World Poetry Day 2020
poems of joy in solitude
When shall I at last retire into solitude alone, without companions, without joy and without sorrow, with only the sacred certainty that all is a dream? When, in my rags—without desires—shall I retire contented into the mountains? When, seeing that my body is merely sickness and crime, age and death, shall I—free, fearless, and blissful—retire to the forest? When? When, oh when?
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
ubmitted by Tony Valsamidis
«Πότε λοιπόν, επιτέλους, θα τραβηχτώ στην ερημία -μονάχος, δίχως σύντροφο, με μόνο την άγια βεβαιότητα πώς όλα είναι όνειρο; - Πότε με τα κουρέλια μου -χωρίς επιθυμίες- θα τραβηχτώ χαρούμενος στο βουνό; - Πότε, βλέποντας πως το κορμί μου δεν είναι παρά αρsρώστια και φονικό, γεράματα και θάνατος -λεύτερος, άφοβος, όλο χαρά - θα τραβηχτώ στο δάσο; - Πότε; πότε; πότε;»
from The Garden
Fair quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence thy Sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busie Companies of Men,
Your sacred Plants, if here below,
Only among the Plants will grow.
Soviety is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude.
Grails of light...
Gary Bills. Ledbury
A low breeze rising pleats the rolling cloud;
Engenders calm. Our heads, for fear of gales,
Tilt skywards to that certain darkening
As beds of shadows rock upon the sea.
High, in the swaddling vapours, squalls are born
As light pays homage. Meanwhile, on the land,
The leaves swept rattling over cottage roofs
Announce the stirring drum-taps of a storm...
...And yet, a dawn will break from time to time
Like grails of light slow-poured upon the sea,
To fleck the darkest waves and make them fair;
The fabric of the ocean's golden-lined.
Sometimes the Sounds are still, the sea-paths safe
When grey geese wing towards their northern lakes
And breezes stir a billow in the sail
As if by some decree; and I have faith.
from The Echo and the Breath, Peterloo 2001
End of the day
Friday. Time passes. The black crow
cloaked by shadow –
slump into armchairs, stoke the coals.
Huddled, the flickering stops
abruptly, test card, hum, listen.
It whistles out there. Drift
leaves, drizzle, nothing.
The Pomegranate Tree ('Punica Granatum')
In Isola San Giulio
at Elisa’s palazzo,
if she lets you in,
you can climb the four steps
to the fleur-de-lys door,
lean into her garden for the 'melograna',
hold the tree’s fruit in your hand,
all supple yellow leather,
those four ruby tears to tempt a daughter,
just another word for summer.
Extract from 'The Children's Tree', in Aileen Ballantyne's debut poetry collection, "Taking Flight" published by Luath Press.
Miriam Calleja Shaw. Malta
Disregard my tangled breaths
Quieten down my beating drums
Don’t listen to my skin vibrating
Ignore the haste,
The rush, that’s bursting out of every pore
Don’t look back
As I come apart
And please be sure
That I will rise again
link to Miriam Calleja Shaw
Caroline Carver. Cornwall
talk to your tree it knows you’re there
reads you like a spectrograph assessing its patient
for evidence of voiceprints insta-messaging
cosmic shifts virtual waterfalls
you don’t look too good, sweetie
the others riffle their leaves and sigh
they too want to hug and be hugged by you
a goldfinch flits from tree to tree
and the new stream is so busy with love
it’s laying out footprints of moss
maiden hair fern and the welcoming rockfoil
‘hygge’ is Danish for happy encounters, togetherness
Dawn Chorus in Amherst
Afterwards the lonely coo of a pigeon
and the rush-of-the-wind in the trees,
a long distant echo dyingaway
while the birds go quiet down the walk
as if they’d never sparked up a firework display
of song, erupting overoneanother in chrysanthemum
bursts of scarlet-and-bronze, comets-rising,
rockets-soaring and exploding in rainbowstars,
counterpointed Catherinewheels, waterfalls,
Romancandles, silverfountains, goldenrain,
pyrotechnics louder even than our clamours
as their siren throats swelled with air and hope
to exhale a spectacular finale, a technicolour
torrent-of-sound, reminding, insisting, in spite
of everything – there is joy in the world,
there is so much joy.
The windows are rattling,
the light inside the room is dim
and outside, so far, so near,
the storm is raging.
A fat pigeon lands on a branch
just beyond the glass,
sways, too heavy for the delicate
tracery of bare winter-clean twigs
and looks at me. Does he wish
we could change places?
or is he just clinging on as hard
as possible, waiting for calm to return?
You and your stars
Rebecca Bilkau. Germany
And finally you stop the argy bargy
with the planisphere, set the telescope
aside, stop yearning for an astrolabe
for dummies. Admit all you ever wanted
was to loll in A Girl’s Own Story Book
of the Sky, unencumbered by science.
Your favourite star is the one on the left:
orange, it’s called Seraphina Springsteen
after your first bicycle and The Boss:
the gendrification is incidental,
incidental and will change the next time
you look up, as might your favourite star.
The glimmering constant is you, titchy,
far off – even from yourself, if you’re honest.
you and your star are lovers, pets, cosy
as loners sharing a bus. You're silent,
but know the air joins you, shivering,
made-for-each-other, tricks of the light.
Veronica Aaronson 11th April, Iona
Alone in the garden of the Heritage Centre
I’m spooning courgette and garlic soup
sprinkled with white flowers,
enjoying the new-born green of sycamore leaves,
the contrast of the three-cornered leeks against the dry-stone wall
with the aw, aw, aw of rooks filling my head
every bud of me
Jenny kiss'd me
Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.
In Forests (a sevenling)
Abigail Elizabeth Ottley. Penzance
In forests all things green and brown unfurl.
Pale tendrils, creeping roots, and leaping leaves
in shadows tend to sweet conspiracies.
There insects scuttle, burrow into loam, while
squirrels chatter, skittering through trees.
A priestly jay’s blue-painted wings speak sudden prophecies.
Life’s thus construed, and heaven leaves us full.
Groping into our bedroom in the summerdark
to deter moths, midges and mosquitos
by closing windows before lighting-up the house,
I’m puzzle-stopped by the sight of fairylights
looped through the trees across the road
glistering and sashaying in the nightbreeze.
Clichés vault-to-mind – chinks of champagne
glasses, a saxophone riffing on summertime,
high-voices bubbling in the humid air.
I look-and-look, then slip out to investigate,
staring up at the jitterbugging illuminations
until what I’m seeing clicks into place,
satisfying as lego, or the last jigsaw piece,
and I realise it’s the shimmering gloss
of holly leaves, of glistening ivy glazed
with linden-sap, flecked silver by streetlamp,
star-tipped for nobody but themselves,
decked with nothing but their own glory.
To read: The Prisoner's Wife by Maggie Butt https://www.maggiebrookes.uk/
Staying Alive, real poems for unreal times, edited by Neil Astley. Bloodaxe
have a light of their own –
like long-dead stars
they shine for centuries.
That day was one.
launched from a hillside
where dogs and shadows race
towards blue distances,
will evoke those eyes,
and an hour to two
of borrowed happiness.