The following is a collection of favourite poems. Some well known, others not so.

Soul on Soul by Devika MathurDevika Mathur

Take the brown leaf, dip it into the holy waters
then spread the glow on my diamond skin,
my autumn skin.
Twirl your fingers on my unwrinkled navel,
with alluring eyes, with crisp breath,
that beguiling yellow hold,
like the conjecture of lost love,
Emboss my soul, my body with fresh dewy stare
an array of flickering thoughts,
paper-lit lanterns.
Then take the green leaf and caress my once pale ear with the colour of lust,
squeezing my dark cores,
chopping my outgrown branches.
Chant my tales with the colossal moon,
hide my soul,
flower my soul,
Lather my gnarled parts with a Petrichor,
the petrichor of your smell.
The intoxicated halt.
The intoxicated soul on soul.


Growing Old by Matthew Arnold.



What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The luster of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
—Yes, but not this alone.
Is it to feel our strength—
Not our bloom only, but our strength—decay?
Is it to feel each limb
Grow stiffer, every function less exact,
Each nerve more loosely strung?
Yes, this, and more; but not
Ah, ’tis not what in youth we dreamed ’twould be!
’Tis not to have our life
Mellowed and softened as with sunset glow,
A golden day’s decline.
’Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fullness of the past,
The years that are no more.
It is to spend long days
And not once feel that we were ever young;
It is to add, immured
In the hot prison of the present, month
To month with weary pain.
It is to suffer this,
And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel.
Deep in our hidden heart
Festers the dull remembrance of a change,
But no emotion—none.
It is—last stage of all—
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man.



Song On May Morning by John Milton.



Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
Hail bounteous May that dost inspire
Mirth and youth, and warm desire,
Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,
Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcom thee, and wish thee long.



FINISTERRE by David Whyte

David Whyte

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you had brought
and light their illumined corners; and to read
them as they drifted on the late western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves



Philip Larkin

Image source

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   

In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   

Till then I see what’s really always there:   

Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   

Making all thought impossible but how   

And where and when I shall myself die.   

Arid interrogation: yet the dread

Of dying, and being dead,

Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.


The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   

—The good not done, the love not given, time   

Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   

An only life can take so long to climb

Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   

But at the total emptiness for ever,

The sure extinction that we travel to

And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   

Not to be anywhere,

And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.


This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says No rational being 

Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing

That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.


And so it stays just on the edge of vision,   

A small unfocused blur, a standing chill   

That slows each impulse down to indecision.   

Most things may never happen: this one will,   

And realisation of it rages out

In furnace-fear when we are caught without   

People or drink. Courage is no good:

It means not scaring others. Being brave   

Lets no one off the grave.

Death is no different whined at than withstood.


Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.   

It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   

Have always known, know that we can’t escape,   

Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   

In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring

Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Work has to be done.

Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin, “Aubade” from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.
Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)


Crossing The Bar

Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Sunset and evening star,

      And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

      When I put out to sea,


   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

      Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

      Turns again home.


   Twilight and evening bell,

      And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

      When I embark;


   For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

      The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

      When I have crost the bar.


Winter Leafage by Edith Matilda Thomas

Edith Matilda Thomas

Each year I mark one lone outstanding tree,
Clad in its robings of the summer past,
Dry, wan, and shivering in the wintry blast.
It will not pay the season’s rightful fee,—
It will not set its frost-burnt leafage free;
But like some palsied miser all aghast,
Who hoards his sordid treasure to the last,
It sighs, it moans, it sings in eldritch glee.
A foolish tree, to dote on summers gone;
A faithless tree, that never feels how spring
Creeps up the world to make a leafy dawn,
And recompense for all despoilment bring!
Oh, let me not, heyday and youth withdrawn,
With failing hands to their vain semblance cling!


1 January 1965




The Wise Men will unlearn your name.

Above your head no star will flame.

One weary sound will be the same—

the hoarse roar of the gale.

The shadows fall from your tired eyes

as your lone bedside candle dies,

for here the calendar breeds nights

till stores of candles fail.


What prompts this melancholy key?

A long familiar melody.

It sounds again. So let it be.

Let it sound from this night.

Let it sound in my hour of  death—

as gratefulness of eyes and lips

for that which sometimes makes us lift

our gaze to the far sky.


You glare in silence at the wall.

Your stocking gapes: no gifts at all.

It’s clear that you are now too old

to trust in good Saint Nick;

that it’s too late for miracles.

—But suddenly, lifting your eyes

to heaven’s light, you realize:

your life is a sheer gift.


The Daughter



We said she was a negative image of me because of her lightness.

She’s light and also passage, the glory in my cortex.

Daughter, where did you get all that goddess?

Her eyes are Neruda’s two dark pools at twilight.

Sometimes she’s a stranger in my home because I hadn’t imagined her.

Who will her daughter be?

She and I are the gradual ebb of my mother’s darkness.

I unfurl the ribbon of her life, and it’s a smooth long hallway, doors flung open.

Her surface is a deflection is why.

Harm on her, harm on us all.

Inside her, my grit and timbre, my reckless.


Monsoon Poem by TISHANI DOSHI

Trishna Droshi

Image source: Pic by Adil Hasan

Because this is a monsoon poem

expect to find the words jasmine,

palmyra, Kuruntokai, red; mangoes

in reference to trees or breasts; paddy

fields, peacocks, Kurinji flowers,

flutes; lotus buds guarding love’s

furtive routes. Expect to hear a lot

about erotic consummation inferred

by laburnum gyrations and bamboo

syncopations. Listen to the racket

of wide-mouthed frogs and bent-

legged prawns going about their

business of mating while rain falls

and falls on tiled roofs and verandas,

courtyards, pagodas. Because such

a big part of you seeks to understand

this kind of rain — so unlike your cold

rain, austere rain, get-me-the-hell-

out-of-here rain. Rain that can’t fathom

how to liberate camphor from the vaults

of the earth. Let me tell you how little

is written of mud, how it sneaks up

like a sleek-gilled vandal to catch hold

of your ankles. Or about the restorative

properties of mosquito blood, dappled

and fried against the wires of a bug-zapping

paddle. So much of monsoon is to do

with being overcome — not from longing

as you might think, but from the sky’s

steady bludgeoning, until every leaf

on every unremembered tree gleams

in the abyss of postcoital bliss.

Come. Now sip on your masala tea,

put your lips to the sweet, spicy skin

of it. There’s more to see — notice

the dogs who’ve been fucking on the beach,

locked in embrace like an elongated Anubis,

the crabs scavenging the flesh of a dopey-

eyed ponyfish, the entire delirious coast

with its philtra of beach and saturnine

clouds arched backwards in disbelief.

And the mayflies who swarm in November

with all their ephemeral grandeur to die

in millions at the behest of light, the geckos

stationed on living room walls, cramming

fistfuls of wings in their maws. Notice

how hardly anyone mentions the word

death, even though the fridge leaks

and the sheets have been damp for weeks.

And in this helter-skelter multitude

of gray-greenness, notice how even the rain

begins to feel fatigued. The roads and sewers

have nowhere to go, and like old-fashioned pursuers

they wander and spill their babbling hearts

to electrical poles and creatures with ears.

And what happens later, you might ask,

after we’ve moved to a place of shelter,

when the cracks in the earth have reappeared?

We dream of wet, of course, of being submerged

in millet stalks, of webbed toes and stalled

clocks and eels in the mouth of a heron.

We forget how unforgivably those old poems

led us to believe that men were mountains,

that the beautiful could never remain

heartbroken, that when the rains arrive

we should be delighted to be taken

in drowning, in devotion.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2017)



Conscientious Objector by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vicnent Millay

I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall:
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the
Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle while he cinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself; I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell
him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where the
black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much, I will not map him the route
to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of living that I should deliver men
to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of the city are safe with
Me; never through me
Shall you be overcome.


If I Should Have A Daughter by Sarah Kay


Incident by Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember


Still I rise Maya Angelou

5 18 2011 - OW Brunch


Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Old Selves by Ira Saddof


Ira Sadoff was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 7, 1945, of Russian-Jewish ancestry.….read more

Ok, I no longer want them,
the many selves I had to manage

that once exhausted friends. I believed

in angels then, thought I might be
an angel—that was me, flying off

on a tangent, just so we could land
on one of my many balconies

so we could look down on everyone


A Lazy Day by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Paul Laurence Dunbar

The trees bend down along the stream,
Where anchored swings my tiny boat.
The day is one to drowse and dream
And list the thrush’s throttling note.
When music from his bosom bleeds
Among the river’s rustling reeds.

No ripple stirs the placid pool,
When my adventurous line is cast,
A truce to sport, while clear and cool,
The mirrored clouds slide softly past.
The sky gives back a blue divine,
And all the world’s wide wealth is mine.

A pickerel leaps, a bow of light,
The minnows shine from side to side.
The first faint breeze comes up the tide—
I pause with half uplifted oar,
While night drifts down to claim the shore.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872, in Dayton, Ohio. His collections of poetry include Lyrics of Love and Laughter (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903) and Poems of Cabin and Field(Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899). He died in 1906.


Death in Leamington by John Betjeman

John B


Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have work’d it
Were dead as the spoken word.

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high ‘mid the stands and chairs-
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul,
And the things were alone with theirs.

She bolted the big round window,
She let the blinds unroll,
She set a match to the mantle,
She covered the fire with coal.

And “Tea!” she said in a tiny voice
“Wake up! It’s nearly five”
Oh! Chintzy, chintzy cheeriness,
Half dead and half alive.

Do you know that the stucco is peeling?
Do you know that the heart will stop?
From those yellow Italianate arches
Do you hear the plaster drop?

Nurse looked at the silent bedstead,
At the gray, decaying face,
As the calm of a Leamington ev’ning
Drifted into the place.

She moved the table of bottles
Away from the bed to the wall;
And tiptoeing gently over the stairs
Turned down the gas in the hall.

John Betjeman was born on August 28th, 1906, near Highgate, London. His father was a cabinet maker, a trade which had been in the family for several generations. The family name was Betjemann, with two ‘n’s, but John dropped the second ‘n’ during the First World War, to make the name less German


The Cows On Killing Day by Les Murray

Les Murray

All me are standing on feed. The sky is shining.

All me have just been milked. Teats all tingling still

from that dry toothless sucking by the chilly mouths

that gasp loudly in in in, and never breathe out.

All me standing on feed, move the feed inside me.

One me smells of needing the bull, that heavy urgent me,

the back-climber, who leaves me humped, straining, but light

and peaceful again, with crystalline moving inside me.

Standing on wet rock, being milked, assuages the calf-sorrow in me.

Now the me who needs mounts on me, hopping, to signal the bull.

The tractor comes trotting in its grumble; the heifer human

bounces on top of it, and cud comes with the tractor,

big rolls of tight dry feed: lucerne, clovers, buttercup, grass,

that’s been bitten but never swallowed, yet is cud.

She walks up over the tractor and down it comes, roll on roll

and all me following, eating it, and dropping the good pats.

The heifer human smells of needing the bull human

and is angry. All me look nervously at her

as she chases the dog me dream of horning dead: our enemy

of the light loose tongue. Me’d jam him in his squeals.

Me, facing every way, spreading out over feed.

One me is still in the yard, the place skinned of feed.

Me, old and sore-boned, little milk in that me now,

licks at the wood. The oldest bull human is coming.

Me in the peed yard. A stick goes out from the human

and cracks, like the whip. Me shivers and falls down

with the terrible, the blood of me, coming out behind an ear.

Me, that other me, down and dreaming in the bare yard.

All me come running. It’s like the Hot Part of the sky

that’s hard to look at, this that now happens behind wood

in the raw yard. A shining leaf, like off the bitter gum tree

is with the human. It works in the neck of me

and the terrible floods out, swamped and frothy. All me make the Roar,

some leaping stiff-kneed, trying to horn that worst horror.

The wolf-at-the-calves is the bull human. Horn the bull human!

But the dog and the heifer human drive away all me.

Looking back, the glistening leaf is still moving.

All of dry old me is crumpled, like the hills of feed,

and a slick me like a huge calf is coming out of me.

The carrion-stinking dog, who is calf of human and wolf,

is chasing and eating little blood things the humans scatter,

and all me run away, over smells, toward the sky.

Les Murray, is the eminent Australian poet.  “The Cows on Killing Day” from Subhuman Redneck Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Les Murray. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, All rights reserved.


A Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: