International Poetry Workshop at Poets’ House, 1993
Sponsored by Poets House directors—Janice Fitzpatrick and James Simmons—I attended the international poetry workshop at Poets’ House in the summer of 1993.The directors and all participating poets were glad at the effort that inspired me to travel all those expensive miles. I was young, naïve and spoke imperfect English.
James Simmons wrote in a recommendation letter, thus:
“…but he is committed to the English Language and everything he writes shows true imagination wrestling with experience and language to produce something unexpected and interesting. Difficulty with English combined with a good mind have often produced dynamic results in the English written by Irish and Indian and African writers.”
For three weeks I wrote and studied poetry under distinguished Irish and American poets. I was particularly inspired by Professor Sherod Santos who, by then, ran the PhD programme in Creative Writing at the University of Missourri, Columbia. Others who stirred the spirit of poetry in me were Derek Mahon, Greg Delanty, Medbh McGuckian and the two Poets’ House Directors---Janice Fitzpatrick and James Simmons.
Other than the above facilitators, my creative spirit was also enlivened by other participating poets. These poets came from Japan, USA and Ireland. I studied their poems and learnt how they wrote and, since 1993 to date, their poems have never ceased to inspire me. The following are the poets and their poems, published in a summer 1993 Poets’ House anthology and which I have held in high regard and safely kept to-date!
A cloud over the lough, a wind,
A shower: news in the Sahara,
He said, but not news here.
We were extracting meaning
From facts of history
And talked about the weather:
Safe, but requiring strength
I do not always possess.
Time was yesterday
then the pendulum stopped:
The Thracian favourite
rides through memory
waking the banshee.
The farmer’s spirited cows
escaped this morning into the spring
bucking wildly, embracing
air, - space and time.
On the lake the little people appear
with white beards and earlocks.
Tilly Losch raises her arms
in front of the mirror,
her hands ready to dance.
The two ancient trees in front of the house
whisper ‘til late at night,
when Alexander’s horse
charges into the forest:
the white cats are hiding,
their litters censored.
She just couldn’t handle
that much freedom,
the American writer had said,
and I had wondered
what this new liberty was
the needed so much practice.
Nothing is ever lost:
some hand is forced
to catch it, some cell
retain it, and slowly,
slowly the tender pendulous clock
begins to count again
purloining meaning from life.
Copyright© Sabine Wichert, 63 Vauxhall Park, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 5HBThe busy morning, spilling rain
The Tomorrow Club
Most beautifully, is shut out
From autumn into late autumn
By the housebroken mirror.
The rain with its misleading radiance
Sounds as if it were starving
For the pre-season springtime
Of poetry’s exterior shelter.
The wind colours your voice like corn:
Evanescent flower scent,
Permanent leaf scent,
Tomorrow, they become all fruit.
Copyright © Medbh McGuckian C/o Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast BT9AW
Fine Place Holland
One of my eyes is watching the foxglove
Borne on a tall spike,
The other is watching the blonde girl
On the red mountain bike.
In a dream everything is, or can be, exquisite,
You’re never sure, who or what, will visit.
In the beer garden ‘enjoy’ is the motto
It’s my own little grotto.
The forty thieves are drinking at their leisure.
Like Aladdin, I have such wonderful treasure.
The water below me is still, it’s not a stream,
Holland’s a fine place to dream!
Now the blond girl crosses the stone bridge
Walking towards the town square,
She’s laughing and moonlight is on her hair.
She rests one hand on the shoulder of prince Hal
The other she points to the white flowers
Rising from the dark canal.
One slender foot she dips in the water
Which was still,
The other plays at being a Dutch windmill.
She’s flowing with the stream
And Holland’s a fine place to dream!
I seem to have known her all my life
A voice inside says could this be your wife?
We run along a cobbled street
There’s curiosity on every face we meet.
Prince Hal, floating in the ether
Softly playing his guitar, trying to get
Playing a timeless tune,
For us, for himself and for his mistress
If lose these friends I’ll feel a deep loss
If I wake up, I’ll turn and I’ll toss.
