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Wilderness Rose

If you're traveling through those northern border regions
where all have double doors
and the blistering winds race down in legions
from frozen Labrador,
you'll see many a hearty variety
of twisted scrub and tree
that thrives in the short summer season
then faces the long winter with cold sobriety.
We really must admire their ability to survive
for in this wind-washed wilderness
it takes great strength
just to stay alive.


When spring does arrive
and the hard cold earth
melts to nature's breast,
the big and the strong and the best
send forth their hungry tendrils
to feed on all the rest.
They suck the life from the sweet honeydew
and cover it over when they are through.

And there's a wilderness rose not far from here
who was born on the cusp of a very cold year.
She was born in the shadow of an old pine tree;
rooted to a place where there is no light;
doomed to days that are more like night.

I come in the springtime and touch her soft blossoms
all covered with dew
and every year they are fewer and few.
The pink of her roses is fading to gray
while her thorns grow darker
day by day.

And I've come many times with spade in hand
and a grandiose plan to set her free
but as many times as I've begun
I've found it just cannot be done.
Her vines are all twisted among those hearty pines
and her roots are pinned beneath a giant's boots.

I would love to just bring her to an open field
where her blossoms would flourish
and yield their perfume to the air that would sing.
This is a thing to start a grown man crying:
to find the futility of even trying.

One of these days
and it won't be long
I'll come to see her
and she'll be gone.
But meanwhile you hunters
where the cold wind blows:
please don't step on
my wilderness rose.

- M Harding, Copyright 2000



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Kubla Khan

In Xanadu, did Kubla Kahn, a stately pleasure dome decree
Where Alph the sacred river ran through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground with walls and towers were girdled round.
There were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree.
And there were forests as ancient as the hills
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But, oh there was a deep romantic chasm
Which ran down a steep hill athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place, as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath the waning moon was haunted by a woman
Waling for her demon lover.
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething
As if the earth in fast, quick pants were breathing
A mighty fountain momently was forced
Amid whose swift half-intermitted bursts
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail
Or chaffy grain beneath a threshers flail.
And from these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the mighty river.

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion through wood and dale
The sacred river ran
'Til it reached the caverns measureless to man
And sank in tumult into a lifeless ocean.
And from this tumult Kubla heard from afar
Ancestral voices prophesying war.

The shadow of the dome of pleasure floated midway on the waves
Where was heard the mingled measure of the fountains and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
Sunny pleasure domes with caves of ice.

A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw.
She was an Abyssian maid
And on her dulcimer she played
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me her symphony and song
To such delight would win me
That music loud and long.
I would build that dome in air!
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice.
And all who heard could see them there
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes! His floating hair!
Weave a circle 'round him thrice
And close your eyes with holy dread.
For he on honeydew hath fed
And drunk the milk of paradise.

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge


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Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

- Robert Frost


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The Truth Is...

The truth is...
We cannot, not communicate.
Even the act of not communicating is somehow communicated.
Our only hope is to mislead, or deceive, or to lie.
And no lie is worth its salt that the liar does not believe in.

The truth is...
To be truly dishonest with each other,
we must be truly dishonest with ourselves:
for it is not so much important that we deceive each other,
as it is that we deceive ourselves into thinking
that we deceive the other.

The truth is...
We can only hope to fool ourselves;
for it's doubtful we're fooling each other.
And if honesty is a key to love, peace, and serenity,
then loneliness owns our horizons.

The truth is...
Denying our feelings is to hide from ourselves
and hiding from ourselves is to forget who we are
and forgetting who we are is to lose where we're going
and losing where we're going is to never, ever get there.

- M Harding, copyright 2000



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Look To This Day

Look to this day
for it is life,
the very life of life.
In it's brief course lie all the verities
and realities of existence:
The miracle of birth,
the wonder of growth,
the power of love,
the glory of victory,
the agony of defeat,
the mystery of death.

Yesterday is but a dream
and tomorrow is only a vision;
but a today well lived
makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow
a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.

- Sanskrit Proverb


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Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.

women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that no-one loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)
they said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and no-one stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
no-one and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

- e. e. cummings


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The Fifteenth of February

So there he was again
in the same exact place he had been
so many times before.
He knew this place as well as any on this earth.
It was always the same;
right down to the bone-chilling mist
born of evaporating glaciers,
composed of droplets too small to freeze
that desperately all suck the heat
from anything they touch
that is warmer than they.

The mist would always hang ankle-high and thick
so as to limit visibility to just a few feet
and give an eerie impression of total isolation
though he was actually walking a downtown street.
It always had this contradictory character
in that it obscured things from sight
until they were very close
and then suddenly magnified the image
in a soda-yellow light.

He looked up from his shuffling feet
like so many times before
and bang, out of nowhere,
like a bug on a windshield
she appeared once again;
no less startling than the very first time.
Her green sapphire eyes
burned right through him
like an emerald laser
on a moonless night:
wobbled his knees
and glazed his sight
and burned a hole
straight through to his soul.

A mannequin of sorts,
as cold and unfeeling
yet somehow seductive
in a pose so inviting
she bid him to suckle
the frozen glass
behind which she stood.

