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Masaoka Shiki

After killing
a spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night

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Out in the Cold

Out in the cold mid the dreary night,
Under the eaves of homes so bright:
Snowflakes falling o'er mother's grave
Will no one rescue, no one save?

A child left out in the dark and cold,
A lamb not sheltered in any fold,
Hearing the wolves of hunger bark,
Out in the cold! and out in the dark

Missing to-night the charming bliss,
That lies in the mother's good-night kiss;
And hearing no loving father's prayer,
For blessings his children all may share.

Creeping away to some wretched den,
To sleep mid the curses of drunken men
And women, not as God has made,
Wrecked and ruined, wronged and betrayed.

Church of the Lord reach out thy arm,
And shield the hapless one from harm;
Where the waves of sin are dashing wild
Rescue and save the drifting child.

Wash from her life guilt's turbid foam,
In the fair haven of a home;
Tenderly lead the motherless girl
Up to the gates of purest pearl.

The wandering feet which else had strayed,
From thorny paths may yet be stayed;
And a crimson track through the cold dark night
May exchange to a line of loving light.

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Two Less Lonely People In The World

(howard greenfield, ken hirsch)
I was down my dreams were wearing thin
When youre lost where do you begin
My heart always seemed to drift from day to day
Looking for the love that never came my way
Then you smiled and I reached out to you
I could tell you were lonely too
One look then it all began for you and me
The moment that we touched I knew that there would be
(chorus) two less lonely people in the world
And its gonna be fine
Out of all the people in the world
I just cant believe youre mine
In my life where everything was wrong
Something finally went right
Now theres two less lonely people
In the world tonight
Just to think what I might have missed
Looking back how did I exist
I dreamed, still I never thought Id come this far
But miracles come true, I know cause here we are
(chorus)
Tonight I fell in love with you
And all the things I never knew
Seemed to come to me somehow
Baby, love is here and now theres
(repeat chorus)

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Emily Dickinson

I know some lonely Houses off the Road

289

I know some lonely Houses off the Road
A Robber'd like the look of
Wooden barred,
And Windows hanging low,
Inviting to—
A Portico,
Where two could creep—
One—hand the Tools—
The other peep—
To make sure All's Asleep—
Old fashioned eyes—
Not easy to surprise!

How orderly the Kitchen'd look, by night,
With just a Clock—
But they could gag the Tick—
And Mice won't bark—
And so the Walls—don't tell—
None—will—

A pair of Spectacles ajar just stir—
An Almanac's aware—
Was it the Mat—winked,
Or a Nervous Star?
The Moon—slides down the stair,
To see who's there!

There's plunder—where—
Tankard, or Spoon—
Earring—or Stone—
A Watch—Some Ancient Brooch
To match the Grandmama—
Staid sleeping—there—

Day—ratt les—too
Stealth's—slow—
T he Sun has got as far
As the third Sycamore—
Screams Chanticleer
"Who's there"?

And Echoes—Trains away,
Sneer—"Where"!
While the old Couple, just astir,
Fancy the Sunrise—left the door ajar!

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Lonely Cities Of The Heart

As the midnight fades in boys town
And the hustle stops to glow
This urban landscape sprawls before me
And the hunger starts to grow
But something more than my daddy showed to me
How he wanted to make a man of me
Living in the lonely cities of the heart
Hiding in the shadows and searching in the dark
My mama reads me like an open book
She knows when Im up or down
But every night I stay longer
In the creole part of town
Something more than what the good lord gave to me
Something more, much more than this
Living in the lonely cities of the heart
Hiding in the shadows, searching in the dark
And it never stops, no it never stops, no one defends you now
Living in the lonely cities of the heart
(instrumental)
I can take a little pain, but not tonight again
Outside my hotel window I hear the mardi gras
Keep the candle burning bright babe, Ive come too far
As daylight creeps through the curtains I start to slip away,
And everything that seems so certain is just another day
Living in the lonely cities of the heart
Hiding in the shadows searching in the dark
And it never stops, no it never stops, no one defends you now
Living in the lonely cities of the heart
Hiding in the shadows searching in the dark
And it never stops, no it never stops, no one defends you now
Living in the lonely cities of the heart
Living in the lonely cities of the heart...