The water below me is still, it’s not a stream
And Holland’s a fine place to dream.
Copyright © Kenneth Mcphee, 18 Highfield Drive, Kelvindale, Glasgow G120HF. 041 334 2101.
We have the time
Wind it up inside your life
And the wound will end
I swear, no worse, no memory scar.
Allow the sides to bind together
Flesh around healing forms itself better
Erase itself to stay forever
Bound into the life of mind.
You will not need to open again
I say remember mind yourself
And that you are the wounds
I want, you will find.
Copyright © Daragh Carville, 62 Rue de la Glaciere,75013 Paris.
The Land of The Worm
Tracks of land lie fallow
while rivulets of water
penetrate each microcosm
where the inhabitants live unconcerned.
No ears to hear
no eyes to see;
primeval instincts sufficient here.
Clods of earth sifted
to free-flowing flour,
hour by hour.
Copyright © Barbara McLoughlin 4 Annaghdale Place Tandragee Road, Portadown,County Antrim.
And then the lights
Dimmed, and our talk
Flickered and went out.
Corner-eye awareness of
Copyright © Caroline Johnston
He remembers fourteen like it was yesterday—
The summer he was in New England.
The thunderstorms sound like hurricanes to him now.
The thunder becomes the sound of house splitting
All the way to the foundation. The rain blowing
Across the front porch is the water which came up over
His bare knees. The lightning, flashing under the hems
Of the shades, ignites the memory of the power lines
Which sparked in the blank darkness of the city.
Maybe between the white-hot glittering of electricity,
He knew this was what he wanted to remember:
The numbing sound of the wind,
And the black storm surge which washed in under the doors.
Copyright © Unknown poet
The Joking Philosopher
I met a joking philosopher
Tripping along the way
His face grave and merry
And the smile in his eyes was gay
I asked the cause of his merriment
And what he found funny in life
He said he found all the answers to the questions
In bed at night with his wife
I met him again year’s later
When the children had gone from the fold
He had renewed his search for reasons
As his body became frail and old
But he knew that he would not find them
Unless the spirit came to his aid
So he prayed for the grace of belonging
To the house of truth God made.
Copyright © Jim Deeney,89 Sutton Park, Sutton, Dublin 13, Ireland. 323712
He dances in a field- gold stubble after harvest-
Moon burning orange- colored light bulbs
Strung between trees- hot sweetness of night.
He dances alone- his white sash- his gold head-dress,
His pale blue shirt- his solemnity,
A head above the trestle feasting tables.
Guests dresses in new clothes
Bring gifts, wishes, celebration,
The breaking of bread, music, laughter.
Fullest moon- memory of the boy- palpable in his absence-
Drifts like an eclipse across its face.
Copyright © Joan Newmann, 30 Rathlin Road, Ballycastle, County Antrim, BT546AQ, 02657 62695
Some poets prefer to doss in a railway station
But when I come to London I like to go
Straight to Richmond Hill
Because it stimulates my imagination.
I can’t feel so poor
When surrounded by all that verdure.
So, when it’s getting dark
I seek the alcove in the park.
In the terrace gardens my resolve hardens!
If I hear a foot-step or a rustle
That may be a midnight muscle,
I’m ready to spring like a mad thing,
Out of the khaki sleeping bag.
My rolled-out sleeping bag.
Eventually I wake in the trumpet dawn
And put my shoes on.
No fanfare rings out, there’s nobody about!
My money I haven’t lost
So how much does a real english breakfast cost?
Just then, the sun raises an eye-brow in the cotman sky
Warming the cold marble eye
Of a maiden in pearl-round pool.
Caressed by lilies and silent as a rule.
I know she’s lovely but I keep my cool.
Why gush like a green fool?
Now I sit down on a seat and stare at my feet.
‘For Elizabeth summers who cherished this place…’
While reading the bench plaque
Someone taps me on the back.
