Friday, September 30, 2016

The Living Dead

Night and Day
By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

When the golden day is done, 
Through the closing portal,
Child and garden, Flower and sun,
Vanish all things mortal.

As the blinding shadows fall
As the rays diminish,
Under evening's cloak they all
Roll away and vanish.

Garden darkened, daisy shut,
Child in bed, they slumber--
Glow-worm in the hallway rut,
Mice among the lumber.

In the darkness houses shine,
Parents move the candles;
Till on all the night divine
Turns the bedroom handles.

Till at last the day begins
In the east a-breaking,
In the hedges and the whins
Sleeping birds a-waking.

In the darkness shapes of things,
Houses, trees and hedges,
Clearer grow; and sparrow's wings
Beat on window ledges.

These shall wake the yawning maid;
She the door shall open--
Finding dew on garden glade
And the morning broken.

There my garden grows again
Green and rosy painted,
As at eve behind the pane
From my eyes it fainted.

Just as it was shut away,
Toy-like, in the even,
Here I see it glow with day
Under glowing heaven.

Every path and every plot,
Every blush of roses,
Every blue forget-me-not
Where the dew reposes,

"Up!" they cry, "the day is come
On the smiling valleys:
We have beat the morning drum;
Playmate, join your allies!" 

I was reminded of Robert Louis Stevenson recently, seeing him quoted online, and went exploring to re-acquaint myself with him. I had A Child's Garden of Verses when I was very young. Although I was a child who loved poetry, I didn't love that. I felt patronised (even though I was too young to know that word). Did he make the mistake of writing down to children, or was it simply that he was from a different era? I think his children's poetry is charming when I read it now, as an adult. I'm pleasantly surprised to discover he also wrote poetry for adults, as well as some, like this one, which could be for either, or both. 

Of course, he also wrote wonderful stories – some, such as Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, definitely not for children, others such as Kim and Treasure Island, for any age. I certainly enjoyed those two when I was still a child – though I realise now that some things in Kim went over my head. Kidnapped was another favourite.

Today, feeling like some escape from a world in which we are constantly bombarded with news of terrible events and the worst of human character, I was glad to find this poem. It seems to conjure up a time and place of innocence and joy, a life of safety and reassurance, and delight in the natural world. I hope it gives you those feelings too.

Stevenson was such a celebrity in his day, and is still so well-known, I probably don't need to discuss him in detail. You very likely know already that he was born in Scotland; that he was also a travel writer and essayist, and a composer of music; that he was very happily married, but had poor health, generally ascribed to tuberculosis, and died at only 44. How thankful we can be that he wrote so much while he still lived! His last years were spent on the island of Samoa, where he is buried.

If you would like to find out more, you can try Wikipedia, or many other sources via Google. And his poems are available online in this complete collection (arranged alphabetically) and at PoemHunter

Also, I have just been alerted to a free, illustrated Archive ebook of A Child's Garden of Verseshere. (Click on a page to turn it.)

The most interesting article I found about him, 'The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson,' is part of the current attempts to restore his literary reputation, after years of his being dismissed as a minor writer. The author quotes Stevenson's own theory of fiction as a possible reason why he was so dismissed:

Man's one method, whether he reasons or creates, is to half-shut his eyes against the dazzle and confusion of reality .... Life is monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt and poignant; a work of art, in comparison, is neat, finite, selfcontained, rational, flowing, and emasculate .... The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material . . . but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is designed and significant.

Well, that seems to apply to this poem, too, which took me away a little while from the 'monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt and poignant'!

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright)


PS I said recently that I'd be posting (in random order of topics) on the first and third Fridays of the month, and the fifth when there is one. Let me correct myself. It occurs to me that it would be simpler just to post fortnightly, so from now on that's what I'll do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Two Souls: Caged and Free

"You can cage the singer but not the song"--Harry Belafonte


"A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage"--William Blake

"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage"--Richard Lovelace

"Each work has its own space, which should neither be conceived as a sort of cage nor regarded as extending to infinity."--Marino Marini

"My father always said,"Malala will be free as a bird."--Malala Yousafzai

Midweek Motif ~ Two Souls: Caged and Free

There are many poems on this topic. But today I have chosen only two with distinctly different notes: One by Maya Angelou and the other by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore’s one is originally a song done in Bengali.

