Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Not Syria" by Andrew M. Bell

Photo Credits: Andrew M. Bell

Not for us the swift savagery of the strafing jet
or the murderous melée of missiles,
but the slow and steady creep
of ignorance and neglect.
While an empire rises inexorably 
from the Central Business District,
the small voices of the poor and vulnerable
cry out unheard. 
The 92-year-old widow has her third hospitalising 
bout of pneumonia in the third winter since
Rūamoko shook himself enthusiastically,
like a dog emerging from the Avon river.
“I just want my home fixed before I die,” she says.
Not much to ask for

like peace in Syria.

by Andrew M. Bell

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote this poem, as the text indicates, three years after the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011. As has been well-documented, this natural disaster devastated large swathes of Christchurch city central and surrounding suburbs, particularly those suburbs in the eastern part of Christchurch where the least economically-advantaged residents lived. It has taken many, many years to return to any sort of normality, but, even 9 years after that disaster, there are still buildings and areas of land that bear the scars rendered on that day. The above photographs are of a building, not far from my home, that was badly damaged and sits neglected, across the road from a beach simply called North Beach (goodness knows how many beaches around the globe are so prosaically named). Some vandal or vandals have recently gutted this building by setting a fire.
It occurs to me that this global Covid-19 pandemic has brought back to the residents of east Christchurch a strange echo of the eerie, post-earthquake surreality that coloured our lives 9 years ago.
For more information about poet, Andrew M. Bell, see:

Monday, 27 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "Invictus" by William Henley

Out of the night that covers me, 
   Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
    For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
    I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
    My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
    Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
    Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
   How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
   I am the captain of my soul. 

by William Henley

For more information about poet, William Henley, see:

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Tuesday Poem: "TradeMe Auction #2569182028: Depression, well used but with plenty of mileage left" by Paula Harris

Even though the poem below is tongue-in-cheek, it speaks to a very real mental health struggle faced by many people in Aotearoa. We live in a beautiful country and enjoy many blessings of a modern, Western, First World country, but many people face daily struggles of many kinds in their lives. Depression is not a blessing, but this poem is. I sought Paula's permission to publish this poem on my blog and share it to Tuesday Poem because I think it speaks to a great bravery on Paula's part and a willingness to speak out about mental health. For so long, mental health issues have been stigmatised, but, in recent years, we are finally starting to have the conversation we need to have.

So, without further ado, here's Paula's poem:

Available immediately, one well used depression, no longer required.

Depression is 30 years old, but currently still working well. Or badly. I’m not sure which way around that goes. Well, let’s go with it’s had one not-so-careful lady owner.

No rust, no leaks, minor surface imperfections. One size fits all. Has had one year of psychologist decompressing it 22 years ago, plus counselling beginning 17 years ago and running for 3 ½ years (this timeframe included the use of antidepressants to maintain daily function). Has recently returned to psychologist and antidepressants (3 months ago), but daily functioning is unpredictable. This particular model also comes with the contact details for the mental health crisis team, which can be used in case of emergency.

Is currently producing crying bouts, feelings of pointlessness, tiredness and apathy, along with suicidal thoughts. Special bonus of poor quality sleep available with this model.

Would prefer it went to live somewhere far far away from me, as I don’t want to risk it wandering home when it gets lost and confused. So, please, no bidders from the same city as me.

Highly recommend that the successful bidder has the name of a good psychologist. And a group of supportive friends nearby. Trust me, I’ve been doing this with friends living distant from me, and it sucks.

Will include two boxes of its preferred tissues (boxes will be unopened and tissues unused) for the successful bidder. As an added bonus, will also include a recipe for chocolate brownies, as you’ll probably need it. It’s a really awesome recipe. You won’t have the energy to make it most of the time, even if you want to. 

Bonus bonus: DVD copy of Schindler’s List.

Prescription meds shouldn’t be shared so, sorry, I can’t include the remaining antidepressants with this purchase. Besides, I’m not entirely sure these ones work that well. 

Reliable and guaranteed to fuck you up or your money back. If you’re not happy with your purchase, then it’s working as expected. You’re welcome.

Photo Credit: Murray Wilson/Stuff
You can read more of Paula Harris' poetry at:

Monday, 20 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "Have You Earned Your Tomorrow" by Edgar Guest

Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
     Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
This day is almost over, and its toiling time is through;
     Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?

