Two Poems for my Daughter

These poems were written for my daughter, Shiri,
on the death of her father, Wordsworth McAndrew, in 2008

Lines to a poet, wondering…

Among the many,
The many, many
Delicious definitions of love
That you so passionately researched
And recorded
For the entertainment of generations yet to come,

Did you ever discover any,
Did you register any
Of a father’s
For his child?

To Wordsworth – a lasting legacy

The daughter that you never chose to love,
The one, one day, you didn’t dare to meet,
Whose life you chose to leave a thing apart,
Whose joys and pain you didn’t care to share,

Can you imagine how she chose to mark
Your absence from the absence that she knew?
I do not think you can. Were you afraid
Of her disdain, of her dismissing you?

She went alone and bought a weeping tree
And planted it, because ‘that’s what they do’.

And I, who had not wept for you before,
Was overawed at the magnificence
Of such forgiving love as this for you.
And filled my eyes.  I’ve never loved her more.

The first poem refers a list of nearly 40 Stages of Love
which Wordsworth compiled from the East Indian tradition in Guyana,

beginning with the relatively mild Typee, through Chiranghi,
Chiranghi-bang-bang, Chiranghi-look-boop,
& Totilotipo,
to the dizzy heights of  Zeggeh-heh-saha

and Ezapootilingoof (“…typee till yo bajoodie!”)

Its title is a reference to one of his own poems, called “Lines to a Cartman, pushing.”

Five Poems for a long ago love

There are some desert plants
That live death sentences
Beneath the sands.
Unseen, unknown,
In seeming sleep.
Until the rain…

And then they quicken,
Push their frail stems into light,
Entrust their fragile frenzied forms
Enflamed with unexplored fluidity
Into the full glare of the sun
To open up their latent growth:
Their leaves, their flowers, their fruit, their seeds,
And know their own luxuriance.

Sometimes the rain does nothing more
Than skim the surface of the sands,
Blown on by winds to deeper distances,
Arousing life in passing merely,
So that the tenuous shoots
With just a glimpse of what life might have been
Are withered up before they know their flower.

I am a desert seed.
You are the rain.
Seasons I’ve spent escaping joy;
But now I know what moisture is
I need to feel your gentleness
Again, again, again, again, again… Continue reading

On Hiroshima

This was written back in the 1970s
for a Hiroshima Memorial Day ceremony.
Every year people gather at the boating lake in Alexandra Park in Hastings,
listen to readings, sing peace songs,
and launch paper boats
bearing lighted night-lights onto the lake at dusk.

On Hiroshima

I have no enemies.
I do not hate the children of my neighbour’s race.

I have no wish to see their children burn,
I have no wish to hear their mothers grieve,
I have no wish to fling their ashes high
In mushroom clouds of genocide. Continue reading

Libya Inter Alia…

Events in 2017 led me to remember this poem, written in April 1986. 

While Wikipedia notes the event as occurring on Tuesday April 15,
I remember it as a Monday, and this is confirmed by a note in
‘On this Day’, BBC Home:

“Around 66 American jets, some of them flying from British bases
launched an attack at around 0100hrs on Monday.” 

The commons argued late last night;
They wrestled with their consciences
On something of immense concern
– While Reagan raided Libya…

And Thatcher gave the go-ahead;
“Oh, use your bases, take your planes
– We only keep them warm for you –
Why ask the people what they think?
Why ask the British Government?
– I am the British Government!
Besides, they’re sitting up all night
Discussing Sunday Trading…” Continue reading

Hastings Station at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning…

Written back in the 1980s,
when I was a dedicated teacher of English to Foreigners,
and loved my students, I surprised myself one day
to realise that I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by too many
on an early morning train to London…

Hastings Station at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning.

The newly-refurbished in flame-coloured plastic
Electronically  motorised doors glide aside
On a languorous blond-headed swarm of blue denim
Strewn on all surfaces:
– surrogate sofas in
Saccharine sugar-free tangerine Perspex
Ergonomically ordered
To cling to your body and stick to your thighs;
Round the concrete containers new-crowded with cyclamen,
Trailing lobelia and silver-tongued ferns;
The Florentine flooring in marble-chip marquetry
Scorch-marked and littered and grimy with ash;
Squatting on shoulder-bags, sprouting from window-sills,
Vibrant with chatter and frenzied with youth… Continue reading

The Listeners – PowerPoint Illustration

I designed an illustrated version of this poem, by Walter de la Mare, to bring it to life and guide foreign students to some of the key vocabulary.

When you first open the PowerPoint presentation you will see a Black Screen.

  • Click twice, separately, to bring up the title and author’s name.
  • One more click will start the first verse scrolling onto the screen.
  • There are four lines in each verse.   You only need to click once for each verse.   Resist the urge to rush, as the lines and pictures appear at roughly reading speed!
  • There are three verses on each screen, and three screens in all.  When all three verses on the first screen have finished, including the ferns at the bottom of the third verse,
  • Click again to start the second screen, clicking only once for each whole verse, as above.
  • Then click for the third screen, as above.

I hope you find the presentation illuminating for your students – and that you enjoy it!