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I was reading about faith. The author
said we return to what we believed in when
we were young, but I can say with certainty I did
not believe in a god, maybe gods though—
the ones I found in the Edith Hamilton Mythology
my mother gave me when I was a kid. As for
return, the word says something about time
I don’t understand unless it’s the way I stood
at the kitchen sink washing dishes and staring
at my mother’s collection of birds and one
brass giraffe she bought at the zoo. I wondered,
if I put away all the things she wanted me
to remember her by would I keep remembering?
To read the complete poem click here
Gone are Spring’s graces! mute her melodies!
Yet in their place what Summer can bestow,
Freely she yields; she tunes the river’s flow
To gentlest music,—fills with sweets the breeze,—
Gives the last flush of leafage to the trees,—
Flowers to Earth’s nursing bosom,—to the sky
Brightness oppressive from intensity,—
And calms, with halcyon wing, the azure seas.
Such are her spells!—yet I look back on Spring
(As middle age delights on youth to pore)
With feelings mournful, but unmurmuring.
I ever loved the bud more than the flower
And hope than full enjoyment: thence I cling
Alike to life’s and nature’s budding hour.
For a walk
To sit and talk
Or just a munch
A latte cappuccino
Or just tea
By the sea
To laugh to share
To learn and care
Just see me
For whatever happens
I keep my answers small and keep them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bulwark to my fear.
The huge abstractions I keep from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.
But the big answers clamoured to be moved
Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.
Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, I still hear
Big answers striving for their overthrow
And all the great conclusions coming near.
Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001) was born in Boston but moved to Oxford at the age of six. She studied at St. Anne’s College, Oxford and worked in advertising and briefly in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Her consistent devotion to poetry yielded over twenty books during her life, a New Collected Poems appearing in 2002. Although initially linked to the group of poets including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and Thom Gunn known as ‘The Movement’, Jennings’ work doesn’t share their irony or academic wit. However, the unassuming technical craft of her poetry and its emotional restraint are qualities that were praised by the poets and critics of the period and continued to be abiding characteristics of her work.
Elizabeth Jennings work is available to borrow and reserve from Surrey Libraries. Thank you to regular contributor Paul Lawless, for suggesting this poem.
Chirps and sings
Flirts from here to there
She sees she nurtures and she cares
So confident so free
So delicate so natural
She comes so close
I look and stare
My world stands still
I can only see her
Feel that wind and spread your wings
Fly soar and sing
My sweet thing
When I see you fly
I will fly
Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.
And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air’s soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.
I envy the farmer’s boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.
He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another’s ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.
He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art;
‘T is a song of the merriest.
O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.
Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.
So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on this day, 27 June 1872.
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
I know the names of almost
not the bone
between my elbow and my wrist
that sometimes aches
the plumb line
from the pelvis
to the knee
less ache than hum
in my nineteenth year
a knife blade slit through nerves
and nicked a vein
leaving the wall intact
so the blood kept flooding out
a nurse on evening shift
opened the wound
and made me whole again.
To read the complete poem click here
Shaping the World: 40 Historical Heroes in Verse by Liz Brownlee is available to borrow from Surrey Libraries
When seventy two I had a fear
Of passing away the next year
For all my male relatives had passed
And I was nearing that year too fast
Not one had chalked up seventy four
And even my brother-in-law
Was gone aged seventy three
Yet not a blood relative was he
A coincidence it might only be
But my home was also seventy three
And on my bins all clear to see
I could not shake that number free I
felt all family males were cursed
But seemed I the next to be first
When seventy two on that last night
My concern was then at its height I
had to get through the next year
To end the curse and my fear
When seventy three that first day I
thought of all the days that lay
Ahead of me were months of danger
Although to that I am no stranger
Each passing day I counted down
Even refrained from painting the town
One day more and one day less
Would I get through was just a guess My
local bus route was seventy three So
queued for a double decker you see A
friend called out from opposite loud
Someone I knew in a bus queueing crowd
Crossing the road and nearly run
down By a 73 bus with no warning
sound I was lucky that day avoiding a
Getting my wings at a Heavenly Gate A
73 bus, the engine throbbed thunder One
second more I’d be right under That was
for me a most scary escape Else with
shovel would need to scrape Off the
tarmac to scoop in a bag There to attach
my name on a tag But I would have been
gone at 72 And failed to break the cursed
voodoo That 73 had bruised my chest
sore And stamped AEC on the shirt that I
wore That mark on display is easy to see
A large AEC is observed instantly So
seventy three is bad luck for me On the
following day and unhappily I fell on a
73’s stairs by the way When climbing up
top just halfway A very large lady
blocked the way I asked to get by but she
refused You’re in my way she accused
I think the large lady well boozed
She slapped me with one of her shoes
I hit the stairs with a sickening thump
While she trod on me the fat frump I
vowed then to shun public transport
So purchased an old banger of sort It
was clapped out but got me around
From A to B safe but not sound
So getting beyond age seventy three
Was rather a difficult year don’t you see
The closer I got to seventy four
With my luck I’d croak day before
My growing panic was so raised So
stayed safe at home and just lazed
For getting to 74 I had doubt So
hardly dared to go out
I was too young for my maker But
still ordered a cheap undertaker
That last night in my bed hoping
To wake in the morning seventy four
But what a relief and delight To rise
at the dawn of first light A narrow
escape from my 73 plight To reach
74 was a family first I had finally
broken the curse So cancelled the
wake and the hearse Now all those
who come after me Will have no
concern about 73 But now 75, I
reflect back and laugh To think it was
all just a little bit daft.
Trevor Dunford is a regular contributor to the Surrey Libraries Poetry Blog