The Fired Pot

In our town, people live in rows.

The only irregular thing in a street is a steeple;

And where that points to, God only knows,

And not the poor disciplined people!


And I have watched the women growing old,

Passionate about pins, and pence, and soap,

Till the heart within my wedded breast grew cold,,

And I lost hope.


But a young soldier came to our town,

He spoke his mind most candidly.

He asked me quickly to lie down,

And that was very good for me.


For though I gave him no embrace –

Remembering my duty –

He altered the expression of my face,

And gave me back my beauty.


Anna Wickham (1884-1947)


Song of Kabir

When greed hits you like a wave

You don’t need water to drown.


Whether it’s a king on his throne

Or a pretty queen,


A chanting pundit

Or a miracle-working yogi,


They’ll all die by drowning

In a waterless sea.


Who survives?


The ones whose minds, Kabir says,

Are tied to rocks.

Kabir    (trans. Arvind Krishna Mahrotra)


As though outside under a
charred sky that’s the lifted bun

of a burger that’s like the wet, new road
at night and like the filthy dirt

and the windowless body of a cow
and the frantic kissing

of the competent plants,
their petals bruised and shaky

and so, so nude to your pilfered look –
as is this spit-shone,

rubbed-up stomp inside my bosom.
O egg of stiffening greed.

Mark Waldron
(From The Itchy Sea)

Every Day You Play…

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a bunch of flowers, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among the yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, gleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I alone can contend against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Curl round me as though you were frightened.
Even so, a strange shadow once ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the grey light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time have I loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
Until I even believe that you own the universe.

I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda (trans W.S. Merwin)

The Byelaws

Never have met me, know me well,
tell all the world there was little to tell,
say I was heavenly, say I was hell,
harry me over the blasted moors
but come my way, go yours.

Never have touched me, take me apart,
trundle me through my town in a cart,
figure me out with the aid of a chart,
finally add to the feeble applause
and come my way, go yours.

Never have read me, look at me now,
get why I’m doing it, don’t get how,
other way round, have a rest, have a row,
have skirmishes with me, have wars,
O come my way, go yours.

Never have left me, never come back,
mourn me in miniskirts, date me in black,
undress as I dress, when I unpack pack
yet pause for eternity on all fours
to come my way, go yours.

Never have met me, never do,
never be mine, never even be you,
approach from a point its impossible to
at a time you don’t have, and by these byelaws
come my way, go yours.

Glyn Maxwell


The season’s triumphs – still
and brackish water gleaming,
the log-stack at the wood’s core,

a rusky pony blissing
in the early dusk, as hammerflush
dances from the anvil;

the owl moans through late sun haze
and the barnyard reels
with shadowy dens for hiding in.

Glimpsed in a window,
past sifting peat smoke, a brisk girl
near calm, known to us all.

That the depths beneath the bridge
are cold and cruel
is not in question, though no one yet

will venture a name for
this stout boy striding out
whose fate it is to plunge

into the mile-deep pool
and rope the great bell, lost to us
these thousand years.

Roddy Lumsden

An English Village

What you visit is not what you are
who hold the words of songs to sway to
who satisfy the cracks in ponds
who strike a match in many ways
who make a mansion of a shelter
who call rain by its given names
who talk through what we have to chew
who sit on roofs as evenings melt
who track the halfways through each yard
who know the weights our heads can take
who balance on the tails of carts
who answer to each toll of bells
who point the way to mooring stones
who higgle, carry, yoke and chap
who hear the barn sing under storm
who keep the pugmill stirring on
who stand among the tansy itching
who buy worlds from the ballad seller
who news and bicker round the pump
who set a fire to know a fire
who run beasts down the hidden roads
who thresh and glean and stack then dance
who roast an ox at each new king

Roddy Lumsden

(from Third Wish Wasted, Bloodaxe)