Friday, September 9, 2016

Waking Up
by Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Alastair Reid)

Daylight leaks in, and sluggishly I surface
from my own dreams into the common dream
and things assume again their proper places
and their accustomed shapes.  Into this present
the Past intrudes, in all its dizzying range--
the centuries-old habits of migration
in birds and men, the armies in their legions
all fallen to the sword, and Rome and Carthage.

The trappings of my day also come back:
my voice, my face, my nervousness, my luck.
If only Death, that other waking-up,
would grant me a time free of all memory
of my own name and all that I have been!
If only morning meant oblivion!


El despertar
Jorge Luis Borges

Entra la luz y asciendo torpemente
de los sueños al sueño compartido
y las cosas recobran su debido
y esperado lugar y en el presente
converge abrumador y vasto el vago
ayer: las seculares migraciones
del pájaro y del hombre, las legiones
que el hierro destruyó: Roma y Cartago.
Vuelve también mi cotidiana historia:
mi voz, mi rostro, mi temor, mi suerte.
¡Ah, si aquel otro despertar la muerte
me deparara un tiempo sin memoria
de mi nombre y de todo lo que he sido!
¡Ah, si en esa mañana hubiera olvido!

Friday, July 22, 2016

THE CAT
Guillaume Apollinaire

In my house I want:
A reasonable woman,
A cat passing among the books,
And friends in every season,
Whom I cannot live without.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

"nowhere"
by Charles Bukowski

well, where are they?
the Hemingways, the T.S. Eliots, the Pounds, the
e.e. cummingses, the Jefferses, the William Carlos
Williamses?
where is Thomas Wolfe?  William
Saroyan?  Henry
Miller, Celine, Fante, Dos
Passos?
where are
they?  dead, I know
but where are the re-
placements, where are the new
others?

to me, the present gang is a bunch of
soft
fakes.

where is Carson McCullers?

where is one?
where are
any?  where are
they?

what has occurred, what has failed to
occur?

where is our Turgenev?  our
Gorky?

I don't ask for
Dostoevski, there's no replacement
for
Feodor Mikhailovich.

but
these now, what are
they:  making their tiny
splashes, what
practiced ineptness, what
boredom of
language, what a
crass bastardly trick
against print
against pages
against inhaling and
exhaling

there is
this loss of a natural and
beautiful force.

I look around and
I look
and
I say:  where are the
writers?

Friday, March 18, 2016

"I have given up..."
by Saigyō Hōshi (translated by Stephen D Carter)

I have given up
   all hope of having visitors
     in my mountain home.
If not for solitude,
how dismal my life would be!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HE LIVED SO LITTLE
by Nikolai Morshen (translated by Bradley Jordan)

He lived so little: only forty years.
In words like these there’s not an ounce of truth.
He saw two wars, a coup d'état,
six governments, three famines,
four leaders, two true loves.
In terms of years – that makes about 500.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

SONGS OF DEPRESSION
by Yang Wan-li (translated by Jonathan Chaves)

1.
I don't feel like reading another book,
and I'm tired of poetry--that's not what I want to do.
But my mind is restless, unsettled--
I'll try counting raindrop stains on the oilcloth window.

2.
I finish chanting my new poems and fall asleep--
I am a butterfly journeying to the eight corners of the uiverse.
Outside the boat, waves crash like thunder,
but it is silent in the world of sleep.

Friday, December 4, 2015

"I'm wealthy..."
by Bashō

I'm wealthy--
going into the new year
with 20 pounds of old rice

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS
by C.P. Cavafy (translated by Keeley & Sherrard)


What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

      The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

      Because the barbarians are coming today.
      What’s the point of senators making laws now?
      Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
      He’s even got a scroll to give him,
      loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

      Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
      And some of our men just in from the border say
      there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

ICELAND POPPIES
by Ruth Dallas

You ask me
     What I am saying
     In my poems.
What am I saying?
     That everything
     is falling from us,
     We, too, are falling;

And so this day, this
     Hour, with the sun shining
     in its customary fashion
     And the wind blowing the trees,
     You and I,
     Sitting behind windows
     Discussing poems,
This moment, every moment, falls,
     Is falling.

More precious
Than any fiery diamond
Is the flowering human heart,
     Opening like a poppyhead
     And like a poppy falling.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Night. A streetlight, a drugstore,
A street. A vacuous shadowy light.
Live five, ten, fifteen years more --
Nothing will change.  There's no way out.

Die, you only start all over
And it's all the same as before:
Night, ice in the dark gutter,
The street, the street light, the store.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Every Day
by Ingeborg Bachmann

War is no longer declared,
merely perpetuated. The outrageous
has become commonplace. The hero
stays far from battle. The weakling
is transferred to the firing zone.
Patience is the uniform of the day,
the order of merit a wretched star
of hope stuck to the heart.

It will be awarded
when the action has ceased,
when the drumfire dies down,
when the enemy has receded from view
and the shadow of eternal amazement 
enshrouds the sky.

It will be awarded 
for deserting the flags,
for bravery in the face of a friend,
for the betrayal of ignoble secrets
and the disregard of every command.

Monday, July 13, 2015

KEEPING QUIET
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

from HYMNS IN DARKNESS
by Nissim Ezekiel

I met a man once
who had wasted half his life,

partly in exile from himself,
partly in a prison of his own making.

