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Anthology of Poetry - 20th Century

Theodore ROETHKE (1908-1963)

from 'Slug'

I'm sure I've been a toad, one time or another,
With bats, weasels, worms ... I rejoice in the kinship.
Even the caterpillar I can love, and the various vermin.

E.S.TURNER (1909 - )

The Enquiring Child

"Daddy, tell me why they drip
Acid on that puppy's lip,
Also in that monkey's eye,
Tell me daddy, why oh why?"
"Hush my little son, be brave -
They are testing aftershave."

Gavin EWART (1916- )

On Seeing a Priest - Eating Veal
(from New Statesman, 14 August 1964)

Put down that calf, thou Man of Flesh,
Put down that veal, thou Bloody man,
God's creatures are the wheels that mesh,
And He will eat you when He Can.

Unfrock thyself, thou Man of Blood,
Thou art but meat, and so are these,
And have been since before the Flood:
Go down on thy unbasted knees,

And ponder on Eternal Fires
And battered fish and slaughtered lambs.
Restrain thy animal desires,
Be cured - or God will smoke thy hams!


A Black Rabbit Dies For it's Country

Born in the lab, I never saw the grass
or felt the direct touch of wind or sun
and if a rabbit's nature is to run
free on the earth, I missed it: though the glass
never let shot shoot or predators pass,

while I was warm against my mother's side
something was waiting in the centrifuge
(the world's a cage, although that cage is huge)
and separate I lived until I died-
watered and fed, I didn't fret, inside,

and all the time I was waiting for the paste,
scooped with a spatula from the metal rim,
the concentrate bacillus at the brim,
and lived the life of feeling and taste,
I didn't know it.Knowing would be a waste,

in any case, and anthrax is the hard,
stuff that knocks out the mice, the dogs, the men,
you haven't any chance at all and when
they've finished with you, you're down on a card
how could I know to be upon my guard,

when they pushed the container into line,
with the infected airstream?Breath is life:
though something more deadly than a knife
cut into me, I was still feeling fine,
and never guessed the next death would be mine-

how many minutes later lungs would choke
as feet beat out the seconds like a drum,
hands held me on the table:this was a sum
with the predictable ending of a joke
fighting I died, and no god even spoke.

Spike MILLIGAN (1918- )

Philip LARKIN (1922-1985)

Take one Home for the Kiddies

On shallow straw, in shadeless glass,
Huddled by empty bowls, they sleep
No dark, no dam, no earth, no grass -
"Mam, get us one of them to keep."

Living toys are something novel,
But it soon wears off somehow,
Fetch the shoebox, fetch the shovel -
"Mam, we're playing funerals now."

Edward BRECK (c.1925) - contributed by Janet Hatch

All night long, gnaw and gnaw,
Come with me, lady, see what I saw.
Only a beaver suffering pain.
God! Take that sound out of my brain.
A thing of the wilds - who cares how it dies?
God! Take that sight out of my eyes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A Paradox

'Tis strange how women kneel in church
and pray to God above,
Confess small sins and chant a praise
and sing that He is love;
While coats of softly furred things
upon their shoulders lie -
Of timid things, of tortured things,
that take so long to die...

'Tis strange to hear the organ peal
- "Have mercy on us, Lord"
The benediction - peace to all
- they bow with one accord
While from stained windows fall the lights
on furs so softly warm,
Of timid things, of little things,
that died in cold and storm.

Rebecca HALL (1947 - )


The cows graze in the field beside this house,
Gentle friends, I wish them the right to a natural death
In dignified old age.

Yesterday I saw a farmer who loked just like a cow,
But ugly for being human;
His poor, thick, red head stood out fatly,
His slow movements bespoke ponderous thoughts.

Later we talked of cows' heads offered by butchers;
I wonder if dogs would tear at his boiled head?
Or if fussy English people would relish
His nicely boiled and compressed pink tongue
Between slices of white bread
For tea on the lawn?

And if they did, would they know the difference?
And if they did, would they, finally, care?

Dennis Joseph FALLEN (Born Glasgow Scotland 1960, Now living in Sweden.)


Eyes look up trustingly,
Instincts suggest feeding
Hours spent caring like a
Fattening the trust
you send to the Slaughter.


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