This Old Bank Of Sand is a weekly poem feed. Add your email address to the Follow by Email link on the right and you will receive one poem a week (usually on Monday morning). If you have suggestions for poems or poets, or any other suggestions, please use the comments facility at the bottom of each poem (public), or email them to (private). To leave a public comment, click on the word comments which you can find just below each poem.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer break

This Old Bank of Sand is going on holiday and will be back after the summer.

After Rain by Edward Thomas

The rain of a night and a day and a night
Stops at the light
Of this pale choked day. The peering sun
Sees what has been done.
The road under the trees has a border new
of purple hue
Inside the border of bright thin grass:
For all that has
Been left by November of leaves is torn
From hazel and thorn
And the greater trees. Throughout the copse
No dead leaf drops
On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern,
At the wind's return:
The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed
Are thinly spread
In the road, like little black fish, inlaid,
As if they played.
What hangs from the myriad branches down there
So hard and bare
Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see
On one crab-tree.
And on each twig of every tree in the dell
Crystals both dark and bright of the the rain
That begins again.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A COMPANY OF FRIENDS by Elizabeth Jennings

We were all friends that night and sitting round
A lateish dinner. Candles lit us and
Shyness disappeared. Some golden ground
Surely held us. We could understand
Love's mishaps, teenage children and the sound
Of their troubles. Here,
Close to a river and a city where
Learning's been current long, you could accept
Its implications. Last night we could share
The worth of art and promises well kept
Until that hour. Here was a world of care
And I think we all slept
Better for our words of joy and grief.
We ate, we drank, ideas seemed to come
So easily. Here was abundant life
And grace shone like a happy coming home.
We did not notice that the time was brief
As every candle flame.
We gave time back to one another as
We shook warm hands and called a clear Good Night.
Now it's last night's tomorrow and I pass
That feast like film before my eyes and light
My long room with that silver and that glass
And glory in the sight.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ON TIME FOR ONCE by Brian Patten

I was sitting thinking of our future
And of how friendship had overcome
So many nights bloated with pain;
I was sitting in a room that looked out on to a garden
And a stillness filled me,
Bitterness drifted from me,
I was as near paradise as I am likely to get again.
I was sitting thinking of the chaos
We had caused in one another
And was amazed we had survived it.
I was thinking of our future
And of what we would do together,
And where we would go and of how,
When night came, burying me bit by bit,
And you entered the room,
Trembling, solemn-faced,
On time for once.

For more Brian Patten go to

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Bridge by Edward Thomas

I have come a long way to-day:
On a strange bridge alone,
Remembering friends, old friends,
I rest, without smile or moan,
As they remember me without smile or moan.

All are behind, the kind
And the unkind too, no more
To-night than a dream. The stream
Runs softly yet drowns the Past,
The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.

No traveller has rest more blest
Than this moment brief between
Two lives, when the Night's first lights
And shades hide what has never been,
Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jodrell Bank by Patric Dickinson

Who were they, what lonely men
Imposed on the fact of night
The fiction of constellations
And made commensurable
The distances between
Themselves, their loves, and their doubt
Of governments and nations?
Who made the dark stable

When the light was not? Now
We receive the blind codes
Of spaces beyond the span
Of our myths, and a long dead star
May only echo how
There are no loves nor gods
Men can invent to explain
How lonely all men are.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

THE OLYMPIC GIRL by John Betjeman

The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussé nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx…..would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press'd
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
"Oh! Plung!" my tauten'd strings would call,
"Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things."
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You'd tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Late Fragment – Raymond Carver

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver

This is the fourth and final poem from our guest editor.  He writes:  Raymond carver died relatively young of lung cancer. This very short poem says what was very important to him in his life – not wealth, or fame not even health, but to be beloved. I am extremely fortunate that I love and am beloved.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Song – William Wordsworth


She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love.
A Violet by a mossy stone
Half-hidden from the Eye!
- Fair, as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky!
She lived  unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her Grave, and Oh!
The difference to me.

