Category Archives: My Poetry Not

Naming of Parts

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.

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Encrucijada

Nos separaba de la calle
el cristal empañado de lluvia.
Yo estaba lejos del mundo,
hoja caída en el remanso de su llanto.

Ella era menuda y tierna
y se hacía más menuda entre mis brazos
y más tierna bajo mis ojos.

Entre nosotros y la calle
y la lluvia y el cristal de la ventana
eran dos abismos de plata.

La vida estaba allí naufragando en sus ojos
la belleza dormía en sus senos perfumados
la luz -toda la luz- se me daba en su boca
la humanidad – mi humanidad – era ella.

Más allá del cristal
más allá de la lluvia
pasaron…

Yo separé los ojos de los ojos de ella
para verlos pasar.

Marchaban chapoteando en el barro
los pies descalzos.
Desfilaban los rostros anochecidos de hambre.
Y las manos encallecidas de miseria
y las almas curvadas de injusticia
y las voces amanecidas de odio
desfilaban los pies descalzos.

Iba la madre con el hijo al cuadril
y el anciano rumoreando penas.
Y el mozo flameando la bandera,
iban de frente hacia la vida
armoniosamente rebeldes.

No sé si me lo gritaron ellos
o si me lo grité yo mismo.
Pero en las filas, de los que pasaban
estaban mi puesto, mi bandera y mi grito.

El cristal empañado de lluvia
esfumaba los rasgos de la calle
por donde pasaban los míos.
Volví los ojos hacia ella
que se hacía casi yo entre mis brazos

y le dije:

– Me llaman los que pasan.

Sus ojos empañados
me separaban de su alma
como el cristal con lluvia
me separaba de la calle.

Me dijo lentamente:

– No te vayas.

Y se hizo más menuda entre mis brazos
y me ofreció su boca palpitante
y sentí junto a mi, temblorosos sus senos.

Yo escuchaba chapotear en el barro
los pies descalzos
y presentía los rostros anochecidos
de hambre.

Mi corazón fue un péndulo entre
ella y la calle…

Y no sé con qué fuerza me libré
de sus ojos
me zafé de sus brazos.
Ella quedó nublando de lágrimas
su angustia.

Tras de la lluvia y del cristal
pero incapaz para gritarme:
– ¡ Espérame !

¡ Yo me marcho contigo !

Otero Silva

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A Mi Hermano Miguel

A mi hermano Miguel

In memoriam

Hermano, hoy estoy en el poyo de la casa.
Donde nos haces una falta sin fondo¡
Me acuerdo que jugábamos esta hora, y que mamá
nos acariciaba: “Pero, hijos…”

Ahora yo me escondo,
como antes, todas estas oraciones
vespertinas, y espero que tú no des conmigo.
Por la sala, el zaguán, los corredores.
Después, te ocultas tú, y yo no doy contigo.
Me acuerdo que nos hacíamos llorar,
hermano, en aquel juego.

Miguel, tú te escondiste
una noche de agosto, al alborear;
pero, en vez de ocultarte riendo, estabas triste.
Y tu gemelo corazón de esas tardes
extintas se ha aburrido de no encontrarte. Y ya
cae sombra en el alma.

Oye, hermano, no tardes
en salir. Bueno? Puede inquietarse mamá.

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Purdah

This is my favourite of many loved poems by Sylvia Plath.

“I shall unloose / I shall unloose”

The unleashing is an explosion.

Purdah

Jade —
Stone of the side,
The antagonized

Side of green Adam, I
Smile, cross-legged,
Enigmatical,

Shifting my clarities.
So valuable!
How the sun polishes this shoulder!

And should
The moon, my
Indefatigable cousin

Rise, with her cancerous pallors,
Dragging trees —
Little bushy polyps,

Little nets,
My visibilities hide.
I gleam like a mirror.

At this facet the bridegroom arrives
Lord of the mirrors!
It is himself he guides

In among these silk
Screens, these rustling appurtenances.
I breathe, and the mouth

Veil stirs its curtain
My eye
Veil is

A concatenation of rainbows.
I am his.
Even in his

Absence, I
Revolve in my
Sheath of impossibles,

Priceless and quiet
Among these parrakeets, macaws!
O chatterers

Attendants of the eyelash!
I shall unloose
One feather, like the peacock.

Attendants of the lip!
I shall unloose
One note

Shattering
The chandelier
Of air that all day flies

Its crystals
A million ignorants.
Attendants!

Attendants!
And at his next step
I shall unloose

I shall unloose —
From the small jeweled
Doll he guards like a heart —

The lioness,
The shriek in the bath,
The cloak of holes.

Sylvia Plath, 1962

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I came across this poem today. I loved it instantly.  It had to be shared.

There are so many amazing lines, but these are undoubtedly my favourite: “to fling his soul / Upon the growing gloom.”

The word ‘fling’ is simply perfect.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Thomas Hardy, 1900

The Darkling Thrush

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A Girl

The tree has entered my hands,
the sap has ascended my arms,
the tree has grown in my breast – downward,
the branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are, moss you are,
you are violets with wind above them.
A child – so high – you are,
and all this is folly to the world.

