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Litany -- Billy Collins

(Poem #1095) Litany
            You are the bread and the knife,
            The crystal goblet and the wine...
               -Jacques Crickillon

 You are the bread and the knife,
 the crystal goblet and the wine.
 You are the dew on the morning grass
 and the burning wheel of the sun.
 You are the white apron of the baker,
 and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

 However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
 the plums on the counter,
 or the house of cards.
 And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
 There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

 It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
 maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
 but you are not even close
 to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

 And a quick look in the mirror will show
 that you are neither the boots in the corner
 nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

 It might interest you to know,
 speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
 that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

 I also happen to be the shooting star,
 the evening paper blowing down an alley
 and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

 I am also the moon in the trees
 and the blind woman's tea cup.
 But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
 You are still the bread and the knife.
 You will always be the bread and the knife,
 not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.
-- Billy Collins
It is surprising that I haven't run more poems by Billy Collins - for some
reason, even his being appointed U.S. Poet Laureate didn't really tempt me
into exploring his work. I've been reading a few of his poems recently,
though, and with increasing appreciation, and was planning to run the
haunting "I go back to the house for a book" sometime, when a friend sent me
a link to today's masterpiece.

I was totally blown away by 'Litany' - not just due to its considerable
poetic merits, but because it is so much the kind of poem I'd have loved to
have written myself, a coolly ironic commentary on the nature of Poetry that
at the same time loses none of the sense of wonder and delight that
characterises the medium. Simply beautiful, and a poem I couldn't possibly
add any further commentary to.


Links: is an extensiev site devoted to

And I found today's poem in the wonderful archive:

On the Nature of Love -- Rabindranath Tagore

Guest poem sent in by Sandhya Gopal
(Poem #1094) On the Nature of Love
 The night is black and the forest has no end;
 a million people thread it in a million ways.
 We have trysts to keep in the darkness, but where
 or with whom -- of that we are unaware.
 But we have this faith -- that a lifetime's bliss
 will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
 Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs
 brush us, pass us, give us delightful shocks.
 Then peradventure there's a flash of lightning:
 whomever I see that instant I fall in love with.
 I call that person and cry: 'This life is blest!
 For your sake such miles have I traversed!'
 All those others who came close and moved off
 in the darkness -- I don't know if they exist or not.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
 (From Chaitali (1896), Translated from Bengali by Ketaki Kushari Dyson)

This poem is about the quest for a life partner every individual goes through
in his or her life. The curiosity to know the Indian perspective on love first
induced me to reading this poem. And I must say, till today, this is one of my
favorite poems. What I really like about the poem is that it metaphorically
portrays the reason for living through the eyes of a romantic.

The speaker of the poem is the poet himself. The subject is the physical
search for a life partner or a companion - or, on a deeper level, the search
for a 'soulmate', the main theme being that the choice of a life partner is
predestined. Examining the imagery, we see how Tagore uses the vehicle, a
physical search, to represent the tenor, an emotional search. The search
through a forest represents the search for true love; the lightning
represents destiny, which the poem sees as the final end of the search
("whomever I see that moment, I fall in love with").

The internal structure of the poem is chronological. The lines 1-4 gives the
setting, the lines 5-11 tells us why that setting was chosen and lines 12-14
explain to us the aftermath of the occurrence of the search. The external
choice is free verse, but the poem is in a logical and chronological
sequence.  The choice of free verse is appropriate since the search for true
love is not confined to a set of rules. The logical chronological sequence
of the lines portrays the reasoning sequence of the mind. As time passes and
as our interactions with others increase, our criteria for true love are

In synopsis, the poem says that life is mysterious and that the quest for a
soulmate seems to be never-ending.  The millions of people, living on the
face of the earth, search for their soulmates in a million different ways.
There is interaction between the various travelers along their journey of
life. The meetings take place with the fervent wish that one of them will
lead to a soulmate. The driving force, for pursuing the search, is the
belief that it would bring eternal happiness on its completion.


[Martin adds]

This poem is not quite 'free'; despite the lack of rhymes and metre (which
may, indeed, be an artefact of the translation - has anyone read this in the
original?), it follows the 4-4-4-2 structure of a Shakespearean sonnet. Or
seems to follow it, at any rate - again, I can't tell from a translation.
Either way, as Sandhya has noted, the poem follows a strict logical
progression, building up to a final 'couplet' fully as satisfying as
anything Shakespeare concluded a sonnet with.

[Biographical Note]
  Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
  Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 in Calcutta. He was India's
  greatest modern poet and the most creative genius of the Indian
  Renaissance. Besides poetry, Tagore wrote songs (both the words and the
  melodies), short stories, novels, plays (in both prose and verse), essays
  on a wide range of topics including literary criticism, polemical writing,
  travelogues, memoirs and books for children. Apart from a few books
  containing lectures given abroad and personal letters to friends who did
  not read Bengali, the bulk of his voluminous literary output is in
  Bengali. Gitanjali(1912), Tagore's own transalation of the poetic prose
  from the Bengali Gitanjali (1910) won him the Nobel prize for Literature
  in 1913. Tagore died on 7 August 1941 in the family house in Calcutta
  where he was born.

Variations on the Word "Sleep" -- Margaret Atwood

(Poem #1093) Variations on the Word "Sleep"
 I would like to watch you sleeping,
 which may not happen.
 I would like to watch you,
 sleeping. I would like to sleep
 with you, to enter
 your sleep as its smooth dark wave
 slides over my head

 and walk with you through that lucent
 wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
 with its watery sun & three moons
 towards the cave where you must descend,
 towards your worst fear

 I would like to give you the silver
 branch, the small white flower, the one
 word that will protect you
 from the grief at the center
 of your dream, from the grief
 at the center. I would like to follow
 you up the long stairway
 again & become
 the boat that would row you back
 carefully, a flame
 in two cupped hands
 to where your body lies
 beside me, and you enter
 it as easily as breathing in

 I would like to be the air
 that inhabits you for a moment
 only. I would like to be that unnoticed
 & that necessary.
-- Margaret Atwood
I loved today's poem for the way it drew me in, for the almost palpable
sense that I was accompanying the narrator on her journey into the still
centre of her lover's subconscious. I was strongly reminded of Orpheus, and
his descent into hell to rescue Eurydice (very likely a deliberate
resonance, with the poem's underworld imagery of staircases and boats),
and somewhat, too, of C. L. Moore's "Jirel of Joiry" (nice '30s fantasy

As always, Atwood's imagery is vivid and immersive - astonishingly
immersive, when you consider how nondescriptive it is. The way the little
images - the wavering, lucent forest, the flame in two cupped hands, the
watery sun - weave together into a delicate, fantastic whole is nothing
short of magical.

And then, having drawn us down into the depths and back again, Atwood leaves
with the unexpected and beautiful image in the last verse. It is worth
noting how well the verse works both as a conclusion to the longer poem and
as an almost self-contained poem in its own right. Structurewise, too it
balances the first two lines, providing the 'reality' from which the poem
descends into a dreamscape, and to which it returns, enriched. Note the
change from the semidetached "I would like to watch you sleeping" to the
wholly involved "I would like to be the air that inhabits you".

On a deeper level, the poem is not so much about journey as about rhythm -
the visceral troughs and crests of breathing and sex and dreaming and sleep
cycles, the longer rhythms of relationships and life, and through it all,
the simultaneous suggestion of constancy, the calm still point through which
cycles pass, departing but always returning, unnoticed and necessary.


What Love is Like -- Piet Hein

(Poem #1092) What Love is Like
 Love is like
 a pineapple,
 sweet and
-- Piet Hein
This has got to be one of the nicest analogies I have seen - surprising,
even a little silly, but oh-so-apt, and with an undefinable sweetness of its
own that has me smiling and quoting it to myself at odd intervals. And then
there's the rhyme - it takes a considerable existing reputation to get away
with rhyming "pineapple" with "undefinable", but having gotten away with it,
it only serves to make the poem all the more memorable.

The obvious comparison is with Nash, but despite the superficial similarity,
I don't think today's poem is all that Nashian. True, it's a short poem with
an outrageous rhyme, but unlike a lot of Nash's work, the rhyme isn't really
the point of the grook - it just serves to add impact to the simile.


Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard -- Thomas Gray

I recently had occasion to quote from today's poem, and was rather surprised
to find that we hadn't run it yet (I know we've received several suggestions
that we do so). So, making up for the omission...
(Poem #1091) Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
 The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
 The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea;
 The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
 And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

 Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
 And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
 Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
 And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

 Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
 The moping owl does to the moon complain
 Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
 Molest her ancient solitary reign.

 Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade
 Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
 Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
 The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

 The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
 The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
 The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
 No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

 For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
 Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
 No children run to lisp their sire's return,
 Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

 Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield;
 Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
 How jocund did they drive their team afield!
 How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

 Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
 Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
 Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
 The short and simple annals of the poor.

 The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
 And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
 Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
 The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

 Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
 If memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
 Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
 The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

 Can storied urn or animated bust
 Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
 Can honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
 Or flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?

 Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
 Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
 Hands that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
 Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

 But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
 Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
 Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
 And froze the genial current of the soul.

 Full many a gem of purest ray serene
 The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
 And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

 Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
 The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
 Some mute inglorious Milton, here may rest,
 Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

 Th' applause of listening senates to command,
 The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
 To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
 And read their history in a nation's eyes,

 Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
 Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
 Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
 And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;

 The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
 To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
 Or heap the shrine of luxury and pride
 With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

 Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
 Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
 Along the cool sequestered vale of life
 They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

 Yet ev'n these bones, from insult to protect,
 Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
 With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
 Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

 Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered Muse,
 The place of fame and elegy supply;
 And many a holy text around she strews,
 That teach the rustic moralist to die.

 For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
 This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned,
 Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
 Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

 On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
 Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
 Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
 Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

 For thee, who, mindful of the unhonoured dead,
 Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
 If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
 Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

 Haply some hoary-headed swain may say:
 "Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
 Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
 To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

 "There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech
 That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
 His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
 And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

 "Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
 Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
 Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,
 Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love.

 "One morn I missed him on the accustomed hill,
 Along the heath, and near his favourite tree.
 Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
 Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood, was he.

 "The next with dirges due, in sad array,
 Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,
 Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
 Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."


 Here rests his head upon the lap of earth,
 A youth to fortune and to fame unknown;
 Fair science frowned not on his humble birth,
 And melancholy marked him for her own.

 Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere;
 Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
 He gave to misery (all he had) a tear,
 He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wished) a friend.

 No further seek his merits to disclose,
 Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
 (There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
 The bosom of his Father and his God.
-- Thomas Gray
  glebe: [Archaic] The soil or earth; land
  Hampden: John Hampden (ca. 1595-1643), one of the noblest of English
  Parliamentary statesmen; a central figure of the English revolution in
  its earlier stages.

Today's poem is Gray's most famous, and rightly so - the subject matter may
be weighty, but Gray does it full justice. A good part of the poem's
popularity, I feel, stems from its accessibility. Despite the large number
of sub-themes, the overall structure remains simple, with ideas following
each other in a logical progression, but each distinct theme developed fully
and rounded off before giving way to the next, rendering the whole smoothly
and effortlessly readable.

Gray starts off by building up the gloomy, desolate atmosphere of a country
evening, when all the world has wound its weary way homeward, then, having
painted in the background, turns his attention to the foreground, and the
row of narrow graves in which "the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep". He
then reflects a while on the pastoral life, before introducing the poem's
main theme - the inevitable tragedy of lives wasted, of potential crushed by
Chill Penury, and then winding down with a reflection on a particular grave
and its epitaph.

