Poetry Writings Artwork and stories from Neil Furby

Dec 2, 2010 at 19:57 o\clock

Before the word by Keki Daruwalla

BEFORE THE WORDCorn is great, on the cob or otherwise, 
but before corn in the ear there was life. 
Fire is holy especially for Zoroastrians, 
but before fire too there was life. 
Before the bowstring and the flint arrow sang, 
there was life. 

The word is great, 
yet there was life before the word. 
We can't turn romantic and say
we were into bird speech or river-roar then, 
into the silence of frost 
or the language of rain. 
But forest speech and swamp speech 
came through easier to us. 
When lightning crashed, 
the cry of the marsh bird was our cry, 
and we flung ourselves to the other branch 
like any other baboon. 

As winter whined on windy cliff,  
we shivered with the yellow grass. 
In winter-dark a hundred eyes
flared yellow in the jungle scrub. 
When seasons changed, blood coursed with sap
and flowered in meadows. We were at home. 
Nor eyes nor bat cries bothered us. 
What if we didn't know 
a bat assessed reality
from the ricochet of its cry? 

Though there were no words, 
fear had a voice with many echoes. 
Worship was quieter, adoration 
spoke only through the eyes or  knees. 

What was it like before language dropped like dew, 
covering the scuffed grass of our lives?

© 2004, Keki Daruwalla

Nov 3, 2010 at 10:59 o\clock

The Robot

The Robot

by Michael Mack
Upon the stairway of despair,
Complete with broken love affairs
And promises that never came,
But faded with a touch of shame,
A pretty girl with golden hair
And innocence so sadly rare,
Strove to keep her head above
A way of life devoid of love.

Feeling pinned against Life's wall,
She chanced upon a robot tall
And said, "Please come and share with me
Whatever Fate has deemed to be.
I'm through with love, done with chances
Spirit crushed by past romances,
Just be a friend in word and deed.
That's all that I shall ever need."

"There's not too much from me to learn,"
Remarked the robot, in return.
"Emotions do not form a part
of my cold, solid-steel heart.
Whatever maker fashioned me
Did not permit my circuitry
Responsiveness to love or pain -
You're thoughts for me would be in vain."

"No matter", spoke the maid. "No more
Do I wish passion to explore.
Be someone I can come home to
When my exhausting day is through.
Count yourself a well-worn shoe -
A friend that I can slip into . . .
Protection from a stone cold floor . . .
For this I ask and nothing more."

Agreement made, he took her hand
And lived the life that she had planned,
Always willing, not demanding,
Aiding her with understanding
He made her smile with humorous wit
(As his restrictions would permit)
And, bit by bit, she came to feel
That he was more than iron and steel.

"I love you, robot", she at last
Replied when several months had passed.
"You're strength and quiet dignity
Have brought a wondrous change in me.
No more do I feel all alone,
And pray you must be flesh and bone.
Deep-set emotions you MUST feel
Within that outer coat of steel!"

"If I were able, I would say
I'm sorry I was made this way
But my design and programmation
Does not provide for that creation
Of feelings normal men may feel
That were not born of iron and steel.
I told you all this once before.
You have no right expecting more."

"Go, then!" cried she. "I will not live
Beside a fiend who cannot give!
Though I be battered by misuse,
Misguided trust and strong abuse,
At least the men I chose were real
And had the power to love and feel.
Of all the lovers I recall,
You are the cruelest one of all!"

The robot, indestructible,
Continues freely and at will.
Emotionless, apparently,
But, bearing closer scrutiny,
One can see a small tear streak
Down that cold, metallic cheek
As I reflect upon my life . . .
That lovely lady was my wife.

The robot, of course, was me.

Sep 28, 2010 at 01:20 o\clock


The wardrobe’s bare no skeletons no bread
Passed down from my dark ancestor a mirror dating from her birth
Like a giant Moses basket right about to leave
Inside if the whole crap ship goes up in sudden flames.

What a drunken boat the wardrobe is if suddenly recalled to the blue red black sea far away – 
Unfolded sheets all sails unfurled
And history’s hoodwinked ghosts –
You lean out, life
Towards what infinite and what forgetfulness. 

The moths have eaten the sheep’s wool
Oh come on
If gold’s worth less than coal
Let’s saw it saw it down!

My great-great-auntie threw herself under a train for love
The heart I never knew of her
Can’t straighten out inside the personal affairs
Of your existence at a visit atavistic auntie
On the station platform or the tube the RER for me.

