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26.9k · Sep 2018
Bucket List? -- Not Me!
Paul Hansford Sep 2018
Many people write a "bucket list" of things they want to do before they die.  Now in my 80th year, I don't have the time or the energy to do things that others might aim for, but I have during my life visited many places, seen many things, and enjoyed many experiences that I would have been sorry to miss. There have also been some events that I would have preferred not to experience, but which have enriched my life in different ways, and which I remember with a kind of sad affection.  
Some of these are very personal to me, and would not be interesting to most people, but read the note if you wonder why I chose them.

Here then is what I might call  
                                                My Reverse Bucket List

Towns and cities – architecture & atmosphere
   Barcelona, Spain
   Venice, Italy
   Oxford, England
   Jerusalem, Israel
   Luxor, Egypt
   Varanasi, India
   Hiroshima, Japan
   Pompeii, Italy

Other locations
   Galápagos islands, Ecuador
   Great Barrier Reef, Australia
   North Woolwich, London

Churches
   St Paul's Cathedral, London
   Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
   Coventry Cathedral
   Córdoba Cathedral, Spain
   Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Other structures
   Taj Mahal, Agra
   Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland
   Royal Festival Hall, London
   London underground system (because it was the first, and I rode it for a long time).  Also the more splendid underground railways of Mexico City and Moscow.
   Avebury Ring, Wiltshire, England (the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world, and much more primitive than Stonehenge)
   Bayeux Tapestry 
   "Angel of the North" statue, Gateshead, England
   "Christ the Redeemer" statue, Rio, Brazil

Events
   Messiah at Royal Festival Hall, Feb 1959, with the girl later to be my wife
   St John's night, Spain, early 1990s (?)
   Death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, Aug 1997
   Oberammergau passion play, 2010
   Destruction of World Trade Centre, Sept 2001
I haven't added explanatory notes, but a lot of them are easy enough to look up, and if you message me about any mysterious items, I'll answer as best I can. There are poems in my stream connected with some things on the list, though not all are obvious.
11.4k · Nov 2016
Varanasi *
Paul Hansford Nov 2016
Ganges, dawn, a luminous haze
over the water. The bathing ghats
are busy with the faithful. (But India
is inconceivable without faith.)  
The robed bathers, raising river water
to the sun, pouring it back
to mother Ganges, are they worshipping
the sun or the river?
For them God is everywhere
and everything.  Water, sun,
the river and the twinkling lamps floating on it
are part of one consciousness.

The burning ghats too (such quantities of wood
stacked ready) are beginning their day.
The funeral party approaching in respectful haste
have a job to do. They build their pile,
move the body to the wood,
start the fire. I watch, but not for long.
This moment, so intimate, so public, reminds me
I am an intruder here. The ashes
will return to Ganga unwitnessed by me.

Away from the river, the vendors of tea
do their trade among the stalls. Monkeys,
cheerfully pilfering, are chased away
half-heartedly, for they are Hanuman’s representatives,
and they, with the sacred, garbage-clearing cows,
are part of the one consciousness. In this land
all are “the faithful”, everything is God’s creation.
In this poverty is richness.
Varanasi is the Hindu holy city formerly called Benares. The "ghats" are a series of steps leading down to the river, and are divided into areas for various purposes. Hanuman is the Hindu monkey-god.
10.6k · Jan 2016
fence *
Paul Hansford Jan 2016
there is a distance
between us
more than distance

something

not a wall
not impenetrable
a fence

a security fence
easy enough for our words
our thoughts
to pass through  
easy enough to breach
from time to time  
to allow access
to our innermost feelings

but so easy
to reinforce

too easy
when things get tough
when doubts arise

when protection
seems more important
than communication
10.5k · Aug 2018
Inconsequential Syllables **
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
The first cold letters, alone on the page.
A quick pencil found them,
and the lively and beautiful syllables blossomed.
The pale book felt the pencil,
and the terrifying, hot words entered.
The lines grew, living and sensitive,
gleaming as never before,
and I knew the unheard lines!

First, a tiny and unselfconscious sound.
A noun struggled to appear among overpowering words.
A strong, golden adjective ran out,
a short, fragrant adjective, beautiful in the early spring.
A young verb grew among tiny blue conjunctions,
and a fortuitous adverb understood, instinctively.

The first sentence dreamed of trees, and a sad cloud.
It dreamed a grey rain,
and the tall trees felt the rain.
There was a first and unknown river,
imagined, inconsequential, like snow in summer.
A red bird glided beyond reach,
as if it had never happened.
The soft sounds fitted the lines,
and the quick bird cried,
Remember the short rain!
Remember the sad poem!
This one was a "collaboration" between myself and an app that I imported to my computer. First I entered lists of nouns, adjectives and adverbs (including adverbial phrases), then clicked to start the process.  The computer didn't "compose" the lines that you see here, but it gave me lots of ideas, and I had to work quite a lot on them. Streams of sentences poured out onto my printer, most of them complete nonsense, and when I had enough I pressed Stop, and started the process of weeding out the *******, editing the more promising lines, and re-arranging the order. My favourite line is "There was a first and unknown river," which I could never have dreamed up by myself.
7.3k · Nov 2016
Dos Besos *
Paul Hansford Nov 2016
(a brief love story)

1/
The morning sun warmed the dew
from the opening rosebud;
a bee visited the fragrant heart of the rose;
the breeze tumbled a petal to the water,
drifted the pale petal across the surface of the water.
You surprised me gently.

