Wilfred Owen – Apologia pro Poemate Meo

I, too, saw God through mud –
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.

Merry it was to laugh there –
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

I, too, have dropped off fear –
Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear
Past the entanglement where hopes lay strewn;

And witnessed exultation –
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul;.

I have made fellowships –
Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,

By joy, whose ribbon slips, –
But wound with war’s hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the welding of the rifle-thong.

I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but the trembling of a flare,
And heaven but as the highway for a shell,

You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.

November 1917

Simon Armitage – Killing Time #2

Time in the brain cells sweating like a nail bomb,
trouble with the heartbeat spitting like a Sten gun,
cut to the chase,
pick up the pace;
no such thing as a walkabout fun-run,
shoot yourself a glance in the chrome in the day-room,
don’t hang about, your running out of space, son.

Red light, stop sign, belly full of road rage,
ticket from the fuzz if you dawdle in the slow lane,
pull up your socks,
get out of the blocks;
twelve-hour day-shift grafting at the coal face,
turning up the gas brings blood to the boat race,
strike with the iron or you’re sleeping in the stone age.

Don’t dilly dally or the trail goes cold, sir,
don’t hold back till you’re mouldy old dough, sir,
sprint for the line,
turn on a dime;
sit tight, hang fire, I’m putting you on hold, sir,
too late, snail pace, already sold, sir,
blame it on the kids but it’s you getting old, sir.

Short cut, fast track, trolley dash at Quick Save,
four minute warning, boil yourself an egg, babe,
crack the whip,
shoot from the hip;
close shave, tear arse, riding on a knife blade,
twenny-four-seven in the brain drain rat race,
finger on the pulse but you’d better watch your heart rate.

Cheap thrills, speed kills, pop yourself a pill, mate,
thumb a free ride on amphetamine sulphate,
run with the pack,
don’t look back;
pedal to the floor when you’re burning up the home straight,
her indoors doesn’t want you getting home late,
love’s in the freezer and your dinner’s in the dog-grate.

Ten to the dozen to the grave from the carry-cot,
bolt like a thoroughbred, talk like a chatterbox,
oil the wheels,
pick up your heels;
ginseng tea turns out to be tummyrot,
reach for the future with a hand full of liver-spots,
fuse-wire burns in the barrel of a body clock.

Cut yourself in half doing life at the sharp end,
meet your own self coming back around the U-bend,
get with the beat,
turn up the heat;
sink like a stone by going off the deep end,
fifty quid an hour for a top-flight shrink, said
start killing time, it’s later than you think, friend.

Wendy Cope – From June to December

1 Prelude

It wouldn’t be a good idea
To let him stay.
When they knew each other better –
Not today.
But she put on her new black knickers
Anyway.

2 A Serious Person

It’s nice to meet serious people
And hear them explain their views:
Your concern for the rights of women
Is especially welcome news.
I’m sure you’d never exploit one;
I expect you’d rather be dead;
I’m thoroughly convinced of it –
Now can we go to bed?

3 Summer Villanelle

You know exactly what to do –
Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh –
I think of little else but you.

It’s bliss to have a lover who,
Touching one shoulder, makes me sigh –
You know exactly what to do.

You make me happy through and through,
The way the sun lights up the sky –
I think of little else but you.

I hardly sleep – an hour or two;
I can’t eat much and this is why –
You know exactly what to do.

The movie in my mind is blue –
As June runs into warm July
I think of little else but you.

4 The Reading

In crumpled, bardic corduroy,
The poet took the stage
And read aloud his deathless verse,
Page by deathless page.

I gazed at him as though intent
On every word he said.
From time to time I’d close my eyes
And smile and nod my head.

He may have thought his every phrase
Sent shivers down my spine.
Perhaps I helped encourage him
To read till half past nine.

Don’t ask what it was all about –
I haven’t got a clue.
I spent a blissful evening, lost
In carnal thoughts of you.

5 Some People

Some people like sex more than others –
You seem to like it a lot.
There’s nothing wrong with being innocent or high-minded
But I’m glad you’re not.

6 Going Too Far

Cuddling the new telephone directory
After I found your name in it
Was going too far.

It’s a safe bet you’re not hugging a phone book,
Wherever you are.

7 Verse for a Birthday Card

Many happy returns and good luck.
When it comes to a present, I’m stuck.
If you weren’t far away
On your own special day,
I could give you a really nice glass of lager.

8 Love Story

I thought you’d be a pushover;
I hoped I wouldn’t hurt you.
I warned you this was just a fling
And one day I’d desert you.

So kindly in your spectacles,
So solid in your jacket,
So manly in your big white car
That must have cost a packet.

I grew to like you more and more –
I didn’t try to hide it.
Fall in love with someone nice? –
I’d hardly ever tried it.

The course of true love didn’t run
Quite the way I’d planned it.
You failed to fall in love with me –
I couldn’t understand it.

9 Spring Onions

Decapitating the spring onions,
She made this mental note:
You can tell it’s love, the real thing,
When you dream of slitting his throat.

10 I’ll Be Nice

I’ll be nice to you and smile –
It’s easy for a man to win –
But I’ll hate you all the while..

I shall go the extra mile
And condone your every sin –
I’ll be nice to you and smile.

You will think I like your style;
You’ll believe I’ve given in
But I’ll hate you all the while.

Safe as an atomic pile,
Good as nitroglycerine,
I’ll be nice to you and smile.

I’ll say hypocrisy is vile
And give a reassuring grin
But I’ll hate you all the while.

Set against my wits and guile,
Manly strength won’t save your skin.
I’ll be nice to you and smile
But I’ll hate you all the while.