Morgan Poems

Cheryl's Personal Poetry Favourites

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Take time to work -
it is the price of success.
Take time to think -
it is the source of power.
Take time to play -
it is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to read -
it is the foundation of wisdom.
Take time to be friendly -
it is the road to happiness.
Take time to dream -
it is hitching your wagon to a star.
Take time to love and be loved -
it is the privilege of the Gods.
Take time to look around -
the day is too short to be selfish.
Take time to laugh -
it is the music of the soul.

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A Story Wet as Tears

(Marge Piercy, b. 1936)

Remember the princess who kissed the frog
so he became a prince? At first they danced
all weekend, toasted each other in the morning
with coffee, with champagne at night
and always with kisses. Perhaps it was
in bed after the first year had ground
around she noticed he had become cold
with her. She had to sleep
with heating pad and down comforter.
His manner grew increasingly chilly
and damp when she entered a room.
He spent his time in water sports,
hydroponics, working on his insect collection.

Then in the third year
when she said to him one day, my dearest,
are you taking your vitamins daily,
you look quite green, he leaped
away from her.

Finally on their
fifth anniversary she confronted him.
‘My precious, don’t you love me any
more?’ He replied, ‘Rivet. Rivet.’
Though courtship turns frogs into princes,
marriage turns them quietly back.

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Christmas Carol

A (Christina Rossetti, 1830-94)

In the bleak mid-winter
	Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
	Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
	Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
	Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him Nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away When he comes to reign: In the bleak mid-winter A stable-place sufficed The Lord god Almighty Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim Worship night and day, A breastful of milk And a mangerful of hay; Enough for Him, whom angels Fall down before, The ox and ass and camel Which adore.

Angels and archangels May have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim Thronged the air; But only His mother In her maiden bliss Worshipped the Beloved With a kiss.

What can I give Him. Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, -- Yet what can I give Him, Give him my heart.

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(Anne Bronte, 1820-49)

Farewell to Thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live
And men more true that Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,
Nothing destroyed that thou hast done.

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Not My Best Side

(Uccello; St George and the Dragon, National Gallery. by U.A. Fanthorpe)

Not my best side, I'm afraid.
The artist didn't give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn't comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don't mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.

It's hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It's nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,
And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn't much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon --

Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl's got to think of her future.

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can't
Do better than me at the moment.
I'm qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don't you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? don’t
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don't you realise that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You're in my way.

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Rondeau Redouble

(Wendy Cope, b. 1945)

There are so many kinds of awful men -
One can't avoid them all. She often said
She'd never make the same mistake again;
She always made a new mistake instead.

The chinless type who made her feel ill-bred;
The practised charmer, less than charming when
He talked about the wife and kids and fled -
There are so many kinds of awful men.

The half-crazed hippy, deeply into Zen,
Whose cryptic homilies she came to dread;
The fervent youth who worshipped Tony Benn -
'One can't avoid them all,'she often said.

The ageing banker, rich and overfed,
Who held forth on the dollar and then yen -
Though there were many more mistakes ahead,
She'd never make the same mistake again.

The budding poet, scribbling in his den
Odes not to her but to his pussy, Fred;
The drunk who fell asleep at nine or ten -
She always made a new mistake instead.

And so the gambler was at least unwed
And didn't preach or sneer or wield a pen
Or hoard his wealth or take the Scotch to bed.
She'd lived and learned and lived and learned but then
There are so many kinds.

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(Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1919)

Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
	Weep, and you weep alone,
For sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
	But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
	Sigh, it is lost on the air'
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
	But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you; Grieve, and they turn and go. They want full measure of all your pleasure. But they do not need your woe. Be glad, and your friends are many, Be sad, and you lose them all; There are none to decline your nectared wine, But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded, Fast, and the world goes by. Succeed and give -- and it helps you live, But no man can help you die; There is room in the halls of pleasure For a large and lordly train, But one by one we must all file on Through the narrow aisles of pain.

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(Christina Rossetti, 1830-94)

When I am dead, my dearest,
	Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
	Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
	With showers and dewdrops wet:
And if thou wilt, remember,
	And if thou will, forget.

I shall not see the shadows, I shall not fear the rain; I shall not hear the nightingale Sing on as if in pain: And dreaming through the twilight That doth not rise nor set, Haply I may remember, And haply may forget.

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(Edna St Vincent Millay, 1892-1950)

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

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The Matrimonial bed

(Marge Piercy, b. 1936)

That first winter in the middle
of the night you could not sleep
and woke me because the caress
of my unconscious breath across
your outflowing knuckle roused you.
I opened my eyes to your cheek
cradled on my thigh.

You bear
the same name and wear
the same face, man who pretends
deep breathing gusty sleep
beside me as vainly I rub
my breasts against your back
curved away like the shell of a turtle.

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The Shooting of Dan McGrew

Robert Service

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave, and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do,
And I turned my head -- and there watching him was the lady that's known as Lou.

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze.
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands -- my God! but that man could play!

Were you ever out in the Great Alone when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars--
Then you've a haunch what the music meant . . . hunger and night and the stars.

And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans;
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love;
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true --
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, -- the lady that's known as Lou).

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and through--
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere," said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

The music almost died away . . . then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash, And the lust awoke to kill, to kill . . .
then the music stopped with a crash.

And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm;
And, "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That one of you is a hound of hell . . . and that one is Dan McGrew.”

Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark;
And a woman screamed and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark;
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that' s known
as Lou.

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know;
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch," and I'm not denying it's so.
I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two --
The woman that kissed him and --pinched his poke-- was the lady that's known as Lou.

