November Yeats 24

‘We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead; ‘ —W.B. Yeats

Their dreams were small ones – just for ordinary
lives, lived out in ordinary ways,
no river of excitement, just a gentle
stream of endless, ordinary days

They carried those dreams with them, held them
firmly, under shirts, next to the skin,
with other precious things, the things they kept,
a holy medal, or a mother’s ring;

as if those things would warm them, in the cold,
wild rocking boats, pressed tight,
hip against hip, arms wrapped around each other,
in all the dirty dangers of the night.

Sometimes small dreams are still too big to bear,
small dreams can be too heavy to hold on,
and when the waves are rising up around you,
sometimes you find that all your dreams are gone.

Their dreams were small ones:

Ordinary lives
lived out in peace, in ordinary ways.

<Jane gives us another Yeats quote, from Easter 1916. So many people have died for their dreams. 

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Jazz – for dVerse

sometimes i like the sound of the sax

coiling like smoke round my

hips

swinging along to the sound of the

beat

of the drum that sits at the back of the tune

that wanders around like a drunk in the

dark

of the room where we sit and the beer

is cold and there’s steam on the

glass

and the walls are wet with the sweat

of the people who dance to the

beat

of the drum that sits at the back of the tune

that boogies around like a bride in a bar

where the people are watching and nodding

and tapping and nobody’s thinking of anything much

or stressing or shouting or moaning or groaning

just tapping their fingers and nodding their feet

to the beat

of the drum that sits at the back of the tune

owning the room and the moon and the mood

of the tune

that flitters around like a bat in the night

and is here and is there

and is never quite where

you expect it to be.

 

Bjorn introduces Amaya, guest host at the dVerse bar tonight. They are looking for jazz, man. Hmm. Mellow. 

Not sure I’ve quite achieved it but there you go.

November Yeats 23

‘…your hair was bound and wound

About the stars and moon and sun:’—W.B. Yeats

She wove a net

from her own long hair

and hung it high

in the lightening sky

to see what she might catch.

A handful of stars

that glistened like fish

like the silver mackerel

that roll and dart

in the dark of the sea…

A sliver of moon,

a gleaming a feather,

a white swans feather

that drifts and floats

on a midnight lake…

A fiery sun,

like a blazing fire

on a mountainside,

like the glowing embers

as midnight strikes,

like a steadfast candle

in somebody’s window,

that never goes out.

 

Jane Dougherty’s month with Yeats continues. I didn’t think I was going to get to it tonight, but here I am!

November with Yeats 22

 

‘I wander by the edge
Of this desolate lake
Where wind cries in the sedge:’ —W.B. Yeats

Standing here, at the edge of the lake

I am standing at the edge of the world.

 

The grass is summer-bleached,

Rattles in the wind like an old woman’s hair,

And the water is dark – darker

Than any domestic thing,

Darker than any secret.

 

Back in June, the water caught the sky

Like a woman catching her lover’s gaze,

And there were skylarks

 

But now the water is a pool of night

In this grey, empty morning,

And there are no more birds.

 

The wind that’s blowing winter in

Has blown them all away,

Down to lower ground,

Swept away like stories.

 

Day 22 of a November with Yeats. It’s bleak and windy today, you might guess that from this poem. 

Cat boy cat

Watching you fighting
I am amazed at
your tenacious grip,
and that slippery twist
of hip, and shoulder,
that keeps you standing.
Even when you fall
you seem to come down
on your feet.

Hard to believe
this is the same you
that sprawls soft on the sofa,
all liquid limbs;
that spends hours
watching something shiny,
chasing some fleck of light.

And, yes, you are affectionate,
curling warm beside me,
but I know that left alone
you’d survive, somehow,
and that sometimes
the forest calls you.

 

This is for Kim at dVerse, who is asking us to write about a person as if they are an animal, or an animal as if they are a person. I’m not entirely sure which way round I’ve done it! I feel I should clarify that my son does judo, so it’s not just random fighting we’re talking about. It’s a funny sport. You watch kids turning on their fight head, and then sitting chatting with the kid they’ve just been battling with a few minutes later.

Deer – November Yeats 21

‘…by water among the trees
The delicate-stepping stag and his lady sigh’ —W.B. Yeats

 

The deer come down to the water

in ones and twos, stepping so lightly

they hardly bend the grass.

In the dappling light

their coats are leaf shadowed,

sun flecked. They look around,

always prey,

muscle shuddering under skin,

as if they could suddenly

dart away, a sideways

scrabble step flurry,

power in fear.

November Yeats – 20

This quote is from ‘The Old Age of Queen Maeve’.

‘out of the dark air over her head there came
A murmur of soft words and meeting lips.’—W.B. Yeats

In this shuffling, fumbling old age,
Of fading sight, and hollowed breasts,
And swollen knuckles, a seat
By the fireside is poor compensation
For the wild ride into battle,
The heat of a horse between her thighs
And a spear in her hand.

If she was kissed once,
It was not enough, and if
They sang of her, and her great deeds,
She called for more,
And now those songs echo
Though the singers are gone.

She did not plan to end her days
Like this – hands shaking, dreaming
Of the past. She planned to stay
Forever young, fierce warrior,
Striding through life, scowling
At weakness. Instead she nods
By the fireside, dreaming
Of days long gone – whispers
Of men she led to death,
Of old glories. This new enemy
Is her own body,
Not to be defeated,
And time has worn away
The gold, tarnished
Her breastplate, blunted the spear,
And the past is far away.

 

For Jane. Ten more days left after this. Bring it on.

November Yeats 19

‘We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,

The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,

Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you,

Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.’—W.B. Yeats
I am of the ones who have laboured here,
Who have carried the stones with their hands,
Stones grey as the sky, grey as the sea,
Brought to this place, where they stand
Looking out to the west.

We are those who carried them here,
In the cold, when the skin of our fingers split,
In the heat, when our hands slipped with sweat,
To this place, this gorse clouded summit,
Looking out to the west

And we did it for love of the one
Who rides the grey sea, as he might ride
A grey horse, or a goose might spread
Broad wings to travel the great grey skies,
Looking out to the west.

In our love, we have built this place,
As a beacon, a hearth, as a tomb, as a door
Waiting for sight of him who is gone,
Hoping in vain, for he comes no more,
Looking out to the west.

One by one, we have left this high place,
Going down to where our own fires burn,
Or down to the dark, deep places,
Through the doorway from whence none returns,
Looking out to the west.

And now there is nobody left but me,
The first to come and the last to stay,
Faithful to the force that moved me then,
Waiting for time to wear me away,
Looking out to the west.

 

Welcome to Day 19 of the Yeats November series, prompted by Jane Dougherty.