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LIFE, AND HOW WE LIVE IT


A newspaper writer named Fling
Could make copy from most anything;
      But the copy he wrote
     Of a ten-dollar note
Was so good he is now in Sing-Sing.


The frustrations of Johnny Carruther
Must stem from this fact and none other,
      There just wasn't room
      To return to the womb
Occupied, at the time, by his brother.
--S. D. Dunham

Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes
And all the untilled air between
Is private pagus or demeane.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.
--W. H. Auden

The gods confound the man who first found out
How to distinguish hours! Confound him, too,
Who in this place set up a sundial,
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small portions! When I was a boy,
My belly was my sundial -- one surer,
Truer, and more exact than any of them.
This dial told me when 'twas proper time
To go to dinner, when I had aught to eat;
But nowadays, why even when I have,
I can't fall to unless the sun gives leave.
The town's so full of these confounded dials
The greatest part of the inhabitants,
Shrunk up with hunger, crawl along the street.
-- Plautus
(c.254-184 BC)

1-800
R.S. Gwynn (1948--)
Credit cards out, pencil and notepad handy,
     The insomniac sinks deeply in his chair,
Begging swift needles in his glass of brandy
     To knit once more the raveled sleeve of care,
As with control, remotely, in one hand he
     Summons bright visions from the midnight air:

The six-way drill! The eight-way folding ladder!
     Knives that pierce coins or thin-slice loaves of bread!
Devices that will make one's tummy flatter,
     Rout car thieves, or purge household taps of lead!
All made of stuff no earthly force can shatter!
     Their lauds ascend Olympus in his head.

And yet how little will his days be brightened
     By Opera Favorites or, if he feels lewd,
Even THE SWIMSUIT ISSUE. Briefly heightened,
     His hopes, ephemeral as stir-fried food,
Vanish like screws his six-way drill has tightened,
     Leaving him just like them—completely screwed.

"Buy houses and apartments with no money!
     Discover how today! Write this address!"
Snapping alert and clicking with his gun, he
     Draws a bead on the forehead of Success,
Whose orchid leis are fresh, whose teeth are sunny,
     Whose tapes are on the way via UPS.

But anger, with succeeding snifters, passes
     And soon all softens in an amber hue;
As through a pair of UV/blue-block glasses,
     Doubt fades before the testimony—true
Accounts of hair sprouting like jungle grasses!
     Of lifeless penises lifting anew!

Of bags and wrinkles blotted out! Of dumber
     Than average kids who, spared the wrath and rod,
Have learned to multiply! He fights off slumber
     The moment that his head begins to nod
And resolutely punches the first number
     Of what may be the area code of God.

XLVIII
Sam Hoffenstein (1890-1947)
I seldom mean a single thing
I say, or (as the phrase goes) sing;
But if it sounds both right and true,
I like to think I think I do.

ALL IN THE DOWNS
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
I would I had something to do-or think!
      Or something to read, or to write!
I am rapidly verging on lunacy's brink,
      Or I shall be dead before night.

In my ears has been ringing and droning all day,
      Without ever a stop or a change,
That poem of Tennyson's-heart-cheering day!--
     Of the moated monotonous Grange!

The stripes in the carpet and paper alike
      I have counted, and counted all through,
And now I've a fervid ambition to strike
      Out some path of wild pleasure that's new.

They say, if a number you count and recount,
      That the time imperceptibly goes,--
Oh! I wish-how I wish!--I'd ne'er learnt the amount
      Of my aggregate fingers and toes.

"Enjoyment is fleeting," the proverbs all say,
      "Even that which it feeds upon fails."
I've arrived at the truth of the saying today,
      By devouring the whole of my nails.

I have numbered the minutes so heavy and slow;
      Till of that dissipation I tire,
And as for exciting amusements,--you know
      One can't always be stirring the fire.

ALL YOU WHO SLEEP TONIGHT
Vikram Seth
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above--

Know that you aren't alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

AN AWFUL RESPONSIBILITY
Keith Preston
I am the captain of my soul,
      I rule it with stern joy,
And yet I think I had more fun
      When I was cabin boy.

AN ETHICAL GROOK
Piet Hein (1905-1996)
I see      and I hear
         and I speak no evil;
I carry
     no malice
         within my breast;
yet quite without
     wishing
         a man to the Devil
one may be
     permitted
         to hope for the best.

APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA
(Sedulius Scottus, 9th century)

I read or write, I teach or wonder what is truth,
      I call upon my God by night and day.
I eat and drink freely, I make my rhymes,
      And snoring sleep, or vigil I keep and pray.
And very 'ware of all my shames I am,
      O Mary, Christ, have mercy on your man.

