Archive for the ‘Tuesday poem’ Category

July all over again? And a poem.

Monday, July 21st, 2014

I truly don’t know what it is about me, my health, hospitalisations, and July. I’m trying to cling to the idea of random coincidences. But whatever the reasons, I went back into hospital just about on the exact same day as in 2013 and – gasp! – I’ve been here ever since.

Critical care all over again. Drips and central lines all over again, and a new thing called a PICC line which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Piccadilly Line although I admit I’m now getting a lot more emails from Transport for London.

I’m starting to feel better at last, oh thank thank! thank you! benevolent universe. They might even let me out of here soon… And meantime I read poetry and low novels, ingest a variety of drugs, and go for walks around the unit and even sit out on the balcony from time to time with Bruce (husbands are permitted in small quantities) and we pass judgment on the way the local mews houses have been modernised.

Because I’m in critical care I can’t have visitors , so this wonderful Charles Causley poem doesn’t apply to me. That doesn’t stop me loving it though – he was such a fine poet with such a distinctive voice and I find myself returning more and more to his work. He and my other current favourite – Cavafy – make rather unusual companions but I fondly imagine they’d have admired each other’s work.

One small irritation is that I can’t access FaceBook in hospital: I haven’t asked why not and I can surely live without it for a while longer. But this blog will (I assume) still bounce to FB and if you read it you’ll know why I haven’t responded to anything in the last month.. Roll on August, and maybe going home even for a short time …

Ten Types of Hospital Visitor,
Charles Causley


The first enters wearing the neon armour
Of virtue.
Ceaselessly firing all-purpose smiles
At everyone present
She destroys hope
In the breasts of the sick,
Who realize instantly
That they are incapable of surmounting
Her ferocious goodwill.

Such courage she displays
In the face of human disaster!

Fortunately, she does not stay long.
After a speedy trip round the ward
In the manner of a nineteen-thirties destroyer
Showing the flag in the Mediterranean,
She returns home for a week
- With luck, longer -
Scorched by the heat of her own worthiness.


The second appears, a melancholy splurge
Of theological colours;
Taps heavily about like a healthy vulture
Distributing deep-frozen hope.

The patients gaze at him cautiously.
Most of them, as yet uncertain of the realities
Of heaven, hell-fire, or eternal emptiness,
Play for safety
By accepting his attentions
With just-concealed apathy,
Except one old man, who cries
With newly sharpened hatred,
`Shove off! Shove off!
`Shove… shove… shove… shove
Just you


The third skilfully deflates his weakly smiling victim
By telling him
How the lobelias are doing,
How many kittens the cat had,
How the slate came off the scullery roof,
And how no one has visited the patient for a fortnight
Because everybody
Had colds and feared to bring the jumpy germ
Into hospital.

The patient’s eyes
Ice over. He is uninterested
In lobelias, the cat, the slate, the germ.
Flat on his back, drip-fed, his face
The shade of a newly dug-up Pharaoh,
Wearing his skeleton outside his skin,
Yet his wits as bright as a lighted candle,
He is concerned only with the here, the now,
And requires to speak
Of nothing but his present predicament.

It is not permitted.


The fourth attempts to cheer
His aged mother with light jokes
Menacing as shell-splinters.
`They’ll soon have you jumping round
Like a gazelle,’ he says.
`Playing in the football team.’
Quite undeterred by the sight of kilos
Of plaster, chains, lifting-gear,
A pair of lethally designed crutches,
`You’ll be leap-frogging soon,’ he says.
`Swimming ten lengths of the baths.’

At these unlikely prophecies
The old lady stares fearfully
At her sick, sick offspring
Thinking he has lost his reason -

Which, alas, seems to be the case.


The fifth, a giant from the fields
With suit smelling of milk and hay,
Shifts uneasily from one bullock foot
To the other, as though to avoid
Settling permanently in the antiseptic landscape.
Occasionally he looses a scared glance
Sideways, as though fearful of what intimacy
He may blunder on, or that the walls
Might suddenly close in on him.

He carries flowers, held lightly in fingers
The size and shape of plantains,
Tenderly kisses his wife’s cheek
- The brush of a child’s lips -
Then balances, motionless, for thirty minutes
On the thin chair.

At the end of visiting time
He emerges breathless,
Blinking with relief, into the safe light.

He does not appear to notice
The dusk.


The sixth visitor says little,
Breathes reassurance,
Smiles securely.
Carries no black passport of grapes
And visa of chocolate. Has a clutch
Of clean washing.

