Time slowing down, time racing by

April escaped Keep Poems Alive.  Poetry has its own time, like life.  Our time sometimes slowing down, sometimes racing by.  Here are five fine poems to make up for the hold-up. There’s really as much about darkness in them as about time, yet this is the time of year when light comes back, and light is the subject (or the object) of poems about darkness.

Many thanks  to the wonderful, faithful poets, Tony Lewis-Jones,  Judith Taylor, Mavis Gulliver, Rona Fitzgerald and Tuan Hongra

To send poems, email sallyevans35@gmail.com — poems should be previously published at least three years ago – as long ago as you like — to which you hold the copyright.

Keep trees

Tony Lewis-Jones
Out of the Dark

All Winter, she rested up – she could not face
The all-embracing darkness. Then, as the snow cleared,
And rivers were in flood, she ventured out
And back into the World again. But nothing
Was the same – maybe the cold had penetrated
Too far into her this time.
And the Light
She saw so clearly previously, was somewhere else –
Though every so often she could glimpse its power,
From a distance, thru trees, reflecting on water.

First published Writers Café USA 2013


Judith Taylor
The Bower

The story was, the Queen of Scotland
loved this boxwood bower on Inchmahome

– but how much love would you feel, really,
for a gaggle of shrubs on a cold, windswept island
where you were kept waiting
three weeks, at the age of six
to be taken somewhere better?

Somewhere better’s the thing, of course.
We’d like to believe a tenderness for Scotland
– or a portion of it –
hung about the heart of that young girl
at the glittering court of France.

We’d like that
in the face of all the evidence

that to her, Scotland was lumber, nothing more:
her oldest family heirloom,
awkward, dark, and crudely made.
That it wouldn’t have broken her heart
if she had lost it. That she wasn’t glad to find it

all she was left with
when the husband died, and the big prize
slid from her pale, finely-manicured hands.
But kings and queens
had always worked that way: the story was

they loved their people better than anyone else did.
And people who think they’re loved
will wait around through almost anything;
will allow themselves to be traded on,
traded away, like chips in a game.

At any rate, the bower you see
is Victorian, no earlier.

A few old trees could not sustain the onslaught
of Romanticism – all that love
that came on the boat
in the early nineteenth century, needing souvenirs.
Step in, then, to imitation shade,

you lonely visitor.
Rest on the park bench
so thoughtfully provided.
And consider how the love is divided out
between the one who leaves – at least
until there is nowhere better left to go –

and the one who stays, all that time believing
their cheek once felt a kiss.

from Gutter 5, 2011

keep shadow

Mavis Gulliver

His world is literal.
Metaphors a mystery
he cannot comprehend.
Facts flood
from his wrongly wired brain.
Ten thousand books,
each read in an hour,
imprinted on his memory
are placed upside down to show
he has no further need of them.
Zip codes, dates and places
fill his head.
He can tell you the route
to almost anywhere
but cannot go alone
to the end of the street.
He recalls every tune
he ever heard, can pick them out
on the piano with fingers limited
in their flexibility.

Simple tasks elude him.
His father cleans his teeth
buttons his shirt
links his arm as they walk,

He does not know
that the fact he states
is pure poetry.

‘We share the same shadow.’

first published in Purple Patch, no. 119, 2008

Keep Dublin

Rona Fitzgerald
Dark Matter

Swaddled in obsidian layers, hunched, hidden,
wearing his world on his back. He never asks
for anything, searches the bins for waste.  

Sleeping in the air, under soft green bushes in summer
doorways in denuded winter, he spends the day walking
reciting Shakespeare, a fool or a king by turns.  

I once spoke to a woman who slept in the hallway
of the National Library in Dublin. She said the black
helped her to disappear, to care less, to be free.

First published in 2014 in ’Making Waves’ by New Voices Press


Keep flowers

Yuan Hongri
Translated by Yuanbing Zhang
Tomorrow In The City

Open your door
I will write the words of fire
On your snow-white wall
Draw a sun
In a forest of stone
Let blue rivers fly
My hands of the dream
Are a flame
Come from the hometown of the sun
I turned over many mountains of emeralds
On the forehead of time
Engraved my name
I’ll open the sun’s cage
Fly tomorrow’s pigeon
At the square of the sky
Let the colorized feathers
Bathe in the sweet sunshine



Ghosts and fears, Giants and galaxies

The Bronte family grew up on the Yorkshire moors

Angela Readman

My husband’s afraid of the Bronte sisters,
can’t sleep for picturing them, all of six inches tall,
icy hands tiny as snowflakes melting down his sock.

He knows they are biters, small things eat him up.
He can feel shiny nibs on his ankles, scratching
to write their names on his skin; his blood is ink.

Even if they’re not attacking, he hears them at night.
Here, wandering to his belly button to gather feathers
for their quilts, lifting a fallen eyelash to make a wish.

One day, he’s sure, I’ll place our underwear in a glass case,
take the excluder from the door and just let them in.
I’ll join them and he’ll have to look wherever he walks

because I’m so scary small. Just like that, a pen could
unpick his tendons like a stitch. Just like this, he may crush me,
see my bonnet, a bluebell leaving purple on his bare foot.

(published in The Scratching of Pens (ed: angela topping,
like this press 2014)



Merryn Williams

I sense her. She stands behind me but doesn’t know
how the book ends. Look round and she’ll disappear.
Reading over my shoulder, she seems puzzled;
1998? – that’s the wrong year.

Dead of night, and I’m in a room of the town house
she worked in. Her pens are dry, fireplace swept out.
A daddy-long-legs flops on the desk, attracted
by the steady glare of my anglepoise lamp.

And we’ve arrived at a hot Victorian summer,
1883 I think; magnolia shade
in the garden, hansom cabs, evil news from India,
and black-clothed strangers stopping at her gate.

I see you are reading my diaries, and letters
not addressed to you. The house-dog growled
faintly as I came upstairs, but it makes no difference,
locked doors and window-chains will not keep me out.

I too was a writer, and know the subject
is passive, unvarying, and can’t answer.
Whatever insult you throw, I can but take it;
all power is given to the biographer.

But why do you quote dates from the distant future?
And why may I not see the last chapter?

published in Psychopoetica, the poem is about Margaret Oliphant
KPA g alaxies

Hongri Yuan

The Huge Paradise
translations: Yuanbing zhang

The giants of soul flashing
have a pair of invisible wings
Can fly over the Milky Way in a dream
to those mysterious Kingdoms

Bring the words of the gods
Let the stonebe transparent and smile
Let heaven and earth revolve wonderfully
become a huge paradise




The Giant’s Song

Give me a mirror of heaven
let me see my tomorrow
Give me a pair of eyes of the gods
let me see the prehistoric city of giants

Oh , the golden country of legend
The angel garden above the clouds
Your soul bird returns from the outer space
Has carried the giant’s song for you



哦  那传说的黄金之国

KPA fearful 

Gary Beck


Fearful whispers of imagining
follow us down collusive streets
where people strike us
like stilettos,
eager to collect flesh.
Trophies are dear
to blind wanderers
blown through a hurricane world,
who slink in populated corners,
furred against northern nights,
thonged against southern days
and never cry beware
of fearful imaginings.

from the collection Civilised Ways

We Survive amid Chaos

Friends are finding this a tough time of year. Winter stretches on, spring beckons slowly. Illnesses major and minor and political troubles aside, it is slow going for many of us. We all know about fear and  not wanting to face up to what happens next, or of struggling to keep up a situation that by its nature has no permanence.

Gary Beck sets the mood of an ordinary day, actually quite cheery that builds up to a sense of pointlessness or disaster to come. In similar light is our awareness of ageing, as shown with some reality and humour in Merryn Williams’ poem.

Ian Blake gives us a more peaceful older figure in the retired professor, who has protected himself from chaos with his bookish routine appearances at the library.

We can be confused and filled with doubt in midstream, as when Vivien Jones asks What Time is it?   Somewhere, perhaps, there’s a philosophical answer to these unsettling questions of chaos, change and time.

