20 November 2017


First there's the Bible,
        And then the Koran,
    Odgers on Libel,
        Pope's Essay on Man,
    Confessions of Rousseau,
        The Essays of Lamb,
    Robinson Crusoe
        And Omar Khayyam,
    Volumes of Shelley
        And venerable Bede,
        And Captain Mayne Reid,
    Fox upon Martyrs
        And Liddell and Scott,
    Stubbs on the Charters,
        The works of La Motte,
    The Seasons by Thompson,
        And Paul de Verlaine,
    Theodore Mommsen
        And Clemens (Mark Twain),
    The Rocks of Hugh Miller,
        The Mill on the Floss,
    The Poems of Schiller,
        The Iliados,
    Don Quixote (Cervantes),
        La Pucelle by Voltaire,
    Inferno (that's Dante's),
        And Vanity Fair,
    And Baron Munchausen,
        Mademoiselle De Maupin,
    The Dramas of Marlowe,
        The Three Musketeers,
    Clarissa Harlowe,
        And the Pioneers,
    Sterne's Tristram Shandy,
        The Ring and the Book,
    And Handy Andy,
        and Captain Cook,
    The Plato of Jowett,
        And Mill's Pol. Econ.,
    The Haunts of Howitt,
        The Encheiridion,
    Lothair by Disraeli,
        And Boccaccio,
    The Student's Paley,
        And Westward Ho!
    The Pharmacopœia,
        Macaulay's Lays,
    Of course The Medea,
        And Sheridan's Plays,
    The Odes of Horace,
        And Verdant Green,
    The Poems of Morris,
        The Faery Queen,
    The Stones of Venice,
        Natural History (White's),
    And then Pendennis,
        The Arabian Nights,
    Cicero's Orations,
        Plain Tales from the Hills,
    The Wealth of Nations,
        And Byles on Bills,
    As in a Glass Darkly,
        Demosthenes' Crown,
    The Treatise of Berkeley,
        Tom Hughes's Tom Brown,
    The Mahabharata,
        The Humor of Hook,
    The Kreutzer Sonata,
        And Lalla Rookh,
    Great Battles by Creasy,
        And Hudibras,
    And Midshipman Easy,
        And Rasselas,
    Shakespear in extenso
        And the Æneid,
    And Euclid (Colenso),
        The Woman Who Did,
    Poe's Tales of Mystery,
        Then Rabelais,
    Guizot's French History,
        And Men of the Day,
    Rienzi, by Lytton,
        The Poems of Burns,
    The Story of Britain,
        The Journey (that's Sterne's),
    The House of Seven Gables,
        Carroll's Looking-glass,
    Æsop his Fables,
        And Leaves of Grass,
    Departmental Ditties,
        The Woman in White,
    The Tale of Two Cities,
        Ships that Pass in the Night,
    Meredith's Feverel,
        Gibbon's Decline,
    Walter Scott's Peveril,
        And - some verses of mine.

- Montague Horatio Mostyn Turtle Pigott 

18 November 2017


Lipstick the colour of Hawaiian Fire,
Field notes and kinship charts thrown on a pyre,
Being in church when a telephone rings -
These are a few most unsuitable things.

Ministry windows with different pigeons,
‘Swimming the Tiber’ and changing religions,
Respect and esteem without throbbing heartstrings -
These are a few most unsuitable things.

Judgment Day sermons with obscure quotations,
Curates exposing their long combinations
Or having fiancées off in the wings,
These are a few most unsuitable things.

When the sponge falls, when the tea’s weak,
When you’re feeling sad,
Just reach for a novel by Barbara Pym,
And then you won’t feel so bad!

Jesuits, woodworm, and bird domination,
Garden fêtes spoilt by precipitation,
Husbands debating adulterous flings  -
These are a few most unsuitable things.

Fabergé eggs pinched by clergy housekeepers,
Cauliflow’r cheese hiding little green creepers,
Leaving the house without hat or stockings  -
These are a few most unsuitable things.

Spinsters with crushes on celibate vicars,
Expecting warmth when one wears cotton knickers,
Women aged thirty without wedding rings -
These are a few most unsuitable things.

When the sponge falls, when the tea’s weak,
When you’re feeling sad,
Just reach for a novel by Barbara Pym,
And then you won’t feel so bad!

- Tom Sopko

17 November 2017

mother of chamomile
light and the late pale flower
of november

- Gillian Allnutt

15 November 2017


He wasn’t what you’d want to look at -
orange hair sprayed in a thick beard
over his brown robes and in between the toes
of his Franciscan leather sandals -
but he told us boarders
that we were misunderstood angels
and that the nuns didn’t understand him either.
Of course we should be allowed to drink altar wine
and confess openly away from restraints
in the school library.
I thought he was the liberated uncle I never had.
So when he asked me to sit on his lap
I was genuinely sorry that I couldn’t oblige.
I’m too heavy I confessed.
You’re grand he said softly
No matter how often he repeated it.
You’re grand, you’re grand, you’re grand
in the name of God
aren’t I telling you you’re grand?
He was nearly shouting in the end,
but I stayed on my knees.
Bless me father for I have sinned
It was eleven years before I remembered -
and it struck me
as I walked down Charing Cross Road,
that once, for ten minutes in 1977
God just might have been watching over me.

- Martina Evans

14 November 2017


In honour of His Grace, you had us on our knees for weeks,
‘a blessing on this visit and please god no silliness’.

Run ragged with dusters, shouted at for holey plimsolls,
threatened with expulsion, some broke down, distraught

in the branches of the forsythia arranging, or, black bright with Brasso,
muttered in the trophy cupboard, ‘he’d better be worth it the bastard’.

We slaumed silver paint on the refectory radiator, lugged planks
to make an altar in the gym, ‘what’s up with the table we always have?

What miracle’s he going to perform on this, godforgiveus?’
But we were whispering by then, disappointed by the almighty

but holding our breath when He drew up. We queued and bobbed
to kiss his glove, got te absolvoed, took the slap to strengthen us.

Amen. Friday night: Roy Orbison invited Kath McMahon
to his dressing room at the Odeon, Bo Diddley’s drummer

got Jacinta Malley’s phone number, Gerry Marsden’s roadie
instructed, I forget who it was, on the needs of the elderly

balding purple silky shirty not so godly nor entirely manly, but here
and cocky and think yourself lucky. Obedience. We knew our place.

Thank you, Sister Mary Frances.

 - Ann Sansom

12 November 2017


Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name -
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner -
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening - weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds -
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

- Billy Collins