Sunday, November 27, 2005

The raven's tale

For forty days we had huddled in the rafters
Birds of every kind, squabbling over perches,
While the roof of the Ark was hammered
By incessant rain; through cracks in the shutters
I could see the swirling waters, heavy with silt,
Swelling and flowing around the boat

Then one dawn we woke in great surprise
Some change had happened, but what?
It took some time to realise
It was the silence, the absence of sound:
The rain had stopped;
We chattered in excitement

Noah strode in from the stern
His face drawn and pale
His clothes stained and damp
But relief filled his eyes
"It's over", he said, "We've come through"
We didn't know what he meant
"We'll start afresh - now all I need
Is a creature to search for land
As the water drops"

The dove, primping his white feathers,
Lifted his head high for notice
Raising envious glances
From his neighbours
But not from me

Noah shrewdly assessed the candidates:
Too fat, too slow, too dumb
He passed the dove and selected me
"Go, find a tree, quick as you can,
And bring a leaf to show me
That we can start our lives again"

Off I flew, fast and high, and straight
Lazily flapping my wings
Crossing the calming waves
Looking down for a trace of green
On and on, further and further,
Until, days later, I saw a rock
A pinnacle of some great mountain
Standing just proud of the sea
And landed there to rest

Later, much later, I heard the story
Of how the dove got on
Became a symbol for peace
For a covenant between God and man
And was blessed by Noah;
But I also heard rumours
That Noah dined on pigeon pie

I made my own way,
Needing nobody's grace,
Content to fly
Until my goal appears.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Retired sailor's lament (echo verse)

What can't be found while there's wind in the trees? (Ease)

A note on echo poems

The echo poem was a form popular in the 16th-17th centuries. It comprises a series of statements of questions followed by a response (or echo) which repeats part of the end of the question:

Then tell me, what is that supreme delight?
Echo: Light
From George Herbert (1593-1633), Heaven

Another example is Edward de Vere's echo verses (1588).

Given the limited options, it is usual to allow some laxity about the precision of the echo.

There is a modern ribald echo poem about poets of the past by Kinglsey Amis, included in his published Letters (p. 115):

Say what the realm of honey-tongued Pope is. Echo: Piss

What ails Wordsworth in Nature's mystic lap? Echo: Clap

Regret (echo poem)

What does the heart do when it's made a mistake? (Ache)
What is the fruit of being untrue? (Rue)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Broken (echo poem)

Who walked away in the dawn, scattering the dew? (You)
Who remained there under a paling sky? (I)

Will you return when the wind brings the snow? (No)
What do they do who say feelings fly? (Lie)

Where must you travel when all hope is gone? (On)
What becomes of the bond that linked friends? (Ends)

Powerless (echo poem)

Whose fate is ruled by far-distant towers? (Ours)
And who will obey Death's final call? (All)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


The line stops here
Beneath arching glass

Locomotives shudder
Panting for breath

Carriages cough passengers
Onto the platform

Midnight arrives
Silence descends

Pigeons fight for litter
With the rats

A few words (public meeting)

First I must recall
That it was 30 years ago ...

Then I must thank Mr Lewis, here,
Without whose help ...

And all the members of the committee
Who have worked so hard, so hard

And now, before we start,
I ask you all to welcome

A most distinguished guest
Who I'm sure you all will know

"First I must recall ... "

Friday, November 18, 2005


The Greeks heard it

Long ago
Before there was anything else
To hear
They stared up at the night sky
Tracked the stars and planets
By eye
The harmonics of geometry
The music of the spheres
This is part of the 7th Poetry Carnival.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

News item (tanka)

On the radio
The Business reporter said:
"There is a lot of
Depression in the High Street
In the run-up to Christmas"


The fault in the rock
The crack in the wood
The flaw in the crystal
The worm in the bud

The chip in the china
The flint in the mud
The cancer in the body
The bubble in the blood

The hole in the heart
The killer in the crowd
The barb on the wire
The stain on the shroud

The triumph of evil
The pain of the good

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ars poetica (occasional flashes of lucidity)

I wake with a mind filled
With fugitive thoughts,
Quicksilver threads, like
Splinters of mirror-glass

I grope for things just out of reach-
At last, a phrase is caught
I explore its form
Learn its texture, shape and weight

I search out the proper frame
To put it on display
Select the words so the sense
Is echoed by their sound

Guiding the reader along
Through meanders, rapids, falls,
Ending in a still pool
Of quiet reflections

Part of the 6th poetry carnival hosted by Legwarmers.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ars Poetica: Horace got back

The glory of Horace will never pass:
His elegant poetica, his incomparable ars.