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Chabi of the Okavango

Chabi Maenga bought me a chicken. It took two, three hours to cook in the big black pot and was still tough as our leather boots. A goodbye gift to me, upon my leaving the district, leaving the passenger seat by his side.

Chabi had met me in Gaborone with a newly-issued 1978 model Toyota, a boxy thing that bounced crazily on the dirt tracks but was considered state of the art at the time. We drove north until the paved road ran out, then north east across the remote reaches of the Northern Kalahari to my new duty station in Maun. We slept half-way at Serowe, at the 'we are working together' cooperative hotel, under thatch. On the second day we skirted two of the four long walls enclosing the richest diamond mine in the world and tracked the elongated fence that separated buffalo, endemic with foot-and-mouth disease, from cattle. We swung north once more as we reached the side of the 'vanishing lake', Ngami, that in some years confirmed its presence on the standard maps, and in others was simply no-where to be found. All depended on the rains in distant Angola.

Chabi and I shared that front cabin, on and off, for nearly three years. 'Call me Chabi.. like Chubby Checker' was how he introduced himself. He was early 50s, salt and pepper in his tight thin curls, and I was 24... supposedly the boss, the one who signed the requisition slips and the log book for each and every trip. But Chabi was very much in charge.

The first thing he taught me was the Tswana language. After three months by his side I was almost fluent - a status I had not remotely reached in my two years to that point in the capital city. I spoke with his northern dialect: 'f's pronounced as 'h's, 'tl's with a silent 'l'. This marked me as a man of the Okavango, the Ngami, for the rest of my days among the Tswana people. Later my wife of the southern Tswana, and her family, would tease me constantly about this northern country-bumpkin accent. But what did I care? It sounded good to me and I was proud enough simply to be rattling away in SeTwana, however rustic it might sound, and to know more or less what others were rattling. In reciprocation, I helped Chabi with his English, when he was in the mood for it.

The second thing he taught was how to shoot guinea-fowl. He did this mainly by intimidation. Since he was putting in all the hours of driving - not only did I have no licence, but he was the designated official (although I did break the central transport rules more than once when his arthritis was playing up) - and it was me who had better take care of the supper. He would slow the truck to a crawl and I would open the window as we came across a gaggle of birds on the left hand side, gesture for me to pick up his shotgun and cue me... 'ema.... ema.... jaaanu! '. And if I aimed for the centre of the crowd, and kept the gun fairly straight, we would be sure to get a couple of birds for the pot. These we would take to the local primary school and have any available hungry teachers take care of the cooking and share in the meal. This required some concentration to avoid biting down on buckshot.

But the best times we had were on the road to Shakawe. He was delighted, first of all, when I nicknamed the village at the end of the Delta, at the remote northern border, as 'Shake-a-way'. He found this unnecessarily hilarious and I backed it up with a cassette recording of the South African multi-racial band Juluka's song, 'Shake My Way'. In fact we played very little but the first few Juluka albums on my portable cassette player during those trips.

We loaded up the back of the truck with the necessary items: my metal trunk, bought from the Mazezuru (the impoverished itinerant white-clothed Jehova's Witnesses expelled from Rhodesia-Zimbabwe - as it was at the time of my purchase, temporarily - who lived by tinsmithery, also beating out conical tin tops for rondavels) , and filled with a few changes of clothes, a couple of books and plenty of 'tinned stuff', cheap imported meals such as chicken biriyani. On top of the trunk went Chabi's battered suitcase. And then the two most essential items, side by side: a barrel of drinking water, a barrel of fuel. And a prayer that the last of these should not leak or spill over anything else, along those bumpy roads.

If it was winter, it was plain sailing. The dirt roads were dry and firm and we could make it to Shakawe in a day. We would circumnavigate most of the villages along the way:

.... Sehitwa, within sight of the vanishing lake if it had not vanished, Sehitwa where an Irishman started a little fishing industry singlehanded, selling frozen bream fillets all the way down to Johannesburg, supplying my monthly 'Fishko' party... until the Lake dried up...

