Monday, 3 February 2014

Poetry Session ‒ Jan 31, 2014

A new reader, Ankush Banerjee, who has a strong interest in poetry joined us. Many were away at this session, but we heard from poets across the world: India (4), England (1), Ireland (2), USA (2).

 Kavita, KumKum, Esther, Ankush, Preeti (back)

The sadness that pervades the poems of Mamang Dai from the North-East of India may reflect the undercurrent of violence and loss of control of common people over their lives. The compensations are reflections of the permanence of nature and its stoical ability to embrace everything.

 Preeti, Sunil, Kavita

This was the second time Yeats was chosen for reading in our group, and his wonderful meditation on old age and love left us all with something to look forward to. He underscored another eternal truth: ‘Wine comes in at the mouth /and love comes in at the eye.’

 Kavita, KumKum & Esther

Kavita had to leave early and is missing from the picture below:

 Joe, Preeti, Esther, KumKum, Ankush, Sunil

To read more click below …

Full Account and Record of the Poetry Session Jan 31, 2014

Present: Kavita, KumKum, Joe, Sunil, Preeti, Ankush, Esther
Absent: Talitha (away to Coonoor), Priya (grand-mothering), Mathew (boss in town), Thommo (away to Kottayam), Sivaram (signed off till later).

Thursday Feb 20, 2014 is the date for reading An Equal Music by Vikram Seth and Fri Mar 28, 2014 for Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey.

Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell came from the famous family of the Lowells, well-known among the Boston Brahmins. Their upper class snobbery was written up in a piece of doggerel asserting the right pecking order:
And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.

One brother was Percival Lowell who set up the Lowell observatory in Arizona and advanced the theory that the Martian surface was covered with ‘canals’ that might indicate there was water there once. Another brother became President of Harvard.

She was a writer of free verse and sonnets, and doggedly advanced her career and ensured the publication of her poems by the poetry magazines. She defined free verse as built upon 'organic rhythm,' and said the basis of free verse is “the rhythm of the speaking voice with its necessity for breathing, rather than upon a strict metrical system. Free verse within its own law of cadence has no absolute rules; it would not be 'free' if it had.”

She had a colourful lifestyle, smoking cigars and reputedly took up a lesbian affair with an actress. The unfortunate prejudices of the time against women’s education prevented her from going to college, but she made up for it by avid reading.

She has many collections of verse, and translations too. Using her wealth she supported the publication of the ‘Imagist Poets.’ The Imagist movement was originally championed by Ezra Pound. She was awarded a Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1926, a year after her death, for the collection What's O'Clock.


Stephen Dunn 

Stephen Dunn is an American modern poet. He was born in 1939 in New York City.

Dunn's entry into the world of poetry was rather circuitous. After school, he entered University on a basketball scholarship. He began his career as an ad-man, then tried to write a novel. Along the way, he also earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Once he found his true calling, there was no looking back. He published more than a dozen books of poems. Some won him awards and recognition. Different Hours, the book of poems he published in 2000, won the Pulitzer Prize. I have selected two poems from this book to read today.

Dunn's poems talk about simple things, everyday affairs, very much about American ordinary, middle class people and their struggles and joys.

KumKum liked the thoughts in the second poem she read, Our Parents, which ends:
Our parents, meanwhile, must have wanted something
back from us. We know what it is, don't we?
We've been alive long enough.

Ankush referred to it as the ‘sweetness of poetry.’ Its simplicity is deceptive. He referred to this as a ‘Wastelandish’ kind of poem, but what mood of T.S. Eliot’s poems this evoked in Ankush is not clear. Esther thought that parents often put on the TV and need that as a background noise in their lives, not listening to the programme really. Perhaps we’ll all be like that, thought Joe. Ankush relished the play of memory in the reference to the honeymoon enjoyed in Havana by the poet’s parents.


