December 2022

This month we feature our new set of Poems on the Underground with poems by P.B. Shelley, Jackie Kay, Jo Clement, Romalyn Ante, Kerry Shawn Keys and Cyril Wong. Look out for the posters on London Underground and Overground trains.

We follow this with Poems of Time and Memory, Love Poems on the Underground and end with a selection of poems related to Tides and Sea and poems on a lighter note.

A 14 year Old Convalescent Cat in the Winter by Gavin Ewart

Gavin Ewart , A 14 year old Convalescent Cat in the Winter Poems on the Underground 1995 ' I want him to have another living summer, to lie in the sun and enjoy the douceur de vivre- because the sun, like golden rum in a rummer, is what makes an idle cat un tout petit peu ivre- I want him to lie stretched out, contented, revelling in the heat, his fur all dry and warm, an Old Age Pensioner, retired, resented by no one, and happinesses in a beelike swarm to settle on him – postponed for another season that last fated hateful journey to the vet from which there is no return (and age the reason), which must come soon – as I cannot forget''

New Poems on the Underground

from Ode to the West Wind by P.B. Shelley

Ode to the West Wind by P. B. Shelley 'O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, Pestilence-stricken multitudes; O Thou, Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low, Each like a corpse within its grave, until Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) With living hues and odours plain and hill: Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear! '

George Square by Jackie Kay

George Square by Jackie Kay ' My seventy-seven-year-old father put his reading glasses on to help my mother do the buttons on the back of her dress. ‘What a pair the two of us are!’ my mother said, ‘Me with my sore wrist, you with your bad eyes, your soft thumbs!’ And off they went, my two parents to march against the war in Iraq, him with his plastic hips, her with her arthritis, to congregate at George Square, where the banners waved at each other like old friends, flapping, where they’d met for so many marches over their years, for peace on earth, for pity’s sake, for peace, for peace.' Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Darling: New & Selected Poems (2007)

Paisley by Jo Clement

Paisley by Jo Clement ' With India’s hand on the loom I untwist a paisley square from round my neck: red, green and gold threads repeat almonds some call figs, figs the Welsh call pears and pears you might call teardrops. Shook onto the grass, I smooth out Kashmir -- so close to silk – over the fault line made of my body: feet in England, head in Scotland, a heart elsewhere.' Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Outlandish (2022)

from Invisible Women by Romalyn Ante 

from Invisible Women by Romalyn Ante ' My mother walks to work when the sky is black and comes out from work when the sky is black, her footsteps leave a snowdrop-studded path. In the middle of a plaza, she pauses -- the downpour tricking her eyes to believe the statue in the square is a fellow invisible woman.' Reprinted by permission of Chatto & Windus from Antiemetic for Homesickness (2020)

 Vesper by Kerry Shawn Keys

Vesper for my mother by Kerry Shawn Keys ' Next to the grapes to the side of the house, the mother with the disappearing bones showed me the flowers opening at dusk, perfuming the silence. See, they unfold the dark to make music with the moths. She stepped inside. Far off, the yellowing moon crocheted its starry nightgown into her shadow.' Reprinted by permission of the author Kerry Shawn Keys ( 2020)

Crow by  Cyril Wong 

Crow by Cyril Wong ' How does one begin to drink the sky? By tasting its tears, of course, the crow realised. Yet why does it remain so full – a pitcher of blue without end?' Reprinted by permission of Math Paper Press from Animal Season (2020)

Poems of Time and Memory

Canticle by John F. Deane

Canticle by John F. Deane (b.1943) ' Sometimes when you walk down to the red gate hearing the scrape-music of your shoes across gravel, a yellow moon will lift over the hill; you swing the gate shut and lean on the topmost bar as if something has been accomplished in the world; a night wind mistles through the poplar leaves and all the noise of the universe stills to an oboe hum, the given note of a perfect music; there is a vast sky wholly dedicated to the stars and you know, with certainty, that all the dead are out, up there, in one holiday flotilla, and that they celebrate the fact of a red gate and a yellow moon that tunes their instruments with you to the symphony.'

New Gravity by Roger Robertson

New Gravity by Robin Robertson ' Treading through the half-light of ivy and headstone, I see you in the distance as I'm telling our daughter about this place, this whole business: a sister about to be born, how a life's new gravity suspends in water. Under the oak, the fallen leaves are pieces of the tree's jigsaw; by your father's grave you are pressing acorns into the shadows to seed.'