A RECORD
One of 4500 brief lyrics from Meleager's THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY)

Marcus, the world's worst runner, ran so slow,
He finished seventh in a race for six. How so?
Among the crowd a friend came out to greet him.
Running along with Marcus, lo, he beat him!

A STATUE
One of 4500 brief lyrics from Meleager's THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY)
The sculptor carved Menodotis with love.
      It is--how very odd it is--
A noble, speaking likeness. But not of
      Menodotis.

AT THE PARTY
W.D. Auden (1907--1973)
Unrhymed, unrhythmical, the chatter goes:
Yet no one hears his own remarks as prose.

Beneath each topic tunelessly discussed
The ground-base is reciprocal mistrust.

The names in fashion shuttling to and fro
Yield, when deciphered, messages of woe.

You cannot read me like an open book.

I’m more myself than you will ever look.

Will no one listen to my little song?

Perhaps I shan’t be with you very long.

A howl for recognition, shrill with fear,
Shakes the jam-packed apartment, but each ear
Is listening to its hearing, so none hear.

AT THE THEATRE: TO THE LADY BEHIND ME
A. P. Herbert (1890-1971)
Dear Madam, you have seen this play;
I never saw it till today.
You know the details of the plot,
But, let me tell you, I do not.
The author seeks to keep from me
The murderer's identity,
And you are not a friend of his
If you keep shouting who it is.
The actors in their funny way
Have several funny things to say,
But they do not amuse me more
If you have said them just before;
The merit of the drama lies,
I understand, in some surprise;
But the surprise must now be small
Since you have just foretold it all.
The lady you have brought with you
Is, I infer, a half-wit too,
But I can understand the piece
Without assistance from your niece.
In short, foul woman, it would suit
Me just as well if you were mute;
In fact, to make my meaning plain,
I trust you will not speak again.
And–-may I add one human touch?-–
Don't breathe upon my neck so much.

THE BALLAD OF WILLIAM BLOAT
Raymond Calvert (1906-)
In a mean abode on the Shankill Road
Lived a man named William Bloat;
And he had a wife, the curse of his life,
Who always got his goat.
'Til one day at dawn, with her nightdress on
He slit her pretty throat.

With a razor gash he settled her hash
Oh never was crime so quick
But the steady drip on the pillowslip
Of her lifeblood made him sick.
And the pool of gore on the bedroom floor
Grew clotted and cold and thick.

Now he was right glad he had done as he had
As his wife lay there so still
But a sudden awe of the mighty law
Filled his heart with an icy chill.
So to finish the fun so well begun
He resolved himself to kill.

He took the sheet from his wife's cold feet
And twisted it into a rope
And he hanged himself from the pantry shelf,
'Twas an easy end, let's hope.
In the face of death with his latest breath
He said "to hell with the Pope."

Now the strangest turn in this whole concern
Is only just beginning.
He went to Hell, but his wife got well
And is still alive and sinning.
For the razor blade was Dublin made
But the sheet was Belfast linen.

BEFORE I GO
Judith Viorst (1931-)
Before I go, I'd like to have high cheekbones.
I'd like to talk less like New Jersey, and more like Clair Bloom.
And whenever I enter a room, I'd like an orchestra
      to burst into my theme song.
I'd like to have a theme song before I go.

Before I go, I'd like to learn to tap dance.
I'd like to play seven-card stud like a pro, not a dunce.
And I'd like Robert Redford, just once, to slide his fingers
      down my back from my neck to my waistline.
I'd like to have a waistline before I go.

Before I go, I'd like to win the door prize.
I'd like to be thought of as valiant and brilliant and thin.
And I'd like, when offered a choice between duty and sin,
      to not immediately choose duty.
I'd like a couple of offers before I go.

Before I go, I'd like to make things better.
I'd like to be told I've been more of a joy than a pain.
And I'd like those I love to know that they are the ones,
      if I could do it again, I'd do it with.
I'd like to do it again before I go.

BITTER-SWEET
George Herbert (1593—1633)
Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

BLOODY ORKNEY
Capt. Hamish Blair, RN
This bloody town's a bloody cuss
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody roads are bloody bad,
The bloody folks are bloody mad,
They'd make the brightest bloody sad,
In bloody Orkney.

All bloody clouds, and bloody rains,
No bloody kerbs, no bloody drains,
The Council's got no bloody brains,
In bloody Orkney.

Everything's so bloody dear,
A bloody bob, for bloody beer,
And is it good? - no bloody fear,
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody 'flicks' are bloody old,
The bloody seats are bloody cold,
You can't get in for bloody gold
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody dances make you smile,
The bloody band is bloody vile,
It only cramps your bloody style,
In bloody Orkney.

No bloody sport, no bloody games,
No bloody fun, the bloody dames
Won't even give their bloody names
In bloody Orkney.

Best bloody place is bloody bed,
With bloody ice on bloody head,
You might as well be bloody dead,
In bloody Orkney

At http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1521.html, we're told this WWII-era verse is still sung in the midlands, with an added verse:

Captain Hamish "Bloody" Blair
Isna posted here nae mare
But no-one seems to bloody care
In bloody Orkney

CHANGED
Charles Stuart Calverley (1831-1884)
I know not why my soul is rack'd:
Why I ne'er smile as was my wont:
I only know that, as a fact,
I don't.
I used to roam o'er glen and glade
Buoyant and blithe as other folk:
And not unfrequently I made
A joke.

A minstrel's fire within me burn'd.
I'd sing, as one whose heart must break,
Lay upon lay: I nearly learn'd
To shake.
All day I sang; of love, of fame,
Of fights our fathers fought of yore,
Until the thing almost became
A bore.

I cannot sing the old songs now!
It is not that I deem then low;
'Tis that I can't remember how
They go.
I could not range the hills till high
Above me stood the summer moon:
And as to dancing, I could fly
As soon.

The sports, to which with boyish glee
I sprang erewhile, attract no more;
Although I am but sixty-three
Or four.
Nay, worse than that, I've seem'd of late
To shrink from happy boyhood -- boys
Have grown so noisy, and I hate
A noise.

They fright me, when the beech is green,
By swarming up its stem for eggs:
They drive their horrid hoops between
My legs: --
It's idle to repine, I know;
I'll tell you what I'll do instead:
I'll drink my arrowroot, and go
To bed.

COME SKATING
Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)
They said come skating;
They said it’s so nice.
They said come skating;
I’d done it twice.
They said come skating;
It sounded nice....
I wore roller--
They meant ice.

COMMON COLD
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Go hang yourself, you old M.D,!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
In not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

COMMON SENSE
Harry Graham (1874–1936)
"There's been an accident!" they said;
"Your servant's cut in half; he's dead!"
"Indeed!" said Mr. Jones, "and please
Send me the half that's got my keys."

CONFESSION
Stephen Dobyns (1941--)
The Nazi within me thinks it’s time to take charge.
The world’s a mess; people are crazy.
The Nazi within me wants windows shut tight,
new locks put on the doors. There’s too much
fresh air, too much coming and going.
The Nazi within me wants more respect. He wants
the only TV camera, the only bank account,
the only really pretty girl. The Nazi within me
wants to be boss of traffic and traffic lights.
People drive too fast, they take up too much space.
The Nazi within me thinks people are getting away
with murder. He wants to be boss of murder.
He wants to be boss of bananas, boss of white bread.
The Nazi within me wants uniforms for everyone.
He wants them to wash their hands, sit up straight
pay strict attention. He wants to make certain
they say yes when he says yes, o when he says no.
He imagine everybody sitting in straight chairs,
people all over the world sitting in straight chairs.
Are you ready? He asks them. They say they are ready.
Are you ready to be happy?” he asks them. They say
they are ready to be happy. The Nazi within me wants
everyone to be happy but not too happy and definitely
not nosiy. No signing, no dancing, no carrying on.

COURAGE
Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

DEEP SORRINESS ATONEMENT SONG
(for missed appointment, BBC North, Manchester)

Glyn Maxwell (1962-)
The man who sold Manhattan for a halfway decent bangle,
He had talks with Adolf Hitler and could see it from his angle,
And he could have signed the Quarrymen but didn't think they'd make it
So he bought a cake on Pudding Lane and thought "Oh well I'll bake it"

But his chances they were slim
And his brothers they were Grimm,
And he's sorry, very sorry,
But I'm sorrier than him.

And the drunken plastic surgeon who said "I know, let's enlarge 'em!"
And the bloke who told the Light Brigade "Oh what the hell, let's charge 'em",
The magician with an early evening gig on the Titanic
And the Mayor who told the people of Atlantis not to panic,

And the Dong about his nose
And the Pobble re his toes,
They're all sorry very sorry
But I'm sorrier than those.

And don't forget the Bible, with the Sodomites and Judas,
And Onan who discovered something nothing was as rude as,
And anyone who reckoned it was City's year for Wembley.
And the kid who called Napoleon a shortarse in assembly,

And the man who always smiles
Cause he knows I have his files,
They're all sorry, really sorry,
But I'm sorrier by miles.

