Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

The coming of spring

May 2, 2021

The Trees

by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf

like something almost being said;

the recent buds relax and spread,

their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again

and we grow old? No, they die too.

Their yearly trick of looking new

is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the un-resting castles thresh

in full-grown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

J.B.S. Haldane’s poem about cancer

September 12, 2014

J.B.S. Haldane, a distinguished biologist and freethinker, found he was suffering from rectal bleeding in October, 1963, while attending a conference on the origin of life.   On his return journey to India, where he then made his home, he stopped in London and found he had rectal cancer.  He was operated on immediately at University College Hospital.  While recuperating, he wrote the following poem.

Cancer’s a Funny Thing

by J. B. S. Haldane

I wish I had the voice of Homer
To sing of rectal carcinoma,
Which kills a lot more chaps, in fact,
Than were bumped off when Troy was sacked.

Yet, thanks to modern surgeon’s skills,
It can be killed before it kills
Upon a scientific basis
In nineteen out of twenty cases.

I noticed I was passing blood
(Only a few drops, not a flood).
So pausing on my homeward way
From Tallahassee to Bombay
I asked a doctor, now my friend,
To peer into my hinder end,
To prove or to disprove the rumour
That I had a malignant tumour.
They pumped in BaS04.
Till I could really stand no more,
And, when sufficient had been pressed in,
They photographed my large intestine,
In order to decide the issue
They next scraped out some bits of tissue.
(Before they did so, some good pal
Had knocked me out with pentothal,
Whose action is extremely quick,
And does not leave me feeling sick.)
The microscope returned the answer
That I had certainly got cancer,
So I was wheeled into the theater
Where holes were made to make me better.
One set is in my perineurn
Where I can feel, but can’t yet see ‘em.
Another made me like a kipper
Or female prey of Jack the Ripper,
Through this incision, I don’t doubt,
The neoplasm was taken out,
Along with colon, and lymph nodes
Where cancer cells might find abodes.
A third much smaller hole is meant
To function as a ventral vent:
So now I am like two-faced Janus
The only* god who sees his anus.

*In India there are several more
With extra faces, up to four,
But both in Brahma and in Shiva
I own myself an unbeliever.


The Want of Peace by Wendell Berry

August 29, 2014

All goes back to the earth,

and so I do not desire

pride of excess or power,

but the contentments made

by men who have had little:

the fisherman’s silence

receiving the river’s grace,

the gardner’s musing on rows.

I lack the peace of simple things.

I am never wholly in place.

I find no peace or grace.

We sell the world to buy fire,

our way lighted by burning men,

and that has bent my mind

and made me think of darkness

and wish for the dumb life of roots.


“Disappearances” by Hugh Mitchell

June 15, 2014

His personal self returns to its radiant, intimate, deathless source
… he disappears into the light.                         The Upanishads

I’ve gone to inhabit the darkness
dressed in bright colors.
I move into the unknown future
known only to those
who do not have a name
for they live beyond all names
in the place that is no place.
What is this tomb and tumulus
after the priests vanished
and the congregants strayed, starved, fled?
The golden altars were looted long ago
and the temple stripped of Torah and Cross.
What is this place
where gushing rivers have dried
and mountain glaciers disappeared
from the blaze and sun which never stops
or stoops to pity

and the only hope is found
beyond the reality of bombs and rubble
as we move from holy temple grounds
into dry wind from desert mountains
to the place of no wind at all
or life beyond cold stars
where even the stars no longer have a name?

Hugh Mitchell
147 Hillside Ave
Rochester, N.Y.  14610                  20140601

“…the stubborn ounces of my weight”

October 6, 2013

You say the little efforts that I make
will do no good; they will never prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in the balance.
I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.
    ==Bonaro Overstreet

Preoccupation by Roberta T. Swartz

September 8, 2013

And when I knew this dream was dead,
I did not grieve at all.
“God needs that dream for His own work,” I said.
“He will with immense precision
concentrate on this my vision.”
God was watching a meadow weed
—a long lank thing from a surface seed
and with gigantic tenderness
was willing it to grow, I guess.
At first I shouted, “God,” I cried,
“my valuable dream has died.”
He did not even look aside.
So I went nearer.  “God,” I said,
“I suppose you know my dream is dead.”
But God had placed a second seed—
was thinking up another weed.
    ==Roberta T. Swartz


Beauty in the eye of a physicist

May 26, 2013

This video is based on a 1981 interview with the late Richard Feynman, responding to those who say that scientific knowledge destroys poetic appreciation of beauty.

