Best Poems From
(13th September 1941)
St Valentine's Day Poem
Soul resides in hair
and fur and feather
scale and leaf and earth.
Soul is part of sap and rock
and blood and turds and weather.
Soul inhabits empty spaces -
not brains nor hearts
nor tongues nor mouths
nor eyes nor faces.
Soul resides in fur and bushy places.
Once you have understanding
throw that understanding away
and look for a new one,
like breath after breath,
for having is clinging.
True happiness comes
when you no longer hold on to happiness:
for the spirit needs desolation
as much as the body needs death.
The Earth-Mother's Lamentation (newly translated from the Old Irish)
My life is ebbing: let it drain -
unlike the sea which flows again,
The boiling, unbegotten sea.
I whose gown was always new
am now so pitifully thin
that this old shift will outlive me.
They want only money now.
When I was young, love was what
I wanted - and so richly got.
People then were generous,
and in return they asked a lot.
They ask and give so little now.
5. I had chariots and horses then,
given by admiring kings.
I drank mead and wine with them.
Now among old onion-skins
of withered women I drink whey,
myself a withered onion-skin.
My hands are bony now, and thin;
once they plied their loving trade
upon the bodies of great kings.
My hands are bony, wasted things,
unfit to stroke an old man's head,
much less a young man's glowing skin
Young girls are happy in the Spring,
but I am sad and worse than sad,
for I'm an old and useless thing.
10. Nobody round me is glad;
My hair is grey and going thin.
My veil conceals what is well hid.
I once had bright cloth on my head
and went with kings - now I dread
the going to the king of kings.
The winter winds ravish the sea.
No nobleman will visit me –
no, not even a slave will come.
It's long ago I sailed the sea
of youth and beauty wantonly.
Now my Passion too has gone.
Even in Summer I wear a shawl
It's many a day since I was warm.
The Spring of youth has turned to Fall.
15. Wintry age's smothering pall
is wrapping slowly round my limbs.
My hair's like lichen, my paps like galls.
I don't regret my lust and rage,
for even had I been demure
I still would wear the cloak of age.
The cloak that wooded hillsides wear
is beautiful; their foliage
is woven with eternal care.
I am old: the eyes that once
burned bright for men are now decayed:
the torch has burned out its sconce.
My life is ebbing; let it drain
unlike the sea which flows again,
the man-torn and tormented sea.
20. Flow and ebb: what the flow brings
the ebb soon takes away again
- the flow and the ebb following.
The flow and the ebb following:
the flow's joy and the ebb's pain,
the flow's honey, the ebb's sting.
The flow has not quite flooded me.
There is a recess still quite dry
though many were my company.
Well might Jesus come to me
in my recess - could I deny
a man my only hospitality?
A hand is laid upon them all
whose ebb always succeeds their flow,
whose rising sinks into their fall.
25. If my veiled and sunken eyes
could see more than their own ebb
there's nothing they would recognise.
Happy the island of the sea
where flow always comes after ebb:
What flow will follow ebb in me?
I am wretched. What was flow
is now all ebb. Ebbing I go.
After the Tide, the Undertow.
[spoken] That land's not your land
nor is it anyone's land
from Alcatraz to Ellis Island.
That land was stolen
but not from those folks
who never claimed it
who had respect for wolves and bears.
All land is stolen from the planet
and the earth is now bereft.
As the Frenchman said:
property is theft.
[sung] This world's not your world.
This world's not my world
from the Antartic to Baffin Island.
This world's the sun's world
the world of nature
and man is alien,
the vile dictator.
Man's rule knows no democracy.