And Robert Falcon Scott who lost the race to the Norwegian,
And anyone who's ever split a pint with a Glaswegian,
Or told a Finn a joke or spent an hour with a Swiss-German,
Or got a mermaid in the sack and found it was a merman,

Or him who smelt a rat,
And got curious as a cat,
They're all sorry, deeply sorry,
But I'm sorrier than that.

All the people who were rubbish when we needed them to do it,
Whose wires crossed, whose spirit failed, who ballsed it up or blew it,
All notches of nul points and all who have a problem Houston,
At least they weren't in Kensington when they should have been at Euston.

For I didn't build the Wall
And I didn't cause the Fall
But I'm sorry, Lord, I'm sorry,
I'm the sorriest of all.
PS: Visit http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/602.html if you want a detailed analysis of the meaning of all those references...

DILEMMA
David Budbill (1940--)

I want to be
      famous
so I can be
      humble
about being
      famous.

What good is my
      humility
when I am
      stuck
in this
      obscurity?

THE DOCTOR
A. P. Herbert (Sir Alan Patrick Herbert, 1890-1971)
The doctor took my shirt away;
He did it for the best;
He said, "It's very cold today,"
And took away my vest;
Then, having nothing more to say,
He hit me in the chest.
Oh, he did clout my ribs about
Till I was bruised and red,
Then stood and listened to my spine
To see if I was dead,
And when I shouted "Ninety-nine!"
He simply shook his head.
He rather thought that rain would fall,
He made me hop about the hall,
And savagely he said,
"There's nothing wrong with you at all
You'd better go to bed!

"Oh you must eat no scrap of meat,
No rabbit, bird, or fish;
Apart from that have what you please,
But no potato, bread, or cheese;
Not butter, alcohol, or peas;
Not sausage, egg, and ratafias
A very starchy dish;
Have any other foods but these
HAVE ANYTHING YOU WISH!
But at and after every meal,
And twice an hour between,
Take this -- and this -- and this -- and THIS
In water and quinine,
And wash it down with liquorice
And nitro-glycerine.

"You must not smoke, or read a book,
You must not eat or drink;
You must not bicycle or run,
You must not talk to anyone;
It's better not to think.
A daily bath I don't advise;
It's dangerous to snore;
But let your life be otherwise
As active as before.
And don't imagine you are ill,
I beg you not to mope;
There's nothing wrong with you -- but still,
While there is life, there's hope."

I woke and screamed a hideous scream
As greedy children do
Who eat too much vanilla cream
For I was having 'flu;
And it was just an awful dream
But, all the same, it's true.

DOWN WITH FANATICS
Roger Woddis(1920-1993)
If I had my way with violent men
I'd simmer them in oil,
I'd fill a pot with bitumen
And bring them to the boil.
I execrate the terrorist
And those who harbour him,
And if I weren't a moralist
I'd tear them limb from limb.

Fanatics are an evil breed
Whom decent men should shun;
I'd like to flog them till they bleed,
Yes, every mother's son,
I'd like to tie them to a board
And let them taste the cat,
While giving praise, oh thank the Lord,
That I am not like that.

For we should love the human kind,
As Jesus taught us to,
And those who don't should be struck blind
And beaten black and blue;
I'd like to roast them in a grill
And listen to them shriek,
Then break them on the wheel until
They turned the other cheek.

EGO SUM
Gelett Burgess (1866-1951)
Run along, Bobby,
      It's getting quite late;
You've talked your hobby
      Till I'm in a state.
If I were your hobby,
      You could talk till you're blue;
But the trouble is, Bobby,
      Your hobby is you.

EPIGRAM
The New Foundling Hospital for Wit. (1786)

I have lost my mistress horse and wife,
And when I think of human life,
      Cry mercy 'twas no worse.
My mistress sickly, poor and old,
My wife damn'd ugly, and a scold--
      I am sorry for my horse.

EPIGRAM
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
I ran upon life unknowing, without science or art,
I found the first pretty maiden but she was a harlot at heart;
I wandered about the woodland after the melting of snow,
'Here is the first pretty snowdrop'--and it was the dung of a crow!

FAMILY REUNION
Charles Ghigna (1946-)
We used to gather once a year,
We all were quite a clan;
Now I miss those gatherings--
As often as I can.

FIRE AND ICE
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

FORGETFULNESS
Billy Collins (1941-)
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

GOOD LUCK AND BAD LUCK
John Hay (1838 - 1905)
      Good luck is the gayest of all gay girls;
Long in one place she will not stay:
      Back from your brow she strokes the curls,
Kisses you quick and flies away.
      But Madame Bad Luck soberly comes
And stays -- no fancy has she for flitting;
      Snatches of true-love songs she hums,
And sits by your bed, and brings her knitting.