William Wordsworth

Our guest editor writes:  This poem is very simple but very powerful. It was especially important to me after the death of a much beloved member of our family. She may not have been very important to many people, may not even have been really noticed,  but when she was not there anymore – Oh! The difference to my wife and me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sonnet 29 – William Shakespeare

I must include something by William Shakespeare in my choice. This sonnet I find particularly moving. Sometimes, when I am feeling low, the last five lines become especially true and important.

Sonnet 29

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 William Shakespeare

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer – John Keats

From time to time we have a guest editor.  The next four weeks’ poems are from our second guest editor, who has chosen to remain anonymous.  He writes:
 “I have enjoyed reading poems for years and have gained a lot from many of them. The poems I have chosen, which appear over the next four weeks, are very dear to me and express some of my important feelings perfectly.

 This is the first poem I really remember reading and the first, of very few, I have memorised. Particularly important to me are the last six lines. There have been a few occasions in my life when I felt I have seen a new planet and there have been two ‘Cortez moments’ when a really awesome, wonderful event has occurred."

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific - and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 John Keats

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cut by Sylvia Plath For Susan O'Neill Roe

What a thrill--
My thumb instead of an onion,
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian's axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz.

A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?
O my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill
The thin
Papery feeling.
Kamikaze man –

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Darkens and tarnishes and when

The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

 How you jump --
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Take the I Out by Sharon Olds

But I love the I, steel I-beam
that my father sold. They poured the pig iron
into the mold, and it fed out slowly,
a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened,
Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he
marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream
of Wheat, its curl of butter right
in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses
with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning
and sour in the evening. I love the I,
frail between its flitches, its hard ground
and hard sky, it soars between them
like the soul that rushes, back and forth,
between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other,
how would it have felt to be the strut
joining the floor and roof of the truss?
I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years
in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled
slope of her temperature rising, and on
the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach
the crest, the Roman numeral I--
I, I, I, I,
girders of identity, head on,
embedded in the poem. I love the I
for its premise of existence--our I--when I was
born, part gelid, I lay with you
on the cooling table, we were all there, a
forest of felled iron. The I is a pine,
resinous, flammable root to crown,
which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.

For more Sharon Olds, go to

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Week Later by Sharon Olds

A week later, I said to a friend: I don't
think I could ever write about it.
Maybe in a year I could write something.
There is something in me maybe someday
to be written; now it is folded, and folded,
and folded, like a note in school. And in my dream
someone was playing jacks, and in the air there was a
huge, thrown, tilted jack
on fire. And when I woke up, I found myself
counting the days since I had last seen
my husband-only two years, and some weeks,
and hours. We had signed the papers and come down to the
ground floor of the Chrysler Building,
the intact beauty of its lobby around us
like a king's tomb, on the ceiling the little
painted plane, in the mural, flying. And it
entered my strictured heart, this morning,
slightly, shyly as if warily,
untamed, a greater sense of the sweetness
and plenty of his ongoing life,
unknown to me, unseen by me,
unheard, untouched-but known, seen,
heard, touched. And it came to me,
for moments at a time, moment after moment,
to be glad for him that he is with the one
he feels was meant for him. And I thought of my
mother, minutes from her death, eighty-five
years from her birth, the almost warbler
bones of her shoulder under my hand, the
eggshell skull, as she lay in some peace
in the clean sheets, and I could tell her the best
of my poor, partial love, I could sing her
out with it, I saw the luck
and luxury of that hour.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Necklace by Osip Mandelstam translated from the Russian by Christian Wiman

Take, from my palms, for joy, for ease,
A little honey, a little sun,
That we may obey Persephone's bees.
You can't untie a boat unmoored.
Fur-shod shadows can't be heard,
Nor terror, in this life, mastered.
Love, what's left for us, and of us, is this
Living remnant, loving revenant, brief kiss
Like a bee flying completed dying hiveless
To find in the forest's heart a home,
Night's never-ending hum,
Thriving on meadowsweet, mint, and time.
Take, for all that is good, for all that is gone,
That it may lie rough and real against your collarbone,
This string of bees, that once turned honey into sun.

