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. 

November Yeats 18

 

‘The dews drop slowly and dreams gather;’ —W.B. Yeats

 

I walked at dawn with a silver cup

and hoped that I might see my love

in the crystal dew

 

I gathered dreams in a dark bouquet,

to weave a net to make him stay,

and love me too

 

I dream I hold him in my arms

with his wild blue eyes and all his charms

When I am sleeping,

 

But my love has spilt the crystal dew

And torn all of my dreams in two

and left me weeping

 

I’ve missed a couple of days BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER – because this is just a lovely way of spending time in November. Pure pleasure, no pressure. Thank you, Jane, for another lovely prompt. 

 

Yeats #14

‘That you, in the dim coming times,
May know how my heart went with them
After the red-rose-bordered hem.’ —W.B. Yeats

And afterwards, all he could say

was that her hem swirled as she walked

and that swirl swept his heart away,

and he shrugged as he talked,

helplessly in the grip of something

he couldn’t account for, except

that his heart was set dancing

by the swirl of her skirt as she left,

and his dancing heart had to follow

the path that she took, even though

she led him by hill and by hollow,

and where wild streams flow,

and she led him by day and by night,

where the birds fly high,

and she led him in the moonlight

to where the rivers die

in the great white roaring ocean,

and the  fierce gulls whirl and scream,

and she left him alone on the naked strand,

a man who had followed a dream.

 

Another day, another Yeats quote from Jane Dougherty. 

November Yeats #13

‘Away, come away:
Empty your heart of its mortal dream.’ 
‘The Hosting of the Sidhe’ by W.B. Yeats.

Leave aside your mortal dreams
And step into their world of night,
Nothing is quite as it seems

On the terrace, peacocks scream
And show themselves for your delight,
Leave aside your mortal dreams,

In the hall, they primp and preen,
Display their beauties to your sight,
Nothing is quite as it seems.

Dance with shadow kings and queens,
Draped in dark robes of midnight,
Leave aside your mortal dreams.

Gorge yourself on chocolate creams,
Whipped from kisses and moonlight –
Nothing is quite as it seems –

But beware their tangled schemes,
And their smiles – a touch too bright? –
Leave aside your mortal dreams:
Nothing is quite as it seems.

A Villanelle today, inspired by Jane, and her good friend W B Yeats. The Sidhe are tricky folk, full of glamour and illusion. Best not to trust them. 

November with Yeats #12

He made the world to be a grassy road
Before her wandering feet.’

Gifts

He brought her primroses in spring,
And wild, white roses in the summer,
The first ripe blackberries he found for her
And in the winter searched for mistletoe
And scarlet holly berries,
But still she never smiled at him.

He brought her emeralds, on golden chains,
Great looping strings of pearls,
Handfuls of rubies, garnets, topazes,
Massed, glittering heaps of living stones,
Buts still she never met his eyes.

He brought her feathers – white
And soft, from the swan’s broad breast,
Black from the crow’s wing, and
All the colours of the woods and fields,
And the grey sky above,
But she just let them fly.

He brought her silks and satins,
Glorious gowns in rainbow hues,
Or glowing like the sea at sunset,
Velvets as dark as midnight,
Lace like spiders’ webs,
But still she turned her face from him.

He brought her sea-glass,
Smoothed and clouded, and
A whispering heap of seashells,
Pink and white as sunrise, and
The scent of salt, and one
Grey sealskin. And she smiled,
And gazed at him. Kissed him
Just once – as light as sea-foam –
And then slipped away.

Another one for Jane Dougherty’s November with Yeats exploration. 

It’s never – for Jilly’s jade challenge

It’s never about birds in poetry;
it is about our inadequate,
marrow-filled bones that
weigh us down
reminding us of the immediacy
of the dust.

It’s never about stars in poetry;
it’s about the darkness
that sits in our bellies
waiting to swallow
everything.

It’s never about sunsets in poetry;
it’s about the endings
we fear, cold and alone,
inglorious.

It’s never about oceans in poetry;
it’s about finding somewhere
firm to stand,
immutable.

This is a completion of Jilly’s poem, for her November casting bricks challenge. Her words are in italics, and mine follow. 

November with Yeats #10

‘And he saw how the reeds grew dark
At the coming of night-tide,’ W.B. Yeats.

The reeds were a black
scratch scratch against
the amber sky.

The birds
came in. I watched them
wheeling, swinging in
patterned clouds across
the light.

I didn’t think
of you at all, and then
I wondered if someone,
on some infinitely long
exposure, could watch
our dance, the pattern
we have made, with our
deft instincts, our
sensing of each other’s
presence.

I wonder if
we make such clouds
of light and dark as these,
such great whorls,
broken finger prints,
like contour patterns,
showing the heights,
the depths.

 

Jane has done it again. And so have I.

A Month with Yeats #8

‘The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;’

 

Another shooting in America.

None of us are innocent.
We have all committed sins
of various kinds – mostly petty –
we have lied to ease things through,
we’ve borrowed books we’ve never given back,
we’ve sung hymns, while thinking
of our neighbour’s slow rolling walk,
we’ve cheated in a test,
we’ve turned aside in fear,
walked on the other side of the street
so we can say we never saw the pain,

But maybe we are innocent enough
for this messy world, of petty
cruelties, and complex lives,
of smuts and smears and yearnings,
and unmet needs, and deep unsatisfied
desires, this world of getting on
and getting by,

and this blood – spilled on sidewalks,
pooling on classroom floors,
smeared on church walls –
this blood is our blood,

and our blood is innocent.

 

It’s Day 8. Jane assures me I don’t have to be here – it’s entirely optional. A darker quote today, and there was only one way this was going for me. 

November with Yeats #7 – The fading star

 

‘…stars, grown old

In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,

Sing in their high and lonely melody.’

 

 

We are all a little faded now,
And in the sunlight you can see
The places where sequins have shed,
And the spots of tarnish
That won’t rub off, no matter what.

We are all a little faded now,
Greying roots beneath the blonde,
But even though there’s no-one to see,
We still apply a bit of lippy
In pillar box red, or candy-floss pink,

And we still hit the town
On a Friday night, and we still
Hum a tune as we line our eyes
And spray our hair to give it some bounce,
And wince as we pull on our dancing shoes.

 

Day 7 of Jane’s month with Yeats. I think if you head and look at her poem for today, you will realise what a massive range of topics these prompts are generating.