Ellen Pompeo<< (YouTube link)
It’s Monday, and I miss you
It’s Tuesday, and the house is empty
It’s Wednesday, and everything is silent
On Thursday, my breath catches
Friday brings distraction
Saturday is when the tears break free
Sunday, I look for peace
It’s Monday again.
Every day, I miss you,
The feelings, like words
get stuck in my throat.
They choke me.
Malika Booker, Sharon Olds and Warsan Shire (2011). Modern Poets 3: Your Family, Your Body. Great Britain: Clays ltd, St Ives plc.
She does not talk about that time.
She has buried it deep in the earth
where you bury shit.
Buried it with no wake,
no funeral, no coffin, no fanfare,
buried it whilst it was raw, stink and bitter.
It was early September. The phone ring.
Per out of sleep. Fumble. The red sky
of pre-dawn through my bare window.
My cousin’s guyanese tones, low,
whispering, voice broken. She sobs,
till I, too, begin to cry.
She stutters, stops, starts, tells me
about an advert, a plane ride.
They promised her work and a US visa.
I am a prisoner somewhere
in the South; they take my passport,
work us long hours, deduct our pay
for food and board, then give us a trickle.
I made more back home. We pick fruit all day.
She left her girl child home in her mother’s care,
now can’t send them no money.
I can’t see me way… help me, she sobs.
I make phone calls to older aunts in New York,
not new to this, who tell me they will take care of it.
A month later they call to say, we have her.
How? I ask. But they have buried it, too.
We do not talk about them things.
There are dark places drunk with grief where water
drizzles. There are wilted flowers and dried wreaths.
There is your grave hidden back there, behind
God’s back. There are clusters of Charles
buried here, neighbours in this family plot.
Two lone wooden stumps mark the grave
where you wait for that marble headstone
etched with your name. There is wild bush
and the broken fence where your nephew
crashed that rented car at your funeral,
when his vision blurred with tears. There are
the marks we leave and those that will be made.
Poem of thanks
Years later, long single,
I want to turn to his departed back,
and say, What gifts we had of each other!
What pleasure — confiding, open-eyed,
fainting with what we were allowed to stay up
late doing. And you couldn’t say,
could you, that the touch you had from me
was other than the touch of one
who could love for life — whether we were suited
or not — for life, like a sentence. And now that I
consider, the touch that I had from you
became not the touch of the long view, but like the
tolerant willingness of one
who is passing through. Colleague of sand
by moonlight — and by beach noonlight, once,
and of straw, salt bale in a barn, and mulch
inside a garden, between the rows — once-
partner of up against the wall in that tiny
bathroom with the lock that fluttered like a chrome
butterfly beside us, hip-height, the familiar
of our innocence, which was the ignorance
of what would be asked, what was required,
thank you for every hour. And I
accept your thanks, as if it were
a gift of yours, to give them — let’s part
equals, as we were in every bed, pure
equals of the earth.
Her Blue Body Full of Light
Can you believe I have cancer? Yosra asks,
a mug of tea between her hands,
almost laughing, hair cut close to her scalp.
I imagine the cancer auditioning
inside her body, tiny translucent slivers
of light weaving in and out and of her abdomen
and uterus, travelling up and through her throat,
needlepoints of light, fireworks glimmering down, the body
burning into itself, deep sea blue inside
her body, her ribcage an aquarium,
the cancer spreading and spreading, deep space,
her throat a lava lamp, sparklers beneath breastbone—
a lightshow, a million tiny jellyfish, orchestral womb,
kaleidoscopic ovaries, disco ball heart,
her skin glowing and glowing,
lit from the inside.
I think I brought the war with me
on my skin, a shroud
circling my skull, matter under my nails.
It sits at my feet while I watch TV.
I hear its damp breath in the background
of every phone call. I feel it sleeping
between us in the bed. It lathers
my back in the shower. It presses
itself against me at the bathroom sink.
At night, it passes me the pills, it holds
my hand, I never meet its gaze.