And while the main thrust of the poem is definitely in the section from
"Perhaps in this neglected spot..." to "they kept the noiseless tenor of
their way", and while those are the lines that tend to be most often quoted,
the rest of the poem is by no means superfluous. Nor has Gray cobbled
together a number of disparate reflections into a single poem - while the
elegy's structure clearly divides it into sections, those sections fit
together naturally and organically, each reflection growing out of the
previous one in a totally unforced manner.

Another thing that marks today's poem as 'great' is the phrases it has
contributed to the language - the "mute, inglorious Milton", the "gem of
purest ray serene", and, thanks to Hardy, "far from the madding crowd". If,
as one commentator suggests, this poem marks Gray's own bid for immortality,
it does an admirable job of it.



  An extensive set of notes on the poem can be found at

  A biography of Gray:

  [broken link] has a
  discussion on the nature of the elegy

  [broken link] has an extended essay on
  the poem

  Bits of the poem remind me of Shirley's "Death the Leveller", Poem #942

  And we've already run a parody of Gray's Elegy: Poem #400

p.s. Please ignore an almost-blank mail you may have received a minute
ago; our script seems to have hiccupped.

Unfortunate Coincidence -- Dorothy Parker

(Poem #1090) Unfortunate Coincidence
 By the time you swear you're his,
   Shivering and sighing,
 And he vows his passion is
   Infinite, undying -
 Lady, make a note of this:
   One of you is lying.
-- Dorothy Parker
What I like about today's poem is not just the drippingly ironic cynicism,
but the wonderful brevity with which Parker conveys it. The first four lines
call to mind every cliched, overly sentimental scene from countless
'romantic' novels and movies, and the matter-of-fact tone of the conclusion
serves not just to sum up Parker's opinions of the sentiment, but the amount of
effort she feels it needs to refute it. Definitely one of her more quotable


By Heart -- John Thomas

Guest poem sent in by Hemant R. Mohapatra
(Poem #1089) By Heart
 The years pass like summer's southern rain,
 And time tends to gray the pain,
 Bury the senses and blur the consequences?
 Of leaving you.

 The pictures hold no memories,
 No tragedies ensue.
 No longer can I taste the pleasure,
 The treasure of loving you.

 Until I caught you in the air,
 A current so pure to assure my love.
 Savor my hesitation,
 Raze my concentration,
 And (for a moment) still my heart.
 Long enough to touch, taste, feel you again,
 And tear my soul apart.

 For I can lose sight of the sound of your pleas,
 And escape the ease of your eyes.
 But I'll never forget the soft scent of your skin,
 And the way that it touched mine.
-- John Thomas
A lot of regular readers of Pablo Neruda would notice the unmistakable touch
of Neruda's style of poetry here. The poem caught my attention primarily
because of that reason, thinking it was another one of Neruda's creation I
had not had the chance to lay my hands on and when I went through it I was
in a good mood to thank my stars for having had the luck to hit upon this
gem of a piece - Neruda or no Neruda.. The amazing subtlety the poet
displays in the lines 'And time tends to gray the pain,//Bury the senses and
blur the consequences?// Of leaving you.' is in stark contrast with the
vehement yet sweet emotion poured forth so honestly at the end with 'But
I'll never forget the soft scent of your skin, And the way that it touched

Ah, Misery! Poems like these almost make me feel that if it takes sadness to
write so divinely, then, so be it. Let there be the sadness of a thousand
dead bodies in the world, but let there be more poems of this genre`.


The Two Friends -- Norman MacCaig

Guest poem sent in by Salima Virani
(Poem #1088) The Two Friends
 The last word this one spoke
 was my name. The last word
 that one spoke
 was my name.

 My two friends
 had never met. But when they said
 that last word
 they spoke to each other.

