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Claire

Poetic Wanderings

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That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense   
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence   
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.
 
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept   
    For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and   
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;   
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped   
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass   
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth   
Until the next town, new and nondescript,   
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.
 
At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys   
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls   
I took for porters larking with the mails,   
And went on reading. Once we started, though,   
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls   
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,   
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,
 
As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant   
More promptly out next time, more curiously,   
And saw it all again in different terms:   
The fathers with broad belts under their suits   
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;   
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,   
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,   
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that
 
Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.   
    Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed   
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days   
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define   
Just what it saw departing: children frowned   
At something dull; fathers had never known
 
Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared   
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.   
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast   
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem
 
Just long enough to settle hats and say
    I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,   
And someone running up to bowl—and none   
Thought of the others they would never meet   
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.   
I thought of London spread out in the sun,   
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:
 
There we were aimed. And as we raced across   
    Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss   
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail   
Travelling coincidence; and what it held   
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power   
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower   
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
 
Philip Larkin 'The Whitsun Weddings'
 

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Whitsuntide fast approaches, 
Another Bank holiday beckons.
Time for a long week-end in the pub
Or sitting in the garden whose grass
Needs cutting with dandelions like 
Saucers. This is the new Pentecost, 
People mooching around the shops
Looking for that something that they
Didn’t realise they wanted only to find
They had one when they got home.
People enjoying the Bank holiday
Not realizing what the holiday means.
Of family day trips to the seaside with
Children eating ice cream that spread
Around their face and noses.
A day to escape the daily grind. 
 

Whitsun, David Wood

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     Thus, thus begin the yearly rites

      Are due to Pan on these bright nights;

      His morn now riseth and invites

      To sports, to dances, and delights:

        All envious and profane, away!

        This is the shepherds’ holiday.

 

      Strew, strew the glad and smiling ground

      With every flower, yet not confound;

      The primrose drop, the spring’s own spouse,

      Bright day’s-eyes, and the lips of cows,

        The garden-star, the queen of May,

        The rose, to crown the holiday.

 

      Drop, drop you violets, change your hues

      Now red, now pale, as lovers use,

      And in your death go out as well,

      As when you lived unto the smell:

        That from your odour all may say,

        This is the shepherds’ holiday.

 

Ben Jonson - 'The Shepherd's Holiday'

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Keep these verbs

you may require them
to bend a steel of wrath- 
sharp weapons from behind 
grow flashy: into wounds 
they strike certainty of destruction.

Be sure, that I may not come-
not even my surreal shadows
from this portion
of your soft yellow light.  

These nouns that once
acted hopefully
like a complacent boatman
to steer our way of love-
floated us down in the divine stream-
washed our nights and days, 
our burning suns and cloyed moons-
with surfs and salts of life, 
see whirl of doom.

When you prefer to run down north
south must be left behind-
and fade unknown...
when brooding flowers 
will fill your hands
trees'll gape empty
and suffer neglect of our eyes...

Love the rhyme and vision of north, 

keep the flowers' hues on your eyes-

but before that
you have to prove others futile-

Take these verbs, 
those throttling nouns
to mend your weapon speech

They will perish your old choices
under new sun.

Be rife with arguments
like old Roman friend, Brutus. 


 

Verbs And Nouns Of Love by Rites Ghosh

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Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern stalks upon higher,
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence or a fire.
Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, make but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon his timber toes,
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at the pane
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to chisel and plane.
 
Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.
All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.
 
W.B. Yeats - 'High Talk'

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Seventy years ago I made a pair of stilts
from six-foot two-by-twos, with blocks
to stand on nailed a foot from the bottom.

 

If I was to learn to walk on stilts I wanted
them red and I had to wait almost forever
for the paint to dry, laid over the arms

 

of a saggy, ancient Adirondack chair
no longer good for much but holding hoes
and rakes and stakes rolled up in twine,

 

and at last I couldn’t wait a minute longer
and took the stilts into my hands and stepped
between them, stepped up and stepped out,

 

tilted far forward, clopping fast and away
down the walk, a foot above my neighborhood,
the summer in my hair, my new red stilts

 

stuck to my fingers, not knowing how far
I’d be able to get, and now, in what seems
just a few yards down the block, I’m there.

 

Red Stilts by Ted Kooser

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