An energetic man, an active man.
I liked his spirit
and saw no hope for him.

Yet, he had the common touch;
he could, for instance, work with his hands.

To others, all attentive.
To his own needs, indifferent.

A tireless social human being,
destined always
to know defeat
like a twin-brother.

I saw him cheerful
in the universal darkness
as I stood grimly
in my little light.
IF HOT FLOWERS COME TO THE STREET
by R. Meenakshi (translated by Martha Ann Selby)

Red cassia flowers
are a forest fire,
or so they say.
It's an April event
called a summer fire.
Anarchy in green.
An explosion of buds.
Fire in the snow.

On the head of Lord Shiva
of the snow mountains
there are red matted locks,
          gleaming cassia flowers,
          and the Ganga.

In his red hand,
          fire,
          a small drum,
          a deer.

And the snake at his throat.
That snake
won't strike the deer.
The fire in his hand
won't burn the Ganga.

But in our street
even flies
will swarm to hot flowers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TWO POEMS AFTER READING THE POEMS OF MASTER HAN SHAN
by Wang Chiu-ssu (1461-1551) (translated by Jonathan Chaves)

1.
This crazy man has escaped the world,
with his messy hair and bare feet!
His body sleeps among the clouds of Cold Mountain,
his mind is like the moon in an autumn pond!
He enjoys the company of the monk Feng-kan;
sometimes he visits the Cowrie Palace.
He looks up to heaven, and laughs out loud:
an ocean bird crying in the cool shade!
Flourishing his brush, he inscribes mountainsides:
dragons and snakes writhe in the lofty heights!
Handed down for thousands of years,
his fame will never die out.

2.
Floating, floating, the river waters,
naturally forming patterns in the wind,
Beautiful, the jade of Ching Mountain:
carve it, cut it, and it loses its true nature.
Men of talent, striving for fame,
write too much poetry, and damage their souls!
They are like the parrot:
he is able to talk, but he just is not a man!
Where can we find a real recluse
who locks his door to keep out all the dust?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

I have stolen a man
but never a thing of value
I roll up the bamboo blind

-- Suzuki Masajo
a great big cat
flooped out asleep
on a round paper fan

-- Issa

Monday, January 26, 2015

"now the trip is over..."
by Mayuzumi Madoka

now the trip is over --
my summer holidays
start their B-side

Monday, January 12, 2015

In Praise Of Feeling Bad About Yourself
by Wislawa Szymborska

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Things
by Jorge Luis Borges

The fallen volume, hidden by others
from sight in the recesses of the bookshelves,
and which the days and nights muffle over
with slow and noiseless dust.  Also, the anchor
of Sidon, which the seas surrounding England
press down into its blind and soft abyss.
The mirror which shows nobody's reflection
after the house has long been left alone.
Fingernail filings which we leave behind
across the long expanse of time and space.
The indecipherable dust, once Shakespeare.
The changing figurations of a cloud.
The momentary but symmetric rose
which once, by chance, took substance in the shrouded
mirrors of a boy's kaleidoscope.
The oars of Argus, the original ship.
The sandy footprints which the fatal wave
as though asleep erases from the beach.
The colors of a Turner when the lights
are turned out in the narrow gallery
and not a footstep sounds in the deep night.
The other side of the dreary map of the world.
The tenuous spiderweb in the pyramid.
The sightless stone and the inquiring hand.
The dream I had in the approaching dawn
and later lost in the clearing of the day.
The ending and beginning of the epic
of Finsburh, today a few sparse verses
of iron, unwasted by the centuries.
The mirrored letter on the blotting paper.
The turtle in the bottom of the cistern.
And that which cannot be.  The other horn
of the unicorn.  The Being, Three in One.
The triangular disc.  The imperceptible moment
in which the Eleatic arrow,
motionless in the air, reaches the mark.
The violet pressed between the leaves of Becquer.
The pendulum which time has stayed in place.
The weapon Odin buried in the tree.
The volume with its pages still unslit.
The echo of the hoofbeats at the charge
of Junin, which in some enduring mode
never has ceased, is part of the webbed scheme.
The shadow of Sarmiento on the sidewalks.
The voice heard by the shepherd on the mountain.
The skeleton bleaching white in the desert.
the bullet which shot dead Francisco Borges.
The other side of the tapestry.  The things
which no one sees, except for Berkeley's God.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Empire Of Dreams
by Charles Simic

On the first page of my dreambook
It’s always evening
In an occupied country.
Hour before the curfew.
A small provincial city.
The houses all dark.
The store-fronts gutted.

