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For an Old Girlfriend, Long Dead -- William Logan

Guest poem submitted by Christian T. McCusker :
(Poem #1757) For an Old Girlfriend, Long Dead
 Lying on that blanket, nights on the seventh green--
 in the dry air the faint scent of gasoline,

 nothing above us but the ragged moon,
 nothing between but a whispered soon...

 Well, such was romance in the seventies.
 Watergate and Cambodia, the public lies,

 made our love seem, somehow, more true.
 Of the few things I wanted then, I needed you.

 I remember our last arguments, my angry calls,
 then the long silence, those northern falls

 we drifted toward our newly manufactured lives.
 Does anything else of us survive?

 That day in Paris, perhaps, when you swore
 our crummy hotel was all you were looking for--

 each cobbled Paris street, each dry baguette,
 even the worthless sous nothing you'd forget.

 Outside, a block away, the endless Seine
 flowed roughly, then brightly, then...

 Then nothing. Nothing later went quite that far.
 I remember that Spring. Those breasts. That car.
-- William Logan
(From a recent issue of the New Yorker; I don't have the issue anymore, nor
the date it was published)


This poem, for me, encapsulates the memory of any great romance -- while
Logan's details are specific, everyone that I've shared this with has
related to it and sighed as they read the last stanza. The last line, in
particular, seems to me to be absolutely perfect: up until that line Logan
hadn't mentioned the time of year, her breasts, nor any car. Yet I know
exactly who and when he's talking about, and I miss her just as much as he

The melancholy that I feel on a lazy afternoon thinking about a lost love is
exactly this, is exactly what he describes in this poem.

Christian T.

Yellow Tulips -- James Fenton

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1756) Yellow Tulips
 Looking into the vase, into the calyx, into the water drop,
 Looking into the throat of the flower, at the pollen stain,
 I can see the ambush love sprung once in the summery wood.
 I can see the casualties where they lay, till they set forth again.

 I can see the lips, parted first in surprise, parted in desire,
 Smile now as silence falls on the yellow-dappled ride
 For each thinks the other can hear each receding thought
 On each receding tide.

 They have come out of the wood now. They are skirting the fields
 Between the tall wheat and the hedge, on the unploughed strips,
 And they believe anyone who saw them would know
 Every secret of their limbs and lips,

 As if, like creatures of legend, they had come down out of the mist
 Back to their native city, and stood in the square.
 And they were seen to be marked at the throat with a certain sign
 Whose meaning all could share.


 These flowers came from a shop. Really they looked nothing much
 Till they opened as if in surprise at the heat of this hotel.
 Then the surprise turned to a shout, and the girl said, "Shall I chuck them
 Or give them one more day? They've not lasted so well."

 "Oh give them one more day. They've lasted well enough.
 They lasted as love lasts, which is longer than most maintain.
 Look at the sign it has left here at the throat of the flower
 And on your tablecloth - look at the pollen stain"
-- James Fenton
(From the August 11 issue of the New York Review of Books)

I like this poem. I like the contrast between the grand, mythic images
surrounding the flowers in the forest and the more mundane concerns of the
shop flowers. I love the first two stanzas and the way they paint so visual
a picture of the flowers in question. And I like the way that Fenton manages
to breathe life into a tired metaphor in the last few stanzas - that
beautiful line about "they've lasted as love lasts, which is longer than
most maintain".

Fenton - who is not unrepresented on Minstrels - is IMHO one of the better
poets writing today, and this poem, while far from being oneof his best
works, is both intelligent and moving enough to prove it.


The Dolly on the Dustcart -- Pam Ayres

Guest poem submitted by Trisha Gupta :
(Poem #1755) The Dolly on the Dustcart
 I'm the dolly on the dustcart,
 I can see you're not impressed,
 I'm fixed above the driver's cab,
 With wire across me chest,
 The dustman see, he noticed me,
 Going in the grinder,
 And he fixed me on the lorry,
 I dunno if that was kinder.

 This used to be a lovely dress,
 In pink and pretty shades,
 But it's torn now, being on the cart,
 And black as the ace of spades,
 There's dirt all round me face,
 And all across me rosy cheeks,
 Well, I've had me head thrown back,
 But we ain't had no rain for weeks.

