had put instead
   An artificial wilderness
      And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
  No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
  Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
  An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
  Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
  No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
  Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

    She looked over his shoulder
      For ritual pieties,
   White flower-garlanded heifers,
      Libation and sacrifice,
   But there on the shining metal
      Where the altar should have been,
   She saw by his flickering forge-light
      Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
  Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
  A crowd of ordinary decent folk
  Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
  That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
  And could not hope for help and no help came:
  What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

    She looked over his shoulder
      For athletes at their games,
   Men and women in a dance
      Moving their sweet limbs
   Quick, quick, to music,
      But there on the shining shield
   His hands had set no dancing-floor
      But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
  Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
  That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
  Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

    The thin-lipped armorer,
      Hephaestos, hobbled away,
   Thetis of the shining breasts
      Cried out in dismay
   At what the god had wrought
      To please her son, the strong
   Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
      Who would not live long.


Wystan Hugh Auden, August 6, 2021






Everything contains some silence.

Noise gets its zest from the small

shark's-tooth-shaped fragments 

of rest angled in it. An hour of city 

holds maybe a minute of these 

remnants of a time when silence 

reigned, compact and dangerous 

as a shark. Sometimes a bit of 

a tail or fin can still be sensed in parks. 


Kay Ryan, August 2, 2021






Döden lutar sig
över mig, ett schackproblem.
Och har lösningen.

Tomas Tranströmer, July 30, 2021






We must admire her perfect aim,
this huntress of the winter air
whose level weapon needs no sight,
if it were not that everywhere
her game is sure, her shot is right.
The least of us could do the same.

The chalky birds or boats stand still,
reducing her conditions of chance;
air's gallery marks identically
the narrow gallery of her glance.
The target-center in her eye
is equally her aim and will.

Time's in her pocket, ticking loud
on one stalled second. She'll consult
not time nor circumstance. She calls
on atmosphere for her result.
(It is this clock that later falls
in wheels and chimes of leaf and cloud.)


Elizabeth Bishop, July 26, 2021






Anna who was mad,

I have a knife in my armpit.

When I stand on tiptoe I tap out messages.

Am I some sort of infection?

Did I make you go insane?

Did I make the sounds go sour?

Did I tell you to climb out the window?

Forgive. Forgive.

Say not I did.

Say not.



Speak Mary-words into our pillow.

Take me the gangling twelve-year-old

into your sunken lap.

Whisper like a buttercup.

Eat me. Eat me up like cream pudding.

Take me in.

Take me.



Give me a report on the condition of my soul.

Give me a complete statement of my actions.

Hand me a jack-in-the-pulpit and let me listen in.

Put me in the stirrups and bring a tour group through.

Number my sins on the grocery list and let me buy.

Did I make you go insane?

Did I turn up your earphone and let a siren drive through?

Did I open the door for the mustached psychiatrist

who dragged you out like a gold cart?

Did I make you go insane?

From the grave write me, Anna!

You are nothing but ashes but nevertheless

pick up the Parker Pen I gave you.

Write me.



Anne Sexton, July 23, 2021





(Conversation with a Croat)


‘I looked at my Shakespeares and said NO!

I looked at my Sartres, which I often read

By candlelight, and couldn’t let them go

Even at this time of direst need.


Because he was a Fascist like our Chetnik foes

I lingered for a while at my Célines...

But he’s such a serious stylist, so I chose

Das Kapital to cook my AID canned beans!’



20 september 1995


Tony Harrison, July 19, 2021






The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,    

Came dazzling around, into the rocks,                         

Came glinting, sifting from the Americas                                          


To possess Aran. Or did Aran rush                                                    

to throw wide arms of rock around a tide                                          

That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?                                      


Did sea define the land or land the sea?                       

Each drew new meaning from the waves' collision. 

Sea broke on land to full identity.


Seamus Heaney, July 16, 2021





When you come to me, unbidden,

Beckoning me

To long-ago rooms,

Where memories lie.


Offering me, as to a child, an attic,

Gatherings of days too few.

Baubles of stolen kisses.

Trinkets of borrowed loves.

Trunks of secret words,


I cry.


Maya Angelou, July 12, 2021




As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand, 
A landscapeful of small black birds, intent  
On the far south, convene at some command 
At once in the middle of the air, at once are gone 
With headlong and unanimous consent   
From the pale trees and fields they settled on. 

What is an individual thing? They roll 
Like a drunken fingerprint across the sky! 
Or so I give their image to my soul 
Until, as if refusing to be caught 
In any singular vision of my eye  
Or in the nets and cages of my thought, 

They tower up, shatter, and madden space 
With their divergences, are each alone 
Swallowed from sight, and leave me in this place 
Shaping these images to make them stay: 
Meanwhile, in some formation of their own, 
They fly me still, and steal my thoughts away, 

Delighted with myself and with the birds, 
I set them down and give them leave to be.  
It is by words and the defeat of words, 
Down sudden vistas of the vain attempt, 
That for a flying moment one may see 
By what cross-purposes the world is dreamt.


Richard Wilbur, July 9, 2021






You shall not despair

Because I have forsaken you

Or cast your love aside;

There is a greater love than mine

Which can comfort you

And touch you with softer hands.

I am no longer

Friendly and beautiful to you;

Your body cannot gladden me,

Nor the splendor of your dark hair,

But I do not humiliate you;

You shall be taken sweetly again

And soothed with slow tears;

You shall be loved enough.