A gentleman who looks like an Egyptian
He says, “Were you reading the inscription?”
He grinned like the Cheshire cat
Said his name was Shane Maclysaght.
His amber eyes were flecked with grey
They shone when he had something to say.
I was used to suspicious northern eyes
So this chap was something of a surprise.
Poplar tall and very thin
Would he disappear and leave behind his grin?
Rackham oaks whispered above my head
And foxgloves nodded in a flower-bed
We talked for while,
Me and the needle from the Nile.
I told him I was writing a poem
About the pharaoh Akhenaten;
Shane said he saw a statue of him
Last summer in Manhatten.
Ancient Egypt intrigued me profoundly,
If it came to mummies I knew them soundly.
Not for nothing had I consulted experts in dark suites,
Not for nothing had I browsed through esoteric books.
Copyright © Kenny
My sons inherited her,
My mother had made
For her daughter.
They liked to play catch with her.
She rode on their trucks
Beeping and hollering,
He snarly red yarn head bobbing.
I don’t they ever noticed
The small embroidered heart
Under her blue flowered blouse
That said “I love you”
She was mostly ignore
At the bottom of their toy box,
A boring secondary toy.
Expect for one night
When cranky with sleep
They each of them wanted
To take her to bed.
They fought on the stairs
Yanking her cloth arms
Pulling and shouting
She’s mine, she’s mine,
Until the whole soft body tore
Bleeding cotton batting in white gobs.
No way in the world to fix her
Look what you boys have done now.
It was almost uncanny,
The way she flew through the air
And always made a soft landing.
Copyright © Diane Moon Sautter, 833 Lakewood Lane, Marquette MI 49855, U.S.A
Georgia State Road 121
After Joan’s first round of chemotherapy, I run away:
rusty live oak leaves and pink sasanqua petals whirl
under my tires- a local gust swooshes from yard to road.
That’s Belleville. Fall, and the sun’s shinning. Down
the road past feed lots and union farms- county roads cross
where I don’t need to look to know nobody’s there.
The engine echoes against the low-buttressed bridge
over the boggy Altamaha as it pools and writhes toward
the sea islands. I think she’ll be all right if
my fears and I are somewhere else: I close my windows
and follow the road. In Surrency, the next farm town,
the train station’s faded red; the tar paper roof glistens
with mica, shading four worn woods steps. A woman drowses;
her left arm cradles a sleeping Great Dane. The Seaboard
Coast line stopped years ago. The air’s warm now;
noon dust floats undisturbed under the red light. Spanish moss
hangs over brown yards and still square houses. I stop
for coffee, call the hospital: pink petals rest under porches.
Copyright © Devan Cook, 106W. 7th Av,#9, Tallahassee Floridah 32303, U.S.A. 904-222-2807
The harbor’s arm cups the shallow water
as if might grasp this moving, elemental
form. Sand washes and out- rock worn by water
into something that cradles the sea. Portals
Of change, a sea – change through which transformation
into anything else is possible. Now the sea
is a desert and eels, snakes- all gold horizon
and burning sand, heat walls waving visibly.
Prospero is on the rock ranging again. Ariel
is a voice in the distance enchanting
the wind now that deserts returned to sea. Shells
lie on the sand by the harbor whispering
her song to cool his mind- so rocks and sea
turn into elemental cradling, change, hyperbole.
Copyright © Janice Fitzpatrick-Simmons, Poets’ House, 80 Portmuck Road, Islandmagee, County Antrim
For The Hidden One
Intricate green, a glistening of needles,
Aromas of pine in the afternoon sun,
Great rookeries of shrubbery shinning,
The branches with exploding cones.
The bristling tree mounts its wishes on the air,
A shock of energy, one seed made explicit
In the green wonder of its thundering presence,
A splat of pine ratcheting against the stars
In scrolls of tracery laced on my ear,
A warble of bird babble intensifies vision
A hidden bird I cannot find whose
Casual melody frenzies the tree.