If you enjoyed last week's poem - Galway by Chris Jones - you can find out more about Chris Jones at

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Galway by Chris Jones

Leaving Galway we drove out west
on roads like little twisters for the tongue,
stalling at junctions where we had to guess,
until, inevitably, I guessed wrong –
stopped dead, in rain, at the end of Europe,
the rock-pool farms of low walls and cold fish.
We had a map, a bar of chocolate,
and Hartnett's Farewell to English
to guard against the sky's upturned suitcase,
and you to drive me back to coral beach,
where creatures have a billion years of grace,
the light of shrunken suns within our reach.
Returning to the spartan, hostel room
we hung our clothes up, made it home.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; 
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played:
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there. 

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring and All [By the road to the contagious hospital] by William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind.  Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter.  All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens:  clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them:  rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bird by Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Anne Michaels - Fugitive Pieces - excerpt from Part I

Each of my first three selections has evoked the sounds of nature in a different way. My last selection is not really a poem, but an excerpt from the "poetic" novel Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (who is also a poet). Seven year old Jakob Beer has escaped from a holocaust atrocity during which the rest of his family were killed - he is alone in the forest, and dependent upon all his senses for survival. He remembers the attack and misses most his sister Bella. For me, this evocation of the terror of the forest at night invokes all the senses - I can hear it, see it, smell it, taste it, feel it........  

Lawrence Casserley.

Anne Michaels - Fugitive Pieces - excerpt from Part I

I couldn't keep out the sounds: the door breaking open, the spit of buttons. My mother, my father. But worse than those sounds was that I couldn't remember hearing Bella at all. Filled with her silence, I had no choice but to imagine her face.

The night forest is incomprehensible: repulsive and endless, jutting bones and sticky hair, slime and jellied smells, shallow roots like ropy vines.

Draping slugs splash like tar across the ferns; black icicles of flesh.

During the day I have time to notice lichen like gold dust over the rocks.

A rabbit, sensing me, stops close to my head and tries to hide behind a blade of grass.

The sun is jagged through the trees, so bright the spangles turn dark and float, burnt paper, in my eyes.

The white nibs of grass get caught in my teeth like pliable little fish bones. I chew fronds into a bitter, stringy mash that turns my spit green.

The forest floor is speckled bronze, sugar caramelised in the leaves. The branches look painted onto the onion-white sky. One morning I watch a finger of light move its way deliberately across the ground.

I know, suddenly, my sister is dead. At this precise moment, Bella becomes flooded ground. A body of water pulling under the moon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

John Clare - The Fallen Elm - excerpt

John Clare (1793 - 1864) is considered by some to be one of the founding thinkers of the environmental movement. In "The Fallen Elm" he contrasts the freedom of ownership with the freedom of all to enjoy the natural environment, in this case a “music-making elm”.

Lawrence Casserley.

John Clare - The Fallen Elm - excerpt

Old elm that murmured in our chimney top

The sweetest anthem autumn ever made

And into mellow whispering calms would drop

When showers fell on thy many coloured shade

And when dark tempests mimic thunder made -

While darkness came as it would strangle light

With the black tempest of a winter night

That rocked thee like a cradle in thy root -

How did I love to hear the winds upbraid

Thy strength without - while all within was mute.

It seasoned comfort to our hearts' desire,

We felt that kind protection like a friend

And edged our chairs up closer to the fire,

Enjoying comfort that was never penned.

Old favourite tree, thou'st seen time's changes lower,

Though change till now did never injure thee;

For time beheld thee as her sacred dower

And nature claimed thee her domestic tree.