I have also included the song here, for anyone interested in it.

What you have to do today is read the poems closely and then write your own poem about either a free or a caged soul or both.

So….Play with your words.

Two Birds

by Rabindranath Tagore

Cage-bird was in the golden cage, the forest-bird in the wood,
Whatever was the will of God a meeting between the two ensued.
Gushed forest-bird, “Dear cage-bird let’s fly together to the green”.
Cage-bird whispered, “Forest-bird dear, let’s stay here quietly, within”.
To which forest-bird shuddered, “Oh no, I will never be in fetters”.
Cage-bird uttered, “Alas! How will I be out to the woods to be better?”
Forest bird sat outside chirping all the wild notes.
Cage-bird sang the ditty only it had learnt by rote.
Forest bird said, “Let me see you sing the forest songs, dear.”
Cage-bird pleaded, “Why not learn the cage songs my love, here.”
“Oh no”, trilled the other one, “Dictated words are not for me”.
Cage-bird sighed, “Alas! Songs of the woods! How do I sing?”
One said, “The sky is deep azure, nowhere is there a trace of a bar.”
The other replied, “Neat is the cage, and how firm on all sides is the cover!”
Forest bird chirped, “In the midst of the clouds, open out yourself free.”
“Tie yourself safely to secluded home corner”, cage-bird cheeped.
Forest bird refused, “Oh no, where’s there room to fly?”
The other one murmured, “Alas! There’s no perch, up so high!”
Thus these two loved each other but couldn’t get any closer,
In between bars their beaks touched so did their mute stare.
Both failed to grasp the other’s plight as well as their own.
They only beat their wings; called each other to be close; forlorn.
Forest bird cried “Oh no, who knows when shut will be the door”.
Cage-bird sighed, “Alas! My wings have no strength to soar.”

Caged Bird

by Maya Angelou

        A free bird leaps 

        on the back of the wind 
        and floats downstream 
        till the current ends 

        and dips his wing 

        in the orange sun rays 

        and dares to claim the sky. 

        But a bird that stalks 

        down his narrow cage 

        can seldom see through
        his bars of rage 

        his wings are clipped and 
        his feet are tied 

        so he opens his throat to sing. 

        The caged bird sings 
        with a fearful trill  
        of things unknown

        but longed for still 
        and his tune is heard
        on the distant hill  
        for the caged bird  
        sings of freedom. 

        The free bird thinks of another breeze 

        and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees 

        and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn 

        and he names the sky his own 

        But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
        his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream 
        his wings are clipped and his feet are tied 
        so he opens his throat to sing. 

       The caged bird sings  
       with a fearful trill  
       of things unknown
       but longed for still  
       and his tune is heard 
       on the distant hill  
       for the caged bird 
       sings of freedom.

 Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community

                               (Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be ~ Teaching    )


Monday, September 26, 2016


This week, my friends, we have poems from three brilliant poets to share with you. I asked Kerry O'Connor of Skylover and Skywriting, Jae Rose of  her blog of the same name,  and Truedessa, of True Wanderings, if they would share the following poems with us, and they graciously agreed.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Our first selection is Kerry's beautiful poem, part of a series she embarked on recently that is resulting in some wonderful work.


Three little birds in a row 
Sat musing. 
The Black Riders and Other Lines ~ Stephen Crane


Yes, some days, the sky is bleak
with wind grinding the clouds
and birds stolen on the wing –
and on those days, your heart
feels full of pebbles
slowly grinding your blood to dust.


A man came to me once, in a lonely place,
and offered to show me
the waterhole where he kept his heart.
He drew it out, and cradled it
like a pet; it clawed his hand.
I saw it had the beak of an eagle.


There are no answers in the firmament;
but here is my garden, waterless
and dying. Every bird comes of its own
volition, or hunger, to eat the apples
I have halved and skewered,
a purposeful dissection of my own heart.


