WILLOW-SONG (by Roy Blackman)

A beautiful poem for the wonderful Dorothy Nimmo

(for Dorothy Nimmo and in homage to Anne Stevenson)

I went down to the river
to see the winter willow,
the old white willow blazing in the sun.
The river soiled and swollen,
dead weeds flat and matted,
the willow had collapsed and most was gone.

The inner trunk was rotten,
like chunks of painters’ ochre
to grind and scatter on an Old One’s grave.
I went down to the river
for comfort in mid-winter
but comfort wasn’t what the river gave.

The willow’s near immortal:
the roots around its ruin
will flaunt new shoots to flutter in the sun;
next winter by the river
the bush burn on, as ever,
but Dorothy my dear be dead and gone.

A willow is a flicker,
rivers aren’t immortal,
seas, planets, solar systems come and go;
everything pours forward
towards its dissolution;
her living and her writing made it slow.

I’ll go down to the river
and cut a wand of willow
and plant it in my garden in the sun.
Each winter that is left me
I’ll see it growing brighter
to blaze a little while when we’re both gone.

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CROSSING THE BAR (by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

FARE WELL (by Walter de la Mare)

Look thy last on all things lovely
every hour

When I lie where shades of darkness
Shall no more assail mine eyes,
Nor the rain make lamentation
When the wind sighs;

How will fare the world whose wonder
Was the very proof of me?
Memory fades, must the remembered
Perishing be?

Oh, when this my dust surrenders
Hand, foot, lip, to dust again,
May these loved and loving faces
Please other men!

May the rustling harvest hedgerow
Still the Traveller’s Joy entwine,
And as happy children gather
Posies once mine.

Look thy last on all things lovely,
Every hour. Let no night
Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
Till to delight

Thou hast paid thine utmost blessing;
Since that all things thou wouldst praise
Beauty took from those who loved them
In other days.  

DOSTOEVSKY (by Charles Bukowski)

suppose they had shot Dostoevsky
before he wrote all that?

against the wall, the firing squad ready.
then he got a reprieve.
suppose they had shot Dostoevsky
before he wrote all that?
I suppose it wouldn’t have
mattered
not directly.
there are billions of people who have
never read him and never
will.
but as a young man I know that he
got me through the factories,
past the whores,
lifted me high through the night
and put me down
in a better
place.
even while in the bar
drinking with the other
derelicts,
I was glad they gave Dostoevsky a
reprieve,
it gave me one,
allowed me to look directly at those
rancid faces
in my world,
death pointing its finger,
I held fast,
an immaculate drunk
sharing the stinking dark with
my
brothers.

TO LARA (by Virginia Rounding)

“out of fiction into history and the death camps,
lost in a multitude of women with no names”

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

FORE-MOTHERS (by Kathleen Raine)

They were younger than I,
Younger by all my years, those country lassies
Who little dreamed their dreams
Of love would bring me here,
Travelling away from their accustomed days
Into this strange place, beyond their guesses
Of a future that might be
Some day, some far-off day
Beyond companionable kitchen and plain stone house
Under unchanging hills and a wide sky.

Deceiving dreams of love, that promise only joy,
It was to me you led, along a lonelier road
Than ferny loning where each lingered with the lover
She needs must choose, since he it was that met her on the way
And stepped into the circle of her dream
To carry her away, to carry me away
Into the exile of that dream’s awaking.

Or are my waking days the regions of their fears
Whose dark shapes were lurking, passions and griefs
Less innocent than those familiar songs of Scotland tell of:
And yet my dream tells still of Paradise.