Sunday, 29 April 2012


Spring lies desolate.
The velvet-dark ditch
crawls by my side
without reflections.

The only thing that shines
is yellow flowers.

I am carried in my shadow
like a violin in its black case.

The only thing I want to say
glitters out of reach
like the silver in a pawnbroker's.

Tomas Transtroemer

translated by Robin Fulton

Tomas Transtroemer is a Swedish poet, writer and translator who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


Now, in this waning of light,
I rock with the motion of morning;
In the cradle of all that is,
I'm lulled into half-sleep
By the lapping of water,
Cries of the sandpiper.
Water's my will, and my way,
And the spirit runs, intermittently,
In and out of the small waves,
Runs with the intrepid shorebirds - 
How graceful the small before danger!

In the first of the moon,
All's a scattering.
A shining.

Theodore Roethke

Sunday, 22 April 2012


Salisbury Cathedral From the East
J.M.W. Turner

They climbed on sketchy ladders towards God,
With winch and pulley hoisted hewn rock into heaven,
Inhabited sky with hammers, defied gravity,
Deified stone, took up God's house to meet Him,

And came down to their suppers and small beer;
Every night slept, lay with their smelly wives,
Quarrelled and cuffed the children, lied,
Spat, sang, were happy or unhappy,

And every day took to the ladders again;
Impeded the rights of way of another summer's
Swallows; grew greyer, shakier, became less inclined
To fix a neighbour's roof of a fine evening,

Saw naves sprout arches, clerestories soar,
Cursed the loud fancy glaziers for their luck,
Somehow escaped the plague, got rheumatism,
Decided it was time to give it up,

To leave the spire to others; and stood in the crowd
Well back from the vestments at the consecration,
Envied the fat bishop his warm boots,
Cocked up a squint eye and said, 'I bloody did that.'

John Ormond
Welsh poet and film-maker

Monday, 16 April 2012


Doris Kareva

You aren't better than anyone,
You aren't worse than anyone.
You have been given the world.
See what there is to see.

Protect what is around you,
hold who is there beside you.
All creatures in their own way
are funny -

and fragile.


The question isn't
how to be in style
how to live in truth
in the face of all the winds?

With mindfulness, courage,
patience, sympathy -
how to remain brave
when the spirit fails?


Idleness is often empowering,
recreating oneself - 
just as the moon gradually
grows full once again,
a battery surely and
steadily recharges,
so everything, everyone
must have time for the self -

for mirth and laziness
time to be human.

Doris Kareva

translated from the Estonian by Tina Aleman

Friday, 13 April 2012


We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in wich his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur;

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star; for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke

translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell

Bold italics in the last line are mine.

Archaïscher Torso Apollos
Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,
sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.
Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle
und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Elizabeth Jennings

Over the surging tides and the mountain kingdoms,
Over the pastoral valleys and the meadows,
Over the cities with their factory darkness,
Over the lands where peace is still a power,
Over all these and all this planet carries
A power broods, invisible monarch, a stranger
To some, but by many trusted. Man's a believer
Until corrupted. This huge trusted power
Is spirit. He moves in the muscle of the world,
In continual creation. He burns the tides, he shines
From the matchless skies. He is the day's surrender.
Recognize him in the eye of the angry tiger,
In the sign of a child stepping at last into sleep,
In whatever touches, graces and confesses,
In hopes fulfilled or forgotten, in promises

Kept, in the resignation of old men -
This spirit, this power, this holder together of space
Is about, is aware, is working in your breathing.
But most he is the need that shows in hunger
And in the tears shed in the lonely fastness.
And in sorrow after anger. 

Elizabeth Jennings

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history 
With your bitter, twisted lies, 
You may trod me in the very dirt 
But still, like dust, I'll rise. 

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells 
Pumping in my living room. 

Just like moons and like suns, 
With the certainty of tides, 
Just like hopes springing high, 
Still I'll rise. 

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 
Weakened by my soulful cries. 

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard 
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines 
Diggin' in my own back yard. 

You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
But still, like air, I'll rise. 

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise 
That I dance like I've got diamonds 
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame 
I rise 
Up from a past that's rooted in pain 
I rise 
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, 
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. 
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
I rise 
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear 
I rise 
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, 
I am the dream and the hope of the slave. 
I rise 
I rise 
I rise.

Maya Angelou
born on the 4th April 1928

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Royal Bank Building, Toronto, Canada
courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I was led into captivity by the bitch business
Not in love but in what seemed a physical necessity
And now i cannot even watch the spring
The itch for subsistence having become responsibility.

Money the she-devil comes to us under many veils
Tactful at first, calling herself beauty
Tear away this disguise, she proposes paternal solicitude
Assuming the dishonest face of duty.

Suddenly you are in bed with a screeching tear-sheet
This is money at last without her night-dress
Clutching you against her fallen udders and sharp bones
In an unscrupulous and deserved embrace.

C.H. Sisson