All in thrall in my eyes and my ears,
Piney tree is hanging on this singing
For one moment suspended
Its pure pleasure mutually created.
The answer lies in dreaming says the bird,
This mirage of tree dynamic in the head,
This quirk of song prismatic in the heart,
Even the god’s hiding holds promise.
Copyright © Diana
Cleaning The Statues
It’s not dirt that offends
But noticed dirt. Shame
is a fingertip grazing dust,
a thumb in spittle.
For those stone Victorians
modesty is all: they strip
Behind boards, scaffolding,
pigeons exiled to rooftops
trade rumors and watch
the sandblasters come and go
like guards on a boarder,
or like quacks to a sickroom
whispering in Latin,
staking their careers
on a last-ditch recovery
when they will throw open
the door on their healed
Lazarus, a figure
like this resuscitated
Peer, so white it’s as if
his excema of soot
and birdshit had all along
been hatching marble.
Now he’s as proud as the father
of an heir to the business.
He models a suit of snow
on a granite catwalk.
The rest wait in their watchtowers
while attendants bring
Abrasives and nostalgia
And mud on their boots.
Copyright ©Martin Mooney, 75 Portmuck Road, Isladmagee, County Antrim, Northen Ireland
Decorating The Wall
They started with a clear blue sky,
And a spotted cow, startled in mid-air
Over lumps of bright green.
Robert painted a twisted road.
It twisted right through Catherine’s tree
And flattened Mathew‘s cow.
Michael made Lorries and cars
With policemen stopping them.
Colin was drawing at his desk.
Bridget wanted yellow for flowers,
But the yellow had changed to sickly green.
The red was orangey-pink
So she made houses instead
With holes for the windows
Colin was cutting things out.
Christopher smeared black on the houses.
He said the people were dead.
Bridget tried to make flowers
On the houses with brick-colored paint
But the black was still wet and they went
All smudgy at the edges, and Colin
Climbed on the table with a brush
And the paste and he bumped
Bridget’s arm so the paint
Dripped across Robert’s road,
And Christopher said,
“Pity it’s not a proper red”.
Then the bells went, and miss Macauley
Poured all the colours into one big pot,
Green-purply-brown and she said,
“That’s lovely children. What a lot
Of helicopter! Let’s all count
Mary Taylor, 27 park Road, Belfast BT7 2FX. Tel: 648810
Watching you, watching them
Made me see the policemen’s guns
For the first time.
All my life they’d carried them
Why hadn’t I noticed?
A child raised in the foot- hills of Black Mountain
I share with you, not darkness, but the light
Of shankill, Springfield, Falls.
Having embraced its pain
I knew its hope.
It wasn’t when men with burning torches
Razed our neighborhood houses to the ground
That brought me fear.
Nor later waking up blown full across the room
By a five hundred pounder
Still asleep in my pyjamas,
Till daddy shook me conscious
Thinking I was worse than sleeping.
Not even when the marksman took a pot shot at my car
From the roof of the R.V.H
(Hospital roofs are great vantage points for killing)
How did he miss?
It was when you gazed upon my city
And thought it tense
I felt the pain.
For then I saw the world’s misunderstanding
I feared others, not yourself, might pick conclusions
Out of hats, fashionable, millinery made in France or Hong Kong
Designer tailored to suit the occasion.
You weren’t wrong, not right either
Today we shared truth.
For we moved among the people
Unafraid, and unashamed to care.
I’d like to keep you a little longer
For we are much the same
The Big Apple and Belfast,
Both bites of Eden
Two different fruits from the same tree of disobedience
Friendship innocent and short
Must we say goodbye?
Yes, we must, I know
For it’s only in letting friendship go
That we can hope to keep it.
Copyright © Hilary McDowell, c/o P.W.A.Department, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast BT1 DW - Northern Ireland.
On The Road to Calais
Silence drifts like a speck of dust
Harried by an invisible wind pat scattered
Cemeteries along the road from Paris to Calais
Hillsides dotted with white
Picket fences guard soldiers
Buried where they fell.