I am on a street corner
Where I shouldn’t be.
Alone and coatless
I have gone out to look
For a black dog who answers to my whistle.
I have a kind of halloween mask
Which I am afraid to put on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Counting the Mad
by Donald Justice

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Acquainted with the Night
by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Story
by Czeslaw Milosz

Now I will tell Meader's story; I have a moral in view.
He was pestered by a grizzly so bold and malicious
That he used to snatch caribou meat from the eaves of the cabin.
Not only that.  He ignored men and was unafraid of fire.
One night he started battering the door
And broke the window with his paw, so they curled up
With their shotguns beside them, and waited for the dawn.
He came back in the evening, and Meader shot him at close range,
Under the left shoulder blade.  Then it was jump and run,
A real storm of a run:  a grizzly, Meader says,
Even when he's been hit in the heart, will keep running
Until he falls down.  Later, Meader found him
By following the trail -- and then he understood
What lay behind the bear's odd behavior:
Half of the beast's jaw was eaten away by an abscess, and caries.
Toothache, for years.  An ache without comprehensible reason,
Which often drives us to senseless action
And gives us blind courage.  We have nothing to lose,
We come out of the forest, and not always with the hope
That we will be cured by some dentist from heaven.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Browning Resolves To Be A Poet
by Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Alastair Reid)

In these red London labyrinths
I find that I have chosen
the most curious of human professions,
though given that all are curious, in their way.
Like alchemists
who looked for the philosopher's stone
in elusive quicksilver,
I shall make ordinary words --
the marked cards of the sharper, the people's coinage --
yield up the magic which was theirs
when Thor was inspiration and eruption,
thunder and worship.
In the wording of the day,
I in my turn will say eternal things;
I will try to be not unworthy
of the great echo of Byron.
This dust that is me will be invulnerable.
If a woman partakes of my love,
my poem will graze the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens;
if a woman shrugs off my love,
I will make music out of my misery,
a vast river reverberating on through time.
I will live by forgetting myself.
I will be the face I half-see and forget,
I will be Judas who accepts
the blessed destiny of being a traitor,
I will be Caliban in the swamp,
I will be a mercenary dying
without fear or faith,
I will be Polycrates, horrified to see
the ring returned by destiny,
I will be the friend who hates me.
Persia will grant me the nightingale, Rome the sword.
Agonies, masks and resurrections
will weave and unweave my fate
and at some point I will be Robert Browning.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Are Many
by Pablo Neruda (translated by Alastair Reid)

Of the many men who I am, who we are,
I can't find a single one;
they disappear among my clothes,
they've left for another city.

When everything seems to be set
to show me off as intelligent,
the fool I always keep hidden
takes over all that I say.

At other times, I'm asleep
among distinguished people,
and when I look for my brave self,
a coward unknown to me
rushes to cover my skeleton
with a thousand fine excuses.

When a decent house catches fire,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and that's me.  What can I do?
What can I do to distinguish myself?
How can I pull myself together?

All the books I read
are full of dazzling heroes,
always sure of themselves.
I die with envy of them;
and in films full of wind and bullets,
I goggle at the cowboys,
I even admire the horses.

But when I call for a hero,
out comes my lazy old self;
so I never know who I am,
nor how many I am or will be.
I'd love to be able to touch a bell
and summon the real me,
because if I really need myself,
I mustn't disappear.

While I am writing, I'm far away;
and when I come back, I've gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things that I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly;
and when I've exhausted this problem,
I'm going to study so hard
that when I explain myself,
I'll be talking geography.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Curriculum Vitae
by Blanca Varela (translated by Ilan Stavanas)

let's say you won the race
and the prize
was another race
you didn't savor the wine of victory
but your own salt
you never listened to hurrahs
but dog barks
and your shadow
your own shadow
was your only
and disloyal competitor

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Poem
by José Asunción Silva


I dreamed in those days of fashioning a poem
of nervous and novel art, daring and superior labor,

I chose between one matter, grotesque; another, tragic;
I called all rhythms with magic invocation

and the untamed rhythms came,
gathering in the shadows, running away and seeking each other,

echoing rhythms, vigor-filled rhythms, solemn rhythms,
some from the clash of weapons, others from the songs of birds,

from East to West, from South to North,
meters and forms came to royal court.

Hammering golden frames below the fragile reins
tercets crossed, like agile stallions;

breaking open a wide walkway, for among that herd,
garbed in gold and purple, the royal sonnet stepped in,

and all that sang there . . . Within the racket,
the spirit rapt me, with its flirting

one witty stanza goaded my longing
with its clear, chimed ringing,

And I picked it among the rest . . . As a wedding gift,
I gave it rich rhymes, of silver and crystal.

In it I sang a tale which, far from servile,
staged a tragic man, fantastic and subtle,

it was the sad story, disreputable and true,
of a beautiful woman, worshipped and departed,

and so my readers might feel the bitter-felt grief, I aimed
to join sweet syllables as with the taste of a kiss,

I embroidered expressions with gold, gave them eccentric music,
like mandolins accompanied by a lute,

I set a nebulous light in the deep distances
full of dampened mists and melancholies

and in the dark depths, as in a dreary festivity
agile masks cross paths, following the orchestra's compass,

wrapped in words obscure as veils,
and with black masks of satin and velvet

I joined in the background vague insinuations
of mystical sentiments and human temptations . . .

Pleased with my verse, with artist's pride,
I gave it the scent of heliotrope and the shade of amethyst . . .

I showed my poem to a marvelous critic . . .
and he read it six times and said, "I don't understand it."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

poetry readings - bukowski

poetry readings
by Charles Bukowski

poetry readings have to be some of the saddest
damned things ever,
the gathering of the clansmen and clansladies,
week after week, month after month, year
after year,
getting old together,
reading on to tiny gatherings,
still hoping their genius will be
discovered,
making tapes together, discs together,
sweating for applause
they read basically to and for
each other,
they can't find a New York publisher
or one
within miles,
but they read on and on
in the poetry holes of America,
never daunted,
never considering the possibility that
their talent might be
thin, almost invisible,
they read on and on
before their mothers, their sisters, their husbands,
their wives, their friends, and other poets
and the handful of idiots who have wandered
in
from nowhere.