Or sometimes the answer lies in stories, accounts of what has to be or has had to be, and how we overcome these situations. We finish with Sandie Craigie’s story-poem, To Make Ends Meet.

Because surviving is not very comfortable. Somehow we have to win.


Gary Beck

At the Shore

The sky is darkening,
faces in the sunset light
glow red.
The beach is quieting…
A lone kite soars higher than a gull.
Mother and daughter
dig the last sand castle.
A small boat races home,
urgent to beat the menacing dark.
The glowering pink sky
growls with the weight
of old sol going west.
A cool breeze
blows across the boardwalk,
WPA built in 1937.
Joggers and runners
pound the boards,
startling old ladies
with pink hair
and faded lace shawls.
Then evening slides in.
The sky succumbs to sullen red.
Another casual day ebbs away.
Darkness claims the promenade,
and thoughts of drink, dance and growing lust
propel the tourists to smoke-filled bars,
as the night cycle goes on
to some formless destination,
preparing adornments
before the final funeral.

from Civilised Ways


Merryn Williams
Getting Smaller

Light is drawing back from the corners of your room,
revealing less and less, and you hate glasses.
You carry the printed sheet to the window,
hold it at a distance.

You are my contemporary, or nearly,
yet you fumble, while I see clearly.
More than the odd line, or bag under the eye,
these are the signs by which I mark your ageing.

The little sisters who were to have been your bridesmaids,
grown up and with their own husbands.
Our jokes about our old headmistress
(how old now?), the receding line of birthdays.

That much time couldn’t have passed? But it has. I remember
lamps in my grandmother’s house, before our own age reached her.
We grew accustomed to them in the end, avoided
the glare of electricity.

Small, lightless rooms they had in another century;
low, sloping ceilings; tiny windows; daylight
filtered through diamond panes – how many
ruined their sight, reading or sewing by lamplight?

It goes and does not return.
Gradually, sky and sea are drained of colour;
the lumps of amethyst fade, the light
ebbs back. Your room is getting smaller.

Helicon Competition winner


Ian Blake

Twenty years have passsed since he was last
lecturing students. Twenty years retired.
Reverend Professor Emeritus still comes,
though, sadly, now no longer every day,
to push apart the gently creaking doors,
greet the librarian, hang up his shabby coat,
snick latches on his tired attache case
(leather-strapped, initials flaked and worn)
lift out ruled pad, black-ink-filled fountain pen,
remove the yellowing card reserving him
this desk, this book-rest and this shiny chair
which he’s inhabited for fifty years –
illuminate in immaculate miniscule hand
some lost dark corner of his scholarly land.

from Remembering Falstaff and others, diehard 2011


Viven Jones
What time is it?

I’m cooking scones,
twelve minutes in a hot oven,
time enough to hang out the washing,
or wash the dishes, or feed the cat,
or phone my son to say hello.

Seven hundred and  twenty seconds
in twelve minutes,
two thousand million, and counting, in my life,
the scones will change from raw dough
to lightweight delight  – and me?

The seconds have flown over me,
there must have been special ones
when I first heard Beethoven, fell in love,
my two moments of conception.
There should have been a bell.

There is a buzzer.
Hot, sweet smelling air announces
the scones are complete.
Out there in the cosmos,
does it matter that I am not?

from Short of Breath, Cultured Llama 2014


Sandie Craigie
To Make Ends Meet

You sit, demanding
the scullery table
its beer-stained
tear stained
scrubbed clean gleam
Images of a lifetime
reflect its waxed finish
every capsized cigarette
burns deep, the scars of toil
now strewn with paper which
mimics your crumpled brow
Yes….I see you now

A rounded back shows
shoemaker years
slender fingers grip tight
an indecisive biro
just for a minute
parting with pen you
twist nervously at
caustic soda fingers

To me, at this time
you appear older
the mocking sun enhancing
the colour of your hair
Perfect white….blemished
by a yellow streak which
follows the path of  a
nicotine-stained hand
and mapping your face

are many lines, I wonder
how many

I look to your eyes
those eyes that can
belie all, and
twinkle shades of
blue when you tease,
now shine in watercolours
and I want so much
to go to you, but
bite my lip, hold
back the tears,  sensing
time with logic older
than my years
This is your time

So I ‘Hud ma wheesht’
and leave…
try to let you tie these ends
ends that never meet

And even now
on looking back
I wish we hadn’t felt
the need to weep
in separate rooms

from Coogit Bairns (Red Squirrel)

We Stay International

Regardless of attempts to wall us apart, it remains one world for us poets, and here is a poem  from China translated into English in India. Hongri Yuan writes about celestial cities and ideas of creation, somewhere beyond our political worries. Back in medieval Europe, Copernicus battles with, could we call it pre-truth, as Vivien Jones dines with him in Ferrara. Morelle Smith’s Destination Uncertain is about how we hold on, through a night in an unknown airport that may or may not be metaphorical.

If we really can’t get out of the country, or even dont want to right now, then we still have the option of going to Wharfedale, via our poem by Lesley Quayle. Climbing: isn’t that another way of finding freedom, escape and hope?

The next Keep Poems Alive will appear towards the end of February. With the co-operation of poet readers, we are aiming realistically for two posts per month. To Keep your Poems Alive, please email previously published poems to sally evans 35 at  gmal dot com. They should be published at least three years ago, and you must own the copyright. Please state where the poem was previously published.


Hongri Yuan
Translated by Yuanbing zhang

The Giant’s Song

Give me a mirror of heaven
let me see my tomorrow
Give me a pair of eyes of the gods
let me see the prehistoric city of giants

Oh , the golden country of legend
The angel garden above the clouds
Your soul bird returns from the outer space
Has carried the giant’s song for you








哦  那传说的黄金之国





Al Brindisi.jpg

Vivien Jones
Dining with Copernicus
‘Al Brindisi’, Ferrara

Piercing the shadows of narrow alleys,
the dusk sun sneaks a low beam
onto a signboard – Al Brindisi AD 1345 –
yet another ‘oldest tavern in Europe.’

Banquettes, dark wine bottles
behind chicken-wire frames,
a wooden board with cheese
spiralled from mild to ferocious,
the waiters whisper and offer
only expensive wine.

My place mat, made of brown paper,
says that Tasso and Cellini ate here,
so did the student Copernicus,
who, seeing this same sky,
thought up earth-moving heresies.

So do I, walking slowly back,
seeing the full moon through
the open oval above a courtyard,
thinking of the curious Copernicus,
a moment’s dizziness may just
have been the angle of my gaze,
but it felt like the moon sucking.

appeared in About Time Too, Indigo Dreams 2010


Morelle Smith
Destination Uncertain

Destination uncertain,
so your story goes,
like an overnight traveller
in some foreign airport,
both weary and restless,
relaying desperate messages
of hopeful arrival and hopesless delays –
secure in your passage,
unsure, as a stranger.
you test the ground of your feeling
in case it turns to water,
and you wear it around you
to disguise or protect you
to keep out the cold
in this overnight stay
with the loudspeaker messages
of arrival/departure
and a sense of the movement,
the travelling, the journey,
and an eye on the clock
and an eye on the heart
the ticking and beating
the movement, the rhythm –
the blend of eternity
with the shuffling of minutes
like the card-deck you use –
and your sorcerer’s skill is the art
of the will –
and the ace in the heart.

from Deepwater Terminal, diehard, 1998


Lesley Quayle
Starbotton, Yorkshire Dales

Tonight the endless, neon strikes
of bar lights, the heat and pulse of crowds,
drive me from the city to still, poised silence
of fells. Here is blackness, impenetrable,
unfragmented, till the sky gapes, bears down,
delivers a pale and bloodless moon.

A shining rib of limestone creeps upwards
to the lead mines.  I climb halfway,
legs aching, gathered about by cold.
Far below, a long, grey quill of road
stripes the village, cottages hunker down,
withdraw beneath the  wings of hill.
No sounds.

A breeze exhales the fragrance of damp soil,
lets it drift like a rumour, then carries it away.
In the black grass a rabbit’s scoured out skull,
bleached by wind, glows like a small planet,
as if the world had rolled over, juxtaposing
earth and sky.