... Nokaneng, meaning 'by the river', but it was a river that had long disappeared with the gradual drying of the swamps that fed it;

... Tsau, a camp for road building, which had created about 20 kilometres of Norwegian-funded tarmacadam in about five years, supposedly an experiment in desert blacktop that in fact linked nothing to nothing;

.... Gomare, the district's secondary centre, with its massive 'community' school, of which I was a board member, where the board had spent years painstakingly rounding up a few cattle and bags of sorghum to finance the first classroom. These efforts had been completely bypassed by the arrival of the World Bank with nearly a million dollars, more of which appeared to be spent on highly artistic walkways than on the new classrooms;

... Etsha, a new village settled by several thousand long-term refugees from the Angolan civil war who turned out to be impressive growers of grain, unique basket designers and weavers and secret brewers of palm beer (to search for which, Chabi would occasionally take us by alternative backroads) , by a handful of Danish medical students, and by one Welshman with scores of cats who marketed the baskets to tourists and the national museum;

... Sepopa... oh, what to say about Sepopa, a village like any small and remote African village;

... and then finally, Shakawe, a busy trading post hard up by the Angolan border, with a local culture, chiefdom and opposition political party all its own.

The trip was easy between dawn and dusk, in the cold dry season. In the summertime, however, a different question entirely. With the road camp at Tsau concentrating on its lonely piece of blacktop in the middle of nowhere, the rains and the traffic - such as they were, and they were always sufficient for this at least - churned up the rest of the district roads unmercifully. There were patches of known notoriety where we were almost sure to get stuck, and no way, due to thick bush linings along the track, to avoid them. Chabi, fortunately, was a past master at laying wooden planks under the wheels and using the 4-wheel drive to get us out...eventually. The journey took two days. The floors of classrooms in Gomare, Etsha or Sepopa became our beds.

The journey took us along the outer rim of the river channels that flanked the vast inland swamp called Okavango. And it was at Shakawe that the settled population enjoyed a true and vivid view of the river, there at the ingress, the inflow which fed the intricate waterways of the swamp, the high-banked and spectacular panhandle. Shakawe perched above those fast-flowing, pure, clear waters, which over the years had slowly diminished in flow for reasons no-one seemed to fully understand. It was often the place where we started our weeklong series of Kgotla meetings, village assemblies chaired by the Chief, and addressed by the young English district officer on the subject of the latest local government plans for the area, speaking a nervous mixture of Setswana and English (Chabi or a local agricultural officer providing translation) . This was normally followed by several hours of grandstand speeches by the assembled males, rising one by one from their wood-and-leather chairs to comment on what they thought I had proposed. The meeting - perfect for total-immersion SeTswana training for the young DO - were finished off, sometimes, by an invitation from the Chief to the women, sitting on the outer margins of the throng, often with babies, to speak their minds at last.

Through many such assemblies, the oddity of my presence was remarked upon only once, by a slightly intoxicated monnamogolo (respected old man) , who approached the table at which the Chief and I sat, and called out loudly, I never thought I would see the little lady (being Queen Elizabeth, or her representative) at this Kgotla once again!

Once at Shakawe, there were three options for continuing our journey. To work our way back down the side of the Okavango, holding meetings in two villages each day, taking about a week to return to the district office and our homes in Maun. Or to head off west to visit the few remote villages - Shai-Shai, Nau-Nau, Kangwa - founded by Herero cattleowners, their wives clad in massive layers of German-inspired skirts, and their San (Bushman) herders, near the Namibian border, across which lay a land still heavily occupied by the apartheid army. Or, the most magical and exciting option of all, to drive onto the little ferry ('pontoon') and cross to the remote eastern bank of the panhandle, and drive down to the three villages that lay there, on roads that barely deserved the name. Only one trading store with the most basic items could be found in that territory, and no supplies of fuel at all. Once a month, a Baptist dentist arrived in his light plane to preach to the people, distribute Bibles, and then, only then, extract teeth. If you were stranded, and spoke politely, he might stand you a lift back home.

Snakes became caught under our wheels sometimes. Ostriches would run alongside, trying to outpace us, then following the trail in front of us. And once an elephant suddenly stepped onto the trail from its hiding place behind a tree. Chabi brought us to a massive sudden halt, and we waited, waited silently.. until the creature went on its way.

In three years, he had only one accident, and that was on the tarmac on the way back from the trip to the capital. It was dark, approaching Francistown.. and a cow had gone to sleep on one side of the road. It was a minor collision, but the government censured him anyway, after much argumentation.

When we camped in the villages at night his radio took over from my cassette player. First the Botswana news. Then the solemn reading out of those who had passed away. Followed by church music. Just right to lull us both to sleep.

