Poem for the Day

Posted: 3 November 2014

Isaac Rosenberg was considered to be one of the greatest of all the war poets. His "Poems from the Trenches" are recognised as some of the most outstanding written during the First World War.
Critical of the war from its onset he returned however to England in 1915 from South Africa, to where he had emigrated to try and cure his chronic bronchitis, and enlisted in the 12th Suffolk Regiment, a so-called ‘bantam’ battalion for men under 5'3". After he turned d...own promotion to lance-corporal he was transferred to 11th Battalion, The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. He was sent to the Somme where on April 1, 1918, he was killed having just finished a night patrol near the town of Fampoux. He was first buried in a mass grave, but in 1926, his remains were identified and reinterred at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, St. Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais, France.

I snatched two poppies
From the parapet’s ledge,
Two bright red poppies
That winked on the ledge.
Behind my ear
I stuck one through,
One blood red poppy
I gave to you.

The sandbags narrowed
And screwed out our jest,
And tore the poppy
You had on your breast ...
Down - a shell - O! Christ,
I am choked ... safe ... dust blind, I
See trench floor poppies
Strewn. Smashed you lie.

In the Trenches
Isaac Rosenberg

Poem for the Day

Posted: 2 November 2014

Regarded by many as the greatest writer of war poetry in the English language Owen wrote with unrivalled power of the physical, moral and psychological trauma of the First World War out of his personal experience as a soldier. His reputation largely rests on his great war poems on which were written in a period of little more than a year. He had written almost no poetry of any significance until he saw action in France in 1917.
He enlisted in 1915 aged 22 an...d in 1916 was sent to France where, within days, he was enduring the horrors of the front line. In 1918, after receiving treatment at Craiglockhart Hospital for shell-shock, where he also met Siegfried Sassoon, he returned to the trenches where he won the Military Cross for seizing a German machine-gun and using it to kill a number of German soldiers.
On 4th November he was shot and killed near the village of Ors. The news of his death reached his parents’ home as the Armistice bells were ringing on 11 November 1918.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.

Anthem for Doomed Youth
Wilfred Owen

Poem for the Day

Posted: 1 November 2014

A very funny/sad poem based on a well known story from one of my favourite writers. It is quite long but well worth reading.

It was late September. I'd just poured a glass of wine, begun
to unwind, while the vegetables cooked. The kitchen
filled with the smell of itself, relaxed, its steamy breath
gently blanching the windows. So I opened one,
then with my fingers wiped the other's glass like a brow.
He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig.

Now the garden was long and the visibility poor, the way
the dark of the ground seems to drink the light of the sky,
but that twig in his hand was gold. And then he plucked
a pear from a branch - we grew Fondante d'Automne -
and it sat in his palm like a light bulb. On.
I thought to myself, Is he putting fairy lights in the tree?

He came into the house. The doorknobs gleamed.
He drew the blinds. You know the mind; I thought of
the Field of the Cloth of Gold and of Miss Macready.
He sat in that chair like a king on a burnished throne.
The look on his face was strange, wild, vain. I said,
What in the name of God is going on? He started to laugh.

I served up the meal. For starters, corn on the cob.
Within seconds he was spitting out the teeth of the rich.
He toyed with his spoon, then mine, then with the knives, the forks.
He asked where was the wine. I poured with shaking hand,
a fragrent, bone-dry white from Italy, then watched
as he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice, drank.

It was then that I started to scream. He sank to his knees.
After we had both calmed down, I finished the wine
on my own, hearing him out. I made him sit
on the other side of the room and keep his hands to himself.
I locked the cat in the cellar. I moved the phone.
The toilet I didn't mind. I couldn't believe my ears:

how he'd had a wish. Look, we all have wishes; granted.
But who has wishes granted? Him. Do you know about gold?
It feeds no one; aurum, soft, untarnishable; slakes
no thirst. He tried to light a cigarette; I gazed, entranced,
as the blue flame played on its luteous stem. At least,
I said, you'll be able to give up smoking for good.

Separate beds. In fact, I put a chair against my door,
near petrified. He was below, turning the spare room
into the tomb of Tutankhamun. You see, we were passionate then,
in those halcyon days; unwrapping each other, rapidly,
like presents, fast food. But now I feared his honeyed embrace,
the kiss that would turn my lips to a work of art.

And who, when it comes to the crunch, can live
with a heart of gold? That night, I dreamt I bore
his child, its perfect ore limbs, its little tongue
like a precious latch, its amber eyes
holding their pupils like flies. My dream-milk
burned in my breasts. I woke to the streaming sun.

So he had to move out. We'd a caravan
in the wilds, in a glade of its own. I drove him up
under cover of dark. He sat in the back.
And then I came home, the women who married the fool
who wished for gold. At first I visited, odd times,
parking the car a good way off, then walking.

You knew you were getting close. Golden trout
on the grass. One day, a hare hung from a larch,
a beautiful lemon mistake. And then his footprints,
glistening next to the river's path. He was thin,
delirious; hearing, he said, the music of Pan
from the woods. Listen. That was the last straw.

What gets me now is not the idiocy or greed
but lack of thought for me. Pure selfishness. I sold
the contents of the house and came down here.
I think of him in certain lights, dawn, late afternoon,
and once a bowl of apples stopped me dead. I miss most,
even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.

Mrs Midas
Carol Ann Duffy

Poem for the Day

Posted: 31 October 2014

A poem for Hallowe'en

If it’s raining then he’ll stay indoors in case his coat gets wet,
If it’s sunny he just sleeps upon the mat....
But once a year at Hallowe'en, your quiet family pet,
Becomes that famous personage,
Who’s known on land and sea and stage,
Who never, ever gives his age,
He becomes a witch’s cat.

Now your cat may be a ginger tom or Siamese or white,
He may have some tiger stripes along his back.
But once a year at Hallowe’en, at some time in the night,
Your cat will disappear from view,
You won’t know where he’s going to,
He’s gone to mix the witch’s brew,
And his coat is shiny black.

His name may be ‘Old Pepperpot’ or ‘Genghis Khan’ or ‘Jack’,
But he also has a name no one has heard.
For once a year at Hallowe’en the witches call him back,
They call him by his proper name,
The one which never sounds the same,
To other cats who play the game,
This name’s a secret word.

And when he’s gone he never eats such things as mice or rats,
He has no time for fish or birds or milk.
For once a year at Hallowe’en he dines on roasted bats,
And jellied snake, which tastes divine,
And buttered toad with porcupine,
Then drinks it down with tiger wine,
And sleeps on cushioned silk.

So if you go to call your cat on October thirty-first,
And he doesn’t answer with his usual mew,
Don’t worry about him, he’ll be back when he has quenched his thirst
For magic drink and magic food,
For magic spells, both bad and good,
So watch your cat, and don’t be rude,
He may turn his spell on you.

The Witch's Cat
Bill Adair

Poem for the Day

Posted: 30 October 2014

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack ...
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert

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