Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy, England’s poet laureate, has assembled a remarkable trove of poems written by “senior” British poets about ageing. Published in the Guardian, the selection reflects Duffy’s deft hand (and I mean that as a compliment.) I read them all and was moved by every one.

Here are two that stood out, but visit the link to read them all. What a great idea. Hats off to you, Ms. Duffy.

The Password
For Peter

Memory, intimate camera, inward eye,
Open your store, unlock your silicon
And let my name’s lost surfaces file by.
What password shall I type to turn you on?

Is this the girl who bicycled to school
A cello balanced on her handlebars?
Shy, but agog for love, she played the fool
And hid her poems in the dark of drawers.

First love of music bred a love of art,
Then art a love of actors and their plays,
Then actors love of acting out a part,
Until she’d try on anything for praise.

Siphoned to England, she embraced her dream,
With Mr Darcy camped in Hammersmith,
Bathed in a kitchen tub behind a screen,
Pretending love was true and life a myth.

Waking with a baby on her hip,
Yeats in her shopping basket, here she is,
Thin as a blade and angry as a whip,
Weighing her gift against her selfishness.

Three husbands later, here she is again,
Opposed to her own defiance, breaking rules.
Not mad, not micro-waved American,
She trips on sense, and falls between two stools,

Finding herself at sixty on the floor,
With childhood’s sober, under-table view
Of how in time love matters more and more.
Given a creeping deadline, what to do?

Look at the way her wild pretensions end.
One word, its vast forgiving coverage,
Validates all her efforts to defend
Every excuse she makes, and warms with age.

–Anne Stevenson

Stevenson, is an American writer and poet, born in 1933. She has lived in Britain for over 40 years and is the author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry, books of essays and literary criticism, a biography of Sylvia Plath and two studies of Elizabeth Bishop.

***
Not for Me a Youngman’s Death

Not for me a youngman’s death
Not a car crash, whiplash
John Doe, DOA at A&E kind of death.
Not a gun in hand, in a far off land
IED at the roadside death

Not a slow-fade, razor blade
bloodbath in the bath, death.
Jump under a train, Kurt Cobain
bullet in the brain, death

Not a horse-riding paragliding
mountain climbing fall, death.
Motorcycle into an old stone wall
you know the kind of death, death

My nights are rarely unruly. My days
of allnight parties are over, well and truly.
No mistresses no red sports cars
no shady deals no gangland bars
no drugs no fags no rock’n’roll
Time alone has taken its toll

Not for me a youngman’s death
Not a domestic brawl, blood in the hall
knife in the chest, death.
Not a drunken binge, dirty syringe
“What a waste of a life” death.

The greyness of the sky is streaked
Along its width with shades of red;
The pity of the world has leaked
But who are these whose hands have bled?

–Roger McGough

McGough, born in 1937, made his name as one of the “Liverpool poets” in The Mersey Sound (1967). He presents Radio 4’s Poetry Please.

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