Poetry – The End (A Villanelle for Year 12, 2020)

Hey everyone,

If you know me, you know that I love being a teacher because I love working with kids and learning with them. It is a tiring and heartbreaking and frustrating and beautiful job, which I wouldn’t change for the world.

My students this year have gone through so much. They have worked so hard, in spite of being locked down and shut away, in spite of their parents losing their jobs, and in spite of the constant, overriding fear that COVID-19 has brought to them. More than ever, I am proud of this cohort of kids for making it through the year, and still managing to have smiles on their faces whenever they walk into my classroom.

I couldn’t be luckier to teach these kids.

So I wrote a poem for them in the place of a message that I would normally send to have put in their Yearbook.

It’s a message of hope and courage in uncertain times, written in my favourite form of all – the Villanelle (it’s also in iambic tetrameter for those keeping score).

This isn’t just for one kid, one class, one grade, one school, one state, or one country. It’s for all those kids who are leaving school this year into a world that’s on its head. You’ve done your best. You’re wonderful. You’ll do great things.

Enjoy.

The End

A Villanelle for Year 12, 2020

But now, at last, it’s time to send
into that great unknown, to you,
the message that it’s not the end

of all your learning, all your friends,
and any chances that are new.
But now, at last, it’s time to send

you on your way. They’re twists and bends,
the trials that you’ll make it through –
the message that it’s not the end,

and with some time, some hearts will mend,
but you’ll be you; and you’ll be true.
But now, at last, it’s time to send

a great fanfare into the skies, lend
your souls some courage as you flew
the message that it’s not the end

so far away rules cannot bend.
For then you’ll see the truest view:
that now, at last, it’s time to send
the message that it’s not the end.

Poetry – To ‘scape these thoughts

Hey all!

I chose this week’s poem in my weekly duel with my student. Given that it was my turn to pick the form, I chose the Villanelle. Partially because I love the form, but also because it will work well to convey meaning for her chosen topic, in my opinion.

The extra challenge for myself this week was to write the poem in Iambic Pentameter, which I was scared of doing. It turns out it is a very natural way to write, in the end.

I have been feeling pretty low this weekend, but writing a hopeful poem despite this feels like a success.

Happy reading 🙂

Richard

 

To ‘scape these thoughts

A thousand, thousand ways is what we’ve tried,
but failed to find a way to ‘scape these thoughts,
to let us settle in, enjoy the ride,

accept the permutations of real pride,
and stoke the flame that new love has now brought.
A thousand, thousand ways is what we’ve tried

and though it sometimes comes across as snide
I treasure what you’ve done and what it’s wrought
to let us settle in, enjoy the ride.

But even when together we have cried
and when our time has seemed all but a rort,
a thousand, thousand ways in what we’ve tried –

and when it works, into the night we glide,
the days behind us that we felt were fraught –
to let us settle in, enjoy the ride.

What if in time we let our feelings slide?
Remember joy that our true love has brought.
A thousand, thousand ways is what we’ve tried
to let us settle in, enjoy the ride.

Poetry for the New Year

Hey friends,

It’s been great knowing that my writing has been getting out there and getting read in the last few months. Having people – even if it’s just people I know – get in contact and talk to me about how much my writing and poetry helps them with their own struggles is really heartening.

I will let my next three poems speak for themselves. I wrote the two haiku poems at the beach the other day, ignoring people and lost in my own thoughts, and I wrote the villanelle just a moment ago, to see the new year in.

I am really looking forward to writing more – especially more prose, and especially more for my novels – next year. It’s a habit I am really proud to be in. For the moment, I am just going to get these posted, and get back down to my darling wife, the dogs and the cat, who I am spending the night with for a quiet New Years celebration – then off to the beach again tomorrow!

Thanks for the support this year, happy reading, happy writing, and all the best going forward!

Enjoy!
Richard 🙂

Villanelle – Next Year

Next year will be better:
I can see it, not so far away –
a yearning, sweet and bitter.

I hold the feeling close, yet her
sweet comfort will not come today.
“Next year will be better,”

I say to myself. However
there’s a new sensation at play:
a yearning, sweet and bitter.

This year’s struggle strangles like a fetter,
binds me to the ground like clay,
(but) next year will be better.

