"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
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.
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
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 HAZEL HALL
My hands that guide a needle
In their turn are led
Relentlessly and deftly
As a needle leads a thread.
Other hands are teaching
My needle: when I sew
I feel the cool, thin fingers
Of hands I do not know.
They urge my needle onward.
They smooth my seams. until
The worry of my stitches
Smothers in their skill.
All the tired women.
Who sewed their lives away.
Speak in my deft fingers
as I sew to-day.
By HAZEL HALL
I had forgotten the gesture of branches
And I had forgotten the fragrance of blossoms
Filling a room at night.
In remembering the curve of branches
Who beckoned me in vain,
Remembering dark rooms of coolness
Where fragrance was like pain,
I have forgotten all else; there is nothing
That signifies –
There is only the brush of branch and white breath
Against my lips and eyes.