The size of the simple, white markers never varies.
Some tracts suffer one, or two, small crosses,
Other, thirty or more;
Some plots, a single pinprick on a page,
Others, look like the word war in Braille.
Willow trees brush against ordinary clouds,
Much like the ones in Washington, or Montana.
Poppies and daisies meander undisturbed
By half-buried helmets and rusted rifle.
I drive along this peaceful road,
An expanse of pastoral serenity,
See French farmers genuflect
Each time they plow
Around these hallowed plots.
It’s hard to imagine how it was—
Fertile land raped by shell holes,
A sky filled with exploding clouds,
Blown clear of birds,
Poppies wilting from the stench of fear,
Mud forgiving sins.
The wind in its blindness
Reads each named cross,
Fingers poppies like yellowed
Pages in history book.
Copyright © Arlene E.Paul, 4312 NE 40th st. Vancouver, WA 98661
Immigrant Smoking In The USA
Outside the airport on an overheard walkway
Amidst the cold, dry, summer night
Smoke pours, whiffs, then dissipates
As I inhale on a cigarette of dreams
Below the walkway a fire is nesting
Resting, anticipating, red light turning
While policemen and firemen are conniving to themselves
Maybe to put out the flames of burning desire
A better life, a nicotine escape
From a distance grievances
Of a third world dampness
Beside me, three fellow country men speak
Also burning pencils between their fingers
Attempting to trace their destiny in the sky
But I hesitate to enter into their conversing
And instead puff on deeper thoughts
Of things yet to come
Eventually thy leave
Then the tobacco stick between my fingers chars down
To a brown filtering reality
Better left in a nearly-filled ashtray
Of burnt –down desires and nicotine escapes
The policemen wave goodbye
The firemen pack-up
A job well done perhaps or a false alarm
I walk towards the inside with the hope to someday
See the smoke of dreams
In the land of milk and honey, amidst the cold, dry, summer night
Up amongst the clouds
Copyright © Maurice Gaerlan
We root ourselves into the earth
Each hand is five-petaled
Let your palm open to the sky
We are in full bloom.
One life returned to the ground
Truth is a piece of quartz quarried out just now
Feel its blood beat
Vibrating and seething
With your very fingers.
I want to cry out
To shake the shore
The moment in which
Words split open
Out of their refined, impermeable shell
Men’s voices deepen night
Welling up into our circle
As a stream of warm, thick blood
Women sing, too
Clattering ores of sunshine
A myriad of butterflies float between light and dark
Today in this kingdom
One pulse of fellow creatures stopped
Bite every given minute of life
Our souls are gasping and hollow
From inside the wall of our flesh
We lift up our voice in song
Our melody is borne on a breeze above us
It looks down the emerald ravine far below
Reaches a lucid spot in the sky
The color which transcends all
An eye of Lapis Lazuli.
Copyright © Miho Nonaka, 1-57-4 Kinugaoka Hachioji-shi,Tokyo 192, Japan. 0426360018
You complimented me with your chaos,
said I was pretty and then looked over
my shoulder as though the curve of my neck
was the sighting on a shotgun. I felt
privileged, like Napoleon’s dark war horse,
a Josephine of other purposes.
I would lean across the table, perhaps
indiscreetly, and whisper this to you,
“Use me like a knife, whet me like a stone,
and cut the sinews of this frail order,
to all the much grander laws of physics.”
You would laugh of course, “what could grander
than gravity? That organized falling
into place. Everything heavy settles;
stones in the sand; activists to law firms,
two heads side by side, imprints on their pillows.
“You, my friend, are too light,” you said, “to make
a knife of. A skilled surgeon like myself
would wish for a metal far more tempered.
I would wear you dull within the hour”
Copyright © Heather Wood, 77 Portmuck Road, Portmuck, Islandmagee, County Antrim BT403TP, Northern Ireland.
Round The Cape
The sea is the marriage we ferry through.
From inside we can feel the sway of the ocean,
the effort of diesel against it, the twin screw.