 Tishani Doshi with KumKum at the Hay Festival in T'puram in Nov 2010

Esther offered three poets rather than one. The lovely Tishani Doshi, dancer, novelist (one novel, The Pleasure Seekers), and poet, was read first. She was chosen to represent India in a poetry festival in London in connection with the Olympics in 2012. See

Her poem, Ode to Drowning, is among the dozen on her website

She claims: … there is no love /without music /No rain /without peacocks. At one point the poem becomes shaped, words falling vertically, one per line, like drops. Such effects come easily to the higher artistic temperament. Ankush said the fact she is a dancer makes the poem very ‘physical.’

    Anjum Hasan at the Chennai Lit Fest

Anjum Hasan the author of the second poem also writes about water in a reverie and conveys the wetness and damp of a day in the city. She is on the staff of the Caravan magazine, and appears at literary festivals.

The third poem is by Sumana Roy, a poet from a small town in W. Bengal. She repeats lines such as these with perfect abandon:
tell me that I’m a thud
on your translucent skin.


Mamang Dai 

Mamang Dai (MD) was born in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh. She opted out of Indian Administrative Services to pursue journalism and writing. Her works include Arunachal Pradesh – The Hidden Land (Winner of the state’s first Verrier Elwin Prize), River Poems, Mountain Harvest and The Legends of Pensam. She has also written two books for children, The Sky Queen and Once Upon a Mountain. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2011.

She celebrates both the mystic as well as the commonplace that nature radiates in her poems; exploring myths behind the ‘forces of nature’, and thus leading the reader to ecological forests and magic drum beats. Mountains form a leitmotif of several of her poems, and they lead us to ancient myths and rich tribal folklore. Her poetry also emanates from a romanticism and mythopoeic vision that strives to, and succeeds to a striking extent, in representing the geographical surroundings of her native place as an extension of the collective psyche of the people. Moreover, her poems are not just impassive witnesses to the existential despair of men and women, but a living presence for the aspirations of a marginalized common people. 

MD appeared at the Chennai Lit Fest. She has written books for children. Her poems seem to capture time in the mountains, said Ankush. Often the literature of the NE of India is typed as ‘conflict literature’ on account of the problems connected with the Army and insurgency, but MD’s poems capture the lives and aspirations of the common people. She expresses love for the land, and between men and women. Ankush said she deals in the three poems he chose with small things from an ‘existential’ standpoint, whatever that means.

Joe noted a persistent strain of melancholy in all these poems, as though MD was very sad, but could not come right out and say what made her sad:
I am the woman lost in translation
Who survives, with happiness to carry on.

Ankush characterised the second poem (The Voice of the Mountain) as being ‘Sisyphean,’ living and struggling, living and struggling. The poem sets out the all-knowing experience of the mountain
In the end the universe yields nothing
except a dream of permanence.
I am the place where memory escapes
the myth of time,

The grimness of the poems that Joe noted is attributed by Ankush to the ULFA (one of the insurgent movements in the NE) and its consequences for the lives of ordinary folk. The poems have the loss of innocence motif when the insurgency happened. Irom Sharmila, the lady who wished to fast to death to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (licence to kill without judicial inquiry), but whom the GOI has kept alive by cruelly force-feeding her through her nose, has written poems like these. A more explicit picture emerges of song-writing in the NE from a work, now in London, called The Bitter Wormwood. The name of Easterine Kire from was mentioned in this context:

Sunil said there are two sides of the coin to this conflict. Joe replied this is a conflict that has only one side, a story of power being used against the powerless who simply want to get on with their lives without the intervention of the heavy hand of the North and South Blocks in Delhi. A little argument ensued which was quickly set aside in favour of pursuing poetry peacefully.


Sinéad Morrissey 

Sinéad Morrissey recently won the T.S Eliot prize for her fifth collection, Parallax.  Her previous collections were all shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Award and her work has received numerous prizes including the Patrick Kavanagh Award (at age 18), the Michael Hartnett Prize and the Irish Times/Poetry Now Award. In 2007 her poem Through the Square Window, which contrasts an image of the dead gathering outside a window with that of a child sleeping peacefully indoors, won the National Poetry competition.

