MOOC poetry – bereavement

Learning To Mourn by Robert Winner

I’m an inexperienced mourner

I don’t even know how to begin

to cry out like that old man

wailing in the next hospital room—

oi vay, oi vay—his two sounds

beating against the wall.


He makes me squirm

but I get his message better than my own.

How can I free myself like him?

How can I know my place as he does,

know how little I am?

How can I mourn, the cheep of a trapped bird

crying out violent sorrow?


Old man, teach me.

Help me reach the bowels of my cry

and bring it up, coarse, rasping.

Teach me to be disgusting.

Help me to exile myself from all

the populations of eyes and ears.

Teach me to live in that country

where no one else is, where I can

bash to pieces my good breeding,

my priests and pillars

—no illusions, the self wiped out,

unable to see or hear or understand.


Old man—lying in your shit—

you’ve let the angel of death from your mouth.

One minute of your unforgiving protest

is like true song: reckless, fatal singing,

song that is not victorious, not even consoling,

merely a sound you have to make.


Consolation by Wisława Szymborska

They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.
True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.
Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.
Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.


Such a Night

The after work party was a success. I talked with new people as well as old friends and drank copious amounts of white wine. I might be foolish, but I left the bike at work and got a taxi home. After that my mind draws a blank. I woke up once on the sofa and in a startled reaction asked my wife some urgent meaningless question.

In the morning Cary Grant on the laptop in Mr Lucky eased me into a state of semi-wellbeing.His co-star was a socialite heading a war relief charity. He played a crime boss making his money out of gambling. Obviously they fell in love despite grandpa’s disapproval.


I had slept on my sunglasses, but the frames bent back into shape. I have ordered a second pair of glasses on the 2 for 1 deal. Reading glasses rather than varifocals. I haven’t totally given up on the varifocals which are fine for distance, but they annoy me for reading. All that lifting my head until the words come into focus.

Planned on walking into town to clear the head, but a lift in a taxi was too tempting to refuse. A bit of drizzle is just what I need as |I mooch about the shops. That and more paracetomol….nurse!


I suppose just lifting poems from the MOOC isn’t all that gripping for those loyal readers who want to know the ins and outs of what makes me tick…or is that thick?

Learning about poetry does it for me. Not T.S. Eliot or Plath or anything heavy, but the approachable writing style of Wordsworth, Heaney, R.S. Thomas and the like.

The brevity is what most appeals when time constraints make novels impossible. Twitter isn’t the same thing at all, haikus are too short, but a few verses that capture something of what it is to be human (without clouding the words in classical references) appeals to me.

Novels are my first love, and I will return to them when my mind is more settled and I can immerse myself in the pages of fiction for prolonged periods of idleness.

Thomas Hardy

MOOC poem:

The Voice

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

      Thus I; faltering forward,
      Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
      And the woman calling.

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)


Week 3 of my MOOC – a bit of Wordsworth, who lost both parents by the age of 12 and a son to measles aged 4.

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
– Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

Cannibalism in Sport

Chris Ashton has been suspended from top flight rugby for biting an opponent. One has to ask the question if meat was provided on the sidelines, would rugby players desist from trying to eat other players?


It might be problematic having choice cuts in the path of touch judges, so you could have meat boys run onto the pitch whenever play is halted, in the same manner that water boys respond to the referee’s whistle like Pavlovian dogs.


Love and Death

This week on my MOOC love is the theme, next week it will be death. Robert Burton, a 17th century clergyman and scholar, was discussed in relation to his description of love as a kind of sickness or madness, a commonly held view at the time.

Burton’s views on love melancholy ran to 194 pages in his book Anatomy of Melancholy

“The symptoms of the mind in lovers are almost infinite…they may be merry sometimes, yet most part love is a plague, a torture, a hell… full of variation, but most part irksome and bad… the Spanish Inquisition is not comparable to it.”

Richard Berlin’s poem paints a vivid picture of a broken heart…

Takostubo Cardiomyopathy

I’m reviewing a left ventriculography
from a man with chest pain, MI ruled out,
his wife dead for a post-crash hour.
The scan shows his cardiac apex
bulging with each beat, shaped
like a takotsubo, an octopus trap
a Japanese cardiologist recalled
from his childhood fishing village,
the scan just another broken heart’s
beaten down story of futility and resilience.
And I will say, “I am sorry for your loss,”
explain the image, reassure him
his heart muscle will recover in a week,
all the time wishing I could hug him
with eight strong arms instead of two.