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Lay for the Day
13th November

1916: the Allies abandon the offensive known as the First Battle of the Somme, which began on 1st July Altogether, more than a million men had been killed or wounded. The Allied line had advanced five miles.
1971: Mariner 9 enters an orbit around Mars, the first vessel from Earth to orbit another planet.
1982: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington is dedicated. The monument, in the form of a wall of black granite, records the names of 57,692 men and women of the US services killed in the war, which also cost the lives of an estimated three to four million Vietnamese and upwards of one and a half million Lao and Cambodians, the vast majority of them civilians.

The Sea to Venus

The sea that carried her
Cries on the shore,
For that god married her
Who lives for war

And for no gorgeous limb
Can keep in bed
But must make the sun dim
As though it bled

And the poor earth tremble
As though afraid
When his troops assemble
To ply their trade.

Those waves whose shining spray,
Whose curving sides,
Whose everlasting sway,
Whose constant tides

Poured glory, force and grace
To round her form,
Those breasts and thighs, that face
That stills the storm,

And on a leaning breeze
Sent her to land
That our loves’ woes and ease
Be in her hand

As once the fruit in Eve’s
For which we fell;
That same sea groans and grieves
That on its swell

Forge fleets of conquerors,
Keel after keel
Whose wake is cankerous
And does not heal.

The waves break white and green
With ceaseless sound
Sent to the gentle queen
They ran aground:

“Deliver us from Mars,
No more a knight –
A baby’s body chars
For his delight;

No hero with a face
To face down death,
Even the peace of space
Chills to his breath.

Deliver us from Mars,
Queen of delight,
Whose arms would blot the stars.
Hold him tonight

And fold him in your rose
Where courage learns
The greater hearts are those
Where great love burns.”

John Gibbens
from The Promise


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

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