Poems on the Underground August 2023

Wind by James Fenton

This month we feature Poems of Hope and Change, poems celebrating the preciousness and wonder of the natural world, poems of Joy and Love and Summer poems

Poems of Hope and Change

Ein Yahav by Yehuda Amichai translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

Ein Yahav from “Israeli Travel: Otherness is All, Otherness is Love” Yehuda Amichai Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld ‘ A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arava Desert, a drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.’

Poetry by Pablo Neruda translated by Alastair Reid

POETRY LA POESIA by Pablo Neruda (1904-73) translated by Alastair Reid ' La Poesía Y fue a esa edad... Llegó la poesía a buscarme. No sé, no sé de dónde salió, de invierno o río.... And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where it came from, from winter or a river. I don't know how or when, no, they were not voices, they were not words, nor silence, but from a street I was summoned, from the branches of night, abruptly from the others, among violent fires or returning alone, there I was without a face and it touched me.'

Bonnard by Elizabeth Jennings

Bonnard by Elizabeth Jennings ' Colour of rooms. Pastel shades. Crowds. Torsos at ease in brilliant baths. And always, everywhere the light. This is a way of creating the world again, of seeing differences, of piling shadow on shadow, of showing up distances, of bringing close, bringing close. A way of furnishing too, of making yourself feel at home - and others. Pink, flame, coral, yellow, magenta - extreme colours for ordinary situations. This is a way to make a new world. Then watch it. Let the colours dry, let the carpets collect a little dust. Let the walls peel gently, and people come, innocent, nude, eager for bed or bath. They look newmade too, these bodies, newborn and innocent. Their flesh-tints fit the bright walls and floors and they take a bath as if entering the first stream, the first fountain.'

from the Song of Solomon, King James Bible

from The Song of Solomon, The King James Bible (1611) ' My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my Love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over, and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. '

Thread Suns by Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger

Thread suns, Paul Celan (1920 - 70) translated by Michael Hamburger 'Thread suns above the grey-black wilderness. A tree - high thought tunes in to light's pitch: there are still songs to be sung on the other side of mankind.'

Poems of the Natural World

The very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London by Kathleen Raine

Kathleen Raine, The Very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London ' The very leaves of the acacia-tree are London; London tap-water fills out the fuchsia buds in the back garden, Blackbirds pull London worms out of the sour soil, The woodlice, centipedes, eat London, the wasps even. London air through stomata of myriad leaves And million lungs of London breathes. Chlorophyll and haemoglobin do what life can To purify, to return this great explosion To sanity of leaf and wing. Gradual and gentle the growth of London pride, And sparrows are free of all the time in the world: Less than a window-pane between.'

Under the Greenwood Tree by William Shakespeare

Under the Greenwood Tree by William Shakespeare (from As You Like It) 'Under the greenwood tree Who loves to lie with me, And turn his merry note Unto the sweet bird's throat, Come hither, come hither, come hither: Here shall he see No enemy But winter and rough weather. Who doth ambition shun And loves to live i' th' sun, Seeking the food he eats, And pleased with what he gets, Come hither, come hither, come hither! Here shall he see No enemy But winter and rough weather.' Poems on the Underground 1996 Poster

I go inside the Tree by Jo Shapcott

I go inside the tree, Jo Shapcott Indoors for this ash is through the bark: notice its colour – asphalt or slate in the rain then go inside, tasting weather in the tree rings, scoffing years of drought and storm, moving as fast as a woodworm who finds a kick of speed for burrowing into the core, for mouthing pith and sap, until the o my god at the heart.

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.'

Leaf by Sean Hewitt

Leaf , Seán Hewitt from Tongues of Fire 'For woods are forms of grief grown from the earth. For they creak with the weight of it. For each tree is an altar to time. For the oak, whose every knot guards a hushed cymbal of water. For how the silver water holds the heavens in its eye. For the axletree of heaven and the sleeping coil of wind and the moon keeping watch. For how each leaf traps light as it falls. For even in the nighttime of life it is worth living, just to hold it.'

from Among School Children by W.B. Yeats

from Among School Children by W.B. Yeats 'Labour is blossoming or dancing where The body is not bruised to pleasure soul, Nor beauty born out of its own despair, Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil. O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?'