I am ashamed for them,
I am ashamed that they have to bolster each other,
I am ashamed for their lisping egos,
their lack of guts.

if these are our creators,
please, please give me something else:

a drunken plumber at a bowling alley,
a prelim boy in a four rounder,
a jock guiding his horse through along the
rail,
a bartender on last call,
a waitress pouring me a coffee,
a drunk sleeping in a deserted doorway,
a dog munching a dry bone,
an elephant's fart in a circus tent,
a 6 p.m. freeway crush,
the mailman telling a dirty joke

anything
anything
but
these.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

the sailor - geof hewitt

The Sailor
by Geof Hewitt

In my movie the boat goes under
And he alone survives the night in the cold ocean,
Swimming he hopes in a shoreward direction.
Daylight and he's still afloat, pawing the water
And doesn't yet know he's only fifty feet from shore.
He goes under for what will be the last time
But only a few feet down scrapes bottom.
He's suddenly a changed man and half hops, half swims
The remaining distance, hauls himself waterlogged
Partway up the beach before collapsing into sleep.
As he dreams the tide comes in
And rolls him back to sea.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Library
by Roberto Bolano

Books I buy
Between the strange rains
And heat
Of 1992
Which I've already read
Or will never read
Books for my son to read
Lautaro's library
Which will need to resist
Other rains
And other scorching heats
-- Therefore, the edict is this:
Resist, my dear books,
Cross thy days like medieval knights
And care for my son
In the years to come
F.B. -- He dead
by Roberto Bolano

Francis Bacon
Learned to live
Alone
Learned to bear
The slowness
Of human dusk
Its unbearable stench
Learned
The art of patience
Similar in many ways
To the art of indifference
Francis Bacon learned
To live with hours
To live with shadows
Masks
Of some illegible
Freedom
"My gift to you will be an abyss, she said..."
by Roberto Bolano

My gift to you will be an abyss, she said,
but it will be so subtle you'll perceive it
only after many years have passed
and you are far from Mexico and me.
You'll find it when you need it most,
and that won't be
the happy ending,
but it will be an instant of emptiness and joy.
And maybe then you'll remember me,
if only just a little.
"Now you walk alone along the piers..."
by Roberto Bolano

Now you walk alone along the piers
of Barcelona.
You smoke a black cigarette and for
a moment think it would be nice
if it rained.
The gods haven't granted you money
but they've granted you strange whims
Look up:
it's raining.

your distant heart - roberto bolano

"Your Distant Heart"
by Roberto Bolano

I don't feel safe
Anywhere.
The adventure doesn't end.
Your eyes shine in every corner.
I don't feel safe
In words
Or in money
Or in mirrors.
The Adventure never ends
And your eyes are searching for me.

"it's nighttime and i'm in the zone alta - roberto bolano

"It's nighttime and I'm in the Zone Alta..."
by Roberto Bolano

It's nighttime and I'm in the Zone Alta
in Barcelona and I've drunk
more than three cafés con leche
with some people I don't
know beneath a moon that sometimes
seems so miserable and other times
so alone and maybe it's neither
one nor the other and I
haven't drunk coffee but cognac and cognac
and cognac in a glass restaurant
in the Zona Alta and the people I
thought I was with really
don't exist or are faces floating
at the table next to mine
where I'm alone and drunk
spending my money on one edge
of the unknown university.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

solitude - roberto bolano

Solitude
by Roberto Bolano

Does it amuse you that I write in third person?
Does it amuse you that I sometimes say in 100 years
we'll be completely alone?
I know nothing about you except you're my sister
In cold apartments by the barrio gótico
Sometimes listening to the rain
Or kissing
Or making faces in the mirror

"the nightmare..." - roberto bolano

"The nightmare begins over there, right there..."
by Roberto Bolano

The nightmare begins over there, right there.
Further, up, down, everything's part of the 
nightmare. Don't stick your hand in that urn. Don't
stick your hand in that hellish vase. That's 
where the nightmare begins and everything you do there
will grow like a hump on your back.
Stay away, don't hang around that equivocal point.
Even if you see the flowering lips of your true
love, even if you see some flowering eyelids
you wanted to forget or get back. Stay away.
Don't run circles around that mistake. Don't
lift a finger. Trust me. The only thing that grows there
is the nightmare.

"write of widows..." - roberto bolano

"Write of widows, the abandoned ones..."
by Roberto Bolano

Write of widows, the abandoned ones,
the elderly, the handicapped, the mad.
Behind the Great Wars and Great Businesses
that move the world--there they are.
Living day to day, borrowing money,
studying the little red stains
of our cities
   of our sports
      of our songs.