Morrissey was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and grew up in Belfast. She was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and has travelled widely and lived in Japan and New Zealand before returning to her birthplace in 1999. In 2002 she was appointed Writer in Residence at Queen’s University Belfast, and she is currently Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s. 

She has a young son and daughter by her husband Joseph Pond, an acupuncturist and hypnotherapist from Arizona, whom she describes as "my main reader and critic and also my greatest single inspiration." Her mother was an Anglican, and her father a Catholic, (both members of the Communist party in the early days of her childhood); they instilled in her an anti-sectarian feeling, which comes through in her poems. She is close to both her parents, who are divorced long since.

She has a special affinity for Belfast and the Lough on which it borders, a stretch of an enclosed bay which she sees from the back of her house, and has written many poems about.

For a couple of poems Joe has provided links on Youtube where the poet may be heard reciting her poems. Her voice is young and almost girlish.


William Butler Yeats

Preeti chose Yeats. She was a little worried, not being an acolyte of poetry. Joe said, not to worry, for many have entered the list of KRG thus and been converted.

Yeats’ many themes encompass folklore, love, fantasy and ghosts. He had an interest in spiritualism too. The felt influence of India came through Mohini Chatterjee, a Theosophist. In the first poem an Indian talks to his love, and talks to his god. Preeti mentioned a long dramatic poem called Anusaya Vidya.

In the first poem (The Indian To His Love) the poet invites his love to come and live with him on a fantasy island. It has the echo of Marlowe’s 1599 poem, The Passionate Pilgrim:
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

The second poem, which every disappointed lover should memorise, has wonderful lines like these:
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

The romantic interpretation is that this is addressed to Maud Gonne, the fiery Irish nationalist, who told Yeats he was better off as a poet chasing his fancies, than being tied down by the demands of marriage. KumKum recited it last July at a poetry session, along with some unpublished poems of Yeats that came to light in a bequest recently. See:

The third poem, A Drinking Song, is easily memorised and could be used as a toast to a boyfriend or girlfriend, recited briskly, ending with a slow drawn out voice, chanting:
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.


 Thomas Wyatt
While searching for poems on Sunil came across this poem of Thomas Wyatt, who also figures in Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction, Wolf Hall. That’s a book he had suggested for KRG, but belongs to type we do not read.

Thomas Wyatt was a lover of Anne Boleyn, so it is rumoured. You can read more about this courtier and English poet at his wiki

He was one of those responsible for importing the Italian sonnet in Petrarch’s form to England, where it flourished and metamorphosed into the famous Elizabethan form used by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Since the poem is not clear, and uses the mask of animal terms to deal with a man and his lover, it might be well to provide a gloss:

It would seem the woman takes the dominant role at first in their relationship. It is strange to come across a term like ‘newfangleness’ in a poem from 400 years ago; but according to a critic it means, “the propensity of human beings to seek new objects to love, to change loves, by unfaithfulness and, by extension, promiscuity in the quest of the new.” For a recitation of this poem see

Such lines as these tug at the heartstrings:
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, 'dear heart, how like you this?'

What would you reply to this invitation as a diligent KRG reader? – to be done in two couplets, as an exercise and sent to Joe. Here are the results of four readers' imagination submitted by Feb 15, 2015:
What would you reply to this invitation as a diligent KRG reader? – to be done in two couplets, as an exercise and sent to Joe.

Ankush’s Response
Smiling, she said, "there is no poetry in love, my dear.
You'd rather pick your Quixotic self and scamper from here.
See, there comes the Bull, I, "my hubby" call,
He doesn't like poetry, or the gown from my shoulder to fall."

KumKum’s Response
Though surprised by the delectable fall
Of the gown he could not re-install,
He said: “enfold me in your lingerie,
Don't snap me out of my reverie.”