Stevie Smith, July 5, 2021






"All our French poets can turn an inspired line;

who has written six passable in sequence?"

said Valery. That was a happy day for Satan...

I want words meat-hooked from the living steer,

but a cold flame of tinfoil licks the metal log,

beautiful unchanging fire of childhood

betraying a monotony of vision...

Life by definition breeds on change,

each season we scrap new cars and wars and women.

But sometimes when I am ill or delicate,

the pinched flame of my match turns unchanging green,

a cornstalk in green tails and seeded tassel...

A nihilist wants to live in the world as is,

and yet gaze the everlasting hills to rubble.


Robert Lowell, July 2, 2021






You will go a long journey,

In a strange bed take rest,   

And a dark girl will kiss you    

As softly as the breast     

Of an evening bird comes down      

Covering its own nest.    


She will cover your mouth       

Lest memory exclaim       

At her bending face,     

Knowing it is the same     

As one who long since dies    

Under a different name.

Philip Larkin, June 28, 2021






1905. In the news: Japan.
Which means that the century is upon
us. Diminishing the lifespan
of Russian dreadnoughts to naught, Japan
tells urbi et orbi it's loathe to lurk
in the wings of geography. In Petersburg
those whose empty stomachs churn
take to the streets. Yet they won't return
home, for the Cossacks adore long streets.
A salesman of the Singer sewing devices greets
in Latvia the arrival of yet another
daughter, who is to become my mother.
In Spain, unaware of this clever ploy,
Pablo Picasso depicts his "Boy
With Pipe" in blue. While the shades of blonde,
Swedes and Norwegians, dissolve their bond.
And Norway goes independent; yet
that's not enough to turn brunette.
Speaking of things that sound rather queer,
E is equated to MC square
by Albert Einstein, and the Fauvists
(Les Fauves is the French for unruly beasts)
unleash Henri Matisse in Paris.
"The Merry Widow" by Franz Lehar is
the toast of the town. Plus Transvaal gets its
constitution called by the natives "the pits".
And Greta Garbo, La belle dame sans
merci, is born. So are neon signs.

The man of the year, our record tells,
is neither Strindberg nor H.G.Wells,
he is not Albert Schweitzer, not Oscar Wilde:
his name is obscured by his own brain-child.


"I am what gentleman wear in the field
when they are afraid that they may be killed.
I am called camouflage. Sporting me, each creature
feels both safer and close to Nature.
The green makes your simper's pupil sore.
That's what forests and swamps are for.
The planet itself wears me: the design
is as French as it is divine."

Joseph Brodsky, June 25, 2021






somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

any experience, your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near


your slightest look easily will unclose me

though i have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose


or if your wish be to close me, i and

my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;


nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility: whose texture

compels me with the colour of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing


(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens; only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands


Edward Estlin Cummings, June 21, 2021






Ale vždyť psal!

Napsal esemesku.

Posílal zprávu.


Že nepřišla, není jeho vina.

Někde tu je,

asi pořád ještě putuje.

Esemeska, aby neměli strach.

Esemeska, kde se všechno vysvětluje.

A objímá.


esemeska obsáhlá jak evangelium.

Snad ještě dojde.

Dával vědět.

Že není důvodů k obavám

a mnohé další věci.

Možná jednou přijde

v nečekané chvíli –

nádherná esemeska.

Mobil modře zasvítí,

jako posvátný kámen

na kraji světa.


Petr Hruška, June 18, 2021





And here’s a portrait of my granddaughter Una
When she was two years old: a remarkable painter.
A perfect likeness; nothing tricky nor modernist,
Nothing of the artist fudging his art into the picture,
But simple and true. She stands in a glade of trees with a still inlet
Of blue ocean behind her. Thus exactly she looked then,
A forgotten flower in her hand, those great bllue eyes
Asking and wondering.

Now she is five ears old
And found herself, she does not ask any more but commands
Sweet and fierce-tempered; that light red hair of hers
Is the fuse for explosions. When she is eighteen
I’ll not be here. I hope she will find her natural elements,
Laughter and violence; and in her quiet times
The beauty of things – the beauty of transhuman things,
Without which we are all lost. I hope she will find
Powerful protection and a man like a hawk to cover her.


Robinson Jeffers, June 14, 2021






The first sorrow of autumn

Is the slow goodbye

Of the garden who stands so long in the evening –

A brown poppy head,

The stalk of a lily,

And still cannot go


The second sorrow

Is the empty feet

Of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers.

The woodland of gold

Is folded in feathers

With its head in a bag.


And the third sorrow

Is the slow goodbye

Of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers

The minutes of evening,

The golden and holy

Ground of the picture.


The fourth sorrow

Is the pond gone black

Ruined and sunken the city of water –

The beetle’s palace,

The catacombs

Of the dragonfly.


And the fifth sorrow

Is the slow goodbye

Of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp.

One day it’s gone.

It has only left litter –

Firewood, tentpoles


And the sixth sorrow

Is the fox’s sorrow

The joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds,

The hooves that pound

Till earth closes her ear

To the fox’s prayer.


And the seventh sorrow

Is the slow goodbye

Of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window

As the year packs up

Like a tatty fairground

That came for the children.


Ted Hughes, June 11, 2021






          December 13, 2008


They’ve been in my fiction; both now dead,

Peggy just recently, long stricken (like

my Grandma) with Parkinson’s disease.

But what a peppy knockout Peggy was! –

cheerleader, hockey star, May Queen, RN.

Pigtailed in kindergarten, she caught my mother’s

eye, but she was too much girl for me.

