Archive for July, 2012

Two Tuesday dog poems

Monday, July 30th, 2012

John Tranter gave me permission to use this poem of his a while ago, and today seems the right moment for it.

LITTLE DOG
by John Tranter

There you are, your paws on my knees,
your head tilted to one side. You gaze at me
with that puzzled look, your eyes full of
loyalty and complicated queries.
That cat I chased yesterday, where is it?
Who is that stranger? What’s that scent?
Can we go for a walk now, and explore
the paths that wind through the park by the bay?

Wise creature, you know where that bone
is buried, where the rats hide in their burrow
by the water, why the cat fears you.
You know many subtle facts, old friend,
except for one sad particular: how
brief a time we have left together.

And then I remembered a Billy Collins dog poem, which seems to rhyme rather well with John Tranter’s.

A DOG ON HIS MASTER
by Billy Collins

As young as I look,
I am growing older faster than he,
seven to one
is the ratio they tend to say.
Whatever the number,
I will pass him one day
and take the lead
the way I do on our walks in the woods.
And if this ever manages
to cross his mind,
it would be the sweetest
shadow I have ever cast on snow or grass.

I came across a good quote from Billy Collins when I was looking for a photo of him with his dog (couldn’t find one). Here’s the quote: “Putting a dog into a poem is always a good idea. It’s an instant connection that people are drawn to. Who doesn’t like the occasional dog running on to the scene just as things were getting a little too serious?”

More Tuesday Poems — from the U.K., New Zealand, Italy and Australia — can be found here.

Tuesday Poem: Margaret Mahy

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I wanted to mark the sad news of Margaret Mahy’s death in some way, and chose this lovely poem of hers to do exactly that. She had an extraordinary range, from funny picture books to gritty young adult novels, and all of it displaying an astoundingly rich and original talent. Children, child-centred adults, readers young and old – we’ll all miss her. I’m glad I met her, and I’m very glad to have known her work, which will long remain. But now the writer herself has, to quote her poem, gone “out in the moony dark”.

CAT IN THE DARK
by Margaret Mahy

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Prowly-yowly, sleepy-creepy
Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Sneeky-peeky, cosy-dozy,
Prowly-yowly, sleepy-creepy
Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Patchy-scratchy, furry-purry,
Sneeky-peeky, cosy-dozy,
Prowly-yowly, sleepy-creepy
Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

For more Tuesday poems go to the main hub site, where a main poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

Appley dapply, or how do you like them apples?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Today I am not going to moan about the British summer, with more rain and floods and general gloom than ever before recorded, nor about the collapse of the western world’s economy. I’m not going to protest about the greedy deceitful banking crisis, described yesterday by the deputy governor of the Bank of England as a cesspit. Even today’s unseemly spectacle of the House of Commons shooting itself in its collective well-shod foot over reforms to the House of Lords is not my subject.

Oh no. This morning, I’m going to complain about apples.

I try to be a locavor, and I mostly succeed. This often means eating local fresh produce to excess when it’s available, which is generally no hardship, although I can’t extend that point very far because it will bring me straight back to this season’s sad effects of the first thing I said I wouldn’t moan about (see above). But honestly, who minds eating asparagus for six weeks straight? Or cherries? Who minds having broad beans on the menu every day, making room only for runner beans? Not I.

But here’s the thing. The UK apple season is generally well and truly finished by early May – which allows for apples which store well to still be available as well as pleasingly edible. And in my house at that stage, all eyes turn to the imminent shipment of Cox’s Orange apples from New Zealand. Cox’s Orange are, to my taste, the absolute king of apples: crisp, tart with just enough sweetness to develop on your tongue. They’re pretty, too, with their stripes and their translucent skins. I eat UK ones in season, natch, but these apples don’t store well over time so they’re not really a long-term viable option here.

And I have been trying to buy New Zealand Cox’s Orange apples. Believe me, I have been trying. Every supermarket, every greengrocer, within shouting distance. I’ve tried ‘em loose, I’ve tried ‘em in packs of four. I’ve tried sniffing them, weighing them in my hand, and holding them up to the light. But this year – for the first time ever – many of them are complete rubbish. Mealy. Brown at the core. Soft. Flavourless. And here’s the ultimate insult: you don’t know any of that until you bite into one. It’s enough to make you weep.

What has happened? Who will rid me of these unsatisfactory fruits and replace them with the genuine article?

Until that happens, I’m back on the Kentish cherries.

Tuesday poem: Someone you trusted

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

SOMEONE YOU TRUSTED
by William Stafford

Someone you trusted has treated you bad.
Someone has used you to vent their ill temper.
Did you expect anything different?
Your work – better than some others’ – has languished
Neglected. Or a job you tried was too hard
And you failed. Maybe weather or bad luck
Spoiled what you did. That grudge, held against you
For years after you patched up, has flared
And you’ve lost a friend for a time. Things
At home aren’t so good; on the job your spirits
Have sunk. But just when the worst bears down
You find a pretty bubble in your soup at noon
And outside at work, a bird says, “Hi!”
Slowly the sun creeps along the floor,
It is coming your way. It touches your shoe.

William Stafford (1914 – 1993) was a poet’s poet, in that he was named more often than any other in 1986 when his peers were asked to identify America’s ten major living poets. He was also one of the most prolific: there are, it seems, about a thousand of his poems in print. I don’t know his work at all well but I have loved this example of it for years: it’s so precise and also so apparently relaxed about creating its effects, and I love the juxtaposition of images such as the bubble in the soup and your work being neglected, and the comforts of the physical world being so apparently simple and accessible.

The poem also reminds me of this Edward Hopper painting. It’s called “Sunlight in an Empty Room” and it’s a mesmerising encounter (I saw it in the Hopper retrospective in London a few years ago).

For more Tuesday poems go to the main hub site, where a poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.