With axe at root he felled thee to the ground

And barked of freedom - O I hate the sound

Time hears its visions speak, - and age sublime

Hath made thee a disciple unto time.

- Such was thy ruin, music-making elm;

The right of freedom was to injure thine:

As thou wert served, so would they overwhelm

In freedom's name the little that is mine.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jorge Luis Borges - The Unending Rose - excerpt (translated by Alastair Read)

Jorge Luis Borges has been a great influence on my work. He is best known for his extraordinary stories, but he was also a fine poet. One of my compositions is titled "The Unending Rose", inspired by this poem, which was written late in his life, when his increasing blindness affected him greatly. Listen to the “music, rivers, firmaments, palaces and angels”.

Lawrence Casserley.

Jorge Luis Borges - The Unending Rose - excerpt (translated by Alastair Read)

Your fragile globe is in my hand; and time

is bending both of us, both unaware,

this afternoon, in a forgotten garden.

Your brittle shape is humid in the air.

The steady, tidal fullness of your fragrance

rises up to my old, declining face.

But I know you far longer than that child

who glimpsed you in the layers of a dream

or here, in this garden, once upon a morning.

The whiteness of the sun may well be yours

or the moon’s gold, or else the crimson stain

on the hard sword-edge in the victory.

I am blind and I know nothing, but I see

there are more ways to go; and everything

is an infinity of things. You, you are music,

rivers, firmaments, palaces and angels,

O endless rose, intimate, without limit,

which the Lord will finally show to my dead eyes.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

W B Yeats - The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I am honoured to be invited to be a guest editor of ToBoS. I am a musician - one who is as likely to be inspired by the sounds of nature, wind and water as by notes and beats. These natural rhythms have inspired poets too, as in Yeats's "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" - listen to those sounds and "hear them in your deep heart's core".
Lawrence Casserley.

W B Yeats - 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 honey-bee,
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 evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Guest Editors

From time to time we will be having guest editors, and the next four poems are chosen by Lawrence Casserley, the first of our guest editors.  You can contact Lawrence as follows: 

Lawrence Casserley -
Lawrence Electronic Operations -
Eye Music Trust Ltd -

Feedback (always appreciated) should go to (don’t reply to this email: your reply will just disappear into the world of lost emails).  Equally, if you would like to be a guest editor (it’s not very complicated; all you have to do is choose poems, and just think of the kudos you will get with your neighbours) or would like to nominate someone to be a guest editor, then please us know at

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On The Move 'Man, You Gotta Go' by Thom Gunn

The blue jay scuffling in the bushes follows
Some hidden purpose, and the gush of birds
That spurts across the field, the wheeling swallows,
Have nested in the trees and undergrowth.
Seeking their instinct, or their pose, or both,
One moves with an uncertain violence
Under the dust thrown by a baffled sense
Or the dull thunder of approximate words.

On motorcycles, up the road, they come:
Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boy,
Until the distance throws them forth, their hum
Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.
In goggles, donned impersonality,
In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,
They strap in doubt--by hiding it, robust--
And almost hear a meaning in their noise.

Exact conclusion of their hardiness
Has no shape yet, but from known whereabouts
They ride, directions where the tires press.
They scare a flight of birds across the field:
Much that is natural, to the will must yield.
Men manufacture both machine and soul,
And use what they imperfectly control
To dare a future from the taken routes.

It is part solution, after all.
One is not necessarily discord
On Earth; or damned because, half animal,
One lacks direct instinct, because one wakes
Afloat on movement that divides and breaks.
One joins the movement in a valueless world,
Crossing it, till, both hurler and the hurled,
One moves as well, always toward, toward.

A minute holds them, who have come to go:
The self-denied, astride the created will.
They burst away; the towns they travel through
Are home for neither birds nor holiness,
For birds and saints complete their purposes.
At worse, one is in motion; and at best,
Reaching no absolute, in which to rest,
One is always nearer by not keeping still.