Poems of Joy and Love

Infant Joy by William Blake

Infant Joy, William Blake ' I have no name I am but two days old.- What shall I call thee?

A Picture for Tiantian’s Fifth Birthday by Bei Dao translated by Bonnie S. McDougall and Chen Maiping

A Picture for Tiantian's fifth birthday by Bei Dao (b. 1949)Translated by Bonnie S. McDougall and Chen Maiping 'A Picture for Tiantian's fifth birthday Morning arrives in a sleeveless dress apples tumble all over the earth my daughter is drawing a picture how vast is a five-year-old sky your name has two windows one opens towards a sun with no clock-hands the other opens towards your father who has become a hedgehog in exile taking with him a few unintelligible characters and a bright red apple he has left your painting how vast is a five-year-old sky' Tiantian, the nickname given to the poet's daughter, is written with two characters which look like a pair of windows. Written in exile after Tienanmen Square Reprinted from Old Snow (Anvil, 1992)

To My Daughter by Stephen Spender

To My Daughter by Stephen Spender (1909-95) ' Bright clasp of her whole hand around my finger My daughter, as we walk together now. All my life I'll feel a ring invisibly Circle this bone with shining: when she is grown Far from today as her eyes are far already. ' Reprinted by permission of Faber from Collected Poems 1928-1985 Poems on the Underground 1,000 Years of Poetry in English

Child by Sylvia Plath

Child by Sylvia Plath 'Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing. I want to fill it with colour and ducks, The zoo of the new Whose names you meditate — April snowdrop, Indian pipe, Little Stalk without wrinkle, Pool in which images Should be grand and classical Not this troublous Wringing of hands, this dark Ceiling without a star.'

Piano by D.H. Lawrence

Piano , D.H. Lawrence 1989 poster 'Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me; Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings. In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide. So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.'

My Children by Choman Hardi

My children by Choman Hardi I can hear them talking, my children fluent English and broken Kurdish. And whenever I disagree with them they will comfort each other by saying: Don't worry about mum, she's Kurdish. Will I be the foreigner in my own home? '

Summer Poems

Midsummer, Tobago by Derek Walcott

Midsummer, Tobago, Derek Walcott 'Broad sun-stoned beaches. White heat. A green river. A bridge, scorched yellow palms from the summer-sleeping house drowsing through August. Days I have held, days I have lost, days that outgrow, like daughters, my harbouring arms.'

Late Summer Fires by Les Murray

Late Summer Fires, Les Murray ' The paddocks shave black with a foam of smoke that stays, welling out of red-black wounds. In the white of a drought this happens. The hardcourt game. Logs that fume are mostly cattle, inverted, stubby. Tree stumps are kilns. Walloped, wiped, hand-pumped, even this day rolls over, slowly. At dusk, a family drives sheep out through the yellow of the Aboriginal flag.'

Sunrise Sequence from the Dulngulg song cycle translated by Ronald M. Berndt

Sunrise Sequence from The Dulngulg Song cycle translated by Ronald M. Berndt 'The day breaks - the first rays of the rising Sun, stretching her arms. Daylight breaking, as the Sun rises to her feet. Sun rising, scattering the darkness; lighting up the land ... With disc shining, bringing daylight, as the birds whistle and call ... People are moving about, talking, feeling the warmth. Burning through the Gorge, she rises, walking westwards, Wearing her waist-band of human hair. She shines on the blossoming coolibah-tree, with its sprawling roots, Its shady branches spreading ... '