 I used to be a 'Mama' doll,
 Tipped forward, I'd say, 'Mum'
 But the rain got in me squeaker,
 And now I been struck dumb,
 I had two lovely blue eyes,
 But out in the wind and weather,
 One's sunk back in me head like,
 And one's gone altogether.

 I'm not a soft, flesh coloured dolly,
 Modern children like so much,
 I'm one of those hard old dollies,
 What are very cold to touch,
 Modern dolly's underwear,
 Leaves me a bit nonplussed,
 I haven't got a bra,
 But then I haven't got a bust!

 But I was happy in that doll's house,
 I was happy as a Queen,
 I never knew that Tiny Tears,
 Was coming on the scene,
 I heard of dolls with hair that grew,
 And I was quite enthralled,
 Until I realised my head
 Was hard and pink... and bald.

 So I travel with the rubbish,
 Out of fashion, out of style,
 Out of me environment,
 For mile after mile,
 No longer prized... dustbinised!
 Unfeminine, Untidy,
 I'm the dolly on the dustcart,
 And there's no collection Friday.
-- Pam Ayres
I've loved this poem since I first read it at age 11 or so. Though my memory
of it was triggered by reading 'Clockwork Doll' which just appeared on the
list, Dolly on the Dustcart is certainly less sombre - and is almost
unfailingly categorised as a "children's poem".

And it does have the most amazing read-aloud quality: such as
        "The dustman see, he noticed me,
         Going in the grinder,
         And he fixed me on the lorry,
         I dunno if that was kinder."

But as I looked at again today after many years, I realized again why its
self-deprecatory tone has always seemed to me to be more than simply
hilarious. It combines a charming naivete with a sort of wry, post-facto
resignation... as for
example in
        "I heard of dolls with hair that grew,
         And I was quite enthralled,
         Until I realised my head
         Was hard and pink... and bald."

On the whole, I think, the poem serves rather well as a sharp and funny
comment on the whole femininity thing.


Clockwork Doll -- Dalia Ravikovitch

Guest poem submitted by Sariel Har-Peled:
(Poem #1754) Clockwork Doll
 I was a clockwork doll that night,
 and I turned left and I turned right
 and when I fell and broke to bits,
 they recomposed my wax and wits.

 I was a proper doll once more,
 my manner carefully demure;
 and yet a doll of another kind
 an injured twig that tendrils bind.

 And when they asked me to a ball
 although my steps were rhythmical,
 they partnered me with dog and cat.

 My hair was gold, my eyes were blue.
 I wore a dress where flowers grew.
 Cherries blazed on my straw hat.
-- Dalia Ravikovitch
        Translated by Robert Friend.

Dalia Rabikovitch was an Israeli poet who recently committed suicide at age
69. The above poem capture well the pressure to conform applied to each one
of us by society (and even more so to females), and the continuing
suspicious of society if you once fail to comply.  And ever since I read
this poem for the first time, every once in awhile, I feel like I am a
"Clockwork doll".

For more details on Dalia Ravikovitch, see


Vanitas Vanitatum -- John Webster

Guest poem sent in by Rajeev Cherukupalli
(Poem #1753) Vanitas Vanitatum
 All the flowers of the spring
 Meet to perfume our burying;
 These have but their growing prime,
 And man does flourish but his time:
 Survey our progress from our birth;
 We are set, we grow, we turn to earth.
 Courts adieu, and all delights,
 All bewitching appetites!
 Sweetest breath and clearest eye,
 Like perfumes, go out and die;
 And consequently this is done
 As shadows wait upon the sun.
 Vain ambition of kings
 Who seek by trophies and dead things
 To leave a living name behind,
 And weave but nets to catch the wind.
-- John Webster
Neville Clemens's submission ("Dilemma", by David Budbill, Poem #1753)
reminded me of this poem. There's probably a reason for Longfellow's "And,
departing, leave behind us / footprints on the sands of time;".  First the
footsteps, and then, though not always, the footprints. Until the sands
shift once again.

Webster's poem was published in "The Devil's Law Case" circa 1610. More on
Webster at


[Martin adds]

The theme must have been a popular one at the time - I'm struck by the
similarities to Shirley's "Death the Leveller". Shirley was a contemporary
of Webster's, but I'm not sure which poem came first.