2/
I thought - hoped - the emotional baggage
was safely in the locker,
just for once,
just overnight,
but like a Houdini homing pigeon
it escaped,
it came back.
Like a smart missile locked in on thought patterns
it found the target,
penetrated the armour,
and suddenly
just after midnight
I knew how Cinderella felt,
her new world ****** back
through the vortex,
as the life we call real returned.
Suggested (not exactly inspired) by a visit to Cuba, where the local currency is the peso and the language is Spanish.  When I assocaiated "dos pesos" (two pesos) with "dos besos" (two kisses) the germ of the poem was set.
Paul Hansford Aug 2016
Still waters, deep,
surface like glass reflecting green above;
and below are trees, sky,
shadows, leaves, sunlight,
moving and motionless.
Here silent images shimmer now,
and - air breathing suddenly - break.
Unbidden feelings confuse
reality and fantasy.
Which is which?
Fantasy and reality confuse;
feelings unbidden break, suddenly breathing air;
and now shimmer images,
silent here, motionless
and moving....
(sunlight leaves shadows).
Sky, trees are
below - and above -
green, reflecting, glass-like surface.
Deep waters, still.
This is a reflection in three senses - (1) it is about a reflection in a lake; (2) it is a reflection, or musing, on the scene; (3) it reads the same backwards as forwards.
I have seen many verses claiming to be palindromic, but very rarely one that fully obeys the definition. This one is the only one I have achieved. I have never written another one, and would be surprised if I did!
A Voice recording masquerading as a video is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXrSZpBg2WI&feature;=youtu.be
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
My dentist, at the time, was a woman,
a young woman,
an attractive young woman.
As she leaned very close above me,
busily engaged
in repairing my broken tooth,
I, laid back horizontal in the chair,
had nothing to look at but her face,
and more particularly, her eyes.
She, however, concentrating the whole time on my tooth,
was not considering
where I might be looking.

The task at last finished,
once again on my feet,
I noticed what I had not seen before.
My lovely young dentist
had put on some weight
just round the middle.

As I smiled at her
and put out my hand to hers
- in thanks or congratulation? -
she leaned towards me
and returned my smile
most charmingly.

What could I do?
A formal British handshake?
No! A small kiss on the cheek,
and then, in continental style,
another small kiss
on the other one,
a spontaneous, friendly gesture,
nothing more.

If in fact it had crossed my mind at that point
that it might be
a not altogether unpleasant experience
to take the average of the two kisses
I had planted on her cheeks,
and give her a third on the lips
that were now beautifully visible to me,
I resisted the inappropriate temptation,
so swiftly
I might not even have thought it at all.

Except that, on reflection, I probably did think it.
This is the record of a true event.
6.2k · May 2016
Sonnet on a letter to France
Paul Hansford May 2016
~ ~ (on front of envelope)

La lettre que voici, ô bon facteur,
Portez-la jusqu'à la ville de NICE,
Aux ALPES-MARITIMES (06).
Donnez-la, s'il vous plaît, au Receveur

Des Postes, au bureau de NOTRE DAME.
(Son nom? C'est MONSIEUR LUCIEN COQUELLE.
Faut-il vraiment que je vous le rappelle?)
Cette lettre est pour lui et pour sa femme.

I won't lead English postmen such a dance;
Just speed this letter on its way to FRANCE.
Sender's address you'll find on the reverse.

~ ~ (and on the back)*

At Number 7 in St Swithun's Road,
Kennington, Oxford, there is the abode
Of me, Paul Hansford, writer of this verse.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
For non-speakers of French, the first bit goes approximately -
"Dear Postman, Please take this letter to the town of Nice, in the département of Alpes-Maritimes, and give it to the postmaster at the Notre-Dame office. (His name? It's Lucien Coquelle. Do I really need to remind you?) This letter is for him and his wife."
More expert readers may notice that this is written in pentameter, whilst a real French one would have been in hexameter, with twelve-syllable lines.

BTW, this is from the archive, so the addresses are no longer current.
6.0k · Aug 2016
Garden of the Fugitives **
Paul Hansford Aug 2016
(Pompeii/Florence, 1997)

Vulcan was real, alive as you were,
you and your language, long dead now.
Your town was prosperous, with its paved streets,
bars, bath-houses, brothels,
mosaics, painted walls, graffiti.
Your domestic gods too were real to you;
they had saved you before,
and when the superhuman hammer blows shook
your houses, you repaired them,
decorated in greater splendour,
erected a temple to your protectors.
But Vulcan was not appeased - years are not long
to the lord of earth and fire.
This time he struck swiftly, sending you death
from his mountain, overwhelming you
as you ran. Your garden
gave you no protection,
hot fumes choked you,
hot ash surrounded you,
sealed in your tomb as you died.

The ones who excavated your town
marvelled at its completeness,
and in the ash that filled your garden
they found hollows.
Filling the hollows with plaster,
they found . . .  not you,
but echoes of yourselves,
like statues in a museum.

We came to see you, and after that
to the Academy, standing in awe
at David's perfect marble humanity.
But we were troubled by the others,
the uncompleted ones, the Prisoners,
their twisted limbs, hidden faces,
frozen in the act of emerging
from the stone, recalling too painfully
in their unfinished creation
your own agonised poses
as you died.
"I had seen birth and death,
  but had thought they were different."

