The wings of Daylight by W.S. Merwin

Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings


Words by Robert Smithdas

Words hold a hidden magic all their own:
One word can pierce the soul of things unknown;
One phrase can shake an empire to its knees,
Or sow the seed of unborn dynasties.

One word of praise can fan ambition’s fire,
Or rock a heart with love and love’s desires;
An angry word of carelessness or blame
May fill a lifetime with remorse or shame.

Some words are wise; and there are foolish words;
Words sad as grief, or gay as singing birds;
Some words recall forgotten loveliness,
And there are words which fill us with distress.

Sung in a song, or murmured in a prayer;
Written in books, or breathed into the air
Words have a magic power to wound or bless.

Go far; Come near by Walter de la Mare

Go far; come near;
You still must be
The centre of your own small mystery.
Range body and soul –
Gone on to further goal,
Still shall you find
At end, nought else but thee.
Oh, in what straitened bounds
Of thought and aim –
And even sights and sounds –
Your earthly lot is doomed to stay!

And yet, your smallest whim
By secret grace
To look the simplest flower in the face
Gives an inevitable reflection back,
Not of your own self only,
But of one
Who, having achieved its miracle,
Rests there, and is not gone;
Who still o’er your own darker deeps holds sway
Into whatever shallows you may stray.

Whatever quicksands loom before you yet, –
Indifference, the endeavour to forget,
Whatever truce for which your soul may yearn,
Gives you but smaller room
In which to turn,
Until you reach the haven
Of the tomb.

“The haven?” Count the chances … Is that so?
You are your Universe. Could death’s quick dart
Be aimed at aught less mortal than the heart?
Could body’s end,
Whereto it soon shall go,
Be end of all you mean, and are, my friend?

Ah, when clocks stop, and no-more-time-begins,
May he who gave the flower
Its matchless hour,
And you the power
To win the love that only loving wins,
Have mercy on your miseries and your sins.

A Mad Gardener’s Song by Lewis Carrol

He thought he saw an Elephant,
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
‘At length I realise,’ he said,
‘The bitterness of Life!’

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
‘Unless you leave this house,’ he said,
“I’ll send for the Police!’

He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
‘The one thing I regret,’ he said,
‘Is that it cannot speak!’

He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
‘If this should stay to dine,’ he said,
‘There won’t be much for us!’

He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
A Vegetable-Pill.
‘Were I to swallow this,’ he said,
‘I should be very ill!’

He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
‘Poor thing,’ he said, ‘poor silly thing!
It’s waiting to be fed!’

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
A Penny-Postage Stamp.
‘You’d best be getting home,’ he said:
‘The nights are very damp!’

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
‘And all its mystery,’ he said,
‘Is clear as day to me!’

He thought he saw a Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
‘A fact so dread,’ he faintly said,
‘Extinguishes all hope!’

Bad Moon by Claire Askew

The moon must be sick of being in poems –
always gripped by fingers of late honeysuckle,
always filtered in the lake through the jetty’s slats,
always silvering the flicked tails of the koi.
Always a dinner plate or mirror,
always a fingernail clipping, a grin.

The moon must be sick of being in poems.
Always the bright pin in the picture’s corner,
always looking in at the windows of middle class homes.
Always shoved above a bridge in Paris or Venice,
always an eyeball or symbol,
always a radiant woman, a bowl.

It’s also in the splintered windscreen of the crime scene
with its blots of blood. It’s hung over the pig farm,
streaking white across the silo’s cheek
and slanting through the lorry walls in blades.
It’s in every dented can at the landfill pit,
turning the tip to a shoal of dirty fish.

Never the buried skull,
never the gummed plug in the junkie’s sink.
Never the white cat under the truck’s wheel,
never the beached and stinking jellyfish.
Never the gallstone or the pulled tooth, of course.
Nobody wants to read poems about this.

A Superscription by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also call’d No-more, Too-late, Farewell;
Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell
Cast up thy Life’s foam-fretted feet between;
Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
Which had Life’s form and Love’s, but by my spell
Is now a shaken shadow intolerable,
Of ultimate things unutter’d the frail screen.

Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
Of that wing’d Peace which lulls the breath of sighs,—
Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.

Requests by Digby Mackworth Dolben

I asked for Peace—
 My sins arose,
 And bound me close,
I could not find release.

I asked for Truth—
 My doubts came in,
 And with their din
They wearied all my youth.

I asked for Love—
 My lovers failed,
 And griefs assailed
Around, beneath, above.

I asked for Thee—
 And Thou didst come
 To take me home
Within Thy Heart to be.

As in Life by Ethel McBain Clarke

Three players sat at a game of chance
They were Flattery, Love and Truth;
They played a game which we call Fate
Each game tied ’till the hour was late
Each trick went down on Life’s long slate,
And well each played, in sooth.

Love was a player fair to see,
And held winning cards to play;
But as the hours went on apace,
He glanced from Truth to Flattery’s face;
Flattery smiled with errant grace,
While Truth had naught to say.

Then Love forgot that Truth was there,
And Flattery did the same;
Each chance to win they let slip by,
Each scorned to win and ceased to try,
Forgetting that stakes were sure and high,
And so Truth won the game.

Then Truth threw a scornful word at Love,
And Love saw Flattery’s stare;
Love moaned, and his face grew white and set;
Flattery smiled as she smileth yet;
Truth had no smile, and no regret,
For she knew that the game was fair.