10 Dec 2012

He is home -- Peter Kirkpatrick

He is home,
the young man in the navy singlet
and blue jeans is home,
because I hear him pick up his tiny son
who is squealing and say
Now this is it Now this is it.
And he spins him and growls
and his son squeals.

The child in the sky-blue jumpsuit
laughs at his father’s strength:
they’re both laughing
as the young man’s tattoos bulge,
cuddling the ecstatic little one
in the blue of bruises.

Turning I hear the young man threaten
to drop his son,
who will never believe him,
who will never believe him.

Source: Porter, D & Millett, J (eds) 1989, ‘On Struggle Street – An Anthology of New Poets’, Poetry Australia 122, South Head Press, Port Melbourne.

7 Dec 2012

Family Court – Ogden Nash

[1902–1971, American]

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one’s kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

Source: Nash, O 1945, The selected verse of Ogden Nash, Modern Library.

Résumé – Dorothy Parker

[1893–1967, American]

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Source: Parker, D 1931, Death and Taxes, The Viking Press, New York.

Excerpt from ‘Macbeth’ – William Shakespeare

[1564–1616, English]

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.

Source: Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 3.

Heading Home – Glenda McKnight

[17 years old]

Boxes of light are buildings
beside water as black as molasses
that we pass as the buss blunders on.
And the bitumen road is a dark
tape rolling across the country
taking me home.
And thoughts are blurred trees
and drifts of clouds soft in the moon’s light.
And home is a place beyond the flat horizon,
and home is seeing faces familiar as daylight.

Source: Unknown. Approx. 1995

This Be the Verse – Philip Larkin

[1922–1985, English]

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Source: Larkin, P 1974, High Windows, Faber and Faber Ltd.

Migrant – Jennifer Maiden

[1949–current, Australian]

In his chintz-cold window seat he
To cushions, chats of history
(not his) and doesn’t know
Or doesn’t mention, where he’ll go
But, too tied to sleep, does try
With his little arctic sigh to sing
But conform – tunes won’t stay
            and no
Reasons remain to die.

Source: Maiden, J 1979, The Border Loss, Angus & Robertson, Australia.

4 Dec 2012

What Fifty Said – Robert Frost

[1874–1963, American]

         When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.

         Now I am old my teachers are the young.
What can’t be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth to learn the future.

Source: Frost, 1969, The Poetry of Robert Frost, ed. by Edward Connery Lathem (Jonathan Cape), Random House Group.

Excerpt from ‘Black Coffee Blues’ – Henry Rollins

[1961–current, American]

My scars are my teachers
Laces of strength
New eyes upon my flesh

Source: Rollins, H 1992 Black Coffee Blues, 2.13.61 Publications, p. 64.

Advice to a Discarded Lover – Fleur Adcock

[1934–current, born New Zealand, but spend most of life in England]

Think, now: if you have found a dead bird,
Not only dead, not only fallen,
But full of maggots: what do you feel –
More pity or more revulsion?

Pity is for the moment of death,
And the moments after. It changes
When decay comes, with the creeping stench
And the wriggling, munching scavengers.

Returning later, though, you will see
A shape of clean bone, a few feathers,
An inoffensive symbol of what
Once lived. Nothing to make you shudder.

It is clear then. But perhaps you find
The analogy I have chosen
For our dead affair rather gruesome  –
Too unpleasant a comparison.

It is not accidental. In you
I see maggots close to the surface.
You are eaten up by self-pity,
Crawling with unlovable pathos.

If I were to touch you I should feel
Against my fingers fat, moist worm-skin.
Do not ask me for charity now:
Go away until your bones are clean.

Source: Adcock, F 1983, Selected Poems, Oxford University Press.

Excerpt from ‘The Fat Black Woman’s Poems’ – Grace Nichols

[1950–current, born Guyana (South America), migrated to the UK in 1977]

I have crossed an ocean
I have lost my tongue
from the root of the old one
a new one has sprung

Source: Nichols, G 2006, The Fat Black Woman’s Poems, Virago Press Ltd.

The Early Purges – Seamus Heaney

[13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013, Irish (Northern Ireland)]

I was six when I first saw kittens drown.
Dan Taggart pitched them, ‘the scraggy wee shits’,
Into a bucket; a frail metal sound,

Soft paws scraping like mad. But their tiny din
Was soon soused. They were slung on the snout
Of the pump and the water pumped in.

‘Sure, isn’t it better for them now?’ Dan said.
Like wet gloves they bobbed and shone till he sluiced
Them out on the dunghill, glossy and dead.

