Bookface Blog

Archive by tag: Carol RumensReturn
Dec 13, 2021

Tadpoles growing to reach the terrors of land suggest the universal journey of life towards mortality


A twig breaks. Promptly, obligingly
staging the haiku, one or two new frogs
plop in the water, where their younger
kin lie or skitter, hundreds
and hundreds of fat commas swept
from the compositor’s workbench
into the sandy shallows, hundreds
of little fat breathing pauses in the water’s
dull paragraph. When their breath
has pumped up shiny eyes and limbs,
they will wait too, throbbing by the pond’s

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Aug 02, 2021

The poet confronts her terminal cancer without flinching but asserts a defiant will to live

I guess it was my destiny to live so long

Death chase me down
death’s way
uproot a breast
infest the lymph nodes
crack a femur
rip morale
to shreds

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Jul 26, 2021

A young woman newly ‘in service’ tries to make sense of the enigmatic flap her fellow servants are rushing to attend to

The Maid’s Tale

I hadn’t been in service that long. Such a morning!
I dodge out a minute, hoping no one will notice,
needing to get away from all that racket. Oh my!
You never seen so many roses in bloom at once,
thickets of them, white, crimson, stripey, alive with bees.
So I pull just one, the smell’s heavenly, and nip back
in case I’m punished. I asks the lass in the pantry –
well, she stares at me and says It’s the wedding, stupid!

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Jul 19, 2021

A defiant assertion of the poet’s power to overcome physical separation from her beloved

Sonnet Six from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore –
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

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Jul 12, 2021

This sensuous evocation of a moonlit walk is rich with precisely observed natural details

A Nocturnal Reverie

In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl’s delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand’rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav’ns’ mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and the trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes
When scatter’d glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties, watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisb’ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odors, which declined repelling day,
Through temp’rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th’ adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O’er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th’ inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all’s confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.

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Jul 05, 2021

With a sharp and witty tongue, this melodious work reasons out the case against pious hypocrisy

Anima Anceps

Till death have broken
Sweet life’s love-token,
Till all be spoken
That shall be said,
What dost thou praying,
O soul, and playing
With song and saying,
Things flown and fled?
For this we know not –
That fresh springs flow not
And fresh griefs grow not
When men are dead;
When strange years cover
Lover and lover,
And joys are over
And tears are shed.

If one day’s sorrow
Mar the day’s morrow –
If man’s life borrow
And man’s death pay –
If souls once taken,
If lives once shaken,
Arise, awaken,
By night, by day –
Why with strong crying
And years of sighing,
Living and dying,
Fast ye and pray?
For all your weeping,
Waking and sleeping,
Death comes to reaping
And takes away.

Though time rend after
Roof-tree from rafter,
A little laughter
Is much more worth
Than thus to measure
The hour, the treasure,
The pain, the pleasure,
The death, the birth;
Grief, when days alter,
Like joy shall falter;
Song-book and psalter,
Mourning and mirth.
Live like the swallow;
Seek not to follow
Where earth is hollow
Under the earth.

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Jun 28, 2021

Ranging across Russian history, this work brings the cost of war into stark and tragic focus

War of the Beasts and the Animals


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Jun 21, 2021

Howard’s 16th-century sonnet to the man who was fatally wounded saving his life remains full of palpable feeling

Norfolk Sprung Thee, Lambeth Holds Thee Dead

Norfolk sprung thee, Lambeth holds thee dead;
Clere, of the Count of Cleremont, thou hight!
Within the womb of Ormond’s race thou bred
And saw’st thy cousin crowned in thy sight.
Shelton for love, Surrey for lord thou chase;
(Aye, me! whilst life did last, that league was tender)
Tracing whose steps thou sawest Kelsal blaze,
Landrecy burnt, and battered Boulogne render.
At Montreuil gates, hopeless of all recure,
Thine Earl, half dead, gave in thy hand his will;
Which cause did thee this pining death procure,
Ere summers four times seven, thou coulds’t fulfil.
Ah! Clere! If love had booted care or cost,
Heaven had not won, nor earth so timely lost.

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Jun 14, 2021

A daughter wonders whether her elderly mother’s reluctance to submit to her care might not be turning away from life, but affirming it

My Mother says No on Bloomsday

It is not easy, it is not easy
to wheel an old woman to the shower

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Jun 07, 2021

This exhilarating portrait of a runner resonates with a wider struggle


my tongue has grown strong and hard

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May 31, 2021

This spiralling meditation inspired by the artist Josef Albers has a quietly political thrust

Homage to the Square

I still like to believe that the square is a human invention. And that tickles me. So when I have a preference for it then I can only say excuse me” Josef Albers

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May 24, 2021

The fallen hero of this intriguing work does not seem all that demonic

Lucifer Takes a Break

He stirs sugar into black, watching white crystals
transluce. He rolls a cigarette, crimping a white tip
and dark tobacco carefully within the rustle of thin
paper and remembers, as he snaps a match lit,
a time before: just an instant.

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May 17, 2021

This first world war poem remains loyal to the patriotic ethos of its time, but the human cost of combat is never denied

The Unconquered Dead

“… defeated, with great loss.”

Not we the conquered! Not to us the blame
Of them that flee, of them that basely yield;
Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame
Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

That day of battle in the dusty heat
We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
And we the harvest of their garnering.

Some yielded, No, not we! Not we, we swear
By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill
Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare,
Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

We might have yielded, even we, but death
Came for our helper; like a sudden flood
The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath
We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon
Sank to a foolish humming in our ears,
Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon
Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

Before our eyes a boundless wall of red
Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain!
Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead
And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

Not we the conquered! Not to us the shame,
Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease
To hold them ever; victors we, who came
In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.

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May 10, 2021

The US poet began writing his sonnets the day Donald Trump was elected president – but even after Trump, they remain fierce, profound and ageless

American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin

I only intend to send word to my future
Self perpetuation is a war against Time
Travel is essentially the aim of any religion
Is blindness the color one sees under water
Breath can be overshadowed in darkness
The benefits of blackness can seem radical
Black people in America are rarely compulsive
Hi-fivers believe joy is a matter of touching others
Is forbidden the only word God doesn’t know
You have to heal yourself to truly be heroic
You have to think once a day of killing your self
Awareness requires a touch of blindness & self
Importance is the only word God knows
To be free is to live because only the dead are slaves

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May 03, 2021

Climate change and pollution make for surreal and ghostly imagery in this understated and restrained poem

Grey Natural Light by Katherine Horrex

It breaks through voile and stains
like tannin leaching into a cup;

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Apr 27, 2021

This rendition of a work by the 20th century Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam is a rich celebration of poetry itself

What Remains by Reginald Gibbons

Yes, bread that’s poisoned. And not even one sip of air.
How hard it is for the wound of life to be cured.
Joseph himself, sold to Egypt as a slave,
could not have been more heavily grieved.

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Apr 19, 2021

Part showy display of literary style, part grumpy personal letter, this is a rich celebration of the power of writing

To Vladimir Nabokov on His 70th Birthday

That nymphet’s beauty lay less on her bones
Than in her name’s proclaimed two allophones,
A boned veracity slow to be found
In all the chanting of recorded sound.
Extrude an orange pip upon the track,
And it will be a pip played front or back,
But only in the kingdom of the shade
Can diaper run back and be repaid.
Such speculations salt my exile too,
One that I bear less stoically than you.
I look in sourly on my lemon trees
Spiked by the Qs and Xes of Maltese
And wonder: Is this home or where is home?
(Melita’s caves, Calypso’s honeycomb).
I see a cue or clue. Just opposite,
The grocer has a cat that loves to sit
Upon the scales. Respecting his repose,
One day he weighed him: just two rotolos.
In this palazzo wood decays and falls;
Buses knock stucco from the outer walls,
Slam shut the shutters. Coughing as they lurch
They yet enclose the silence of a church,
Rock in baroque: Teresan spados stab
The Sacred Heart upon the driver’s cab,
Whereupon, in circus colours, one can read
That verbum caro factum est. Indeed.
I think the word is all the flesh I need –
The taste, and not the vitamins of sense
Whatever sense may be. I like the fence
Of black and white that keeps those bullocks in –
Crossboard or chesswood. Eurish gift of Finn –
The crossmess parzel. If words are no more
Than pyoshki, preordained to look before,
Save for their taking chassé, they alone
And not the upper house, can claim a throne
(Exploded first the secular magazines
And puff of bishops). All aswarm with queens,
Potentially, that board. Well, there it is:
You help me counter the liquidities
With counters that are counties, countries. Best
To read it: Caro Verbum Facta Est.

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Apr 12, 2021

A complicated song of praise for a world that is part heaven and part hell


Because, in a wounded universe, the tufts
of grass still glisten, the first daffodil
shoots up through ice-melt, and a red-tailed hawk

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Apr 05, 2021

This work moves beyond its immediate inspiration, the coronavirus pandemic, to tell a more universal story

Think, now, whose hand …


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Mar 29, 2021

A brew of the sacred and profane by a rebel classicist, delivered gulp by gulp

Hymn to Aphrodite

ποικιλόθρον’ ἀθανάτ’ Ἀφρόδιτα
Sappho, Fragment 1

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Mar 22, 2021

A rousing call to find the divine in wordly, bodily life

Get Down Ye Angels

Get down ye angels from the heights.
Try a few of earth’s numinous delights:
the orgiastic rustling of the grass.
The wind’s brazen feather tickling your arse.

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Mar 15, 2021

A private moment at work in an Australian factory in the 1920s is charged with candid eroticism

An Improver

Maisie’s been holding down her head all day,
Her little red head. And her pointed chin
Rests on her neck that slips so softly in
The square-cut low-necked darling dress she made
In such a way, since it’s high-waisted, too,
It lets you guess how fair young breasts begin
Under the gentle pleasant folds of blue.

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Mar 08, 2021

The enduring grief of the Dunblane primary school massacre in Scotland, 25 years ago, is discreetly and powerfully portrayed

The rain in the night

The past is falling on the house
lightly, insistently
with its own unnameable scent.

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Mar 01, 2021

The ghostly traces of song in the first sound recording inspire a haunting reflection on historical loss

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Feb 22, 2021

Some surprisingly buoyant and cheering verses from a neglected American writer

A Grey Day

Grey drizzling mists the moorlands drape,
Rain whitens the dead sea,
From headland dim to sullen cape
Grey sails creep wearily.
I know not how that merchantman
Has found the heart; but ’t is her plan
Seaward her endless course to shape.

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