More poems…

More poems

For a print friendly version of this page click here More poems

 


 

Manic depression                                                            Spike Milligan

The pain is too much

A thousand grim winters

grow in my head

In my ears

the sound of the

coming dead.

All Seasons

All Sane

All Living

All Pain.

No opiate to lock still

my senses

Only left,

the body locked tenses

 


 

Names                                                                                      Wendy Cope

 

She was Eliza for a few weeks

When she was a baby –

Eliza Lily. Soon it changed to Lil.

 

Later she was Miss Steward in the baker’s shop

And then “my love”, “my darling”, Mother.

 

Widowed at thirty, she went back to work

As Mrs Hand. Her daughter grew up,

Married and gave birth

 

Now she was Nanna. “Everybody

Calls me Nanna,” she would say to visitors.

And so they did – friends, tradesman, the doctor.

 

In the geriatric ward

They used the patients’ Christian names.

“Lil,” we said, “or Nanna,”

But it wasn’t in her file

And for those last bewildered weeks

She was Eliza once again.

 


 

Happiness                                                                           Meg Bateman

with thanks to Neil

 

Often have I seen them come together,

two old friends, two crofters,

who after a brief murmured greeting

will stand wordlessly together,

side by side, not facing each other,

and look out on the land whose

ways and memories unite them,

breathe in the air, and the scent of

tobacco and damp and lamb scour,

in the certain knowledge that talk

would hamper that expansive communion,

break in on their golden awareness

of all there is between them.

 

 

 


 

 

Silence                                                                                     Venkata Manjeti

 

At first, there was absolute silence.

And at least, there was absolute silence.

 

In between, it’s a(n)

Emotional silence, that’d kill with bare hands

Attentive silence, absorbed in the environment

Thoughtful silence, wallowing and preparing

Embezzled silence, bored in self indulgence

Quiet silence, uncomfortable and unwanted

Subdued silence, waiting in the wings

Meditative silence, which can move heaven and earth

Dogmatic silence, enough said about it

Comforting silence, no words could describe it

 

In this communicative silence,

Someone,

Say something

Or, not.

 

 


 

Dregs                                                                                                 Gillie Bolton

Mug of brown tea, big for cradling

hands and cheek. His tea always

bubbled swirling round and around.

Pull my dressing gown close

against the night which can’t get in,

cuddled by the stove.

Listen. The creak of the stair. He’s coming

with toothpaste and tobacco breath

to comfort, red dressing gown trailing.

The bubbles have gone

from tepid dregs

no need for a gypsy to read them.

Shiver in his cold crimson dressing gown

too big and too prickly, there’s

only the smell of the dark of silence.

 

 

 


 

 

Pathology of Colours                                                             Dannie Abse

I know the colour rose, and it is lovely,

but not when it ripens in a tumour;

and healing greens, leaves and grass, so springlike,

in limbs that fester are not springlike.

 

I have seen red-blue tinged with hirsute mauve

in the plum-skin face of a suicide.

I have seen white, china white almost, stare

from behind the smashed windscreen of a car.

 

And the criminal, multi-coloured flash

of an H-bomb is no more beautiful

than an autopsy when the belly’s opened –

to show cathedral windows never opened.

 

So in the simple blessing of a rainbow,

in the bevelled edge of a sunlit mirror,

I have seen, visible, Death’s artifact

like a soldier’s ribbon on a tunic tacked.

 

 


 

The Stethoscope                                                                          Dannie Abse

Through it,

over young women’s tense abdomens,

I have heard the sound of creation

and, in a dead man’s chest, the silence

before creation began.

 

Should I

pray therefore? Hold this instrument in awe

and aloft a procession of banners?

Hang this thing in the interior

of a cold, mushroom-dark church?

 

Should I

kneel before it, chant an apophthegm

from a small text? Mimic priest or rabbi,

the swaying noises of religious men?

Never! Yet I could praise it.

 

I should

by doing so celebrate my own ears,

by praising them praise speech at midnight

when men become philosophers;

laughter of the sane and insane;

 

night cries

of injured creatures, wide-eyed or blind;

moonlight sonatas on a needle;

lovers with doves in their throats; the wind

travelling from where it began.

 

 


 

So many different lengths of time                                                 Brian Patten

 

How long does a man live after all?

A thousand days or only one?

One week or a few centuries?

How long does a man spend living or dying

and what do we mean when we say gone forever?

Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.

We can go to the philosophers

but they will weary of our questions.

We can go to the priests and rabbis

but they might be busy with administrations.

So, how long does a man live after all?

And how much does he live while he lives?

We fret and ask so many questions –

then when it comes to us

the answer is so simple after all.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,

for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,

for as long as we ourselves live,

holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch:

his children will carry the weight of his love.

One friend will carry his arguments,

another will hum his favourite tunes,

another will still share his terrors.

And the days will pass with baffled faces,

then the weeks, then the months,

then there will be a day when no question is asked,

and the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach

and the puffed faces will calm.

And on that day he will not have ceased

but will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live after all?

A man lives so many different lengths of time.

 


 

Should the Occasion Arise                                     Hans Magnus Enzensberger

 

Choose among the errors

given to you

but choose right.

Might it not be wrong

to do the right thing

at the wrong moment

or right

to do the wrong

at the right moment?

One false step

never to be made good.

The right error

should you miss it

may never come again.

 

 


 

Warning                                                                                     Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick flowers in other people’s gardens

And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only eat bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers

 

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple.