TO LARA (by Virginia Rounding)

I went searching for my muse and I found you –
sleeping between freshly laundered sheets
while wolves you took for dogs were howling
in the dark beyond your safety zone.

Iced rowanberries in the snow and strong white arms –
your concentration in the library at Yuryatin –
abandoned weeping on the coffin of your lover:
you stole my mind to live through for a time.

The sleigh is swallowed into distance. In your final
understated disappearing a part of me goes too –
out of fiction into history and the death camps,
lost in a multitude of women with no names.

Julie Christie as Lara in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago
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from STANZAS WRITTEN IN DEJECTION, NEAR NAPLES (by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Yet now despair itself is mild,
Even as the winds and waters are;
I could lie down like a tired child,
And weep away this life of care
Which I have born and yet must bear,
Till death like sleep might steal on me,
And I might feel in the warm air
My cheek grow cold, and hear the sea
Breathe o’er my dying brain its last monotony.

THE TRIPLE FOOL (by John Donne)

John Donne’s handwritten draft of his great poem “The Triple Fool.” Via the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

I am two fools, I know—
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry;
But where’s that wiseman that would not be I,
If she would not deny?
Then, as th’ earths inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea waters fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhymes vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain,
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To Love and Grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when ’tis read;
Both are increased by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published;
And I, which was two fooles, do so grow three;
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

from IN MEMORY OF DAVID ARCHER (by George Barker)

(viii)

I cannot see. The place I do not know.
Who is that person standing by the wall?
Why do you ask the date on which I died?
Where is the house to which I am asked to go?
What was the question you put to me when
I happened to be listening to that child
Crying for god knows what outside the door?
Who is it calling me again and again
From my own chamber like a person lost?

I hear the dead man calling from the desert
But never the love, never the love, never.
I saw you. I saw you there. You were the other
Side of that window always hidden in shadow.
I cannot see. The place is not the place where
I was supposed to be. Who are those people
Whispering, with heads together, in the corner?
Why do they speak when they should be silent?

I think that I see, walking in the moonlight
The Magus Zoroaster and my dead father
Talking together. What is this heartbroken
House? Is this my home? Why do you look at me
As though I had no parents? Who is at the window?
You? Is it you? I saw you pass, your hand
Covering your face in shadow, and, in the moonlight,
Falling, seven wounds, like stars.

from IN MEMORY OF DAVID ARCHER (by George Barker)

(IV)

The life I shed upon the ground
looks up at me, looks up at me
and in its scarlet lake I see
my face of yesterday lying drowned
and smiling as in sleep it seems
cradled among rocks and dreams
of what will never be.

Early in the dawns of May
under the Medusa tree
I shall stand and you will see
my transfigured head of day
hanging in a bleeding dream
as the serpents hiss and scream
and eat eternity away.

from THE TRUE CONFESSION OF GEORGE BARKER (by George Barker)

I sent a letter to my love
In an envelope of stone,
And in between the letters ran
A crying torrent that began
To grow till it was bigger than
Nyanza or the heart of man.
I sent a letter to my love
In an envelope of stone.

I sent a present to my love
In a black-bordered box,
A clock that beats a time of tears
As the stricken midnight nears
And my love weeps as she hears
The armageddon of the years.
I sent my love the present
In a black-bordered box.

I sent a liar to my love
With his hands full of roses
But she shook her yellow and curled
Curled and yellow hair and cried
The rose is dead of all the world
Since my only love has lied.
I sent a liar to my love
With roses in his hands.

I sent a daughter to my love
In a painted cradle.
She took her up in her left breast
And rocked her to a mothered rest
Singing a song that what is best
Loves and loves and forgets the rest.
I sent a daughter to my love
In a painted cradle.

I sent a letter to my love
On a sheet of stone.
She looked down and as she read
She shook her yellow hair and said
Now he sleeps alone instead
Of many a lie in many a bed.
I sent a letter to my love
On a sheet of stone.

LIVERPOOL HANDS (by Michael Daugherty)

She smelled of gin and Lime
Street station, gestured at passing life
with a hand that flew away on flights
of fancy, crash-landing on mine

time and again in a blaze
of high-octane laughter that billowed
about us in clouds of joy belied
by the pain in her eyes

when she lifted a glass
and thought her mask still safely in place.
Twenty years beyond just once, I chase
a memory to that last

train in London, not quite
fast enough to catch the me of I
who wave scarred and untouched hands goodbye
to any chance of twice.