Dilemma -- David Budbill

Guest poem submitted by Neville Clemens :
(Poem #1752) Dilemma
 I want to be
 so I can be
 about being

 What good is my
 when I am
 in this
-- David Budbill
A friend of mine sent me this impish poem which she came across in  an
anthology titled "Good Poems", edited by Garrison Keillor - a collection of
American poems. For that, I am grateful to her.

Nothing to be said about this poem. Just read it, enjoy it and find yourself
grinning your sheepish, guilty grin :-).

The poet's website can be found at , with a link
to his biography.


Diatribe Against the Dead -- Angel Gonzalez

Guest poem sent in by Mack Freeman
(Poem #1751) Diatribe Against the Dead
 The dead are selfish:
 they make us cry and don't care,
 they stay quiet in the most inconvenient places,
 they refuse to walk, we have to carry them
 on our backs to the tomb
 as if they were children.  What a burden!
 Unusually rigid, their faces
 accuse us of something, or warn us;
 they are the bad conscience, the bad example,
 they are the worst things in our lives always, always.
 The bad thing about the dead
 is that there is no way you can kill them.
 Their constant destructive labor
 is for the reason incalculable.
 Insensitive, distant, obstinate, cold,
 with their insolence and their silence
 they don't realize what they undo.
-- Angel Gonzalez
Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

I don't have much in the way of critical analysis for this piece, but it
reminds me of my high school theatre teacher who told everyone one day that
one of the most cathartic things you could do when dealing with death or
with the prospect of your own death was to plan your own funeral and to get
everything out of the way and to get closure with the situation.  I'm
sitting here now, a few days before I'm about to move and start a major life
change...and I'm just starting to realize all of the huge changes that go
around all of us in each day.  One of my aunt's is pregnant with what may be
a Down's Syndrome baby...but it's the daughter they've always wanted.
Another aunt is so sick it doesn't look like she'll make it through the

This poem brings the idea that all of the sorrow over death is with the
living...all the anger, hate, fear, sorrow...emotion in general, is left
with the living because the dead have moved on.  It reminds me that a death
(and almost any life change) can destroy the people affected by it...that
some people can't pick up the pieces (immediately or sometimes at all) and
move on.  They get angry or they get destroyed.

Wow...that was really rambly, but maybe some of it made sense.  I just
discovered this poet in an anthology I was reading the other day and I was
just struck by his overall style and this piece in particular.

Mack F.

[Biographical Data]

Born in Oviedo in 1925, Angel Gonzalez yong life was stricken by the Spanish
Civil War with one of his brothers being exiled and another being
assassinated.  Eventually he became a lawyer and worked for the Civil
Administration in Madrid.  His first book of poems appeared in 1956 which
was positively received.  Awards he has received include the Premio Antonio
Machado in 1956 and the Premio Principe de Asturis de las Letras in 1985.
His main topics include mortality, love, and civil observance.

On Giving -- Kahlil Gibran

Guest poem sent in by Neville Clemens
(Poem #1750) On Giving
 There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they
 give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts

 And there are those who have little and give it all.

 These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their
 coffer is never empty.

 There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.

 And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

 And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they
 seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

 They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

 Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their
 eyes He smiles upon the earth.
-- Kahlil Gibran
I came across this excerpt form Gibran's 'The Prophet' when I was about 13,
courtesy of my father who had it put up on our living room wall. I loved it
then, and as the years have gone by I've grown to love it even more as I
begin to be more aware of and experience the interplay of emotions involved
in simple acts of my life. Gibran forces us to take a harder look at Giving,
forces us to look past fruitive motives for our actions, at a place where
there exists such a thing as a Selfless Deed, stripped clean of ANY reaction
- pure, simple and childlike to grasp....and yet something we struggle with.

"They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space."

THAT, to me, is the clinching line of the poem; the line that holds it all
together and gently pours the poet's wisdom over the reader.


