Love At First Sight

20/11/2022

Love At First Sight – Wislawa Szymborska 

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways—
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember—
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?—
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
beforehand.
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through

Hat Tip: The Marginalian


First Kiss

23/10/2022

 

FIRST KISS
by Tim Seibles

for Lips
Her mouth
fell into my mouth
like a summer snow, like a
5th season, like a fresh Eden,
like Eden when Eve made God
whimper with the liquid
tilt of her hips —
her kiss hurt like that —
I mean, it was as if she’d mixed
the sweat of an angel
with the taste of a tangerine,
I swear. My mouth
had been a helmet forever
greased with secrets, my mouth
a dead-end street a little bit
lit by teeth — my heart, a clam
slammed shut at the bottom of a dark,
but her mouth pulled up
like a baby-blue Cadillac
packed with canaries driven
by a toucan — I swear
those lips said bright
wings when we kissed, wild
and precise — as if she were
teaching a seahorse to speak —
her mouth so careful, chumming
the first vowel from my throat
until my brain was a piano
banged loud, hammered like that —
it was like, I swear her tongue
was Saturn’s 7th moon —
hot like that, hot
and cold and circling,
circling, turning me
into a glad planet —
sun on one side, night pouring
her slow hand over the other: one fire
flying the kite of another.
Her kiss, I swear — if the Great
Mother rushed open the moon
like a gift and you were there
to feel your shadow finally
unhooked from your wrist.
That’d be it, but even sweeter —
like a riot of peg-legged priests
on pogo-sticks, up and up,
this way and this, not
falling but on and on
like that, badly behaved
but holy — I swear! That
kiss: both lips utterly committed
to the world like a Peace Corps,
like a free store, forever and always
a new city — no locks, no walls, just
doors — like that, I swear,
like that.

Hat tip: The Marginalian


Possibilities

02/10/2022

Possibilities

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

 

Hat Tip: The Marginalian


Frost on the Field

04/09/2022

Frost on the Field by Eric Trethewey read by Jon Mooallem.

Hat Tip: The Marginalian


Sometimes

28/08/2022

SOMETIMES by David Whyte

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest,
breathing
like the ones
in the old stories,
who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,
you come to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and
to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,
questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,
questions
that have patiently
waited for you,
questions
that have no right
to go away.

Hat tip: The Marginalian


Song of Myself

14/08/2022

Song of Myself – Walt Whitman

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel’d universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.

And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

Hat Tip: The Marginalian


Possibilities

31/07/2022

POSSIBILITIES – by Wisława Szymborska

I prefer movies.

I prefer cats.

I prefer the oaks along the Warta.

I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.

I prefer myself liking people

to myself loving mankind.

I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.

I prefer the color green.

I prefer not to maintain

that reason is to blame for everything.

I prefer exceptions.

I prefer to leave early.

I prefer talking to doctors about something else.

I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.

I prefer the absurdity of writing poems

to the absurdity of not writing poems.

I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries

that can be celebrated every day.

I prefer moralists

who promise me nothing.

I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.

I prefer the earth in civvies.

I prefer conquered to conquering countries.

I prefer having some reservations.

I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.

I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.

I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.

I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.

I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.

I prefer desk drawers.

I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here

to many things I’ve also left unsaid.

I prefer zeroes on the loose

to those lined up behind a cipher.

I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.

I prefer to knock on wood.

I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility

that existence has its own reason for being.

 

Hat tip: The Marginalian


The Fish In The Stone

24/07/2022

THE FISH IN THE STONE
by Rita Dove

The fish in the stone
would like to fall
back into the sea.

He is weary
of analysis, the small
predictable truths.
He is weary of waiting
in the open,
his profile stamped
by a white light.

In the ocean the silence
moves and moves
and so much is unnecessary!

Patient, he drifts
until the moment comes
to cast his
skeletal blossom.

The fish in the stone
knows to fail is
to do the living
a favor.

He knows why the ant
engineers a gangster’s
funeral, garish
and perfectly amber.
He knows why the scientist
in secret delight
strokes the fern’s
voluptuous braille.

Hat tip: The Marginalian


The Big Middle interviews Donna Ashworth

17/07/2022

Donna Ashworth is a Scottish poet who has a gift for expressing what a lot of other people, possibly, but not exclusively women, think and feel.

Her poems are beautiful, moving and real.

You can hear, and read,  some of them in Susan Flory’s interview with her here:

It’s as if she’s got a hotline to your head. She gets inside your mind, rummages round all those piles of messy-feely thoughts, even the ones in the darkest corners, then heads for your heart.

Scottish writer Donna Ashworth translates our thoughts and feelings about life, love and loss into poetry that stuns in its simple complexity.