If you have a song, sing it for me now
before the drought has broken
that I may pick each note apart to wear
on a grey string around my neck.
And I will love you for life;
I will love you in the lonely place.

Kerry O'Connor, August 6, 2016

Sherry: So evocative, Kerry. I resonate with the pebbles in the heart, such a good description. I especially admire loving someone "in the lonely place." You have echoed Crane's tone admirably, yet this poem is wholly your own, and beautiful.

Kerry: This poem is, in fact, a continuation of one I wrote a few days earlier, entitled Aye; But Beloved, and both were inspired by my reading of Stephen Crane's The Black Riders and Other Lines which is a compilation of Crane's shorter pieces. Crane's poems seem to fall under the themes of righteous wisdom, human wisdom and love and its loss.

The latter theme is central to my poetry and these were the stanzas which inspired me the most. Crane's poems are all quite individual, however, while I have used the idea of short pieces to provide a more cohesive narrative of a single speaker. In 'Three Little Birds', I have made the connection more obvious by including the same motifs in each, namely the birds, the heart and the water (which becomes a song in the final stanza). 

I am currently working on another set of stanzas, which begins HERE. I have also recorded a reading of the entire collection thus far, under the title, Aye; But Beloved and Other Lines, which can be found on Soundcloud HERE

I doubt these poems would have been written if it were not for my reading of Crane, and I have acknowledged this in my choice of titles, and preface quotes. At present, I do not know if the series is complete, and that is an exciting position to be in for a poet, especially when the well is so often dry.

Sherry: Yes, indeed, it is always thrilling to contemplate a series of poems! Thank you for this, Kerry. And thank you for the link to the spoken poems, always a pleasure to listen to.

Now let's take a look at a powerful piece by our friend, Jae Rose.


She crunches her apple 
It has been a long time 
Sometimes yesterday
Almost tomorrow
She is wishing inside
Quietly parked in my arms
I think
She corrects
Her hair is shiny
Clean pressed and fresh
It was good they caught you
She whispers
Holding my hand
If they hadn’t 
We wouldn’t be able to play any more
Quick sticks
No time to lose
Our sins and thrills 
Have tolled and rolled
Fallen like timber
Instilled in our soul
We have to make things right 
She trills
I am scared of falling Alice
Then don’t 
She says
All falls start with one bad step
I think of the man
Of being stuck 
In the bottle of glue
She corrects

We watch the clouds
Dreaming past the telephone pole
In the lines are forgotten shouts
Irascible destinations
Cards laid out


We are given to magic and stars 
Twelve small stones
Mixed in a bowl of fireflies and mint


There may not be home or even a rainbow
But the end always lies in the palm of our hand.  

Jae Rose August 16, 2016

Sherry: That closing is absolutely wonderful. I love the note of strength, and, as always, Alice's clear correction to find the exactly right phrase. Your small pilgrim is a wise soul.

Jae Rose: Thank you for choosing one of my poems for your feature. It is a pleasure to stand beside two inspiring poets - thank you also to Kerry and Truedessa.

'Prophesy' was the first poem I wrote after being discharged from hospital. I had a short break from blogging - and the various things that caused me to be there in the first place.

I was feeling brighter than usual. Hence Alice was all fresh and polished. Perhaps we were both renewed and a little less tired. It felt good to be home. Like something accomplished and tidied up. 

It sprang to life from four prompts - Magical Mystical Teacher’s Sunday Scribblings 2 - ‘Compose’ - and her Sunday’s Whirligig of the same week.  The Sunday Whirl and Sanaa’s Prompt Night's - ‘Let’s take a look at the cards shall we’.

I think it was one of those poems that tumbled out without much prodding. Alice felt full of energy and young. Ready, waiting and happy to talk again.

On top of Alice’s chatter, Sanaa’s prompt brought out a little magic and playfulness. The bowl of fireflies and mint was a pleasant surprise and seemed to fit in with the stones, palmistry reference and stars.

A little internet trawling changed the title from prophecy to prophesy -

To prophesy is to predict something or to utter something inspired by one's god’.