1. This is part of a larger passage on Giving in 'The Prophet', but this is
the portion that I came across as a child. Since it seems to me to be a
plenary excerpt and since I am biased towards shorter poems I'd like to
submit just this passage. The entire passage can be read here:

2. The poet's first name is spelt as Khalil as well as Kahlil. However, the
former spelling does more justice to the pronunciation. The first syllable
is a 'kha', pronounced thickly from the throat - as anyone familiar with
Urdu or Arabic would know. The 'G' in the last name is pronounced as in
Germany. The source of this is a Lebanese friend of mine (Gibran was
Lebanese, so I assume he was right!). I'm only adding this because for
years I'd always mumble his name in conversations to avoid being caught with
a mispronunciation :-). To sum up : kha-leel jib-raan

3. An extensive biography of this Lebanese poet and artist (a la Blake) is
available at:

   [broken link]


The Dynasts -- Thomas Hardy

Guest poem submitted by Frank O'Shea, an excerpt
(Poem #1749) The Dynasts
 Yea, the coneys are scared by the thud of hoofs,
 And their white scuts flash at their vanishing heels,
 And swallows abandon the hamlet-roofs.

 The mole's tunnelled chambers are crushed by wheels,
 The lark's eggs scattered, their owners fled;
 And the hedgehog's household the sapper unseals.

 The snail draws in at the terrible tread,
 But in vain; he is crushed by the felloe-rim
 The worm asks what can be overhead,

 And wriggles deep from a scene so grim,
 And guesses him safe; for he does not know
 What a foul red flood will be soaking him!

 Beaten about by the heel and toe
 Are butterflies, sick of the day's long rheum,
 To die of a worse than the weather-foe.

 Trodden and bruised to a miry tomb
 Are ears that have greened but will never be gold,
 And flowers in the bud that will never bloom.
-- Thomas Hardy
Friday's poem ["The Grass", by Carl Sandburg, Poem #1748 -- ed.] reminded me
of some lines from Thomas Hardy's long verse drama "The Dynasts." As with
Sandburg, he is concerned with the effects of the forthcoming Battle of
Waterloo on the flora and fauna.

It would be nice if I could boast how clever I am to be reading such ancient
and esoteric verse. The truth is that it is one of the Hardy poems used by
Alan Bennett in his wonderful CD "Poetry in Motion" ( The
full text of the Hardy document can be found at

You have sufficient Hardy poems on your site not to need biography. But
least I looked up the meaning of some of the unusual words:
    coney (or cony): a rabbit
    scut: tail
    felloe: the outer part of a wheel to which spokes are attached.


The Perfume -- A D Hope

Guest poem sent in by "William Grey"
(Poem #1748) The Perfume
   "... marked males of the silkworm moth have been known to fly upwind seven
  miles to a fragrant female of their kind ... the chemical compound with
  which a female silkworm moth attracts mates is highly specific; no other
  species seem aware of it. In 1959, the Nobel Laureate Adolph Butenandt of
  the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich succeeded in analysing
  it. He found it to be an alcohol with sixteen carbon atoms per molecule

    L. and M. Milne: The Senses of Animals and Men.

 0 Chloë, have you heard it,
  This news I sing to you?
 It's true, my lovely bird, it
  Is absolutely true!
 A biochemist probing
  Has caught without a doubt
 The Queen of Love disrobing
  And found her secret out.

 What drives the Bombyx mori
  To fly, intrepid male,
 Lured by the old, old story
  Six miles against the gale?
 The formula, my Honey,
  Is now in print to prove
 What is, and no baloney,
  The very stuff of love.

 At Munich on the Isar
  Those molecules were found
 Which everyone agrees are
  What makes the world go round;
 What draws the male creation
  To love, my darling doll,
 Turns out, on trituration,
  To be an alcohol.

 A Nobel Laureatus
  Called Adolph Butenandt
 Contrived to isolate us
  This strong intoxicant.
 The boys are celebrating
  And singing at the club:
 Here's Bottoms up! to mating,
  Since Venus keeps a pub!

 My angel, 0, my angel,
  What is it you suffuse,
 What redolent evangel,
  What nosegay of good news?
 What draws me like a dragnet
  And holds and keeps me tight?
 What odds! my fragrant magnet,
  I shall be drunk tonight!
-- A D Hope
The thread of poems on intoxication prompts me to submit a poem  by
Australian poet A.D. Hope (1907-2000) linking intoxication and love. It is
the second in a sextet entitled 'Six Songs for Chloë'. Hope had a thirst
for learning which ranged widely over texts ancient and modern, and which
included contemporary research in science as well as poetry and philosophy.

The poem is from A.D. Hope, New Poems 1965-69, pp. 33-34.

William Grey

Grass -- Carl Sandburg

Guest poem submitted by Philip Schreiner:
(Poem #1747) Grass
 Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
 Shovel them under and let me work --
 I am the grass; I cover all.

