Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy Poems

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
...

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.
...

The most unusual thing I ever stole? A snowman.
Midnight. He looked magnificent; a tall, white mute
beneath the winter moon. I wanted him, a mate
...

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar
and asked him what went wrong. It's the shirt,
he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back
...

She woke up old at last, alone,
bones in a bed, not a tooth
in her head, half dead, shuffled
...

In Mrs Tilscher's class
You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.
"Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswan."
That for an hour,
then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.

This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweetshop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she'd left a gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone's nonsense heard from another form.

Over the Easter term the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back
home

That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown
the sky split open into a thunderstorm.
...

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
...

Wear dark glasses in the rain.
Regard what was unhurt
as though through a bruise.
Guilt. A sick, green tint.
...

Nobody hurt you. Nobody turned off the light and argued
with somebody else all night. The bad man on the moors
was only a movie you saw. Nobody locked the door.
...

In his dark room he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands, which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don't explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger's features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man's wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black and white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday's supplement. The reader's eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care.
...

I remember peeping in at his skyscraper room
and seeing him fast asleep. My little man.
I'd been in Manhattan a week,
...

When you were small, your cupped palms
each held a candleworth under the skin, enough light to begin,
and as you grew,
light gathered in you, two clear raindrops
...

Children, I remember how I could hear
with my soft young ears
the tiny sounds of the air-
...

14.

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
...

We came from our own country in a red room
which fell through the fields, our mother singing
our father's name to the turn of the wheels.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home,
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,
the street, the house, the vacant rooms
where we didn't live any more. I stared
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.

All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don't understand.
My parents' anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.

But then you forget, or don't recall, or change,
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.
...

It was late September. I'd just poured a glass of wine, begun
to unwind, while the vegetables cooked. The kitchen
filled with the smell of itself, relaxed, its steamy breath
gently blanching the windows. So I opened one,
then with my fingers wiped the other's glass like a brow.
He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig.

Now the garden was long and the visibility poor, the way
the dark of the ground seems to drink the light of the sky,
but that twig in his hand was gold. And then he plucked
a pear from a branch. - we grew Fondante d'Automne -
and it sat in his palm, like a lightbulb. On.
I thought to myself, Is he putting fairy lights in the tree?

He came into the house. The doorknobs gleamed.
He drew the blinds. You know the mind; I thought of
the Field of the Cloth of Gold and of Miss Macready.
He sat in that chair like a king on a burnished throne.
The look on his face was strange, wild, vain. I said,
What in the name of God is going on? He started to laugh.

I served up the meal. For starters, corn on the cob.
Within seconds he was spitting out the teeth of the rich.
He toyed with his spoon, then mine, then with the knives, the forks.
He asked where was the wine. I poured with a shaking hand,
a fragrant, bone-dry white from Italy, then watched
as he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice, drank.

It was then that I started to scream. He sank to his knees.
After we'd both calmed down, I finished the wine
on my own, hearing him out. I made him sit
on the other side of the room and keep his hands to himself.
I locked the cat in the cellar. I moved the phone.
The toilet I didn't mind. I couldn't believe my ears:

how he'd had a wish. Look, we all have wishes; granted.
But who has wishes granted? Him. Do you know about gold?
It feeds no one; aurum, soft, untarnishable; slakes
no thirst. He tried to light a cigarette; I gazed, entranced,
as the blue flame played on its luteous stem. At least,
I said, you'll be able to give up smoking for good.

Separate beds. in fact, I put a chair against my door,
near petrified. He was below, turning the spare room
into the tomb of Tutankhamun. You see, we were passionate then,
in those halcyon days; unwrapping each other, rapidly,
like presents, fast food. But now I feared his honeyed embrace,
the kiss that would turn my lips to a work of art.

And who, when it comes to the crunch, can live
with a heart of gold? That night, I dreamt I bore
his child, its perfect ore limbs, its little tongue
like a precious latch, its amber eyes
holding their pupils like flies. My dream milk
burned in my breasts. I woke to the streaming sun.

So he had to move out. We'd a caravan
in the wilds, in a glade of its own. I drove him up
under the cover of dark. He sat in the back.
And then I came home, the woman who married the fool
who wished for gold. At first, I visited, odd times,
parking the car a good way off, then walking.

You knew you were getting close. Golden trout
on the grass. One day, a hare hung from a larch,
a beautiful lemon mistake. And then his footprints,
glistening next to the river's path. He was thin,
delirious; hearing, he said, the music of Pan
from the woods. Listen. That was the last straw.

What gets me now is not the idiocy or greed
but lack of thought for me. Pure selfishness. I sold
the contents of the house and came down here.
I think of him in certain lights, dawn, late afternoon,
and once a bowl of apples stopped me dead. I miss most,
even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.
...