Unobtrusively stows it
In the locker; searches out more.
Talks quietly to the Sister
Out of sight, out of earshot, of the patient.
Arrives punctually as a tide.
Does not stay the whole hour.

Even when she has gone
The patient seems to sense her there:
An upholding


The seventh visitor
Smells of bar-room after-shave.
Often finds his friend
Sound asleep: whether real or feigned
Is never determined.

He does not mind; prowls the ward
In search of second-class, lost-face patients
With no visitors
And who are pretending to doze
Or read paperbacks.

He probes relentlessly the nature
Of each complaint, and is swift with such
Dilutions of confidence as,
`Ah! You’ll be worse
Before you’re better.’

Five minutes before the bell punctuates
Visiting time, his friend opens an alarm-clock eye.
The visitor checks his watch.
Market day. The Duck and Pheasant will be still open.

Courage must be refuelled.


The eight visitor looks infinitely
More decayed, ill and infirm than any patient.
His face is an expensive grey.
He peers about with antediluvian eyes
As though from the other end
Of time.
He appears to have risen from the grave
To make this appearance.
There is a whiff of white flowers about him;
The crumpled look of a slightly used shroud.
Slowly he passes the patient
A bag of bullet-proof
Home-made biscuits,
A strong, death-dealing cake -
`To have with your tea,’
Or a bowl of fruit so weighty
It threatens to break
His glass fingers.

The patient, encouraged beyond measure,
Thanks him with enthusiasm, not for
The oranges, the biscuits, the cake,
But for the healing sight
Of someone patently worse
Than himself. He rounds the crisis-corner;
Begins a recovery.


The ninth visitor is life.


The tenth visitor
Is not usually named.

Used by kind permission of David Higham Associates

Tuesday poem: Ballad of the bread man

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Ballad of the Breadman
by Charles Causley

Mary stood in the kitchen
Baking a loaf of bread.
An angel flew in the window
‘We’ve a job for you,’ he said.

‘God in his big gold heaven
Sitting in his big blue chair,
Wanted a mother for his little son.
Suddenly saw you there.’

Mary shook and trembled,
‘It isn’t true what you say.’
‘Don’t say that,’ said the angel.
‘The baby’s on its way.’

Joseph was in the workshop
Planing a piece of wood.
‘The old man’s past it,’ the neighbours said.
‘That girl’s been up to no good.’

‘And who was that elegant fellow,’
They said, ‘in the shiny gear?’
The things they said about Gabriel
Were hardly fit to hear.

Mary never answered,
Mary never replied.
She kept the information,
Like the baby, safe inside.

It was the election winter.
They went to vote in the town.
When Mary found her time had come
The hotels let her down.

The baby was born in an annexe
Next to the local pub.
At midnight, a delegation
Turned up from the Farmers’ club.

They talked about an explosion
That made a hole on the sky,
Said they’d been sent to the Lamb and Flag
To see God come down from on high.

A few days later a bishop
And a five-star general were seen
With the head of an African country
In a bullet-proof limousine.

‘We’ve come,’ they said ‘with tokens
For the little boy to choose.’
Told the tale about war and peace
In the television news.

After them came the soldiers
With rifle and bombs and gun,
Looking for enemies of the state.
The family had packed up and gone.

When they got back to the village
The neighbours said, to a man,
‘That boy will never be one of us,
Though he does what he blessed well can.’

He went round to all the people
A paper crown on his head.
Here is some bread from my father.
Take, eat, he said.

Nobody seemed very hungry.
Nobody seemed to care.
Nobody saw the God in himself
Quietly standing there.

He finished up in the papers.
He came to a very bad end.
He was charged with bringing the living to life.
No man was that prisoner’s friend.

There’s only one kind of punishment
To fit that kind of crime.
They rigged a trial and shot him dead.
They were only just in time.

They lifted the young man by the leg,
They lifted him by the arm,
They locked him in a cathedral
In case he came to harm.

They stored him safe as water
Under seven rocks.
One Sunday morning he burst out
Like a jack-in-the-box.

Through the town he went walking.
He showed them the holes in his head.
Now do you want any loaves? he cried.
‘Not today,’ they said.

(Used by permission of David Higham Associates)

I have used a reproduction of one of Stanley Spencer’s paintings of Christ in the wilderness because I love that sequence, and because this one – the ‘foxes have holes … but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head’ one – seems to chime well with Causley’s amazing poem.

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

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The “today isn’t Tuesday but this is still a poem, poem”. Aimless love.