The photograph posted with the poem was the fabric of my sister’s dress. She stayed with me whilst I was in hospital. I think the pattern and flowers show how it felt to be with her and to safely return home.  

Colour, love and hope which hopefully I can draw on if/when darker days return. 

Sherry: My friend, we all hope they will not return, at least not in such force. We shall help you hold them at bay.  And bless your sister for being there with and for you. She is a good sister.

That weekend was a wonderful one for poetry. That same day, in the Pantry,  I read Truedessa's wonderful 'Cupping Light', a poem which holds great impact for me and whose refrain repeats in my mind, still, as a message to me from beyond the veil. Let's take a deep draught of that light.

In a sacred circle we gather
those who believe
in dreams...

We come to meditate on
life to find the answers
of our heart

Slumbering under the tree of life
I surrender myself to the beat
of twenty pounding drums...

Dropping the cloak of insecurity
I drift away through the portal
of opportunity. My resting body
takes in spiritual nourishment

Through the darkness, I find my
way, following the signs that
lead me closer to my destination
twisted trees, screeching owl

I hear nocturnal life breathing
around me, feel the eyes peering
through hidden places.
    twigs break with each step
      deer brush against the canvas
        of darkness...

Shadow people watch from the hollows
of giant oaks , maples and evergreens
fresh scent of pine circles me like a wreath
of pleasure...

Walking in two worlds, to find my true
potential in a landscape of changing
views, the river sings a reflective song

My heart races, beating to ancient calls
I hear you, the wolf howls from the cliff
of awareness, offering his guidance

Darkness tightens its noose around the
hanging trees, fear of the unknown
grips me in a changing world

Apparitions dart between the
huge trunks, chanting a song
breathe, inhale/exhale

I love you
  I forgive you
    I thank you

Ahead the golden crescent moon
shines high above the treetops
shadowy figure steps out of night
approaching me, a wolf follows
in his steps...

I feel suddenly very small in this large
place of wonder. Fear of darkness in
the other world worries me, I want
to run, but can't move...adrenaline
flows through my veins....

I step forward to full-fill the dream
quest. The stars become very bright
illuminating the heavens and my path

In silence I stand before an ancient
dweller. His hair long, thick & black
with solemn eyes that reach for me
I can see the scars from the battles
of past lives.

The trees burst into a thousand lights
and my heart sings a song of new life
he offers me a firefly, places it in
my open palm. I cup it to my heart...

The offering of light is mine to carry into
my waking life.

 I love you
     I forgive you
        I thank you

echoes, as I am called back into the sacred circle
bringing with me the gift of light...

author's note: This is a vision that came to me
through meditation, it is what it is, a gift. May
you all carry a piece of light with you in your

Truedessa, August 7, 2016

Sherry: This poem is so powerful, and affects me in a very deep way. As I  mentioned, I often repeat to myself the lines "I love you. I forgive you. I thank you", and picture Pup's dear black face, as if he is speaking them to me. Tell us more about this poem, and experience, won't you?

Truedessa: First, I am delighted to be featured on Poets United - Poems of the Week. The poem you have selected is special to me as it came to me during a crystal bowl meditation / drumming session. I had been feeling the darkness of life with recent events in the world. My intention was to find light. My poem basically described the journey I embarked on as I slipped into the dreamscape.

For those who have never experienced anything like this, it can be overwhelming as everything seems very much alive as your senses become more acute. My intention was heard and full-filled, as I received the gift of light in the form of a firefly/lightning bug. I was touched by this gift and knew I had to bring honor to the vision and share the gift with those who might be in need of hope and light.

I love you.
   I forgive you.
      I thank you.

These are the words used in the chant of healing. May we all cup light and hold it to our hearts. Thank you, Sherry and the staff of Poets United, for creating a community filled with love.

Sherry: Thank you for writing this beautiful poem, and for sharing it with us, my friend.

And thank you to each of you talented women, for your poems, and your faithful participation at Poets United. We are what we are because of our members, and I feel very privileged to be among you.

My friends, I hope you take away something beautiful from these offerings today.  Sigh. My little cup is filled right to the brim. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

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