When you long for warmth… Poems about fire – I

When you are old- William Butler Yeats
WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep 
And nodding by the fire, take down this book, 
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look 
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; 

How many loved your moments of glad grace, 
And loved your beauty with love false or true; 
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, 
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
 
And bending down beside the glowing bars, 
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled 
And paced upon the mountains overhead, 
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


Burning Drift- John Greenleaf Whittier

Before my drift-wood fire I sit, 
And see, with every piece I burn, 
Old dreams and fancies coloring it, 
And folly's unlaid ghosts return.
... 
O ships of mine, whose swift keels cleft 
The enchanted sea on which they sailed,
...
Did I not watch from them the light 
Of sunset on my towers in Spain,
...
Did sudden lift of fog reveal 
...
Have I not drifted hard upon 
...
Did land winds blow from jasmine flowers, 
...
And find in Bagdad's moonlit street, 
Haroun al Raschid walking yet
...
Dear souls who left us lonely here, 
Bound on their last, long voyage, to whom 
We, day by day, are drawing near, 
Where every bark has sailing room.
I know the solemn monotone 
Of waters calling unto me; 
I know from whence the airs have blown 
That whisper of the Eternal Sea.
 

As low my fires of drift-wood burn, 
I hear that sea's deep sounds increase, 
And, fair in sunset light, discern 
Its mirage-lifted Isles of Peace.


Shelley- To a sky lark

Higher still and higher 
From the earth thou springest, 
Like a cloud of fire 
The blue deep thou wingest, 
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
 10 

In the golden lightning 
Of the sunken sun, 
O'er which clouds are bright'ning, 
Thou dost float and run, 
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
 15 

The pale purple even 
Melts around thy flight; 
Like a star of heaven 
In the broad daylight, 
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight¡ 20 
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Maya Angelou, phenomenal woman.

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When Great Souls Die

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down in tall grasses,
and even elephants lumber after safety. When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.
They existed.
We can be.
Be and be better.
For they existed.

 

——-

 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

Anti-apartheid poet Antjie Krog. When Mandela was still behind bars.

Anti-apartheid poet Antjie Krog as high school student wrote a famous poem that caused great commotion at the time:

Loosely translated by myself.

Look, I will build me a land
Where skin doesn’t matter not at all…
Just your mind and mine
Where no goat face in the halls of parliament
can never not ever spook to keep things
permanently
cramped
[…[
where black and white, hand on hand
may bring peace and love
to my beautiful land.

Kyk, ek bou vir my ‘n land

Kyk, ek bou vir my ‘n land
Waar ‘n vel niks tel nie,
Net jou verstand.
Waar geen bokgesig in ’n parlement
kan spook om dinge permanent
verkramp te hou nie.
Waar ek jou kan liefhê
langs jou in die gras kan lê
sonder om in ’n kerk ‘ja’ te sê.
Waar ons snags met kitare sing
en vir mekaar wit jasmyne bring.
Waar ek jou nie gif hoef te voer
as ’n vreemde duif in my hare koer.
Waar geen skeihof
my kinders se oë sal verdof.
Waar swart en wit hand aan hand
vrede en liefde kan bring
in my mooi land.

Link

Sindiwe Magona on Nelson Mandela

Black South African poet, Sindiwe Magona reads her poem The Taste of Change -about Mandela.

She worked as a help, got her secondary school diploma through correspondence, Columbia University later on, worked for the UN.

The Taste of Change 

Mandela in jail No milk in my body
Mother at work I hungry

De Klerk free Mandela No milk in my body
Father at work I sick 

Mandela meets De Klerk People clap and dance
Rain come through my roof I cold

Change on every lip Father Mother and Me 
and Thousands others We die

Bees. Yeats.

Listen to this. The bees!!!

The beauty of it makes your heart ache.

“…and live alone in the bee-loud glade…”

“…for peace comes dropping slow…”

Yeats. He doesn’t want to hear the noise of the city- yes.

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”