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Best of Carol Anne Duffy's poems

Updated on June 2, 2012

Some Good poems by Carol Ann Duffy

I first read Duffy in High School, it was Salome and I have always remembered it since. I recenlty bought her book Rapture, which is probably one of the best poetry books I have ever read. I like modern poems, one's that you can understand and I thought Duffy's poems were just amazing. She has brought the love poem back.


Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

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.


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.


Its scent will cling to your fingers,

cling to your knife.

Carol Ann Duffy on Amazon

Mrs Lazarus

I had grieved. I had wept for a night and a day

over my loss, ripped the cloth I was married in

from my breasts, howled, shrieked, clawed

at the burial stones until my hands bled, retched

his name over and over again, dead, dead.

Gone home. Gutted the place. Slept in a single cot,

widow, one empty glove, white femur

in the dust, half. Stuffed dark suits

into black bags, shuffled in a dead man's shoes,

noosed the double knot of a tie around my bare neck,

gaunt nun in the mirror, touching herself. I learnt

the Stations of Bereavement, the icon of my face

in each bleak frame; but all those months

he was going away from me, dwindling

to the shrunk size of a snapshot, going,

going. Till his name was no longer a certain spell

for his face. The last hair on his head

floated out from a book. His scent went from the house.

The will was read. See, he was vanishing

to the small zero held by the gold of my ring.

Then he was gone. Then he was legend, language;

my arm on the arm of the schoolteacher-the shock

of a man's strength under the sleeve of his coat-

along the hedgerows. But I was faithful

for as long as it took. Until he was memory.

So I could stand that evening in the field

in a shawl of fine air, healed, able

to watch the edge of the moon occur to the sky

and a hare thump from a hedge; then notice

the village men running towards me, shouting,

behind them the women and children, barking dogs,

and I knew. I knew by the sly light

on the blacksmith's face, the shrill eyes

of the barmaid, the sudden hands bearing me

into the hot tang of the crowd parting before me.

He lived. I saw the horror on his face.

I heard his mother's crazy song. I breathed

his stench; my bridegroom in his rotting shroud,

moist and dishevelled from the grave's slack chew,

croaking his cuckold name, disinherited, out of his time.

Carol Ann Duffy


Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour,

bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich.

We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers

or wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.

For thousands of seconds we kiss; your hair

like treasure on the ground; the Midas light

turning your limbs to gold. Time slows, for here

we are millonaires, backhanding the night

so nothing dark will end our shining hour,

no jewel hold a candle to the cuckoo spit

hung from the blade of grass at your ear,

no chandelier or spotlight see you better lit

than here. Now. Time hates love, wants love poor,

but love spins gold, gold, gold from straw.


Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head.

so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name,

like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables

like a charm, like a spell.

Falling in love

is glamorous hell: the crouched, parched heart

like a tiger, ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin.

into my life, larger than life, you strolled in.

I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine,

in my camouflage rooms. You sprawled in my gaze,

staring back from anyone’s face, from the shape of a cloud,

from the pining, earth-struck moon which gapes at me

as I open the bedroom door. The curtains stir. There you are

on the bed, like gift, like a touchable dream.



I tend the mobile now

like an injured bird

We text, text, text

our significant words.

I re-read your first,

your second, your third,

look for your small xx,

feeling absurd.

The codes we send

arrive with a broken chord.

I try to picture your hands,

their image is blurred.

Nothing my thumbs press

will ever be heard.

Carol Ann Duffy, from Rapture


It's always good when women win things in fiction because it tends to be more male-dominated, unlike poetry, which is more equal.

Carol Ann Duffy

Salome by Carol Ann Duffy

I'd done it before

(and doubtless I'll do it again,

sooner or later)

woke up with a head on the pillow beside me - whose? -

what did it matter?

Good-looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;

the reddish beard several shades lighter;

with very deep lines round the eyes,

from pain, I'd guess, maybe laughter;

and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew

how to flatter . . .

which I kissed . . .

Colder than pewter.

Strange. What was his name? Peter?

Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I'd feel better

for tea, dry toast, no butter,

so rang for the maid.

And, indeed, her innocent clatter

of cups and plates,

her clearing of clutter,

her regional patter,

were just what I needed -

hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.

Never again!

I needed to clean up my act,

get fitter.

Cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.

Yes. And as for the latter,

it was time to turf out the blighter,

the beater or biter,

who'd come like a lamb to the slaughter

to Salome's bed.

In the mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.

I flung back the sticky red sheets,

and there, like I said - and ain't life a bitch -

was his head on a platter.

Anne Hathaway

'Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed ...'

(from Shakespeare's will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world

of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas

where we would dive for pearls. My lover's words

were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses

on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme

to his, now echo, assonance; his touch

a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.

Some nights, I dreamed he'd written me, the bed

a page beneath his writer's hands. Romance

and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.

In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,

dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -

I hold him in the casket of my widow's head

as he held me upon that next best bed.

Carol Ann Duffy

I write quite a lot of sonnets, and I think of them almost as prayers: short and memorable, something you can recite.

Elvis twin sister

In the convent, y'all,

I tend the gardens,

watch things grow,

pray for the immortal soul

of rock 'n' roll.

They call me

Sister Presley here,

The Reverend Mother

digs the way I move my hips

just like my brother.

Gregorian chant

drifts out across the herbs

Pascha nostrum immolatus est...

I wear a simple habit,

darkish hues,

a wimple with a novice-sewn

lace band, a rosary,

a chain of keys,

a pair of good and sturdy

blue suede shoes.

I think of it

as Graceland here,

a land of grace.

It puts my trademark slow lopsided smile

back on my face.


I'm alive and well.

Long time since I walked

down Lonely Street

towards Heartbreak Hotel

We remember your childhood well

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.

Your questions were answered fully. No. That didn’t occur.

You couldn’t sing anyway, cared less. The moment’s a blur, a Film Fun

laughing itself to death in the coal fire. Anyone’s guess.

Nobody forced you. You wanted to go that day. Begged. You chose

the dress. Here are the pictures, look at you. Look at us all,

smiling and waving, younger. The whole thing is inside your head.

What you recall are impressions; we have the facts. We called the tune.

The secret police of your childhood were older and wiser than you, bigger

than you. Call back the sound of their voices. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Nobody sent you away. That was an extra holiday, with people

you seemed to like. They were firm, there was nothing to fear.

There was none but yourself to blame if it ended in tears.

What does it matter now? No, no, nobody left the skidmarks of sin

on your soul and laid you wide open for Hell. You were loved.

Always. We did what was best. We remember your childhood well.


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    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      Great stuff!!