The unsealed furniture has lost its handkerchief
Its biscuit crumbs all read its roll-necks full of holes its lousy fichus scarves
A ledge what prow if you’re all washed up and perch there awed
Not a single bird is left to whistle in this wood.

She’s sinking the heavy wardrobe made of short memory and solid oak
Her shelves and thinginess
Her rail paralysis
Her mirror exactness
In her prettiest dress she’s dancing she’s sixteen.

It was long ago an angel passing now
(The bridal wardrobe sent to make a blaze as soon as my late aunt claire
Buried without corsets and eyes.)

Sep 28, 2010 at 01:09 o\clock

Love letters by J. SLAUERHOFF

Love letters surpass a lover who’s gone.
Once the letters have arrived, it’s quite enough:
For they’ll be yours forever, while it’s odds on
Your love will leave bankrupt or in a huff.

Day or night it’s there for you to see
Whenever you have the missive near;
You let its tender radiance appear,
Read every word, think to yourself: that’s me!

Women change – texts, written, change no more.
Though one laughs sagely or bitterly weeps
When contemplating foolish words of yore.

But if I could, I’d brave both sands and deeps,
Forever strive fresh wadis and ports to reach,
If I could be sure of a letter in each.

Sep 28, 2010 at 01:07 o\clock

LETTERS AT THE SEA by J. Slauerhoff


They're read and read repeatedly,
Though readers sensed already what was there,
Woven of one cloth, whatever tongue it be,
And in the long run all equally threadbare.

Still, unfolded again, after their lonely meals,
At night on watch, in bunks, once tales are told;
For those who've fought their solitary ordeals,
Such characters nourish as they did of old.

Between ‘my dearest' and ‘yours ever' there can be
But one theme - kids, isle, village homes they own -
Which only weddings, births and deaths rephrase.

After so long on board, it seems as if a haze
Shrouds what they know on land, they are alone,
One with the ship, consorting with the sea.        

© 1998, Erven J. Slauerhoff / K. Lekkerkerker / Uitgeverij Nijgh & Van Ditmar    

Aug 11, 2010 at 09:02 o\clock



Maybe morning lightens over
the coldest time in all the day,
but not for you. A bird's hover,
seabird, blackbird, or bird of prey,
was rain, or death, or lost cattle.
The day's warning, like red plovers
so etched and small the clouded sky,
was book to you, and true bible.
You died in utter loneliness,
your acres left to the childless.
You never saw the animals
of God, and the flower under
your feet; and the trees change a leaf;
and the red fur of a fox on
a quiet evening; and the long
birches falling down the hillside.

© 1967, The Estate of Michael Hartnett

Apr 21, 2010 at 01:00 o\clock

THE SHORE OF THE SKY by Tatsuji Miyosh


Where are you from, traveler from afar,
resting in treetops bared by the winter?
The treetops are lithe
in the haze, arching, rustling, whispering
crossing their swords on the shore of the sky
I look up and hear the distant sounds
Dry leaves are piled on fallen leaves
in the warm sunlight
hard buds have already formed
but those tight packages will unfold on their own
The midday wind pauses at the deep ends of alleys, under trees, over stones
being a traveler it coils around my clasped fingers
poised thus on the tip of my little finger to point to today's journey

© Tatsuji Miyoshi
© Translation: 2010, Takako Lento

Apr 13, 2010 at 23:30 o\clock

On the Grasshopper and Cricket" by John Keats (1795-1821)

On the Grasshopper and Cricket"
by John Keats (1795-1821)

The poetry of earth is never dead:
  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's-he takes the lead
  In summer luxury,-he has never done
  With his delights; for when tired out with fun,
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
  On a lone winter evening, when the frost
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
    The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

* John Koethe Comments:
John Keats' poems are of course some of the most magnificent in the language, yet sometimes that magnificence can seem almost overwhelming, and you wish you could experience some of their glories on a smaller and more intimate scale. That's when you might turn to "On the Grasshopper and Cricket," the product of a sonnet-writing contest Keats had with Leigh Hunt in 1816 on the theme of two insects (Hunt cheerfully conceded that Keats' sonnet was infinitely superior to his own). The poem has some of the mellow sweetness of "To Autumn," but is a true miniature, and the anachronistic connotations of "... when tired out with fun / He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed" even give the grasshopper's recreations a slangy contemporary air. And then it turns to the cricket, whose winter chirps effect a beautiful and almost Proustian recollection of the grasshopper's summer song.