GUESTS
Charles Lee (1870-1956)
Some cause happiness with their smiles,
Some by being deft,
Some by being right on time,
Some by having left.

HAY FOR THE HORSES
Gary Snyder (1930--)
He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
      behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through the shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
      sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
--The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds--
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

I BURNED MY CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS
Samuel Hoffenstein (1890-1947)
I burned my candle at both ends,
And now have neither foes nor friends.
For all the lovely lights begotten
I'm paying now in feeling rotten.

I SAW A MAN
Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never--"

"You lie," he cried
And ran on.

INVENTORY
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.

Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

KINDNESS TO ANIMALS
Wendy Cope (1945-)
f I were a vegetarian,
And didn't eat lambs for dinner,
I think I'd be a better person
And also thinner.

But the lamb is not endangered
And at least I can truthfully say
I have never, ever eaten a barn owl,
So perhaps I am OK.

KITCHEN DOOR BLUES
Tennessee Wiliams (1914- )
My old lady died of a common cold.
She smoked cigars and was ninety years old.
She was thin as paper with the ribs of a kite,
And she flew out the kitchen door one night.

Now I'm no younger'n the old lady was,
When she lost gravitation, and I smoke cigars.
I feel sort of peaked, an' I look kinda pore,
So for God's sake, lock that kitchen door!

LAST POEMS: XI
A. E. Housman (1859–1936)
Yonder see the morning blink:
      The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
      And work, and God knows why.

Oh often have I washed and dressed
      And what's to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I've done my best
      And all's to do again.

LINES FOR A CHRISTMAS CARD
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
May all my enemies go to hell,
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel.

LOCKED IN
Ingemar Gustafson, trans. from Swedish
      All my life I lived in a coconut,
      It was cramped and dark.
      Especially in the morning when I had to shave.
But what pained me most was that I had no way
to get in touch with the outside world.
If no one out there happened to find the cocoanut,
if no one cracked it, then I was doomed
to live all my life in the nut, and maybe even die there.
      I died in the cocoanut.
      A couple of years later they found the cocoanut,
cracked it, and found me shrunk and crumpled inside.
      "What an accident!"
      "If only we had found it earlier...."
      "Then maybe we could have saved him."
      "Maybe there are more of them locked in like that...."
      "Whom we might be able to save,"
they said, and started knocking to pieces every cocoanut
within reach.
      No use! Meaningless! A waste of time!
A person who chooses to live in a cocoanut!
Such a nut is one in a million!
      But I have a brother-in-law who
lives in an
acorn.

MIGHT AND RIGHT
Clarence Day 1874-1935)
Might and Right are always fighting
In our youth it seems exciting.
Right is always nearly winning.
Might can hardly keep from grinning.

MINIVER CHEEVY
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869--1936)
Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would send him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing:
He missed the medieval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

MY INVENTION
Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)
Guess what I have gone and done;
I've invented a light that plugs into the sun.
For the sun is bright enough,
And the bulb is strong enough--
      But the cord isn't long enough.

MY HEART LEAPS UP
(William Wordsworth) (1770-1850)
My heart leaps up when I behold
      A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So bit it when I shall grow old,
      Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man,
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

MY LAST DUCHESS
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will 't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, "Her mantle laps
Over my Lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat"; such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart . . . how shall I say? . . . too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace--all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,--good; but thanked
Somehow . . . I know not how . . . as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech--(which I have not)--to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark"--and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
--E'en then would be some stooping; and I chuse
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will 't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your Master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, Sir! Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

MONEY
Richard Armour (1906-1989)
Workers earn it,
Spendthrifts burn it,
Bankers lend it,
Women spend it,
Forgers fake it,
Taxes take it,
Dying leave it,
Heirs receive it,
Thrifty save it,
Misers crave it,
Robbers seize it,
Rich increase it,
Gamblers lose it...
I could use it.

MY MATTRESS AND I
Richard Armour (1906-1989)
Night after night, for years on end,
My mattress has been my closest friend.

My mattress and I are cozy and pally;
There are hills on the sides – I sleep in the valley.

It clearly reveals the shape I’m in:
Where I’m thin it’s thick, where it’s thick I’m thin.

Its contours reflect the first and the last of me.
It’s very nearly a plaster cast of me.

I miss my mattress when I am gone;
It’s one thing I’ve made an impression on.

NIGHT THOUGHTS OF A TORTOISE SUFFERING FROM INSOMNIA ON A LAWN
(E.V. Rieu)

The world is very flat--
There is no doubt of that!