"in a thousand years nothing will be left..." - roberto bolano

"In a thousand years nothing will be left..." 
by Roberto Bolano

In a thousand years nothing will be left
of all that's been written in this century.
They'll read loose sentences, traces
of lost women,
fragments of motionless children,
your slow green eyes
simply will not exist.
It will be like the Greek Anthology,
but even further away,
like a beach in winter
for another wonder, another indifference.

daybreak - roberto bolano

Daybreak
by Roberto Bolano

Trust me, I'm in the middle of my room
waiting for rain. I'm alone. I don't care
if I finish my poem or not. I wait for rain,
drinking coffee and through the window watching a beautiful
   landscape
of courtyards, with clothes hanging still,
silent marble clothes in the city, where wind
does not exist and far off you only hear the hum
of a color TV, watched by a family
who's also, at this hour, drinking coffee together around
a table: trust me: the yellow plastic tables
unfold into the horizon and beyond:
into the suburbs where they're building
apartments, and a boy of 16 atop a stack
of red bricks contemplates the machines' movement.
The sky in the boy's hour is an enormous
hollow screw the breeze plays with. And the boy
plays with ideas. With ideas and with frozen scenes.
Inertia is a heavy transparent mist
emerging from his eyes.
Trust me: it isn't love that's drawing near
but beauty with its store of dead dawns.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

having a coke with you - frank o'hara

Having a Coke with You
by Frank O’Hara

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz,
     Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier
     St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for
     yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and
     statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything
     as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front
     of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in
     the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s
     in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together
     the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care
     of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that
     used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when
     the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider
     as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you
     about it

Monday, July 8, 2013

voice mail villanelle - dan skwire

Voice Mail Villanelle 
by Dan Skwire

We're grateful that you called today
And sorry that we're occupied.
We will be with you right away.

Press one if you would like to stay,
Press two if you cannot decide.
We're grateful that you called today.

Press three to end this brief delay,
Press four if you believe we've lied.
We will be with you right away.

Press five to hear some music play,
Press six to speak with someone snide.
We're grateful that you called today.

Press seven if your hair's turned gray,
Press eight if you've already died.
We will be with you right away.

Press nine to hear recordings say
That service is our greatest pride.
We're grateful that you've called today.
We will be with you right away.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

the story - mark strand

The Story
by Mark Strand

It is the old story: complaints about the moon
sinking into the sea, about stars in the first light fading,
about the lawn wet with dew, the lawn silver, the lawn cold.

It goes on and on: a man stares at his shadow
and says it's the ash of himself falling away, says his days
are the real black holes in space. But none of it's true.

You know the one I mean: it's the one about the minutes dying,
and the hours, and the years; it's the story I tell
about myself, about you, about everyone.

Friday, July 5, 2013

the accident - mark strand

The Accident
by Mark Strand


A train runs over me.
I feel sorry
for the engineer
who crouches down
and whispers in my ear
that he is innocent.

He wipes my forehead,
blows the ashes
from my lips.
My blood streams
in the evening air,
clouding his glasses.

He whispers in my ear
the details of his life--
he has a wife
and child he loves,
he's always been
an engineer.

He talks
until the beam
from someone's flashlight
turns us white.
He stands.
He shakes his jacket out

and starts to run.
The cinders crack
under his boots,
the air is cold
and thick
against his cheeks.

Back home he sits
in the kitchen,
staring at the dark.
His face is flushed,
his hands are pressed
between his knees.

He sees me sprawled
and motionless
beside the tracks
and the faint blooms
of my breath
being swept away;

the fields bend
under the heavy sheets
of the wind
and birds scatter
into the rafters
of the trees.

He rushes
from the house,
lifts the wreckage
of my body in his arms,
and brings me back.
I lie in bed.

He puts his head
down next to mine
and tells me
that I'll be all right.
A pale light
shines in his eyes.

I listen to the wind
press hard against the house.
I cannot sleep.
I cannot stay awake.
The shutters bang.
The end of my life begins.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the serpent - theodore roethke

The Serpent
by Theodore Roethke

There was a Serpent who had to sing.
There was. There was.
He simply gave up Serpenting.
Because. Because.

He didn't like his Kind of Life;
He couldn't find a proper Wife;
He was a Serpent with a soul;
He got no Pleasure down his Hole.
And so, of course, he had to Sing,
And Sing he did, like Anything!
The Birds, the were, they were Astounded;
And various Measures Propounded
To stop the Serpent's Awful Racket:
They bought a Drum. He wouldn't Whack it.
They sent,--you always send,--to Cuba
And got a Most Commodious Tuba;
They got a Horn, they got a Flute,
But Nothing would suit.
He said, "Look, Birds, all this is futile:
I do not like to Bang or Tootle."
And then he cut loose with a Horrible Note
That practically split the Top of his Throat.
"You see," he said, with a Serpent's Leer,
"I'm Serious about my Singing Career!"
And the Woods Resounded with many a Shriek
As the Birds flew off to the End of Next Week.

Monday, July 1, 2013

the favorite - theodore roethke

The Favorite
by Theodore Roethke

A knave who scampered through the needle's eye,
He never trembled at a veiled remark.
His oyster world was easily come by;
There were no nights of sleeping in the park.

Fearless and bold, he did his fellows in,
Only to gain fresh triumphs and applause.
His insolence could wear no patience thin.
He lived beyond the touch of mortal laws.

O he was Fortune's child, a favorite son
Upon whom every gift and thrill were showered,
And yet his happiness was not complete;
Slowly his matchless disposition soured
Until he cried at enemies undone
And longed to feel the impact of defeat.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

the geranium - theodore roethke

The Geranium
by Theodore Roethke

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck in her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!--
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me--
And that was scary--
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dolor
by Theodore Roethke

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper-weight,
All the misery of manilla folders  and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.

Friday, June 28, 2013

XVII
by James Joyce

Because your voice was at my side
   I gave him pain,
Because within my hand I held
   Your hand again.

There is no word nor any sign
   Can make amend--
He is a stranger to me now
   Who was my friend.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Don’t Ask Me Why
by Alexander Pushkin

Don’t ask me why, alone in dismal thought,
In times of mirth, I’m often filled with strife,
And why my weary stare is so distraught,
And why I don’t enjoy the dream of life;

Don’t ask me why my happiness has perished,
Why I don’t love the love that pleased me then,
No longer can I call someone my cherished--
Who once felt love will never love again;

Who once felt bliss, no more will feel its essence,
A moment’s happiness is all that we receive:
From youth, prosperity and joyful pleasantry,
All that is left is apathy and grief... 
Remembrance
by Aleksandr Pushkin (Scott Horton transl.)

When the noisy day of mortal men grows still
With illusory nocturnal shadows.
And sleep, the harvest of a day’s exertion,
Sinks down upon the silent city streets
This is my hour of the night, when silent hours
Drag by in painful attentiveness:
During the indolent night the wound of my heart’s serpent
Rises up in me more powerfully;
Imagination surges: my mind, numbed by yearning,
Entertains a parade of tortured thoughts;
Before my eyes, quiet remembrance
Unfurls its lengthy parchment;
Thus set back, I rehearse the course of my life,
I quake and I curse,
I shed bitter tears and complain painfully,
But alas the dismal lines cannot be purged.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Poet
by Lawrence Durrell

Time marched against my egg,
But Saturn hatched it:
Furnished two rusty claws,
The antelope's logic:
While by the turtle's coma in summer
The new moon watched it.

Four seasons conspired
To poison my water:  with scissors
A late spring lanced the bud,
Tightened the caul on my skull,
Lulled me in a dragon's blood.

Sun withered this crucible head,
Wove me by a tragical loom.
Nine moons heard of my coming,
The drumming of mythical horses
On the walls of the womb.

Winter buried the eyes like talents.
Tightened the temple's bony ring,
And now the pie is opened,
Feathered the head of the owlet --
What shall the monster sing?

Monday, April 15, 2013

King don Luis
by Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz-Milosz (tr. John Peck)


King don Luis wanted to see again
The palace called Sweet Years.

Cloak of grief and a black horse.

Bell in the blank of evening:
Never so ominous as this--

Harsh as the wind's hurry
Through abandoned houses.

Indeed, it is a sound
Travelling farther than time.

Doors swinging into reveries
Over men dead, and women.

Treacherous advent, entering
From what dreams, what shores.

Over my mind it sleeps
In false glimmers of poison.

And the tall beggar, most certainly,
Is that sound's body.

On the road into exile.
Sinister, self-encountering!

I see two eyes nearly headless,
Two eyes on two legs of thread.

Farther than the forgotten,
Deeper than the drowned.

The black horse pricks its ears.

The king's blood would cry out
The smell of silence is so old.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

An Illustrated Guide to the Post-Apocalypse by Annelyse Gelman

An Illustrated Guide to the Post-Apocalypse poem by Annelyse Gelman filming by Auden Lincoln-Vogel

Saturday, March 2, 2013


"I'm beginning to know myself. I don't exist..."
by Fernando Pessoa (tr. Edwin Honig & Susan M Brown)

I'm beginning to know myself. I don't exist.
I'm the space between what I'd like to be and what others
     made of me.
Or half that space, because there's life there too...
So that's what I finally am...
Turn off the light, close the door, stop shuffling your
     slippers out there in the hall.
Just let me be at ease and all by myself in my room.
It's a cheap world.

Friday, February 22, 2013


“Life: XIX”
by Emily Dickinson

“Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Figure In The Scene
by Thomas Hardy

          It pleased her to step in front and sit
             Where the cragged slope was green,
While I stood back that I might pencil it
              With her amid the scene;
                  Till it gloomed and rained;
But I kept on, despite the drifting wet
                   That fell and stained
My draught, leaving for curious quizzings yet
                    The blots engrained.

                And thus I drew her there alone,
                     Seated amid the guaze
Of moisture, hooded, only her outline shown,
                      With rainfall marked across.
                       - Soon passed our stay;
Yet her rainy form is the Genius still of the spot,
                       Immutable, yea,
Though the place now knows her no more,
   and has known her not
                        Ever since that day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


The Photograph
by Thomas Hardy

The flame crept up the portrait line by line
As it lay on the coals in the silence of night's profound,
     And over the arm's incline,
And along the marge of the silkwork superfine,
And gnawed at the delicate bosom's defenceless round.

Then I vented a cry of hurt, and averted my eyes;
The spectacle was one that I could not bear,
     To my deep and sad surprise;
But, compelled to heed, I again looked furtivewise
Till the flame had eaten her breasts, and mouth,
     and hair.

'Thank God, she is out of it now!' I said at last,
In a great relief of heart when the thing was done
     That had set my soul aghast,
And nothing was left of the picture
     unsheathed from the past
But the ashen ghost of the card it had figured on.

