Dylan Thomas | In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Charles Bukowski | The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Ted Hughes | September

We sit late, watching the dark slowly unfold:
No clock counts this.
When kisses are repeated and the arms hold
There is no telling where time is.

It is midsummer: the leaves hang big and still:
Behind the eye a star,
Under the silk of the wrist a sea, tell
Time is nowhere.

We stand; leaves have not timed the summer.
No clock now needs
Tell we have only what we remember:
Minutes uproaring with our heads

Like an unfortunate King’s and his Queen’s
When the senseless mob rules;
And quietly the trees casting their crowns
Into the pools.

R.S. Thomas | The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Louise Gluck | A Myth of Devotion

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he’d introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she’d find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn’t everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn’t everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That’s what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there’d be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn’t imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone’s Girlhood.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you’re dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

Alessandra Sanguinetti | Untitled

Alessandra Sanguinetti | Untitled

"A person can find anything if he takes the time, that is, if he can afford to look.

And while he’s looking, he’s free, and he finds things he never expected.”

Thom Gunn | Touch

You are already
asleep. I lower
myself in next to
you, my skin slightly
numb with the restraint
of habits, the patina of
self, the black frost
of outsideness, so that even
unclothed, it is
a resilient chilly
hardness, a superficially
malleable, dead
rubbery texture.

You are a mound
of bedclothes, where the cat
in sleep braces
its paws against your
calf through the blankets,
and kneads each paw in turn.

Meanwhile and slowly
I feel a is it
my own warmth surfacing or
the ferment of your whole
body that in darkness beneath
the cover is stealing
bit by bit to break
down that chill.

You turn and
hold me tightly, do
you know who
I am or am I
your mother or
the nearest human being to
hold on to in a
dreamed pogrom.

What I, now loosened,
sink into is an old
big place, it is
there already, for
you are already
there, and the cat
got there before you,
it is hard to locate.
What is more, the place is
not found but seeps
from our touch in
continuous creation, dark
enclosing cocoon round
ourselves alone, dark
wide realm where we
walk with everyone.

#Poetry  #Lit  #Thom Gunn  #Touch  

Anne Sexton | As It Was Written

Earth, earth, 

riding your merry-go-round

toward extinction, 

right to the roots, 

thickening the oceans like gravy, 

festering in your caves, 

you are becoming a latrine.

Your trees are twisted chairs.

Your flowers moan at their mirrors, 

and cry for a sun that doesn’t wear a mask.

Your clouds wear white, 

trying to become nuns

and say novenas to the sky.

The sky is yellow with its jaundice, 

and its veins spill into the rivers

where the fish kneel down

to swallow hair and goat’s eyes.

All in all, I’d say, 

the world is strangling.

And I, in my bed each night, 

listen to my twenty shoes

converse about it.

And the moon, 

under its dark hood, 

falls out of the sky each night, 

with its hungry red mouth

to suck at my scars.

Monochromie | Constellations

Seamus Heaney | The Otter

When you plunged

The light of Tuscany wavered

And swung through the pool

From top to bottom.

I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,

Your fine swimmer’s back and shoulders

Surfacing and surfacing again

This year and every year since.

I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.

You were beyond me.

The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air

Thinned and disappointed.

Thank God for the slow loadening,

When I hold you now

We are close and deep

As the atmosphere on water.

My two hands are plumbed water.

You are my palpable, lithe

Otter of memory

In the pool of the moment,

Turning to swim on your back,

Each silent, thigh-shaking kick

Re-tilting the light,

Heaving the cool at your neck.

And suddenly you’re out,

Back again, intent as ever,

Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,

Printing the stones.

Solomon Grey | Gen V

Galway Kinnell | Neverland

Bending over her bed, I saw the smile

I must have seen when I looked up from the crib.

Knowing death comes, imagining it, smelling it,

may be a fair price for consciousness.

But looking at my sister lying there, I wished

she could have been snatched up from behind

to die by surprise, without ever knowing about death.

Too late. Wendy said, “I am in three parts.

Here on the left is red. That is pain.

On the right is yellow. That is exhaustion.

The rest is white. I don’t know yet what white is.”

For most people. one day everything is OK.

The next, the limbic node catches fire. The day after,

the malleus in one ear starts missing the incus.

Then the arthritic opposable thumb no longer opposes

whoever screwed the top onto the jam jar.

Then the coraco-humeral ligament frizzles apart,

the liver speckles, the kidneys dent,

two toes lose their souls. Of course,

before things get worse, a person could run.

I could take off right now, climb the pure forms

that surmount time and death, follow a line

drawn along Avenue D, make a 90° turn right on 8th Street,

90° left on C, right on 7th, left on B, then cross

to Sixth Avenue, catch the A train to Nassau,

the station where the A pulls up beside the Z,

get off and hop on the Z and hurtle under the river

and rise on Euclid under the stars and taste,

with a woman, in perfectly circular kisses,

the actual honey of paradise.

Then, as if Wendy suddenly understood

this flaw in me, that I could die

still wanting what is not to be had here, drink

and drink and yet have most of my thirst

intact for the water table, she opened her eyes.

"I want you to know I’m not afraid of dying,"

she said. “I only wish it didn’t take so long.”