Luis De Camoens, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Frost and Philippe Jaccottet. The Sea! The Sea! An Anthology of Poems. (2005). Edited by Peter Jay. London: Anvil Press Poetry. In association with the National Maritime Museum.
Luis De Camoens
On a Shipmate, Pero Moniz, Dying at Sea.
My years on ear were short, but long for me,
And full of bitter hardship at best:
My light of day sinks early in the sea:
Five lustres from my birth I took my rest.
Through distant lands and seas I was a ranger
Seeking some cure or remedy for life,
Which he whom Fortune loves not as a wife
Will seek in vain through strife, and toil, and danger.
Portugal reared me in my green, my darling
Alanguer, but the dank, corrupted air
That festers in the marshes around there
Has made me food for fish here in the snarling,
Fierce seas that dark the Abyssinian shore,
Far from the happy homeland I adore.
( Translated from the Portuguese by Roy Campbell )
With Ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh’
With ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh,
Like stars in heaven, and joyously it showed.
Some lying fast at anchor in the road,
Some veering up and down, one knew not why.
A goodly vessel did I then espy
Come like a giant from a haven broad;
And lustily along the bay she strode,
Her tackling rich and of apparel high.
This ship was nought to me, nor I to her,
Yet I pursued her with a lover’s look;
This ship to all the rest did I prefer:
When will she turn, and whither? She will brook
No tarrying; Where she comes the winds must stir:
On went she, and due north her journey took.
Sonnet on the Sea
It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be mov;d for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vex’d and tir’d,
Feast them upon the wideness of the sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dined with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody –
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth, and brood
Until ye start, as of the sea-nymphs quir’d!
Thomas Lovell Beddoes
To sea, to sea! The calm is o’er;
The wanton water leaps in sport,
And rattles down the pebbly shore;
The dolphin wheels, the sea-cows snort,
And unseen Mermaids’ pearly song
Comes bubbling up, the weeds among.
Fling broad the sail, dip deep the oar:
To sea, to sea! the calm is o’er.
To sea, to sea! our wide-winged bark
Shall billowy cleave its sunny way,
And with its shadow, fleet and dark,
Break the caved Tritons’ azure day,
Like mighty eagle soaring light
O’er antelopes on Alpine height.
The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!
Gerard Manley Hopkins
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail,
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Neither out Far Nor in Deep
The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.
As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull
The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be-
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.
They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?
The sea is dark again on my last night
but who or what am I calling upon tonight?
Aside from the echo there is nobody, nobody.
Beyond the crumbling rocks the iron-dark sea
booms in its bell of rain, and a bat flies
at the windows of the air in wild surprise.
My days, torn by its black wings, are in tatters;
the grandeur of these too-predictable waters
leaves me cold since I no longer know
how to communicate. Let the ‘fine days’ go!
I leave, an older man, what do I care,
the sea will slam its door on my departure.
( Translated from French by Derek Mahon )
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle the moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message: “He is dead!”
Put the crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves.
Let the traffic policeman wear black cotton gloves.
He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can come to any good.
Sometimes I ain’t so sho who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he ain’t. Sometimes I think it ain’t none of us pure crazy and ain’t none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it ain’t so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.
Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself.
Your soul is attracted to people the same way flowers are attracted to the sun, surround yourself only with those who want to see you grow.
I hope to arrive to my death, late, in love, and a little drunk.
I always thought the words, and then, were a prelude to something wonderful. Like seeing a ship come in or finding a note in your letterbox, when you weren’t expecting one. That swift, surprising transition from nothing to everything.
Two little words that hold a world of promise, and then, the light pierced through the dark, forbidding sky, and the rain stopped falling.
And then I met you.
Keep away from the people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Oh me! Oh Life! of the questions of these recurring,
of the endless trains of the faithless,
of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring – what good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here – that life exists and identity
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
And softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone
W. B. Yeats
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be.
Unless you love someone, nothing else makes sense.
E. E. Cummings