About John Koethe:
John Koethe has just retired as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is spending this semester at Princeton as the Bain-Swiggett Professor of Poetry. He has published eight books of poetry including, most recently, Ninety-fifth Street. His collection Falling Water won the Kingsley Tufts Award. North Point North: New and Selected Poems was a finalist 

Apr 11, 2010 at 23:21 o\clock

To Earthward by Robert Frost

To Earthward"
by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of-was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough

To all my length.

* What I first loved about this poem, when I read it young, was the way the initial lines tumbled and waterfalled down the rhymes, the first two stanzas setting an exhilarated pace; the next two slowing down, as if to capture in slow motion "the swirl and ache/from sprays of honeysuckle" and the sting of rose petal. Is there a better description than these four stanzas provide of the exquisite sensitivity of youth, that takes so little to become enflamed and can't tolerate more? When, in the fifth stanza, at the halfway mark of the poem, the perspective shifts to the present, the lightness is replaced by a gravitas: the lines, though in the same meter, no longer tumble; the words enter the ear one by one as if accompanied by the stab of a walking stick (though it is not a matter of their being largely monosyllabic-so was what came before). Joy now is not lost, but not so easily provoked, nor ever again unmixed or simple. I love the images that follow this change, "... the aftermark / Of almost too much love, / The sweet of bitter bark / And burning clove." In terms of placement, those lines, in the second stanza of the second half, correspond to  "... was it musk / From hidden grapevine springs / Down hill at dusk," both sets engaging our sense of smell, the sweetness of grape musk now deepened into something darker, more complex, but still sweet. It is the fourth and last time that a variant of "sweet" is used in the poem, and its transformation takes "sweet" as far as it can go-before, at the end, it is transformed again, into another word altogether, "weight."

Throughout the poem, there is a fertile cross-pollination of sounds and rhyme. You can trace the vowel sound in the rhymes "touch" and "much" as it is transplanted into the words "musk," "honeysuckle," "stung," "enough," and "rough"; in the 7th stanza, you feel the tautness, the bow being drawn for the poem's final arrow, as "hand" is rhymed with "sand" but paired with an assonantal head rhymed partner "hard,"-itself rhymed with "scarred," an assonantal and head rhymed partner to "sand." To my mind, the lyric richness of this poem embodies and mirrors the sensate richness of life.

With hindsight, we know that Frost wrote this nowhere near the end of his life, and in fact it doesn't seem like a poem of late age, of debilitation and impending mortality. While the stated longing at poem's end is for death-"To feel the earth as rough / To all my length"-it is a death nowhere near at hand. We know that at this point in his life Frost already had suffered enormous losses and pressures; many more were to come. But "To Earthward" is a fully alive poem; its vantage point a moment when the sensations of both youth and old age are in sight, to be measured and compared, savored and only ostensibly-in  a death envisioned as sensual as life-let go. 

Apr 3, 2010 at 21:25 o\clock

"Having Reddened the Plum Blossoms"by Yosa Buson (1716-1783)

Having reddened the plum blossoms
      the sunset attacks
               oaks and pines

Dec 28, 2009 at 23:36 o\clock

Dear me


The bird nest fell from the tree  egg shells broken life released without a sound

Dec 26, 2009 at 02:38 o\clock

You Smiled

You smiled , you spoke and I believed

by every word and smile-deceived

Another man would hope no more;

no hope I - what hoped before.

But not let this last wish be in vain;

deceive deceive me once again! 


Nov 3, 2009 at 05:53 o\clock

in my craft of sullen art Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

 In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art

Exercised in the still night

When only the moon rages

And the lovers lie abed

With all their griefs in their arms,

I labour by singing light

Not for ambition or bread

Or the strut and trade of charms

On the ivory stages

But for the common wages

Of their most secret heart.


Not for the proud man apart

From the raging moon I write

On these spindrift pages

Nor for the towering dead

With their nightingales and psalms

But for the lovers, their arms

Round the griefs of the ages,

Who pay no praise or wages

Nor heed my craft or art. 