.
The quotation at the end is from Eliot's Journey of the Magi - see my collection "My Favourite Poetry".
For photos see - www.amusingplanet.com/2011/04/garden-of-fugitives-fossilized-victims.html
and - www.accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-prisoners-slaves/
6.0k · Feb 2016
Youth and Age - décima *
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
In my childhood trees were green,
sky was blue, the sun shone gold.
Snow fell in winter thick and cold
as if the summer had never been,
and there was nothing in between.
But now I'm old, sky's always grey,
no colour left to light my day,
winter and summer all the same,
and Loneliness my middle name.
Why did you have to go away?
The décima is a Spanish form of ten lines (hence the name), rhymed A B B A A C C D D C.     I reckon it's quite like a sonnet, only shorter. The Spanish original asks for octosyllables, but curiously in Spanish verse that doesn't necessarily mean eight syllables to the line!  So I wrote it in tetrameter (4-beat lines).
5.3k · Aug 2016
Inside the Mosque **
Paul Hansford Aug 2016
The flag, a white crescent and single star
on a field of crimson — kırmızı, not just 'red' —
tells of Islam. The men drinking beer and rakı
at pavement tables, even in Ramadan,
and the short-skirted, bare-armed girls,
parading with bare-faced confidence,
tell of other influences;
but at the appointed hour we hear the call to prayer
from the marble minaret, a slim finger
pointing to the sky beside shining domes
reflecting the vault of heaven.
At five a.m. we hear it faintly through hotel double-glazing,
or at sunset, as a peaceful accompaniment to the spectacle,
and we remember where we are.
But especially at the midday hour,
when the voice of the muezzin echoes
over noisy street or market,
and from another minaret and another
the duet becomes a trio, a quartet
of different melodies, out of tune
with each other but never discordant
(in these tones the word has no meaning),
the faithful are reminded, however busy they may be,
that their God requires something of them.
Then, entering the cool calm of the mosque,
entering the quiet forest of pillars,
feeling through the soles of our bare feet
marble polished by the tread
of generations of worshippers,
fine-grained wood,
the rich softness of crimson carpet,
we luxuriate in the textures as they combine
with the formal floral patterns of the tiles,
the ornate calligraphy of the inscriptions,
the rich colours of the glass,
and we realise that the builders of these mosques
knew what they were doing, so many years ago,
how peace can enter the soul
through the senses.
The letter that looks like a lower-case "i" without the dot and appears here in "kırmızı" and "rakı" is pronounced, in the delightfully phonetic Turkish language, as a kind of "uh", as in "I am writing A [uh] poem" or "I have read THE [thuh] book".
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
The gardener
This is my garden; my apple tree
has over-reached itself.  The branches,
weighed down with fruit, threaten to break.
If I had read the signs, thinned out when it was time,
the crop would be less heavy, the fruit less small.
And what there is, is damaged.  If it’s not birds
it’s caterpillar, wasp, or earwig.
It will all be rotten soon.  I don’t know why I bother.


The blackbird
This is my garden; this tree I sat in
and proclaimed my own when it was full of blossom
with war-cry love-call song.
Then mating, nesting, bringing up the brood.
The days were scarcely long enough, but that
was long ago.  My children gone,
there’s time now for myself, time for a treat.
My yellow chisel bill breaks in the flesh
of these fine apples. Delicious. This is the life.


The wasps
This is our garden – insects do not have time
for individuality.  We built the colony, us lads,
chewed wood to make our paper nest, and now
we work to feed the grubs.
“Lads”, that is, using the word loosely – for us
gender is not important; that’s for the queen,
and, as it may be, the ones who service her,
none of our business.
But we need food too,
and if sustenance gives pleasure,
so much the better.  When we find a fruit
where blackbird’s chisel bill has broken in,
we eat our way inside, till only skin and core
encase our private eating/drinking den.
So what if it’s fermenting?  If we get tiddly,
and roll about, and buzz a drunken hum,
then who’s to care?  And if they do, we’ll sting ’em
.
Inspired by finding a completely hollow apple skin (with the core in place) under a tree in my garden, thoroughly cleaned out by wasps.
Paul Hansford Aug 2017
.
The burden I bear is more heavy than lead.
The physical weight is a thing that I share,
but the loss that I feel will not leave my head.
Why did you have to die? Why is death so unfair?


I am close to you now. Yes, touching my hair
the flag with its lions of gold and of red
that wraps round your coffin. I know you are there.
The burden I bear is more heavy than lead.

My comrades move with me in slow, solemn tread.
Our eyes are all fixed in an unseeing stare.
Our shoulders support you in your oaken bed.
The physical weight is a thing that I share.

As I feel the world watching I try not to care.
My deepest emotions are best left unsaid.
Let others show grief like a garment they wear,
but the loss that I feel will not leave my head.

The flowers they leave like a carpet are spread,
In the books of remembrance they have written, 'Somewhere
a star is extinguished because you are dead.
Why did you have to die? Why is death so unfair? '

The tears that we weep will soon grow more rare,
the rawness of grief turn to memory instead.
But deep in our hearts you will always be there,
and I ask, will I ever be able to shed
the burden I bear?
.
The sight on the TV of a team of RAF officers carrying the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, to return her body from France to England, brought home to me and many others the realisation that she was actually dead.  This is written in the voice of one of those men.
I had just learned of the rondeau redoublé, with its repeated lines, and the limitation to two rhymes, and it seemed appropriate to use that strict form for such a formal but emotional public event.
Paul Hansford May 2016
... and this one isn't.


They were going to start a new life,
childhood sweethearts become man and wife.
But a drunken stag-night
ended up in a fight,
and someone had taken a knife.
4.9k · Dec 2016
Bee-Man
Paul Hansford Dec 2016
I wish I could be a super-hero.
I wish I could be your super-hero.
But most of all I would want to be your Bee-Man.

Flying over continents and oceans,
over forests and gardens,
until I found you,
my Rose Queen,
my super-powers would detect
your pink petals
from far off.
Down I would fly,
drawn by the fragrance of you
to the exquisite beauty
of your blushing petals
silkily emerging from the heart of you,
unfolding for me,
welcoming me to your secret treasure.

Gently but firmly
my long, loving tongue would press
between those dew-moistened folds,
unable to resist the perfume
overcoming me.
Tugged in
by your intoxicating scent,
your nectar I would sup
until I could drink no more.

Then transforming
the sweet nectar
you had so willingly granted me,
I would create my rich, creamy honey,
especially for you,
so willingly penetrate
between your soft petals,
find your hidden depths,
and to repay you for the delight
your fragrant nectar had given me,
magically inject my honey,
into the essential heart of you,
until my store was empty,
and we could both feel
the most exquisite joy of all.

