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Old 9th Oct 2003, 21:46   #1
John Self
suffers from smallness of vision
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Default National Poetry Day

To His Lost Lover

Simon Armitage

Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance … for instance,

how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush

at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept together like buried cutlery –

two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of some heavy weather –

walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.

How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segment of her lips

from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit,

or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart

was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.

Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.

And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,

then another,
or knew her

favourite colour,
her taste, her flavour,

and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair

into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved

when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home

through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand

to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.

And never almost cried,
and never once described

an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt

nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh

wept by her heart,
where it hurts,

or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.

Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,

a pilot light,
or stayed the night,

or steered her back to that house of his,
or said “Don’t ask me to say how it is

I like you.
I just might do.”

How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand

were a solid ball
of silver foil

and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.

But said some things and never meant them –
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.

And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.
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Old 10th Oct 2003, 8:21   #2
is beyond help
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Location: England
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Demain des l'aube

Victor Hugo

Demain, dès l’aube, a l’heure où blanchit la campagne
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la foret, j’irai par la montagne,
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai , les yeux fixées sur mes pensées
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Le dos courbée, les mains croisées, seul, inconnu,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur
Et quand j’arriverai je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
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Old 10th Oct 2003, 14:52   #3
Senior Palimpsester
could do better
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Location: England
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Sorry, I don't have a poem to hand to add, but did anyone see the programme of poetry readings on BBC2 last night? I really wanted to see it but my dad phoned at just the wrong moment and I missed half of it. It looked well done, though, and it made me think that it might be good if they made a series of 'poetry shorts', where we get five minutes of televised poetry each weekday evening, perhaps on a different theme each week.

It also made me think that I really should read more poetry.
Libraries gave us power.
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Old 10th Oct 2003, 15:23   #4
befriends strangers
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For those of you not fluent in French, here's is Colynbourne's favourite (I presume?) poem dans English. Oui?

Tomorrow at Dawn

Tomorrow morn, what time the fields grow white,
I shall set off; I know you look for me,
Across the forest's gloom, the mountain height:
I can no longer dwell away from thee.

I'll walk with eyes upon my thoughts intent,
Hearing no outer noise, seeing no sight;
Alone, unknown, hands clasped, and earthward bent,
Sad, and the day for me shall be as night.

On evening's golden hues I shall not gaze,
Nor on the vessels that to Harfleur come;
But my quest o'er, upon thy grave shall place
A wreath of holly green, and heather bloom.
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Old 10th Oct 2003, 15:26   #5
is beyond help
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Are we doing favourites then? OK, mine is typically old-farty:


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
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Old 10th Oct 2003, 15:39   #6
is beyond help
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Before Wavid inevitably brings the great Rodney Bilson into the equation, can I just mention Dr. John Lillith, as per The Man With Two Brains? Dr Lillith is widely recognized as "England's greatest one-armed poet". He is the author of such beautiful poems as In Dilman's Grove & Pointy birds, which I reproduce below:

In Dilman's Grove
In Dilman's Grove my love did die,
and now in ground shall ever lie.
None could ever replace her visage,
until your face brought thoughts of kissage.

Pointy Bird

O pointy birds, o pointy pointy,
Anoint my head, anointy-nointy.
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Old 10th Oct 2003, 16:44   #7
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Spike Milligan:

I must return to Sorento,
To the lonely sea and the sky.

I left my socks and vest there,
I wonder if they're dry.
I have nothing of use to add.
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Old 13th Oct 2003, 11:35   #8
laughs in the face of fear
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I'm not sure these two are my favourites. There are so many great poems. But I'd definitely want something by each of them in a top ten.

Roger McGough - The Icingbus

the littleman
with the hunchbacked back
creptto his feet
to offer his seat
to the blindlady

people gettingoff
steered carefully around
the black mound
of his back
as they would a pregnantbelly

the litttleman completely aware
of the embarassment behind
watched as the blindlady
fingered out her fare

* * * * *

muchlove later he suggested that instead
ofa wedding-cake they should have a miniaturebus
made outof icing but she laughed
andsaid that buses werefor travelling in
and notfor eating and besides
you can't taste shapes.

Olav H. Hauge - You Were The Wind

I am a boat
without wind.
You were the wind.
Was that the course I was to take?
Who cares about the course
with such a wind!
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Old 16th Oct 2003, 1:07   #9
the exile
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The Elephant is a funny bird,
it flits from bough to bough.
It makes it's nest in a rhubarb tree
and whistles like a cow!

Spring is sprung,
the grass is ris,
I wonder where the birdies is.
The bird is on the wing I've heard,
but I always thought it, on the bird!

Down in the jungle,
living in a tent,
better than a prefab,
no rent!
Pratchett?, oh sorry, I thought you said, "scratch it!".
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Old 16th Oct 2003, 12:47   #10
eats too much cheese
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Can't remember where this came from, I like it though as it is a rare example of a poem where the title is longer than the text:

Ode to a Goldfish


The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning, and doesn't stop until you get into the office

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