Perhaps the last thing Chabi tried to teach me concerned the wizards of the forest. When, during the long hours of travelling, he would start to talk as in an obsessive trance about the 'baloi', the spirits, he would gradually enter the world of 'deep Setswana', and his meanings became lost to me. The guttural sounds of the language would become a backdropp to the noise of the engine. My lack of ability to follow him into the tales of the wizards always seemed a disappointment to him, but he never gave up completely.

Mainly, while on the road together, he and I talked like father and son, cooked and ate together, and often slept alongside each other. When back in town, however, we did not socialize. We became formal in our work environment, 'district officer' and 'driver'. Chabi never came to hear me entertain the office crowd from the District Council with my guitar on Friday nights at Le Bistro cafe on the banks of the Thamalakane river. He never invited me to meet his family or to see his home. Which is what make it all the more surprising when he turned up at my place, during my last days in Maun, with that hardy three-year-old chicken. The first thing he did was invite me to wring its neck. And not for the first time with him, I ducked this challenge.

Zimbabwe was already free and its freedom would continue for a while. The wars of Angola raged on, fueled from distant lands, while the occupation of Namibia intensified. My place at Chabi's side was taken by a young Motswana graduate, and doubtless later by another. And then, as if by a miracle, generated by the pressure of resistance in the heart of South Africa, the dark clouds began to lift across the region, and the peace that lay at the heart of Botswana began to spread to all its troubled neighbours.

Several years later, flying on the airline of newly-independent Namibia towards Zimbabwe, we landed for a few minutes in Maun to take on passengers. The village of 15,000 with its little strip of road had now turned into a lively tourist centre. I greeted the people working in the airport shed (which proudly housed an immigration and customs desk) and asked for news of Chabi Maenga. His name was well known. He had passed away a year or two before.... just as he neared his 60th birthday. How sad I felt. This man had kept me alive and safe, through many long journeys.

Juluka sing their songs of the search for the Spirit of the Great Heart. And there was Chabi of the Okavango.

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All The Lonely Years / All The Dreams

All the lonely years-
All the dreams-
And now in my old age
At last
A grandchild.

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How do I die the unnatural death!

Love me or hate me
I will always be in your mind
Tormenting!

If you want to escape
Never give me a look
Hot or cool!

Hit me or hate me
I will always be in your mind
Haunting!

Just give me the indifference!
How does it strangulate my breath?
And see in your own eyes the difference
How do I die the unnatural death!

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How Sad That Even The Best Of Us Die

How sad that even the best of us die-
That even those who do and give the most
Leave our world forever-

How sad that those of such Greatness and Goodness
Such Beauty and Wisdom
Must go.

We of such great imperfection and failure
Can perhaps understand why we should not remain

But those who are great and good
They are another question.

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How Dear to Me the Hour

How dear to me the hour when daylight dies,
And sunbeams melt along the silent sea,
For then sweet dreams of other days arise,
And memory breathes her vesper sigh to thee.

And, as I watch the line of light, that plays
Along the smooth wave toward the burning west,
I long to tread that golden path of rays,
And think 'twould lead to some bright isle of rest.

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How thick the veil this night – this summer night

How thick the veil this night – this summer night
The long thick veil of Night!
How wander we
Down steps and down
The eerie city streets – at night all desolate
And our paces echo and re-bound
Into the shrine of sacred silence
Into the night of dark they fade
And fade.

And as
We go down
And by the sea
We saw the moon
The languid moon
Leap in to sea!

What suicide!

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How Can Poetry Heal The Sick?

HOW CAN POETRY HEAL THE SICK?

How can Poetry heal the sick?
When the sick can no longer speak
The Poetry within them?
How can Poetry heal
Those who can no longer hear it?
How can Poetry be anything
When the suffering person
Barely has a mind anymore?

God has given us Poetry
A Great Blessing -
But like all God has given us
At certain times
It simply is not good enough.

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The Typhoon Last Night

the typhoon last night
was devastating
it was strong and prolonged
the roof almost gave way
the windows about to be flown away
the floors shook
and the walls about to break
we hug for comfort
we prayed together
and curled together
we intertwined like vines
on the tree

that morning after
i am thinking about our intimacy
tested by storm and darkness

and i say to myself, perhaps i need
another storm for proof
i still could not believe how we made it

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How Good Will Be The Move

Getting out!
To get back into what?
And how big will be the next box...
To pout about in.
As you try to figure out,
Why you are feeling restricted.
Without acknowledging,
You did this to yourself.

