HOLLAND HOUSE

To Holland House came Elizabeth Vassall,
with wealth from her family’s plantations,
She had five children by Sir Geoffrey Webster
and, at twenty three, created quite a stir
when she left him for the third Baron Holland
and his more exalted social station.
She had attributes to surpass them all.
Beautiful if autocratic,
with a warm if calculating heart
though little taste for the democratic,
except a fashionable admiration
for Bonaparte.
Now, with a name aristocratic,
she felt smiled on by indulgent Fates.
Willingly she had exchanged Jamaican darkland
for monogrammed, wrought-iron gates,
and fifty-four acres of wooded parkland!

Lady Holland, Georgian siren
for whom the brightest luminaries of the Age,
Macauley, Scott, Disraeli, Dickens, Byron,
shined their spotlights on her stage;
her garden ballroom (once Jacobean stables),
her imported dahlias, peacocks, chestnut rides,
her liveried servants dispensing punch in ladles
and, no doubt, equivocal asides.

And yet, in not one hundred years,
those same Fates “blind with abhorred shears”
dropped on the House
she had dominated with such aplomb
a German incendiary bomb!

Sic transit.

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PATIENCE

The patience of the old woman:
raveling and unraveling
somebody’s memories
like skeins of wool,
to darn the tattered covering
of an ever-fading life
in which,
according to somebody’s memories,
she was once a woman
and a wife.

The patience of the sick:
waiting for the stab of the hypodermic
to bring oblivion,
while the night nurse
smothers a yawn,
waiting for the day nurse
to relieve her;
and the dawn
allows a little more greyness
into the room.

The patience of Life itself:
so patiently
propelling a single breath.

Patience lost,
evaporation
at the merest suggestion
of Death!

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FUNERAL

We crawl our way from earth
to star
nor calculate from birth how far
our tiny feet
will take us
before the karma that we meet
will break us;
and cast us adrift on an outgoing tide.

While those onshore mutter simply,
“He died!”

Ding-dong
Fay’s gone
Life long
Death waits for none.

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COMPLETING CYCLES

The Juggler throws
his batons at the sun.
The sky throws them back again
like rain,
each and every one.

Surely by now he knows
what it is he’s gaining?

Come Mr. Juggler,
look at it from your point of view,
just how long has it been raining?

On you?

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GURDJIEFF

“You are both a wolf
and a lamb.
If you do not stay awake
the wolf will devour
the lamb.”

Oh you, the Living and the Dead!
Both those who earn
and you who claim by right
your daily bread.
Encourage the few
they will become the many.
Encourage the poor
they will reach out for more.
Encourage the young
they will fail to grow up.
Encourage the old
they will grow older.

Why do so many
in public life
wear name-tags
nowadays?

“In case they forget
who you are.”

(poem from OXFORD BLUES)

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CATCHING UP

The more they take
and do not make
an adequate contribution,
the more what they owe
shadows them as they go
to inevitable retribution.

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BAMBOO LEAVES

Their leaves of grass* emerge and fade;
with windblown rustling tongues converse.
The grove has grown throughout the universe,
spreads everywhere its pleasant living shade;
creating north south east and west
(the fierce, unending struggle to be best);
relentlessly growing.
The variety is unimaginable,
the sameness unknowing
and unknowable.

The grove is all its roots and culms and leaves,
yet every leaf contains the whole,
every living thing that breathes
and all its universes, as well.
All things are perfect
in their subatomic details
and reach out blindly to direct
networks of rhyzomes and roots 
carrying new, all different, identical shoots
to every part of infinite space
until the chain of being fails.

And every leaf has a human face,
and every culm is a human heart.

At the end of a kalpa,
the grove gathers its energy
in an explosion of mass flowering;
an outward showering
of fruit and seed.
The clones wither and die,
the culms dry
and disintegrate
and crumble into food
to fulfill the eternal need
as a new regeneration germinates
and the whole grove reincarnates.

*Bamboos are part of the Poaceae, The Grass Family.

(from BAMBOO LEAVES poetry in Thailand)

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