Poems by Ted Hughes
Crow and Mama
When Crow cried his mother's ear
Scorched to a stump.
When he laughed she wept
Blood her breasts her palms her brow all wept blood.
He tried a step, then a step, and again a step -
Every one scarred her face for ever.
When he burst out in rage
She fell back with an awful gash and a fearful cry.
When he stopped she closed on him like a book
On a bookmark, he had to get going.
He jumped into the car the towrope
Was around her neck he jumped out.
He jumped into the plane but her body was jammed in the jet -
There was a great row, the flight was cancelled.
He jumped into the rocket and its trajectory
Drilled clean through her heart he kept on
And it was cosy in the rocket, he could not see much
But he peered out through the portholes at Creation
And saw the stars millions of miles away
And saw the future and the universe
Opening and opening
And kept on and slept and at last
Crashed on the moon awoke and crawled out
Under his mother's buttocks.
Crow Blacker than ever
When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven.
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.
But Crow . . Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing Heaven and earth together -
So man cried, but with God's voice.
And God bled, but with man's blood.
Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank -
A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.
Man could not be man nor God God.
Crying: 'This is my Creation,'
Flying the black flag of himself.
Crow and the Sea
He tried ignoring the sea
But it was bigger than death, just as it was bigger than life.
He tried talking to the sea
But his brain shuttered and his eyes winced from it as from open flame.
He tried sympathy for the sea
But it shouldered him off - as a dead thing shoulders you off.
He tried hating the sea
But instantly felt like a scrutty dry rabbit-dropping on the windy cliff.
He tried just being in the same world as the sea
But his lungs were not deep enough
And his cheery blood banged off it
Like a water-drop off a hot stove.
He turned his back and he marched away from the sea
As a crucified man cannot move.
The Harvest Moon
The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.
So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!
And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.
Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.
Crow Goes Hunting
Decided to try words.
He imagined some words for the job, a lovely pack-
Clear-eyed, resounding, well-trained,
With strong teeth.
You could not find a better bred lot.
He pointed out the hare and away went the words
Crow was Crow without fail, but what is a hare?
It converted itself to a concrete bunker.
The words circled protesting, resounding.
Crow turned the words into bombs-they blasted the bunker.
The bits of bunker flew up-a flock of starlings.
Crow turned the words into shotguns, they shot down the starlings.
The falling starlings turned to a cloudburst.
Crow turned the words into a reservoir, collecting the water.
The water turned into an earthquake, swallowing the reservoir.
The earthquake turned into a hare and leaped for the hill
Having eaten Crow's words.
Crow gazed after the bounding hare
Speechless with admiration.
Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.
And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.
But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?
And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?
Crow realized there were two Gods-
One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.
So on the seventh day
The serpent rested,
God came up to him.
"I've invented a new game," he said.
The serpent stared in surprise
At this interloper.
But God said: "You see this apple?"
I squeeze it and look-cider."
The serpent had a good drink
And curled up into a question mark.
Adam drank and said: "Be my god."
Eve drank and opened her legs
And called to the cockeyed serpent
And gave him a wild time.
God ran and told Adam
Who in drunken rage tried to hang himself in the orchard.
The serpent tried to explain, crying "Stop"
But drink was splitting his syllable.
And Eve started screeching: "Rape! Rape!"
And stamping on his head.
Now whenever the snake appears she screeches
"Here it comes again! Help! O Help!"
Then Adam smashes a chair on his head,
And God says: "I am well pleased"
And everything goes to hell.
"Well," said Crow, "What first?"
God, exhausted with Creation, snored.
"Which way?" said Crow, "Which way first?"
God's shoulder was the mountain on which Crow sat.
"Come," said Crow, "Let's discuss the situation."
God lay, agape, a great carcass.
Crow tore off a mouthful and swallowed.
"Will this cipher divulge itself to digestion
Under hearing beyond understanding?"
(That was the first jest.)
Yet, it's true, he suddenly felt much stronger.
Crow, the hierophant, humped, impenetrable.
When Crow was white he decided the sun was too white.
He decided it glared much too whitely.
He decided to attack it and defeat it.
He got his strength flush and in full glitter.
He clawed and fluffed his rage up.
He aimed his beak direct at the sun's centre.
He laughed himself to the centre of himself
At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,
But the sun brightened-
It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.
He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black.
"Up there," he managed,
"Where white is black and black is white, I won."
His illness was something could not vomit him up.
Unwinding the world like a ball of wool
Found the last end tied round his own finger.
Decided to get death, but whatever
Walked into his ambush
Was always his own body.
Where is this somebody who has me under?
He dived, he journeyed, challenging, he climbed and with a glare
Of hair on end finally met fear.
His eyes sealed up with shock, refusing to see.
With all his strength he struck. He felt the blow.
Horrified, he fell.
I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.
The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.
My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot
Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads -
The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:
The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.