Have you heard the word compassion
Said the wise man to the fool
I doubt you know the meaning
If you never went to school.
The fool, he started crying
And the wise man walked away
A simpleton, the fools best friend
Said, come, you’ll be ok.
By Norma Phillips
It is blue May. There is work
to be done. The spring’s eye blind
with algae, the stopped water
silent. The garden fills
with nettle and briar.
Dylan drags branches away.
I wade forward with my scythe.
There is stickiness on the blade.
Yolk on my hands. Albumen and blood.
Fragments of shell are baby-bones,
the scythe a scalpel, bloodied and guilty
with crushed feathers, mosses, the cut cords
of the grass. We shout at each other
each hurting with a separate pain.
From the crown of the hawthorn tree
to the ground the willow warbler
drops. All day in silence she repeats
her question. I too return
to the place holding the pieces,
at first still hot from the knife,
recall how warm birth fluids are.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
Additional information: Gillian Clarke wrote a post discussing the poem for those interested.
Blog note: Annually, I put up a review of Eurovision’s grand finale overnight. Due to a prior engagement on Saturday I was unable to do so this year but will post it prior to next week’s poetry post.
All mention of the Moment
Scholars must do without.
River suspends its flowing
And rock cries out
Witness to what
Our two eyes have no sight for
And our ears hear not.
Breeze among the breezes,
Sun from beyond the sun,
Truly our homeland’s wonder
On earth is come
With inviolate power –
And we know by the Moment’s coming
We are born for the Hour.
by Waldo Williams
translated by Tony Conran
I never told you this.
He told me about it often:
Seven days in an open boat – burned out,
No time to get food:
Biscuits and water and the unwanted sun,
With only the oars’ wing-beats for motion,
Labouring heavily towards land
That existed on a remembered chart,
Never on the horizon
Seven miles from the boat’s bow.
After two days song dried on their lips;
After four days speech.
On the fifth cracks began to appear
In the faces’ masks; salt scorched them,/
They began to think about death,
Each man to himself, feeding it
On what the rest could not conceal.
The sea was as empty as the sky,
A vast disc under a dome
Of the same vastness, perilously blue.
But on the sixth day towards evening
A bird passed. No one slept that night;
The boat had become an ear
Straining for the desired thunder
Of the wrecked waves. It was dawn when it came,
Ominous as the big guns
Of enemy shores. The men cheered it.
From the swell’s rise one of them saw the ruins
Of all that sea, where a lean horseman
Rode towards them and with a rope
Galloped them up on to the curt sand.
by R. S. Thomas
from The Bread of Truth (1963)
Out of a bed of love
When that immortal hospital made one more moove to soothe
The curless counted body,
And ruin and his causes
Over the barbed and shooting sea assumed an army
And swept into our wounds and houses,
I climb to greet the war in which I have no heart but only
That one dark I owe my light,
Call for confessor and wiser mirror but there is none
To glow after the god stoning night
And I am struck as lonely as a holy marker by the sun
Praise that the spring time is all
Gabriel and radiant shrubbery as the morning grows joyful
Out of the woebegone pyre
And the multitude’s sultry tear turns cool on the weeping wall,
My arising prodgidal
Sun the father his quiver full of the infants of pure fire,
But blessed be hail and upheaval
That uncalm still it is sure alone to stand and sing
Alone in the husk of man’s home
And the mother and toppling house of the holy spring,
If only for a last time.
by Dylan Thomas
Additional Information: In November 1944, waking from a marriage bed to a world at war Thomas rejoices in being alive and singing ‘if only’, as the poem says, ‘for a last time’.
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