I am not at all sure how many readers understand my love of poetry, and I have a distinct feeling that the great majority are puzzled, if not bored, by my inclination to illustrate many of these columns with poems I like.
But the editor indulges me and I enjoy using poems which strike me in my reading. Here are three which let me share with you.
We all get old much faster than we would like – and the earth is decaying because it is being used too carelessly and neglected too much. Here is a poem by Peter Reading which captures both these unstoppable facts in two quick, brutal stanzas.
Each organism achieves
its acme of growth then declines,
the vigour and strength of its prime
slipping to age and decay –
copious ingestion of food
cannot keep pace with the surge
of fecal exudation.
Every thing ends when its innards
ebb, and it cedes to the blows
with which it’s assailed from without.
So do the walls of the world
presently start to implode.
Earth, which engendered so much,
is unable, now, to support us,
possessed of more shit than nutriment.
Ploughs are eroded, the ploughmen
whinge that they’ve wasted their time,
envy the farms of their forebears
whose smallholdings yielded more brushels
per hectare than any do now.
Worldings are loath to acknowledge
that the planet, like all other bodies,
is subject to senile attrition,
I love Chinese poetry, even though I cannot fully appreciate it since I can only read it in translation – said to be like kissing a beautiful woman through a handkerchief. Here is a poem by an anonymous poet in China around the year 200. It is a beautiful poem about age and love and separation – and betrayal.
Age Comes Fast
Traveling traveling and still traveling traveling,
you’re separated from me for life,
ten thousand miles apart,
gone to the other end of the sky.
With your road so long and difficult,
how can we know if we’ll meet again?
A northern horse leans against northern wind;
a southern bird nests on southern branches.
This separation lengthens day by day,
and day by day my gown and belt grow slack.
Floating clouds obscure a white sun
and wanderer, you do not return.
Missing you makes age come fast.
Years and months spin past.
No need to mention you abandoned me.
Just take care of yourself and eat enough.
And I came across this slight little poem the other day and it appealed to me greatly.
Why not share it? It is by James Laughlin.
The Junk Collector
what bothers me most about
the idea of having to die
(sooner or later) is that
the collection of junk I
have made in my head will
presumably be dissipated
not that there isn’t more
and better junk in other
heads & always will be but
I have become so fond of
my own head’s collection.