She was a woman long hid amid packs of years,
She might have been living or dead; she was lost
     to my sight,
     And the deed that had nigh drawn tears
Was done in a casual clearance of life's arrears;
But I felt as if I had put her to death that night!...

- Well; she knew nothing thereof did she survive,
And suffered nothing if numbered among the dead;
     Yet - yet - if on earth alive
Did she feel a smart, and with vague strange
     anguish strive ?
If in heaven, did she smile at me sadly
     and shake her head?
By Her Aunt's Grave
by Thomas Hardy

'Sixpence a week', says the girl to her lover,
'Aunt used to bring me, for she could confide
In me alone, she vowed. 'Twas to cover
The cost of her headstone when she died.
And that was a year ago last June;
I've not yet fixed it. But I must soon.'

'And where is the money now, my dear?'
'O, snug in my purse...Aunt was so slow
In saving it - eighty weeks, or near.'...
'Let's spend it,' he hints. 'For she won't know.
There's a dance to-night at the Load of Hay.'
She passively nods. And they go that way.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Sonnet
by Ezra Pound

If on the tally-board of wasted days
They daily write me for proud idleness,
Let high Hell summons me, and I confess,
No overt act the preferred charge allays.

To-day I thought what boots it what I thought?
Poppies and gold! Why should I blurt it out?
Or hawk the magic of her name about
Deaf doors and dungeons where no truth is bought?

Who calls me idle? I have thought of her.
Who calls me idle? By God’s truth I’ve seen
The arrowy sunlight in her golden snares.

Let him among you all stand summonser
Who hath done better things ! Let whoso hath been
With worthier works concerned, display his wares!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another Long Night in the Office of Dreams 
by Jeffrey McDaniel

There’s a woman I’m in love with, but I forget
what she looks like, so I take out my paintbrushes
and create my image of her.
Your eyes are blue like the morning of going.
Your ears are tender twists of logic. Your thighs
are impossible avenues my car swerves out of control on.

I want to cut the silence with your shoulder blades,
blow moon-shaped kisses to orbit your skull
as you sleep on the highest ledge of my insomnia,

but I’m a broken promise in a pawn shop,
and this is just a secret that happens to involve you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013




Tragedy
by Meerbaum-Eisinger (tr. Pearl Fichman)
Dec. 23, 1941

This is the hardest: to give yourself
and know that you are unwanted,
to give yourself fully and to think
that you vanish like smoke into the void.


*The niece of Paul Celan, Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger died at the age of eighteen of typhus in the Mikhailovska labor camp. Fifty-seven poems survived in a notebook titled Blütenlese (Harvest of Blossoms).

Friday, January 18, 2013

cicada - hosho mccreesh


You Will Hear Thunder
by Anna Akhmatova

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.

Monday, January 14, 2013



Song of Wine
by Émile Nelligan (Translation by Fred Cogswell)


“Fresh in joy, life, light - all things coincide,
This fine May eve ! like living hopes that once
Were in my heart, the choiring birds announce
Their prelude to my window open wide.
O fine May eve! O happy eve of May!
A distant organ beats out frigid chords;
And long shafts of sun, like crimson swords,
Cuts to the heart the scent of dying day.

How gay, how glad am I ! Pour out, pour out
Once more the wine into the chiming glass
That I may lose the pain of days which pass
In scorn for all the wicked human rout.

How glad am I ! My wine and art be blest!
I, too, have dreamt of making poetry
That lives, of poems which sound the exequy
For autumn winds that passing far-off mist.

The bitter laugh of rage is now good form,
And I, a poet, must eat scorn for food.
I have a heart but am not understood
Save by the moonlight and the great nights of storm.

Woman ! I drink to you who mock the path
where the rose-dream calls with arms flung wide;
I drink, too, to you men with brows of pride
Who first refuse my hand then scorn my life!

When the starry sky becomes one glorious roof,
And when a hymn resounds for golden spring,
I do not weep for all the days’ calm going,
Who wary grope within my own black youth.

How glad am I ! May eve all eves above.
Not drunk but desperately glad am I !…
Has living grown at last to be a joy?
Has my heart, too, been healed of my sick love?

The clocks have struck and the wind smells of night
Now the wine gurgles as I pour it out.
So glad am I that I laugh and shout
I fear I shall break down and sob outright.”


Broken Things 
by Sara Teasdale

Broken things are loveliest,
        Broken clouds when dusk is red,
Broken waves where a rainbow rides,
        Broken words left half unsaid.

Broken things, broken things—
        How quietly they comfort me,
Riven cliffs, where I can watch
        The broken beauty of the sea.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mr. Cogito Meditates on Suffering
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. John & Bogdana Carpenter)

All attempts to remove
the so-called cup of bitterness--
by reflection 
frenzied actions on behalf of homeless cats
deep breathing
religion--
failed

one must consent
gently bend the head
not wring the hands
make use of the suffering gently moderately
like an artificial limb
without false shame
but also without unnecessary pride

do not brandish the stump
over the heads of others
don't knock with the white cane
against the windows of the well-fed

drink the essence of bitter herbs
but not to the dregs
leave carefully
a few sips for the future

accept 
but simultaneously
isolate within yourself
and if it is possible
create from the matter of suffering
a thing or a person

play
with it
of course
play
entertain it
very cautiously
like a sick child
forcing at last
with silly tricks
a faint 
smile

Thursday, January 10, 2013

And the days are not full enough
by Ezra Pound

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
      Not shaking the grass

Monday, December 31, 2012

the art of poetry - jorge luis borges

The Art of Poetry
by Jorge Luis Borges

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness—such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.