The Sunflower by Eugenio Montale English version by Jeremy Reed

The Sunflower by Eugenio Montale (1889-1981) English version by Jeremy Reed ' Portami il girasole ch'io lo trapianti nel mio terreno bruciato dal salino, e mostri tutto il giorno agli azzurri specchianti del cielo l'ansieta del suo volto giallino. Tendono alla chiarita le cose oscure, si esauriscono i corpi in un fluire di tinte: queste in musiche. Svanire e dunque la ventura delle venture. Portami tu la pianta che conduce dove sorgono bionde trasparenze e vapora la vita quale essenza; portami il girasole impazzito di luce. Bring me the sunflower and I'll transplant it in my garden's burnt salinity. All day its heliocentric gold face will turn towards the blue of sky and sea. Things out of darkness incline to the light, colours flow into music and ascend, and in that act consume themselves, to burn is both a revelation and an end. Bring me that flower whose one aspiration is to salute the blond shimmering height where all matter's transformed into essence, its radial clockface feeding on the light.' Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe from the Coastguard's House by Eugenio Montale, English versions by Jeremy Reed (1990). Italian text by permission of Arnoldo Mondadori Editore.

Ah! Sun-Flower by William Blake

William Blake, Ah-Sunflower 'Ah Sun-flower! weary of time, Who countest the steps of the Sun: Seeking after that sweet golden clime Where the travellers journey is done. Where the Youth pined away with desire, And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow: Arise from their graves and aspire, Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.'

In the Heart of Hackney by Sebastian Barker

In the Heart of Hackney, for Aidan Andrew Dun by Sebastian Barker Poems on the Underground 2007 poster ' Behold, a swan. Ten houseboats on the Lee. A cyclist on the towpath. Gentle rain. A pigeon in a white apple - blossoming tree. And through the Marsh the rumble of a train. Two courting geese waddle on the bank Croaking. A man unties his boat. Police cars howl and whoop. And vast and blank The rain cloud of the sky is trampled underfoot. Behold, a dove. And in Bomb Crater Pond Fat frogs ignore the rain. Each trembling rush signals like a wand Earthing the magic of London once again. In the heart of Hackney, five miles from Kentish Town, By Lammas Lands the reed beds are glowing rich and brown '.Sebastian Barker Reprinted by permission of Enitharmon Press from Damnatio Memoriae: Erased from Memory (2004)

Chilling Out Beside the Thames by John Agard

Chilling Out Beside the Thames, John Agard ‘Summer come, mi chill-out beside the Thames. Spend a little time with weeping willow.’

The Thunderbolt’s Training Manual by Danielle Hope

The Thunderbolt’s Training Manual, Danielle Hope ‘Choose a soporific afternoon. As sunbathers doze, saturday papers abandoned.’

Rain Travel by W.S. Merwin

Rain Travel by W.S. Merwin ' I wake in the dark and remember it is the morning when I must start by myself on the journey I lie listening to the black hour before dawn and you are still asleep beside me while around us the trees full of night lean hushed in their dream that bears us up asleep and awake then I hear drops falling one by one into the sightless leaves and I do not know when they began but all at once there is no sound but rain and the stream below us roaring away into the rushing darkness'

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.'

On Lake Nicaragua by Ernesto Cardenal translated by the author and Robert Pring-Mill

On Lake Nicaragua by Ernesto Cardenal (b.1925) Translated by the author and Robert Pring-Mill 'Slow cargo-launch, midnight, mid-lake, bound from San Miguelito to Granada. The lights ahead not yet in sight, The dwindling ones behind completely gone. Only the stars (the mast a finger pointing to the Seven Sisters) and the moon, rising above Chontales. Another launch (just one red light) goes by and sinks into the night. We, for them: another red light sinking in the night... And I, watching the stars, lying on the deck between bunches of bananas and Chontales cheeses, wonder: perhaps there's one that is an earth like ours and someone's watching me (watching the stars) from another launch, on another night, on another lake. '

Peaceful Waters: Variation by Federico Garcia Lorca translated by Adrian Mitchell

Peaceful Waters: Variation, Frederico Garcia Lorca (1898 - 1936) translated by Adrian Mitchell 'peaceful waters of the air under echo's branches peaceful waters of a pool under a bough laden with stars peaceful waters of your mouth under a forest of kisses'

The Expulsion from Eden by John Milton

The Expulsion from Eden by John Milton 'In either hand the hastening angel caught Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast To the subjected plain: then disappeared. They looking back, all the eastern side beheld Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms: Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide: They hand in hand with wand`ring steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way.' John Milton (1608 - 74)

You can see our poems from July 2023 here