Ezra Pound

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Motherhood

I revisted a poem by Sylvia Plath this evening – a poem called ‘Morning Song’. It’s one she published in her second anthology Ariel. It’s not a favourite, but one stanza in particular has always haunted me…Perhaps haunted isn’t the right word. But it did definitely strike me the first time I read it, and the echo of that discordant note still sounds about me faintly. And of all the countless notes that buzz about my head in this cacophonous way, in some durable white noise, I suppose I tuned into this one tonight because of what I saw on the train home this evening.

I saw a family – a mother, a father and a brother – all taunting a small boy. He couldn’t have been more than four. He was their son, their sibling. I’ve written about the experience itself in my last post. It was shocking. The way the father and the older brother jeered and jostled the small child was appalling. But all their taunts and tricks weren’t nearly as shocking somehow as the comparative passiveness of the mother. The lighter ribbing of the older brother I could somewhat understand. My own brother is ten years my junior and when we were younger I probably tormented him in similar ways and, sadly, no doubt with similar glee.

The behaviour of the father on the other hand definitely rattled me. In fact, it disgusted me: the way he egged the older brother on and rewarded each newly devised torment with an encouraging “son” while on his youngest he showered only invective.”Fag”. “Gay Boy”. “Nancy.”

Yet somehow that still didn’t compare to the easy complicitness of the mother. She just looked on idly, offering only slaps when her son begged for cuddles. Watching that scene, it seemed to go against everything we, or certainly I, consider maternal love. I don’t even think of it as a choice – not necessarily at least. It’s an instinct – a mother’s instinct – a biological imperative to nuture, love and protect; to nurse, soothe and embrace – an axis on which the earth turns.

What I saw today, although I suppose not horrific in the grand scheme of things, still forced me to question that certainty. And so I was reminded of the poem, ‘Morning Song’ and in particular it’s third stanza:

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

Plath, who would not long after writing this commit suicide with her two children in the next room, writes that she is no more the mother of her son than a cloud which dropping its pregnant store of rain leaves a puddle upon the ground. A puddle which, in turn, reflects within its clear, unbroken surface that same cloud’s slow and inevitable erasure. Plath takes the traditional, warm, hearth-fire cosy notion of maternity and dashes it into cold waters. In these three lines the gift of giving birth, of giving life becomes a curse. Motherhood numbs. It innures and robs women of their very womanhood.

In the rest of the poem Plath is left frumpy and clumping. She is no longer the active agent in her life, but an emptied vessel not acting, but only acted upon. Sounds play upon her in a muffle, as though heard through cotton. Plath feels she has given birth to something (and it really is that – a something) which serves only to remind her of her own demise. New life confirms inevitable death.

And I think back to that mother on the train, her look of passivity, her ease at seeing her son so distressed and bleary-eyed. Unmoving. Imperturbable. And again I try to remember that in the grand scheme of things what I saw was…very little ~ I can hardly say trival. And who, afterall, can say what goes on behind the closed doors of her home, perhaps it’s better, perhaps she is more loving, more attentive, more…dare I say it…motherly? But then, there is always a chance – a strong one – that it could be worse.

I was wrong before…these lines do haunt me. They haunt me helplessly.

MORNING SONG
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
 
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
 
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
 
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
 
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
 
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons
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I Love This And Let That Be Justification Enough

My soul has grown deep like the rivers
Langston Hughes

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Permanently Impermanent

Wrecked, solitary, here.

Emily Dickinson

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This is a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson. A poem which begins “I felt a Funeral in my Brain”.  In many published versions it is in fact the final verse, but really there is an extra four-line stanza. Either way, there is such beauty in those simple three words, such permanence of the impermanent, that it seemed they deserved a space of their own.

Here’s the poem in full:

I felt a funeral in my brain,
        And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
        That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
        A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
        My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,
        And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead,
        Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,
        And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
        Wrecked, solitary, here.

And then a plank in reason, broke,
        And I dropped down and down–
And hit a world at every plunge,
        And finished knowing–then–

There is a certain knowledge in Dickinson’s poetry that I love. It comes, as she once wrote, “as a certain slant of light”.

Dickinson’s knowledge stumbles and falters. Little is affirmed; everything sensed.

She says nothing of the real world, perhaps being unable, but what she says of how she perceives that world speaks such volumes that the ear is compelled to bend and hear. Bend and then hear again.

Another favourite I often return to is a poem which opens “It is not death, for I stood up”.

For me at least, this poem epitomises this strange and wonderful reasoning – knowledge that knows only what things aren’t, never reaching the truth of what they are.

The first two lines are though spoken by a child asked by his worried mother what troubles him.

The child troubled by a feeling he has never encountered before and finds no words to describe can only compare it to something of which he similarly has had no experience, but of which his tender years have brought him some tenuous understanding.

Death.

It is not death, yet it must, yes must, be something like it.

Dickinson gropes.

She gropes to understand the world and her place within it.

She gropes not just with hands of unsure touch, but in her poetry, eyes, ears, nose and mouth alike all squint, strain, sniff and savour to gain some elusive knowledge, some rare justification for being and feeling.

There is great beauty in her search.

It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
It was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues, for noon.
It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos crawl,
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.
And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine,
As if my life were shaven
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key;
And I was like midnight, some,
When everything that ticked has stopped,
And space stares, all around,
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns,
Repeal the beating ground.
But most like chaos,–stopless, cool,
Without a chance or spar,–
Or even a report of land
To justify despair.
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INVICTUS

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley,1875

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