Copyright Dylan Thomas. Used by

Permission of David Higham


Oct 28, 2009 at 03:35 o\clock


I will see William Blake
like a storm in his paradises of fire

He will tell me that the apple is wiser
than words
but that these transform the apple
into the sun illumining the green fields
There where you will go to get lost
in the crevice of the cricket’s song
eternal reprobate
to sing the green in the green
just as we sing
the first throb of the universe

I will see William Blake
shining his shield of poppies

In search of his lips
he will tell me that God
initiated the song
when feeling the need for  silence

The Angels were musical notes
in the landscape
opening the score
like a bird discovering the dawn

Since then
the liquid breath of the earth
has perfumed the flower
that now unites us in the visions

© 2005, Juan Diego Tamayo
From: Los elementos perdidos
Publisher: Ediciones Fábula, Medellín, 2005

© Translation: 2009, Nicolás Suescún

Oct 3, 2009 at 00:58 o\clock


A morning
like any other.
The cool light
impassive, but without
the old brusqueness.
The day has shed
its thorns, since the night
was gentle and dark,
since a gesture
defeated the words
and warmth could flow unhampered, in long
waves of release, since
peace - for years a fugitive -
allowed itself to be found at last

Sep 24, 2009 at 03:49 o\clock

Mapping the Interior Eugene O'Conner


Imagine that you had a dishcloth
Bigger than the one mothers put on the bread
To slow its cooling, that you could spread
Over the whole kitchen floor to bring up its face
As clearly as the features on the cake.

You'd have a print you could lift up
To the light and examine for individual traces
Of people who came to swap yarns, and sit on
Sugan chairs that bit into the bare floor, leaving
Unique signatures on concrete that creased
Over time into a map you could look at and

Imagine what those amateur cartographers
Were thinking when their eyes fell, in the silence
Between the stories, that was broken only by
The sound of the fire and whatever it was that
Was calling in the night outside.

© 2003, Eugene O'Connell

Sep 21, 2009 at 08:34 o\clock

The Full Indian Rope Trick by Colette .Bryce

The Full Indian Rope Trick

Colette Bryce

There was no secret

murmured down through a long line

of elect; no dark fakir, no flutter

of notes from a pipe,

no proof, no footage of it -

but I did it,


Guildhall Square, noon,

in front of everyone.

There were walls, bells, passers-by;

then a rope, thrown, caught by the sky

and me, young, up and away,



Goodbye, goodbye.

Thin air. First try.

A crowd hushed, squinting eyes

at a full sun. There

on the stones

the slack weight of a rope


coiled in a crate, a braid

eighteen summers long,

and me

I'm long gone,

my one-off trick

unique, unequalled since.


And what would I tell them

given the chance?

It was painful; it took years.

I'm my own witness,

guardian of the fact

that I'm still here.

Sep 11, 2009 at 05:10 o\clock


Nearby the past whispers

/the ages wring the tolling bell/

Big bad crow flies the arc/

flash figures ache in /

smell bedded earth/

now faces etched /

cobweb clock/

church compass faith/

drip drip /

the long wobbly vanishing line 

Sep 9, 2009 at 00:30 o\clock

I never meant

I never meant 
For you to go. The thing you heard
I never meant
for you to hear. The night you went
away I knew our whole absurd
sweet world had fallen with a word
I never meant.

Aug 26, 2009 at 13:23 o\clock

Upon a Spider Catching a Fly by Edward Taylor

Upon a Spider Catching a Fly
      by Edward Taylor

Thou sorrow, venom Elfe:
   Is this thy play,
To spin a web out of thyselfe
   To Catch a Fly?
       For Why?

I saw a pettish wasp
   Fall foule therein:
Whom yet thy Whorle pins did not clasp
   Lest he should fling
       His sting.

But as affraid, remote
   Didst stand hereat,
And with thy little fingers stroke
   And gently tap
       His back.

Thus gently him didst treate
   Lest he should pet,
And in a froppish, aspish heate
   Should greatly fret
       Thy net.

Whereas the silly Fly,
   Caught by its leg
Thou by the throate tookst hastily
   And ‘hinde the head
       Bite Dead.

This goes to pot, that not
   Nature doth call.
Strive not above what strength hath got,
   Lest in the brawle
       Thou fall.

This Frey seems thus to us.
   Hells Spider gets
His intrails spun to whip Cords thus
   And wove to nets
       And sets.

To tangle Adams race
   In’s stratigems
To their Destructions, spoil’d, made base
   By venom things,
       Damn’d Sins.

But mighty, Gracious Lord
Thy Grace to breake the Cord, afford
   Us Glorys Gate
       And State.

We’l Nightingaile sing like
   When pearcht on high
In Glories Cage, thy glory, bright,
   And thankfully,
       For joy.