Fred – so bright, so quietly wry – his


mother’s eye fell on me, a “nicer” boy

than his son’s pet pals. Fred’s slight wild streak

was tamed by diabetes. At the end,

it took his toes and feet. Last time we met,

his walk rolled wildly, fetching my coat. With health

he might have soared. As was, he taught me smarts.




Dear friends of childhood, classmates, thank you,

scant hundred of you, for providing a

sufficiency of human types; beauty,

bully, hanger-on, natural,

twin, and fatso – all a writer needs,

all there in Shillington, its trolley cars

and little factories, cornfields and trees,

leaf fires, snowflakes, pumpkins, valentines.


To think of you brings tears less caustic

than those the thought of death brings. Perhaps

we meet our heaven at the start and not

the end of life. Even then were tears

and fear and struggle, but the town itself

draped in plain glory the passing days.




The town forgave me for existing; it

included me in Christmas carols, songfests

(though I sang poorly) at the Shillington,

the local movie house. My father stood,

in back, too restless to sit, but everybody

knew his name, and mine. In turn I knew

my Granddad in the overalled town crew.

I’ve written these before, these modest facts,


but their meaning has no bottom in my mind.

The fragments in their jiggled scope collide

to form more sacred windows. I had to move

to beautiful New England – its triple

deckers, whited churches, unplowed streets –

to learn how drear and deadly life can be.

John Updike, June 7, 2021






As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn

The lovers disappeared into the wood.

I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm

That strewed an angle of the fallow, and

Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square

Of charlock. Every time the horses turned

Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned

Upon the handles to say or ask a word,

About the weather, next about the war.

Scraping the share he faced towards the wood,

And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed

Once more.


The blizzard felled the elm whose crest

I sat in, by a woodpecker’s round hole,

The ploughman said. “When will they take it away?”

“When the war’s over.” So the talk began –

One minute and an interval of ten,

A minute more and the same interval.

“Have you been out?” “No.” “And don’t want

to, perhaps?”

“If I could only come back again, I should.

I could spare an arm. I shouldn’t want to lose

A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,

I should want nothing more... Have many gone

From here?” “Yes.” “Many lost?” “Yes, a good few.

Only two teams work on the farm this year.

One of my mates is dead. The second day

In France they killed him. It was back in March,

The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if

He had stayed here we should have moved the tree.”

“And I should not have sat here. Everything

Would have been different. For it would have been

Another world.” “Ay, and a better, though

If we could see all all might seem good.” Then

The lovers came out of the wood again:

The horses started and for the last time

I watched the clods crumble and topple over

After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.


Thomas Edward, June 4, 2021





In my grandmother's house there was always chicken soup

And talk of the old country – mud and boards,


The snow falling down the necks of lovers.

Now and then, out of her savings

She sent them a dowry.


The rice-powdered faces!

And the smell of the bride, like chicken soup.

But the Germans killed them.

I know it's in bad taste to say it,

But it's true.

The Germans killed them all. 


Louis Simpson, May 31, 2021





Tired with all these, for restful death I cry, 
As, to behold desert a beggar born, 
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity, 
And purest faith unhappily forsworn, 

And guilded honour shamefully misplaced, 
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted, 
And right perfection rightfully disgraced, 
And strength by limping sway disabled, 

And art made tongue-tied by authority, 
And folly doctor-like controlling skill, 
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity, 

And captive good attending captain ill: 
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone, 
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone. 


William Shakespeare, May 28, 2021






I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.


Siegfried Sassoon, May 24, 2021






Nothing exists as a block

and cannot be parceled up.

So if nothing's ventured

it's not just talk;

it's the big wager.

Don't you wonder

how people think

the banks of space 

and time don't matter?

How they'll drain

the big tanks down to 

slime and salamanders

and want thanks?


Kay Ryan, May 21, 2021

























Paul Muldoon, May 17, 2021





All my rubbish is discreetly bagged,

Some heavy with indulgence, some lightweigt.

Some sail through the air, and some get dragged,

clinking, down to the gap that was the gate. 

I didn’t move when roofers fixed my tiles

or when the builder came to point the wall;

with the window cleaner I swap nods and smiles

and don’t budge from my littered desk at all,

so why, when two men cross my threadbare lawn

each Monday morning emptying my bins,

as if my refuse was exposed to scorn,

my garbage a glaring index to my sins,

do I bolt from my study and go hide? 

I think the reason is I can’t abide

being caught pen in hand as gloved men chuck

black plastic sacks of old drafts on their truck. 


Tony Harrison, May 14, 2021





The stairway is not
a thing of gleaming strands
a radiant evanescence
for angels' feet that only glance in their tread, and
need not touch the stone.

It is of stone.
A rosy stone that takes
a glowing tone of softness
only because behind it the sky is a doubtful,
a doubting night gray.

A stairway of sharp
angles, solidly built.
One sees that the angels must spring
down from one step to the next, giving a little
lift of the wings:

and a man climbing
must scrape his knees, and bring
the grip of his hands into play. The cut stone
consoles his groping feet. Wings brush past him.
The poem ascends.


Denise Levertov, May 10, 2021






By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines –

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches –

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind –

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined –
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance – Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken


William Carlos Williams, May 7, 2021






This is the house of Bedlam.

