Theme for November is Reflections
LAST OF THE LINE
I have a way
(it’s probably the best thing I do)
of getting a hand in a shoe
and patting the brush in the polish
and rubbing it round,
first one side, then the other,
then toe, then heel.
I notice the particular scuffs
and creases. I think I can tell
how those who wear them are getting on
from the shape of their shoes, how they are leaning,
and the pace of things.
My father did the same, but with
a different lung-filled breathing,
and he‘d use the occasion to talk
about the stages of life’s changes.
Perhaps I’ll be the last of the line
of the great shoe cleaners,
newspaper fire-lighter twisters,
piler up of coin-ziggurats,
stuffer of wet shoes.
Each time I see the Upside-Down Man
Standing in the water,
I look at him and start to laugh,
Although I shouldn't oughter.
For maybe in another world
Maybe HE's right side up
And I am upside down”
by Margaret Atwood
It’s an old word, fading now.
Dearly did I wish.
Dearly did I long for.
I loved him dearly.
I make my way along the sidewalk
mindfully, because of my wrecked knees
about which I give less of a shit
than you may imagine
since there are other things, more important -
wait for it, you’ll see -
bearing half a coffee
in a paper cup with -
dearly do I regret it -
a plastic lid -
trying to remember what words once meant.
How was it used?
Dearly beloved, we are gathered.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here
in this forgotten photo album
I came across recently.
the sepias, the black and whites, the colour prints,
everyone so much younger.
What is a Polaroid? asks the newborn.
Newborn a decade ago.
How to explain?
You took the picture and then it came out the top.
The top of what?
It’s that baffled look I see a lot.
So hard to describe
the smallest details of how -
all these dearly gathered together -
of how we used to live.
We wrapped up garbage
in newspaper tied with string.
What is newspaper?
You see what I mean.
String though, we still have string.
It links things together.
A string of pearls.
That’s what they would say.
How to keep track of the days?
Each one shining, each one alone,
each one then gone.
I’ve kept some of them in a drawer on paper,
those days, fading now.
Beads can be used for counting.
As in rosaries.
But I don’t like stones around my neck.
Along this street there are many flowers,
fading now because it is August
and dusty, and heading into fall.
Soon the chrysanthemums will bloom,
flowers of the dead, in France.
Don’t think this is morbid.
It’s just reality.
So hard to describe the smallest details of flowers.
This is a stamen, nothing to do with men.
This is a pistil, nothing to do with guns.
It’s the smallest details that foil translators
and myself too, trying to describe.
See what I mean.
You can wander away. You can get lost.
Words can do that.
Dearly beloved, gathered here together
in this closed drawer,
fading now, I miss you.
I miss the missing, those who left earlier.
I miss even those who are still here.
I miss you all dearly.
Dearly do I sorrow for you.
Sorrow: that’s another word
you don’t hear much any more.
I sorrow dearly.
by Philip Larkin
On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon -
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.
FETCH A LOOKING GLASS
(An egoist enters a sideshow) by John Souter
He steps from light into dark
Looks into each twisted glass
Intrigued by what he sees
Bending his knees
His body's fatter
His head's bigger
Standing up straight
He grows taller
Longer and thinner
His head is smaller
Each move reflects a monster
Distorted visions of himself
And between mirror facing mirror
A wonderful procession
Of receding images
Peggy's poems are both from Ted Hughes' Tales from Ovid. (Echo was a nymph, whom Juno punished by making it impossible for her to say anything except the last two words she had heard spoken. Narcissus was a beautiful youth who saw his own reflection in a pool and fell hopelessly in love with it.
The moment Echo saw Narcissus
She was in love....................
It so happened, Narcissus
Had strayed apart
From his companions.
He hallooed them: "Where are you?
I'm here." And Echo
Caught at the syllables as though they were precious:
"I'm here," she cried, "I'm here," and "I'm here," and "I'm here."
Narcissus looked around wildly.
"I'll stay here," he shouted.
"You come to me." And "cCme to me."
Shouted Echo. "Come to me.
To me, to me, to me."
Narcissus stood baffled,
Whether to stay or go. He began to run,
Calling as he ran, "Stay there." But Echo
Cried back, weeping to utter it, "Stay there,
Stay there, stay there. stay there."
Narcissus stopped and listened. Then, more quietly,
"Let's meet halfway. Come." And Echo
Eagerly repeated, "Come."
There was a pool of perfect water...............
Weary with hunting and the hot sun
Narcissus found this pool.
Gratefully he stretched out full length,
To cup his hands in the clear cold
And to drink. But as he drank
A strange new thirst, a craving, unfamiliar,
Entered his body with the water,
And entered his eyes
With the reflection in the limpid mirror.
He could not believe the beauty
Of those eyes that gazed into his own.
As the raste of water flooded him
So did love. So he lay, mistaking
Tjat picture of himself on the meniscus
For the stranger who could make him happy.
Questions From a Worker Who Reads
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year’s War. Who
Else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man?
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.
Silent Questions from the Wife of a Worker Who Reads
So you say, it is you not the kings, who built the Thebes of the Seven Gates.
Your forefathers hauled lumps of rocks when Babylon was Resurrected all those Several time – after each demolition.
You ask about the Houses where the Builders of gold glittering Lima lived,
I ask silently who kept the houses, the children, the future builders.
You ask, where did the masons go when the Great Wall of China was finished,
History did not record it.
But what about the patient unheard voices who made the shacks and hovels Homes,
Who waited with hot gruel for the masons?