(First published Pennine Platform, also in Sessions (Indigo Dreams)

Dealing with Winter

Hello poets and poetry folk. Happy New Year (we say this till Burns Night in Scotland and today is the very date). Happy to announce Keep Poems Alive will continue this year but there will only be one or two issues a month unless submissions come quickly and often. I can do the postings weekly, as I did them for a year through August 2015 – 16, but I cannot also spend time soliciting your poems.

If you like Keep Poems Alive, and I know that some of you do, please help by sending, and also informing your poetry friends. You can submit several poems at once which will be spread out over various issues. You can even send me a book published over 3 years ago with the option to reprint from it. Anything, in fact, to keep this feasible. I will post near the beginning of each month and hopefully near the end of each month too. You can email me at sally evans 35 at gmail dot com. Postal address available via email.

Let us ease ourselves back. The Leaping Hare by Neil Leadbeater brings us into the year. Maureen Weldon’s poem is zany, but very sad, so we must face up to the sadness. Then Mavis Gulliver’s poem, set in winter, brings unexpected colours into a seashore sunrise. And – it is way out of copyright so why don’t we finish with a poem by our own Robert Burns.  Let us be brave and have the Address to the Deil.

leaping hare.jpg

Neil Leadbeater
The Leaping Hare

In open country
chances are he’ll be running.
Knowing the sound of every wind-shift
he’ll cradle his life in the rock-a- bye corn sticks
hind legs bunched for the big bolt forward
to spring over runaway ground.
Today, in the photograph
which I have called “Hare Leaping”,
he will take forever to complete one bound.

“The Leaping Hare” was first published in Red Herring (2001) – a magazine that was produced in Northumberland but has long since ceased publication.


Maureen Weldon
Mabel the Chewing Gum Girl

Born 1866, died 1870. Buried, Overleigh Cemetery, Chester.

In a place among the yew trees,
she lies,
always in her ruffle-neck nightie,
always on her head-ducked- dinting pillow.
I was a naughty girl
when I was four;
caught chewing, chewing gum;
ran to my nanny
who chased me round the rocking horse.
I, swallowed it.

Grief. Horror.
She did not remember
their tears.
Nor the four black horses
and top hatted men.
Nor the church bell tolling,
and all saying,
Sad, so sad.
And, What a shame.

Now far, far away
she dances with moonbeams,
and in the dawn,
laughs with the birds.

Published 2001 by ‘Never Bury Poetry’ Magazine. UK
Included in her Pamphlet ‘Earth Tides’, 2002. Published by Poetry
Monthly Press.


Mavis Gulliver

Winter sunrise

The sun, before it rises,
lights the sky.
A watercolour wash
of vibrant shades
suffuses clouds with red
and orange –
dyes the sea
to match.
Bound by the spell
but blinded
by increasing brightness
I turn to the west
where grass and trees
are blushing
and across the surprised sky
pink gulls

are flying.


In Earthlove 2008


Robert Burns
Address to the Deil
O thou! whatever title suit thee,—
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
Wha in yon cavern, grim an’ sootie,
       Clos’d under hatches,
Spairges about the brunstane cootie

       To scaud poor wretches!

Hear me, Auld Hangie, for a wee,
An’ let poor damned bodies be;
I’m sure sma’ pleasure it can gie,
       E’en to a deil,
To skelp an’ scaud poor dogs like me,

       An’ hear us squeel!

Great is thy pow’r, an’ great thy fame;
Far ken’d an’ noted is thy name;
An’ tho’ yon lowin heugh’s thy hame,
       Thou travels far;
An’ faith! thou’s neither lag nor lame,
       Nor blate nor scaur.

Whyles, ranging like a roarin lion,
For prey a’ holes an’ corners tryin;
Whyles, on the strong-wing’d tempest flyin,
       Tirlin’ the kirks;
Whyles, in the human bosom pryin,

       Unseen thou lurks.

I’ve heard my rev’rend graunie say,
In lanely glens ye like to stray;
Or whare auld ruin’d castles gray
       Nod to the moon,
Ye fright the nightly wand’rer’s way

       Wi’ eldritch croon.

When twilight did my graunie summon
To say her pray’rs, douce honest woman!
Aft yont the dike she’s heard you bummin,
       Wi’ eerie drone;
Or, rustlin thro’ the boortrees comin,

       Wi’ heavy groan.

Ae dreary, windy, winter night,
The stars shot down wi’ sklentin light,
Wi’ you mysel I gat a fright,
       Ayont the lough;
Ye like a rash-buss stood in sight,

       Wi’ waving sough.

The cudgel in my nieve did shake,
Each bristl’d hair stood like a stake,
When wi’ an eldritch, stoor “Quaick, quaick,”
       Amang the springs,
Awa ye squatter’d like a drake,

       On whistling wings.

Let warlocks grim an’ wither’d hags
Tell how wi’ you on ragweed nags
They skim the muirs an’ dizzy crags
       Wi’ wicked speed;
And in kirk-yards renew their leagues,

       Owre howket dead.

Thence, countra wives wi’ toil an’ pain
May plunge an’ plunge the kirn in vain;
For oh! the yellow treasure’s taen
       By witchin skill;
An’ dawtet, twal-pint hawkie’s gaen

       As yell’s the bill.

Thence, mystic knots mak great abuse,
On young guidmen, fond, keen, an’ croose;
When the best wark-lume i’ the house,
       By cantraip wit,
Is instant made no worth a louse,

       Just at the bit.

When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,
An’ float the jinglin icy-boord,
Then water-kelpies haunt the foord
       By your direction,
An’ nighted trav’lers are allur’d

       To their destruction.

And aft your moss-traversing spunkies
Decoy the wight that late an drunk is:
The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkeys
       Delude his eyes,
Till in some miry slough he sunk is,

       Ne’er mair to rise.

When Masons’ mystic word an grip
In storms an’ tempests raise you up,
Some cock or cat your rage maun stop,
       Or, strange to tell!
The youngest brither ye wad whip

       Aff straught to hell!

Lang syne, in Eden’d bonie yard,
When youthfu’ lovers first were pair’d,
An all the soul of love they shar’d,
       The raptur’d hour,
Sweet on the fragrant flow’ry swaird,

       In shady bow’r;

Then you, ye auld snick-drawin dog!
Ye cam to Paradise incog,
And play’d on man a cursed brogue,
       (Black be your fa’!)
An gied the infant warld a shog,

       Maist ruin’d a’.

D’ye mind that day, when in a bizz,
Wi’ reeket duds an reestet gizz,
Ye did present your smoutie phiz
       Mang better folk,
An’ sklented on the man of Uz

       Your spitefu’ joke?

An’ how ye gat him i’ your thrall,
An’ brak him out o’ house and hal’,
While scabs and blotches did him gall,
       Wi’ bitter claw,
An’ lows’d his ill-tongued, wicked scaul,

       Was warst ava?

But a’ your doings to rehearse,
Your wily snares an’ fechtin fierce,
Sin’ that day Michael did you pierce,
       Down to this time,
Wad ding a Lallan tongue, or Erse,

       In prose or rhyme.

An’ now, Auld Cloots, I ken ye’re thinkin,
A certain Bardie’s rantin, drinkin,
Some luckless hour will send him linkin,
       To your black pit;
But faith! he’ll turn a corner jinkin,

       An’ cheat you yet.

But fare you weel, Auld Nickie-ben!
O wad ye tak a thought an’ men’!
Ye aiblins might—I dinna ken—
       Still hae a stake:
I’m wae to think upo’ yon den,

       Ev’n for your sake!

1784 I think

From a Distant Heaven above China

An intermediate posting before KPAI resumes properly in January.

These poems by Yuan Hongri are translated by Manu Mangattu, at the department of English, Aruvithura, India. We welcome these poems from two parts of the world not directly involved in our recent political upheavals in the West.


