A Mystery by Wendy Cope

People say, ‘What are you doing these days? What are you working on?’
I think for a moment or two.

The question interests me. What am I doing these
How odd that I haven’t a clue.

Right now, of course, I’m working on this poem,
With just a few more lines to go.

But tomorrow someone will ask me, ‘What are you up
to these days? What are you working on?’
And I still won’t know.

This poem kind of speaks my mind of the present situation. I am not doing much lately. I don’t know what I am going to do.

Mediterranean Blue by Naomi Shihab Nye

If you are a child of a refugee, you do not
sleep easily when they are crossing the sea
on small rafts and you know they can’t swim.
My father couldn’t swim either. He swam through
sorrow, though, and made it to the other side
on a ship, pitching his old clothes overboard
at landing, then tried to be happy, make a new life.
But something inside him was always paddling home,
clinging to anything that floated —a story, a food, or face.
They are the bravest people on earth right now,
don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe
swirling as many details as yours, as much love
for a humble place. Now the shirt is torn,
the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere
to receive a letter for a very long time.

And if we can reach out a hand, we better.

The poem is written in response to the refugee migrant crisis where refugees from the Middle East and Africa like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya etc., mostly Muslim countries, risk their lives crossing over the Mediterranean sea to Europe.

The poet thinks of her father, the older generation, being an immigrant from Palestine to the United States, who also braves his life to find a humble place in the new land. Likewise, now, the refugees have their reasons in going all the way in search of a better life. Also, the poet suggests that his father remembers being a refugee is weary and difficult, and is forgotten by his homeland. So the poet urges to help the refugees if we can.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is like a bird that perches inside our heart. In extreme circumstances and chilly, stormy environment, hope gives us strength and protection that leads our way forward. It does not shame us. And it never asks anything in return. It is just there for us.

Hope takes flight in difficult situations!

Occupational Hazard by Sophie Hannah

He has slept with accountants and brokers,
With a cowgirl (well, someone from Healds).
He has slept with non-smokers and smokers
In commercial and cultural fields.

He has slept with book-keepers, book-binders,
Slept with auditors, florists, PAs
Child psychologists, even child minders,
With directors of firms and of plays.

He has slept with the stupid and clever.
He has slept with the rich and the poor
But he sadly admits that he’s never
Slept with a poet before.

Real poets are rare, he confesses,
While it’s easy to find a cashier.
So I give him some poets’ addresses
And consider a change of career.

It is funny how the poet responds to the guy she meets in the pub when he said he has never slept with a poet. Obviously, the poet does not want to entertain the guy and just diverts him with some poets’ addresses. She makes a humorous remark that she seriously thinks about changing her career as a poet to get away from the guy who poses an occupational hazard to the poet.

The Orange by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

This is a very simple poem. But I like it very much. As the poem said, recently, an ordinary thing like a cup of coffee or a book or a film can make me happy and content like never before. The experience is new to me. And I enjoy cooking as a housewife. I love this kind of life. I’m glad I exist.

Beside You on the Main Street by Jillian Weise

We were stepping out of a reading
in October, the first cold night,
and we were following this couple,
were they at the reading? and because
we were lost, I called out to them,
“Are you going to the after party?”
The woman laughed and said no
and the man kept walking, and she
was holding his hand like I hold yours,
though not exactly, she did not
need him for balance. Then what
got into me? I said, “How long
have you been married?” and she said
“Almost 30 years” and because
we were walking in public, no secret,
tell everyone now it’s official,
I said, “How’s marriage?” The man
kept walking. The woman said,
“It gets better but then it gets different.”
The man kept walking.

The poet declares her love publicly and officially. I suppose she should be dating or newly wed. She is curious about how the couple’s marriage is like. The couple said that 30 years of marriage gets different. Being different in the way that the woman holds hands with her husband as if she does not need him. And the man just keeps walking without speaking or showing any emotions. Maybe the love has changed to a different level or different state as time goes by that only the couple knows how it is like.

Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins 是美國詩人,出身於紐約市,擅長談話式詩作。我很喜歡這首詩,簡明亦親切地討論看詩的態度。詩人邀請我們看一首詩如同拿著一張色彩的照片在燈光下細察,擠著耳朵聆聽它如蜂巢發出的聲音,又像一隻老鼠運用牠的鬚嗅出通道,亦像走進一間漆黑的房間摸出開燈掣,或像滑雪馳程一樣看見在彼岸的詩人,與詩人產生共鳴,看詩其實可以這樣充滿趣味。

但是,有些詩作很艱深,我們有時也會很苦惱,一直求問究竟它的意思是甚麼。那個時候,我們就會torture a confession out of it 又或者beating it with a hose,這樣的情況好多時都會出現,可是詩人好像不大認同這種看詩的態度呢。

Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

This poem is about childhood memory of innocence, maturation and disillusionment with the harsh reality. At first, given all the good conditions, the speaker can taste delicious ripen berries. However, later on, despite all the hard work with good intentions spent on picking those fruitful blackberries, he realizes that bad things do happen and would turn good things into destruction. And maturation is a process of going through bad and unfair experience but still keeping optimism yet knowing that the reality is not what we expect.

The Story, Around the Corner by Naomi Shihab Nye

The Story, Around the Corner
is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
What came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
As a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. And it is strange.
Far more complicated than a few phrases
pieced together around a kitchen table
on a July morning in Dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. You who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. Is this what we wanted?
Stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
Maybe they are planning something bad.
A scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
One day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.

The poet supposes the story (of her concern) will take a twist and turn, not as straightforward as like common talk. When circumstances change, the elements of the story are turning dark and take its own side. The poet feels strange because the story is actually far more complicated than what people tell in a city which only knows shopping and where the poet does not live in and does not belong to. But the people whom don’t know the real side of the story will give out different kinds of versions of the story. The story seems like having its own life and ever-changing freely. The poet does not dare to tell a tiny bit of her story because she is confused that if it is what the people in the city want to hear. The poet even doubts if the stories which wander around in the city are being told with a hideous motive behind. The bits and pieces of the story are starting to catch the attention of people who want to know the truth and the poet feels that someday she has a responsibility to tell the real story when the demand is growing high.

When Dealing With Emotions by Audrey Heller

When dealing with emotions, it’s
a sensitive thing, you experience
all kinds of feelings, it’s like being
on a swing! One moment you’re up,
the next you’re down, either you’re
smiling, or tend to frown! There are
many contributing factors, as things
change so quickly, from day to day!
You can’t put your finger on it, so
who’s to say! Why try, to figure out
the reasons, for this emotional crisis,
it’s just one of those things. Why not
wait until tomorrow and see, what
it brings. I’m sure by then, it will be
over and you’ll wonder why, you had
felt, you were heading for a fall. Just
keep in mind, emotions are very tricky
and if it’s any consolation, there are
times, it affects us all!

Living in our city, we can get very emotional sometimes, especially negative moods and emotions, which can be very dangerous because they could damage and destroy us. To calm down and release our stress, I think the best way is to find someone to talk to or go to the park to have a quick run. Running can be refreshing because you take deep breath during the run. It does help. When something or someone turns me on, I also face the problem of being emotional. And I am working hard on it to try to keep myself calm and balanced, not to let negative emotions take over me or ruin me; otherwise the consequence can be very serious. I pray that we can better control our emotions in this stressful city. Don’t let emotions control you! Cool Down!!! Good Luck!!!