Tag Archives: poetry

I shall do nothing but look at the sky

Roman Wall Blues

W.H. Auden


Over the heather the wet wind blows,

I’ve lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.


The rain comes pattering out of the sky,

I’m a Wall soldier, I don’t know why.


The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,

My girl’s in Tungria; I sleep alone.


Aulus goes hanging around her place,

I don’t like his manners, I don’t like his face.


Piso’s a Christian, he worships a fish;

There’d be no kissing if he had his wish.


She gave me a ring but I diced it away;

I want my girl and I want my pay.


When I’m a veteran with only one eye

I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

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As Short a Spring

The first of two paintings by William Waterhouse inspired by Herrick’s poem.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was an English poet and vicar. His major work, Hesperides, was published in 1648.


His most famous line is from To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,/ Old Time is still a-flying;/ And this same flower that smiles today/ Tomorrow will be dying.” I’m guessing that sounds familiar.

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Dissembling Nature

I managed to pull my back something awful and even though I probably just look like a tall person with back pain I feel like an Igor or Quasimodo. Or, since I’m having gallery issues and in a vile mood, perhaps like Richard III. (At least, I feel like Terry Jones’ playing Richard III rather than the historical Richard III.) Not as eloquent though…


Act I, scene i


Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;

And now, instead of mounting barded steeds

To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,

He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;

I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

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I mentioned this some time ago when I posted my Fibonacci sequence poem. So, silly but here you go. My second response to an old math/science themed poem challenge, based on an even older promise my calculus teacher made that every calculus student was allowed to go and stomp on Isaac Newton’s grave.

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The spectra of the dead

Since I mentioned the other day about the toxicity of lead white and its importance in painting, a fitting poem by A.E. Stallings, from her book Archaic Smile.

Study in White

A friend, an artist, phoned me up and said,
What shall I do for flesh? And what for bone?
All has some white, and the best white is lead.

But lead gets in the flesh and in the bone,
And if you are a woman, in the child
You bear years hence, and I know, have read

That you may use titanium or zinc,
Not poisonous, but you may be reviled
Because you lack the seriousness bred

For art in men—or how else could you think
Of compromise in this. And I own
I’ve tried them both, but the best white is lead

For making up the colors bold and mild,
Conceiving still lifes, matching tone with tone
To reproduce the spectra of the dead.

And I have stood for hours at the sink
Scrubbing white from hands until they bled.
And still my hands are stained, and still I think—
O flesh and blood—but the best white is lead.

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As is the classic way of the internet, I went looking for one thing and found this poem. It seemed ridiculously appropriate, so I had to share it before going to be to stare at the demonic glow from my own bedside clock.



Alicia Suskin Ostriker 



But it’s really fear you want to talk about

and cannot find the words

so you jeer at yourself


you call yourself a coward

you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,

fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep


buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows

and a quilt, they call them comforters,

which implies that comfort can be bought


and paid for, to help with the fear, the failure

your two walnut chests of drawers snicker, the bookshelves mourn

the art on the walls pities you, the man himself beside you


asleep smelling like mushrooms and moss is a comfort

but never enough, never, the ceiling fixture lightless

velvet drapes hiding the window


traffic noise like a vicious animal

on the loose somewhere out there—

you brag to friends you won’t mind death only dying


what a liar you are—

all the other fears, of rejection, of physical pain,

of losing your mind, of losing your eyes,


they are all part of this!

Pawprints of this! Hair snarls in your comb

this glowing clock the single light in the room

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the cosmos through rose

colored glasses-everything

flees, even starlight

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