Heredity by Thomas Hardy

Heredity by Thomas Hardy 'I am the family face; Flesh perishes, I live on, Projecting trait and trace Through time to times anon, And leaping from place to place Over oblivion. The years-heired feature that can In curve and voice and eye Despise the human span Of durance--that is I; The eternal thing in man, That heeds no call to die.'

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, The Rainbow comes and goes ' The Rainbow comes and goes, And lovely is the Rose, The Moon doth with delight Look round her when the heavens are bare, Waters on a starry night Are beautiful and fair; The sunshine is a glorious birth; But yet I know, where'er I go, That there hath past away a glory from the earth.'

If I could tell you by W.H. Auden

If I could tell you by W. H. Auden (1907 - 73) ' Time will say nothing but I told you so, Time only knows the price we have to pay; If I could tell you I would let you know. If we should weep when clowns put on their show, If we should stumble when musicians play, Time will say nothing but I told you so. There are no fortunes to be told, although, Because I love you more than I can say, If I could tell you I would let you know. The winds must come from somewhere when they blow, There must be reasons why the leaves decay; Time will say nothing but I told you so. Perhaps the roses really want to grow, The vision seriously intends to stay; If I could tell you I would let you know. Suppose the lions all get up and , And all the brooks and soldiers run away; Will Time say nothing but I told you so? If I could tell you I would let you know. '

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare ' That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west; Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou seest the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the deathbed whereon it must expire, Consumed with that which it was nourished by. This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.'

Love Poems on the Underground

from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe 'Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, And burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. Her lips suck forth my soul- see where it flies! Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again. Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, And all is dross that is not Helena...'

from The Anniversary by John Donne

from The Anniversary by John Donne ' All Kings, and all their favourites, All glory of honours, beauties, wits, The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass, Is elder by a year now than it was When thou and I first one another saw: All other things to their destruction draw, Only our love hath no decay; This no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday, Running it never runs from us away, But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.'

When I was one-and-twenty by A.E. Housman

When I was one-and-twenty by A.E. Housman ' When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say, “Give crowns and pounds and guineas But not your heart away; Give pearls away and rubies But keep your fancy free.” But I was one-and-twenty, No use to talk to me. When I was one-and-twenty I heard him say again, “The heart out of the bosom Was never given in vain; ’Tis paid with sighs a plenty And sold for endless rue.” And I am two-and-twenty, And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true. '

A Tune by Arthur Symons

A Tune by Arthur Symons ' A foolish rhythm turns in my idle head As a windmill turns in the wind on an empty sky. Why is it when love, which men call deathless, is dead, That memory, men call fugitive, will not die? Is love not dead? yet I hear that tune if I lie Dreaming awake in the night on my lonely bed, And an old thought turns with the old tune in my head As a windmill turns in the wind on an empty sky.'

Once after Pushkin by Carol Rumens

Once after Pushkin by Carol Rumens 'I loved you once. D’you hear a small ‘I love you’ Each time we’re forced to meet? Don’t groan, don’t hide! A damaged tree can live without a bud: No one need break the branches and uncover The green that should have danced, dying inside. I loved you, knowing I’d never be your lover. And now? I wish you summers of leaf-shine And leaf-shade, and a face in dreams above you, As tender and as innocent as mine.'

Animals by Frank O’Hara

Animals by Frank O'Hara 'Have you forgotten what we were like then when we were still first rate and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth it's no use worrying about Time but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves and turned some sharp corners the whole pasture looked like our meal we didn't need speedometers we could manage cocktails out of ice and water I wouldn't want to be faster or greener than now if you were with me O you were the best of all my days'

Poems of Sea and Tides

Sea Love by Charlotte Mew

Sea Love, Charlotte Mew 'Tide be runnin' the great world over: T'was only last June month I mind that we Was thinkin' the toss and the call in the breast of the lover So everlastin' as the sea. Heer's the same little fishes that sputter and swim, Wi' the moon's old glim on the grey, wet sand; An' him no more to me nor me to him Than the wind goin' over my hand.'