Mathew’s Response
Wouldst I not say that none better kist
As timorous I am of thy fist?
And your limbs being great and big
I cannot say I care a fig!!

Joe’s Response
Oh this, is bliss, beyond my reckoning,
Your gown I couldn’t prevent descending,
Disrobed, the sight unmanned me quite,

— What came in view was outta sight!

The second poem, a sonnet in the Petrarchan form (Whoso List To Hunt, I Know Where Is An Hind) is not about deer hunting at all. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII (Caesar in this poem) are the subjects , and Wyatt’s continuing youthful fascination for the lady. Anne ‘fleeth,’ resisting his advances. Notice how pronunciations have changed over time; ‘wind’ rhymes with ‘mind’ and ‘am’ with ‘tame.’ Wyatt leaves off the chase with these touching words:
... graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,

For more interpretation see:

The Poems
Kavita Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
The Wind
He shouts in the sails of the ships at sea,
He steals the down from the honeybee,
He makes the forest trees rustle and sing,
He twirls my kite till it breaks its string.
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind,
Whistling, howling, rainy wind,
North, South, East and West,
Each is the wind I like the best.
He calls up the fog and hides the hills,
He whirls the wings of the great windmills,
The weathercocks love him and turn to discover
His whereabouts -- but he's gone, the rover!
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind,
Whistling, howling, rainy wind,
North, South, East and West,
Each is the wind I like the best.

The pine trees toss him their cones with glee,
The flowers bend low in courtesy,
Each wave flings up a shower of pearls,
The flag in front of the school unfurls.
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind,
Whistling, howling, rainy wind,
North, South, East and West,
Each is the wind I like the best.

KumKum Stephen Dunn (born 1939)
1.  What Goes On
After the affair and the moving out,
after the destructive revivifying passion,
we watched her life quiet

into a new one, her lover more and more
on its periphery. She spent many nights
alone, happy for the narcosis

of the television. When she got cancer
she kept it to herself until she couldn't
keep it from anyone. The chemo debilitated
and saved her, and one day

her husband asked her to come back ―
his wife, who after all had only fallen
in love as anyone might
who hadn't been in love in a while ―

and he held her, so different now,
so thin, her hair just partially
grown back. He held her like a new woman

and what she felt
felt almost as good as love had,
and each of them called it love
because precision didn't matter anymore.

And we who'd been part of it,
often rejoicing with one
and consoling the other,

we who had seen her truly alive
and then merely alive,
what could we do but revise
our phone books, our hearts,

off a little toast to what goes on.

2.  Our Parents
For my brother

Our parents died at least twice,
the second time when we forgot their stories,
or couldn't imagine how often they craved love,
or felt useless, or yearned for some justice
in this world. In their graves, our parents' need
for us is pure, they're lost without us.
Their honeymoon in Havana does or does not
exist. That late August in the Catskills---
we can decide to make them happy.

What is the past if not unfinished work,
swampy, fecund, seductively revisable ?
One of us has spent his life developing respect
For the weakness of words, the other for what
must be held on to; there may be a chance for us.

We try to say what happened in that first house
where we were, like most children, the only
needy people on earth. We remember what we were forbidden, who got the biggest slice.
Our parents, meanwhile, must have wanted something
back from us. We know what it is, don't we?
We've been alive long enough.

1.  Ode to Drowning by Tishani Doshi (born 1975)
Published in, October 2008

is it or is it not
the cold monsoon
bearing the shape
of my dark lord,
speaking of his cruelty
his going away?
             — Nammalvar

This is an ode
to be sung
in the latest hour of night

when the rain clouds
have gathered
over shingled roofs

and blue-skinned gods
with magical flutes
seduce the virgins to dance

For there is no love
without music
No rain

without peacocks
in branches

of sandalwood trees
with plumes
of angels

and voices of thieves
pleading for their loves
to return

If rain signals
the lover's return
then I am lost

in the desert
like the brain fever bird

looking for images of you
through mesquite
and teak

Because there's no sign
of you
or what I know

to be as you
only clouds adrift
in a vanquished sky

like vines
of throbbing arms
and mouths

drinking at the shore
with the night

There are as many ways
of yearning
as there are ways for rain

to fall

It's that old idea
of drowning
in another to find the self

the compliance
that water gives in form
and depth

to something else
But what if the humming bees
are quiet

and the garlands of jasmine
have been laid out
to dry

How long to wait
for everything to turn
heavy with flower
immodestly green
washed of dirt

It's desire after all
that spins us
Demands to be praised

as though it were new
like the stillness
before the first monsoon

when the hymen
of the earth
is torn into

and the brazen smell
of damp
fills the air

Must there be surprise
after we've thundered
and rolled

and appeased our thirst
when the silence returns

In truth
isn't it a waiting
that never ends

like the chasm between
the cycles of the world
Between separation

and union
longing and abandonment
And somewhere

between the waning
isn't this what
we're left with

the music
of uncertainty
the aftertaste of rain

2.  A Place Like Water by Anjum Hasan (born ca. 1980)
All through the day it stays: the sadness of coming
   into a wet city at dawn, not speaking, neither of us,
when one by one the neon lights wake us from a cramped,
   dream-ravaged sleep, driving home in one long curving sweep
on traffic-less roads with their morning walkers and damp dogs;
   still thinking of that other place worked on by the sun,
the casuarina trees and shouts of people on the beach, frayed and
   muffled by the heaving of the sea. We climb wet stairs where
no one’s been for days, thinking it ought to be the case that one
   returns with screws, a piece of string, some word or turn
of phrase, something to fit somewhere, that click or slide or
   resolution that has been wanting. Instead a winter monsoon
blurs the world; we wash our hair, shake out sand from folded clothes,
   sleep for a while in the still early morning while vendors shout
the names of flowers, sleep so that our bones at least achieve that
   calm alliance with our breathing and take us where we
want to go: a place like water when it lifts us in a magnet wave
   to set us down again, and we’re unencumbered, weightless, brave;
our questions turn to images of strangers waving across fields,
   pointlessly, insistently, across fields, through falling rain.

3.  Rain by Sumana Roy
… Rain,
I only see you grow,
into a silver music,
into a skeleton of ruin.
I long
to touch your toes,
to pull them outwards,
to crackle them,
to let my cousins hear
how I make love
to your slippery body.
I sew myself
on to river floors
and wait like a secret
resting on her elbow.
let me nurse
your calluses,
let me tease
out your blackheads,
let me,
let me
bear you a child,
an inheritor of your soft fins.
cover my throbbing veins tonight,
tell me
that your ancestor
wasn’t a pirate on a smudgy sky.
tell me that I’m a thud
on your translucent skin.
tell me that
I’m the lover
you lost last August,
that you’ve only come
to lick my blisters,
to collect the last word
I threw at you.
… Rain,
tell me that you will come
to the stone fair with your dog.

We will make fever.

Ankush Mamang Dai (born 1957)
1.  Small Towns and the River
Small towns always remind me of death.
My hometown lies calmly amidst the trees,
it is always the same, in the summer or winter
with the dust flying,
or the wind howling down the gorge.

Just the other day someone died.
In the dreadful silence we wept
looking at the sad wreath of tuberose.
Life and death, life and death,
only the rituals are permanent.

The river has a soul.
In the summer it cuts through the land
like a torrent of grief. Sometimes
sometimes, I think it holds its breath
seeking the land of fish and stars.

The river has a soul.
It knows, stretching past the town,
from the first drop of rain to dry earth
and mist on the mountaintops,
the river knows
the immortality of water.

A shrine of happy pictures
marks the days of childhood.
Small towns grow with anxiety
for future generations.
The dead are placed pointing west.
When the soul rises
it will walk into the golden east,
into the house of the sun

In the cool bamboo,
restored in the sunlight,
life matters, like this.

