Return by Malcolm Lewis

Here is the soldier home from the War,
sailing into Cardiff. He’s startled after Palestine
by the colours on the ridge,
dead bracken, glossy, like wet army cottons,
purple coppice he can’t identify,
the mossy green of fir trees that weren’t there
when he volunteered.

The cold cuts through the suit
bought from the tallest of the Lascars,
the cuffs, inches short of his wrists,
expose his skin, now as dark as theirs,
but collier-white before he went. He looks
like them, but Christ, he’d hardly kept up.
Only pennies rub in his pocket –
the captain had skint him, the Scotch bastard.

Posted missing back at Easter,
he’d not written, couldn’t risk
the censor checking on his letter.
He’ll stay on board till it’s dark,
jump the wall, thread the back streets north,
then – the freedom of the frozen tracks –
up and over the top, past the hill farms’ yowling sentries,
down to the town where ghosts parade.

by Malcolm Lewis

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Июль (July) by Boris Pasternak

A phantom roams through the house.
There are footsteps in upstairs rooms.
All day, shades flit through the attic.
Through the house a goblin roams.

He loafs about, gets in the way,
He interferes and causes trouble,
Creeps up to the bed in a dressing gown,
And pulls the cloth off the table.

He does not wipe his feet at the door,
But whirls in with the draft, unseen,
And hurls the curtain to the ceiling
Like a prima ballerina.


Who can this irritating oaf,
This ghost, this phantom be?
Of course, it is our summer guest,
Our visitor on the spree.

For all his little holiday
We let him have the whole house.
July with his tempestuous air
Has rented rooms from us.

July, who brings in thistledown
And burs that cling to his clothes;
July, who treats all windows as doors,
And sprinkles his talk with oaths.

Untidy urchin of the steppe,
Smelling of lime-trees, grass and rye,
Beet-tops, and fragrant fennel,
Meadowsweet breath of July.


by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1956)
from Когда разгуляется
(When The Weather Clears)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
Pasternak’s poem ‘July’ recited in it’s original Russian form by Irina Saglay

Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

По дому бродит привиденье.
Весь день шаги над головой.
На чердаке мелькают тени.
По дому бродит домовой.

Везде болтается некстати,
Мешается во все дела,
В халате крадется к кровати,
Срывает скатерть со стола.

Ног у порога не обтерши,
Вбегает в вихре сквозняка
И с занавеской, как с танцоршей,
Взвивается до потолка.

Кто этот баловник-невежа
И этот призрак и двойник?
Да это наш жилец приезжий,
Наш летний дачник-отпускник.

На весь его недолгий роздых
Мы целый дом ему сдаем.
Июль с грозой, июльский воздух
Снял комнаты у нас внаем.

Июль, таскающий в одёже
Пух одуванчиков, лопух,
Июль, домой сквозь окна вхожий,
Всё громко говорящий вслух.

Степной нечесаный растрепа,
Пропахший липой и травой,
Ботвой и запахом укропа,
Июльский воздух луговой.

‘You’re not alone. You haven’t died’ by Osip Mandelstam

You're not alone. You haven't died,
while you still,beggar-woman at your side,
take pleasure in the grandeur of the plain,
the gloom, the cold,the whirlwinds of snow.


In sumptuous penury, in mighty poverty
live comforted and at rest -
your days and nights are blest,
your sweet-voiced labour without sin.


Unhappy he, a shadow of himself,
whom a bark astounds and the wind mows down,
and to be pitied he, more dead than alive,
who begs handouts from a ghost.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(1937)
translated by Andrew Davis

The Moment by Dannie Abse

You raise your eyes from the level book

as if deeply listening. You are further than I call.

Like Eurydice you wear a hurt and absent look,

but I’m gentle for the silence into which you fall so sadly.

What are you thinking? Do you love me?

Suddenly you are not you at all but a ghost

dreaming of a castle to haunt or a heavy garden;

some place eerie, and far from me. But now a door

is banging outside, so you turn your head surprised.

 

You speak my name and someone else has died.

 

by Dannie Abse

from Tenants of the house (1957)

My Hero Bares His Nerves by Dylan Thomas

My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread; like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from this box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger’s emperor;
He pulls that chain, the cistern moves.

 

by Dylan Thomas

from 18 Poems


Fun fact: People speculate that this poem is about teenage mastrubation in the solitude of the toilet ever on the verge of being discovered. Meanwhile others think it’s about his writing pen… well up until the latter half.