This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the time
of the tragic man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch
telling the time
of the talkative man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the honored man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the roadstead all of board
reached by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the old, brave man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls of the ward,
the winds and clouds of the sea of board
sailed by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the cranky man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
beyond the sailor
winding his watch
that tells the time
of the cruel man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a world of books gone flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
of the batty sailor
that winds his watch
that tells the time
of the busy man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is there, is flat,
for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
waltzing the length of a weaving board
by the silent sailor
that hears his watch
that ticks the time
of the tedious man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to feel if the world is there and flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances joyfully down the ward
into the parting seas of board
past the staring sailor
that shakes his watch
that tells the time
of the poet, the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the soldier home from the war.
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is round or flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances carefully down the ward,
walking the plank of a coffin board
with the crazy sailor
that shows his watch
that tells the time
of the wretched man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.


Elizabeth Bishop, May 3, 2021






In the beginning was Scream
Who begat Blood
Who begat Eye
Who begat Fear
Who begat Wing
Who begat Bone
Who begat Granite
Who begat Violet
Who begat Guitar
Who begat Sweat
Who begat Adam
Who begat Mary
Who begat God
Who begat Nothing
Who begat Never
Never Never Never
Who begat Crow
Screaming for Blood
Grubs, crusts
Trembling featherless elbows in the nest's filth


Ted Hughes, April 30, 2021




FEBRUARY 11, 1977


          to my son John


You died nine years ago today.

I see you still sometimes in dreams

in white track-shirt and shorts, running,

against a drop of tropic green.


It seems to be a meadow, lying

open to early morning sun:

no other person is in view,

a quiet forest waits beyond.


Why do you hurry? What's the need?

Poor eager boy, why can't you see

once and for all you've lost this race

though you run for all eternity?


Your youngest brother's passed you by

at last: he's older now than you –

and all our lives have ramified

in meanings which you never knew.


And yet, your eyes still burn with joy,

your body's splendor never fades?

sometimes I seek to follow you

across the greenness, into the shade


of that great forest in whose depths

houses await and lives are lived,

where you haste in gleeful search of me

bearing a message I must have –


but I, before I change, must bide

the "days of my appointed time,"

and so I age from self to self

while you await me, always young.


Frederick Morgan, April 26, 2021





I have been cruel to a fat pigeon
Because he would not fly
All he wanted was to live like a friendly old man

He had let himself become a wreck filthy and confiding
Wild for his food beating the cat off the garbage
Ignoring his mate perpetually snotty at the beak
Smelling waddling having to be
Carried up the ladder at night content

Fly I said throwing him into the air
But he would drop and run back expecting to be fed
I said it again and again throwing him up
As he got worse
He let himself be picked up every time
Until I found him in the dovecote dead
Of the needless efforts

So that is what I am
Pondering his eye that could not
Conceive that I was a creature to run from

I who have always believed too much in words


William Stanley Merwin, April 23, 2021






I can feel the tug

of the halter at the nape

of her neck, the wind

on her naked front.


It blows her nipples

to amber beads,

it shakes the frail rigging

of her ribs.


I can see her drowned

body in the bog,

the weighing stone,

the floating rods and boughs.


Under which at first

she was a barked sapling

that is dug up

oak-bone, brain-firkin:


her shaved head

like a stubble of black corn,

her blindfold a soiled bandage,

her noose a ring


to store

the memories of love.

Little adultress,

before they punished you


you were flaxen-haired,

undernourished, and your

tar-black face was beautiful.

My poor scapegoat,


I almost love you

but would have cast, I know,

the stones of silence.

I am the artful voyeur


of your brain's exposed

and darkened combs,

your muscles' webbing

and all your numbered bones:


I who have stood dumb

when your betraying sisters,

cauled in tar,

wept by the railings,


who would connive

in civilized outrage

yet understand the exact

and tribal, intimate revenge.

Seamus Heaney, April 19, 2021





Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size   

But when I start to tell them,

They think I'm telling lies.

I say,

It's in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,   

The stride of my step,   

The curl of my lips.   

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,   

That's me.


I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It's the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,              

The swing in my waist,   

And the joy in my feet.   

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.


Men themselves have wondered   

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can't touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,   

They say they still can't see.   

I say,

It's in the arch of my back,   

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.


Now you understand

Just why my head's not bowed.   

I don't shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.   

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It's in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

'Cause I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

Maya Angelou, April 16, 2021





1904. Things which were in store
hit the counter. There is a war.
Japan, ever so smiling, gnashes
teeth and bites off what, in fact, in Russia's.
Other than that, in Milan police
crack local skulls. But more common is
the touch of the new safety razor blade.
The nuances of the White Slave Trade,
Mount St.Victoire by Monsieur Cezanne
and other trifles under the sun
including popular French disgust
with the Vatican, are discussed
in every Partisan cafeteria.
Radioactivity - still a theory -
is stated by Rutherford (when a particle
brings you a lordship we call it practical).
And as the first Rolls Royce engines churn,
Chekhov dies but Graham Greene is born,
so is George Balanchine, to upgrade the stage,
so too - though it's sin to disclose her age -
is Miss Dietrich, to daunt the screen.
And New York hears its subway's first horrid scream!

The man of the year is a Hottentot.
South-West Africa's where he dwells.
In a German colony. And is being taught
German. So he rebels.

(A Hottentot)

"Germans to me are extremely white.
They are white in broad daylight and what's more, at night.
Plus if you try to win minds and hearts
of locals, you don't call a black guy "schwarz" -
"Schwarz" sounds shoddy and worse than "black".
Change your language and then come back!
Fly, my arrow, and hit a Hans
to cure a Hans of his arrogance!"

