r.i.p. ntozake shange (1948 – 2018)

One thing I don’t need
is any more apologies
I got sorry greetin me at my front door
you can keep yours.
I don’t know what to do wit em
they don’t open doors
or bring the sun back.
They dont make me happy
or get a mornin paper
didn’t nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars.
Cuz a sorry
I am simply tired
of collectin
I didn’t know
I was so important to you
I’m gonna haveta throw some away
I can’t get to the clothes in my closet
for alla the sorries.
I’m gonna tack a sign to my door
leave a message by the phone
‘if you called
to say your sorry
call somebody
else!
I don’t use em anymore’
I let sorry/ didn’t meanta/ & how could I know about that?
Take a walk down a dark & musty street in brooklyn!
I’m gonna do exactly what I want to
& I won’t be sorry for none of it!
Letta sorry soothe your soul/ I’m gonna soothe mine!
You were always inconsistent
doin somethin & then bein sorry
beatin my heart to death!
Talkin bout you sorry well,
I will not call,
I’m not goin to be nice,
I will raise my voice,
& scream & holler
& break things & race the engine
& tell all your secrets bout yourself to your face
& I will list in detail everyone of my wonderful lovers
& their ways I will play oliver lake loud!
& I wont be sorry for none of it
I LOVED YOU ON PURPOSE, I WAS OPEN ON PURPOSE!
I still crave vulnerability & close talk
& I’m not even sorry bout you bein sorry!
you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
just dont give it to me!
I cant use another sorry
next time
you should admit
you’re mean/ low-down/ triflin/ & no count straight out
steada bein sorry alla the time
enjoy bein YOURSELF

t.s. eliot – ash-wednesday

Source: Instagram, @stellathought

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn

The vanished power of the usual reign?Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power

Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time

And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us

And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly

But merely vans to beat the air

The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences

Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining

We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,

Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair

I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,

Damp, jagged, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,

Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair

Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy

Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.

IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet

Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand

In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing

Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.

The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue

Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down

Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent

If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word

Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for

Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender

Yew trees pray for those who offend her

And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

VI

Although I do not hope to turn again

Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.

__

Ash-Wednesday’, from Collected Poems 1909-1962 by T S Eliot, © T S Eliot 1963, Faber & Faber Limited

ruth miller – it is better to be together (1965)

It is better to be
Together. Tossed together
In a white wave, than to see
The ocean like an eagle.

It is better to lie
In the stormy seething
Than to judge the weather
In an eagle’s eye.

Cold is the bird
Who flies too far
In the clear vision
Which saints and eagles share:
Their faraway eyes are bitter
With darkened prayer.

O, it is better to try
WIth the white wave, together
To overturn the sky.

It is better to be together.

__

From Floating Island, 1965.

Ruth Miller was a South African poet, born in 1919 in Uitenhage. She grew up in the northern Transvaal and spent her adult life in Johannesburg, working as a school secretary and later an English teacher. The accidental home death by electrocution of her son, aged 14, clouded the last six months of her life; she produced nothing for some time, and subsequently wrote some of her finest work. She died of cancer in 1969. More HERE.