Speechless in a spoken world,
he stared once again
for as long as he could
through the storefront window
behind which she stood;
He once-again shifted his eyes
to his now still feet
checking to be sure
they were still on the street.

Once upon a time,
when the dream was new,
he was hardly aware of the window glass;
but thicker and thicker over time it grew
until now it resembled a cold armor plate.

Glass makes a more sinister prison
than mortar and stone
(He thought to himself)
Glass lets you see
what it's walling in and walling out.

- M Harding, copyright 2000


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Gentlemen-Rankers

To the legion of the lost ones, to the cohort of the damned,
To my brethren in their sorrow overseas,
Sings a gentleman of England cleanly bred, machinely crammed,
And a trooper of the Empress, if you please.
Yes, a trooper of the forces who has run his own six horses,
And faith he went the pace and went it blind,
And the world was more than kin while he held the ready tin,
But to-day the Sergeant's something less than kind.
We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We're little black sheep who've gone astray,
Baa--aa--aa!
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

Oh, it's sweet to sweat through stables, sweet to empty kitchen slops,
And it's sweet to hear the tales the troopers tell,
To dance with blowzy housemaids at the regimental hops
And thrash the cad who says you waltz too well.
Yes, it makes you cock-a-hoop to be "Rider" to your troop,
And branded with a blasted worsted spur,
When you envy, O how keenly, one poor Tommy living cleanly
Who blacks your boots and sometimes calls you "Sir".

If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,
And all we know most distant and most dear,
Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,
Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer?
When the drunken comrade mutters and the great guard-lantern gutters
And the horror of our fall is written plain,
Every secret, self-revealing on the aching white-washed ceiling,
Do you wonder that we drug ourselves from pain?

We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
God help us, for we knew the worst too young!
Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence,
Our pride it is to know no spur of pride,
And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us
And we die, and none can tell Them where we died.
We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We're little black sheep who've gone astray,
Baa--aa--aa!
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

- Rudyard Kipling



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The Emporer of Ice Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be the finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.

- Wallace Stevens


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Gunga Din

You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out here,
And you're sent to penny-fights and Aldershot it,
But when it comes to slaughter,
You will do your work on water,
And you'll lick the bloomin' boots o' them that's got it.
Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time,
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew,
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
You limpin' lump of brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! Slippery hitherao,
Water, get it! Panee lao,
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din!"

The uniform 'e wore
Was nothin' much before,
And rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind,
For a piece o' twisty rag
And a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment 'e could find.
When the sweatin' troop-train lay
In a sidin' through the day,
When the 'eat would make your bloomin' eyebrows crawl,
We shouted "Harry By!"
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped him 'cause 'e couldn't serve us all.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
You 'eathen, where the mischief 'ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I'll marrow you this minute
If you don't fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!"

'E would dot and carry one
Till the longest day was done,
And 'e didn't seem to know the use of fear;
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin' nut
'E'd be waitin' fifty paces right flank rear.
'E would skip to our attack,
With 'is mussick on 'is back,
And watch us till the bugles made "Retire",
And for all 'is dirty hide,
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was "Din! Din! Din!"
With the bullet kickin' dust spots on the green;
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front lines shout,
"Hi! Ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!"

I shan't forget the night
When I dropped be'ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should have been.
I was chokin' mad with thirst,
And the man that spied me first
Was our good ol' grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.
'E lifted up my head,
And 'e plugged me where I bled,
And 'e gave me 'arf a pint o' water green;
It was crawlin' and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through his spleen--
'E's chawin up the ground,
And 'e's kickin' all around,
For Gawd's sake get the water, Gunga Din!"

'E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
And a bullet came and drilled the beggar clean.
'E put me safe inside,
And just before 'e died,
"I 'ope you liked your drink," sez Gunga Din.
So I'll see 'im later on,
In the place where 'e is gone,
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals,
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
And I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
And it's "Din! Din! Din!"
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' God that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

- Rudyard Kipling


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Maggie and Millie and Mollie and May


maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

millie befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by this horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

e. e. cummings



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My Friendly Advice

Don't play yatzee in Nippon,
Don't build your dome in Rome,
Never throw dice with poltergeists,
Stay away from folks who are always nice:
That's my friendly advice.

Don't throw out your garbage
before the groceries are home.
Don't be fooled by things that are jeweled,
and shiny and silver or chrome.

Don't be so kind as to make yourself blind;
Give yourself a break; listen to your mind:
Then anywhere you travel or roam
you'll never be far from home.

This world is made from fire and ice:
That's my friendly advice.

- M Harding, copyright 2000



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The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

- William Butler Yeats



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Contents

Wilderness Rose - Michael Harding

Kubla Khan - Samuel Coleridge

Mending Wall - Robert Frost

The Truth Is... - Michael Harding

Look To This Day - Sanskrit Proverb

Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town - e. e. cummings

The Fifteenth of February - Michael Harding

Gentlemen-Rankers - Rudyard Kipling

The Emporer of Ice Cream - Wallace Stevens

Gunga Din - Rudyard Kipling

Maggie and Millie and Molly and May - e. e. cummings

My Friendly Advice - Michael Harding

The Lake Isle of Innisfree - William Butler Yeats

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