In his dark room he is finally alone with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows. The only light is red and softly glows, as though this were a church and he a priest preparing to intone a Mass. Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.
He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands, which did not tremble then though seem to now. Rural England. Home again to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel, to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat.
Something is happening. A stranger’s features faintly start to twist before his eyes, a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries of this man’s wife, how he sought approval without words to do what someone must and how the blood stained into foreign dust.
A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers. From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where he earns his living and they do not care.
by Carol Ann Duffy
The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay, Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept. And could not hear him; but I heard him say: ‘Poor child, poor child:’ and as he turned away Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept. He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold That hid my face, or take my hand in his, Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head: He did not love me living; but once dead He pitied me; and very sweet it is To know he still is warm though I am cold.
It is a curious thought but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize how much you love them.
When I too long have looked upon your face
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
When I too long have looked upon your face, Wherein for me a brightness unobscured Save by the mists of brightness has its place, And terrible beauty not to be endured, I turn away reluctant from your light, And stand irresolute, a mind undone, A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight From having looked too long upon the sun. Then is my daily life a narrow room In which a little while, uncertainly, Surrounded by impenetrable gloom, Among familiar things grown strange to me Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark, Till I become accustomed to the dark.
ATTENTION – I am interrupting our normally scheduled programming for an important Poetry Service Announcement. Tomorrow is Valentines Day! And if Agatha is right, then it is the perfect day to get a little silly. Don’t fall for the Hallmark trap and buy a Valentine card, get out some construction paper, paper lace doilies, stickers and glue, better yet some glitter, and get to work. It’s not about perfection, its about expressing yourself and your love of your valentine in your best DIY valentine self. Then, once the masterpiece is finished in whatever form it has taken, its time to profess your love in words on the back. My suggestion, don’t screw up your masterpiece trying to do it off the cuff, write it out on white paper in a size that will fit and glue or tape it to the back, that way if you ruin the draft you can re-write it and not disturb your artwork.
While the glitter is drying, now’s the perfect time for you to muster your courage and write a poem. But if suddenly you have a little case of writers block, here’s a couple of tips on writing poetry for your loved one on Valentine’s Day.
Tip #1 – Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, only works if the third line is either silly, but connects the two of you, or kind, but the fourth line HAS TO BE, “And I Love You.” If you deploy this sure proof poem in any other way, it will likely backfire you right onto the couch.
Tip #2 – If you are willing to go out on a limb, and write an original love poem, try going freestyle all Lorca on your Valentine. Think surreal love fest about the favorite place you and your lover share and make it a metaphor for your shared sensuality and free associate and see what happens. Have it end with something about “insert a piece of anatomy here” you want to “kiss” or “caress”, that is “pure crystalline love” and you are likely setting the bar pretty high for the evenings festivities and next years Valentine’s Day poem.
Tip #3 – If you aren’t in the poem writing mood, then use the internet to find the perfect love sonnet. Heck, you might even find one on Fourteenlines. Between Shakespeare, Cummings and Millay, you should be able to score the perfect one. Don’t print it out on your computer. Hand write it (Pro-tip – remember – write small its 14 lines) and sign it and you’ll have a keeper that your Valentine will hold on to forever.
Tip #4 – If you screw up and its last minute on Monday afternoon and you haven’t gotten anything for your lover, stop at the grocery store, buy some flowers, chocolate and an onion. And give your lover all three and then get down on one knee and recite the poem below off your smart phone and I guarantee you will worm your way into their heart…
Happy Valentines Day!
by Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love.
Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion. Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are.
Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring, if you like. Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.
There are so many roots to the tree of anger that sometimes the branches shatter before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks the women rally before they march discussing the problematic girls they hire to make them free. An almost white counterman passes a waiting brother to serve them first and the ladies neither notice nor reject the slighter pleasures of their slavery. But I who am bound by my mirror as well as my bed see causes in colour as well as sex
and sit here wondering which me will survive all these liberations.
And so it begins, my long slow exhale, the beginning of a release of four years of stress and tension. For the majority of the record number of Americans that voted for Biden, voted for change, his victory is one of enormous proportions. It is historic. For the 70 million plus that voted for Trump it is a disappointment. The reality of this day is not one of decisive healing in this nation, rather it is the stark chasm left from this long divisive campaign that exists as a scar in this country and it is not going to be washed away easily. Trumpism’s rejection of political norms, rejection of science, rejection of decency and his four year assault on the idea of the historical role of political leaders at the federal level to provide a leadership of care for all, rather than just your parties special interests, I fear is going to remain long after Trump leaves the White House. The map of dots of urban blue surrounded by a sea of red counties, red states, that are the homes of good people, people as convinced their vote was correct for Trump as the path to the future of America, as the people like myself that voted for Biden. I am not naïve. I know that the next four years is going to be difficult globally in terms of the health pandemic, the state of the global economy and the political turmoil and societal turmoil that will inevitably ensue. I am only glad that a professional is once again headed into the White House to help deal with this mess we find ourselves.
For today, I will be a humble victor, take a minute to relax, enjoy some poetry and remember we have a lot of work to do as a nation and as individuals to address the systemic issues of racism facing our society and the world. Presidential campaigns mark the passage of time. Whether the next four years are more or less critical than any other four in the past 40 years depends on whether we are capable as a society to actually begin to work on issues in a substantial way. If we let politics play pin the tail on the donkey once again, Republicans blocking potential solutions so that they can blame the Democrats in the next election cycle for failure, we will squander this opportunity for change. At some point we will have to work together at the federal level, just like we do in our places of business, in our schools, in our communities. And to view our parties that we vote for as having a mutual sense of obligation to do more than just obstruct the other party’s agenda on the opposite side of the aisle but to start constructing solutions together. To do that, I suspect we will need a mixture of good will, good science, good policy and bit of prayer mixed with hope to be successful.
by Carol Ann Duffy
Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. So, a woman will lift her head from the sieve of her hands and stare at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts, that small familiar pain; then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth in the distant Latin chanting of a train.
Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales console the lodger looking out across a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls a child’s name as though they named their loss.
‘Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed…’ – Shakespeare’s Will
The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love –
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.
FALSE though she be to me and love,
I’ll ne’er pursue revenge;
For still the charmer I approve,
Though I deplore her change.
In hours of bliss we oft have met:
They could not always last;
And though the present I regret,
I’m grateful for the past.
by Carol Ann Duffy (1955 – )
I want to call you thou, the sound
of the shape of the start
of a kiss – like this – thou –
and to say, after, I love,
thou, I love, thou I love, not
I love you.
Because I so do ―
as we say now – I want to say
thee, I adore, I adore thee
and to know in my lips
the syntax of love resides,
and to gaze in thine eyes.
Love’s language starts, stops, starts;
the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.