Who do not even have the Great Stone Wall of China as a Silent testimony,
Should a Future day Historian choose to enquire.
Alexander conquered India, Caesar beat the Gaul,
Philip of Spain laughed and cried with the fortunes of the Spanish Armada,
Yes they had soldiers to fight their wars.
And cooks too, and a thousand others to assist them in their noble endeavours.
Their triumphs and their losses in the battlefields and the seas were not theirs alone.
There were the ‘not so great men’ behind these ‘Great Men’
Should you dig O! Present day historian you may still find them
But wasn’t there anything else happening then, when the men, Great and Small,
Were making History?
Wasn’t there an ordinary child being born and nurtured anywhere?
And houses kept, vegetables grown, clothes made and rice dehusked.
Who made the ends meet in times of war and scarcity?
The Men were away.
Who sang lullabies while the roaring canons decided the victors?
I listen to you, while you question the past with your new found knowledge.
You roar, you thunder, I sew silently a pattern on the pillowcase.
Would my story visit you in your dreams – mine that I share with my foremothers?
Would my child be able to decipher the words hidden in this pattern,
As you do now for those in the history books?
I did not cook for the victors; I did never cook for the past,
I always cooked for the future – where every morsel was important.
It was no feast – lavish fare strewn around and men doused in drinks,
I never cooked to commemorate great events,
I cooked the humble daily gruel soaked in parsimony and care,
This was to write a different history,
A history for the future.
Behind your vocal questions to history and all its records and reports
Is the Great Wall of my Silent questions.
Who has the Answers?
Maybe I do.
Through A Glass Darkly
By Arthur Hugh Clough
What we, when face to face we see
The Father of our souls, shall be,
John tells us, doth not yet appear;
Ah! did he tell what we are here!
A mind for thoughts to pass into,
A heart for loves to travel through,
Five senses to detect things near,
Is this the whole that we are here?
Rules baffle instincts--instinct rules,
Wise men are bad--and good are fools,
Facts evil--wishes vain appear,
We cannot go, why are we here?
O may we for assurance's sake,
Some arbitrary judgement take,
And wilfully pronounce it clear,
For this or that 'tis we are here?
Or is it right, and will it do,
To pace the sad confusion through,
And say:--It doth not yet appear,
What we shall be, what we are here?
Ah yet, when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head;
Still what we hope we must believe,
And what is given us receive;
Must still believe, for still we hope
That in a world of larger scope,
What here is faithfully begun
Will be completed, not undone.
My child, we still must think, when we
That ampler life together see,
Some true result will yet appear
Of what we are, together, here.
by Tricia Spink
I write as a suitor
Whose heart you possess’d,
Whose mind you obsess’d,
Who craved to express
His desire to caress
Your divine tenderness…
Then declared, quite simply that,
He prefer’d to challenge
His partner at chess…
No, Reader, I did not marry him.
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when Spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond,
and I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay his
"debt of blood" to my people
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
(A fuller version of this poem and back story can be found here: https://wtf.tw/ref/nhat_hanh.html)
Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens
The King sits in Dunferline toun,
Drinkin the blude-reid wine
‘O whaur will A get a skeely skipper
Tae sail this new ship o mine?’
O up and spak an eldern knight,
Sat at the king’s richt knee;
‘Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailt the sea.’
Our king has written a braid letter
And sealed it wi his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Wis walkin on the strand.
‘Tae Noroway, to Noroway,
Tae Noroway ower the faem;
The King’s dauchter o Noroway,
Tis thou maun bring her hame.’
The first word that Sir Partick read
Sae loud, loud laucht he;
The neist word that Sir Patrick read
The tear blindit his ee.
‘O wha is this has duin this deed
An tauld the king o me,
Tae send us out, at this time o year,
Tae sail abuin the sea?
‘Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship maun sail the faem;
The King’s dauchter o Noroway,
Tis we maun fetch her hame.’
They hoystit their sails on Monenday morn,
Wi aw the speed they may;
They hae landit in Noroway
Upon a Wodensday.
‘Mak ready, mak ready, my merry men aw!
Our gude ship sails the morn.’
‘Nou eer alack, ma maister dear,
I fear a deadly storm.’
‘A saw the new muin late yestreen
Wi the auld muin in her airm
And gif we gang tae sea, maister,
A fear we’ll cam tae hairm.’
They hadnae sailt a league, a league,
A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, an the wind blew loud
An gurly grew the sea.
The ankers brak, an the topmaist lap,
It was sic a deadly storm.
An the waves cam ower the broken ship
Til aw her sides were torn.
‘Go fetch a web o silken claith,
Anither o the twine,
An wap them into our ship’s side,
An let nae the sea cam in.’
They fetcht a web o the silken claith,
Anither O the twine,
An they wappp’d them roun that gude ship’s side,
But still the sea cam in.
O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords
Tae weet their cork-heelt shuin;
But lang or aw the play wis playd
They wat their hats abuin.
And mony wis the feather bed
That flattert on the faem;
And mony wis the gude lord’s son
That never mair cam hame.
O lang, lang may the ladies sit,
Wi their fans intae their hand,
Afore they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailin tae the strand!
And lang, lang may the maidens sit
Wi their gowd kames in their hair,
A-waitin for their ane dear loes!
For them they’ll see nae mair.
Half-ower, half-ower to Aberdour,
Tis fifty fathoms deep;
An there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi the Scots lords at his feet!