Time was slow snow sieving the night,
a kind of love from the blurred moon;
your small town swooning, unabashed,
was Winter's own.
...

One with a broken heart
to weep sad buckets.

Two with four blue eyes
to mirror the sea.

One with a salty tongue
to swear at a pirate.

Two with four green eyes
to mirror the sea.

One with a wooden leg
to dance on a gangplank.

Two with four grey eyes
to mirror the sea.

Luff! Leech! Clew! Tack!
Off to sea! Won't be back!

One with an arrowed heart
tattooed on a bicep.

Two with four blue eyes
to mirror the sky.

One with a baby's caul
to keep from a-drowning.

Two with four grey eyes
to mirror the sky.

One with a flask of rum
to gargle at midnight.

Two with four black eyes
to mirror the sky.

Luff! Clew! Tack! Leech!
Off to sea! No more beach!

One with an albatross
to put in a poem.

Two with four blue eyes
to mirror the sea.

One with a secret map
to stitch in a lining.

Two with four grey eyes
to mirror the sea.

One with a violin
to scrape at a dolphin.

Two with four green eyes
to mirror the sea.

Luff! Leech! Tack! Clew!
Off to sea! Yo ho! Adieu!

One with a telescope
to clock the horizon.

Two with four blue eyes
to mirror the sky.

One with a yard of rope
to lasso a tempest.

Two with four grey eyes
to mirror the sky.

One with a heavy heart
to sink for an anchor.

Two with four black eyes
to mirror the sky.

Leech! Clew! Tack! Luff!
Off to sea! We've had enough!
...

You like safe sounds:
the dogs lapping at their bowls;
the pop of a cork on a bottle of plonk
as your mother cooks;
the Match of the Day theme tune
and Doctor Who-oo-oo.

Safe sounds:
your name called, two happy syllables
from the bottom to the top of the house;
your daft ring tone; the low gargle
of hot water in bubbles. Half asleep
in the drifting boat of your bed,
you like to hear the big trees
sound like the sea instead.
...

Till love exhausts itself, longs
for the sleep of words -
my mistress' eyes -
to lie on a white sheet, at rest
in the language -
let me count the ways -
or shrink to a phrase like an epitaph -
come live
with me -
or fall from its own high cloud as syllables
in a pool of verse -
one hour with thee.

Till love gives in and speaks
in the whisper of art -
dear heart,
how like you this? -
love's lips pursed to quotation marks
kissing a line -
look in thy heart
and write -
love's light fading, darkening,
black as ink on a page -
there is a garden
in her face.

Till love is all in the mind -
O my America!
my new-found land -
or all in the pen
in the writer's hand -
behold, thou art fair -
not there, except in a poem,
known by heart like a prayer,
both near and far,
near and far -
the desire of the moth
for the star.
...

Carol Ann Duffy Biography

Carol Ann Duffy, CBE, FRSL (born 23 December 1955) is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's poet laureate in May 2009. She is the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT person to hold the position. Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Rapture (2005), winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize. Her poems address issues such as oppression, gender, and violence, in an accessible language that has made them popular in schools.)

The Best Poem Of Carol Ann Duffy

Valentine

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

Carol Ann Duffy Comments

shalom jackie 26 November 2018

my nan is so black. you cannot see her in the dark

13 16 Reply
morbius 27 July 2022

same

0 0 Reply
nanfker 27 July 2022

so dark she absorbs the light

0 0 Reply
Yan Feng 30 March 2018

i really like your poems i translate your Feminine Gospels, hope you contacht with me, good poetry

10 10 Reply
shalom jackie 26 November 2018

shalom to you all. So much blood!

9 9 Reply
RS 15 February 2021

Does anyone know where I can find the poem "The Babysitter" by Duffy? It's a kids poem.

1 0 Reply
Margaret Basketter 19 December 2020

Does anyone know where I can find a written copy of Carol Ann Duffy's poem " Peterloo" please? I heard it at the Peterloo commemoration in Manchester on the Anniversary of Peterloo - very, very impressed and so emotiional. Thanks, Margaret B

0 0 Reply

Hello All, I am working part time in representing my daughter, Makayla Grady, a young author who has written her first book entitled " Glass and Diamonds: A Collection of Poems" currently being sold on Amazon and Apple iBook. I am asking you to support this young up and coming author. Thank You

1 0 Reply
caroline hall 12 March 2020

does anyone have her poems poet of our time, statement and survivor as I cannot find them please

0 1 Reply
Cliff Lloyd 06 May 2019

... You may have to copy & paste the link into the address bar

2 4 Reply

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