Three Poems

23 May 2020




Japanese Maple - Clive James

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk decends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.




Wild Geese - Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours,
and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.




Written on the Forehead - PJ Harvey

People throwing dinars
at the belly-dancers,
in a sad circus
beside a trench of burning oil.

People throw belongings,
a life-time’s earnings,
amongst the scattered rubbish
and suitcase on the sidewalk.

Date palms, orange
and tangerine trees,
and eyes are crying
for everything.

I talked to an old man
by the generator,
standing on the gravel
by the fetid river.

He turned to me,
then surveyed the scene,
said war is here
in our beloved city.

Some dove in the river
and tried to swim away
through 10,000 tonnes of sewage,
fate written on their foreheads,

Date palms, orange
and tangerine trees,
and eyes are crying
for everything.