Joseph Brodsky, April 12, 2021





Jednou jsem viděl ve varieté

bezrukého hrát na trubku

To jsem se měl začít učit

jak mě vzali poprvé pod nůž

Stejně mi je pomalu okrouhají až k ramenům

Ale to je psí život

když se člověk nemůže ani utřít

a musí smrdět

To žádný básník nenapsal a nenapíše

Dva tisíce let ze sebe kdekdo dojí slzy

že mu holka vypálila rybník

škoda mluvit – umění dělají zbabělci –

a když se někdo najde s odvahou

je to zázrak věků

a přece tahle odvaha leží na ulici

kam všichni plivají

Jiří Kolář, April 9, 2021






Nakládací jeřáby vyhlížejí ochočeně,

šíje něžně skloněny,

cejchovány čísly tun.

Černá čísla tun.

Záchranné čluny se něžně kolébají

na hácích

proti nebi,

klid našeho věku.

Na nich černá čísla tun.


mladá odjíždějící žena ve slunečních brýlích

s nádhernými zápěstími,

už je na palubě.

Mávnul jsem zespoda.

Slova na boku trajektu

nelidsky veliká.

A černá čísla tun.

Petr Hruška, April 5, 2021





Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.


Wystan Hugh Auden, April 2, 2021






When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


Jenny Joseph, March 29, 2021 






We've made a great mess of love

since we made an ideal of it.


The moment I swear to love a woman, a certain woman,

all my life

that moment I begin to hate her.


The moment I even say to a woman: I love you! –

my love dies down considerably.


The moment love is an understood thing between us, we

are sure of it,

it's a cold egg, it isn't love any more.


Love is like a flower, it must flower and fade;

if it doesn't fade, it is not a flower,

it's either an artificial rag blossom, or an immortelle, for

the cemetery.


The moment the mind interferes with love, or the will fixes

on it,

or the personality assumes it as an attribute, or the ego

takes possession of it,

it is not love any more, it's just a mess.

And we've made a great mess of love, mind-perverted,

will-perverted, ego-perverted love.


David Herbert Lawrence, March 26, 2021 





My friend attacks my friend!

Oh Battle picturesque!

Then I turn Soldier too,

And he turns Satirist!

How martial is this place!

Had I a mighty gun

I think I'd shoot the human race

And then to glory run!

Emily Dickinson, March 22, 2021 






The day she visited the dissecting room  
They had four men laid out, black as burnt turkey, 
Already half unstrung. A vinegary fume  
Of the death vats clung to them;     
The white-smocked boys started working.  
The head of this cadaver had caved in,     
And she could scarcely make out anything  
In that rubble of skull plates and old leather.    
A sallow piece of string held it together

In their jars the snail-nosed babies moon and glow. 
He hands her the but-out heart like a cracked heirloom.



In Brueghel's panorama of smoke and slaughter  
Two people only are blind to the carrion army: 
He, afloat in the sea of her blue satin                 

Skirts, sings in the direction      
Of her bare shoulder, while she bends,   
Fingering a leaflet of music, over him,   
Both of them deaf to the fiddle in the hands    
Of the death's-head shadowing their song.  
These Flemish lovers flourish; not for long.     

Yet desolation, stalled in paint, spares the little country 
Foolish, delicate, in the lower right-hand corner.    


Sylvia Plath, March 19, 2021






It’s a pickle, this life.
Even shut down to a trickle
it carries every kind of particle
that causes strife on a grander scale:
to be miniature is to be swallowed
by a miniature whale. Zeno knew
the law that we know: no matter
how carefully diminished, a race
can only be half finished with success;
then comes the endless halving of the rest –
the ribbon’s stalled approach, the helpless
red-faced urgings of the coach.


Kay Ryan, March 15, 2021





(written in 1942)


Strong enough to be neutral – as is now proved, now American power

From Australia to the Aleutian fog-seas, and Hawaii to Africa, rides every

                      wind – we were misguided

By fraud and fear, by our public fools and a loved leader's ambition,

To meddle in the fever-dreams of decaying Europe. We could have forced

                      peace, even when France fell; we chose

To make alliance and feed war.


                                                              Actum est. There is no returning now.

Two bloody summers from now (I suppose) we shall have to take up the

                      corrupting burden and curse of victory.

We shall have to hold half the earth: we shall be sick with self-disgust,

And hated by friend and foe, and hold half the earth – or let it go, and go

                      down with it. Here is a burden

We are not fit for. We are not like Romans and Britons – natural


Bullies by instinct – but we have to bear it. Who has kissed Fate on the

         mouth, and blown out the lamp – must lie with her.

Robinson Jeffers, March 12, 2021





Beyond the bright cartoons                     

Are darker spaces where   

Small cloudy nests of stars

Seem to float on air.                                


These have no proper names:                 

Men out alone at night      

Never look up at them                             

For guidance or delight,    


For such evasive dust                              

Can make so little clear:   

Much less is known than not,                 

More far than near.


Philip Larkin, March 8, 2021






No! Revolution never crossed your mind!

For the kids who never made it through the schools

the Northern working class escaped the grind

as boxers or comedians, or won the pools.


Not lucky, no physique, too shy to joke,

you scraped together almost 3 weeks’ pay

to buy a cast-off uke that left broke.

You mastered only two chords, G and A!


That’s why when I’ve heard George Formby that I’ve wept.