Her beautiful words proved a salve for our battered souls and minds at the height of the pandemic. It was then that her precious poems went viral online. Her heartfelt musings were picked up by organisations as diverse as the UK’s National Health Service, Amnesty International and Doctors of America. Celebrated actors recited her work, including Michael Sheen, Griff Rhys Jones and Vicky McClure. Her empathy, compassion and reassurance served as a beacon and blanket of comfort as we struggled under the weight of uncertainty and grief.

This episode was a joy to make. Donna reads six of her poems for us, tugging at our heart strings as we go. She shares the astonishing fact that her artistry is not the product of endless tweaks and revisions. Her poems arrive overnight, fully-formed for delivery in the morning, her first drafts her final drafts.

You’ll find a lot of Donna’s poems and how to buy her books on Facebook  and her website.


Invictus

03/07/2022

The phrase bloody but unbowed was familiar but I hadn’t known where it came from until I came across a reference to it yesterday in this post at Kiwiblog quoting a story by Dan Hannah about Britain’s strictest headmistress.

The documentary about Michaela Community School in Brent shows kids who begin life with few advantages leaving school confident, ambitious and qualified.

But it may do more than cheer you up. It may restore some old truths that, deep down, we always recognised, however unfashionable they became among educationalists

Katharine Birbalsingh, the headmistress in question, did not start out as a traditionalist. At Oxford, she joined the Socialist Workers Party. When she began her teaching career, she went in with all the usual assumptions: schools were underfunded, the biggest obstacle facing non-white kids was structural racism. But she found that her classroom experiences could not sustain those pre-conceptions. The real problem, she came to realise, lay in the attitude of the people who oversaw our schools.

Instead of imparting knowledge, teachers were overseeing child-led discussions. Instead of promoting confidence, they were encouraging victimhood. Instead of upholding the canon, they were seeking out obscure texts on grounds of identity politics. Instead of expecting high standards, they were indulging pupils from under-privileged backgrounds, and thus unintentionally condemning them.

Birbalsingh began to dream of a different kind of school – a school with houses and uniforms and discipline and classics. Why, she wondered, should these things be the preserve of the rich? Didn’t children in deprived boroughs need them more? . . 

She had to battle the council, but eventually got permission to take over an old office block.

In these unpropitious surroundings, she has pulled off what I can only call a secular miracle. Many of Michaela’s children come from estates poisoned by drugs and gangs. Perhaps nine in ten are from ethnic minorities, with dozens of different home languages. Forty-one per cent of her first intake were officially classed as disadvantaged, meaning they had qualified for free school meals. Yet in 2019, that cohort, the first to sit GCSEs, secured some of the best grades in the country: 54 per cent got 7, 8 or 9 (the top grades, equivalent to A or A* under the old system) as against a national average of 22 per cent.

What is Michaela’s secret? A set of principles that could be made to work in any school: gratitude must be taught; phones banned; encouraged; learning teacher-led; national cohesion promoted; high standards expected; adult authority upheld.

I did; and I did. I have never met more impressive teachers. They engaged their students through dozens of techniques that would work in any classroom. For example, when questions are posed in class, instead of responding immediately, pupils are encouraged to pair up and explain their answer to their partners, so that everyone has to formulate it.

As they walk into lunch, the kids belt out verses that they have memorised – Kipling’s If, Henley’s Invictus, passages from Shakespeare. This is the only time they make a noise inside; there is usually no talking in the corridors – which means no misbehaviour and no bullying.

Over lunch, they are given a topic to talk about. Afterwards, they express their appreciation for someone – a teacher for helping them, another student for making them feel welcome, their mother for always having their uniform ready. Gratitude is a happier emotion than grievance, and perhaps the most striking feature of Michaela is how cheerful its children are. The school’s detractors imagine it as a Dickensian poorhouse; in fact, children like order and respond to being stretched. The listlessness, anxiety and rudeness that I have seen in schools that pride themselves on their liberalism are unimaginable here.

Invictus – William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.


So I danced again

26/06/2022

 

Hat tip; The Marginalian


The Beginning and the End

19/06/2022

Excerpts from “THE BEGINNING AND THE END”
by Robinson Jeffers

The unformed volcanic earth, a female thing,
Furiously following with the other planets
Their lord the sun: her body is molten metal pressed rigid
By its own mass; her beautiful skin, basalt and granite and the lighter elements,
Swam to the top. She was like a mare in her heat eyeing the stallion,
Screaming for life in the womb; her atmosphere
Was the breath of her passion: not the blithe air
Men breathe and live, but marsh-gas, ammonia, sulphured hydrogen,
Such poison as our remembering bodies return to
When they die and decay and the end of life
Meets its beginning. The sun heard her and stirred
Her thick air with fierce lightnings and flagellations
Of germinal power, building impossible molecules, amino-acids
And flashy unstable proteins: thence life was born,
Its nitrogen from ammonia, carbon from methane,
Water from the cloud and salts from the young seas,
It dribbled down into the primal ocean like a babe’s urine
Soaking the cloth: heavily built protein molecules
Chemically growing, bursting apart as the tensions
In the inordinate molecule become unbearable —
That is to say, growing and reproducing themselves, a virus
On the warm ocean.