You balance finely, in the ships saloon,
before a huge mirror and its acolytes,
the round portholes. They are outer moons.
Faithful schooner, it has ferried day and night
So many passengers and their reflections
in the wide mirror, even the smaller ones.
This night we take a reading from the astrolabe.
Notes get written in secret, verbs and nouns
in mirror-writing help us round the cape.
It’s the mirror keeps talking back to the sea.
Storms swell against the glass, year after year.
Your image against my own is steady
Yet. We make love against the ships mirror.
Copyright © Thomas McCarthy,Carrigbrack, Lovers walk, Monterotte, Cork City.
Some of Us Stayed Forever
Some of us stayed forever, under the lough
in the guts of a Flying Fortress,
sealed in the buckled capsule, or dispersed
with odds and ends- propellers, dogtags, wings,
a packet of lucky strike, the instructor’s gloves-
through an old world of shells and arrowheads,
dumped furniture, a blind Viking prow.
In ten years or hundred we will rise
to foul your nets with crushed fuselage.
Our painted stork, nosing among the reeds
with a bomb in its beak, will startle you for a day.
Copyright © Frank Ormbsby, Belfast Academical Institute, English Department
This Land Unlikens Me
I am unbalanced
with new accents my ears must rope around
eyes that measure my gaze
New scents are heightened
like the bird I want to be
Its flight grounds me
the wind willows through my skin
My shadow switches like a child
peaking behind a tree
It aims to accompany me
I walk through the air
breathing in out
it starts to rain
my footprints drip away
who will know I’m here
who will know I’m gone
Copyright © Cathy Graham, 77 Portmuck Road, Portmuck, Islandmagee, County Antrim, Northen Ireland. BT403TP
What if snowdrops fell
And bluebells rang
What if the primrose blushed
And meadows rued
The horsing around of the chestnuts?
What if dandelions
Roared all day
Would they become
The leopard’s bane
Or get up the nose
Of the sneezewort?
Well-even if the willow wept
Or Virginia crept about
And witchazel wreaked loosestrife
I’d still be the hero of this plot
Copyright © Everlyn Mckittrick, July’93
The words and pictures can only
sting us to a momentary shame,
but why does atrocity shock us?
Man’s capability of inflicting
pain is not new.
The snapshot image could be an
old silently fading-yellow
photograph taken at liberty
from the album of history.
Yet, we react as though nothing
like this has happened before,
nor could ever again;
forgetting to return to the
shelf where we would learn
that each new era must address
the same old enemies.
Those involved cannot help
but remember everything.
Disparities which survive
their victims, re-inventing
themselves with each other retelling.
The tensile boundaries over
which they are powerless.
This jig-saw cohesion, fortified
with the resentment of
yesterday, hand feeds todays
fear for the fight
Copyright © Terry Cafolla, Poets’ house, 80 portmuck road, Islandmagee, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Then and then and then.
I went back
to tend my olives
and almonds, wove
fine bleached cloth,
gathered the last of summer fruit.
did I dream of him,
his arm heavy
across me, hip warm
aas what was
The salt of these
dries on skin.
continues to survive
her rise and fall
Bridget Meeds, 607 N.Tioga St. Ithaca NY 14850, U.S.A - 6072722173.
They lift away, hot air balloons and words.
The sky receives them, symbols of spent hours,
of time and death, the angst of little birds.
And still our ideas gather in their hordes
until, like stormclouds when they’ve loosed their showers,
they lift away, hot air. Balloons and words,
the jar of jellybeans a young girl hoards,
borrow illumination from the powers
of time and death. The angst of little birds
is a puzzle someone’s text affords-
whether they’re robins or just metaphors
they lift away, hot air balloons. And words
remain, bent serve all our several modes-
rhymes, rythms, dreams, romance the flowers
of time and death, the angst little birds.
The greatest poems are mightier than swords;
perhaps this will be said of some of ours.
They lift away, hot air balloons and words
of time and death, the angst of little birds.
Copyright © Pamela Gillilan, Flat 1, 25 Caledonia Place, Clifton, Bristol B58 4DL- England.
Wife's Reply to Her Husband Who Discovers a Titanic Survivor in Their Waterbed
Three o’clock in the morning
And you see something I don’t,
Something blond and ethereal in our waterbed.
Her wet hair waves like brown seaweed,
Like the mermaids we saw once at wekiwatchi.
Her breaths are beautiful and deep:
She inhales the glacial waters of the arctic,
And between breaths, her fingertips
Touch the thin plastic which divides you.
Divine mermaid you call her.
She slipped over the lip of a lifeboat
And into the dark, unloving sea.
Why is she here now? The stars’ reflections
Of that cold, November night glitter on her teeth
When she smiles at you. The smooth constellations
Of seventy years are revealed to you at a glance.
Copyright© Amy Palughi, 3310 West 7th St.#23 Hattiesburg, MS 39401 U.S.A. 601 261 3761
After The Ball
The sudden loneliness you feel
when the band plays
after the ball
and you are drowning
in a sea
of swaying bodies
while in a kitchen
watches a woman
boiling on the range
scrub sheets white
on a wash-board
in the sink
her strong arms
bangled with suds
and all the while she sings
after the ball is over
after the break of morn
and later in the garden
you hand her pegs
until she hoists her line
of dazzling white
to sunny wind
a sheet slaps
a sudden shower
on your upturned face
and when you climb the steps
to the back door
she is humming still.
Copyright © Brenda Sullivian, Kilmore, Streete, County Westmeath, Ireland. 043 85115.
I Am Not Exactly
I am not exactly what I feel I should be
I should have been exactly what I don’t know
Maybe a hyacinth in the woods, to bear fruits
Or its boughs to put a lofty birds nests
I am not exactly what I feel I should be
I could be happy perhaps if I were a street boy
Disturbing the dust-bin lids, feeding out of them
Sit in the wynd, stretch out my hand for coin.
I am not exactly what I feel I should be
I know who I am: a tall codger engraving
White figure on the dark wall, sniffing chalk-dust
And reiterately talking himself out
Bending over to construct red lines on books
And carrying a bamboo for recalcitrance cases.
I sometimes look at my self: a desperate gent
In tattered trouser, brown sandals on my feet
On the rocks, drowned in the world’s inflation
Worried of what tomorrow would yield for me
Anyway, I am not exactly what I feel I should be.
Sometimes sitting here I see children dosing
Pieces of chalks lie on the table, a wooden duster
Wait below the dark wall, my eyes wandering
Exploring a nature corner, charts on the wall, tots’
Dizzy eyes, and then watching them, slowly, resuscitate.
I am not exactly what I feel I should be:
Teachers, pupils, come out and watch a renegade
See me unskin myself, filter through
Into the distilled world of poetry. I am not a teacher
I am now a poet- understand?
Copyright © Christopher Okemwa - P.O. Box 3956, Kisii, Kenya
Poems by ten-year old, Anna
The following two poems were written by the ten-year old, Anna, daughter of James Simmons and Janice Fitzpatrick-Simmons, and dedicated to me on 13th July 1993. She signed the paper on which the poems were written.
I Wasn’t Made For Water
The small engine powered boat sways from side to side,
as we all try to make a joke of my sea fright
The tall looming wall of the lonely, bird infested island, it is true are
but before I notice nature, I must take in the strong currant, the faulty
engine and the enormous and deadly jelly-fish with long wavy tentacles,
I look longingly back at land,
And wonder what it would be like to drown
I try to distract myself from the menacing water and I look up at the caves
And their dark, black menacing interiors,
And this sets off another fear
Copyright © Anna, daughter to James & Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons
The dawn exploded behind it, outlining its figure,
And making it already more beautiful
Forever, still standing,
Steadfast as ever
Wholly true and full, as though one strong creature alive in its own.
Copyright © Anna, daughter to James Simmons & Janice Fitzpatrick