Poetry

POETRY

    Theme for May is good and evil

ELIZABETH PILL

ROY BURMAN

PAUL NEWMAN

LESLEY ROBERTS

YVONNE BURMAN

SOUTERS

JANE BENNETT

TRICIA SPINK

 JIM GRAHAM


 

ELIZABETH PILL

 

The Minister's Daughter

by John Greenleaf Whittier

In the minister’s morning sermon
He had told of the primal fall,
And how thenceforth the wrath of God
Rested on each and all.

And how of His will and pleasure,
All souls, save a chosen few,
Were doomed to the quenchless burning,
And held in the way thereto.

Yet never by faith’s unreason
A saintlier soul was tried,
And never the harsh old lesson
A tenderer heart belied.

And, after the painful service
On that pleasant Sabbath day,
He walked with his little daughter
Through the apple-bloom of May.

Sweet in the fresh green meadows
Sparrow and blackbird sung;
Above him their tinted petals
The blossoming orchards hung.

Around on the wonderful glory
The minister looked and smiled;
“How good is the Lord who gives us
These gifts from His hand, my child.

“Behold in the bloom of apples
And the violets in the sward
A hint of the old, lost beauty
Of the Garden of the Lord!”

Then up spake the little maiden,
Treading on snow and pink
“O father! these pretty blossoms
Are very wicked, I think.

“Had there been no Garden of Eden
There never had been a fall;
And if never a tree had blossomed
God would have loved us all.”

“Hush, child!” the father answered,
“By His decree man fell;
His ways are in clouds and darkness,
But He doeth all things well.

“And whether by His ordaining
To us cometh good or ill,
Joy or pain, or light or shadow,
We must fear and love Him still.”

“Oh, I fear Him!” said the daughter,
“And I try to love Him, too;
But I wish He was good and gentle,
Kind and loving as you.”

The minister groaned in spirit
As the tremulous lips of pain
And wide, wet eyes uplifted
Questioned his own in vain.

Bowing his head he pondered
The words of the little one;
Had he erred in his life-long teaching?
Had he wrong to his Master done?

To what grim and dreadful idol
Had he lent the holiest name?
Did his own heart, loving and human,
The God of his worship shame?

And lo! from the bloom and greenness,
From the tender skies above,
And the face of his little daughter,
He read a lesson of love.

No more as the cloudy terror
Of Sinai’s mount of law,
But as Christ in the Syrian lilies
The vision of God he saw.

And, as when, in the clefts of Horeb,
Of old was His presence known,
The dread Ineffable Glory
Was Infinite Goodness alone.

Thereafter his hearers noted
In his prayers a tenderer strain,
And never the gospel of hatred
Burned on his lips again.

And the scoffing tongue was prayerful,
And the blinded eyes found sight,
And hearts, as flint aforetime,
Grew soft in his warmth and light.

 
On Good and Evil
Kahlil Gibran - 
 
 
And one of the elders of the city said, Speak to us of Good and Evil.
    And he answered:
    Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
    For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
    Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.
  
    You are good when you are one with yourself.
    Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
    For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
    And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.
 
    You are good when you strive to give of yourself.
    Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
    For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.
    Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, “Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance.”
    For to the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.
 
    You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
    Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
    And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.
 
    You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
    Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
    Even those who limp go not backward.
    But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.
 
    You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
    You are only loitering and sluggard.
    Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.
 
    In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.
    But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
    And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
    But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, “Wherefore are you slow and halting?”
    For the truly good ask not the naked, “Where is your garment?” nor the houseless, “What has befallen your house?”

 

 

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 ROY BURMAN

 

It was beginning winter (excerpt from ‘The Lost Son’)
 
by Theodore Roethke  1908 - 1963
 
It was beginning winter,
An in-between time,
The landscape still partly brown:
The bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind,
Above the blue snow.
 
It was beginning winter,
The light moved slowly over the frozen field,
Over the dry seed-crowns,
The beautiful surviving bones
Swinging in the wind.
 
Light traveled over the wide field;
Stayed.
The weeds stopped swinging.
The mind moved, not alone,
Through the clear air, in the silence.
 
Was it light?
Was it light within?
Was it light within light?
Stillness becoming alive,
Yet still?
 
