Poem of the Week
The Listeners – Walter de la Mare
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
The Song of the Shirt
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread-
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the ‘Song of the shirt!’
Work –work – work
Till the brain begins to swim;
Work – work – work
Till the eyes are heavy and dim.
Seam and gusset and band,
Band and gusset and seam,
Till over the buttons I fall asleep,
And sew them on in a dream.
Oh, Men, with sisters dear!
Oh, Men, with mothers and wives!
It is not linen you are wearing out,
But human creatures’ lives!
Stitch – stitch – stitch,
In poverty, hunger and dirt,
Sewing at once with a double thread,
A Shroud as well as a Shirt.
But why do I talk of Death?
That Phantom of grisly bone,
I hardly fear his terrible shape,
It seems so like my own –
It seems so like my own,
Because of the fasts I keep;
Oh, God, that bread should be so dear,
And flesh and blood so cheap!
On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon—
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.
I sit in the canoe, alone.
It gently rocks from
Side to side,
Nudged by the rivers flow.
The forest is quiet,
The heat intense.
On the opposite bank,
A large osprey and elegant
White heron perch together,
Searching the glittering water.
Above, a three toed sloth,
Grey, almost invisible,
Clings to a branch,
A pair of scarlet and blue macaws,
Splash neon colours,
Across the hazy sky.
I sit in my wooden canoe and watch,
For a while I find a place,
Become part of the forests essence.
For a while I fit, for a while.
Week 4: 'Truth' by Barrie Wade
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words can also hurt me.
Stones and sticks break only skin,
while words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the word-swords fall
to pierce and stick and inside me.
Bats and bricks may ache through bones,
but words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its scar
on mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises now have healed;
it’s words that I remember.
Week 3: ‘The Rider’ by Naomi ShihabNye
A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight,
pedalling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness
no matter how slowly they fell.
Week 2: 'Prayer to Laughter' by John Agard.
giver of relaxed mouths
you who rule our belly with tickles
you who come when not called
you who can embarrass us at times
send us stitches in our sides
shake us till the water reaches our eyes
buckle our knees till we cannot stand
we whose faces are grim and shattered
we whose hearts are no longer hearty
O Laughter we beg you
crack us up
crack us up