Thursday, November 28th, 2013


by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

I love Billy Collins’ poetry – its intimacy and apparent simplicity so often strike to the heart of his chosen subjects as well as of his readers. This one is especially immediate, and it’s also particularly resonant for me because I so often feel a burst of happiness – of love or connection: call it what you will – for unexpected objects. And Collins’ affection for soap, which he expresses in the last stanza, is something with which I found an instant happy connection – I’ve developed a love affair with the soap supplied at the peerless Crown & Castle hotel in Orford, and buy it in extravagant quantities whenever I’m there.

So, I hear you, Billy Collins. And thank you.

If you’d like to read more poems go to the main hub site, where a different poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

Tuesday Poem: Fall Back

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Fall Back, by T. Clear

It’s returned, that hour lost last April,
slipped in at 2am while a half-moon gleamed
in the pine. Hovered while I slept,

unclaimed angel, tick-tock.
But I don’t desire to use it yet —
I want to be selfish, I want to hoard.

I want to tear it into ten-minute bits,
fold one into my wallet for the late appointment,
one in the vegetable bin when lolla rosa

need last until supper. Under my pillow
to extend the dream, in the oven to slow
Quick Yellow Cake. I’ll give one to my son

to get out of jail free. And one
I’ll bury in the garden in eternal plastic,
mark an X with apples. Maybe

I’ll forget it’s there. And just maybe,
in the next century someone will unearth
a ten-minute treasure, spend it lavishly.

© 2010 T. Clear

Therese posted this poem last October and I loved it as soon as I read it – it made me laugh out loud, for one thing, and on further reading I appreciated the imagery and extended metaphors that she’d used in such a light-handed fashion. And it’s such a good idea to hoard that extra hour we get when the clocks change back from Summer Time.

I remember that once, years ago, an American friend and I set off into London to go to a high Anglican mass (don’t ask) and discovered too late that the clocks had changed and we were an hour early for the service. The priest fixed us with what felt like a stern and challenging eye: “And what,” he asked, “will you do with this extra hour that God has given you?” Apart from the fact that it hadn’t been God’s idea to fiddle with the clocks George and I couldn’t answer the question, and we made our mumbled excuses, shuffling off out the door before the priest could make some worthy suggestions.

Well, thanks to Therese, now I know an excellent answer. And this coming Sunday, when our clocks go back again, I intend to lie in bed and invent my own version of her 10-minute sections.

If you’d like to browse through more Tuesday poems you can 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.

Tuesday poem: Fred D’Aguiar

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Vulture Red Letter Day
by Fred D’Aguiar

Vulture days when she feels there’s no wet in the rain

When no two wingbeats sound alike

On such days she should just chill on a ledge and watch worlds fly by,

But no, she be vulture and she won’t let nothing go nowhere,

Not without her say so.

In her mood she pushes from her perch into a breeze full of sweet things.

The moment she leaps she knows she made a big mistake

But one thing leads to another and other things take over

Before she knows it she’s in the thick of a carcass set upon

By a crew drawn from miles around by a smell as rich as any seam,

Crack, crevice, fold, mold, groove.

She pins flesh with feet, lowers head, fails to hear the engine approach.

I’m fortunate to be this week’s Tuesday Poem editor, where you’ll find another poem of Fred D’Aguiar’s displayed in the main page. But when I contacted Fred to ask if I could use one of his poems from his new collection, The Rose of Toulouse, he generously sent me two and asked me to choose between them. And I loved them both, so ‘Saturday, Ocean Creek’ is in the main spot, and ‘Vulture Red Letter Day’ is the one I saved for my own blog.

Fred’s poetry – like his novels, short stories and plays – moves and engages me in resonant and complicated ways. I think that’s partly because of my attempts to make sense of my somewhat chaotic and dislocated life, as well as Fred’s huge talent for shaping recollection and experience into writing that’s both profound and witty. This poem, above, is a perfect example, and I feel I have often been in that vulture’s situation myself!

I’m honoured and delighted to present two of his poems simultaneously, and also to count him as a friend. Thanks, Fred.

Tuesday poem on Monday: Coming home

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Coming home, by Rosalind Brackenbury

The plane tips, the town
lies beneath me, all the streets
and yards I know, the small rows
and intimate glow of houses,
blot of trees; after the dark rush
of so much ocean, this patch of land
and everything I want
gathered there: my husband
in our car driving through
lakes to meet me, my daughter
standing at the stove tasting dinner
from a wooden spoon,
her head under the light.
Friends in these fragile boxes
that I rush down to; love, meals,
arguments beneath tin roofs
sluiced by rain. Rain slides
on the plane’s glass its long
diagonals; we shudder,
land in a puddle; on the steps
of the plane breathe first
the salt damp island air.