The Diameter of the Bomb

April 22, 2013

by Yehuda Amichai

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters

and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,

with four dead and eleven wounded.

And around these, in a larger circle

of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered

and one graveyard. But the young woman

who was buried in the city she came from,

at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,

enlarges the circle considerably,

and the solitary man mourning her death

at the distant shores of a country far across the sea

includes the entire world in the circle.

And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans

that reaches up to the throne of God and

beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.

via Obsidian Wings: A poem.

The inchworm

January 13, 2013

The butterfly has wings of silk.
The moth has wings of flame.
The inchworm has no wings at all.
But he gets there just the same.

Your Name by Hugh Mitchell

October 7, 2012

This poem is inspired by the 104th Psalm.

Your wind has wings which leap the mountains
sing with joy across the prairie sod.
We name you God but naming is too small
for everywhere Your light falls into the lives we live
and know and do not know.

Your ocean has its waves and tides
which cat-like creep upon the land and then subside
as the sun star settles into its bed of night.
We do not make the oceans rise or fall
or call the stars into their blooming.

We do not set the earth to quaking in its frame
or move the mountains from their place of joy and pain
or release the streams
and send them plunging into green valleys.
You do.

You are the One who kindles the rainbow
sends it longing and leaping through mountain passes.
You make the grasses lush and long and sweet and green
and feed the cattle
grow the grain that we reap and bake into our bread.
It is you who brings the rain,
the snow, season’s slow turning.

How is it that we think we know your name?
You are the everywhere beyond all names.

Hugh Mitchell’s chapbooks of original poems include Animal Guides, Light in the Grove, and, just released, Seeds in Winter, from which “Your Name” is taken.  His work has been published in Comstock Review, LLI Review, and RIT Signatures.  He won a contest called “Disarming Images,” which resulted in him reading his poem “Alamagordo” on a program with Gary Snyder.

Mitchell has been a leader in the Sierra Club in the Rochester, N.Y., area and in New York State, beginning in 1970 in an effort to save Genesee Valley Park.   Many of his poems reflect on nature and speak of his effort to find metaphysical answers.

Write to him at 147 Hillside Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14610, for permission to copy, republish or anthologize his poems.

[11/29/12]  I have fixed the mistake in line 21.
I mistakenly typed “It is you who brings the ruin.”

Sunday Back by Hugh Mitchell

September 30, 2012

Sometimes I wish Sundays were back
and I on my knees
my back bent again below a golden altar
where a white robed God sat
in all His high glory and sureness.

The Reverend’s stone church spire
which once inspired so much awe
now brings only swift regret
for all the time spent on knees
when outside those dark church aisles
the yard was fringed with maple leaves
in brightest dress: browns, greens, yellows,
red leaves blowing in the unbound breeze
and the muffled cries of normal children
floating, disembodied
through stained glass and chanceled dust.

But what is left?
Clouds of uncertainty drift through day.
No surety at all.

Sometimes I wish Sundays were back
and I, a child again
whispering muffled prayers
in cupped hands raised to a dusty god.

Hugh Mitchell’s chapbooks of original poems include Animal Guides, Light in the Grove, and, just released, Seeds in Winter, from which “Sunday Back” is taken.  His work has been published in Comstock Review, LLI Review, and RIT Signatures.  He won a contest called “Disarming Images,” which resulted in him reading his poem “Alamagordo” on a program with Gary Snyder.

Mitchell has been a leader in the Sierra Club in the Rochester, N.Y., area and in New York State, beginning in 1970 in an effort to save Genesee Valley Park.   Many of his poems reflect on nature and speak of his effort to find metaphysical answers.

Write to him at 147 Hillside Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14610, for permission to copy, republish or anthologize his poems.


“Dear Earth…”

April 22, 2012

Max Kapp was a Universalist minister who served a number of churches, including First Universalist Church of Rochester, N.Y., from 1938 to 1943.  He taught theology at St. Lawrence University and held positions in the Universalist Church of America and later the Unitarian Universalist Association.  But he was known for his sermons, meditations and poetry.  Here is a sample of his poetry.

For what my eyes have seen these many years
and what my heart has loved
and often I have tried to start my lines:
“Dear Earth,” I say,
and then I pause
to look once more.
Soon I am bemused
and far away in wonder.
So I never get beyond “Dear Earth.”

Click on Max Kapp for his entry in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biolgraphy.

Hard Life with Memory by Wisława Szymborska

March 4, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska

I’m a poor audience for my memory.

She wants me to attend her voice nonstop,

but I fidget, fuss,

listen and don’t,

step out, come back, then leave again.

She wants all my time and attention.

She’s got no problem when I sleep.

The day’s a different matter, which upsets her.

She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,

stirs up events both important and un-,

turns my eyes to overlooked views,

peoples them with my dead.

In her stories I’m always younger.

Which is nice, but why always the same story.

Every mirror holds different news for me.

She gets angry when I shrug my shoulders.

And takes revenge by hauling out old errors,

weighty, but easily forgotten.

Looks into my eyes, checks my reaction.

Then comforts me, it could be worse.

She wants me to live only for her and with her.

Ideally in a dark, locked room,

but my plans still feature today’s sun,

clouds in progress, ongoing roads.

At times I get fed up with her.

I suggest a separation. From now to eternity.

Then she smiles at me with pity,

since she knows it would be the end of me too.

via The New York Review of Books.

The late Wislawa Szymborska was a Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Click on Miracle Fair and A Word on Statistics for two of her other poems and more links.

Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborska

February 3, 2012

The commonplace miracle:

that so many common miracles take place.

The usual miracles:

invisible dogs barking

in the dead of night.

One of many miracles:

a small and airy cloud

is able to upstage the massive moon.

Several miracles in one:

an alder is reflected in the water

and is reversed from left to right

and grows from crown to root

and never hits bottom

though the water isn’t deep.

A run-of-the-mill miracle:

winds mild to moderate

turning gusty in storms.

A miracle in the first place:

cows will be cows.

Next but not least:

just this cherry orchard

from just this cherry pit.

A miracle minus top hat and tails:

fluttering white doves.

A miracle (what else can you call it):

the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.

and will set tonight at one past eight.

A miracle that’s lost on us:

the hand actually has fewer than six fingers

but still it’s got more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:

the inescapable earth.

An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:

the unthinkable

can be thought.

~ Wislawa Szymborska ~

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1996, died Wednesday.

Click on Wislawa Szymborska: Nobel-prize winning poet dies at 88 for her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Click on Wislawa Szymborska spoke the inner thoughts of many people for a memoir in the Chicago Tribune.

Click on A Word on Statistics for one of her other poems.

Click on Wislawa Szymborska – Poetry for her listing on the Nobel Prize home page.

Abou ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt

May 8, 2011

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”
The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!


A Word on Statistics by Wislawa Szymborska

February 26, 2011

Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:

Wislawa Szymborska

Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.

Ready to help,
if it doesn’t take long:

Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four — well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:

Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.

when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know,
not even approximately.

Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.

Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).

Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.

Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.

But if it takes effort to understand:

Worthy of empathy:

one hundred out of one hundred –
a figure that has never varied yet.

(translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak)



Sestina d’Inverno by Anthony Hecht

February 9, 2011

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,
where there are twenty-seven words for “snow,”
not all of them polite, the wayward mind
basks in some Yucatan of its own making,
some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island
alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

and O that we were there. But here the natives
of this gray, sunless city of Rochester
have sown whole mines of salt about their land
(bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow
comes down as if The Flood were in the making.
Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

an ark sets forth which is itself the mind,
bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives
blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making
roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester
with sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.
It might be well to remember that an island

was blessed heaven once, more than an island,
the grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.
In that kind climate the mere thought of snow
was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,
unable to conceive of Rochester,
made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to making
do than some wistful reverie of an island,
especially now when hope lies with the Rochester
Gas and Electric Co., which doesn’t mind
such profitable weather, while the natives
sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,
the single verity of heaven’s making,
deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,
and the torn hoarding-posters of some island.
Under our igloo skies the frozen mind
Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,
where to the natives destiny is snow
that is neither to our mind nor of our making.