Time and the world changed,
The proteins were no longer created, the ammoniac atmosphere
And the great storms no more. This virus now
Must labor to maintain itself. It clung together
Into bundles of life, which we call cells,
With microscopic walls enclosing themselves
Against the world. But why would life maintain itself,
Being nothing but a dirty scum on the sea
Dropped from foul air? Could it perhaps perceive
Glories to come? Could it foresee that cellular life
Would make the mountain forest and the eagle dawning,
Monstrously beautiful, wings, eyes and claws, dawning
Over the rock-ridge? And the passionate human intelligence
Straining its limits, striving to understand itself and the universe to the last galaxy.

[…]

What is this thing called life? — But I believe
That the earth and stars too, and the whole glittering universe, and rocks on the mountain have life,
Only we do not call it so — I speak of the life
That oxydizes fats and proteins and carbo-
Hydrates to live on, and from that chemical energy
Makes pleasure and pain, wonder, love, adoration, hatred and terror: how do these thing grow
From a chemical reaction?

I think they were here already. I think the rocks
And the earth and the other planets, and the stars and galaxies
Have their various consciousness, all things are conscious;
But the nerves of an animal, the nerves and brain
Bring it to focus

[…]

The human soul.
The mind of man…
Slowly, perhaps, man may grow into it —
Do you think so? This villainous king of beasts, this deformed ape? — He has mind
And imagination, he might go far
And end in honor. The hawks are more heroic but man has a steeper mind,
Huge pits of darkness, high peaks of light,
You may calculate a comet’s orbit or the dive of a hawk, not a man’s mind.

 

Hat tip – The Marginalian

 


Milne muses

12/06/2022


On Looking Up By Chance At The Constellations

12/06/2022

ON LOOKING UP BY CHANCE AT THE CONSTELLATIONS
by Robert Frost

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves —
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drout will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Hat Tip – The Marginalian 


Milne muses

05/06/2022


Let There Always Be Light

05/06/2022

LET THERE ALWAYS BE LIGHT (SEARCHING FOR DARK MATTER)
by Rebecca Elson

For this we go out dark nights, searching
For the dimmest stars,
For signs of unseen things:

To weigh us down.
To stop the universe
From rushing on and on
Into its own beyond
Till it exhausts itself and lies down cold,
Its last star going out.

Whatever they turn out to be,
Let there be swarms of them,
Enough for immortality,
Always a star where we can warm ourselves.

Let there be enough to bring it back
From its own edges,
To bring us all so close we ignite
The bright spark of resurrection.

Hat Tip: The Marginalian


The Empire’s Old Clothes

04/06/2022

May be an image of text

Borrowed from Facebook


Trees at Night

29/05/2022

TREES AT NIGHT
by Helene Johnson

Slim Sentinels
Stretching lacy arms
About a slumbrous moon;
Black quivering
Silhouettes,
Tremulous,
Stencilled on the petal
Of a bluebell;
Ink sputtered
On a robin’s breast;
The jagged rent
Of mountains
Reflected in a
Stilly sleeping lake;
Fragile pinnacles
Of fairy castles;
Torn webs of shadows;
And
Printed ’gainst the sky —
The trembling beauty
Of an urgent pine.

Hat tip: The Marginalian


Ode to the Wonder of Life

22/05/2022

[UNTITLED ODE TO THE WONDER OF LIFE]
by Richard Feynman

I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think. There are the rushing waves… mountains of molecules, each stupidly minding its own business… trillions apart… yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages… before any eyes could see… year after year… thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what?… on a dead planet, with no life to entertain.

Never at rest… tortured by energy… wasted prodigiously by the sun… poured into space. A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea, all molecules repeat the patterns of one another till complex new ones are formed. They make others like themselves… and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity… living things, masses of atoms, DNA, protein… dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle onto the dry land… here it is standing… atoms with consciousness… matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea… wonders at wondering… I… a universe of atoms… an atom in the universe.

 

Hat tip: The Marginalian


Bloom

01/05/2022
Bloom—is Result—to meet a Flower
And casually glance
Would scarcely cause one to suspect
The minor CircumstanceAssisting in the Bright Affair
So intricately done
Then offered as a Butterfly
To the Meridian—

To pack the Bud—oppose the Worm—
Obtain its right of Dew—
Adjust the Heat—elude the Wind—
Escape the prowling Bee

Great Nature not to disappoint
Awaiting Her that Day—
To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility—

Hat tip: The Marginalian


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