A Childhood Memory by Sofia Parnok

for Khodasevich

 

A childhood memory: those pears,

wrinkled. little, tight,

and hidden inside –

tart flesh that puckered the mouth:

exactly so my delight

in the bitter shards of your verse.

 

by София Яковлевна Парнок (Sophia Yakovlena Parnok) (1927)

translated by Catriona Kelly

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Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death by Roger McGough

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death

 

by Roger McGough

If- by Rudyard Kipling

‘Brother Square-Toes’ – Rewards and Fairies

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

Written in 1895

First published in Rewards and Fairies 1910

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

      And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

 

He took his vorpal sword in hand;

      Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree

      And stood awhile in thought.

 

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

      And burbled as it came!

 

One, two! One, two! And through and through

      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

      He went galumphing back.

 

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

      He chortled in his joy.

 

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

      And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

by Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898)

Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen

I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.

Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
‘If there’s any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.’
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime
and sit in the corner of the playground
eating it,
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it,
and there’s that other kind of icing in
the middle
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
yeah.

Anyway,
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
but while I was in bed
I found myself waking up
licking my lips
and smiling.
I woke up proper.
‘The chocolate cake.’
It was the first thing
1 thought of.

I could almost see it
so I thought,
what if I go downstairs
and have a little nibble, yeah?

It was all dark
everyone was in bed
so it must have been really late
but I got out of bed,
crept out of the door

there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?

Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
or bits of Lego
you know what it’s like treading on Lego
with your bare feet,

yowwww
shhhhhhh

downstairs
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
all shining.

So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs
scooping them up
and put them into my mouth.

oooooooommmmmmmmm

nice.

Then
I look again
and on one side where it’s been cut,
it’s all crumbly.

So I take a knife
I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into the mouth

oooooommm mmmm
nice.

Look at the cake again.

That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn’t match the other
I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?

Take the knife
and slice.
This time the knife makes a little cracky noise
as it goes through that hard icing on top.

A whole slice this time,

into the mouth.

Oh the icing on top
and the icing in the middle
ohhhhhh oooo mmmmmm.

But now
I can’t stop myself
Knife –
1 just take any old slice at it
and I’ve got this great big chunk
and I’m cramming it in
what a greedy pig
but it’s so nice,

and there’s another
and another and I’m squealing and I’m smacking my lips
and I’m stuffing myself with it
and
before I know
I’ve eaten the lot.
The whole lot.

I look at the plate.
It’s all gone.

Oh no
they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear
does it?

What shall 1 do?

I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife

and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?

So I do that
and creep creep creep
back to bed
into bed
doze off
licking my lips
with a lovely feeling in my belly.
Mmmmrnmmmmm.

In the morning I get up,
downstairs,
have breakfast,
Mum’s saying,
‘Have you got your dinner money?’
and I say,
‘Yes.’
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.

‘What’s the matter,’ she says,
‘you normally jump at chocolate cake?’

I’m still not breathing,
and she’s looking at me very closely now.

She’s looking at me just below my mouth.
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘What’s what?’ I say.

‘What’s that there?’
‘Where?’
‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.
‘It’s not chocolate is it?’
No answer.
‘Is it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She goes to the cupboard
looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,
turns back to me.
‘It’s gone.
It’s gone.
You haven’t eaten it, have you?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know. You don’t know if you’ve eaten a whole
chocolate cake or not?
When? When did you eat it?’

So I told her,

and she said
well what could she say?
‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take
to school.
Now go. Get out
no wait
not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’
I went upstairs
looked in the mirror
and there it was,
just below my mouth,
a chocolate smudge.
The give-away.
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.

 

by Michael Rosen

 

The Owl And The Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

by Edward Lear (1812 – 1888)

Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps copying my work, Miss.

What shall I do?

 

Go and sit in the hall, dear.

Go and sit in the sink.

Take your books on the roof, my lamb.

Do whatever you think.

 

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.

What shall I do?

 

Keep it in your hand, dear.

Hide it up your vest.

Swallow it if you like, love.

Do what you think best.

 

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps calling me rude names, Miss.

What shall I do?

 

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.

Run away to sea.

Do whatever you can, my flower.

But don’t ask me!

 

by Allan Ahlberg