Del libro “A Flock of Words”, antología de poemas elegidos por David Mackay

After Ever Happily

or The Princess and the Woodcutter

Ian Serraillier

And they both lived happily ever after…
The wedding was held in the palace. Laughter
Rang to the roof as a loosened rafter
Crashed down and squashed the chamberlain flat-
And how the wedding guests chucked at that!
‘You, with your horny indelicate hands,
Who drop your haitches and call them ‘ands,
Who cannot afford to buy her a dress,
How dare you presume to pinch our princess-
Miserable woodcutter, uncombed, unwashed!’
Where the chamberlain’s words (before he was squashed).
‘Take her,’ said the Queen, who had a soft spot
For woodcutters. ‘He’s strong and he’s handsome. Why not?’
‘What rot!’ said the King, but he dare not object;
The Queen wore the trousers – that’s as you’d expect.
Said the chamberlain, usually meek and inscrutable,
‘A princess and a woodcutter? The match is unsuitable.’
Her dog barked its welcome again and again,
As they splashed to the palace through puddles of rain.
And the princess sighed, ‘Till the end of my life!’
‘Darling,’ said the woodcutter, ‘will you be my wife?’
He knew all his days he could love no other,
So he nursed her to health with some help from his mother,
And lifted her, horribly hurt, from her tumble.
A woodcutter, watching, saw the horse stumble.
As she rode through the woods, a princess in her prime
On a dapple-grey horse… Now, to finish my rhyme,
I’ll start it properly: Once upon a time-

Warning to children

by Robert Graves

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness,
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree,
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off:
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled
Red and green, enclosed by tawny
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel-
Children, leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head,
Finds himself enclosed by dappled
Green and read, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still unopened on his knee.

by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school where children played
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ‘tis centuries: but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

Hints of Pronunciation for Foreigners

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead-
For goodness sake don’t call it ‘deed’!
Watch our for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.)

A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
and here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose-
Just look them up-and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and swords,
And do and go and thwart and cart-
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’ve mastered it when I was five!

Stars, Songs, Faces

Carls Sandburg

Gather the stars if you wish it so.
Gather the songs and keep them.
Gather the faces of women.
Gather for keeping years and years.
And then…
Loosen your hands, let go and say good-bye.
Let the stars and songs go.
Let the faces and years go.
Loosen your hands and say good-bye.

And the days are not full enough

Ezra Pound

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field-mouse.
Not shaking the grass.

Telephone Conversation

Wole Soyinka

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. ‘Madam,’ I warned,
‘I hate a wasted journey-I am African.’
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick- coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.
‘HOW DARK?’ … I had not misheard… ‘ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?’ Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis-
‘ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?’ Revelation came.
‘You mean- like plain or milk chocolate?’
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. ‘West African sepia’- and as afterthought,
‘Down in my passport.’ Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. ‘WHAT’S THAT?’ conceding
‘DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.’ Like brunette.’
‘THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?’ ‘Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Area a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused-
Foolishly madam- by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black-One moment, madam!’ – sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears-‘Madam,’ I pleaded, ‘wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?’


James Kirukup

I wait with a pencil in my hand
Beside the morning’s empty page,
Not hoping for a sign, but waiting
For a word that will engage
The stillness with a sound
Of its own making.

Outside the paper room
The children in the playground kill
The summer with their cries.
I look out at the sunny hill
Of sky, but cannot catch the words they scream
To give their spirits ease.

If I, too, could give a shout
Of fear or pleasure, I could play
Myself into their endless game.
But I stand outside their day.
The dumb words are fastened in my throat,
And will not come.



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