A reminder of our ongoing Robert Tannahill Poetry Competition, for poems in the English language and in Scots — the two languages in which Tannahill wrote. Your entries are invited. The competition is currently open, it can be entered internationally by internet and the closing date is 7 January. http://readrawltd.co.uk/tannahillpp.html


Here’s something else we’re promoting at the moment: A poem by the judge of the Tannahill Poetry Prize, Sally Evans, Anderson’s Piano has been lucky to stay in the kindle bestseller lists since the start of this month, so the least we can do for the publisher is remind you of it: http://amzn.to/2g6bAHD



Three Poems by Yuan Hongri
translations by  Manu Mangattu

Outside the Universe of Sapphire

Don’t you think the key is sweet
If it condenses into a diamond in solitude
And its song unlocks the portals to unseen gold?
You have discovered a new paradise!
Have the eyes of the juvenile once again
You have boarded the platinum ship
And the giants welcome you.
Set off! Outside the universe of sapphire
Explore the Kingdom of the Souls!!










出发吧  在蓝宝石的宇宙之外



Sweet Interstellar Above

The Time has come to blossom and flourish
In my garden the stars will gather
Each star is a singer
From a mysterious country.

The giant from the City of Platinum
Shall bring a bunch of stone-necklace
This then is a song of the soul
On the stylish sweet interstellar above.
















Distant Heaven

Often I have a foretaste of the future city of the giant.
The young giants in platinum Villa
The young giants in and out of the great mansion in platinu
And I’m one of them
In the body the sacred flame burns
On the head flickers the signs of zodiac
And the Diamond eyes glimpse the distant kingdom of heaven!






那年轻的巨人们 进出于白金巨厦







The Minstrel Part Two

We are still on sabbatical here, but to include a post for October I am continuing to Part Two  of James Beattie’s The Minstrel– see post in September for the first part. And  I start with the latter end of the poem, this most unusual ending of a long poem, an elegy. The rest of the section will be added later, to provide a copiable internet copy of Part Two, which I have not been able to find.

KPAI will resume in January and poems may now be sent to  this email, titling your emails KPAI or Keep Poems Alive. It is not too early to start sending. sally evans 35 at gmail dot com.

Do not forget to enter our Robert Tannahill Poetry Prize competition, which is the reason we held over Keep Poems Alive, to give time for reading the entries without confusing them with KPA submissions. This is an international competition that can be entered from anywhere via the internet — substantial prizes for poems in the English or Scots languages, the languages Tannahill used.  Robert Tannahill Poetry Prize

James Beattie The Minstel Part Two


Of late, with cumbersome though pompous show,
Edwin would oft his flowery rhyme deface,
Through ardour to adorn, but nature now
To his experienced eye a modest grace
Present, where Ornament the second place
Holds, to intrinsic worth and just design
Subservient still. Simplicity apace
Tempers his rage: he owns her charm divine,
And clears th’ambigous phrase, and lops th’unwieldy line.

Fain would Ising (much yet unsung remains)
What sweet delirium oer his bosom stole,
When the great shepherd of the Mantuan plains
Fain would I sing, what transport stormed his soul,
How the red current throbbed his veins along
When like Pelides, bold beyond control,
Without art graceful, without effort strong,
Homer r aised high to heaven the loud, th’impetuous song.

Adieu, ye lays, that fancy’s flowers adorn,
The soft amusement of the vacant mind!
He sleeps in dust, and all the Muses mourn,
He, whom each virtue fired, each grace refined,
Friend, teacher, pattern, darlingof Mankind!*
Her sleeps indust. Ah, how shall I pursue
My theme! To heart-consuming grief resigned,
Here on his recent grave I fix my view,
And po ur my butter tears. Ye flowery lays, adieu.

And thou my Gregory, forever fled!
And I am left to unavailing woe!
When fortune’s storms assail this weary head,
Where cares long since have shed untimely snow,
Ah, now for comfort whither shall I go?
No more thy soothing voice my anguish cheers:
Thy placid eyes with smiles no longer glow,
My hopes to cherish and allay my fears.
Tis meet that I should mourn: flow forth afresh my tears.

The Minstrel – To last you a while

Keep Poems Alive is taking a holiday. This will be its last update until January 2017. I will leave you with a longish poem by James Beattie, a Scots writer 1735-1803 (so a rough contemporary of the Paisley poets featured here a few weeks back).  He is not very well known, especially outside Scotland. Like his contemporary William Drummond he was writing in the classical or Latinate English manner often called ‘flowery’, whereas politically the need was for writing in Scots. That is the reason for his obscurity. None the less he was a fine poet and this longer poem ending in an elegy is one of his finest pieces. Another substantial poem by him has recently been discovered in Sir Walter Scott’s library at Abbotsford House but it has not yet been published.

One reason for my taking a break is that I will be judging the Robert Tannahill Poetry Prize from now until January and I need to give myself time for this. Indeed you may add to my pleasant labours by sending in poems in English or Scots — it can be done by email from all round the  world — see the links — or by post (UK).
and send them to the competition address on its own email. The poems are sent on to me without the names of the authors. The closing date is 7 January.

During the rest of this year, too, you may email me poems for Keep Poems Alive, poems previously published at least three years ago and to which you hold the copyright,  along with your own images if you wish. Send to sallyevans 35 at gmail dot com. It will be useful to have a back list of poems I can use when I start again in January. Indeed if there is no interest there will be no restart. But it is a nice thing to see your poems up on an internet site being read again, and perhaps  for the first time internationally. Any enquiries to me at the same email address. Au revoir !


James Beattie
The Minstrel

Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb
The steep where Fame’s proud temple shines afar!
Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime
Hath felt the influence of malignant star,
And wag’d with Fortune an eternal war!
Check’d by the scoff of Pride, by Envy’s frown,
And Poverty’s unconquerable bar,
In life’s low vale remote hath pin’d alone
Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown!

And yet, the languor of inglorious days
Not equally oppressive is to all.
Him, who ne’er listen’d to the voice of praise,
The silence of neglect can ne’er appal.
There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition’s call,
Would shrink to hear th’ obstreperous trump of Fame;
Supremely blest, if to their portion fall
Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim
Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines proclaim.

This sapient age disclaims all classic lore;
Else I should here in cunning phrase display,
How forth The Minstrel far’d in days of yore,
Right glad of heart, though homely in array;
His waving locks and beard all hoary grey:
And, from his bending shoulder, decent hung
His harp, the sole companion of his way,
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung:
And ever as he went some merry lay he sung.

Fret not yourselves, ye silken sons of pride,
That a poor Wanderer should inspire my strain.
The Muses Fortune’s fickle smile deride,
Nor ever bow the knee in Mammon’s fane;
For their delights are with the village-train,
Whom Nature’s laws engage, and Nature’s charms:
They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain;
The parasite their influence never warms,
Nor him whose sordid soul the love of wealth alarms.

Though richest hues the peacock’s plumes adorn,
Yet horror screams from his discordant throat.
Rise, sons of harmony, and hail the morn,
While warbling larks on russet pinions float;
Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote,
Where the grey linnets carol from the hill.
O let them ne’er with artificial note,
To please a tyrant, strain the little bill,
But sing what Heaven inspires, and wander where they will.

Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature’s hand;
Nor was perfection made for man below.
Yet all her schemes with nicest art are plann’d,
Good counteracting ill, and gladness woe.
With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow,
If bleak and barren Scotia’s hills arise;
There plague and poison, lust and rapine grow;
Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies,
And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes.

Then grieve not, thou to whom th’ indulgent Muse
Vouchsafes a portion of celestial fire;
Nor blame the partial Fates, if they refuse
Th’ imperial banquet, and the rich attire.
Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre.
Wilt thou debase the heart which God refin’d?
No; let thy heaven-taught soul to heaven aspire,
To fancy, freedom, harmony, resign’d;
Ambition’s groveling crew for ever left behind.

Canst thou forego the pure ethereal soul,
In each fine sense so exquisitely keen,
On the dull couch of Luxury to loll,
Stung with disease and stupified with spleen;
Fain to implore the aid of Flattery’s screen,
Even from thyself thy loathsome heart to hide
(The mansion then no more of joys serene)
Where fear, distrust, malevolence, abide,
And impotent desire, and disappointed pride?

