1476 Slices
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The Assumption of Our Lady 15th August

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The death-camps, torture, hurting thoughts, and all

That claims the flesh and soul of man throughout

History since our chosen lot, the Fall.

Thus God as Man experienced every doubt

And so he had to call

For mercy, yes, God when man could sweat

For all the shame of Peter’s cowardice

Though he’d foreknown it. Christ felt every great

And small sin, yet his dying meant success

Though it looked like defeat.

The Assumption of Our Lady 15th August

‘Assumed.’ What does it mean? Say ‘Take for granted’

That is it’s workaday, mere connotation.

But take ‘Assumption’. It is now enchanted,

Pulsing with life, untainted.

August the 15th will arrive tomorrow

And we shall celebrate the death of one

Who chose to take on every human sorrow.

When she became the mother of God’s son.

Mary had to borrow

A stable and a manger where her child

Might sleep and drink her milk. How much did she

Understand? Since she was undefiled,

God’s birth came easily.

Yes but from that day on much mystery,

She lost her son when he must go about

His business. But she stood beneath that tree

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Still Life

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF


When I woke up, the window

Showed me September, told me

Of crisp leaves being toasted,

Of days closing into their envelope,

The envelope placed on a table

As we thought of bed-time and children,

Here was a subject indeed.

Still Life but it isn’t the painter is playing a very beautiful (usually) trick. Think of Cézanne’s Apples or a narrow vase of flowers by Chardin or a pair of old boots by Van Gogh who could also make you care for a chair or a bed long before Pop artists or Op ones thought they were making you look at a chair closely simply by putting a solid one on a very small platform

I won’t say a ‘real’ one because art is all an illusion but a mysterious one that somehow takes you to truth by imitation because Cézanne’s apples and Van Gogh’s chair look utterly unlike anything you have eaten or sat on, and Chardin’s vase of flowers is his own, in his style and that is important.

Style is the great illusion in art and only man notices it or uses it.

Still Lives are moving us almost to tears, to amazement.

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Never to See

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Never to See

Never to see another evening now

With that quick openness, that sense of peace

That, any moment, childhood could allow.

Never to see the Spring and smell the trees

Alone, with nothing asking to come in

And shake the mind, and break the hour of ease –

All this has gone since childhood began

To go and took with it those tears, that rage.

We can forget them now that we are men.

But what will comfort us in our old age?

The feeling little, or the thinking back

To when our hearts were their own privilege?

It will be nothing quiet, but the wreck

Of all we did not do will fill our lack

As the clocks hurry and we turn a page.


So many times I wrote (before I knew

The truth of them) of horror and of fear;

The words came easily, each phrase seemed true,

And yet there was a polar atmosphere,

A coldness at the heart. I knew it too.

Now that I have lived in the midst of pain

And madness, and myself have gone half mad,

I shall not make the same mistake again

Or write so glibly of the sick, the sad.

I want Equators in my writing, rain

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Family History

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Whispered secrets, Hide-and-Seek alone

In gardens of rich green. How fertile is

A childhood, how often Summer takes

More than its quarter share. I see the berries

On bushes as imperial as music,

Poised as poetry. Memory is the key

And casket too. I open it to danger

And out come dreads and fevers, fears as full

Of flows as waterfalls. I am a part

Of lawns perpetually mown, of hours

Walking the clock round. Night is black and white,

Dream and pillow. In this later grey

I bid that garden to let colours run

Down to this floor, this hour. I keep in touch

With nursery naughtiness and with ambitions

Looming from dreams and better there achieved

Than now, this time of half-hints, half-moods, and

Half-actions, half a life.

Family History

Family history

Is always sad. You go

Far, far back and there,

Richer than memory,

You find an ancestor

Out of whom you grow.

Who can live up to

The promise of the past?

Who can bear to find

A face that matches you,

Or touch within your mind

A guardian or guest?

We say ‘Beneath this star

Or that I find my way.’

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The Frogs’ History

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

I would sympathise with you were I not so busy

But bend down over me, you who are not yet tall

And be proud of all you contain in a body so small.

The Frogs’ History

You caught and carried us, pleased with yourselves.

We were only blobs of black in jars.

You knew what we’d become, were glad to wait.

How hectically we swam in that glass cage!

And there was never hope of an escape.

You put us on a shelf with more care than

You generally move. We were a hope,

A something-to-look-forward to, a change,

Almost a conjuring trick. Some sleight of nature

Would, given time, change us to your possessions.

We would be green and glossy, wet to touch.

‘Take them away,’ squeamish grown-ups would

Call out. Not you. You longed to hold us in

Your dry palms with surprising gentleness

And with a sense of unexpected justice

Would let us go, wanted to see us leap

And watch our eyes which never seem to sleep,

Hear our hideous but lively croak.

We know as well as you we are a joke.

The Bats’ Plea

Ignore the stories which say

We shall fly to and tangle your hair,

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