A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you. 
It will come again.
Be still.
Wait.
 
 
 
Revenge
 
by Taha Muhammad Ali   1931-2011
 
At times … I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
into
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready -
I would take my revenge!
 
          *
 
But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put 
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set -
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.
 
          *
 
Likewise … I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who 
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had 
friends or companions,
neighbours he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.
 
          *
 
But if he turned
out to be on his own -
cut off like a branch from a tree -
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbours or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness -
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street - as I 
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.
 
                    (2006)
 
 

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PAUL NEWMAN

 

 

 

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LESLEY ROBERTS

 

 

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YVONNE BURMAN

 

One Foot in Eden
 
by Edwin Muir   1887 - 1959
 
One foot in Eden still, I stand
And look across the other land.
The world’s great day is growing late,
Yet strange these fields that we have planted
So long with crops of love and hate.
Time’s handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing now can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown.
The armorial weed in stillness bound
About the stalk; these are our own.
Evil and good stand thick around
In the fields of charity and sin
Where we shall lead our harvest in.
 
Yet still from Eden springs the root
As clean as on the starting day.
Time takes the foliage and the fruit
And burns the archetypal leaf
To shapes of terror and of grief
Scattered along the winter way.
But famished field and blackened tree
Bear flowers in Eden never known.
Blossoms of grief and charity
Bloom in these darkened fields alone.
What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies.
 
 
 
For Adolf Eichmann
 
by Primo Levi    1919 - 1987
 
The wind runs free across our plains,
The live sea beats for ever at our beaches.
Man makes earth fertile, earth gives him flowers and fruits,
He lives in toil and joy; he hopes, fears, begets sweet 
   offspring.
 
… And you have come, our precious enemy,
Forsaken creature, man ringed by death.
What can you say now, before our assembly?
Will you swear by a god? What god?
Will you leap happily into the grave?
Or will you at the end, like the industrious man
Whose life was too brief for his long art,
Lament your sorry work unfinished,
The thirteen million still alive?
 
Oh son of death, we do not wish you death.
May you live longer than anyone ever lived.
May you live sleepless five million nights,
And may you be visited each night by the suffering of
   everyone who saw,
Shutting behind him, the door that blocked the way back,
Saw it grow dark around him, the air fill with death.
 
20 July 1960

 

 


 SOUTERS

 

John's poem:


Peggy's poems:

 
 

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JANE BENNETT

 

 
Try to Praise the Mutilated World
BY ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI
TRANSLATED BY CLARE CAVANAGH

 


Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.


I: Easter Hymn      

by A.E. Housman



If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

 

 

 

 

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   TRICIA SPINK

 

“A Poem by Ronald Reagan, Non-poet”

 

They say that love can never last.  It really is a shame.

It’s just a fact of nature, and I guess no one’s to blame.

But since I’ve left my big white house in Washington, DC,

My life is like an empty road and people walk on me.

 

I used to be a lost black sheep in movie-making land,

Where reds and twangy-boys could earn an easy hundred grand,

But Jesus and the Cold War, gosh, they made me feel so swell, 

I took off on the campaign trail to give those sinners hell.

 

I spoke the words they taught me, but the words don’t mean a damn:

The public likes big helpings of its California ham.

My right hand played it one way while the left played it another,

But all the while the scoreboard flashed up NATION, GOD and MOTHER.

 

Now eight years is a winning streak – or so the Bible says –

And life is mighty cosy when you get to be the Pres.

But all good things come to an end: I felt it in my gorge

The day I packed my saddlebags and left it all to George.

It’s grand to be with Nancy in our cabin in the West,

Where the blue Pacific stretches and the sun sinks down to rest.

But the sunsets all remind me that the best is not to be:

My life is like an empty road and people walk on me.

 

Basil Ransome-Davies

 

 

 

Good & Evil   by Tricia

 

Good, as gold, makes good for all;

On Goodness, love and trust befall;

On these, all joy and hope depend – 

Destroy that gold and bring your end.

 

                              ***

 

Evil brings the worst of fate:

Verdant pastures scorched by hate;

Ill-at-heart, ill-will to men bring

Lasting woe – a painful end.

 

 

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 JIM GRAHAM

 

 

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