When I die I shall go to May.
It will be green, the colour green
in all its thousand shining faces.
Every day will feel like Christmas Eve
when I was ten. Every green leaf
will be perfection exactly
as it is and yet will grow and change
every time I turn my eyes to it.
Every moment will be like the arc
of a diver breaking the waters
of a green lake. I know this because
this is what May is like
here and now. Almost unbearable.
It does not hold for half an hour.
Yet in the shifting, growing hymn
of light and colour and leaf
is the still, simple reason that I garden.
(Monty Don in The Ivington Diaries, 2010)
Even nature wants to pay homage
to the mothers who feel unhappy
because they can’t realize
the desires of their children.
Dona Teresinha came to visit me.
She gave me 15 cruzeiros and said
it was for Vera to go to the circus.
I’m going to use the money to buy bread.
Yesterday I got half a pig’s head.
We ate the meat and saved the bones.
Today I put the bones on to boil
and into the broth I put some potatoes.
Night came. The stars are hidden.
The shack is filled with mosquitoes.
I lit a page from a newspaper
and ran it over the walls.
This is the way the favela dwellers kill
mosquitoes. My children are always hungry.
(From Carolina Maria de Jesus’ diary, Mothers’ Day 1958)
In the afternoon, he took us to the mosque.
The sun darted through, and how!
We rode a while on the donkey.
In the evening, through the streets.
A café decorated with pictures.
We ransacked the place buying.
A street scene around a mouse.
Finally someone killed it with a shoe.
We landed at a sidewalk café.
An evening of colors as tender
as they were clear.
Virtuosos at checkers. Happy hour.
Louis found exquisite color tidbits
and I — was to catch them.
(From Paul Klee’s diary, April 1914)
“Last night the English Opera House was burnt down — a magnificent fire.”
All the gentility of London was there
from Princess Esterhazy’s ball and all
the clubs; gentlemen in their fur cloaks, pumps,
and velvet waistcoats mixed with objects like
the sans-culottes in the French Revolution —
men and women half-dressed, covered with rags
and dirt, some with nightcaps or handkerchief
round their heads — then the soldiers, the firemen,
and the engines, and the new police running
and bustling, clearing the way, clattering
along, with that intense interest and restless
curiosity, which received fresh stimulus
at every renewed burst of the flames as
they rose in a shower of sparks like gold dust.
(From The Greville Memoirs, January 1830)
I dreamt of you again last night.
And when I woke up it was as if
you had died afresh. I read
all your letters this afternoon.
I feel as if we had collected all
our wheat into a barn to make bread
and beer for the rest of our lives
and now our barn has been burnt down
and we stand on a cold winter morning
looking at the charred ruins. For this
little room was the gleanings of our life.
All our happiness was over this fire
and with these books. Voltaire blessing us
with up-raised hand on the wall. No one
to talk to about my pleasures. I write in
an empty book. I cry in an empty room.
(Dora Carrington’s diary, February 1932)
Two feet of snow fell last evening.
It lies in largest masses on the flat
fronded branches of firs and the mounded
close foliage of the live-oaks, and it
bends and welds together the tassels
of the pines. The ouzel heeds not the roar
of avalanches, the heavy masses
of snow from banks and trees, and the constant
upspringing of pines. He would not cease
singing or feeding for an earthquake.
(From John Muir’s journal, February 1873)
A plume of feathers, never used
but by Œdipus and the Earl of Essex.
A serpent to sting Cleopatra.
made by Will. Brown in Piccadilly.
The whiskers of a Turkish Bassa.
A wild boar. Roxana’s night-gown.
The imperial robes of Xerxes, never worn but once.
Another of a bigger sort.
Materials for dancing; as masks,
castanets, and a ladder of ten rounds.
Three bottles and a half of lightning.
A dozen and a half of clouds,
trimmed with black. A basket-hilted sword.
Three oak-cudgels, with one of crab-tree.
A bale of Spanish wool. A sea.
A coach very finely gilt, with a pair
of dragons, to be sold cheap.
One shower of snow in the whitest French paper.
A mustard-bowl to make thunder.
A suit of clothes for a ghost,
viz. a bloody shirt, a doublet curiously pinked.
A coat with three great eyelet-holes.
A set of clouds after the French mode,
streaked with lightning, and furbelowed.
(From Drury Lane theatre’s fire sale, 1709)
Friends, with me everything is okay.
Cuts on the head, eyebrow dissected,
concussion, broken nose suspected.
I, like millions of other Ukrainians,
would like to have a normal measure of power.
I told them to go fuck themselves.
(From The Abuse of Ukraine’s Best-Known Poet)
Lo! and behold and hear!
Hearken to his song!
Out come the nightingales,
right about the guns.
Presently a misty moon came up,
a nightingale began to sing…
It was strange to stand there and listen,
for the song seemed to come
all the more sweetly and clearly
in the quiet intervals between
the firing. There was something
infinitely sweet and sad about it,
as if the countryside
were singing gently to itself,
in the midst of all our noise
and confusion and muddy work;
so that you felt the nightingale’s song
was the only real thing
which would remain when all the rest
was long past and forgotten.
Gradually the night wore on,
until day began to break,
and I could see clearly the daisies
in the long grass about my feet.
(From a letter from the Western Front, 1915.)
Why is there a guy selling perfumes
in the toilets of a club? The fact
most houses don’t have bars on the windows.
Spring and how utterly lovely it is.
Strangers ending messages with a kiss.
Everything is tighter, narrower, closer.
You coming with us for the bonfire,
they’re burning the Pope. I wasn’t expecting
the litter to lay on the ground for weeks.
Where are the people cleaning the streets?
Houses have string light switches. Two taps.
Gravestones older than my whole country.
You can buy drinks and snacks in a pharmacy.
Quiz nights, Marmite, no bargaining in shops.
Two snowflakes fall and everything stops.
Most people in London aren’t from London.
People who play dominoes in pub bars.
A small group of cheerful protestors
led to a police car, no need for drama.
People shopping in their pyjamas.
All the food is wet. Sandwiches oozing
with mayonnaise, chips drowning in gravy.
Everything is too sweet. Limes are so cheap.
Long fake eyelashes, orange tanning.
How green everything stays. Did I mention spring?
No burglar bars and security gates,
no pallisade fencing. The resigning
of everyone who has a setback.
How much Brits hate Britain, talk it down.
Women pushing prams on the streets on their own.
(From UK immigrants, what surprised you when you moved here?)
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