I hope that you dream of it as I do,
that you wish it also,
and that some day our dreams can come together.
And if you and I could come
together
in ecstasy,
it would be the most perfect fulfilment possible
of my desire.
Paul Hansford Jun 2016
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages ***** and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
4.7k · Oct 2018
Meeting in Jerusalem *
Paul Hansford Oct 2018
We didn’t go to Mea-She’arim on Saturday
because they throw stones at cars there on the Sabbath.
We wanted to see the locals, certainly,
but only to look in a respectful way. We had not expected
to make contact. But crossing the road you didn’t notice
that you had dropped your book.
I picked it up, ran after you.
Not knowing how to address you, I touched your sleeve.
You turned to me, took the proffered book
without a word, and looked at me. Your eyes,
beneath your strange hat, between your side-curls,
showed no expression. You turned away.
Was your garment unclean now? Did the volume
need to be purified? I was only
returning your book. We had not expected
to make contact.
4.4k · Jan 2016
In-Convenience *
Paul Hansford Jan 2016
Very early in the morning we were woken from our sleep,
We were going on safari, being driven in a jeep,
We went out before our breakfast, we went out before sunrise,
We went out before the sleep had fully vanished from our eyes.
We had to dress quite quickly, and we went out in a rush,
And after we'd been driving through miles and miles of bush
For an hour or two, I have to say - forgive the way I speak,
But the roads were very bumpy - I was dying for a leak.

The driver stopped the jeep and kindly offered us a drink,
But it might have been more kind if he had only paused to think;
We had seen a herd of elephants, some vultures in the sky,
Several wildebeest and zebra, a hyena passing by,
Giraffes, a pair of ostriches, a buffalo or two,
And we'd taken lots of photographs (well, that's what tourists do);
We had even seen some lions lazing underneath a tree,
But ... we hadn't seen a toilet ... and I really had to ***.

Beside a water-hole at last we found a pair of loos,
And I hurried to the gents', 'cos that's the one I have to use.
Yes, I went up to the gentlemen's, and pushed the door ajar,
But I didn't push it hard, and it didn't open far.
There was something in the way, you see. I did a double-take,
For it looked just like a tail, the last six inches of a snake.
I decided not to panic - I'm not that sort of bloke,
And it could have been a rubber one, left there for a joke -
So I pushed the door wide open, to be sure of no mistake,
And what should I clap eyes on but two yards of living snake!

I closed the door, quite firmly, and went to tell the guide,
"I was going to the loo, but then I found a snake inside."
He didn't quite believe me, but he went across to check.
- Not just a snake, a cobra! - "Gosh," I thought, and "Flipping Heck."
For the snake looked very supple, and the snake looked very strong,
And if it would uncurl itself, the snake looked very long,
And a cobra's bite is savage, and a cobra's bite is quick,
And if that snake had bitten me, I'd be feeling rather sick.
"It might even be a spitter, judging by the size,
"So don't you go too close, and please be careful of your eyes."
But I had to take a photograph, for that's what tourists do,
And, warily, I took a snap of the cobra in the loo.

The driver wrote a notice "Danger, Big Big Snake Inside",
And the lady with the first-aid box took out of it with pride
A strip of sticking plaster to stick it to the door,
To tell anyone who came, there was a cobra on the floor.
By now the snake was moving, it was climbing up the wall;
It hid behind the cistern, and could not be seen at all;
It came down again, and wrapped itself around the waste-pipe neatly,
Then slithered right inside the pan and disappeared completely.

Now I was on a mission to tell others what I'd seen,
But I was very conscious of the fact I'd Still Not Been!
So in that situation, though most times I wouldn't dare,
When I found the ladies' empty, I quickly popped in there.
I'd had a narrow squeak, but now (in every sense) relieved,
I had to write my story, which I hope will be believed,
For every word is gospel truth, I fully guarantee,
And it's even got a moral, which is very plain to see.

    (Moral)
If you ever see a man who's coming from the ladies' loos,
Please don't jump to conclusions, he might have a good excuse,
- "I went to spend a penny, for my need was quite intense,
"And I had to use the ladies' - there's a cobra in the gents'!"
The record of a true encounter, in Zimbabwe a few years ago, when things were less difficult.
Paul Hansford May 2016
"Found poem", all the text lifted from a tourist pamphlet picked up in Crete, only very slightly edited.

There are daily buses starting from Chania
to the head of the gorge,
which is called Xyloskalo.
Buses say on the front "Omalos" and depart
from the central bus station.
By taking any of the morning buses you get to Xyloskalo
after one and a half hours.
At Xyloskalo there is a tourist pavilion
where you can get meals, drinks,
and which has only seven beds for staying overnight.
For those wishing to spend the night
on the Omalos plateau
there is another possibility, that of staying
at Omalos village itself, five kilometres before Xyloskalo,
where are two cafés providing several beds. From there
you get any of the morning buses starting from Chania
to the head of the gorge.
The length of the gorge is sixteen kilometres, and you need
five to six hours to walk through it. There is plenty
of drinking water all along the gorge. Tennis shoes
or walking boots are recommended. Camping,
overnight staying, smoking, hunting,
cutting and uprooting plants
are forbidden.
At the mouth of the gorge is Aghia Rouméli village,
which provides restaurants and accommodation.
From there you take boats
either to Sfakía (duration: one hour) or to Soughia
and Paleochora.
Remember that the last boat to Sfakía is at 17 hours,
which connects with the last bus to Chania at 18 hours.
Duration of the bus trip: two hours.
I just love the Greek names, and the slightly unconventional English of the text.
3.3k · May 2016
Christmas Gifts **
Paul Hansford May 2016
This small green bear,
your name embroidered on its chest,
was never yours. It would have been
our Christmas gift to you,
had you lived a month longer.
The ones you would give
you had already bought,
wrapped, labelled -
thoughtful, organised
to the end,
to the bitter end.
We unwrapped them on the day,
smiled at your kindness,
wept at our loss.