I’d always wondered what the thing was for,

I now know was a plectrum, that you’d kept,

but kept hidden, in your secret condom drawer.


The day of your cremation which I missed

I saw an old man strum a uke he’ll never play,

cap spattered with tossed dimes. I made a fist

round my small change, your son, and looked away.


Tony Harrison, March 5, 2021






plato told


him: he couldn't

believe it (jesus


told him; he

wouldn't believe


it) lao




certainly told

him, and general






and even

(believe it


not) you

told him: i told

him; we told him

(he didn't believe it, no


sir) it took

a nipponized bit of

the old sixth



el; in the top of his head: to tell



Edward Estlin Cummings, March 1, 2021






I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.

Inaction, no falsifying dream      

Between my hooked head and hooked feet:

Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.


The convenience of the high trees!

The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray

Are of advantage to me;

And the earth's face upward for my inspection.


My feet are locked upon the rough bark.

It took the whole of Creation

To produce my foot, my each feather:

Now I hold Creation in my foot


Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly –

I kill where I please because it is all mine.

There is no sophistry in my body:

My manners are tearing off heads –


The allotment of death.

For the one path of my flight is direct

Through the bones of the living.

No arguments assert my right:


The sun is behind me.

Nothing has changed since I began.

My eye has permitted no change.

I am going to keep things like this.


Ted Hughe, February 26, 2021





Take off your shoe.

The last children’s size.

The glue’s instructions

in laughably small letters,

you’ll have to read yourself.


over the mussed wet shoe.

We’ll scuff the rubber surface

let the chemical process work into the crack.


our bodies too are made from the oxygen and carbon

of prehistoric stars.

Distant, lonely stars.

You talk about your mom.

So put your fi nger on the knot

we’ll tie the laces around the glued sole.

A shooting night,

A crazily tied shoe.

The last children’s size.


Petr Hruška (translated by Matthew Sweney), February 22, 2021






One morning early I met armoured cars                          

In convoy, warbling along on powerful tyres,                                  

All camouflaged with broken alder branches,                                

And headphoned soldiers standing up in turrets.                           

How long were they approaching down my roads         

As if they owned them? The whole country was sleeping. 

I had rights-of-way, fields, cattle in my keeping,                                

Tractors hitched to buckrakes in open sheds,                                

Silos, chill gates, wet slates, the greens and reds                               

Of outhouse roofs. Whom should I run to tell                              

Among all of those with their back doors on the latch 

For the bringer of bad news, that small-hours visitant 

Who, by being expected, might be kept distant?           

Sowers of seed, erectors of headstones...                      

O charioteers, above your dormant guns,                     

It stands here still, stands vibrant as you pass,                 

The visible, untoppled omphalos. 


Seamus Heaney, February 19, 2021






Vallejo writing about

loneliness while starving to


Van Gogh’s ear rejected by a


Rimbaud running off to Africa

to look for gold and finding

an incurable case of syphilis;

Beethoven gone deaf;

Pound dragged through the streets

in a cage;

Chatterton taking rat poison;

Hemingway’s brains dropping into

the orange juice;

Pascal cutting his wrists

in the bathtub;

Artaud locked up with the mad;

Dostoevsky stood up against a wall;

Crane jumping into a boat propeller;

Lorca shot in the road by Spanish


Berryman jumping off a bridge;

Burroughs shooting his wife;

Mailer knifing his.

– that’s what they want:

a God damned show

a lit billboard

in the middle of hell.

that’s what they want,

that bunch of





admirers of



Charles Bukowski, February 15, 2021






This celestial seascape, with white herons got up as angels,
flying high as they want and as far as they want sidewise
in tiers and tiers of immaculate reflections;
the whole region, from the highest heron
down to the weightless mangrove island
with bright green leaves edged neatly with bird-droppings
like illumination in silver,
and down to the suggestively Gothic arches of the mangrove roots
and the beautiful pea-green back-pasture
where occasionally a fish jumps, like a wildflower
in an ornamental spray of spray;
this cartoon by Raphael for a tapestry for a Pope:
it does look like heaven.
But a skeletal lighthouse standing there
in black and white clerical dress,
who lives on his nerves, thinks he knows better.
He thinks that hell rages below his iron feet,
that that is why the shallow water is so warm,
and he knows that heaven is not like this.
Heaven is not like flying or swimming,
but has something to do with blackness and a strong glare
and when it gets dark he will remember something
strongly worded to say on the subject.


Elizabeth Bishop, February 12, 2021






I wish you were here, dear,
I wish you were here.
I wish you sat on the sofa
and I sat near.
The handkerchief could be yours,
the tear could be mine, chin-bound.
Though it could be, of course,
the other way around.

I wish you were here, dear,
I wish you were here.
I wish we were in my car
and you'd shift the gear.
We'd find ourselves elsewhere,
on an unknown shore.
Or else we'd repair
to where we've been before.

I wish you were here, dear,
I wish you were here.
I wish I knew no astronomy
when stars appear,
when the moon skims the water
that sighs and shifts in its slumber.
I wish it were still a quarter
to dial your number.

I wish you were here, dear,
in this hemisphere,
as I sit on the porch
sipping a beer.
It's evening, the sun is setting;
boys shout and gulls are crying.
What's the point of forgetting
if it's followed by dying?


Joseph Brodsky, February 8, 2021






There were no undesirables or girls in my set,

when I was a boy at Mattapoisett –

only Mother, still her Father’s daughter.

Her voice was still electric

with a hysterical, unmarried panic,

when she read to me from the Napoleon book.