O how canst thou renounce the boundless store
Of charms which Nature to her votary yields!
The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields;
All that the genial ray of morning gilds,
And all that echoes to the song of even,
All that the mountain’s sheltering bosom shields,
And all that dread magnificence of heaven,
O how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven!

These charms shall work thy soul’s eternal health,
And love, and gentleness, and joy, impart.
But these thou must renounce, if lust or wealth
E’er win its way to thy corrupted heart;
For, ah! it poisons like a scorpion’s dart,
Prompting th’ ungenerous wish, the selfish scheme,
The stern resolve, unmoved by pity a smart,
The troublous day, and long distressful dream –
Return my roving Muse, resume thy purposed theme.

There lived in Gothic days, as legends tell,
A shepherd-swain, a man of low degree;
Whose sires, perchance, in Fairyland might dwell,
Sicilian groves, or vales of Arcady;
But he, I ween, was of the north country:
A nation famed for song, and beauty’s charms;
Zealous, yet modest; innocent, though free;
Patient of toil; serene amidst alarms;
Inflexible in faith; invincible in arms.

The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made,
On Scotia’s mountains fed his little flock;
The sickle, sithe, or plough, he never sway’d:
An honest heart was almost all his stock;
His drink the living water from the rock:
The milky dams supplied his board, and lent
Their kindly fleece to baffle winter’s shock:
And he, though oft with dust and sweat besprent,
Did guide and guard their wanderings, wheresoe’er they went.

From labour health, from health contentment springs,
Contentment opes the source of every joy.
He envied not, he never thought of kings;
Nor form those appetites sustain’d annoy,
That chance may frustrate, or indulgence cloy:
Nor fate his calm and humble hopes beguiled;
He morn’d no recreant friend, nor mistress coy,
For on his vows the blameless Phoebe smiled,
And her alone he loved, and loved her from a child.

No jealousy their dawn of love o’ercast,
Nor blasted were their wedded days with strife;
Each season look’d delightful, as it pass’d,
To the fond husband, and the faithful wife.
Beyond the lowly vale of shepherd life
They never roam’d; secure beneath the storm
Which in ambition’s lofty land is rife,
Where peace and love are canker’d by the worm
Of pride, each bud of joy industrious to deform.

The wight, whose tales these artless lines unfold,
Was all the offspring of this humble pair.
His birth no oracle or seer foretold:
No prodigy appear’d in death or air,
Nor aught that might a strange event declare.
You guess each circumstance of Edwin’s birth;
The parent’s transport, and the parent’s care;
The gossip’s prayer for wealth, and wit, and worth:
And one long summer-day of indolence and mirth.

And yet poor Edwin was no vulgar boy;
Deep thought oft seem’d to fix his infant eye.
Dainties he heeded not, nor gaude, nor toy,
Save one short pipe of rudest minstrelsy.
Silent when glad; affectionate, though shy;
And now his look was most demurely sad,
And now he laugh’d aloud, yet none knew why.
The neighbours stared and sigh’d, yet bless’d the lad;
Some deem’d him wonderous wise, and some believed him mad.

But why should I his childish feats display?
Concourse, and noise, and toil, he ever fled;
Nor cared to mingle in the clamorous fray
Of squabbling imps, but to the forest sped,
Or roam’d at large the lonely mountain’s head;
Or, where the maze of some bewilder’d stream
To deep untrodden groves his footsteps led,
There would he wander wild, ’till Phoebus’ beam,
Shot from the western cliff, released the weary team.

Th’ exploit of strength, dexterity, or speed,
To him nor vanity nor joy could bring.
His heart, from cruel sport estranged, would bleed
To work the wo of any living thing,
By trap, or net; by arrow, or by sling;
These he detested, those he scorn’d to wield:
He wish’d to be the guardian, not the king.
Tyrant far less, or traitor of the field.
And sure the sylvan reign unbloody joy might yield.

Lo! where the stripling, wrapp’d in wonder, roves
Beneath the precipice o’er hung with pine;
And sees, on high, amidst th’ encircling groves,
From cliff to cliff the foaming torrents shine:
While waters, woods, and winds, in concert join,
And Echo swells the chorus to the skies.
Would Edwin this majestic scene resign
For aught the huntsman’s puny craft supplies?
Ah! no: he better knows great Nature’s charms to prize.

And oft he traced the uplands, to survey,
When o’er the sky advanced the kindling dawn,
The crimson cloud, blue main, and mountain gray,
And lake, dim gleaming on the smoky lawn;
Far to the west the long, long vale withdrawn,
Where twilight loves to linger for a while;
And now he faintly kens the bounding fawn,
And villager abroad at early toil. –
But, lo! the sun appears! and heaven, earth, ocean, smile.

And oft the craggy cliff he loved to climb,
When all in mist the world below was lost.
What dreadful pleasure! there to stand sublime,
Like shipwreck’d mariners on desert coast,
And view th’ enormous waste of vapour, toss’d
In billows, lengthening to th’ horizon round
Now scoop’d in gulphs, with mountains now emboss’d!
And hear the voice of mirth and song rebound,
Flocks, herds, and waterfalls, along the hoar profound.

In truth he was a strange and wayward wight,
Fond of each gentle, and each dreadful scene.
In darkness, and in storm, he found delight:
Nor less, than when on ocean wave serene
The southern sun diffused his dazzling sheen.
Even sad vicissitude amused his soul:
And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,
And down his cheek a tear of pity roll,
A sigh, a tear, so sweet, he wish’d not to control.

‘O ye wild groves, O where is now your bloom!’
(The Muse interprets thus his tender thought).
‘Your flowers, your verdure, and your balmy gloom,
Of late so grateful in the hour of drought!
Why do the birds, that song and rapture brought
To all your bowers, their mansions now forsake?
Ah! why has fickle chance this ruin wrought?
For now the storm howls mournful thro’ the brake,
And the dead foliage flies in many a shapeless flake.

‘Where now the rill, melodious, pure, and cool,
And meads, with Life, and mirth, and beauty crown’d!
Ah! see, th’ unsightly slime, and sluggish pool,
Have all the solitary vale imbrown’d;
Fled each fair form, and mute each melting sound,
The raven croaks forlorn on naked spray:
And, hark! the river, bursting every mound,
Down the vale thunders; and, with wasteful sway,
Uproots the grove, and rolls the shatter’d rocks away.

‘Yet such the destiny of all on earth;
So flourishes and fades majestic man.
Fair is the bud his vernal morn brings forth,
And fostering gales a while the nursling fan.
O smile, ye heavens, serene; ye mildews wan,
Ye blighting whirlwinds, spare his balmy prime,
Nor lessen of his life the little span.
Borne on the swift, though silent, wings of Time,
Old age comes on apace to ravage all the clime.

‘And be it so. Let those deplore their doom,
Whose hope still grovels in the dark sojourn.
But lofty souls, who look beyond the tomb,
Can smile at Fate, and wonder how they mourn.
Shall spring to these sad scenes no more return?
Is yonder wave the sun’s eternal bed? –
Soon shall the orient with new lustre burn,
And spring shall soon her vital influence shed,
Again attune the grove, again adorn the mead.

‘Shall I be left abandon’d in the dust,
When Fate, relenting, let’s the flower revive?
Shall Nature’s voice, to man alone unjust,
Bid him, though doom’d to perish, hope to live?
Is it for this fair virtue oft must strive
With disappointment, penury, and pain?
No: Heaven’s immortal spring shall yet arrive;
And man’s majestic beauty bloom again,
Bright through th’ eternal year of Love’s triumphant reign.’

This truth, sublime his simple sire had taught,
In sooth, ’twas almost all the shepherd knew.
No subtle nor superfluous lore he sought,
Nor ever wish’d his Edwin to pursue.
‘Let man’s own sphere (quoth he) confine his view,
Be man’s peculiar work his sole delight.’
And much, and oft, he warn’d him to eschew
Falsehood and guile, and aye maintain the right,
By pleasure unseduced, unawed by lawless might.

