05 June 2014

Poetry Thursday - two short poems touching on war


My mother's old leather handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother's handbag: mints
and liptsick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
and worn at the edges, opened,
read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odour
of leather and powder, which ever
since then has meant womanliness,
and love, and anguish, and war.
- by Ruth Fainlight (via; hear it read here)
A bag like this, perhaps - it has a similar story 

A Dead Statesman
I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

- by Rudyard Kipling (via)

Ruth Fainlight (b.1931) has lived in England since the age of 15 and was a friend of Sylvia Plath. She is also a translator and has written short stories and opera librettos. Her work is marked by the special attention she pays to the apparently ordinary stuff of life, the significant truths she finds in domestic life. 

Though Kipling (1865-1936) is often seen as a warmonger and imperialist, his early energetic poems  contain harshly satirical portraits. He has been called "poetry’s Dickens, an outsider and journalist with an unrivalled ear for sound and speech". Like Dickens he had an unhappy childhood, and further grief from the death of his soldier son in 1915.

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