Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Tuesday Poem: "House of the Forgotten" by Andrew M. Bell


Like time travellers,
we arrived at the boarding house,
rare in our youth and togetherness.
Behind the brave smile
of the white, wooden facade
the men lived like mementoes
in sad, concrete shoeboxes.

It was the nadir of winter
and shadows seeped through the courtyard,
squeezing old lungs with icy fingers
until they wheezed like defective accordions.
In the drab lounge room
television held out its flickering promises to them
as they sat on musty furniture in mustier suits.
The kerosene heater could not dispel
the coldness of their hope.

At six o’clock, we assembled
in the ’50s functional ugliness dining room
where they used the arctic cutlery
to cut each other down to size.
The car accident man whose disfigured face
was reduced to spouting clichés,
the man whose heart was devoured by the bottle,
the man who walked miles every day
but had nowhere to go,
the man whose wife had turned him out
for fear of catching his self-pity
and the friendless young man
who had never learnt to listen.

It seemed almost sinful
to look forward
to the European summer
when some of these men
would die forgotten
in the Australian winter.

In the southern winter of 1987, I was living in a small summer resort town called Mandurah which is on the coast about 72 kilometres south of Perth, Western Australia. I’d turned 30 earlier that year and my partner, Adrienne, and I had been saving hard to travel to the UK and Europe.

In my early 20s, I’d travelled extensively through Southeast and Central Asia with a friend, but neither Adrienne nor I had been to Europe. The lease on our flat expired a couple of weeks before our departure date so we checked into a local boarding house.

Places that revolve around the activities of summer seem especially dreary in winter. Somehow these men seemed to live at the periphery of the happy family image that the town’s authorities liked to cultivate. Perhaps they were cruel to each other because life had been cruel to them.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

A Special Poem for Brexit: "The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst  
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert  
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,  
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,  
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it  
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
The darkness drops again; but now I know  
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

by W. B. Yeats

For more information about the poet, William Butler Yeats, see:


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Tuesday Poem: "A Contribution to Statistics" by Wisława Szymborska

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better

— fifty-two

doubting every step

— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand

if it doesn’t take too long

— as high as forty-nine,

always good

because they can’t be otherwise

— four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy

— eighteen,

suffering illusions

induced by fleeting youth

— sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly

— forty and four,

living in constant fear

of someone or something

— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness

— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds

— half at least,


when forced by circumstances

— better not to know

even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact

— just a couple more

than wise before it,

taking only things from life

— thirty

(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,

no flashlight in the dark

— eighty-three

sooner or later,


— thirty-five, which is a lot,


and understanding

— three,

worthy of compassion

— ninety-nine,


— a hundred out of a hundred.

Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

by Wisława Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

For more information about poet, see:

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Tuesday Poem: "Depth of Field" by Anne Michaels

"The camera relieves us of the burden of memory ...
records in order to forget."       — John Berger

We've retold the stories of our lives

by the time we reach Buffalo,

sun coming up diffuse and prehistoric

over the Falls.

A white morning,

sun like paint on the windshield.

You drive, smoke, wear sunglasses.

Rochester, Camera Capital of America.

Stubbing a cigar in the lid of a film cannister,

the Kodak watchman gives directions.

The museum's a wide-angle mansion.

You search the second storey from the lawn,

mentally converting bathrooms to darkrooms.

A thousand photos later,

exhausted by second-guessing

the mind which invisibly surrounds each image,

we nap in a high school parking lot,

sun leaning low as the trees

over the roof of the warm car.

Driving home. The moon's so big and close

I draw a moustache on it and smudge the windshield.

I stick my fingers in your collar to keep you awake.

I can't remember a thing about our lives before this morning.

We left our city at night and return at night.

We buy pineapple and float quietly through the neighbourhood,

thick trees washing themselves in lush darkness,

or in the intimate light of streetlamps.

In summer the planer's heavy with smells of us,

stung with the green odour of gardens.

Heat won't leave the pavement

until night is almost over.

I've loved you all day.

We take the old familiar Intertwine Freeway,

begin the long journey towards each other

as to our home town with all its lights on.

by Anne Michaels

For more information about the poet, Anne Michaels, see: