Poetry and song and maybe culture

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

"All I Want for Christmas is You"
Olivia Olson, "Love Actually" soundtrack

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas
Is you

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
and I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a toy on Christmas day
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


The stories circle back and they change the names
The freshly painted lies all sound the same
I'm drowning in news of other people's pain
Like a peeping Tom, and I burn with shame

Life here goes on and it seems to change
We're all treading new water day after day
One eye on the games our masters play
Little flies on the walls of their firing range

They claim reason and rhyme, season and time
If you stop to speak out you'll fall behind
Get treated like you've totally lost your mind
Just take a post on the corner with an 'End Times' sign

Forget ambition if you happen to care
About the widowed or dying from anywhere
If it means you can't do just what you want, anytime
We'll all stand by at the scene of the crime

Since the cavalry rode right on back home
The vandals are playing at the Senate of Rome
Two centuries work goes up in a flash
But I'm just rubbernecking at the site of this crash

The theives speak well and the wolves are polite
It bleeds through when we're talking, just you and I
I don't care where it leads, I'm just looking for a door
Some days I can't watch this show anymore


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I Invented Time
by Herb Brin

Hold back your clocks
Damn it, no requiem for me!
I'll rust those gears
With the fire spray of seas
That sweep my autumn years.

Crusts of age clog my knees
But I'll get along
At a lesser pace
At a lesser pace.

And softer my sighs
Gentler, more gentle
And as suns descend
I'll get along
It's moonlight saving time
For me.

I've many a mountain yet to climb
And the hot breath of lips on mine
And the touch of tender hips.

Are there promises to keep?
Don't count my ways
Don't count my ways.

The brook, the stream, the massive sea
Hold many mysteries for me
And books unread
And paths untrod
Primeval forests beckon me.

Don't speed my way to dreams undreamed
I've cantatas to create
I've heady lilacs yet to sense
And little foxes to divine.

Take back your clocks
Hold back your clocks
With searing breath of lips
On mine
I invented time.

April 28, 1982 London

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Waltzing Matilda

"Banjo" Paterson, 1893

Once a jolly swagman sat beside the billabong,

Under the shade of a coulibah tree,

And he sang as he sat and waited till his billy boiled:


Who'll come a waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda

Who'll come a waltzing matilda with me

And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong

Who'll come a waltzing matilda with me.

2. Down came a jumbuck to drink beside the billabong

Up jumped the swagman and seized him with glee

And he sang as he tucked the jumbuck in his tuckerbag


You'll come a waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda

You'll come a waltzing matilda with me

And he sang as he tucked the jumbuck in his tuckerbag

You'll come a waltzing matilda with me.

3. Down came the stockman, riding on his thoroughbred,

Down came the troopers, one, two, three.

"Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tuckerbag?"


You'll come a waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda

You'll come a waltzing matilda with me

Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tuckerbag?

You'll come a waltzing matilda with me.

4. Up jumped the swagman and plunged into the billabong,

"You'll never catch me alive," cried he

And his ghost may be heard as you ride beside the billabong,


Who'll come a waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda

Who'll come a waltzing matilda with me

And his ghost may be heard as you ride beside the billabong,

Who'll come a waltzing matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda Definitions

- Originally an aboriginal word for a section of still water adjacent to a river, cut off by a change in the watercourse, cf. an oxbow lake. In the Australian outback, a billabong generally retains water longer than the watercourse itself, so it may be the only water for miles around.

Billy - A tin can, maybe two litres (four pints) in capacity, usually with a wire handle attached to the top rim, in which 'swaggies' (and contemporary Australian campers) boil water to make tea (and to kill the beasties in the water they've taken out of the billabong).

Coolibah tree (also coolabah) - A particular kind of eucalyptus which grows beside billabongs.

Jumbuck - A sheep

Squatter - As Australia was settled, there was of course little or no authority and bureaucracy in place. People 'squatted' on patches of land, grazed their animals, grew their crops and built their houses and fences. In due course, as authority arrived, it generally accepted the claims of whoever was in apparent possession of the land (aboriginals had been no match for armed blue men, and anyway were largely nomadic across reasonably large areas). Particularly in good quality grazing country, squatters quickly became relatively very well off, hence the term 'squattocracy' which blends 'squatter' with 'aristocracy'. The constabulary tended to work with them to maintain law and order. To non-land-owners, squatters were an object of resentment.

Swagman - A gentleman of the road, an itinerant roaming country roads, a drifter, a tramp, a hobo. Carried his few belongings slung in a cloth, which was called by a wide variety of names, including 'swag', 'shiralee' and 'bluey'. Given the large number of names for them, they must have been a pretty common sight.

Troopers - Cavalry soldiers, or perhaps mounted militia-men or policemen. To a swaggie, what was the difference??

Tucker-bag - A bag to keep tucker in. (Tucker is food.)

Waltzing matilda - Matilda was a mock-romantic word for a swag, and to waltz matilda was to hit the road with a swag on your back. The term is thought to come from a German expression, Auf die Walz gehen, meaning to take to the road, and Matilda is a girl's name, applied to one's bed-roll. So the poem (doggerel? folk song?) can be interpreted as yet another Aussie complaint about them in authority. We're one of the most urbanised nations in the world, who sort-of yearn for the wide open spaces (there's so much of it out there!), and the freedom that goes with it (or at least seems to go with it, to those that don't live there). So Waltzing Matilda strikes a chord (so to speak), generation after generation, for the same reason that Crocodile Dundee was as popular here as anywhere else - we know we're not like that; but it's fun pretending for a while that we are.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Black Camellia

by Henri Cole

after Petrarch

Little room, with four and a half tatami mats
and sliding paper doors, that used to be
a white, translucent place to live in refined poverty,

what are you now but scalding water in a bath?

Little mattress, that used to fold around me
at sunrise as unfinished dreams were fading,

what are you now but a blood-red palanquin
of plucked feathers and silk airing in the sun?

Weeding the garden, paring a turnip, drinking tea
for want of wine, I flee from my secret love
and from my mind's worm—This is a poem.
Is this a table? No, this is a poem. Am I a girl?—
seeking out the meat-hook crowd I once loathed,
so afraid am I of finding myself alone.

Link Audio!
is this a table? no, this is a poem

no great feasts of delicacies sweet
are laid upon it
for the body's eager consumption

no melons, no honey, no rich, dark bread
spread thick with golden butter,
no tender roasted essence of beast or fowl,
no fish from the sea or fruit from a tree,
no sweet wines crushed
from the fullness of sun-fed grape
to tempt the taste of jaded gourmand,
or sustain the body of warrior and priest

no, this is not a table
laid out to feed our fleshly needs,
it is a poem, set full with nourishment
for every weary spirit, sustenance spread
wide, with joy for every questing heart

it is a poem, fully-laden for our feasting,
a banquet set out for all who wish to join
a celebration of the richness of our kind

by: Allen Itz

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Always unsuitable
.......................by Marge Piercy

She wore little teeth of pearls around her neck.
They were grinning politely and evenly at me.
Unsuitable they smirked. It is true

I look a stuffed turkey in a suit. Breasts
too big for the silhouette. She knew
at once that we had sex, lots of it

as if I had strolled into her diningroom
in a dirty negligee smelling gamy
smelling fishy and sporting a strawberry

on my neck. I could never charm
the mothers, although the fathers ogled
me. I was exactly what mothers had warned

their sons against.

I was quicksand
I was trouble in the afternoon. I was
the alley cat you don't bring home.

I was the dirty book you don't leave out
for your mother to see. I was the center-
fold you masturbate with then discard.

Where I came from, the nights I had wandered
and survived, scared them, and where
I would go they never imagined.

Ah, what you wanted for your sons
were little ladies hatched from the eggs
of pearls like pink and silver lizards

cool, well behaved and impervious
to desire and weather alike. Mostly
that's who they married and left.

Oh, mamas, I would have been your friend.
I would have cooked for you and held you.
I might have rattled the windows

of your sorry marriages, but I would
have loved you better than you know
how to love yourselves, bitter sisters.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Peter, Paul & Mary - "Wedding Song (There Is Love) Lyrics

He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts
Rest assured this troubador is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here, has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love. There is Love.

Well a man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home
And they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning is now and until the end
Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.
And there is Love. There is Love.

Well then what's to be the reason for becoming man and wife?
Is it Love that brings you here or Love that brings you life?
Or if loving is the answer, then who's the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you've never seen before?
Oh there's Love, there is Love.

Oh the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love. Oh there's Love."


Very uplifting, almost rowdy, for a religious holiday song.

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
Give thanks that their light didn't die!
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied!
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand!
And light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand!

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears. (2)

Light one candle for the strength we all need
To never become our own foe!
And light one candle for those who are suff'ring
Pain we learned so long ago!
Light one candle for all we believe in,
Let anger not tear us apart!
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!


What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
When we cry out they've not died in vain,
We have come this far, always believing
That justice will somehow prevail!
This is the burning. This is the promise,
This why we will not fail!


Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

This should be used in more Unitarian Universalist services, but I am in favor of folk or popular songs over nearly all hymns.

Friday, March 12, 2004



The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding –
Riding – riding –
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say –

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.


He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching –
Marching – marching –
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say –
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him – with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.
* * * * * * *
And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding –
Riding – riding –
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


Note the same theme in Marty Robbin's El Paso.

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl
Nighttime would find me in Rosa's cantina
Music would play and Feleena would whirl

Blacker than night where the eyes of Feleena
Wicked and evil while casting her spell
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden
I was in love, but in vain I could tell

One night a wild young cowboy came in
Wild as the West Texas wind
Dashing and daring, a drink he was sharing
With wicked Feleena, the girl that I loved

So in anger
I challenged his right for the love of this maiden
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore
My challenge was answered in less than a heartbeat
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor

Just for a moment I stood there in silence
Shocked by the foul, evil deed I had done
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there
I had but one chance and that was to run

Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran
Out where the horses were tied
I caught a good one, it looked like it could run
Up on its back and away I did ride

Just as fast as
I could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the badlands of New Mexico

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless
Everything's gone in life, nothing is left
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death

I saddle up and away I did go
Riding alone in the dark
Maybe tomorrow a bullet will find me
Tonight nothing's worse than this pain in my heart

And at last here
I am on the hill overlooking El Paso
I can see Rosa's cantina below
My love is strong and it pushes me onward
Down off the hill to Feleena I go

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys
Off to my left are a dozen and more
Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me
I have to make it to Rosa's back door

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side
Though I am trying to stay in the saddle
I'm getting weary, unable to ride

But my love for
Feleena is strong, and I rise where I've fallen
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest

From out of nowhere Feleena has found me
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for
One little kiss and Feleena, goodbye
From The Poet's Kit

I decree that
Every poet of worth
Be armed with sledgehammer
And scalpel,
Small tweezers
First aid kit
And plenty of all-purpose

- hans beihl at xenowave, who also writes:

Omnivore Politics


is a reprehensible
she righteously uttered.
With great effort
I have given up lobster
and beef,
and aspire to
absolute abstinence
from all things that twitch
and squeak.


Unfairness, I replied,
is a universal law,
a fact not altered by
hooves and fins
and wonderful things
with beaks
and claws.
Being chicken
or duck
in the service of pate
and tasty homemade soup,
just plain bad luck,
I blithely chortled,
while severing the head
of my buttered snapper.


This much I see is true:
the morbid pleasure
you so effortlessly find
in pain and suffering
and scorning my views,
she blurted out--


With a fatherly voice,
I calmly retorted:
Only humans have honed
the skill
to elevate themselves
the natural impulses
of protoplasmic stuff,
but under our clothes,
rest assured,
is revealed the naked
Pig or steer
herded into the biped's
except in quantity,
is no different--
I'm sure you know--
than the beetle
digesting its last
in the gut of the crow.


We're savages--
nothing more--
if we take that route,
she marvelously fumed,
while busily slurping up
her fresh leek soup.


Had it cried,
I innocently asked,
when some brute
had torn out
to satisfy your buds,
this onion's cousin
by its roots?


You can laugh if you like,
she fiercely shot back,
but a leek has
no heart
no soul.
There's a principle here:
once the killing
where in the name of God,
does it finally stop?


Her sermon concluded
with a pregnant pause,
as she bent toward
her salad plate
and maliciously
at a helpless bean.
Tell me please,
I gravely muttered
to myself,
what kind of
new evolving species
dining with me,
just an hour before
on the kitchen floor,
lay engorged and panting,
legs entwined,
now conceptualizes
mammalian biology
as a perversion
of the human mind?


The principle you
so flatly dismiss,
I barked back at her,
made possible our
glorious birth.
Lest you forget,
it governs the perfect
of the protein world--
life eating life,
life eating
and without
this gift,
you can damn well bet
and accept as true,
we would all discover
permanently screwed.


Your philosophizing,
as usual,
justifies all,
she curtly spat out
with a snort,
vibrating her fork.


I was quite close
to jumping
and rushing forth,
my imagination vivid
with mature visions
of pointed tines
planted in her throat,
bit on my tongue
and meekly said,
not wanting to spoil
the strawberry torte:
Quite right, my dear.


Have you ever,
by chance
happened to see,
she coyly smiled,
when a man has
no rebuttal,
he sanctimoniously
to agree?


A clever trap, I quickly
alerted myself.
You may have a point,
I pathetically bleated,
then obliquely appended,
with a burst of wit,
not a man so easily
Truth is not always
quite what it seems--


But in that very instant,
I sharply winced
and knew I was done,
my stream of thought
abruptly diverted
to a more urgent affair:
a wicked bony needle
avenging itself
on my civilized gums.

Linda at C. Little, no less started that blog a year ago with this bit of poetry from Mary Oliver and a picture of her grandson.

Wage Peace
by Mary Oliver

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of redwing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists and breathe out
sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong
friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh
and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.

Friday, February 13, 2004

I, I can remember
Standing by the wall
And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall

And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them,
Forever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day...
-- david bowie

Monday, February 02, 2004

by William Butler Yeats

'In our time the destiny of man presents its meanings in political terms.' -Thomas Mann

How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has both read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms.

prob. date 1928

This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sex Without Love
by Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

I found this at C. Little's blog.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

twice five syllables
plus seven can't say much but
that's haiku for you.

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