And when I hold her close, love letter
on my lips, I’ll softly say,
“a yearning sweet and bitter

is so much better together.”
And she’ll smile, as in our next day
next year will be better –
a yearning, sweet and bitter.

Haiku – Through the window

Verb: Defenestrate.
To throw away, out the window.
Our world, just burning.

Haiku – Smoke drifts

Cigarette smoke drifts,
and we complain as we sprawl
o’er the once pure land.

Poetry – Tomorrow

Hey friends,

I hope all is going well. For my part, I have been having a pretty rough time as far as my mental health is concerned. I’m taking a day off work to collect myself tomorrow though, which I desperately need.

Here’s a villanelle – you just try and stop me from writing this cheesy-as form of poetry – I (mostly) wrote on the train into the city last Thursday, heading in to see a student’s State Drama performance.

I’m still having trouble with setting up the endings of these poems at the beginning (which I think is hard to understand unless you try and write one), so I guess I just have to keep on writing them!

Happy reading!
Richard

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I’m going to
let my old thoughts fly,
find something else to do,

and hold onto the fading image of you –
But in my thoughts I’ll look you in the eye.
Tomorrow, I’m going to

find one small thing that’s true,
search through it, and see the hidden lie
find something else to do,

destroy its beauty too,
and watch me as I cry,
“Tomorrow I’m going to

see how much you’ll go through;
see how hard you’ll help me try
find something else to do.”

And when all is done, they’ll see we two
hand-in-hand; eyes towards the sky.
Tomorrow, I’m going to
find something else to do.

Poem – Is it such a problem?

Hey everyone,

I haven’t felt up to a poem in a while, but here’s one anyway.

Tonight I have been smashing out some 200-word vignettes for the “2019 NWF/joanne burns Microlit Award”. I have finished 2 pieces and am stuck on the third. I won’t find out if they win (they won’t), until December, but I will post them as soon as they’re clear of the winner announcement.

While sitting at my computer, stuck on the third I suddently felt like writing a Villanelle – and I love a good Villanelle.

As you can probably tell if you read the poem, I am pretty sick of being derided by most of Australian society as a teacher, and especially as an English teacher. It seems like the people who don’t like teachers really, especially didn’t like English.

Anyway – here’s a poem I just wrote. I like it, but the ending is clunky. However, by the time I realised that was going to happen I had already written all but the final stanza, so I did my best to make it work.

If you want to hear it in the form it’s intended then read it out loud, follow the punctuation carefully and all but ignore the line- and stanza-breaks, and put on your best “snarky English teacher” voice. I know you all had one at one time or another – English teachers can be mean.

Enjoy!

Richard

 

Is it such a problem?

“Another English teacher writing poetry?
How quaint,” they look towards me and sneer.
“Is it such a problem to feel free?”

I ask, knowing what their answer will be.
But what do they have to fear?
Another English teacher writing poetry

is a common thing for them to see.
So I ask again, wanting to be clear,
“Is it such a problem to feel free?

Is it so bad that I don’t agree?
That while the blows land year on year
another English teacher writing poetry

might help your child know who to be?
Might help them be their own all seer.
Is it such a problem to feel free?

It was obvious – to them my words are paltry.
But from whom comes the question that they fear?
Another English teacher writing poetry:
“Is it such a problem to feel free?”

Poems of the Past – The Stiletto

Below is a poem that I wrote a long time ago, back in 2013. It is in a number of parts and was for an assignment for my teaching degree. We had to submit something personal and creative, and I’m honestly still surprised that I got away with writing something like this. From memory, I got a decent mark as well!

I found it recently when cleaning out my older documents, and in the absence of a new poem to share with you all, thought I’d throw it up here. It’s not perfect, and I think I’ve gotten better since then, but sometimes it’s nice (or horrible) to look back on the beasts we once knew.

Enjoy!

 

The Stiletto

I

Light’s illusions,
Shadows in a crowded room.
Is there more to it than meets the eye?
Are they ever still?
Only when darkness falls
Do they come together –
Silhouettes caught in a loving
Embrace.
Nowhere and everywhere;
All consuming.

A trick of the eye:
We see nothing
But them, but
Nothing is all
We see.

Illusions, lights; a
Crowded room of shadows.
Somewhere between perception and
Imagination
They are condemned to stay.

 

II

Assassin: sleek, surreptitious,
Sneaking soundlessly. Surity
Exudes her soulful steps
As she smoothly
Slides her sharp silver stiletto.
Sternum,
Soul,
Silence.

 

III

Dark,
Dangerous – heaving chest and
Sweating palms. He looks
Dead but for the movement of his eyes.
Silent steps destroy his
Waking dreams as a hot,
Sharp
Pain
Takes his world away.

IV

Hold it close,
The thought of better times.
They will come, when all that is left
Comes to close.

 

V

Dystopian

dreams

break

into

consciousness,

holding all

Thoughts hostage.

A breath – too much;
A whimper,
Head held high

as

freedom

slips

away.

It is unthinkable, the notion of a mind unchained;
At a time like this
It is held far                                                                              beyond reach.

All we can hope for is
Respite
From the emptiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing,
Not a sound.

 

VI

the-stiletto-vi

 

VII

In. Out.
Sigh.
Breath, death, passion.
All the same when the darkness comes.

 

VIII

Nothing, not a sound.
The darkness that falls holds us hostage,
An untainted thought cannot be found.

Like a new killer, waiting for their first to be crowned
(The scalp a necessity of any assassins salvage),
Nothing, not a sound.

A consequence: the first kill will always resound.
A permanent image;
An untainted thought cannot be found.

No racing thoughts, no doubts abound –
Slowly sneaking down the passage,
Nothing, not a sound.

When she reaches his room, she looks around:
No one but the victim, unaware of the coming carnage,
An untainted thought cannot be found.

Finally, as she draws the knife her heart again starts to pound.
A quick plunge, a twist to dodge the rib-cage:
Nothing, not a sound.
An untainted thought cannot be found.

 

IX

In the morning we can pretend
It was all a dream.

 

X

“Treat every kill like it’s your first”,
That’s what she was always told,
“It’s the only way to quench an unquenchable thirst.”

But as she held the stiletto above her head once more, she imagines the roles in reverse,
She paused too long, forgot the saying of old:
“Treat every kill like it’s your first.”

An iron grip on her wrist, this is not as she rehearsed.

Not everything goes to plan.

As the darkness overcomes her she
Begins to understand,
You cannot quench the unquenchable thirst.

Cages

And the thoughts – words, pictures, sounds –
keep circling like sharks
(going round and round and round)

who’ve smelled the taste of blood; hounds
that growl and drool and bark;
and the thoughts, words, pictures, sounds!

A tightening of the chest so profound
that it feels like it’s left a mark.
Going round and round and round

in my head, those words resound,
like the trumpets’ call, quarter-tones apart,
and the thoughts – words, pictures, sounds –

never stop. Cats in cages in the pound
that yowl and screech and scratch. Parts –
going round and round and round –

chaotic, dark, that are forever bound
for their own horrific arc…
And the thoughts – words, pictures, sounds-
going round and round and round.

Like Birds

Where can I find the words
that do you justice?
They fly far beyond my reach, like birds

never to be held, fleeting, absurd,
some suggest it’s just a matter of practise.
Where can I find the words

that could ever tell the world
anything about you? That your darting eyes,
they fly far beyond my reach, like birds.

When I wake and see you my heart is hurled
across a precipice.
Where can I find the words

That say, “when you speak it’s like a herd
of butterflies –
they fly far beyond my reach, like birds.

Maybe one day, the words will be heard,
and another might ask us:
“Where can I find the words?’
“They fly far beyond my reach, like birds.”

The next day

“How the world is changing”,
Said the old man, clutching at the table,
“Who knows what the next day will bring?”

In the distance we could hear a bird sing
Sitting atop a sign with a flaking label:
“How the world is changing”.

“We really shouldn’t ling-”
I was cut off as a pair walked past the table:
“Who knows what the next day will bring,”

Is all I could catch before I continued, “Lingering
Would be inadvisable.”
“How the world is changing.”

He repeated. But my phone had already begun to ring.
“Private number”, I said, and answered as sweetly as I was able:
“How the world is changing.
Who knows what the next day will bring.”