Did you give a cheerful greeting to the friend who came along? 
Or a churlish sort of "Howdy" and then vanish in the throng? 
Were you selfish pure and simple as you rushed along the way, 
Or is someone mighty grateful for a deed you did today?

Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that's slipping fast,
     That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed?
Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said;
     Does a man whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day, or lose it, was it well or sorely spent?
     Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent?
As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that God would say,
     You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today? 

by Edgar Guest

For more information about the poet, Edgar Guest, see:

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "How do I love thee?" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

For more information about poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, see:


Saturday, 18 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "If You Forget Me" by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine. 

by Pablo Neruda

For more information about the poet, Pablo Neruda, see:


Friday, 17 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. 
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size 
But when I start to tell them, 
They think I'm telling lies. 
I say, 
It's in the reach of my arms 
The span of my hips, 
The stride of my step, 
The curl of my lips. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me. 

I walk into a room 
Just as cool as you please, 
And to a man, 
The fellows stand or 
Fall down on their knees. 
Then they swarm around me, 
A hive of honey bees. 
I say, 
It's the fire in my eyes, 
And the flash of my teeth, 
The swing in my waist, 
And the joy in my feet. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me. 

Men themselves have wondered 
What they see in me. 
They try so much 
But they can't touch 
My inner mystery. 
When I try to show them 
They say they still can't see. 
I say, 
It's in the arch of my back, 
The sun of my smile, 
The ride of my breasts, 
The grace of my style. 
I'm a woman 

Phenomenal woman, 
That's me. 

Now you understand 
Just why my head's not bowed. 
I don't shout or jump about 
Or have to talk real loud. 
When you see me passing 
It ought to make you proud. 
I say, 
It's in the click of my heels, 
The bend of my hair, 
the palm of my hand, 
The need of my care, 
'Cause I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me. 

by Maya Angelou

For more information on poet, Maya Angelou, see:

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "The COVID-19 Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by Annalise Silivanch

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like droplets lightly strewn upon a table;
Let us go, past certain half-deserted streets,
To the muttering retreats
Of darkened homes with delivered Zinfandels,

Forgoing restaurants with clientele:
With children home, their tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What’s the limit?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the aisles the women come and go
Talking of the lines at Costco.

The springtime air that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The springtime leaves that rub their shadows on the window-panes,
Taunted us straight into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the schoolwork that remains
Let fall upon its back the mess that falls from children;
I slipped on my robe, its lining cheap,
And seeing that it was a soft April night,
Wandered once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the lonely bistro down the street,
For you’re trying not to support the chains;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a Zoom-filtered face to meet the faces that you see;
There will be time to brunch and e-date,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That chiropract sciatia into place;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred misdirected politicians,
Before the opportunity to all agree.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of the lines at Costco

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and avoid the air
Without mask procured through means unfair—
(They will say: “How his posts are growing thin”)
My morning certainty undone by evening, assuaged by gin
My smugness now turning modest, assertive as an actor’s grin—
(They will say: “But how his diatribes are thin!”)
Do I dare
Turn on the cableverse?
In a minute there is time
For exhibitions and derisions which our leaders will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured my work breaks with streaming tunes;
I know the voices rising, then a fall
Beneath the squabble from a farther room.
        So how should I presume?

And I have known the stats already, known them all—
The stats that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, scanning for the spin,
When I am pinning crowdsourced worry to my wall,
Then how should I begin
To protect all the health hacks of my days and ways?
        And how should I presume?

And I have known the hands already, known them all—
Hands that are naked and soft and bare
(But across a table, a giant scare!)
Is it sanitizer which you press
That makes me so digress?
Hands that emerge suspect from a bathroom, or a stall.
        And should I then presume?
        And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have walked at a distance of six feet
And darted for the avocados ripe
To painter’s tape on floor graphs, to plexiglass windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged laws
Scrambling behind the curve of this disease.