Long-nosed Marie Louise 

Hapsburg in the frontispiece

had a downright Boston bashfulness,

where she grovelled to Bonaparte, who scratched his navel,

and bolted his food – just my seven years tall! 

And I, bristling and manic,

skulked in the attic,

and got two hundred French generals by name,

from A to V – from Augereau to Vandamme.

I used to dope myself asleep,

naming those unpronounceables like sheep.

Having a naval officer

for my Father was nothing to shout

about to the summer colony at “Matt.”

He wasn’t at all “serious,”

when he showed up on the golf course,

wearing a blue serge jacket and numbly cut

white ducks he’d bought

at a Pearl Harbor commissariat . . .

and took four shots with his putter to sink his putt.

“”Bob,” they said, “golf’s a game you really ought to know how to play,

if you play at all.” 

They wrote him off as “naval,”

naturally supposed his sport was sailing.

Poor Father, his training was engineering!

Cheerful and cowed

among the seadogs at the Sunday yacht club,

he was never one of the crowd.

“Anchors aweigh,” Daddy boomed in his bathtub,

“Anchors aweigh,”

when Lever Brothers offered to pay

him double what the Navy paid.

I nagged for his dress sword with gold braid,

and cringed because Mother, new

caps on all her teeth, was born anew

at forty. With seamanlike celerity,

Father left the Navy,

and deeded Mother his property.

He was soon fired. Year after year,

he still hummed “Anchors aweigh” in the tub –

whenever he left a job,

he bought a smarter car. 

Father’s last employer 

was Scudder, Stevens and Clark, Investment Advisors,

himself his only client. 

While Mother dragged to bed alone,

read Menninger,

and grew more and more suspicious,

he grew defiant.

Night after night,

à la clarté déserte de sa lampe,

he slid his ivory Annapolis slide rule

across a pad of graphs –

piker speculations! In three years

he squandered sixty thousand dollars.

Smiling on all,

Father was once successful enough to be lost

in the mob of ruling-class Bostonians.

As early as 1928,

he owned a house converted to oil,

and redecorated by the architect

of St. Mark’s School . . . Its main effect

was a drawing room, “longitudinal as Versailles,”

its ceiling, roughened with oatmeal, was blue as the sea.

And once

nineteen, the youngest ensign in his class,

he was “the old man” of a gunboat on the Yangtze.  


Robert Lowell, February 5, 2021





I've got the children to tend

The clothes to mend

The floor to mop

The food to shop

Then the chicken to fry

The baby to dry

I got company to feed

The garden to weed

I've got shirts to press

The tots to dress

The can to be cut

I gotta clean up this hut

Then see about the sick

And the cotton to pick.


Shine on me, sunshine

Rain on me, rain

Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.


Storm, blow me from here

With your fiercest wind

Let me float across the sky

'Til I can rest again.


Fall gently, snowflakes

Cover me with white

Cold icy kisses and

Let me rest tonight.


Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone

Star shine, moon glow

You're all that I can call my own. 


Maya Angelou, February 1, 2021






Mother, among the dustbins and the manure

I feel the measure of my humanity, an allure

As of the presence of God, I am sure


In the dustbins, in the manure, in the cat at play,

Is the presence of God, in a sure way

He moves there.  Mother, what do you say?


I too have felt the presence of God in the broom

I hold, in the cobwebs in the room,

But most of all in the silence of the tomb.


Ah! but that thought that informs the hope of our kind

Is but an empty thing, what lies behind? –

Naught but the vanity of a protesting mind


That would not die. This is the thought that bounces

Within a conceited head and trounces

Inquiry. Man is most frivolous when he pronounces.


Well Mother, I shall continue to think  as I do,

And I think you would be wise to do so too,

Can you question the folly of man in the creation of God?

       Who are you?


Stevie Smith, January 29, 2021






When I went to the film, and saw all the black-and-white

       feelings that nobody felt,

and heard the audience sighing and sobbing with all the

       emotions they none of them felt,

and saw them cuddling with rising passions they none of

       them for a moment felt,

and caught them moaning from close-up kisses, black-and-

       white kisses that could not be felt,

It was like being in heaven, which I am sure has a white


upon which shadows of people, pure personalities

are cast in black and white, and move

in flat ecstasy, supremely unfelt,

and heavenly.


David Herbert Lawrence, January 25, 2021






Morning, a glass door, flashes  
Gold names off the new city,  
Whose white shelves and domes travel  
The slow sky all day.  
I land to stay here;  
And the windows flock open  
And the curtains fly out like doves  
And a past dries in a wind.

Now let me lie down, under  
A wide-branched indifference,  
Shovel-faces like pennies  
Down the back of the mind,  
Find voices coined to  
An argot of motor-horns,  
And let the cluttered-up houses  
Keep their thick lives to themselves.

For this ignorance of me  
Seems a kind of innocence.  
Fast enough I shall wound it:  
Let me breathe till then  
Its milk-aired Eden,  
Till my own life impound it-  
Slow-falling; grey-veil-hung; a theft,  
A style of dying only.   


Philip Larkin, January 22, 2021





It is the whales that drive
the small fish into the fiords.
I have seen forty or fifty
of them in the water at one time.
I have been in a little boat
when the water was boiling
on all sides of us
from them swimming underneath.

The noise of the herring
can be heard nearly a mile.
So thick in the water, they are,
you can't dip the oars in.
All silver!

