Ted Hughes | Bride and Groom Lay Hidden for Three Days


She gives him his eyes, she found them
Among some rubble, among some beetles

He gives her her skin
He just seemed to pull it down out of the air and lay it over her
She weeps with fearfulness and astonishment

She has found his hands for him, and fitted them freshly at the wrists
They are amazed at themselves, they go feeling all over her

He has assembled her spine, he cleaned each piece carefully
And sets them in perfect order
A superhuman puzzle but he is inspired
She leans back twisting this way and that, using it and laughing
Incredulous

Now she has brought his feet, she is connecting them
So that his whole body lights up

And he has fashioned her new hips
With all fittings complete and with newly wound coils, all shiningly oiled
He is polishing every part, he himself can hardly believe it

They keep taking each other to the sun, they find they can easily
To test each new thing at each new step

And now she smoothes over him the plates of his skull
So that the joints are invisible

And now he connects her throat, her breasts and the pit of her stomach
With a single wire

She gives him his teeth, tying the the roots to the centrepin of his body

He sets the little circlets on her fingertips

She stiches his body here and there with steely purple silk

He oils the delicate cogs of her mouth

She inlays with deep cut scrolls the nape of his neck

He sinks into place the inside of her thighs

So, gasping with joy, with cries of wonderment
Like two gods of mud
Sprawling in the dirt, but with infinite care
They bring each other to perfection.

Pablo Neruda | Only Death


There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.

David Bottoms | A Walk to Sope Creek


Sometimes when I’ve made the mistake of anger, which sometimes

breeds the mistake of cruelty, I walk


down the rocky slope above the ruined mill on Sope Creek

where sweet gum and hickory weave sunlight


into gauzy screens. And sometimes when I’ve made the mistake

of cruelty, which always breeds grief,


I remember how, years ago, my uncle led me, a boy,

into a thicket of pines and taught me to kneel


beside a white stone, the way a man had taught him, a boy,

to pray behind a clapboard church.


Sometimes when my heart is as dark as a stone, I weave

between the trees above that crumbling mill


and stumble through those threaded screens of light,

the way an anger must fall


through many stages of remorse.

Any rock, he allowed, can be altar.

Helen Mort | Grasmere Oak


Since there’s no blind, the tree outside’s
a curtain on your room, the yolk-bright mornings
breaking through. Last night, its shadow seemed
the only thing between you and the leaking dark,
the rain set loose and needling the bark.
Look close. Its leaves direct the wind.
Your world’s veiled by a moving thatch —
this is the way a hunter squints through grass,
a hide-and-seek cheat peers over their hands,
a girl looks up from underneath her fringe.


This is the landscape’s hidden hinge
where all things start and peter out:
the summers you were blind to, winters when
the tree gave back the tin-roof coloured sky,
the small, white knuckle of a distant farm.
These branches force the valley’s arm,
pin down the light, headlock the air
until there’s nothing left of it at all.
Watch how the leaves balance the sky,
then let it fall.

Fleur Adcock | Kissing


The young are walking on the riverbank
arms around each other’s waist and shoulders,
pretending to be looking at the waterlilies
and what might be a nest of some kind, over
there, which two who are clamped together
mouth to mouth have forgotten about.
The others, making courteous detours
around them, talk, stop talking, kiss.
They can see no one older than themselves.
It’s their river. They’ve got all day.

Seeing’s not everything. At this very
moment the middle-aged are kissing
in the backs of taxis, on the way
to airports and stations. Their mouths and tongues
are soft and powerful and as moist as ever.
Their hands are not inside each other’s clothes
(because of the driver) but locked so tightly
together that it hurts: it may leave marks
on their not of course youthful skin, which they won’t
notice. They too may have futures.

Dannie Abse | O Taste and See


Because of a kiss on the forehead

in the long Night’s infirmary,

through the red wine let light shine deep.


Because of the thirty-six just men

that so stealthily roam this earth

raise high the glass and do not weep.


Who says the world is not a wedding?

Couples, in their oases, lullabye.

Let a glass be full before they sleep.


Toast all that which seems to vanish

like a rainbow stared at, those bright

truant things that will not keep;


and ignorance of the last night

of our lives, its famished breathing.

Then, in the red wine, taste the light.

Robin Robertson | What The Horses See at Night


When the day-birds have settled

in their creaking trees,

the doors of the forest open

for the flitting

drift of deer

among the bright coziers

of new ferns

and the legible stars;

foxes stream from the earth;

a tawny owl

sweeps the long meadow

in a slink of river-light

the mink’s face

is already slippery with yolk,

and the bay’s

tiny islands are drops

of solder

under a drogue moon.

The sea’s a heavy sleeper,

dreaming in and out with a catch

in each breath, and is not disturbed

by that plowt - the first

in a play of herring, a shoal

silvering open

the sheeted black skin of the sea.

Through the starting rain, the moon

skirrs across the sky dragging

torn shreds of cloud behind.