Seeing her look so young and begin to die

all on her own, I wanted to whisk her off.

Quickly she said, “Let’s go home.” From outside

in the driveway came the gargling noise

of a starter motor, and a low steady rumbling, as if

my car had turned itself on and was warming up the engine.

She said this as if we had gone over to visit

a friend, to sign our names on the plaster cast

on her leg, broken on the swing in our backyard,

and some awful indoor game had gone wrong,

and Wendy had turned to me and said, “Let’s go home.”

She had closed her eyes. She looked entirely white.

Her hair had been white for years; in her illness

her skin was as if powdered with twice-bleached flour;

now her lips seemed to have given up their blood.

Color flashed only when she opened her eyes.

Snow will come down next winter, in the woods;

the fallen trees will have that flesh on their bones.

When the eyes of the woods open, a bluejay shuttles.

Outside, suddenly, all was quiet, and

I realized my car had shut off its engine.

And now she felt hot to the touch, as if

an almost immaterial fat were still clinging,

like a lining, to the inside of her skin,

burning. There was a looseness to her flesh.

A translucency came into it, as had happened

with our mother when she was about to die.

At last a spot of rosiness showed in each cheek;

blushes, perhaps, at a joy she had kept from us,

from somewhere in her life, perhaps two mouths,

hers and a beloved’s, near each other, like roses

sticking out of a bottle of invisible water.

She was losing the half-given, half-learned

art of speech, and it became a struggle for her

to find the words, to form them, to position them,

and then quickly utter them. After much effort

she said to me, “Now is when the point of the story


After that, one eye at a time, the left listened,

and drifted, the right focused, gleamed

meanings at me, drifted. Stalwart,

the halves of the brain, especially the right.

Now, as they rachet the box holding

her body into the earth, I hear her voice,

calling back across the region she passes through,

in prolonged, even notes, which swell and diminish,

a far landscape I seem to see as if from above,

much light, much darkness, tumbling clouds,

sounding back to us from its farthest edge.

Now her voice comes from under the horizon,

and now it grows faint, and now I cannot hear it.

Sylvia Plath | Conversation Among The Ruins

Through portico of my elegant house you stalk

With your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit

And the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net

Of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back.

Now, rich order of walls is fallen; rooks croak

Above the appalling ruin; in bleak light

Of your stormy eye, magic takes flight

Like a daunted witch, quitting castle when real days break.

Fractured pillars frame prospects of rock;

While you stand heroic in coat and tie, I sit

Composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot,

Rooted to your black look, the play turned tragic:

Which such blight wrought on our bankrupt estate,

What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?

Don Paterson | Letter to the Twins

…for it is said, they went to school at Gabii, and were well

instructed in letters, and other accomplishments, befitting their

birth. And they were called Romulus and Remus (from ruma, the

dug), as we had before, because they were found sucking the wolf.

                                                             Plutarch, Parallel Lives

Dear sons - for I am not, as you believed,

your uncle - forgive me now in my dereliction.

In those nine months the single thought that grieved

me most was not your terrible instruction

in the works of men, the disillusionments - 

Nanking and Srebrenica, Babi Yar - 

you, bent above those tables of events

by whose low indices you might infer

how far you’d fallen. No, it was instead

the years you’d spend reconstituting all

the billion tedious skills of humanhood:

the infinite laws of Rome, the protocols

of every minor court and consulate - 

that city that must rise up from its razed

foundations, mirrored and immaculate,

for as often as we come back to this place.

In sum, they might account it a disaster

but whatever I did, I did it as a deft

composer of the elements, the master

of all terrestrial drag and spin and heft;

look at this hand - the way it knows how light

to grip the pen, how far above the brim

to fill the cup, or hard to steer the kite,

or slowly it can travel through the flame.

More, it knows the vanity of each.

But were I to commend just one reserve

of study - one I promise that will teach

you nothing of use, and so not merely serve

to deepen your attachment of your debt,

where each small talent added to the horde

is doubled in its spending, and somehow yet

no more or less than its own clean reward - 

it would be this: the honouring of your lover.

Learn this and she will guide you, if not home

then at least to its true memory. Then wherever

the world loses you, in her you are the same.

First, she will address you in a tongue

so secret she must close her mouth on yours.

In the curves and corners of this silent song

will lie the whole code of your intercourse.

Then, as you break, at once you understand

how the roses of her breast will draw in tight

at your touch, how that parched scrubland

between her thighs breaks open into wet

suddenly, as though you’d find the stream

running through it like a seam of milk;

know, by its tiny pulse and its low gleam

just where the pearl sits knuckled in its silk,

how that ochre-pink anemone relaxes

and unknots under your light hand and white spit;

and how that lovely mouth has no kiss

will take the deepest you can plant in it;

and how to make that shape that boys, alas,

will know already as the sign for gun

yet slide it with a woman’s gentleness

till you meet that other muzzle coming down.

Now, in all humility, retrace

your steps, that you might understand in full

the privilege that brought you to this place,

that let you know the break below the wool:

and as you lie there by her side, and feel

the wet snout of her womb nuzzle and lather

your fingertips - then you might recall

your mother; or her who said she was your mother.