‘And, from the prayer of Want, and plaint of Wo,
O never, never turn away thine ear.
Forlorn in this bleak wilderness below,
Ah! what were man, should heaven refuse to hear!
To others do (the law is not severe)
What to thyself thou wishest to be done.
Forgive thy foes; and love thy parent’s dear,
And friends, and native land; nor those alone;
All human weal and wo learn thou to make thine own.’

See in the rear of the warm sunny shower,
The visionary boy from shelter fly!
For now the storm of summer-rain is o’er,
And cool, and fresh, and fragrant, is the sky!
And, lo! in the dark east, expanded high,
The rainbow brightens to the setting sun:
Fond fool, that deem’st the streaming glory nigh,
How vain the chase thine ardour has begun!
‘Tis fled afar, ere half thy purposed race be run.

Yet couldst thou learn, that thus it fares with age,
When pleasure, wealth, or power, the bosom warm,
This baffled hope might tame thy manhood’s rage,
And disappointment of her sting disarm. –
But why should foresight thy fond heart alarm?
Perish the lore that deadens young desire!
Pursue, poor imp, th’ imaginary charm,
Indulge gay Hope, and Fancy’s pleasing fire:
Fancy and Hope too soon shall of themselves expire.

When the long-sounding curfew from afar
Loaded with loud lament the lonely gale,
Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star,
Lingering and listening wander’d down the vale.
There would he dream of graves, and corses pale;
And ghosts, that to the charnel-dungeon throng,
And drag a length of clanking chain, and wail,
Till silenced by the owl’s terrific song,
Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering aisles along.

Or when the setting moon, in crimon died,
Hung o’er the dark and melancholy deep,
To haunted stream, remote from man he hied,
Where Fays of yore their revels wont to keep;
And there let Fancy roam at large, till sleep
A vision brought to his entraced sight.
And first, a wildly-murmuring wind ‘gan creep
Shrill to his ringing ear; then tapers bright,
With instantaneous gleam, illumed the vault of Night.

Anon in view a portal’s blazon’d arch
Arose; the trumpet bids the valves unfold;
And forth a host of little warriors march,
Grasping the diamond lance, and targe of gold.
Their look was gentle, their demeanour bold,
And green their healms, and green their silk attire.
And here and there, right venerably old,
The long-robed minstrels wake the warbling wire,
And some with mellow breath the martial pipe inspire.

With merriment, and song, and timbrels clear,
A troop of dames from myrtle bowers advance:
The little warriors doff the targe and spear,
And loud enlivening strains provoke the dance.
They meet, they dart away, they wheek askance
To right, to left, they thrid the flying maze;
Now bound aloft with vigorous spring, then glance
Rapid along: with many-colour’d rays
Of tapers, gems, and gold, and echoing forests blaze.

The dream is fled. Proud harbinger of day,
Who scar’dst the vision with thy clarion shrill,
Fell chanticleer! who oft has reft away
My fancied good, and brought substantial ill!
O to thy cursed scream, discordant still,
Let Harmony aye shut her gentle ear:
Thy boastful mirth let jealous rivals spill,
Insult thy crest, and glossy pinions tear,
And ever in thy dream the ruthless fox appear!

Forbear, my Muse. Let Love attune thy line.
Revoke the spell. Thine Edwin frets not so.
For how should he at wicked chance repine,
Who feels from every change amusement flow?
Even now his eyes with smiles of rapture glow,
As on he wanders through the scenes of morn,
Where the fresh flowers in living lustre blow,
Where thousand pearls the dewy lawns adorn,
A thousand notes of joy in every breeze are borne.

But who the melodies of morn can tell?
The wild brook babbling down the mountain-side;
The lowing herd; the sheepfold’s simple bell;
The pipe of early shepherd dim descried
In the lone valley; echoing far and wide
The clamorous horn along the cliffs above;
The hollow murmur of the ocean-tide;
The hum of bees, and linnet’s lay of love,
And the full choir that wakes the universal grove.

The cottage-curs at early pilgrim bark;
Crown’d with her pail the tripping milkmaid sings;
The whistling plowman stalks afield; and, hark!
Down the rough slope the ponderous waggon rings;
Through rustling corn the hare astonish’d springs;
Slow tolls the village-clock the drowsy hour;
The partridge bursts away on whirring wings;

O Nature, how in every charm supreme!
Whose votaries feast on raptures ever new!
O for the voice and fire of seraphim,
To sing thy glories with devotion due!
Blest be the day I scap’d the wrangling crew,
From Pyrrho’s maze, and Epicurus’ sty;
And held high converse with the godlike few,
Who to th’ enraptur’d heart, and ear, and eye,
Teach beauty, virtue, truth, and love, and melody.

Deep mourns the turtle in sequester’d bower,
And shrill lark carols clear from her aereal tower.

Transcription in progress

The image is not a copy of The Minstrel, but a decorated poetry book of similar date and style – from an 1835 set of Milton,  in fact

Transcription In Progress.
There are 60 stanzas in Book One and 63 stanzas in Book 2, which ends in such an unusual way with the mourning and elegy. I’m going to type them in because they are not easy to find on the internet outside pay/membership sites. But it may take me a week or so gradually.
And it is a poem I would like to help keep alive. Come back for more


A Cellophane love-heart

I wasn’t certain we hadnt already featured this poem by Robert Klein Engler. I realised there isnt an index on this site and I had a long trawl to make sure. I felt sure we had another poem that mimicked the style of an exam paper.  Mimicry is something of our time.

Fran Baillie’s poem mimics the sonnet form which it uses, to some extent. It is also a response to another poet: a joust with the master, and an expression of a feminist standpoint.

So that’s two high-spirited poems, really, about love, which is not such a fashionable word, although the world would not survive without its reality. The third poem gives us a jolt. It is more what we are accustomed to, via the  media, and in this poem if the people cannot express any sympathy, the elements do  –  in the poet’s imagination.

This all seems a bit heavy – even the lady’s reply to Donne carries a serious rebuke under the jest –  so I’m starting with a poem in a lighter vein by Sheena Blackhall, who always knows how to balance light and dark. A Handbag, Darkly, was the title of a Fringe play of some years past, written by a member of my family. And Sheena’s version of the handbag is full of interesting, but not necessarily very nice things.

The weeks go by and we’re short of submissions again.  You can call them contributions, because most are used.  Kindly send to sallyevans 35 at gmail dot com – they have to be previously published.


Sheena Blackhall
In a Handbag, Darkly

A very plebeian vole with no credentials
A trainer from a phone booth
A cellophane love-heart
Three  grapes from a Delft dinnerplate
A right old Pussy Riot
A farewell  gesture
A rusting precentor
Three guffawing toads
A phalanx of chewing gums
An extinct harmonica
A freudian chinese urn
An ancestral larynx
A nest of tongues
A very excited avocado
A Byzantine penis
A processional of bedbugs
A clarinettist’s jockstrap
A mother-of-pearl urinal
Five Confucian slippers
A buzzard’s rhapsody
A republican seagull
Death, dressed as a cucumber
A necklace of wasp stings
The scent of a plastic daisy
A dried turd on a horseshoe
The sound of two hens clucking
A horizon of hyenas hyperventilating
The tattoo from a barmaid’s breast
A rag-mat in progress
Three hairs from a spiritual cat
A counterfeit catkin

Published by Lochlands, Maud, Aberdeenshire, 2012


Fran Baillie
An Epistolary Sonnet:
The Lady Replies to John Donne’s Elegy 19

Dear John, I must decline what you suggest,
I’m not a fertile country to explore.
Though you persist in knocking at my door
and think that I will yield to your behest,
this lady’s not for shafting like the rest.
Your catholic taste in every kind of whore
is legendary, and good sir, what’s more,
you really need to give that tongue a rest.
I won’t be safeliest with one man manned,
your roving hands aren’t licensed, they can’t go;

my hairy diadem, you understand
is mine and I dictate when it’s on show.
To enter in these bonds is to be free,
methinks you jest, old man! You’re kidding me!