NO!
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
NO sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--
November!

OFFICE FRIENDSHIPS
Gavin Ewart (1916--1995)
Eve is madly in love with Hugh
And Hugh is keen on Jim.
Charles is in love with very few
And few are in love with him.

Myra sits typing notes of love
With romantic pianist's fingers.
Dick turns his eyes to the heavens above
Where Fran's divine perfume lingers.

Nicky is rolling eyes and tits
And flaunting her wiggly walk
Everybody is thrilled to bits
By Clive's suggestive talk.

Sex suppressed will go berserk,
But it keeps us all alive.
It's a wonderful change from wives and work.
And it ends at half past five.

OBSERVATION
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

If I don't drive around the park,
I'm pretty sure to make my mark.
If I'm in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again.
If I abstain from fun and such,
I'll probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.

ON MUNDANE ACQUAINTANCES
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Good morning, Algernon; Good morning, Percy.
Good morning, Mrs. Roebuck. Christ have mercy.

ON THE VANITY OF EARTHLY GREATNESS
Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943) 0.0

The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastadons, are billiard balls.

The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is ferric oxide, known as rust.

The grizzly bear whose potent hug
Was feared by all, is now a rug.
Great Caesar's bust is on the shelf,
And I don't feel so well myself!

ONE ART
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

PLEASE FIRE ME
Deborah Garrison
Here comes another alpha male,
and all the other alphas
are snorting and pawing,
kicking up puffs of acrid dust

while the silly little hens
clatter back and forth
on quivering claws and raise
a titter about the fuss.

Here comes another alpha male--
a man's man, a dealmaker,
holds tanks of liquor,
charms them pantsless at lunch:

I've never been sicker.
Do I have to stare into his eyes
and sympathize? If I want my job
I do. Well I think I'm through

with the working world,
through with warming eggs
and being Zenlike in my detachment
from all things Ego.

I'd like to go
somewhere else entirely,
and I don't mean
Europe.

PEOPLE ON THEIR BIRTHDAYS
Rod McKuen (1933-)
People on their birthdays will take a drink or two
and tell you how they won the prize in nineteen forty-two,
Some other Sunday before the swing came down
and papa smashed his car up on his way in from the town.

People on their birthdays all live in yesterdays
before the kids grew up and went their own ambitious ways,

wasn't it something that long ago July
and that's about the time birthday people start to cry.

Happy Birthday, drink a toast to me.
I'm all of ten and goin' on a hundred and twenty-three.

People on their birthdays are fond of looking back
to half-remembered yesterdays when things were not so black,
Some other summer when playin' ball was fun
and life's rewards were chocolate bars and nickel bubble gum.

Happy birthday, one more toast to me.
The race is nearly over
and we come in free.

People on their birthdays should have a chocolate cake
and be prepared for a memory bellyache.
Looks like a rainstorm beyond the cloudy sky,
now birthdays come so often I've forgotten how to try.

THE PESSIMIST
Benjamin Franklin King (1857--1894)
Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes
To keep one from going nude.

Nothing to breathe but air
Quick as a flash 't is gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on.

Nothing to comb but hair,
Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
Nothing to bury but dead.

Nothing to sing but songs,
Ah, well, alas! alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back.

Nothing to see but sights,
Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we've got;
Thus thro' life we are cursed.

Nothing to strike but a gait;
Everything moves that goes.
Nothing at all but common sense
Can ever withstand these woes.

PLAYS
Walter Savage Landor (1774-1843)
Alas, how soon the hours are over,
Counted us out to play the lover!
And how much narrower is the stage,
Allotted us to play the sage!

But when we play the fool, how wide
The theatre expands! beside,
How long the audience sits before us!
How many prompters! what a chorus!

PLEASE EXCUSE TYPING
J.B. Boothroyd

If you have ever, like me,
Missed the "r" and hit the "t"
Addressing some fat blister
As "Mt." instead of "Mr.,"
I trust you left it unattended?

Splendid.

PUBLIC AID FOR NIAGARA FALLS
Morris Bishop (1893-1973)

Upon the patch of earth that clings
      Near the very brink of doom,
Where the frenzied water flings
      Downward to a misty gloom,

Where the earth in terror quakes
      And the water leaps in foam
Plunging, frantic, from the Lakes,
      Hurrying seaward, hurrying home,

Where Man's little voice is vain,
      And his heart chills in his breast
At the dearful yell of pain
      Of the water seeking rest,

There I stood, and humbly scanned
      The miracle that sense appalls,
And I watched the tourists stand
      Spitting in Niagara Falls.

