It’s the Dream We Carry

It’s the Dream
Translated from the Norwegian by Robert Bly

Some poems become touchstones, words you carry with you and turn over and over in your mind. This is one of mine from Norwegian poet, Olaf Hauge. He’s worth seeking out.

It’s that dream that we carry with us
that something wonderful will happen,
that it has to happen,
that time will open,
that the heart will open,
that doors will open,
that the mountains will open,
that wells will leap up,
that the dream will open,
that one morning we’ll slip in
to a harbor that we’ve never known.

It’s the Dream We Carry

Ode to Joy

Many years ago my then brother in law made us a mix tape. It was funny, eclectic and filled with surprises.

It introduced me to the Young Marble Giants and I think it was the first place I heard Al Greens wonderful Let’s Stay Together .

It also included poetry – of the wild, beat, ecstatic kind – that he was exploring at the time. Listening to the high incantatory voice of the poet; the golden flow of images and words is a memory of long car journeys into Wales – entranced and dreaming.

The downside is that I never knew who it was or what he was reading.

We lost the tape years ago – and anyway nothing we have would play it now – but I never forgot the poem and today, looking for something else entirely I came across Frank O’Hara’s Ode to Joy and recognised it straight away!

Better yet, here’s a recording of him reading it:


and here’s the Ode itself:

We shall have everything we want and there’ll be no more dying
on the pretty plains or in the supper clubs
for our symbol we’ll acknowledge vulgar materialistic laughter
over an insatiable sexual appetite
and the streets will be filled with racing forms
and the photographs of murderers and narcissists and movie stars
will swell from the walls and books alive in steaming rooms
to press against our burning flesh not once but interminably
as water flows down hill into the full-lipped basin
and the adder dives for the ultimate ostrich egg
and the feather cushion preens beneath a reclining monolith
that’s sweating with post-exertion visibility and sweetness
near the grave of love
No more dying


We shall see the grave of love as a lovely sight and temporary
near the elm that spells the lovers’ names in roots
and there’ll be no more music but the ears in lips and no more wit
but tongues in ears and no more drums but ears to thighs
as evening signals nudities unknown to ancestors’ imaginations
and the imagination itself will stagger like a tired paramour of ivory
under the sculptural necessities of lust that never falters
like a six-mile runner from Sweden or Liberia covered with gold
as lava flows up and over the far-down somnolent city’s abdication
and the hermit always wanting to be lone is lone at last
and the weight of external heat crushes the heat-hating Puritan
whose self-defeating vice becomes a proper sepulcher at last
that love may live


Buildings will go up into the dizzy air as love itself goes in
and up the reeling life that it has chosen for once or all
while in the sky a feeling of intemperate fondness will excite the birds
to swoop and veer like flies crawling across absorbed limbs
that weep a pearly perspiration on the sheets of brief attention
and the hairs dry out that summon anxious declaration of the organs
as they rise like buildings to the needs of temporary neighbors
pouring hunger through the heart to feed desire in intravenous ways
like the ways of gods with humans in the innocent combination of light
and flesh or as the legends ride their heroes through the dark to found
great cities where all life is possible to maintain as long as time
which wants us to remain for cocktails in a bar and after dinner
lets us live with it
No more dying

Ode to Joy

Two poems about Buffaloes

The Flower-Fed Buffaloes

The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prairie flowers lie low:—
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by the wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us, long ago.
They gore no more, they bellow no more,
They trundle around the hills no more:—
With the Blackfeet, lying low,
With the Pawnees, lying low,
Lying low.
And, sadder yet, Carl Sandberg:

Buffalo Dusk

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.
Two poems about Buffaloes

On being laconic

The Spartans of course were masters of the laconic – the area they lived in gave us the word. Wikipedia quotes this example of antique pithiness:

Philip II of Macedon, after invading southern Greece and receiving the submission of other key city-states, sent a message to Sparta:

You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.[3]

The Spartan ephors replied with a single word: ‘If’

Philip didn’t proceed with the invasion.

Haikus are laconic. This one – posted in the Quartz Daily briefing today – describing Trump’s tax plans appealed to me strongly:

For everyone. And a lot
For the very rich.

I thought it could just as easily form the strapline for the Tory party manifesto here in the UK.

On being laconic

This Is a Prayer to Baba Yaga. This Is a Prayer for Resistance

A friend posted a link to this on Facebook – I thought the poem was much too good to lose amongst FBs wretched algorithms.

Baba Yaga, the crone, a figure beyond the expectations and demands of society, reminds us of the freedom we have, and the power if we choose to exercise it.


Baba Yaga

This is a prayer for Baba Yaga.  This is a prayer for Resistance.

This is a prayer for the magic of chicken feet, the heat of old hates, the way old bones hurt.  This is a prayer for Resistance.

This is a prayer for hat knitters, sign-carriers, Congress-callers.  Old women make up the Resistance.

This is a prayer for casserole-bakers, newsletter-writers, nuisances.  Old women make up the Resistance.

This is a prayer for phone-bankers, neighborhood-canvassers, early-voters.  Old women make up the Resistance.

When the Moon is full, I call to Her.

I bring coals for Her oven.  I bring flour, to cover Her tracks.  I bring paprika salve for Her old, sore joints.

I bring a list of complicit women.  I bring a doll poked with pins and bound with vines.  I bring a bottle of ancient anger.

“Come, Baba Yaga,” I say. “Come find me alone in the woods.”