In the small towns by the river
we all want to walk with the gods.

2.  The Voice of the Mountain
From where I sit on the high platform
I can see the ferry lights
crossing, criss-crossing the big river.

I know the towns, the estuary mouth.
There, beyond the last bank
where the colour drains from heaven
I can outline the chapters of the world.

The other day a young man arrived from the village.
Because he could not speak he brought the gift of fish
from the land of rivers.
It seems such acts are repeated,
we live in territories forever ancient and new,
and as we speak in changing languages
I also leave my spear leaning by the tree
and try to make a sign:

I am an old man sipping the breeze
that is forever young.
In my life I have lived many lives.
My voice is sea waves and mountain peaks.
In the transfer of symbols I am the chance syllable
that orders the world
instructed with history and miracles

I am the desert and the rain.
The wild bird that sits in the west.
The past that recreates itself
and particles of life that clutch and cling
for thousands of years.

I know, I know these things
as rocks know, burning in the sun’s embrace
about clouds, and sudden rain.

As I know, a cloud is a cloud is a cloud.
a cloud is this uncertain pulse
that sits over my heart.

In the end the universe yields nothing
except a dream of permanence.
Peace is a falsity.
A moment of rest comes after long combat:

From the east the warrior returns
with the blood of peonies.
I am the child who died at the edge of the world,
the distance between end and hope.
The star diagram that fell from the sky,
the summer that makes men weep.
I am the woman lost in translation
Who survives, with happiness to carry on.

I am the breath that opens the mouth of the canyon.
The sunlight on the tips of trees.
There, where the narrow gorge hastens the wind
I am the place where memory escapes
the myth of time,
I am the sleep in the mind of the mountain.

3.  The Beginning of the World
I washed my hair at night, mother,
I washed my hair very prettily.
Like dew and roses
for the next morning,
for the morning
that I would meet someone.

I dropped my woollen garments,
I sat in the sun.
I sat in the sun, mother,
and closed my eyes,
my eyes were waiting to meet someone.

All day the young men raided the hillside.
How the dark evening called us,
how the dark evening called us, mother!
Like a sheet of fire
like a cry of love
the wind carried us away.

The wind carried us away, mother,
like everyone we know,
like breath,
like rainbow light,
it was instant, mother,
that no one we know can alter:

It was the beginning of the world.

Joe Sinéad Morrissey born 1972)
1. Through the Square Window
In my dream the dead have arrived to wash the windows of my house. There are no blinds to shut them out with.

The clouds above the Lough are stacked like the clouds are stacked above Delft. They have the glotted look of clouds over water.

The heads of the dead are huge. I wonder if it's my son they're after, his effortless breath, his ribbon of years -

but he sleeps on unregarded in his cot, inured, it would seem, quite naturally to the sluicing and battering and paring back of glass

that delivers this shining exterior... One blue boy holds a rag in his teeth between panes like a conjuror.

And then, as suddenly as they came, they go. And there is a horizon from which only the clouds stare in,

the massed canopies of Hazelbank, the severed tip of Strangford Peninsula, and a density in the room I find it difficult to breathe in

until I wake, flat on my back with a cork in my mouth, bottle-stoppered, in fact, like a herbalist's cure for dropsy.

2.  A Day's Blindness
December. The year at the back of it
blown and shrunk to dark
in the morning, dark in the afternoon
and the light in between
like the pale blue flicker of a pilot light
in a boiler’s black intestine.

There was the usual breakfast
—coffee, soda, bread, jam —
neither one of them speaking.
Her slept-on hair. The papers
still to go out for and a walk
to the top of the road and back,

past crows’ nests fisted in trees.
to look at the Lough. It happened
at once: no jolt, no warning,
no shutter cranking low
over everything, no shadows
starting off on the periphery

like hares in fields
then gradually thickening.
He stood up to carry his plate and cup
to the sink and couldn‘t see.
He sat back down. The clocks
went on consuming Saturday.