Previously published in Northwords Now



Robert Klein Engler
Final Exam

Essay Question:
Compare the touch of a lover’s hand on your shoulder to a red leaf falling on
the grass. Are the weight of these gestures enough to break a heart? Make
sure your answer includes a note of frost.
Multiple Choice:
a. To live without your lover is a waste of the body.
b. To live with one you don’t love is a waste of the spirit.
c. The body and the spirit are like the moon above a black lake.
d. All of the above.
True or False:
Nothing is whole that has not first been broken.
Fill in the Blank:
I had a drink with a man I knew in college years ago. He confessed he slept
with the one I could never have. That night I dreamed I had a sore on my
thigh. I squeezed it, and gold puss oozed out.
Extra Credit:
Find the Metaphor-



Gabriel Griffin
Lament for an illegal immigrant   
No moon, but fishermen
are used to that and the sea’s chanting,
the descant of the nets. The decks silvered
with sea verses, the minims 
and trebles of fish hushed
into songbooks of ice.
Something didn’t sing, humped
in the net, thudding onto the deck.
Its ears heard no notes, its eyes
were blind to the men standing there,
its throat choked with words
that no-one would hear.
They let the sly octopus
sidle to the ship’s side, forgot to stop
the herrings’ arch and leap.
The sea moaned, the fish
slipped out of tune, the kittiwakes
hurled screeches like broken strings.
The men unfroze, thumped
what didn’t sing, what was lost for words,
over the hissing deck. Tipped what had
no hope, had never had a hope,
back to the sea. No word spoken, no
hymn, no prayer.
But the wrack in the nets wept. The sea
beat its fists on the boat. And the wind got up

and howled till dawn.


previously published, Poetry on the Lake

When the Going’s Tough

Sometimes the going seems to be tough, sometimes it is really tough. We watch creatures battling it out with nature, as we see in Margaret Gillies Brown’s poem, or we struggle with our memories and history as in Sandie Craigie’s poem Mother. Sometimes we lead ourselves a dance. Or things happen to us that don’t seem compatible with poetry, awkward events, regrettable outcomes, and the pure chaos of survival.

Most poets try to winnow subjects of sensibility, but sometimes as with Gary Beck’s sequence Hudson River, a larger field is approached, bringing more questions of assimilation and control – where do you start and stop such poems? What is the difference between history and poetry? I will leave you with this to read anyway. Oh yes and sorry, we had a weekend off because of other poetry activity and we all have deadlines to juggle.

Please remember to send us some previously published poems for this ongoing project, email them to sallyevans35@gmail dot com

I would also welcome proposals from poets to run a guest column on this site, collating previously published poems from your contacts, with their permission,  and commenting on them.


Margaret Gillies Brown
Lark  Singing in a Storm

Hard to sing a love song in a storm
When snow-cold gales blow over white Craigowl,
Last week was pleasant sundrift, bright and warm
But now the sting-sleet rain pelts on the soul
Yet far above me in the lift and throbbing high
A lark sings from a waste of murky sky.

His eggs drowned out, his nest all washed and cold
He knows the pattern, he will start again,
And uncomplaing will remake the mould
Oblivious to anguished loss or pain,
Though mate still shivering on the splashy ground
His hopeful song is yet a happy sound.

These water-fields will have to be re-sown
The grain that is un-chitted now will rot,
An instant loch  – as small waves rise I groan
Yet sing within at austere beauty caught
And here I face the paradox again
The tug between deep happiness and pain.

Perhaps, then, it is not all unique
That when disaster strikes, still bliss can rise
The weather in the heart and head is freak
Nests drown, crops rot, too early blossom dies
But if the copious heart is filled with spring,
In spite of hardship some can always sing

First published in Of Rowan and Pearl, 2008


Sandie Craigie

I look for her
in the faces of other women
in the queues of eyes
in the romantics

The last time I saw her
she was in a hospital bed
they told me on my birthday
she had died – I laughed

The woman at the station
betrays me, she has her
roundness – but the book
I don’t think she
even owned one

Once ina blear of wind
and rush of Christmas
I thought I saw her
but that was Princes Street
in nineteen eighty-seven

I look for her in eyes and
smiles and Irish accents
in Lochend pubs and
Catholoc churches
in the Waverley Buildigns
of the Cowgate
But even they are gone

Once I thought I’d
caught her eye
across a cafeteria
It was my own reflection
Blind and frightened
I turned to look for her
in other women

Performances c 1990, included in Coogit Bairns, Red Squirrel Press, 2015

Gary Beck

1. Discovery

Henry Hudson sailed upriver,
then only used by Indians,
who casually shared with fish, fowl, beasts.
How could he foresee, telescoping from his poop deck,
eyeing intimidating forests that concealed the new world,
crammed full of gold, goblins, god knows what,
on that Half Moon, half miracle observation spot,
the hopes, prayers, fears and lust that propelled the planks
faster than oars, the crew pausing only to commit
the first recorded crimes in the new world,
kidnapping and dispensing liquor to the Indians, without a license.
Although not actually boasting, history takes pride in you
Henry H., obviously overlooking your rough ways
and traditional discoverer’s crude exploitation,
for after all you helped introduce civilization.
Then the noble river ran,
clean and pure,
to the untainted sea.

2. Acquisition

The Dutch immigrants neared your shores,
at first intimidated by untamed forests,
then went wild for what they saw
and religiously, six days per week,
began to disrupt animal, vegetable, mineral,
anything interfering with the prompt establishment
of old Amsterdam in New Amsterdam.
They disported on the Sabbath,
cherished kitchen, children, church,
while underfed portraitists, enamored of rosy cheeks,
benevolent glance and shapely hands,
sanguinely rebrushed their subjects,
eagerly praising the purveyors of power,
the acquirers on the installment plan
of anything they could grab, snatch, ingest, digest,
as they inflicted traditional European values
on fruitful woods, rich earth, endless game,
and only the locals to deal with, fair or foul.
It didn’t take long for the colonists to notice
that the Indians lacked friends in high places,
so the inevitable encroachments led to conflict
and burgher housing replaced the wigwam.
Then the noble river ran…

3. Colonization

Peter Stuyvesant stumped his city
dreaming a replica of the old world
and gave his loyal follower Joseph Bronck
a reward of a large chunk of the Bronx.
Then the English sailed into the harbor,
and their eyes popped at what they saw,
which they compared to their meager towns.
They promptly evicted the Dutch, who lacked the means
to resist the latest affliction on hospitable shores,
and English quickly shoved the local dialects aside,
spreading the word as fast as the forest fell to hungry axes;
We’re here to stay, no matter what you do or say!
The French finally noticed the unruly Brits
and felt their threat to the fur trade,
as well as traditional rivalry and Gallic pride,
sufficient cause to deploy formal European armies.
Of course the distant masters of the new realms
had no idea how to dispute on the vast continent,
so their generals mostly fumbled and bumbled,
alienating the colonists with their haughty ways,
and provoking the Indians to unethical massacres.
clean and pure…

4. Revolution

The leading members of the 13 colonies
did pretty well for themselves in the new world
and resented the distant rulership of kings.
They evaded or resisted authority,
as the well-to- do always seem to do,
never losing profits during upheavals,
though perhaps regretting the tea lost in Boston harbor.
Finally the armed conflict began
between the colonists and the home government,
and George III was appalled at their ingratitude.
War swirled up and down the Hudson and when it was over,
the sunken ships and cadavers made no impression on you, river.
And the towns and cities on your shores flourished
as fast as the new nation spread beyond the Appalachians.
But ex-mama England was still pining for her lost child
and tested the new owners in a clumsy war
that proved the old order unfit to rule vast America.
to the untainted sea…

5. Expansion

So we whipped the British twice, and the Indians,
bought out the French, bluffed the Russians,
finally realized we had a huge land to settle
and opened the shores to white folk of substance.
The shock of shocks was when the barely human Irish
poured in by the thousands, tolerating degradations
just for the chance to grow a few subsistence spuds.
Some of them arrived in time to spill some blood
in the Mexican War, one of our finest land grabs,
that alerted the European powers that the new kid on the block,
puppy America, was voracious for expansion.
And steam began to replace sail to the promised land.
We quickly adopted ex-mama England’s industrial revolution,
littering your shores with crude manufactures, river,
and a new class of magnates soared in the North,
disdained, then feared by the agricultural barons of the South.
Invoking the traditional problem solving method, bloody war,
Americans slaughtered each other while their masters profited.
But enough Irish lost limb or life to claim their fair share
of the delirious promises made by the U.S. Constitution.
still clean and pure…