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This Is a Prayer to Baba Yaga. This Is a Prayer for Resistance

A Brash of Wowing

Dunbar again, anticipating the modern day modern day hipster with his ‘bony berd was kemmit and croppit’, trying to sweet talk his girl.

The compliments are wonderful:

My belly-huddrun, my swete hurle bawsy,
My huny gukkis, my slawsy gawsy,

Read on to see if our charmer wins his ‘tendir gyrle’s’ heart.

A Brash of Wowing

In secreit place this hyndir nycht,
I hard ane beyrne say till ane bricht,
‘My huny, my hart, my hoip, my heill,
I have bene lang your luifar leill
And can of yow get confort nane;
How lang will ye with denger deill?
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!’

His bony berd was kemmit and croppit,
Bot all with cale it was bedroppit;
And he wes townysche, peirt and gukit,
He clappit fast, he kist and chukkit
As with the glaikis he wer ouirgane;
Yit be his feirris he wald have fukkit;
‘Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!’

Quod he, ‘My hairt, sweit as the hunye,
Sen that I borne wes of my mynnye,
I never wowit ane uder bot yow;
My wambe is of your luif sa fow,
That as ane gaist I glour and grane,
I trymble sa, ye will nocht trow;
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!’

‘Tehe!’ quod scho, and gaif ane gawfe,
‘Be still my tuchan and my calfe,
My new spanit howffling fra the sowk,
And all the blythnes of my bowk;
My sweit swanking, saif yow allane,
Na leyd I luffit all this owk;
Full leifis me your graceless gane.’

Quod he, ‘My claver, my curledodie,
My huny soppis, my sweit possodie,
Be not our bosteous to your billie,
Be warme hairtit and not ewill willie;
Your hals, quhyt as quhalis bane,
Garris ryis on loft my quhillielillie:
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane!’

Quod scho, ‘My clype my unspaynit gyane,
With moderis mylk yit in your mychane,
My belly-huddrun, my swete hurle bawsy,
My huny gukkis, my slawsy gawsy,
Your musing waild perse ane hairt of stane,
Tak gud confort, my grit heidit slawsy:
Full leifis me your graceles gane.’

Quod he, ‘My kid, my capirculyoun,
My bony baib with the ruch brilyoun,
My tendir gyrle, my wallie gowdye,
My tirlie mirlie, my crowdie mowdie;
Quhone that oure mouthis dois meit at ane,
My stang dois storkyn with your towdy:
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane.’

Quod scho, ‘Now tak me be the hand,
Welcum, my golk of Marie land,
My chirrie, and my maikles munyoun,
My sowklar sweit as ony unyoun,
My strwmill stirk, yit new to spane,
I am applyit to your opunyoun:
I luif rycht weill your graceles gane.’

He gaiff to hir ane apill rubye;
Quod scho ‘Grammercye,my sweit cowhubye.’
And thai twa to ane play began,
Quhilk men dois call the dery dan;
Quhill bayth thair bewis did meit in ane.
‘Wo is me!’ quod scho, ‘quhair will ye, man?
Best now I luif that graceles gane.’
William Dunbar

hyndir, recent; beyrne, fellow; bricht, pretty girl; cale, cabbage soup; townysche, cheaply smart; gukit, foolish; clappit, fondled; chukkit, chucked under the chin; glaikis, desire; feirris, behaviour; wambe, belly; fow, full; gawfe, guffaw; tuchan, stuffed calf-skin; spanit, weaned; howffling, stupid fellow; sowk, milk; bowk, body; swanking, smart young fellow; leyd, person; owk, week; leifis me, is dear to me; gane, ugly mug; claver, clover; curldodie, ribwort plantain; possodie, sheep’s head broth; billie, lover; ewill willie, unkind; quhillielillie, penis; clype, silly fellow; unspaynit, unweaned; gyane, giant; mychane, mouth; huddrun, glutton; hurle bawsy, obscure term of endearment; huny gukkis, sweet fool; slawsy gawsy, jolly sloven; capirculyoun, woodgrouse; ruch brylyoun, hairy private parts; wallie, fine; gowdye, piece of gold; tyrlie myrlie, crowdie mowdie, obscure (and probably obscene) terms of endearment; stang, penis; towdie, buttocks; golk, cuckoo; maikles munyoun, matchless darling; sowklar, sucking child; unyoun, onion; strwmill stirk, ugly young bullock; applyit, inclined; cowhubye, fool; dery dan, copulation; bewis, limbs

A Brash of Wowing

Done is a Battle

Here’s a poem to send you off triumphant this easter day:

Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our champion Christ confoundit has his force;
The yetis of hell are broken with a crack,
The sign triumphal raisit is of the cross,
The devillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Christ with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungan is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The cruewall serpent with the mortal stang;
The auld kene tiger, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyen for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clawis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice was dicht,
Is lyk a lion risen up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him on hicht;
Sprungen is Aurora radious and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit victour again is rissen on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth was woundit;
The sun that wox all pale now shynis bricht,
And, derkness clearit, our faith is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the heaven is soundit,
The Christin are deliverit of their wo,
The Jowis and their errour are confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battle is done ceis,
The presone broken, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeon temit,
The ransoun made, the prisoneris redeemit;
The field is won, owrecomen is the fo,
Dispuilit of the treasure that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
William Dunbar

I love these 15/16century scots poets. They look impenetrable – but if you read them doing a Billy Connolly impression it all becomes clear.

Done is a Battle