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New poems -- Michael Shepherd
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Michael Shepherd



Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2008 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The praisers

You might not spot them in a crowd –
but for that certain stillness of the self-contained:

in conversation, not until some detail
of an action, person, or a deed
sparks their mind; then from their heart --
not, pours – but rather, in a fine, fine stream
of exquisite precision, flows -- their praise :

as if their whole self gives itself to you
in some new form of thought, in which
there is no longer, they and you –
you are united in exalted praise;

and their eye shines – inviting you to join
a world above : perhaps they sum the virtue
of a person, action, deed; and yet,
while they are speaking, praise is seated there
above the virtues; they are prophets, seers,
visionaries of that which in our praise, we are..

and perhaps, you try to join them in your speech –
how awkwardly praise sits upon your tongue !
you, who prided so yourself, a balanced judge
of all your fellow humans…find yourself
now at some sad and puny tongue-tied loss..

so, practise, in ourselves, a year or two –
(there’s silent praise – the eye gives that away…)
and praise the praiseful in their mighty work :
another world awaits : where we become
the prophets of ourselves in timeless life.


MS
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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bible-bashers I just turned away.. -- A palinode

They were black of course.
Saturday mid-morning; myself
just searching to round off
that poem on praise, adequately, so as not
to let down the poem up to there…

They were black of course.
Who else would hope to bring
the whi’ fo’ back to God?…
even the Muslims have given up on us…
they, twentyish, I guess; he in front,
she all eager friendly smile behind..

they shone with goodness; goodness
that shone beyond what they, what I, would say;
beyond the headline of the magazine
he showed me, smiling, asked me what I thought:
‘Are these the Last Days ?’…

I said, I’d pass on that;
wished them my good wishes:
wishes nondenominational, unspecified..
returned to the computer; now to find
the poem on praise, a hollow mockery…

and to the mind, there came that potent line :
‘Live each day as if thy last’…
we could have talked of that…

They’re probably still knocking, down the streets,
gathering reactions mild and wild …
I’d just like it, if they – all too late -- could know that
for a moment, goodness met the eye of goodness;
yet found no time to praise in present words..



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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A windy day


Isn’t it a windy day?
The wind gets everywhere,
loves especially to have fun,
enjoys rattling loose doors as if it would come in,
pretending to become a quiet household pet;
then, just disappear up the chimney
to meet itself again…

the wind loves corners in its fun,
piles up its cheap and borrowed toys in them;
loves robes, and veils; laughs, loves to play
with nuns' decorum and then join them to its laughter;
sweeps the streets clean of plastic bags
then just for fun, blows them around again;

loves especially, laundry on the line –
fills out men’s shirts into dancing fat men;
does wind like to laugh at puny man?

then from fun play, can get serious –
tests whether that corrugated iron roof
to your makeshift shed is really secure..
later, you may be glad it did...

then from serious to boisterous:
takes on the sea itself, which
likes a bit of fun, but then
gets angry when provoked too much…

sometimes, goes too far
in cyclone, whirlwind, hurricane;
howls with wild demon demolition;
then like a naughty child, pleads half in truth,
'it wasn't all my fault -- they egged me on...'

then when it’s gone, it’s gone;
back to wherever wind comes from…

before it goes, let’s wrap up, take
a laughing walk and tussle with it;
come back, cheeks glowing,
eyes sparkling, laughing,
light-hearted… what did we meet out there?

some say, that wind is really fire,
that stirs our blood like that;
that plays a solemn role we seldom praise:
that brings us precious water in the clouds;
that fire brings life; that life brings spirit;
and spirit is but love; and love,
the airy breath of gods, of God;

meanwhile the wind of mad March mind
blows April into Spring.



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Michael Shepherd



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Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haiku : Fishing


Fisherman waiting;
Fish waiting for a morsel;
Who will wait longer ?




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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why should I take your time ?


... take your time,
describing in loving detail
the day so many years ago
when I smelt the air on a cliff-top –
sunlight, stubby wind-blown salt flowers,
still glitter of the sea, etc –
and knew freedom, liberation,
the blessing of landscape,
the magic of perspective…
all in the unfamiliar, so innocent, cliff-top air
that touched immortal on the cheek…?

