Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Christmas Day Poem: "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

It is not strictly a poem, but I think this is a beautiful song with a Christmas theme. It also features the beautiful, gifted and late lamented Kirsty MacColl who was tragically killed, aged 41, on the 18 December 2000 at Cozumel, Mexico. The Mexican millionaire, Guillermo Gonzalez Nova, widely believed to be driving the powerboat that ran over Kirsty and killed her, never faced any consequences in a travesty of natural justice. Kirsty's mother campaigned for many years for justice for Kirsty, but finally gave up, aged and exhausted by the fight.

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum, you're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas, your arse
I pray God it's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing, "Galway Bay"
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well, so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me, babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day.

Songwriters: Jem Finer and Shane Patrick Lysaght Macgowan
Copyright: Universal Music Publishing Group

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Oatmeal" by Galway Kinnell

I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
I eat it alone.
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that it is better for your mental health if
somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have
breakfast with.
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary companion.
Nevertheless, yesterday morning I ate my oatmeal with John Keats.
Keats said I was right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey
lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to
disintegrate, oatmeal must never be eaten alone.
He said it is perfectly OK, however, to eat it with an imaginary
and he himself had enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund
Spenser and John Milton.
He also told me about writing the "Ode to a Nightingale."
He wrote it quickly, he said, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in
his pocket,
but when he got home he couldn't figure out the order of the
stanzas, and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and
they made some sense of them, but he isn't sure to this day if
they got it right.
He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas,
and the way here and there a line will go into the configuration of a
Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up and peer about, then
lay itself down slightly off the mark, causing the poem to move
forward with God's reckless wobble.
He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about
the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some stanzas
of his own, but only made matters worse.
When breakfast was over, John recited "To Autumn."
He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words
lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.
He didn't offer the story of writing "To Autumn," I doubt if there is
much of one.
But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field got him started
and two of the lines, "For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy
cells" and "Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours," came
to him while eating oatmeal alone.
I can see him - drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the
glimmering furrows, muttering - and it occurs to me:
maybe there is no sublime, only the shining of the amnion's tatters.
For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch.
I'm aware that a leftover baked potato can be damp, slippery, and
simultaneously gummy and crumbly,
and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanagh to join me.

by Galway Kinnell

Photo Credit: Chris Felver/Getty

For more information about poet, Galway Kinnell, see:

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Tuesday Poem: "I Shall Betray Tomorrow" by Marianne Cohn

I shall betray tomorrow, not today.
Today, pull out my fingernails,
I shall not betray.
You do not know the limits of my courage,
I, I do.
You are five hands, harsh and full of rings,
Wearing hob-nailed boots.
I shall betray tomorrow, not today.

I need the night to make up my mind.
I need at least one night,
To disown, to abjure, to betray.
To disown my friends,
To abjure bread and wine,
To betray life,
To die.
I shall betray tomorrow, not today.

The file is under the window-pane.
The file is not for the window-bars,
The file is not for the executioner,
The file is for my own wrists.
Today, I have nothing to say.

by Marianne Cohn 
(translator unknown)

Photo Credit: Lucien Lazare circa 1944

The poet, a 22-year-old French resistance fighter, was beaten to death in a forest by the Gestapo on the night of 8 July, 1944.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Tuesday Poem: "A Curse on My Former Bank Manager" by Adrian Mitchell

May your computer twitch every time it remembers money
until the twitches mount and become a mechanical ache
and may the ache increase until the tapes begin to scream
and may the pus of date burst from its metal skin

and just before the downpour of molten aluminium
may you be preening in front of your computer
and may you be saying to your favourite millionaire
yes it cost nine hundred thousand but it repays every penny

and may the hundred-mile tape which records my debts spring out
like a supersonic two-dimensional boa-constrictor
and may it slip under your faultless collar and surround your hairless neck
and may it tighten and tighten until is has repaid everything I owe you

by Adrian Mitchell


For more information about the poet, Adrian Mitchell, see:


Adrian Mitchell was an outspoken critic of war and social injustice. Here is a video of him reading his anti-Vietnam War poem To Whom It May Concern:

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Untitled" by Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

by Marianne Williamson

For more information about poet and spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson, see:

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Pity the Drunks" by David Constantine

Pity the drunks in this late April snow.
They drank their hats and coats a week ago.

