Poetry Breakfast ~ at home
Here is our choice of poems for this week, I do hope you enjoy them.
I would like to say, from all of us, a REALLY BIG THANK YOU to our three guest poets who have been with us throughout the month of May.
Their poems have added such richness and diversity, and their distinctive voices have been very much enjoyed by us all. Thank you, Alison, Gill and Char for your generous and lively engagement with this project.
Please feel free to make suggestions of poems via the comments section below, or by email. Next week’s theme is More Precious than Moons and will feature our new guest poet, my Hebridean friend, Pauline Prior Pitt. Pauline’s poems for this theme will be about grand-children, but remember, the theme is only ever a jumping off point – what is ‘more precious than moons’ to you?
(PS The cottage pictured is our holiday rental cottage on Berneray in the Western Isles)
Horses have quick routes they know
A few safe roads, down which they always go,
They are not tempted by the sudden lane
The silver poplar shivering in light.
They only crave heaped hay again,
And pull to keep the low white yard in sight.
So I must fight them, if I am to go
On fruitless roads, on past the dulling tree;
Nor could I tell them, even if I knew
What it was we turned so far to see,
Before the hungry stables of the night.
Produce of Cyprus
Picking grapes from a paper bag, sucking the misted skin
I think of the island which grew them, Venus’ ground
(the rain is in sheets on my window, wet, green, blind)
there, the dry song of the cicada, there the warm nights
with the window propped open, sea’s stripe on the counterpane.
Yet they too, have their troubles. The frosts were late;
the land does not love us, relentless stony ground
though we own it down generations. The price of grapes
is falling; and so on. No doubt they dream of us
that far and prosperous country; on its window, the wealth of the rain.
The last is tough. The bag, as I put by the rest
rustles and whispers, Paradise is the place
of which we know nothing, which we know best.
this morning, when he’s eating his cornflakes,
and yawning, and chatting with his Mum,
and messaging his girlfriend, and streaming music
in the shower, and snapchatting his pals,
and playing Nioh, and fitting in half an hour
of Splatoon with his kid sister, and then racing
biscuit across the park, and tossing the steaming
black bag into bushes, and throwing the slobbered ball
till his shoulder aches, he’s an individual
with a name: Josh
this afternoon, when he puts on the striped top,
the scarf, buys a packet of Dequadin to get him
through the shouting, and a six-pack to sup
on the bus there, he becomes one of the 21,000
who are sucked from all directions to the plug-hole
of a stadium where they are sluice-gated
into different colours kept distinctly
apart, and he is now an unheard
below roaring up the throat of
the 15,452 that are his colour.
I started moving
around the time
of the Great Oxidation Event:
round about two
and a half
billion years ago.
Yes. A while ago, and
I’ve not moved far. Well,
not moved at all actually.
Always been just here.
Very slowly shoving
all the Americas West;
everything else East.
At about the same rate
that your little human
Quite a bit of Atlantic Ocean
now? Yes, I suppose.
But that hectic Ring of Fire lot,
over in the pacific. Do you know,
they sometimes move
a couple of metres a year.
where trees crept up to the cottage walls at night,
where, hidden in shrubs, the young stag
raised his velvet branches to the dawn,
where the owl sat brooding on his bough
in autumn mist that swallowed up the day,
where the primrose lit the paths of spring
and bluebells trembled underneath the moon,
where our window was a triangle of trees and sunrise,
where the Rayburn glowed and the huge oak table
filled the room, where books padded the width and breadth
of every rough stone wall, where the curtains
were printed with big blue plums, green pears,
red apples, their names in bold in French,
prune, poire, pomme.
Where someone else lives now.
by Gill McEvoy
Football, Kuala Lumpur
Rain loves this place, loves
the way the open hands
of city trees receive it,
the way its great drops
trampoline the pavements.
It sends the people
scattering for taxis,
forests of umbrellas sprung
like orchids opening,
It empties streets and
brings a thousand frogs
chuckling from the storm-drain walls,
calls out barefoot boys
to football pitches
where they kick the ball
through floods of water,
spray and warm steam flying.
Arcs of rainbow fly from foot to foot,
shrieks of laughter mingle
with the chortling of frogs
that leap and spring
in their own games
on every pavement’s edge.
by Gill McEvoy
Is there a name for that thing
you do when you are young?
There must be a word for it in some language,
probably German, or if not it is just
asking to be made up, something like
Fremdlandischgehörenlust or perhaps
What is it called, living in Glasgow,
dying to be French, dying to shrug and pout
and make yourself understood
without saying a word?
Have you ever felt like that, being
in Bombay, wanting to declare,
like Freddie Mercury, that you are
from somewhere like Zanzibar?
What is that called? Being sixteen
in Wales, longing to be Italian,
to be able to say aloud,
without embarrassment, Bella! Bella!
lounge by a Vespa with a cigarette
hanging out of your mouth, and wear
impossibly pointed shoes?
Huge thanks to Imtiaz for giving permisison for us to reproduce her poem in full here: she says:
Your Poetry Breakfast is one of the bright hopeful things for people to look forward to (as Wenlock Poetry Festival was in its sun-filled time). I would be honoured to have the poem included and have copied it here so that you don’t have to type it out again.
This poem was chosen by Christine
Christine also chose Love after Love by the late Derek Walcott, read here as a tribute, by Linton Kwesi Johnson
The time will come
when, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat!
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine, Give bread, Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Looking for a nest
An uncoordinated clutch of birds’ eggs
oval Relics in a kipper box
have survived moves, jobs, forgotten friends, dead family.
Gently nestled in a saw dust shrine
they have migrated with me everywhere.
Now hidden in a shed
out of guilt of a naive boyhood,
passed down by Uncle Geoff
added to by brother Stu
though some were faked with budgie eggs,
sketched with ingenious rotary marks
to look like the scribbles of a yellow hammer.
I get them out at Easter
fill a discarded nest with coot and crow
and Polish wooden eggs
put the nest in a naff straw basket-
valueless family heirloom that escaped the tip-
unlike the strong solid people who have passed
while these blown shells remain
still looking for a nest and home.
by Steve Harrison, from the Anthology of Home and Belonging, for Friends of Conakry Refugee School
Jude has chosen The Emigrée by Carol Rumens – from Thinking of Skins, published by Bloodaxe in 1993, and the poem ‘Make Believe’ by Gerda Mayer: from Bernini’s Cat: New Selected Poems, 1999, Iron Press.
The author’s father, Arnold Stein, escaped from the German concentration camp in Nisko in 1939, fled to Russian-occupied Lemberg/Lwów, and then disappeared in the summer of 1940. It is thought he may have died in a Russian camp.
I’m sorry I couldn’t upload this video – but you can see Gerda reading it here.
Click on the image, then scroll down to ‘In My Country’
There is a kind of love called maintenance.
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it:
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
the money goes, which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living: which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice in the air,
As Atlas did the sky.
from From me to you – Love Poems by UA Fanthorpe and RV Bailey, published by Peterloo Poets, 2007
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
So that’s it for another week! Please send us poems on this (or earlier!) or next week’s themes by email
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