I guess it’s like an expensive gift that you give
without unwrapping its elaborate protection;
inside, something both banal, and magical:

not the memory; but the memory
of being, just being; just being a child;
when the world spoke of itself
in every magic detail, unwrapped itself and
with so much to say…

the magic of memory; being, not quite forgot;
offered to you, not wrapped by me,
(watching your face as you open it…)
but, from yourself?



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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Wisdom of the East

He was the pride,
sometimes the envy,
of the village :

no wealth of jewels, but
a set of gleaming tools.

When asked about this, he would tell :
I go to the Caliph,
explain what I need and why:

I seek precious things
from the One who does not withhold…

and those around the Caliph
said to him, why are you so generous
to that humble craftsman ?
And why do you listen for so long, to his talk of work ?

The Caliph said,
I seek precious things
from the One who does not withhold…

*

O my best beloved,
this was the story that the Wazir told
when they honoured him as wise.. saying,

‘I too seek precious things
from the One, who does not withhold…’



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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Hinterland


Poems have a hinterland.

They come from a mind
that’s left behind, a family,
a tribe, a nation,
in the dense equatorial forests of the human heart;
yet in its backpack, precious souvenirs..

has trekked through swamps and uplands,
dangers, adventures, pleasures,
then the scorching arid desert sands,
and there in front one day,
the matter-of-fact sea, lapping
with a lazy always-there…

and leaning down, place nonchalantly
the poem now a paper boat,
into that glittering, faithless blue,
launched to tide and wind;
should you have put it in some green bottle,
you who think it’s precious,
with a name, address, so that they know
how far it’s travelled…?
Somehow, that matters little in this present moment,
as the poem’s past prepares to meet its future self;

Yet, you watch it, silent, ’til it disappears;
how close, to children, is horizon’s curve.


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Michael Shepherd



Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This one owes something of respect and inspiration to the poem by Lamont Palmer which I've posted on the 'Much-loved poems' topic thread, and the explanation there.


The Couple on the Station Platform


There’s this couple
they’re standing there, not close enough
to be about to kiss and separate,
one for the train, the other
more slowly back, but close

people pass them, one way, the other,
they’re still; they’re calm, it’s an important decision but
they’re sensible people, they’re
going to make this together,
give each other space, take it
slowly so that

years and children on from now
they’ll look back and know
they did the right thing at the time
whether they’re together then or
happily two different families,
two different partners,
no regrets.

if they’d been standing like that for
just five seconds, they’d be simply
deciding whether there was time
to grab a quick snack or whether
to risk what’s on the train but

they’re still standing there; time
is less important than that
they should decide together so that
they’ll feel the same way forever
as they feel soon, when the moment comes
that they know what they’ll do

this is not a film, or some poem which
has a beginning and an end
it's now and it’s two lives
and I, an onlooker drawn in
a passing glance, into these two lives,
am caring for these two people
I know nothing about, so much that
I cannot bear to know the outcome
in case I know too much
even though I know they’ll make
the right decision for them. I
walk on, slowly, as if I’m
carrying something important that
I’ll unpack later.



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Michael Shepherd



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Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Friends in disguise -- to Rilke


Not the sad face of sadness;
not its weariness, nor its lack of hope;
but why sadness visits, and what it intends:
what the secret blessings that it brings…

not the quick whims of hope or faith,
that last so briefly, then are gone :
but where they truly come from;
where they rest eternal in the heart:
explain themselves, in their own worldly ways;

not even that love that comes and shines and passes;
no, none of these – and all of these :
masked, they come and knock upon the door
as friends, that come to tease, to test, to heal..
open the door to them;
now, before they knock..



MS


Last edited by Michael Shepherd on Sun May 04, 2008 12:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Wish


I'd like to write - like grown-up poets do:
with similes that span the universe,
that sparkle, crackle, dazzle, woo the mind;
and touch the heart with tender, swoony verse...

I'd like to write - like grown-up poets do:
in literature that's all the better for
those soaring, parabolic parables
and paradigms, and rhymes, and metaphor...

I'd like to write - like no-one else has done:
forget the rules and precedents; let fly
to heights undreamt of yet, new mindscape won..
And yet, perhaps, the world's served better by

small lamps of words amidst the cold night winds
of chance and change; cupped in a poet's hands.