 And pile them high at Gettysburg
 And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
 Shovel them under and let me work.
 Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
 What place is this?
 Where are we now?

 I am the grass.
 Let me work.
-- Carl Sandburg
This poem really impressed me when I was young.  One of the few poems I ever
felt compelled to take to memory.  I noticed that you have a good number of
Sandburg poems (relatively speaking) on your website, so maybe this one does
not appeal to everybody [1].

Philip Schreiner.

[1] Or maybe we just never got round to running it :) -- thomas.

The Deluge -- G K Chesterton

Fascinating how a poem about tea kicked off so bibulous a theme!
Speaks volumes about the Minstrels readership, I guess :) Anyway, here's the
next in the series, a guest poem sent in by Flavia :
(Poem #1746) The Deluge
 Though giant rains put out the sun,
 Here stand I for a sign.
 Though earth be filled with waters dark,
 My cup is filled with wine.
 Tell to the trembling priests that here
 Under the deluge rod,
 One nameless, tattered, broken man
 Stood up, and drank to God.

 Sun has been where the rain is now,
 Bees in the heat to hum,
 Haply a humming maiden came,
 Now let the deluge come:
 Brown of aureole, green of garb,
 Straight as a golden rod,
 Drink to the throne of thunder now!
 Drink to the wrath of God.

 High in the wreck I held the cup,
 I clutched my rusty sword,
 I cocked my tattered feather
 To the glory of the Lord.
 Not undone were the heaven and earth,
 This hollow world thrown up,
 Before one man had stood up straight,
 And drained it like a cup.
-- G K Chesterton
There must be thousands and thousands of drinking songs, or songs that have
been used as such (like the Song of Songs, for instance.  Bawdy!), but no
list is *ever* complete without one by Chesterton.  You already have
archived 'the Rolling English Road', but there is also the snarky 'the
Logical Vegetarian'and 'The Song of Right and Wrong' and of course the
delightful 'Wine and Water', which like this is about the Deluge.

Most of them are from the whimsical book 'the Flying Inn', about a dastardly
plan to wipe out every public house in Great Britain(!), and how it was
foiled by a barkeep, a refined poet and a mad Irishman. And the cheese and
the barrel of rum, of course. Yay! Dulce ist decipere in loco!



Wikipedia page:

Several Chesterton works online:
  [broken link]

The Aerial -- Wendy Cope

Guest poem submitted by Kamalika Chowdhury :
(Poem #1745) The Aerial
 The aerial on this radio broke
 A long, long time ago,
 When you were just a name to me -
 Someone I didn't know.

 The man before the man before
 Had not yet set his cap
 The day a clumsy gesture caused
 That slender rod to snap.

 Love came along. Love came along.
 Then you. And now it's ended.
 Tomorrow I shall tidy up
 And get the radio mended.
-- Wendy Cope
Strange that amidst all the hilarity of Cope's verse, little poems like this
get left behind. I have not much to say that the poem doesn't say for
itself, except to express my admiration. Its emotions are everyday-quiet and
deep, modern and somehow feminine, resigned and strong, sad and funny. It
takes life in its stride.


Untitled -- Dorothy Parker

Guest poem sent in by "Sandeep Bhadra"
(Poem #1744) Untitled
 I wish I could drink like a lady
 I can take one or two at the most
 Three and I'm under the table
 Four and I'm under the host
-- Dorothy Parker
If we were going to have a theme about drinks in general, this one certainly
deserves mention. This poem is typical of Dorothy Parker's aesthetic --
crisp lines, to be meant for the dead-pan delivery of the truly blasé with
very little room for emotion or the pretence thereof. She makes no apology
for the love of her drink or for the consequences of binging on it. She
merely states the outcomes with the cold preciseness of a scientist, or, at
the very least, of an urban realist.

Decadent, self-aware and witty, Dorothy Parker's elite Manhattan social
circle included playwright George Kaufman and New Yorker founder Harold
Ross. They held many of their meetings at the Algonquin Hotel in New York,
which now offers a $10,000 martini, presumably in her honor. The Algonquin
also has this ode on all their napkins, in fond memory of their
distinguished patron.


[Martin adds]

Wikiquotes at least lists this as "attributed" to Dorothy Parker - does
anyone know for sure? It definitely sounds like authentic Parker to me.