The fox’s call is red

and ribboned

in the snow’s white shadow.

The horses watch the sea climb

and climb and walk

towards them on the hill,

hear the vole

crying under the alder,

our children

breathing slowly in their beds.

Maude Phelps Hutchins | Letter To A Lady On The Nightmare Side


Dearest Lover:

Dream tonight of mocking birds

And salve and mustard

Confined in safety pins

Muffle your screams in mint and rain

Satisfy your wantonness in obsolete palaver

Cry out against a lengthening strike

And let a colored formula beat out on the wheat

Cross yourself and smile

Lift your breast and touch the ceiling

And let the doves light where they may

Pattern your behavior out with scissors

And leave the dawn to such


Sleep and stretch and kiss and fight

Live and be learned

Dream and beware

Alternate yourself with pistols

Advice is lost

And wanders room to room

Pick up the shining dimes

And eat the chocolates

Leave the rest to me

Yours truly I.

Adrian Blevins | Hey You


Back when my head like an egg in a nest
was vowel-keen and dawdling, I shed my slick beautiful
and put it in a basket and laid it barefaced at the river
among the taxing rocks. My beautiful was all hush
and glitter. It was too moist to grasp. My beautiful
had no tongue with which to lick—no discernable
wallowing gnaw. It was really a breed of destruction
like a nick in a knife. It was a notch in the works
or a wound like a bell in a fat iron mess. My beautiful
was a drink too sopping to haul up and swig!
Therefore with the trees watching and the beavers abiding
I tossed my beautiful down at the waterway against
the screwball rocks. Even then there was no hum.
My beautiful was never ill-bred enough, no matter what
you say. If you want my blue yes everlasting, try my
she, instead. Try the why not of my low down,
Sugar, my windswept and wrecked.

E.E. Cummings | Since Feeling Is First


since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Henri Cole | Twilight


There’s a black bear

in the apple tree

and he won’t come down.

I can hear him panting

like an athlete.

I can smell the stink of his body.


Come down, black bear.

Can you hear me?


The mind is the most interesting thing to me;

like the sudden death of the sun,

it seems implausible that darkness will swallow it

or that anything is lost forever there,

like a black bear in a fruit tree,

gulping up sour apples

with dry sucking sounds,


or like us at the pier, somber and tired,

making food from sunlight,

you saying a word, me saying a word, trying hard,

though things were disintegrating.

Still, I wanted you,

your lips on my neck,

your postmodern sexuality.

Forlorn and anonymous:

I didn’t want to be that. I could hear

the great barking monsters of the lower waters

calling me forward.


You see, my mind takes me far,

but my heart dreams of return.

Black bear,

with pale-pink tongue

at the center of his face,

is turning his head,

like the face of Christ from life.

Shaking the apple boughs,

he is stronger than I am

and seems so free of passion—

no fear, no pain, no tenderness. I want to be that.


Come down, black bear,

I want to learn the faith of the indifferent.

Dylan Thomas | The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower


The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.


The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.


The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.


The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.


And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Glyn Maxwell | Either


A northern hill aghast with weather
Scolds and lets me hurry over.
Someone phoned to tell my father
Someone died this morning of a
Stroke. The news has tapped me with a
Stick. I vaguely knew his brother.
No one knows where I am either.


Now I’m lost. I don’t know whether
This road runs along the river
Far enough. I miss my lover,
Town and all the south. I’d rather
Die than be away forever,
What’s the difference. Here’s another
Field I don’t remember either.

Nouvelle Vague | In a Manner of Speaking

Karen Holmberg | Still Life With Yews


Walking to my office I had stopped
to listen – where are you? where are
             you
A robin cast her flute notes
off a frost blanched roof peak,
triplets ascendant,
sweetly querulous, piercing
the heart’s rim, tugging through it
the long thread of music.
The world that bled back to my eye
had changed. The east had flushed the rose
of a cheek when the cold
compress is lifted. Narcissi
were lifting the gray mat of leaves.


The mind and body can be
separate places, that’s what had and –ing
prove, I was thinking as I rubbed my thumb
along paper, listening to my print’s
stuttering rasp. I was not turning
the page, not seeing the words, my eye
compelled to the tender new bristles
tipping the yew’s black wands.
Without the aid of any wind,
they nodded; some pulse rubbed
the blood-in-milk berry cups along the pane.
Faint static through the glass.
The pianissimo had faded; the needle
was about to lift.


And it was still the crinkle
of the paper drape I heard, the hand
outside the door, rustling through my file.
The cordial, imperturbable voice explaining
how the body mistakes
part of itself for enemy, launches cells
to kill it. That I must take a replacement
the rest of my life.
My legs hung like stopped pendulums.
I was still, somehow, in that
still life: mirror in its stainless frame,
Lucite jars of swabs and packaged
gauze. Propping my torso
with my hands’ heels, I was nodding
like the yew outside my window, with each jet of blood
downward from the heart, into the body
that was not me, and was me.