 I am proud to have given them a language
 of one word. A narrow space
 in which, without knowing it,
 they met each other at last.
-- Norman MacCaig
I love the simplicity of narration in this poem. I also like it because I
can relate to it on a very personal level.  Some of my closest friendships
were made during my time in Bombay and, although each one was special, often
many of my friends had little or no knowledge about each other.

Now, over a decade later, I have lost contact with many of them.  Yet, many
of these people have had their paths cross and my name was mentioned and a
connection was instantly made.  They now share with each other the
friendship that I once shared with them individually.  The talks over
coffee, the walks in the park.. :)

And I feel proud too...that I was instrumental in some way, to bring them
together.  In their own friendship has been kept alive,
nurtured and sustained.



[Bio on MacCaig]

Norman MacCaig (1910-1996) was one of the major Scottish poets of the
twentieth century. He's remembered with great affection not only by the
modern generation of Scottish writers whom he helped to develop, but by
thousands of people who encountered him in school, and for whom he was the
first poet they'd seen who could write in an unpretentious way about
ordinary things and make them astonishing.

Link for more poems by MacCaig:
[broken link]

A Poison Tree -- William Blake

Guest poem sent in by Vivian Eden
(Poem #1087) A Poison Tree
 I was angry with my friend:
 I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
 I was angry with my foe:
 I told it not, my wrath did grow.

 And I water'd it in fears,
 Night & morning with my tears;
 And I sunned it with smiles,
 And with soft deceitful wiles.

 And it grew both day and night,
 Till it bore an apple bright;
 And my foe beheld it shine,
 And he knew that it was mine,

 And into my garden stole
 When the night had veil'd the pole:
 In the morning glad I see
 My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.
-- William Blake
           from "Songs of Experience"

Taking off from the subject of friendship, Blake goes into the nature of
enmity. There is no one like Blake for talking about the darker emotions --
anger, hatred, Schadenfreude. The "apple bright" in the garden brings to
mind the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; Man is crueller
than  the God of Genesis and inflicts death rather than banishment from


The Floor and the Ceiling -- William Jay Smith

Carrying on with our friendship and loss theme, here's a guest poem from
Sally Canzoneri
(Poem #1086) The Floor and the Ceiling
 Winter and summer, whatever the weather,
 The Floor and the Ceiling were happy together
 In a quaint little house on the outskirts of town
 With the Floor looking up and the Ceiling looking down.

 The Floor bought the Ceiling an ostrich-plumed hat,
 And they dined upon drippings of bacon fat,
 Diced artichoke hearts and cottage cheese
 And hundreds of other such delicacies.

 On a screen-in porch in early spring
 They would sit at the player piano and sing.
 When the Floor cried in French, "Ah, je vous adore!"
 The Ceiling replied, "You adorable Floor!"

 The years went by as the years they will,
 And each little thing was fine until
 One evening, enjoying their bacon fat,
 The Floor and the Ceiling had a terrible spat.

 The Ceiling, loftily looking down,
 Said, "You are the lowest Floor in this town!"
 The Floor, looking up with a frightening grin,
 Said, "Keep up your chatter, and you will cave in!"

 So they went off to bed: while the Floor settled down,
 The Ceiling packed up her gay wallflower gown;
 And tiptoeing out past the Chippendale chair
 And the gateleg table, down the stair,

 Took a coat from the hook and hat from the rack,
 And flew out the door -- farewell to the Floor! --
 And flew out the door, and was seen no more,
 And flew out the door, and never came back!

 In a quaint little house on the outskirts of town,
 Now the shutters go bang, and the walls tumble down;
 And the roses in summer run wild through the room,
 But blooming for no one -- then why should they bloom?

 For what is a Floor now that brambles have grown
 Over window and woodwork and chimney of stone?
 For what is a Floor when a Floor stands alone?
 And what is a Ceiling when the Ceiling has flown?
-- William Jay Smith
I like this poem for a lot of reasons, including the mix of whimsy and
seriousness.  I loved the poem as an adolescent, and find that children in
my classes also love it.  There is a lovely way that Smith gets you hooked
on what seems to be a whimsical story and then makes the point about the
carelessly broken friendship with such simple eloquence in the last stanzas.
The "flew out the door" stanza brings the poem to an emotional peak and
captures that almost euphoric "I don't need you! You'll see!" feeling that
people get in arguments.  Then the quiet last stanzas show the cost of that

Sally Canzoneri


  An excellent critical essay on Smith

  The current theme:
    [broken link]

Death of a Friendship -- Harry Guest

Guest poem sent in by Simon Koppel
(Poem #1085) Death of a Friendship
 I mourn, now that your house contains
 such fractured shadows.
 This wine you’ve handed me
 tastes sour. I joke and you do not laugh.
 When you speak, assuming my approval,
 I stare into discoloured
 depths of my glass, longing
 to get away.

 Rain drives against your walls. The few
 shrubs you have planted shrink in the cold.
 Where there was amity, questions
 echo between us. Tufts of dark
 lilac branching from tall vases shed
 minute dry flowers like grief
 for a lost fragrance, leave
 on the smooth piano scattered omens
 neither of us can read.

 The past is empty of romance,
 its summers flecked with heartbreak
 and its negatives destroyed-.
 But weren’t there moments when
 the blue sea glittered, when the lithe
 curve of a diver forged another
 link between wave and cloud?
 I wonder, though, in fear
 were those young grinning faces always
 plague-marred, was the fun a lie,
 were dreams we’ve jettisoned
 mere husks about this dirt,
 dislike? One fiction may
 have replaced another for
 wherever I look with you I find,
 instead of light, a slyness.

 We could not name the truth. What used to brag
 lies in your cupboard under lock and key.
 You care no more
 for angels or the underdog,
 translating all the terms we used
 into intolerance. Your world
 now clusters round
 the emulation of the rich.

 I can’t feel glad about old times
 because I am afraid
 that what I see here I suspected then
 but shunned the knowing.
 The tarnish of this has rubbed off on me.
 The years we shared look counterfeit. If so,
 more than affection died today.
 What hurts perhaps the most
 is that in you as in a mirror shows
 not only what I could have been
 but what I was or am.
-- Harry Guest
The last guest poem, 'Sometimes it Happens', prompts me to send in another
on the way that friendships can end. It's one of the most moving poems I've
ever come across - there's something heartbreaking about the desperation of
"But weren't there moments when the blue sea glittered...?" and the
realisation that perhaps, truthfully, there weren't. I'd like to hope that
in the end it doesn't always have to be like this.


Sometimes it Happens -- Brian Patten

Guest poem sent in by Nandini K. Moorthy
(Poem #1084) Sometimes it Happens
 And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
 You are not friends,
 And friendship has passed.
 And whole days are lost and among them
 A fountain empties itself.

 And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
 You are not loved,
 And love is past.
 And whole days are lost and among them
 A fountain empties itself into the grass.

 And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
 You do not want to speak,
 Then the opportunity has passed.
 Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.

 And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
 There is somewhere to go,
 Then you have bypassed.
 And the years flare up and are gone,
 Quicker than a minute.

 So you have nothing.
 You wonder if these things matter and then
 As soon you begin to wonder if these things matter
 They cease to matter,
 And caring is past.
 And a fountain empties itself into the grass.
-- Brian Patten
Its remarkable the way Patten has wrapped the philosophy of friendship and the
transitions that comes with it in this poem. There seems so much lightness and
rhythm in the flow of lines. So deceptively uncomplicated, yet strikingly
evocative. The capture of conflicting emotions seems plain and detached, yet
echoes the underlying  pain. The constant resonance of "A fountain empties
itself" probably marks the passage of time or feelings itself. The poem
evokes a feeling of vulnerability, a tinge of sadness and above all
Patten at his best.