Early Christmas gifts
that you had not organised,
that nobody could have anticipated,
went to strangers: your pancreas,
a life free from daily injections;
your kidneys, two lives free from dialysis;
your liver, divided, to a young girl
and an older lady, who would
quite simply have a life
they had almost given up hoping for.
Your heart, damaged by extended life-support,
not suitable for transplantation,
yielded its valves
to repair the damaged hearts of others.
Even bone and skin were harvested
for people you never knew.
That Christmas you gave hope
to so many people,
and to us the consolation
that they live on because of you,
and that you live on in them.
3.1k · Feb 2016
Décima - My Poems **
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
My poems are my children, more or less.
I care about them, want them to go far,
would like the world to love them as they are.
Or would it help if I could maybe dress
them in fancy words, improve their accent? Yes,
though a judicious measure of sobriety
might give my work commendable variety.
Alas, they're disadvantaged from the start,
these single-parent children of my art,
and I can't blame their failings on Society.
The décima is a Spanish form of ten lines (hence the name).  See my Youth and Age for more details.
3.0k · Aug 2018
Golden Wedding -- sonnet *
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
When we first stood, those fifty years ago,
outside the church together, man and wife,
we had no way of knowing if our life
was bound for sun and smiles or tears and snow.
In the event, we had our share of each.
When children came, as we continued longer,
the highs and lows made our love all the stronger,
and happiness was never out of reach.
Together, then, we've weathered many a storm,
and having lasted now for half a century
I think we're justified to call it victory
to know our love continues just as warm.
(Although age may reduce youth's fiery passion,
a long, slow smoulder's never out of fashion.)
Paul Hansford May 2016
(I don't really hate pantoums, but once, when I wrote about the rules for repeating forms like pantoums and villanelles, one girl commented "I hate pantoums and villanelles. I guess I get bored easily." But this only provoked me to write a Pantoum using her words, just a little edited.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hate pantoums and villanelles
because I'm very easily bored
when a poem goes on and on, and tells
the things that have been said before.

Because I'm very easily bored,
I get impatient for lots of stuff.
The things that have been said before
don't need repeating. Once is enough.

I get impatient, for lots of stuff
I get to hear throughout the day
don't need repeating. Once is enough
to understand what you have to say.

I get to hear throughout the day
the same old news again and again.
To understand what you have to say
should not be hard. Intelligent men

and women don't need those extra lines
when a poem goes on and on, and tells
what it's said before, too many times.
I hate pantoums – and villanelles!
2.9k · Jul 2016
Little Mr Hansford's Car *
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
Over the years, I taught so many classes
in many different schools,
long-term or short.
Hundreds and hundreds of  students,
all ages, three to eighteen years old.

But how could I remember
all of them?
I was the teacher; they were there to learn.
Those were our roles; that was the contract.
They would move up and I move on, for all of us
always a new beginning.

But now and then
one will return to haunt me, like the girl
whose secret friend, Little Mister Hansford,
drove a tiny red plastic car.
I keep it now, in my drawer,
and remember.

The boy, his skin
flaking and cracked with eczema, trying to resist
the urge to scratch, but always failing.
How could he bear to wake each day to face that life?
Yet I was proud he claimed me for his brother;

On a school exchange visit,
an older girl, seventeen,  
crossing the Alps in a coach,
moved beyond tears
by her first sight of real mountains.

Do they remember?
Maybe they do.  
A young man I met by chance
one day on a Spanish street
surprised me by recalling
how I read Winnie-the-Pooh when he was small,
and did the animals in different voices.

So many children, so many years have gone,
but memories, like love, can linger on.
"He do the police in different voices" was the original title of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land".
2.9k · Jan 2016
Oxygen *
Paul Hansford Jan 2016
The oxygen that we breathe
in
and
out
every minute of every day
is not lost
but shared
re-used
recycled
recirculated.

If we are in the same room –
or sealed hermetically for hours
in the cabin of a plane –
we breathe continuously
the same air,
the oxygen goes from me to you
and back again.

But air currents,
prevailing winds,
the jet stream,
cyclones and anti-cyclones,
all move the atmosphere further
and further still,
so that even if we are
on opposite sides of the globe,
separated by oceans,
it is a statistical certainty
that I still breathe in
atoms of oxygen
that were once
inside
you.

Do they carry your thoughts,
your feelings,
your poetry to me,
or mine to you?
Who can say?
I can but hope it,
as I thank you
for keeping me alive.
2.8k · Sep 2018
My photograph album *
Paul Hansford Sep 2018
I have an album
where I keep photos
of places I have lived
places I have visited
people I have known
people I have loved
I keep films
of things I have done
things I have seen
things I even think I have forgotten
but they are all there

you who read this
may not have known the people
not been to the places
not seen what happened
but I can tell you about them

those photos
those films
are not in a book
not in a computer
not even on a memory stick
I keep them wirelessly
in my mind
and I call them up at will
or they come to me
happy or sad
without my wishing it

but the difficult part is
that the drive can be corrupted
memories can be lost
and the day will come
when they will all be erased
unless I can recreate the photos
in your mind
remake the films
by telling you about them

then if you read what I have written
you may make your own pictures
from my thoughts
my words
my memories
and maybe some of them
can live on

I hope they will
2.8k · Aug 2016
my gift to you *
Paul Hansford Aug 2016
today i bring you
no glittery greeting card
no filling-station flowers
only a very special offer
you cant refuse
(i wont let you)
a part used bargain
from the hearts department
bruised and scarred
but still beating
and its yours for nothing

do with it as you will
only
pause before you throw it away
(please dont throw it away)
if you dont want it now
save it for later
keep it like a lucky penny
press it with rose petals in a book
put it at the back of a drawer
take it out from time to time
and remember
or find it maybe when youre looking
for something else
and think of me and smile
(i hope youll smile)

but please dont throw it away
its bound to come in handy
even if you never use it
2.7k · Sep 2016
Found Object *
Paul Hansford Sep 2016
Green glass
but it's French
which makes it
verre vert.
The French should like that.
They appreciate
their jeux de mots.

Not a statue
of a man
but it could be.
Not a piece of art at all
except
I have made it so
by saying it is one.

Its qualities
are visual
and tactile at once
the material heavy
(over a kilo)
not so much transparent
as translucent
the colour
from under the sea
the surface curved
smooth
glossy
the shape functional
admirably suited for its purpose
its name
embossed on the back
(or the front?)
giving a clue.

L' ÉLECTRO VERRE
redundant insulator
from an overhead power cable
found object
(objet trouvé)
from the garden
of friends
in the Alpes-Maritimes.

This souvenir
potential paperweight
ornament
sculpture
is more than all of these.

Souvenir after all
is French for memory.
This doesn't give the full impression without a photograph.  Luckily, that is available at < flickr.com/photos/48763199@N04/5901032327/ >
2.6k · May 2016
Diamond poems by kids
Paul Hansford May 2016
These were written by 8-year-old kids in a class I used to teach. They are simply syllable-counted  - 1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1 - and don't have the extra requirements of so-called "diamante" poems.  You will notice that the line breaks are all in natural places, and don't split phrases.

- - THE RACE - -
          Here
        we are
      on the line
    ready to run.
Starter lifts his gun
    high in the air -
    On your marks…
        Get set…
         Bang!

RUNNING A BATH
           Put
        the plug
      in the hole;
    turn on the tap.
Cold water in first,
   hot water next.
      It's ready.
     Now jump
            in.
2.6k · Jul 2016
Tritina -- LifeCycle
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
Gloriously green in spring and summer, these leaves
turned to bright shades of flame, lit up the fall,
and autumn's winds tumbled them to earth.

Decaying, their remnants now enrich the earth,
and winter buds fatten for next year's leaves,
which in their turn, we know, will wither and fall,

an endless cycle of growth, decline and fall.
We too decline, return at last to earth,
and memory is all our existence leaves

until we rise in new leaves, and fall again to earth.
A tritina is a sort of "sestina lite", where there are only three repeating words instead of six, and all three appear in the last single line.  The theme of this one is something of a preoccupation of mine.
2.5k · Jan 2018
Remnants - Auschwitz **
Paul Hansford Jan 2018
Even from behind the glass,
you can smell the chemical
that keeps the moths away.
A vast mound of matted sheep’s wool
you would say, except (they assure you)
it is original, all two tons of it,
the human hair that was left
unused at the end.
The rest went for socks
to keep workers’ feet warm.
All grey now, sixty years on, it has aged
as those that owned it never did.
They went naked to the shower room,
clutching the soap
they would never use,
and then to the ovens.
A lorry’s engine drowned the screams,
and the Governor’s wife tended her flowers,
making a garden “like paradise.”
This is at least the fourth major re-write of this poem .  "A poem is never finished, only abandoned."
2.4k · Aug 2017
Proverbial Wisdom *
Paul Hansford Aug 2017
In wine is truth, but truth is sometimes hurtful.
If I hurt you, I never meant it so.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,
and what's said can't be unsaid - this I know.

It's best to tell the truth and shame the Devil.
What might have happened is non-history.
So seize the moment, say what needed saying.
In wine is truth,
     and the truth shall set you free.
I had this in mind for years before I wrote it fully, having only the title and the first and last lines. It’s shorter than I had hoped, but it says what I wanted.
2.2k · Apr 2016
I have looked at .... *
Paul Hansford Apr 2016
I have looked at sunsets as long as they lasted
the reds and the golds and the pinks of them
the play of light on the edges of clouds
the changing shadows over the land.
I have watched the sea steadily rolling in wave after wave
breaking against the rocks with the energy of distant storms
or gently lapping at softer shores.
I have gazed up at the brilliance
of a black night of stars million upon million
no moon to dim their richness.
I have seen the hidden blues and greens in a slow river of ice.
I have known forests and mountains.

I have known you also and you no less
are part of the universe.  I can admire
the changing sky in the colour of your eyes
the moving sea in the curve of your neck
the wonder of an opening rosebud
in the crook of your elbow.
There is an audio recording of myself reading this poem on Youtube.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=detNC95rvO0
2.1k · Aug 2017
Senryu from an 8-year-old
Paul Hansford Aug 2017
Zoe was a clever girl, and I wasn't surprised when she wanted to try a haiku-style piece, but it was even cleverer than I had expected, with a correct syllable count and a delightful punch-line.

Slow-worm in the grass
looks at me with beady eyes
and puts its tongue out.


(Note: the slow-worm is a legless lizard that looks like a small snake, locally quite common in England.)
I love the suggestion that the creature is being cheeky by putting its tongue out, while we all know - don't we? - that lizards do this to smell the air around them.
1.9k · Oct 2018
Enakaisarandasyllabics
Paul Hansford Oct 2018
Here,
I’ve done it,
A new kind of verse,
All by counting syllables.
The lines all have odd numbers of them.
One, three, five, seven and nine,
Then back down to one.
Just like this,
See?

Once
Paul Verlaine,
Famous French poet,
Claimed there was more music in
Lines with odd numbers of syllables.
I can’t say if he was right.
Is there music in
This simple
Verse?

Look,
Number three
In my collection
Of syllable-counted verse.
They are not really too difficult.
So now what shall I call them?
That is the question,
As Hamlet
Said.

Ha,
Eureka!
Make it a Greek word.
Now what’s Greek for forty-one?
E n a k a i s a r a n d a s y l l a b i c s.
That is what I can call them.
Such an easy name,
Don’t you think?
No?