ON A FORMER WITNESS
One of 4500 brief lyrics from Meleager's THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY)

Some say you dye your hair, but I deny it:
The hair you wear is black. I saw you buy it.

REFLECTIONS ON A WICKED WORLD
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Purity
Is Obscurity

RESUME
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful.
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

RICHARD CORY
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869--1935)
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything>BR> To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

ROMAN WALL BLUES
W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

SO WE’LL GO NO MORE A-ROVING
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
So we’ll go no more a-roving
      So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving
      And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath
      And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
      And Love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
      And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
      By the light of the moon.

SONG OF PERFECT PROPRIETY
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Oh, I should like to ride the seas,
     A roaring buccaneer;
A cutlass banging at my knees,
     A dirk behind my ear.
And when my captives' chains would clank
     I'd howl with glee and drink,
And then fling out the quivering plank
     And watch the beggars sink.

I'd like to straddle gory decks,
     And dig in laden sands,
And know the feel of throbbing necks
     Between my knotted hands.
Oh, I should like to strut and curse
     Among my blackguard crew....
But I am writing little verse,
     As little ladies do.

Oh, I should like to dance and laugh
     And pose and preen and sway,
And rip the hearts of men in half,
     And toss the bits away.
I'd like to view the reeling years
     Through unastonished eyes,
And dip my finger-tips in tears,
     And give my smiles for sighs.

I'd stroll beyond the ancient bounds,
     And tap at fastened gates,
And hear the prettiest of sound--
     The clink of shattered fates.
My slaves I'd like to bind with thongs
     That cut and burn and chill....
But I am writing little songs,
     As little ladies will.

STANDING IS STUPID
Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)
Standing is stupid,
Crawlings a curse,
Skipping is silly,
Walking is worse.
Hopping is hopeless,
Jumping a chore,
Sitting is senseless,
Leaning’s a bore.
Running’s ridiculous,
Jogging’s insane--
Guess I’ll go upstairs and
Lie down again.

SURVIVOR
Roger McGough (1937-)
Everyday,
I think about dying.
About disease, starvation,
violence, terrorism, war,
the end of the world.

It helps
keep my mind off things.

SWEET VIOLETS
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
You are brief and frail and blue--
Little sisters, I am, too.
You are Heaven’s masterpieces--
Little loves, the likeness ceases.

THE COMPLETE MISANTHROPE
Morris Bishop (1893-1973)

I love to think of things I hate
      In moments of mopishness;
I hate people who sit up straight,
      And youths who smirk about their "date"
And dates who smirk no less.

I hate children who clutch and whine,
      And arrogant virtuous poor;
And critical connoisseurs of wine,
And everything that is called a shrine
      And Art and Literature.

I hate eggs and I hate the hen;
      I hate the rooster, too.
I hate people who wield the pen,
I hate women and I hate men;
      And what's more, I hate you.

THE DIGNITY OF LABOR
Robert Bersohn 1890-)
Labor raises honest sweat;
Leisure puts you into debt.

Labor gives you rye and wheat;
Leisure gives you naught to eat.

Labor makes your riches last;
Leisure gets you nowhere fast.

Labor makes you bed at eight;
Leisure lets you stay up late.

Labor makes you swell with pride;
Leisure makes you shrink inside.

Labor keeps you fit and prime,
But give me leisure every time.

THE EGOCENTRICS
Piet Hein (1905-1996)
People are self-centred
to a nauseous degree.
They will keep on about themselves
while I'm explaining me.

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
      And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricken sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
      And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
      I hear it in the deep heart's core.

THE LEADER
Roger McGough (1937-)
I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I'm the leader I'm the leader

OK what shall we do?