And all those millions of fish
must be taken, each one, by hand.
The women and children
pull out a little piece
under the throat with their fingers
so that the brine gets inside.
I have seen thousands of barrels
packed with the fish on the shore.

In winter they set the gill-nets
for the cod. Hundreds of them
are caught each night.
In the morning the men
pull in the nets and fish
altogether in the boats.
Cod so big – I have seen –
that when a man held one up
above his head
the tail swept the ground.

Sardines, mackerel, anchovies
all of these. And in the rivers
trout and salmon. I have seen
a net set at the foot of a falls
and in the morning sixty trout in it.

But I guess there are not
such fish in Norway nowadays.

On the Lofoten Islands –
till I was twelve.
Not a tree or a shrub on them.
But in summer
with the sun never gone
the grass is higher than here.

The sun circles the horizon.
Between twelve and one at night
it is very low, near the sea,
to the north. Then
it rises a little, slowly,
till midday, then down again
and so for three months, getting
higher at first, then lower,
until it disappears –
In winter the snow is often
as deep as the ceiling of this room.

If you go there you will see
many Englishmen
near the falls and on the bridges
fishing, fishing.
They will stand there for hours
to catch the fish.

Near the shore
where the water is twenty feet or so
you can see the kingflounders
on the sand. They have
red spots on the side. Men come
in boats and stick them
with long pointed poles.

Have you seen how the Swedes drink tea?
So, in the saucer. They blow it
and turn it this way then that: so.

Tall, gaunt
great drooping nose, eyes dark-circled,
the voice slow and smiling:

I have seen boys stand
where the stream is narrow
a foot each side on two rocks
and grip the trout as they pass through.
They have a special way to hold them,
in the gills, so. The long
fingers arched like grapplehooks.

Then the impatient silence
while a little man said:

The English are great sportsmen.
At the winter resorts
where I stayed
they were always the first up
in the morning, the first
on with the skis.
I once saw a young Englishman
worth seventy million pounds –

You do not know the north.
– and you will see perhaps huldra
with long tails
and all blue, from the night,
and the nekke, half man and half fish.
When they see one of them
they know some boat will be lost.


William Carlos Williams, January 18, 2021






Though  the  road  turn  at  last 

to  death’s  ordinary  door, 

and  we  knock  there,  ready 

to  enter  and  it  opens 

easily  for  us, 


all  the  long  journey 

we  shall  have  gone  in  chains, 

fed  on  knowledge-apples 

acrid  and  riddled  with  grubs. 


We  taste  other  food  that  life, 

like  a  charitable  farm-girl, 

holds  out  to  us  as  we  pass –

but  our  mouths  are  puckered, 

a  taint  of  ash  on  the  tongue. 


It’s  not  joy  that  we’ve  lost –

wildfire,  it  flares 

in  dark  or  shine  as  it  will. 

What’s  gone 

is  common  happiness, 

plain  bread  we  could  eat 

with  the  old  apple  of  knowledge.


That  old  on – it  griped  us  sometimes, 

but  it  was  firm,  tart, 

sometimes  delectable... 


The  ashen  apple  of  these  days 

grew  from  poisoned  soil.  We  are  prisoners 

and  must  eat 

our  ration.  All  the  long  road 

in  chains,  even  if,  after  all, 

we  come  to 

death’s  ordinary  door,  with  time 

smiling  its  ordinary 

long-ago  smile. 


Denise Levertov, January 15, 2021 






my sweet old etcetera

aunt lucy during the recent


war could and what

is more did tell you just

what everybody was fighting



my sister


isabel created hundreds


hundreds) of socks not to

mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my

mother hoped that


i would die etcetera

bravely of course my father used

to become hoarse talking about how it was

a privilege and if only he

could meanwhile my


self etcetera lay quietly

in the deep mud et





  cetera, of

Your smile

eyes knees and of your Etcetera)


Edward Estlin Cummings, January 11, 2021 





So when she hears him clearing his throat
every few seconds she’s aware what he’s raking
‘s death off his mind; the next attack. The threat
of his dying has her own hands shaking.

The mangle brought it on. Taking it to bits.
She didn’t need it now he’d done with pits.

A grip from behind that seems to mean don’t go
tightens through bicep till the fingers touch.
His, his dad’s and his dad’s lifetime down below
crammed into one huge nightshift, and too much.

He keeps back death the way he keeps back phlegm
in company, curled on his tongue. Once left alone
with the last coal fire in the smokeless zone,
he hawks his cold gobful at the brightest flame,
too practised, too contemptuous to miss.


Behind the door she hears the hot coals hiss.

Tony Harrison, January 8, 2021 





You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.

In the same way, you were happy in spring,
With the half colors of quarter-things,
The slightly brighter sky, the melting clouds,
The single bird, the obscure moon –

The obscure moon lighting and obscure world
Of things that would never be quite expressed,
Where you yourself were never quite yourself
And did not want nor have to be,

Desiring the exhilarations of changes:

The motive for metaphor, shrinking from
The weight of primary noon,
The A B C of being,

The ruddy temper, the hammer
Of red and blue, the hard sound –
Steel against intimation –  the sharp flash,
The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.


Wallace Stevens, January 4, 2021 




This is newness: every little tawdry  
Obstacle glass-wrapped and peculiar,  
Glinting and clinking in a saint's falsetto. Only you  
Don't know what to make of the sudden slippiness,  
The blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant.  
There's no getting up it by the words you know.  
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.  
We have only come to look. You are too new  
To want the world in a glass hat.


Sylvia Plath, January 1, 2021