Well,
I’ll tell you.
Why don’t you try it?
Not so easy now, is it?
Can’t you think of anything at all?
Are you ready to give up?
Can’t say I blame you.
That’s all now.
Bye.
As far as I know, I really invented this form, and anyone who wants to try it is welcome to have a go. I'd be pleased if you'd comment here to tell me, or message me.
Btw, enakaisaranda is Greek for forty-one, and with it having six syllables just by itself, how could I resist it?
1.8k · Dec 2016
Another Sun *
Paul Hansford Dec 2016
Perhaps in another world
another sun comes
up,
lighting a different
here
and now,
where another I
could meet a second you.
Would she smile to know him there?
Would he look into her grey eyes and see
what I have seen, know
what I have known?
Perhaps in another world,
but here
spring always ends, petals
fall, and rivers
only
run
downhill.
This was originally written as an exercise using (a) my name as an acrostic - you can still see the way the first six lines, and the last five fit the form - and (b) my telephone number at the time to give the number of syllables in the lines - it’s been edited so much since then that only a few lines now fit the requirement.
#v
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
.
This lived-in face has seen the years go by
at such a wild and unforgiving pace.
My powers are weak, though my aims may be high,
and troubles are all bound to leave their trace.


And while I always feel the need to brace
myself against life's storms, I know that I
can never win. Death always plays his ace.
This lived-in face has seen the years go by.

It's little help to know the rules apply
to every member of the human race.
Dark clouds are growing in my evening sky
at such a wild and unforgiving pace.

In this vast universe I have my place,
but can my thoughts outlast me when I die?
or speak to those in other time or space?
My powers are weak, though my aims may be high.

Yet while dark thoughts of gloom may multiply,
to let them win would be a sad disgrace,
though many things may make me want to cry,
and troubles are all bound to leave their trace.

Yes, my mortality I must embrace,
not waste my time in always asking why,
or fearing not to do things just in case."
I'll dry those tears. There's no point to deny
this lived-in face.
.
If you looked up the rules for this form, you wouldn't find them telling you to repeat the first half-line in a way that rhymes with anything, but since my first one, where it came out that way by accident, I do them like this, and it's only a little more difficult.
1.8k · Sep 2018
Hiroshima (senryu) *
Paul Hansford Sep 2018
eight sixteen a.m.
    a light explodes in the sky
        time stops forever
I thought the well-known 5-7-5 syllable format would suit the theme, short, sharp and sudden, as well as originally being a Japanese format.  There is one detail that doesn't suit the form, however, as these poems are not meant to have a title.
Paul Hansford Dec 2015
When you left this room,
or a room somewhat like it,
stepping into the light
you were dazzled by the sudden brilliance,
only gradually coming to terms with it.
Now, overwhelmed by the darkness,
by the stillness, dazzled still
by the light you learned to take for granted,
(impossible in this quiet room to see
what faces you) you ***** for a chair.
The thought of turning back passes briefly
through your mind, you refrain
from opening the curtains, knowing,
telling yourself, the moment will pass,
the after-image fade, the echoes
of outside be absorbed in the silence.
Be still in the dark,
listen to the silence,
understand
this room was waiting for you.
This poem started with the title, and more or less wrote itself from then on. For a long time I didn't even realise myself that it was about death, though it seems pretty obvious now
1.6k · May 2016
Your Toothbrush *
Paul Hansford May 2016
I am not familiar with your toothbrush,
not acquainted with it,
have no experience of it,
am unaware even of its colour.

I know that a toothbrush is an inanimate object.
It cannot feel,
cannot enjoy the closeness,
as it massages every surface of your teeth,
sliding in and out between your lips,
caressing your tongue, moving across
the inside of your cheeks.
It takes no pride
in performing its morning duty for you,
no pleasure in your gratitude
for the freshness it gives you.

It would be ridiculous,
surely,
to be envious of that lifeless,
insensate,
ultimately disposable
thing.
And yet ….

…. and yet I cannot totally eliminate
the feeling
as I imagine your toothbrush
in its daily moment
of intimacy
with you.
The original idea behind it was a quote from Sylvia Plath, who wrote: “I have never written a poem about a toothbrush.”  I thought I'd like to try, and if anyone feels the urge to write another poem about that most prosaic object, please let me know by a comment here, or send me a message if you prefer.
1.5k · Jul 2016
My Shopping List
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
I write my shopping-list in rhyme.
It doesn’t take me too much time,
and always helps me to remember.
(I’ve been doing it since last September.)

Wholemeal bread
low-fat spread
strawberry jam
dry-cured ham
Cheddar cheese
frozen peas
free-range eggs
chicken legs
grape jelly
pork belly
lamb chops
lemon drops
fillet steak
chocolate cake
cookie mix
seafood sticks
tortilla chips
salsa dips
instant coffee
treacle toffee
dried sultanas
ripe bananas
runner beans
a bunch of greens
new potatoes
vine tomatoes
and (really urgent)
liquid detergent.

Now that I've written my shopping-list,
I hope there's nothing that I've missed.
And if you don't think much of the verse,
Consider this - it could have been worse!
Yes, I know "tomatoes / potatoes" doesn't rhyme in British-English.  Just take it as a concession to our transatlantic friends
1.5k · Feb 2018
Four senryu
Paul Hansford Feb 2018
1.
Into a dull day
you came all unexpected.
My afternoon shone.


2.
Look into my eyes,
see my whole world reflected,
you at the centre.


3.
In your eyes are tears
but your smile overcomes them.
Where is the rainbow?


4.
There was so much more
that we could have said and done,
but we said goodbye.
Some will read these as authentic haiku, because of the 5/7/5 syllable count. Others will have noticed, since they are not related to nature or seasons, that they are not really haiku at all, but senryu.
Paul Hansford Aug 2017
The rain makes everything fresh,
   the plants and the grass are like gold,
      the air is sparkling with joy
                                                           (by Sharon)

The rain is coming down.
   Look outside, everything is wet.
      The leaves glitter with the rain on them.
                                                           (by Tracey)

Rain makes the roof top wet,
   the grass is all wet and soggy,
      and mum cannot do the washing.
                                                        ­    (by Lee)
1.4k · Aug 2017
Senryu by kids -- Winter
Paul Hansford Aug 2017
The ground is covered with snow.
   There is ice on all the plants
      like stone flowers.
                                                (by Darren)

The frost is cold.
   Spiky blades of grass
       crackle under your feet.
                                                  (by Peter)

The sky is black,
   the moon shines on the ice,
      the ice is silver.
                                                    (by Sarah)
OK, they didn't count the syllables, but could you say they aren't good poetry?  And since they are about the season, we'd be justified to call them "modern haiku".
1.4k · Sep 2016
Nobody *
Paul Hansford Sep 2016
Nobody can understand how another person's mind works.
Nobody can travel across time.
Nobody can be in two places at once.