They touch the sun, they tapped the melting ground,

In public parks we saw them sitting round

The merry campfire of a cider jar

Upon a crocus cloth Alas some are

Already stiff in mortuaries who were

Seduced by Spring to go from here to there,

Putting their best foot forward on the road

To Walkden, Camberwell or Leeds. It snowed.

It met them waiting at the roundabout.

They had no hats or coats to keep it out.

They did a lap or two, they caught a cough

They did another lap and shuffled off.

by David Constantine

For more information about the poet, David Constantine, see:

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Tuesday Poem: "When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving" by R. Dwayne Betts

in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamir’s age, already having heard

me warn them against playing with toy pistols,

though my rhetoric is always about what I don’t

like, not what I fear, because sometimes

I think of  Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping

all another insignificance, all another way to avoid

saying what should be said: the Second Amendment

is a ruthless one, the pomp & constitutional circumstance

that says my arms should be heavy with the weight

of a pistol when forced to confront death like

this: a child, a hidden toy gun, an officer that fires

before his heart beats twice. My two young sons play

in the backseat while the video of  Tamir dying

plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing

I don’t say is that this should not be the brick and mortar

of poetry, the moment when a black father drives

his black sons to school & the thing in the air is the death

of a black boy that the father cannot mention,

because to mention the death is to invite discussion

of  taboo: if you touch my sons the crimson

that touches the concrete must belong, at some point,

to you, the police officer who justifies the echo

of the fired pistol; taboo: the thing that says that justice

is a killer’s body mangled and disrupted by bullets

because his mind would not accept the narrative

of  your child’s dignity, of  his right to life, of  his humanity,

and the crystalline brilliance you saw when your boys first breathed;

the narrative must invite more than the children bleeding

on crisp fall days; & this is why I hate it all, the people around me,

the black people who march, the white people who cheer,

the other brown people, Latinos & Asians & all the colors of   humanity

that we erase in this American dance around death, as we

are not permitted to articulate the reasons we might yearn

to see a man die; there is so much that has to disappear

for my mind not to abandon sanity: Tamir for instance, everything

about him, even as his face, really and truly reminds me

of my own, in the last photo I took before heading off

to a cell, disappears, and all I have stomach for is blood,

and there is a part of me that wishes that it would go away,

the memories, & that I could abandon all talk of making it right

& justice. But my mind is no sieve & sanity is no elixir & I am bound

to be haunted by the strength that lets Tamir’s father,

mother, kinfolk resist the temptation to turn everything

they see into a grave & make home the series of cells

that so many of my brothers already call their tomb.

by R. Dwayne Betts

For more information about poet, R. Dwayne Betts, see:

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Poem for Armistice Day: "The Band played Waltzing Matilda" by Eric Bogle

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback, well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said son, It's time you stopped rambling, there's work to be done.
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun, and they marched me away to the war.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, as the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the cheers, the flag-waving and tears, we sailed off for Gallipoli
And how well I remember that terrible day, how our blood stained the sand and the water
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he'd primed himself well. He shower'd us with bullets,
And he rained us with shell. And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, when we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well we tried to survive, in that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive, though around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head, and when I woke up in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead. Never knew there was worse things than dyin'.

For I'll go no more waltzing Matilda, all around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs-no more waltzing Matilda for me.
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, then they turned all their faces away.
And so now every April, I sit on me porch, and I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march, reviving old dreams of past glories
The old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore, the tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question.

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda, and the old men still answer the call, But as year follows year, more old men disappear. Someday no one will march there at all. Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me? And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that billabong, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

By Eric Bogle

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Digging" by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb  
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound  

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:  

My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds  

Bends low, comes up twenty years away  

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills  

Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft  

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.  

Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

by Seamus Heaney

For more information about poet, Seamus Heaney, see: