“How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861)


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 
For the ends of being and ideal grace. 
I love thee to the level of every day’s 
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. 
I love thee freely, as men strive for right; 
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. 
I love thee with the passion put to use 
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. 
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose 
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, 
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, 
I shall but love thee better after death.

“My Little Dreams by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966)


My Little Dreams

I’m folding up my little dreams
Within my heart tonight,
And praying I may soon forget
The torture of their sight.

For time’s deft fingers scroll my brow
With fell relentless art—
I’m folding up my little dreams
Tonight, within my heart.

“Clowns’ Houses” by Edith Sitwell (1887 – 1964)


Clowns’ Houses

by EDITH SITWELL

BENEATH the flat and paper sky

The sun, a demon’s eye,
Glowed through the air, that mask of glass;
All wand’ring sounds that pass

Seemed out of tune, as if the light
Were fiddle-strings pulled tight.
The market-square with spire and bell
Clanged out the hour in Hell;

The busy chatter of the heat
Shrilled like a parakeet;
And shuddering at the noonday light
The dust lay dead and white

As powder on a mummy’s face,
Or fawned with simian grace
Round booths with many a hard bright toy
And wooden brittle joy:

The cap and bells of Time the Clown
That, jangling, whistled down
Young cherubs hidden in the guise
Of every bird that flies;

And star-bright masks for youth to wear,
Lest any dream that fare
–Bright pilgrim–past our ken, should see
Hints of Reality.

Upon the sharp-set grass, shrill-green,
Tall trees like rattles lean,
And jangle sharp and dissily;
But when night falls they sign

Till Pierrot moon steals slyly in,
His face more white than sin,
Black-masked, and with cool touch lays bare
Each cherry, plum, and pear.

Then underneath the veiled eyes
Of houses, darkness lies–
Tall houses; like a hopeless prayer
They cleave the sly dumb air.

Blind are those houses, paper-thin
Old shadows hid therein,
With sly and crazy movements creep
Like marionettes, and weep.

Tall windows show Infinity;
And, hard reality,
The candles weep and pry and dance
Like lives mocked at by Chance.

The rooms are vast as Sleep within;
When once I ventured in,
Chill Silence, like a surging sea,
Slowly enveloped me.

Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell

“Fire and Sleet and Candlelight” by Elinor Morton Wylie (1885 – 1928)


"Fire and Sleet and Candlelight"
by ELINOR MORTON WYLIE

For this you’ve striven
    Daring, to fail:
Your sky is riven
    Like a tearing veil.

For this, you’ve wasted
    Wings of your youth;
Divined, and tasted
    Bitter springs of truth.

From sand unslakèd
    Twisted strong cords,
And wandered naked
    Among trysted swords.

There’s a word unspoken,
    A knot untied.
Whatever is broken
    The earth may hide.

The road was jagged
    Over sharp stones:
Your body’s too ragged
    To cover your bones.

The wind scatters
    Tears upon dust;
Your soul’s in tatters
    Where the spears thrust.

Your race is ended—
    See, it is run:
Nothing is mended
    Under the sun.

Straight as an arrow
    You fall to a sleep
Not too narrow
    And not too deep.

“By Candlelight” by Edith Sitwell (1887 – 1964)


"By Candlelight"
BY EDITH SITWELL
Houses red as flower of bean,
Flickering leaves and shadows lean!
Pantalone, like a parrot,
Sat and grumbled in the garret—
Sat and growled and grumbled till 
Moon upon the window-sill
Like a red geranium
Scented his bald cranium.
Said Brighella, meaning well:
“Pack your box and—go to Hell!
Heat will cure your rheumatism!” . . .
Silence crowned this optimism—
Not a sound and not a wail:
But the fire (lush leafy vales)
Watched the angry feathers fly.
Pantalone ’gan to cry—
Could not, would not, pack his box!
Shadows (curtseying hens and cocks)
Pecking in the attic gloom
Tried to smother his tail-plume . . .
Till a cockscomb candle-flame
Crowing loudly, died: Dawn came.

“Bells in the Rain” by Elinor Wylie (1885 – 1928)


"Bells in the Rain"
by Elinor Wylie

Sleep falls, with limpid drops of rain,
Upon the steep cliffs of the town.
Sleep falls; men are at peace again
While the small drops fall softly down.

The bright drops ring like bells of glass
Thinned by the wind; and lightly blown;
Sleep cannot fall on peaceful grass
So softly as it falls on stone.

Peace falls unheeded on the dead
Asleep; they have had deep peace to drink;
Upon a live man’s bloody head
It falls most tenderly, I think.

“To Her Father with Some Verses” by Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672)


To Her Father with Some Verses

Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,

If worth in me or ought I do appear,

Who can of right better demand the same

Than may your worthy self from whom it came?

The principal might yield a greater sum,

Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;

My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,

My bond remains in force unto this day;

Yet for part payment take this simple mite,

Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.

Such is my debt I may not say forgive,

But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;

Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,

Yet paying is not paid until I die.

“Little Red-Cap” by CAROL ANN DUFFY


Little Red-Cap

BY CAROL ANN DUFFY | 2 MINS

(Read Carol Ann Duffy‘s Biography)

At childhood’s end, the houses petered out

into playing fields, the factory, allotments

kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men,

the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan,

till you came at last to the edge of the woods.

It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf.

He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud

in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw,

red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears

he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!

In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me,

sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink,

my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.

The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,

away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place

lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,

my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer

snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes

but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night,

breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.

I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for

what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?

Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws

and went in search of a living bird – white dove –

which flew, straight, from my hands to his open mouth.

One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,

licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back

of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.

Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,

warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.

But then I was young – and it took ten years

in the woods to tell that a mushroom

stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds

are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf

howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,

season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe

to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon

to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf

as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw

the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.

I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.

Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.

“Differences of Opinion” by WENDY COPE


Differences of Opinion

BY WENDY COPE

HE TELLS HER

He tells her that the earth is flat —
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

“What Kind of Times Are These” by ADRIENNE RICH (1929 – 2012)


What Kind of Times Are These

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.