THE LITANY FOR DONERAILE
Patrick O'Kelly, Esq. (who paid for this to be printed in 1812)
Alas! how dismal is my tale,
I lost my watch in Doneraile.
My Dublin watch, my chain and seal,
Pilfer'd at once in Doneraile.
May Fire and Brimstone never fail
To fall in show'rs on Doneraile.
May all the leading Fiends assail
The thieving Town of Doneraile.
As light'ning's flash across the vale,
So down to Hell with Doneraile.
May Beef or Mutton, Lamb or Veal,
Be never found in Doneraile,
But Garlic Soup and scurvy Cale
Be still the food for Doneraile.
May Heav'n a chosen Curse entail
On rigid rotten Doneraile.
May Sun and Moon for ever fail
To beam their lights on Doneraile.
May ev'ry pestilential Gale
Blast that curs'd spot called Doneraile.
May no Cuckoo, Thrush, or Quail,
Be ever heard in Doneraile.
May Patriots, Kings, and Commonweal,
Despise and harass Doneraile.
May ev'ry Post, Gazette and Mail,
Sad tiding bring of Doneraile.
May profit light and tardy sale
Still damp the Trade of Doneraile.
May not one wish or pray'r avail
To soothe the woes of Doneraile.
May th'Inquisition straight impale
The Rapparies of Doneraile.
May curse of Sodom now prevail
And sink to ashes Doneraile.
May Charon's Boat triumphant sail
Completely Mann'd from Doneraile.
May ev'ry churn and milking pail
Fall dry to staves in Doneraile.
May vengeance fall at head and tail,
From North to South at Doneraile.
May Egypt's plagues at once prevail
To thin the Knaves of Doneraile.
May frost & snow, and sleet & hail
Benumb each joint in Doneraile.
May wolves & bloodhounds trace & trail
The cursed crew of Doneraile.
May Oscar with his fiery flail
To Atoms thresh all Doneraile.
May ev'ry mischief fresh and stale
Abide henceforth in Doneraile.
May all from Belfast to Kinsale
Scoff, curse, and damn you, Doneraile.
May want and woe each joy curtail
That e'er was known in Doneraile.
May not one Coffin want a nail
That wraps a rogue in Doneraile.
May all the Sons of Granaweal
Blush at the thieves of Doneraile.
May Curses wholesale and retail
Pour with full force on Doneraile.
Oh! may my Couplets never fail
To find new cures for Doneraile.

THE MORON
(Anonymous)

See the happy moron,
He doesn't give a damn!
I wish I were a moron--
My God! Perhaps I am!

THE SHRINKING LONESOME SESTINA
Miller Williams
Somewhere in everyone's head something points toward home,
a dashboard's floating compass, turning all the time
to keep from turning. It doesn't matter how we come
to be wherever we are, someplace where nothing goes
the way it went once, where nothing holds fast
to where it belongs, or what you've risen or fallen to.

What the bubble always points to,
whether we notice it or not, is home.
It may be true that if you move fast
everything fades away, that given time
and noise enough, every memory goes
into the blackness, and if new ones come--

small, mole-like memories that come
to live in the furry dark-they, too,
curl up and die. But Carol goes
to high school now. John works at home
what days he can to spend some time
with Sue and the kids. He drives too fast.

Ellen won't eat her breakfast.
Your sister was going to come
but didn't have the time.
Some mornings at one or two
or three I want you home
a lot, but then it goes.

It all goes.
Hold on fast
to thoughts of home
when they come.
They're going to
less with time.

Time
Goes
Too
fast.
Come
home.

Forgive me that. One time it wasn't fast.
A myth goes that when the years come
then you will, too. Me, I'll still be home.

THE SILVER SWAN
Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)
The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approach'd, unlock'd her silent throat;
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more.
Farewell, all joys; O Death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.

THE TAUNGS MAN
Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940)

Here lies a man, who was an ape.
Nature, grown weary of his shape,
conceived, and carried out the plan
by which the ape is now the man.

THE TURNIP CRIER
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

If the man who turnips cries
Cry not when his father dies,
'Tis a proof that he had rather
Have a turnip than his father.

THE WAYFARER
Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

The wayfarer
Perceiving the pathway to truth
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

THE WISHES OF AN ELDER MAN
Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914

Walter Raleigh

I wish I loved the Human Race,
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I'm introduced to one
I wish I thought, What Jolly Fun!

THINGS TO COME
James Reeves (1909-1978)
The shadow of a fat man in the moonlight
      Precedes me on the road down which I go;
And should I turn and run, he would pursue me:
      This is the man whom I must get to know.

TO J.S.
Robert J. Misch

My every waking hour
      Is spent in thoughts of you:
From dawn to dusk, from Jan. to Dec.,
      There's nothing else I do.

But strangely I've discovered
      A thing I never knew:
That day and night, year in, year out,
      You also think of you.

TOURISTS
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
There is nothing to look at any more,
everything has been seen to death.

WARNING
Jenny Joseph (1932-)
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

WHAT ONE APPROVES
Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
What one approves,
another scorns,
and thus
his nature each discloses.
You find the rosebush
full of thorns,
I find the
thornbush full of roses.

WHAT'S THE USE
James Stephens (1882-1950)

What's the use
Of my abuse?

The world will run
Around the sun

As it has done
Since time begun,

When I have drifted
To the deuce;

And what's the use
Of my abuse?

wishes for sons
Lucille Clifton (1936-)
i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.

I wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
I wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

WISDOM
Sara Teasdale {1884-1933}
When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange -- my youth.

THE YEAR
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850–October 30, 1919)
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year.

OZYMANDIAS
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

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