Getting out!
To go where and why?
Will a meeting with more comfort,
Satisfy the removal of unneeded despair?
And to who's benefit,
Will the discovery of going nowhere provide?

When a getting out has been accomplished,
How good will be the move?
And to who is this going to be proven?
If...
You are the only one to travel,
With the company of uncertainty.

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Only A Few May Know How To Turn On The Lights

How can someone be responsible,
For creating new concepts...
And beginning fresh trends.
Without one word mentioned,
Giving credit to them.

How could entire industries exist.
Or unities of communities thrive successfully...
With good intentions.
If people who initiate these foundations,
Aren't given some attention!

'You know what is said about stolen ideas? '

~No.
No I don't.~

'Anyone can steal an idea.
But a valued thought process...
Is obvious in its progress.

Anyone can build a building.
But only a few may know how to turn on the lights!
And keep them on.'

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In Memoriam A. H. H.: 44. How fares it with the happy dead?

How fares it with the happy dead?
For here the man is more and more;
But he forgets the days before
God shut the doorways of his head.
The days have vanish'd, tone and tint,
And yet perhaps the hoarding sense
Gives out at times (he knows not whence)
A little flash, a mystic hint;
And in the long harmonious years
(If Death so taste Lethean springs),
May some dim touch of earthly things
Surprise thee ranging with thy peers.

If such a dreamy touch should fall,
O turn thee round, resolve the doubt;
My guardian angel will speak out
In that high place, and tell thee all.

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How Can I Exchange The Peace?

How can I exchange the peace
That feel I under these pines?
How can I
A more welcome coolness this coming September feel?

Below, below
The country falls
The country falls to a vale still green
From all the drunken dews of Spring
Though vicious summer heat preserved.

Below the peasant sings
A song that to my ear comes
In distant syllables
Audible yet unrecognizable:

And here and there
A thin smoke pencil-like
Arises from the cottages
Sparkled in few among the green:
Therefore how can I
Exchange the peace under the pines
Or a more welcome coolness feel
This approaching September?

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John Keats

Sonnet IV. How Many Bards Gild The Lapses Of Time!

How many bards gild the lapses of time!
A few of them have ever been the food
Of my delighted fancy,—I could brood
Over their beauties, earthly, or sublime:
And often, when I sit me down to rhyme,
These will in throngs before my mind intrude:
But no confusion, no disturbance rude
Do they occasion; 'tis a pleasing chime.
So the unnumbered sounds that evening store;
The songs of birds—the whispering of the leaves—
The voice of waters—the great bell that heaves
With solemn sound,—and thousand others more,
That distance of recognizance bereaves,
Makes pleasing music, and not wild uproar.

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John Milton

Sonnet VII: How soon hath Time, the Subtle Thief of Youth

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth
That I to manhood am arriv'd so near;
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
Yet it be less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n:
All is, if I have grace to use it so
As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

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John Keats

How Many Bards Gild The Lapses Of Time!

How many bards gild the lapses of time!
A few of them have ever been the food
Of my delighted fancy,—I could brood
Over their beauties, earthly, or sublime:
And often, when I sit me down to rhyme,
These will in throngs before my mind intrude:
But no confusion, no disturbance rude
Do they occasion; 'tis a pleasing chime.
So the unnumbered sounds that evening store;
The songs of birds—the whispering of the leaves—
The voice of waters—the great bell that heaves
With solemn sound,—and thousand others more,
That distance of recognizance bereaves,
Makes pleasing music, and not wild uproar.

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How happily you do the acting!

You are happy in this world
How happily you do the acting!
Happiness is a big fling!
How hard you try to conceal!
The real truth, your eyes reveal.

How hard you try to conceal!
How hard you try to do the acting!
No one loves any one
We love ourselves the most and crave for it
Rest is for the lust and for the benefit.

How hard you try to conceal the beast
No matter how, you are, small or big!
This is a real lip service
No one loves progress and peace.

How deep is the colour of your face- paint!
How hard you try to become a saint!
Whatever camouflage you adopt to conceal
The real intention, the acts of you reveal.

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