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Michael Shepherd



Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Mind's Polarities


It’s said – and so it seems to be –
that when the individual mind
emerges from that place where mind
rests, perfect, and in unity with all things to be known –
in that place, which is; within us, and without us:

that in that moment, as the mind expands,
and as its sphere within expands to match that sphere without,
polarities arise; such axis as may join them
to lie hidden and forgot; instead we see
all as remotenesses, that grow ever more the farther;

and then – the aweful nature of the human lie –
name them ‘opposites’… and in that step,
a further one, ‘duality’…

and so, condemn ourselves to fruitless life
where, across the vast mind’s sphere,
sadness – let’s say – sees, far off, that pure happiness --
too far, too far, to be within its reach…
and happiness, seeing far off, sadness, seeks in pleasure
to keep its distance…and so, the balance swings,
the world wags, and the mind knows only restlessness…

and knows, desire… how we forget,
we could not know desire, but that we knew
what desire desires; what’s missing in our world;
sadness, knowing the happiness; what would sadness be
without its knowing, in full, its happiness ?..

if we but saw desire as grace; looked at it with clear eye;
we might see, lurking there within,
beyond the warnings of its waywardness,
that holy thing that yearns alway for onefulness…

and as we have departed,
then by grace, so we return;
find by that third perfect point;
that eye that sees, from its eternal home,
duality to resolve in unity..
and all absolved, we’re absolute..

*

this, by mine own hand… writ
in a deep yearning sadness;
sadness that would fain convince itself
that happiness, this morning, is too distant; so, then,
to abide in sorrowed sadness…

and yet, there are strange joys,
where sadness meets all other things, in duty and in law;
speaks of all things in some strange disguise;
finds its heart, where heart it never sought;

and so, if words may do
what words should do, I name this poem’s end
its true beginning: name it now,
dedicating it, to truth and joy, and to myself:
A Poem in Praise of Happiness.



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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today


Today

(Mark it in the diary --
then throw the diary away..):

Today dawned with the unusual
wrapped intriguingly in the familiar;
a freshness unidentifiable;
a promise, that promised
nothing specific:

as if I walk in a world
whose infinite complexity
is no problem;
its multiplicity, a straightforward matter;

which delivers something hoped for
and yet never formulated with real meaning:
simplicity;

here and now, yet feels eternal;
a heavenly sense of down-to-earthness;
a freedom that can’t remember
what it’s freed from;

where activity only seems
to tell one more of stillness,
and noise just sings of silence;

a day that’s a gift, without
a need to ask, or to receive;
where surrender is instantaneous, and continual,
and barely worth the mention;
where paradox is just a game;
where being, itself, is gratitude enough;

a day that says, this is how things are;
this is how it is... raising a quizzical eyebrow
and the hint of a smile :
you thought it otherwise.. ?

a day that deserves a new-coined word
to mark it as exceptionally
unexceptionable : the word has
spoken of itself :
onefulness..

for the gift of just being is beyond
all thoughts of giver and receiver;
it’s a day that promises to itself and myself,
what it delivers right now
in each present moment –

the indescribably magnificent,
glorious, who-would-have-guessed,
strangely familiar, and yet utterly new,
sense of the ordinary.



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Michael Shepherd



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Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emily Dickinson Transcends


this - yet, seeing this -
the knowing, 'not this' - yet -
this knowing being -
That !



[in case you don't know her work, she's the revered 19th century American poet --unpublished in her lifetime-- of the expressive 'dash'...]
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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick Fozard's Wartime Navy Knife


I’m not one for mementoes – Grandma
in sepia, pie-crust necked and pleated blouse,
expressionless amidst her dressed-up, mixed-up brood; chic aunt
with that hundred-watt smile which clicked
off, the instant the shutter clicked…but now

I’m holding this kitchen knife.
It’s got a triangular blade to allow
for that quick chop-chop of the trained cook
or kitchen-hand; black, dulled ebonite handle;
and although it’s made in Sheffield,
by Geo.Watt,1943, it’s not stainless steel
but stained iron; sharp, but not too dangerous
when used in the cook’s galley of a hungry ship of the unslept
that’s simultaneously zigzagging to avoid torpedoes
and kamikaze dive-bombers, while buffeting through
the South China Seas. The ‘ broad arrow’
stamped on it – as once used to pattern convicts' clothes –
here means, that it was wartime issue.