Suddenly frightened, for days I sadly hung
Round the yard, watching the three sogged remains
Turn mealy and crisp as old summer dung

Until I forgot them. But the fear came back
When Dan trapped big rats, snared rabbits, shot crows
Or, with a sickening tug, pulled old hens’ necks.

Still, living displaces false sentiments
And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown
I just shrug, ‘Bloody pups’. It makes sense:

‘Prevention of cruelty’ talk cuts ice in town
Where they consider death unnatural
But on well-run farms pests have to be kept down.

Source: Heaney, S 2006, Death of a Naturalist, Faber and Faber.

My Busconductor – Roger McGough

[1937–current, English]

       My busconductor tells me
he only has one kidney
and that may soon go on strike
through overwork.
Each busticket
takes on now a different shape and texture.
He holds a ninepenny single
as if it were a rose
and puts the shilling in his bag
as a child into a gasmeter.
His thin lips have no quips for fat factorygirls
and he ignores
the drunk who snores
and the oldman who talks to himself
and gets off at the wrong stop.
       He goes gently to the bedroom of the bus
to collect
and what familiar shops and pubs pass by
(perhaps for the last time?).
The same old streets look different now
more distinct as through new glasses.
And the sky
was it ever so blue?

       And all the time
deepdown in the deserted busshelter of his mind
he thinks about his journey nearly done.
One day he’ll clock on and never clock off
or clock off and never clock on.

Source: Goodwin, D 2002, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid, Harper.

Two/Too – Heather Cam

[1955–current, born Canada, migrated to Australia in 1977]

Tonight alone,
I turn down the sheets
and find a hair
– not mine.

It makes my bed too broad,
my night too long;
and in the morning
an orange has two halves,
the tea-bag is too strong
for one cup.

Source: Cam, H 1990, 'The Moon’s Hook', Poetry Australia 125, South Head Press, Sydney.

Monstrous Ingratitude – Boris Parkin

         Gifts as gulfs …
Thought prompted by one
from ice ages ago:
a lime-green cardigan,
a garment I’ve never worn
and never will wear.
I hid it in a drawer
and mainly it stays there,
except when, as today,
on the trail of a lost sock,
I dig it up and feel once more
that sundering shock.

        With kept creases
and buttons still done,
it invariably releases
the same terror as when,
tearing the posh paper,
I saw at a glance
how little she understood me.
Well, I covered my inner silence
with mumbled thanks;
yet the rift persists
and even now
pride prevents me
from trying the thing on, somehow.

Source: Goodwin, D 2002, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid, Harper.

God’s Christmas Jokes – Connie Bensley

Christmas: there was the usual crop of disasters:
Planes, coaches, crashed.
(So often the victims are pilgrims
Or those on errands of mercy).

In the home, the disasters are on a less heroic scale,
The stressful, claustrophobic press
Of one’s nearest and dearest
Being by far the worst.

The snappy rejoinders, early on suppressed,
And by Day Three not suppressed.
The bathroom used for a quick fit of sobbing
And phone calls late at night
From suicidal single friends
Who have missed out on Perfect Love at Christmas.

On the first day after Bank Holiday the Sales begin,
And people shoot out from their doors like prisoners released,
Glad to be finished with their attempts at Peace on Earth
And bursting with meaty energy for the fray.

Source: Goodwin, D 2002, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid, Harper.

Proposal – Tom Vaughan

        Let’s fall in love –
In our mid-thirties
It’s not only
Where the hurt is.        

        I won’t get smashed up
Should you go
Away for weekends –
We both know

        No two people
Can be completely
But twice weekly        

        We’ll dine together
Split the bill,
Admire each other’s Wit.
We will

        Be splendid lovers,
Slow, well-trained,
Tactful, gracefully

        You’ll keep your flat
And I’ll keep mine –
 Our bank accounts
Shall not entwine.        

        We’ll make the whole thing
Hard and bright.
We’ll call it love –
We may be right.

Source: Goodwin, D 2002, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid, Harper.

Straight She Is – Lynn Hard

[1938–current, born America, migrated to Australia in 1977]

Straight she is
like spruce or pine
and her hair
if she’d let it
would hang
straight down her back.
Her clothes are firmly divided
into segments
of sweater and skirt.
And to see her sitting
at her geometrical desk
one would never imagine
that inside she is all curve
and arabesque.

Source: Hard, L 1993, Dancing on the Drainboard, Angus & Robertson, Australia, p. 18.