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To all Genealogists, Christmas 1996

'Twas the night before Christmas, and everyone slept,
Except the Genealogist, who out of bed crept,
To check the computer and regular mail box,
To heck with the ties, and chocolates and sox.
Everyone else is sleeping like a log.
Oh,oh, be careful, I fell over the dog.
Woops, just listen, what's that on the roof?
Santa has caught me, being a goof.
I'll hide under the desk, till he goes away;
If he caught me up, what would he say?
Hurry up Santa, what did you bring?
Drop it and run--let me see everything!
I want Aunt Sadie, and great Uncle Bert,
Also Grandma Blitzen-that wouldn't hurt.
Cousin Gertie's a mystery, where did she go?
And old Uncle Cyrus, who walked really slow.
Will I ever find them, in the next 20 years?
Or have they disapapeared?-that's one of my fears.
Wow! Santa's gone, it took him a while;
Why did he laugh, instead of just Smile?
Oh, he left me some papers! what do they say?
Great Uncle Bert fell into the Bay!
He was drinking vanilla and dancing like crazy,
When all of a sudden, things began to get hazey.
Well, that settles that, I'll quit looking for him,
Why in the world, couldn't he swim?
Aunt Sadie was a sinner, and she ran away,
With the Parson, no less-what can I say?
Grandma Blitzen was bitten by a big yellow snake,
She picked it up-and thought it was a rake.
Cousin Gertie ran a bar, away out in the West,
A stray bullet got her--no bullet proof vest.
Uncle Cyrus was a hermit, in a cave on the coast,
Threw his money in the ocean, or so he did boast.
So, thanks for the answers, Santa, my friend,
I'll quit looking for them, it's been a dead end.
I'll go back to bed and turn out the light,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.

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Why Dorothy Wordsworth is not as Famous as her Brother

(Lynn Peters)

'I wandered lonely as a . . .
They're in the top drawer, William,
Under your socks -
I wandered lonely as a -
No not that drawer, the top one.
I wandered by myself -
Well wear the ones you can find,
No, don't get overwrought my dear,
I'm coming.'

'I was out one day wandering
Lonely as a cloud when -
Soft boiled egg, yes my dear,
As usual, three minutes -
As a cloud when all of a sudden -
Look, I said I'll cook it,
Just hold on will you -
All right. I'm coming.

'One day I was out for a walk
When I saw this flock -
It can't be too hard, it had three minutes.
Well put some butter in it.
-- This host of golden daffodils
As I was out for a stroll one -

'Oh you fancy a stroll, do you.
Yes, all right William. I'm coming.
It's on the peg. Under your hat.
I'll bring my pad, shall I, in case
You want to jot something down?'

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Christmas Day in the Workhouse

by George R Sims.

It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse,
And the cold bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight:
For with clean washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the tables,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is East,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on paupers plates,
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They've paid for - with the rates.

Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their "Thank'ee kindly, mum's";
So long as they feed their stomachs,
What matter it whence it comes?
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
"Great God!" he cries; "but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died."

"The guardians gazed in horror,
The master's face went white;
"Did a pauper refuse their pudding?"
"Could their ears believe aright?"
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man would die,
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.

But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose 'mid a silence grim,
For the others had ceased to chatter,
And trembled in every limb.
He looked at the guardians' ladies
Then, eyeing their lords, he said,
"I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:

"Whose victims cry for vengeance
>From their dank unhallowed graves."
"He's drunk!" said the workhouse master.
"Or else he's mad and raves."
"Not drunk, or mad," said the pauper,
"But only a hunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vultures' feast.

"I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won't be dragged away,
Just let me have the fit out,
It's only on Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey on my burning brain;
I'll tell you the rest in a whisper,
I swear I won't shout again.

"Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right to the end.
You come here to see how paupers
The season of Christmas spend.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watch the captured beast.
Hear why a pennyless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.

"Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You're doing a noble action
With the parish's meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above us,
My Nance was killed by you!

Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
had never been to the parish,
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For, ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.

"I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for the woman who'd loved me
Through fifty years of life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief?
That 'the House' was open to us.
But they wouldn't give out relief.

I slunk to the filthy alley
'Twas a cold, raw Christmas eve
And the bakers' shops were open,
Tempting a man to theive;
But I clenched my fists together,
Holding my head awry,
So I came to her empty handed,
And mournfully told her why.

"Then I told her "the House" was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
And up in her rags she sat,
Crying, "Bide the Christmas here, John,
We've never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger,
The other would break my heart."

"All through that eve I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord, and weeping
Till my lips were salt as brine.
I asked her once if she hungered,
And as she answered "No,"
The moon shone in at the window
Set in a wreath of snow.

"Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling's eyes
The far-away look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went,
And she raved of our home in Devon,
Where our happiest years were spent.

"And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more,
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo'd by the Devon shore.
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, "Give me a crust - I'm famished
For the love of God!" she groaned.

"I rushed from the room like a madman,
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying, "Food for a dying woman!"
And the answer came, "Too late."
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street,
And tore from the mongrel's clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.

"Back, through the filthy by-lanes!
Back, through the trampled slush!
Up, to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush.
My heart sank down at the threashhold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill,
For there in the silv'ry moonlight
My Nance lay, cold and still.

"Up, to the blackened ceiling
The sunken eyes were cast,
I knew on those lips all bloodless
My name had been the last;
She'd called for her absent husband
Oh, God! had I but known
Had called in vain and in anguish
Had died in that den - alone.

"Yes, there, in a land of plenty,
Lay a starving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
For a loaf of the parish bread.
At yonder gate, last Christmas,
I craved for a human life.
You, who would feast us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!

"There, get ye gone to your dinners;
Don't mind me in the least;
Think of the happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day."

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last modified: 27 December 1999