6. Recovery

Then the soldiers Blue and Gray, weary of the bloody fray,
returned from the uncivil battlefields of decision.
The grateful government pointed the warriors west
for free land, with only pesky Indians in the way,
an easy chore after the rifles of Johnny Reb,
and once across the distant Mississippi
the battle hardened veterans weren’t around
to scrutinize the shady doings in Washington, D.C.
Crouched between your banks, river, you watched industry grow.
The ravaged South began to rebuild, still burdened
by many glances backwards to illusion time,
but others labored mightily to rejoin the present.
This time they crossed you, river, not to return,
and ever westward, in an ever mounting flow,
land grabbing peasants made their way
across mountains, rivers, deserts, no obstacles allowed
to halt the ravenous spread of manifest destiny.
The puppeteers who make government policy
hired clever propagandists to justify
serious snatching of someone else’s property.
Then again, America was founded on larceny.
still clean…

7. Giant Step

We had a lot of new muscle to flex
and the land was pacified from sea to shining…
Except for the poor, dispossessed, needy and disadvantaged,
young America was happy, eager for a worldly role.
Factories sprang up on your shores, Hudson, new enterprises
of small pith and moment, hungry for profits,
discarding failure into your concealing waters.
So our masters looked around for the right adversary
and the decadent Spanish Empire was our lucky choice.
After a minimal investment of blood, limbs, lives,
we snatched Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines,
and suddenly we were a player on the world scene,
strutting, but not fretting, on the stage of power.
Yet the birds on your shores, river, the fish in your waters,
had no champion to protect their civil rights.
Too late to snatch juicy chunks of Africa or Asia,
young America defended the rights of the colonized,
as long as we could virtuously bark loudly,
but not bite the hands that fed our business.
We watched the big European dogs battle for the bones,
picked the winning side and became a big dog.
the slightly tainted sea…

8. Isolation

So we won the first world war, then lost the peace,
bamboozled by those tricky Europeans
into squandering the fruits of victory.
So we picked up our marbles, went home and sulked.
We had a lot of bitter lessons to digest,
until we got bored and conjured up an economic storm
that targeted farmers and laborers,
who were tossed so deep into a depression
that they could not turn their wrathful eyes
on malfeasance in Washington, D.C.,
where officials babbled of a chicken in every pot.
Yet the smokestacks belched profits on your shores, river.
Now that the fertile ground was properly prepared
for the next war of acquisition, all that remained
was the appropriate selection of the candidate enemy.
We considered many choices, but opted for a former friend.
No one else was threatening enough to deny Pacific expansion.
So we sold Japan steel to build ships, planes, tanks,
then cut the oil supply that ran the cherished toys.
And when they came out of the sun that Sunday morning,
we the people screamed foul,
but the lords of profit whispered fair.
Then oil and blood began to taint the sea.

9. Wind-up Cop

Our legions strode across Africa, Asia, Australia,
finally arrived in Europe and crushed the German juggernaut.
Then the sons of the good old USA went home,
renouncing military conquest for college credits.
Meanwhile, the sons of Mother Russia had no tractors,
so they refused to go home and starve on the cold steppes,
and remained in half of Europe, gawking, stealing, replacing the Nazis
with Uncle Joe’s version of post war government,
while Uncle Sam’s kids, weary of the years of slaughter,
went back to school to prepare for a better life.
And the corporations gave the ex GIs jobs,
while they dumped their waste in your waters, river.
Yet the lords of profit could have established Pax Americana,
but lacked the will, or balls, or feared the loss of net income.
Instead they sniped at the red menace, dividing countries
that became festering sores on the unhealthy world body,
until one fine June day, half of Korea invaded the other half,
and GI Joe was abruptly yanked from the classroom
and sent unprepared, halfway around the world
to fight half an Asian country, without knowing why.
But Uncle Sam said trust me, you have to go,
so our loyal sons dusted off their weapons
and faithfully marched off to war again.
Radiation juices seeped into your waters
and the grateful fishes glowed in the dark.

10. MAD

So we dwindled the not-a- war in Korea,
until the opponents faced each other at the starting point,
where the sons of the red, white and blue had been fought to a standstill
where the sons of the red, white and blue had been fought to a standstill
by the hordes of Gengis Khan, who mocked our legions.
And the national spirit was soured by non-victory.
But the lords of profit achieved their greatest dream,
a standing army that needed endless supplies,
food, shelter, clothing, weapons, wine, women, song,
all provided to Uncle Sugar for top dollar.
And the chemicals were too costly to dispose of,
so PCB’s were dumped into your waters, gentle river,
that never surged like the Ohio or the Nile,
that destroyed its helpless neighbors.
And your fish became contaminated,
yet few noticed the toxic assault on your navigable body,
for the times they were a changing and undercitizens
demanded constitutional rights and children of the privileged agreed.
So the lords of profit selected a new Asian diversion
and sent our sons to fight another war with half a country.
Our loyal kids died by the thousands, obediently serving
a terrible cause that was unworthy of their sacrifice.
Yet the coffers of the rich gained as never before,
replacing over and over again, lost planes, tanks, guns, lives.
And when the dying was done and the survivors came home,
no one was held accountable for the bumper crop of body bags.
Chemicals and oil now stain your murky currents.

11. Opiatology

And the legions returned from the ‘Nam’,
scorned by their fellow Americans
for answering the call to arms,
just like their heroic daddies did.
No welcome home parades greeted them,
because they betrayed our country
by patriotically serving
in the first war of American defeat.
And the engineers who planned the war
chortled with glee when they got away with murder.
A large dose of public entertainment and comforts
made it easy to eat the flower of forgetfulness,
and renounce the shameful past for the promised dream,
excluding the usual underclass.
For the wealthy have decreed that some must always do without,
so others will appreciate their rank and station.
Then many benefited from democracy
and the sons and daughters of prosperity
forgot their obligations to the nation.
And The healthiest inhabitants of your waters, river,
old tires, plastic bottles, chemical gunk, used condoms,
race the few remaining fish to the polluted sea.

12. Irresolution

Good old Uncle Sam took it on the chin
from everybody for a while,
until the Wall came tumbling down
and the people danced in the streets.
The lords of profit grimaced
when the lucrative cold war ended
and quickly considered new conflicts.
But doubt had seeped into our genes,
so the right opponent was needed
to divert us from drugs, crime, AIDS, not caring.
We had been kicked out of Africa,
defeated in Southeast Asia,
we were being easedout of Europe
and we couldn’t mess with the touchy Latinos.
All that was left was the oil bitch middle east.
Khaddafi was still sulking in his tent,
so the wheel of fortune selected Saddam,
who won the ugliest man in the world contest.
And when our soldiers squashed him a bit,
the simple-minded rejoiced at old-fashioned victory,
despite the paltry opposition,
and awarded the legions a triumph.

13. Foreboding

We approached the year 2000, apprehensive
that our computers would not function.
And distracted by our superficial pleasures
in Armani suits and costly imported cars,
we ignored the march of drugs and AIDS
that ravaged our country like plagues of eld.
Now that assembly lines are run by robots
and food is grown in automated fields
and production is controlled by the oppressive few,
the programmers of the world will not unite
to support the endless struggle for liberty,
for they lack the toughness and endurance
for the age old conflict with the bosses.
Software does not prepare our sons and daughters
for sacrifice on the altar of freedom.
It is too late to resurrect the callused hands and stubborn backs
of farmers, workers, laborers, those accustomed to resist,
although they must always be defeated
by the tyranny of the lords of profit.
The stock market crash, river,
will fill your waters with the corpses
of those who can’t survive loss of comfort.
that we all breathe the same air.
Then corporations purchased legislators, river,
who passed laws that allowed the flooding of your waters
with toxins, while the people slumbered.

From Civilised Ways