Archive for poetry

Remembering 11-11-2010

On Passing the New Menin Gate
by Siegfried Sassoon

Who will remember, passing through this Gate,
The unheroic Dead who fed the guns?
Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate,—
Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?

Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.

Here was the world’s worst wound. And here with pride
‘Their name liveth for ever,’ the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
As these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.

Source: http://www.aftermathww1.com/sassoon3.asp

one thousand poppiesDon’t forget to check out 1000poppies.org

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possum – magic – lithe

These are the words I threw out to David Niall Wilson when he asked for three words upon which he could base a poem.

Many others responded too and the results of his three word poems are here. There is not enough poetry in the modern world so it is great to see a good writer turning his hand to verse.

But the one he wrote for my words is:

There are magic places hidden deeper
Within the forest glens than you should go,
Cloaked by vines, and brush, and clinging creeper
Where nothing craving sunlight’s kiss can grow.
You’ll see the temptress in her shadow gown,
Wink and dance to steal your tender heart.
Her face is fair, her dark hair, soft as down,
Her dance a black seduction from the start.
Do not be fooled, avoid her lovely gaze,
The lithe and mesmerizing way she moves,
She promises the world, but means to raze,
Your soul, and trample you beneath her hooves
The wolf and bear and cougar lick her feet
The rabbit, possum, mole, and you? Her treat.

— David Niall Wilson

Powerful words?

While re-reading this poem I began to consider just how much power those words have in my life – may, might, should, could, would, must. How many times have I said “blah blah should have …” or something similar?

It is words like this that are invisible forces creating pressure in my life. Instead of either doing or not doing, these words put me into a place where I live in the past or the future but not in the present.

But the real question is what will I do now? First step is to stop dwelling on the past – out go “should have”, “could have” and “would have”. The second step is to stop living in the future, so out go “may”, “might” and “must”.

Now I will do some things and not do others – that’s it. After all every moment is a chance to make a new choice, and I choose not to be like Effie.

here is little Effie’s head

here is little Effie’s head
whose brains are made of gingerbread
when judgment day comes
God will find six crumbs

stooping by the coffinlid
waiting for something to rise
as the other somethings did-
you imagine his surprise

bellowing through the general noise
Where is Effie who was dead?
-to God in a tiny voice,
i am may the first crumb said

whereupon its fellow five
crumbs chuckled as if they were alive
and number two took up the song
might i’m called and did no wrong

cried the third crumb, i am should
and this is my little sister could
with our big brother who is would
don’t punish us for we were good;

and the last crumb with some shame
whispered unto God, my name
is must and with the others i’ve
been Effie who isn’t alive

just imagine it I say
God amid a monstrous din
watch your step and follow me
stooping by Effie’s little, in

(want a match or can you see?)
which the six subjective crumbs
twitch like mutilated thumbs;
picture His peering biggest whey

coloured face on which a frown
puzzles, but I know the way-
(nervously Whose eyes approve
the blessed while His ears are crammed

with the strenuous music of
the innumerable capering damned)
-staring wildly up and down
the here we are now judgment day

cross the threshold have no dread
lift the sheet back in this way
here is little Effie’s head
whose brains are made of gingerbread

ee cummings

My Country

With such diverse and extreme weather occurring in Australia it seems like a good time to revisit a poem that talks about this.

We are currently suffering from extreme heat & major bushfires in the south eastern states; with floods in the far north.  The state of Victoria in particular has been devastated.  My heart goes out to all those suffering loss from the fires.

Another thing to consider is the people who are fighting the fires.  They are mostly volunteers – working with the Country Fire Authority or the Rural Fire Service.  It is worthwhile to make a donation to your local volunteer fire service.  They do so much to protect our lives and property, often putting their own lives on the line.

This poem is by Dorothea Mackellar and was written at about the turn of the 20th century when she was visiting England and felt homesick.

My Country
The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

by Dorothea Mackellar

Explaining the times we face

In these days of gloom, doom and constant bad news it seems hard to take it all in. But sometimes it is not just a recitation of the facts we need. Sometimes poetry can sum it up better …

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of “Spiritus Mundi”
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld – Recent works by the secretary of defense. – A fabulous collection taken straight from the DOD website

On the Slate website Hart Seely has collected some of the truly classic poems of our time – they are taken from briefings listed on the Dept of Defense website.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Glass Box
You know, it’s the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you’re using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can’t find it.
It’s—

And it’s all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But—

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But—

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

—Dec. 6, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

A Confession
Once in a while,
I’m standing here, doing something.
And I think,
“What in the world am I doing here?”
It’s a big surprise.

—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

Happenings
You’re going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don’t happen.

It doesn’t seem to bother people, they don’t—
It’s printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.

Everyone’s so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story’s there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven’t happened.

All I can tell you is,
It hasn’t happened.
It’s going to happen.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

The Digital Revolution
Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!

A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

—June 9, 2001, following European trip

The Situation
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won’t see.
And life goes on.

—Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

Clarity
I think what you’ll find,
I think what you’ll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing
Source: http://slate.msn.com/id/2081042/