Dick trained as artist and lithographer’s apprentice
just in time not to hone his talents when called up
to fight the Japs in that nasty, ruthless end-campaign
when Europe had declared peace, but not Japan.
He wouldn’t talk of it; and when a few years back
someone saw and remembered him from then, he
shook hands warmly, said little, left it to the other jacktar
to tell the story when he’d gone. And went back to find himself again,
walking the Yorkshire hills and dales with rucksack, pipe, a crust,
an onion, cheese, cut I guess with this same knife, and
missing nothing with his artist’s vision;
beyond solitude; content; complete.

He never really used his part-developed skills again
except to teach, with few words but with superb craftsman’s care,
leaving a trail of devoted pupils: ‘He taught me all I know’.

Only those, perhaps, who know war,
can know peace in this way, asking nothing; to know him
(but careful not to question) was to know a little of that peace
deep within the sea of himself, the sea
which holds so many souls.

When he moved on, as he often did,
he left his knife. I use it every day,
remembering this man who was just one
who knew, lived, war, quietly guarding his memories
of pain with love, of love with pain.
For no-one who goes off to war
ever quite comes back again..

I sharpen it, like a memory
I do not have. Like one who prays
devoutly, to that unknown god
of war; who may, in ways we cannot understand,
guard such souls.



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Michael Shepherd



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evening contentment in Greece


And as the thick heat of the day lifts off,
the city comes alive.

What is architecture without shadow?
At the wrong but necessary time,
midday in high summer, when
the overhead sun has stolen into siesta
all meaning, even beauty,
from the very temples themselves,
we had been clambering around the Acropolis,
which seemed to promise so much from afar,
an ideal world; now up close, we couldn’t find it,
trying perhaps too hard; that tiny temple by the entrance
offered more; the korae in the museum
smiled an understanding of all this;
knew all about us. This is what awe means.

Now, in the cooling air of evening, the tourists,
showered, in their fresh cottons,
meet and converge with their Athenian hosts
at an unpretentious family restaurant
at the foot of the Acropolis hill.
The Parthenon, resting from its busy anthill day,
is floodlit in all its glory, yet
aloof; as if its subtle geometries
hold it inviolable between two worlds; Plato in stone.

A hundred Olympian athlete’s paces from the restaurant at its foot,
almost as if generations of this family have measured it,
the scent of cooking garlic welcomes us –
guests even before we have arrived;
then the simple tables, the evocative bouzouki music
whose recording we will buy and in time forget,
and then one day, find again with an exquisite pain;

this is the climax of the Mediterranean day;
three thousand years of culture are the unspoken,
almost unnoticed, stage set for our evening hours tonight, with
the indefinable sense that the sea, blue into wine,
is not far away. There’s a friendly chatter, men and women,
in the kitchen. This is what an open-air restaurant
should be about: they give us food and wine;
we give them back, our happiness.

As we scrape our metal chairs on the concrete floor
in a convivial circle – the sky dusted with stars over
the Parthenon now at an awkward, unromantic, steep
angle to us, but we know it’s there –
and settle, foot-weary but refreshed,
you can sense that each of us is relishing
the sense of the fresh, cool air
between the fresh-laundered cotton
and the no longer sticky skin;
have we earned this with our guide-booked day?

Then, three or so enchanted hours –
no great need to speak; silent acknowledgement
that we have come all this way to find
a sheer contentment in just being ourselves
in company, around a table, drinking a little wine,
eating simple food;

time.. time does not stand still,
though that’s the first idea that comes to mind;
rather, time has surrendered to us
its own unimportance; we steal a glance
at each other’s quiet glow
as sunwarmed faces find some inner sun.

Some Greek grammar not yet learned
is teaching us the living meaning, limitless contentment;
the infinite infinitive of the verb, to be. The air
is gentle as it cools; our bodies warm with food and wine
and boundless love; we are -- ah, can it be --
perfection in some temple of ourselves.



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