He would have needed practice
at being blind to pretend to be sighted.
He had none, so she saw.
The son was away in Florida.
He asked her to leave, and for hours then
as through the womb‘s wall,

he heard her about the house.
moving around upstairs.
using the bathroom, and perhaps
just once—or twice? —
saying something soft
and incoherent into the telephone.

Outside. at a quarter to four,
a watery sunset broke over
the squat hills. He couldn't tell
the lifting and the thud
of the returning dark apart.
He sat on at the table,

rolling crumbs beneath his thumbs
and waiting, either for what was taken
to be handed back —
the fridge. the kettle, his cuff-linked shirt—
or for the kleptomaniac visitor
he couldn't lock out

to be done with it, finally,
to sever the link—
to haul him up out of his chair,
into the hall, and through the brown door
to a garden mined with hooves
and there would be

horses set loose from the Bond Yard
where his father worked
in the Hungry Thirties.
their coats engrained with soot
and their heads encased in steam,
accusing him.

3.  In Belfast (opens her second volume, Between Here and There, 2002)
Here the seagulls stay in off the Lough all day.
Victoria Regina steering the ship of City Hall
In this the first and last of her intense provinces,
A ballast of copper and gravitas.

The inhaling shop-fronts exhale the length
And breadth of Royal Avenue, pause,
Inhale again. The city is making money
On a weather-mangled Tuesday.

While the house for the Transport Workers Union
Fights the width of the sky and manages to stay up,
Under the Albert Bridge the river is simmering
at low tide and sheeted with silt.

l have returned after ten years to a corner
and tell myself it is as real to sleep here
as the twenty other corners I have slept in.
More real, even, with this history‘s dent and fracture

splitting the atmosphere. And what I have been given
is a delicate unravelling of wishes
that leaves the future unspoken and the past
unencountered and unaccounted for.

This city weaves itself so intimately
It is hard to see, despite the tenacity of the river
And the iron sky; and in its downpour and its vapour
I am as much at home here as I will ever be.

4.  Genetics
My father’s in my fingers, but my mother’s in my palms.
I lift them up and look at them with pleasure –
I know my parents made me by my hands.

They may have been repelled to separate lands,
to separate hemispheres, may sleep with other lovers,
but in me they touch where fingers link to palms.

With nothing left of their togetherness but friends
who quarry for their image by a river,
at least I know their marriage by my hands.

I shape a chapel where a steeple stands.
And when I turn it over,
my father’s by my fingers, my mother’s by my palms

demure before a priest reciting psalms.
My body is their marriage register.
I re-enact their wedding with my hands.

So take me with you, take up the skin’s demands
for mirroring in bodies of the future.
I’ll bequeath my fingers, if you bequeath your palms.
We know our parents make us by our hands.
(From: The State of the Prisons)

Preeti W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)
THE island dreams under the dawn
And great boughs drop tranquillity;
The peahens dance on a smooth lawn,
A parrot sways upon a tree,
Raging at his own image in the enamelled sea.

Here we will moor our lonely ship
And wander ever with woven hands,
Murmuring softly lip to lip,
Along the grass, along the sands,
Murmuring how far away are the unquiet lands:

How we alone of mortals are
Hid under quiet boughs apart,
While our love grows an Indian star,
A meteor of the burning heart,
One with the tide that gleams, the wings that gleam and dart,

The heavy boughs, the burnished dove
That moans and sighs a hundred days:
How when we die our shades will rove,
When eve has hushed the feathered ways,
With vapoury footsole by the water's drowsy blaze.

2.  When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

3.  A Drinking Song
WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

Sunil Thomas Wyatt (1503 - 1542)
1.  They Flee From Me
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, 'dear heart, how like you this?'

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

2.  Whoso List to Hunt, I Know Where is an Hind
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
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