And the afternoon, the evening, stretches painfully!
Smoothed by long curfews,
Asleep… tired… or food in fingers,
Stretched on the couch, alone or not, TV.
Should I, after tea and my devices
Speculate the coming apex of this crisis?
But though I have washed with passion, washed and cleaned,
Though I have seen my hands (grown slightly dry) again preparing dinner,
I am no Fauci — and this no small matter;
I have eyed the dwindling bottled liquor,
And I have seen the country’s leaders examining the ticker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the paper products, the socially-distant streets,
Among the work-at-home attempts by you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To question this new lifestyle,
To have confronted the cableverse, after all
To force it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am an American, always well-fed,
Missing past Easters — lord, what a ball!
If one, settling a pillow by her head
        Should say: “That is not important at all;
        Not important, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After my commuting memories of city streets,
After the subway, the trains, the elevators groaning between floors—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
Now my past life, in movies shown, their patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow, quite appalled,
And turning toward the window, should say:
        “That is not important at all;
        Not important, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am Horatio, one that will do
To forewarn my friend, wipe a surface or two,
Tsk tsk the prince; no doubt, they’d close his school,
Deferential, unlike Hamlet (loosed),
Hygenic, cautious, and fastidious;
Avoiding shared goblets of fermented juice;
At times, indeed, almost conspicuous—
Almost, at times, uncool.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall pass my birthday in this way holed.

Shall I brush my hair at all? Do I dare to eat the sweets?
I shall wear those flannel jammies, because — well, each to each.
I have heard the children singing — no, a screech.

I hope to god they won’t screech at me.

I have seen them nuzzled in their sleep
Curling the white sheets, hair pushed back
Rounded shoulders, mouth gone slack.
We have lingered in the chambers of our rooms
Circling them without a sound.
Till more loved ones undistance, and are found.

by Annalise Silivanch

(modelled on The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot)

For more information on poet, Annalise Silivanch, see:

For more information on poet, T.S. Eliot, see:

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Ghost Town" by Andrew M. Bell

(Photo Credit: Andrew M. Bell)

Picture Clint’s flinty-eyed stare
as he squints into the harsh sun
down an abandoned street.
Ears attuned for the chink-clink of the villain’s spurs
hear only the eerie moan of the nor’wester.

Silt swirling in small twisters is
flung like an insult into Clint’s eyes,
the grey, turgid liquid that spewed forth
now desiccated by the unforgiving Canterbury sun.
Cue tumbleweeds,
but the sole arrival is a family carload
seeking the solace of the state-sanctioned sea.
Dad winces as he drives through Dodge City,
and his suspension surrenders to another pothole.

Dusty venetian blinds are
closed like the eyes of the dead,
the blanched grass clutches at the windows,
and weeds suffocate once proud gardens,
fissures scar the lawn
with the earth’s vengeance.

Clint springs like a cougar at
a shadow in his peripheral vision,
but the villain is already out of range,
running carelessly towards a life full of promise.

by Andrew M. Bell

For more information on poet, Andrew M. Bell, see:

Monday, 13 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "[i Carry Your Heart With Me(i Carry It In]" by E.E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

by E.E. Cummings

For more information about poet, e.e. cummings, see:


Sunday, 12 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep" by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Tonight I learned of the second death of an elderly woman in Christchurch from Covid-19. This is to honour her and the woman in Greymouth who was our first Covid-19 death here in Aotearoa:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

by Mary Elizabeth Frye

For more information about the poet, Mary Elizabeth Frye, see:


Quite a lovely video interpretation:

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "Halfway Down" by A. A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
Other stair
Quite like
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up
And it isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn't really
It's somewhere else

by A.A. Milne

For more information about poet, A.A. Milne, see:

Friday, 10 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "If" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

by Rudyard Kipling

For more information about poet, Rudyard Kipling, see:

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "Homage to my Hips" by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,   
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

by Lucille Clifton

For more information on poet, Lucille Clifton, see:

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Special Covid-19 Inspirational Poem: "As You Go Through Life" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Don't look for the flaws as you go through life; 
   And even when you find them, 
It is wise and kind to be somewhat blind 
   And look for the virtue behind them. 
For the cloudiest night has a hint of light 
   Somewhere in its shadows hiding; 
It is better by far to hunt for a star, 
   Than the spots on the sun abiding.

The current of life runs ever away 
   To the bosom of God's great ocean. 
Don't set your force 'gainst the river's course 
   And think to alter its motion. 
Don't waste a curse on the universe-- 
   Remember it lived before you. 
Don't butt at the storm with your puny form, 
   But bend and let it go o'er you.

The world will never adjust itself 
   To suit your whims to the letter. 
Some things must go wrong your whole life long, 
   And the sooner you know it the better. 
It is folly to fight with the Infinite, 
   And go under at last in the wrestle; 
The wiser man shapes into God's plan 
   As water shapes into a vessel.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

For more information on poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, see: