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Francis Scarfe

Progression

See that satan pollarding a tree,
That geometric man straightening a road:
Surely such passions are perverse and odd
That violate windows and set the north wind free.

No doubt tomorrow the world will be too straight.
Five hundred miles an hour will churn our dreams
Like surprised whales, when we lie a dead weight
In an ignorant sleep, and things will be what they seem.

Tomorrow we will hear on the gramophone
The music of the Spheres, registered H.M.V.
By a divorced contralto: we shall perhaps
Meet Adam under glass in a museum
Fleshless and most unlovely, complete with pedigree.

Or else, tomorrow, workers, kings and crooks
Will all have aeroplanes and be fast friends,
In a world no longer divided by dividends,
Where love will be almost as simple as it looks.

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The Merry Window

The alabaster legs of the lonely woman
hang from the window like white ensigns
out of the laughing window like false teeth
sheets, flagstaffs, telescopes, rolls of music,
or you would say beheaded necks of swans
or the electric horns of factories
where foreign dreams are nightly fabricated.

Yearning for her coal once heaved in the seam
for her the sewers shrieked their way through London
and pigeons ate each other in the air.

But the deserted lady is frozen to the marrow
her heart has floated into her left leg
and her forked tongue asks in three languages
for a bassoon, a pyramid, and an egg.

All the white birds have flown out of her lips
the Polar Bear has eaten her left breast
her eyes are covered with yellow webs of dust,

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Tyne Dock

The summer season at Tyne Dock
Hoisted my boyhood in a crane
Above the shaggy mining town,
Above the slaghills and the rocks,
Above the middens in backlanes
And wooden hen-huts falling down.

Vermilion grass grew in the street
Where the blind pit-ponies pranced
And poppies screamed by butchers' stalls
Where bulls kicked sparks with dying feet,
And in the naked larks I sensed
A cruel god beneath it all.

Over the pit-head wheel the moon
Was clean as a girl's face in school;
I envied the remote old man
Who lived there, happy and alone,
While in the kitchen the mad spool
Unwound as Annie's treadle ran.

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The Window

In after years, when you look back upon
This time, and upon me, who am no more
Close to your heart nor a shadow in your sun,
Perhaps you will stand still and lean on the door
Or lay down something, feeling quite undone.

Some passing stranger, or a turn of phrase,
Or any echo or shade, will be enough,
Anything that is worn and almost effaced,
Anything half finished, will be proof
I was no natural but an acquired taste.

So you will stand there, looking back, inspired
As though the curtains parted on some view
Not quite to be believed in, nor desired,
And which did not exist except for you,
Like some clay thing the potter never fired.

No, it would not be wise to throw the window wide.
Close it quickly, before it hurts, and go

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Cats

Those who love cats which do not even purr
Or which are thin and tired and very old,
Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur
And rub their ears, and smooth their breast, and hold
Them carefully, and gaze into their eyes of gold.

For how can they pass what does not ask for love
But draws it out of those who have too much,
Frustrated souls who cannot use it all, who have
Somewhere too tight and sad within them, such
A tenderness it flows through all they touch.

They are the ones who love without reward,
Those on whom eyes are closed, from whom heads turn,
Who know only too well they can afford
To squander love, since in the breast it burns
With the cold anguish every lover learns.

So they pass on, victims of silent things,
And what they love remains indifferent

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The Clock

Far away is one who now is sleeping
In the same world and the same darkness,
But not in my keeping.
Oh no, my arms could never stretch so far
And my hands trembling with tenderness
Cannot hope to caress
Her limbs, save by remembering what they arc.

Oh no, my words must never reach her ears
That lie so white against her sombre hair,
No, no, she must not hear
My voice that has no happiness to bring,
For she also is lost in a realm where
My cry and my despair
Are out of tune whatever song they sing.

Perhaps as I lie waking she is dreaming,
But not of me, for dreams are not so kind;
While my eyes arc brimming
With images of things that might have been,

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The Grotto

The sea still plunges where as naked boys
We dared the currents and the racing tides
That stamped red weals of fury on our thighs,
Yet did not know our first love was the sea
That rolled like colts between our shining knees,
While under us the sands in golden curls
Coiled round our bodies like the plaits of girls.

We came oblique to passion on that shore
Identified with our blind will to danger,
As when we explored the slipping walls of caves
Booming with dark more fearful than the waves
Whose silence magnified the heart's deep roar
Till senses beat that were asleep before,
And in ourselves we recognized a stranger.

Or when we scaled by Frenchman's Bay the cliff
No man has dared though boys there in the night
Still prove their manhood on its hostile side
That was our climb from innocence to life;

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Ode in Honour

Evening is part of the jig-saw truth of her,
ply-wood ply-flesh, her insolent reply
blinding the ace with a straight shot to centre,
the woman's a delicate devil in twenty places
blander and blonder, tinder tenderly
setting the smiles on fire in men's faces.

On any evening gets you ready for dark
swathes and saves you for the magic carpet
spirits you anywhere anytime anyhow
over the bridges the tunnels the hills the foothills
the pools lakes oceans cataracts crystal floes
the mountains and fountains the antique windows of space,
the deserts orchards vineyards milky ways,
over pontoons and the silting tracks of moons
over the decks and the docks where the clocks
chime, anywhere anytime, anyhow, any fresh place.

Anywhere where winds blow and babies grow
where poor men wait for money in a row

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Kitchen Poem

An Elegy for Tristan Tzara

In the hungry kitchen
The dog sings for its dinner.
The housewife is writing her poem
On top of the frigidaire
Something like this:

    'Hear in the kitchen
    The crows fly home
    Into the red-robed trees
    That walk across the sky.

    Hear under the floor
    The three fountains rising and
    Trickling through the bridge
    Into the sea of poems.'

In the kitchen the housemother
Pours soup for her thousand children

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