So if I were Nobody, I could read your mind.
If I were Nobody, I could time-travel to where you are.
If I were Nobody, I could be with you and still be where I am.

But is that the way it works?
Sadly, no.
It is all a fantasy,
just playing with words,
totally impossible.

In any case, I don't want to be Nobody.
I want to be Somebody,
to be a part of your life.
But I can do nothing,
except give you my love,

and hope you return it.
1.3k · Jul 2016
Exchange of Gifts *
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
I gave you violets;
you gave me your smile.

I gave you elderflower wine;
you gave me wild strawberries.

I gave you a small brown bird
that hid in the white shadows;
you gave me the nightingale
singing to the summer midnight.

you gave me almost-tears
and rainbows;
I gave you my poems.
1.3k · Aug 2018
Almost a Poem *
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
By any normally accepted standard
three words are scarcely sufficient
to be considered a poem.
The Japanese, who have a gift for conciseness,
might be sympathetic.
(Haiku, after all,
    at seventeen syllables,
       are pretty compact.)
But three words! It's not so much concise as,
to put it bluntly, short.
If I say that, when I try to write a poem for you,
"I love you" is all I can think of,
that is no excuse.
And the fact that my meaning is new and unique
(for me and for you)
makes no difference either.
If only there were some way out of my difficulty.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
There, that's nine words.
Will that do?
Written in 1984 and only just re-discovered in the booklet of the competition it was written for.
1.3k · Nov 2016
Perfection's Imperfections
Paul Hansford Nov 2016
Nobody's perfect,
but you come pretty close.
Or if that's too many words,
just stop at four.
("Nobody's perfect but you.")

That's what I said at first,
but then I thought – No.
It's literally true.
Nobody
is
perfect.

Especially you.

Because the more I get to know you,
the more imperfections I find,
and your imperfections
are what makes you ...
... well, you.

And loving you
as I do,
perfect or imperfect,
then I love your imperfections.
They are, after all, what make me feel
you are perfect.

Why can't there be some language
that says what I really want to say?

Ah, but there is one.
There is such a language.
It's Poetry.
1.3k · May 2016
My Nature Reserve *
Paul Hansford May 2016
I love my little garden, even though it takes me hours
to mow the lawn and prune the trees and **** around the flowers.
I love the bees and butterflies, and I wouldn't mind the snails
if they'd leave my runner beans alone and not go off the rails.

I like to watch the badgers as they amble 'cross the lawn
very early in the morning, in the hour before the dawn,
and if Mister Fox comes passing through, it's really quite exciting
- though I find the smell he leaves behind is somewhat less inviting.

I like the worms - they're useful and they don't do any harm,
but the badgers think my garden's their own private worm farm.
So I rather like the idea of a wild-life community,
Except the badgers messing up the lawn with such impunity.

Yes, I like to keep my garden like a small nature reserve,
but creatures sometimes do things that I really don't deserve,
like badgers digging worms up!  Though I really wouldn't mind it
if they'd just re-fill the holes, and leave my garden as they find it!
Published in the Daily Mail (national daily newspaper).
1.2k · Jan 2016
Testing a Theory
Paul Hansford Jan 2016
Take a group of chimpanzees
used to swinging through the trees,
and sit them down at keyboards in a row;
lots of paper, lots of ink,
lots and lots of time, I think,
and what the theory says I’m sure you know.

Yes, along with all the junk,
all the gibberish and bunk,
somewhere there’d be the full works of the Bard:
As You Like It, Cymbeline,
Richards 2 and 3, the Dream,
though Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, might be hard.

But I’m sure the little blighters
would get on fine with Titus
Andronicus
, The Taming of the Shrew,
The Moor of Venice (that’s Othello),
the other Merchant fellow,
and Antony and Cleopatra too.

The Winter’s Tale would hold no terrors,
nor The Comedy of Errors,
and Verona’s Gentlemen would turn out right;
Love’s Labour might be Lost,
or it might be Tempest-tossed,
but All’s Well That Ends Well, even on Twelfth Night.

Lear, King John, and Much Ado,
Henry 4, parts 1 and 2,
Henry 5, and 6 (in three parts), Henry 8,
Troilus, Timon, Measure for Measure,
Pericles (a neglected treasure)
and how Romeo and Juliet met their fate;

all the Sonnets, and the ****
of Lucrece
(typed by an ape!)
and if they worked for ever and a day
they could fit in Julius Caesar,
that Coriolanus geezer,
the Wives of Windsor, and the Scottish play.

I grew more and more excited –
even thought I might be knighted
if I could be the one to make it work.
But to realise my dream
I had to try a pilot scheme,
to prove I wasn’t just a reckless berk.

I bought one chimp from the zoo -
didn't have the cash for two -
and gave him a typewriter, just to try
for a short while. Well, a fortnight
was the time-scale that I thought right.
You see, I’m quite an optimistic guy.

Now everyone who heard
of my project said, “Absurd!”
when I told them of my striking new departure.
“Get a chimpanzee to type
the works of Shakespeare? Oh, what tripe!”
Still … he did produce the works of Jeffrey Archer.
Jeffrey Archer in Wikipedia: Whilst Archer's books are commercially successful, critics have been generally unfavourable towards his writing.
On another topic, in 2001, Archer was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. (More details if you read the article.)
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