Used by permission of the author.

Rosalind Brackenbury was born in London, grew up in the south of England, has lived in Scotland and France, and now lives in Key West with her American husband. She is the author of 12 novels (the latest is ‘Becoming George Sand’) and six books of poetry (‘The Joy of the Nearly Old’ is the latest collection).

Although I spend time in Key West every year I’ve not met Rosalind, but her writing has great resonance for me, especially in poems such as this one, which is not only redolent with familiarity of the plane journey from Miami to Key West, but also reminds me of New Zealand. (Mention a small town, or tin roofs on an island, or rain and “blots of trees”, and I’m taken straight back to my childhood. Which may account for my late-onset love affair with Key West.)

If you’d like to read more Tuesday poems go to the 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.

Tuesday poem: The lesson of the moth

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Posting a piece last week about the palmetto bugs here in Key West sparked a memory of Don Marquis’s poems about Archy the cockroach and Mehitabel the cat. If you haven’t yet encountered these I recommend tracking them down: they were first published in the 1930s.  Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a poet, and  his friend Mehitabel is an alley cat with a celebrated past who claims she was Cleopatra in a previous life.

“expression is the need of my soul,” declares Archy, who labored as a free-verse poet in an earlier incarnation. At night, alone, he dives furiously on the keys of Don Marquis’ typewriter to describe a cockroach’s view of the world, rich with cynicism and humor. It’s difficult enough to operate the typewriter’s return bar to get a fresh line of paper; all of Archy’s dispatches are written lowercase, and without punctuation, because he is unable simultaneously to hit both shift and a letter key to produce a capital letter. These days of course he’d have a lot less trouble with a computer keyboard, always supposing he could turn on the computer in the first place …

Anyway, here’s one of Archy’s poems: enjoy.

the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself


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

Tuesday poem: A Riddle of the Soul

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

A Riddle of the Soul
M. K. Joseph

I cannot give

Unless I have

I cannot have

Unless I save

Unless I have

I cannot save

Unless I give

I cannot have.

Unless I live

I cannot be

Unless I am

I cannot seem

I cannot be

Unless I seem

I cannot live

Unless I am.

I cannot be

Unless I give

I cannot have

Unless I die

Unless I grieve

I cannot love

Unless I die

I cannot live.

This week the main poem on the Tuesday Poem blog is by C.K. Stead, and last week Mary McCullum also posted a poem by Allan Curnow. I’m delighted to add to the generational coincidence of poets with this one by M. K. Joseph, who taught in the English Department at Auckland University (with Carl Stead) when I was a student there. (Ken Smithyman, another significant poet of those times, was my Standard Four teacher at Takapuna Primary. Hopeless at teaching maths, but terrific at introducing us to a wide range of poetry that’s stayed with me ever since.)

I’ve posted poems by other important New Zealand poets of that generation in recent years – Rex Fairburn’s To An Expatriate and R.A.K. Mason’s Song of Allegiance still resonate in my life.

‘A Riddle of the Soul’, though, is new to me, and the structure seems intriguingly reminiscent of the modern ferlew (see the one I posted here). M. K. Joseph was an acclaimed novelist as well as a poet, and an academic with, as I recall, a special interest in Byron. And also a fine teacher.

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

Tuesday Poem: The Seed Shop

Monday, January 28th, 2013

THE SEED SHOP, Muriel Stuart

Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry—
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.
Dead that shall quicken at the call of Spring,
Sleepers to stir beneath June’s magic kiss,
Though birds pass over, unremembering,
And no bee seeks here roses that were his.
In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams,
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams,
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.
Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.

Muriel Stuart , who died in 1967, was at one time a celebrated poet, praised by Thomas Hardy and Hugh MacDiarmid amongst others. She stopped writing poetry in the 1930s and her work is now largely forgotten – but I love this example, especially at this time in the Northern Hemisphere when it’s hard to believe that spring will ever come; that gardens will grow again; that “June’s magic kiss” will bring anything to life once more.

For more Tuesday poems go to the main hub site, if you’re not already there, where a main poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

And yes, I know I’ve posted this on a Monday afternoon, but it’s already Tuesday in New Zealand where the Tuesday Poem site originates, and the new main poem that’s just up is so wonderful I have to post this myself. Immediately. Got to be there…

Tuesday poem: Shoulders

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Someone posted this on FaceBook in response to the Newtown murders. It’s a lovely poem in any context, and very moving in that one.

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