Tides by Jenny Joseph

Tides by Jenny Joseph 'There are some coasts Where the sea comes in spectacularly Throwing itself up gullies, challenging cliffs, Filling the harbours with great swirls and flourish, A theatrical event that people gather for Curtain up twice daily. You need to know The hour of its starting, you have to be on guard. There are other places Places where you do not really notice The gradual stretch of the fertile silk of water No gurgling or dashings here, no froth no pounding Only at some point the echo may sound different And looking by chance one sees ‘Oh the tide is in.’

Rooms by Kathleen Jamie

Rooms by Kathleen Jamie (b. 1962) ' Though I love this travelling life and yearn like ships docked, I long for rooms to open with my bare hands, and there discover the wonderful, say a ship's prow rearing, and a ladder of rope thrown down. Though young, I'm weary: I'm all rooms at present, all doors fastened against me; but once admitted start craving and swell for a fine, listing ocean-going prow no man in creation can build me.' Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe from The Queen of Sheba ©Kathleen Jamie 1994.

For Pero Moniz, who died at sea by Luis de Camoes

For Pero Moniz, who died at sea by Luis de Camoes (1524 - 80) Translated by Paul Hyland 'On earth I lived few years, and weary ones, cram-full of stubborn, wretched misery; the dark day's light deserted me so soon I never saw my quarter century. I travelled across far-off lands and seas seeking some remedy for life, some cure; but daring deeds do not bring happiness to one who, finally, has no desire. Portugal bred me in my dear and green homeland of Alenquer; but corrupt air trapped in my vessel, in this blood and bone, made me a morsel for your fish, cruel sea, breaking on barren Abyssinia so distant from my fertile native soil. '

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Ancient Mariner Part IV, Lines 272-287 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge 'Beyond the shadow of the ship, I watched the water snakes: They moved in tracks of shining white, And when they reared, the elfish light Fell off in hoary flakes. Within the shadow of the ship I watched their rich attire: Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, They coiled and swam; and every track Was a flash of golden fire. O happy living things! no tongue Their beauty might declare: A spring of love gushed from my heart, And I blessed them unaware: Sure my kind saint took pity on me, And I blessed them unaware.'

Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide by Maura Dooley

Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide, Maura Dooley 'Thrift grows tenacious at the tide's reach. What is that reach when the water is rising, rising?'

Poems on a Lighter Note

One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker

One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967) ' A single flow'r he sent me, since we met. All tenderly his messenger he chose; Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet - One perfect rose. I knew the language of the floweret;" My fragile leaves," it said, "his heart enclose." Love long has taken for his amulet One perfect rose. Why is it no one ever sent me yet One perfect limousine, do you suppose? Ah no, it's always just my luck to get One perfect rose' Reprinted by permission of Duckworth from the Best of Dorothy Parker Poems on the Underground

Poem on the Underground by D.J. Enright

Poem on the Underground by D.J. Enright ' Proud readers Hide behind tall newspapers. The young are all arms and legs Knackered by youth. Tourists sit bolt upright Trusting in nothing. Only the drunk and the crazy Aspire to converse. Only the poet Peruses his poem among the adverts. Only the elderly person Observes the request that the seat be offered to an elderly person. ' New Poems on the Underground D.J. Enright (1920-2002) By permission of Carcanet from collected Poems (1998) © Estate of D.J. Enright

Into Rail by John Hegley

Into Rail by John Hegley 'The first train I rode in I rode in when I was eight it was a beautiful beast, a great one-nostrilled, black dragon cheerfully dragging its human wagon loads. Now the nostrils have gone but the benevolence goes on. The loco lives the loco gives . Even the trains I do not catch transport me .John Hegley (b. 1953 )By permission of the author from Beyond Our Kennel (1998)

The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens

The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens 'The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, ' You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are.' The man replied, 'Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar.' And they said then, 'But play, you must, A tune beyond us, yet ourselves, A tune upon the blue guitar Of things exactly as they are.' I ,1-10

Heirloom by Anne Hartigan

Heirloom by Anne Hartigan 'My father said It's always good weather in bed.'

Don’t Call Alligator Long-Mouth till You Cross River by John Agard

Don’t Call Alligator Long-Mouth till You Cross River by John Agard ' Call alligator long-mouth call alligator saw-mouth call alligator pushy-mouth call alligator scissors-mouth call alligator raggedy-mouth call alligator bumpy-bum call alligator all dem rude word but better wait till you cross river.'

You can see our Poems from November 2022 here