Friday, December 28, 2012

among many tasks - tadeusz rozewicz

Among Many Tasks
by Tadeusz Rozewicz  (tr. Magnus J. Krynski & Robert A. Maguire)

Among many tasks
very urgent
I've forgotten that
it's also necessary
to be dying

frivolous
I have neglected this obligation
or have been fulfilling it
superficially

beginning tomorrow
everything will change
I will start dying assiduously
wisely optimistically
without wasting time

missing you - shu ting

Missing You
by Shu Ting (tr. Carolyn Kizer)

A multi-colored chart without a boundary;
An equation chalked on the board, with no solution;
A one-stringed lyre that tells the beads of rain;
A pair of useless oars that never cross the water.

Waiting buds in suspended animation;
The setting sun is watching from a distance.
Though in my mind there may be an enormous ocean,
What emerges is the sum: a pair of tears.

Yes, from these vistas, from these depths,
Only this.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

travel with grief--goodbye to joy - huynh sanh thong

Travel with Grief--Goodbye to Joy
by Nguyen Chi Thien (tr. Huynh Sanh Thong)

Travel with grief--goodbye to joy!
For baggage you have sweat and dust.
Some pocket money: poems and sweet dreams.
A dark, foul car--enjoy the smell.
Above the train a red flash grows:
somewhere, a storm is running wild?

a dress of fire - dahlia ravikovitch

A Dress Of Fire
by Dahlia Ravikovitch (tr. Chana Bloch & Ariel Bloch)

You know, she said, they made you
a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason's wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.
You've got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress that glows
like an ember, that burns like coals.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don't wear it.
It's not the wind whistling, it's the poison
seeping in.
You're not even a princess, what can you do to Medea?
Can't you tell one sound from another, she said,
it's not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I went out into the street.
The smell o shampoo trailed after me like a cloud.
Then I got sick from the wind and the rain.
I didn't know a thing about reading Greek tragedies,
but the smell of the perfume spread
and I was very sick.
Now I can see it's an unnatural perfume.

What will happen to you now, she said,
they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said. I know.
So why are you standing there, she said,
you've got to be careful.
You know what a burning dress is, don't you?

I know, I said, but I don't know
how to be careful.
The smell of that perfume confuses me.
I said to her, No one has to agree with me,
I don't believe in Greek tragedies.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted,
what are you saying?
I'm not wearing a dress at all,
what's burning is me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

belfast tune - joseph brodsky

Belfast Tune
by Joseph Brodsky

Here's a girl from a dangerous town.
     She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
     when someone gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
     Dropped, she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
     here where they eat.

Ah, there's more sky in these parts than, say,
     ground. Hence her voice's pitch,
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
     bulb when you switch

hemispheres, and her knee-length quilt
     skirt's cut to catch the squall.
I dream of her either loved or killed
     because the town's too small.

Friday, December 14, 2012

the new york intellectual - robert lowell

The New York Intellectual
by Robert Lowell

How often was their last salute recast?
Did the old critic need three hundred words,
such tact and tough, ascetic resonance,
the preposition for, five times in parallel,
to find himself "a beleaguered minority,
without fantasies of martyrdom,"
facing the graves of the New York Intellectuals,
"without joy, but neither with dismay"?
This art was needed for his quiet message,
his firm and unpermissive final sentence.
How often one would choose the poorman's provincial
out of town West Side intellectual
for the great brazen rhetorician serpent,
swimming the current with his iron smile!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

my november guest - robert frost

My November Guest
by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

life story - tennessee williams

Life Story
by Tennessee Williams

After you've been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
       Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with the mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all along,

and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.

Friday, November 16, 2012

fireflies in the garden - robert frost

Fireflies in the Garden
by Robert Frost

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the unknown citizen - w.h. auden

The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
   saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace:  when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
   generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
   education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"i would describe myself..." - rilke

"I would describe myself..."
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I would describe myself
like a landscape I've studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I'm coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother's face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

youth and art - robert browning

Youth and Art
by Robert Browning

“It once might have been, once only:
We lodged in a street together,
You, a sparrow on the housetop lonely,
I, a lone she-bird of his feather.

Your trade was with sticks and clay,
You thumb’d, thrust, patted and polish’d,
Then laugh’d, “They will see, some day,
Smith made, and Gibson demolish’d.”

My business was song, song, song:
I chirp’d, cheep’d, trill’d and twitter’d,
“Kate Brown ’s on the boards ere long,
And Grisi’s existence embitter’d!”

I earn’d, no more by a warble
Than you by a sketch in plaster;
You wanted a piece of marble,
I needed a music-master.

We studied hard in our styles,
Chipp’d each at a crust like Hindoos,
For air, look’d out on the tiles,
For fun, watch’d each other’s windows.

You lounged, like a boy of the South,
Cap and blouse—nay, a bit of beard too;
Or you it, rubbing your mouth
With fingers the clay adher’d to.

And I—soon managed to find
Weak points in the flower-fence facing,
Was forced to put up a blind
And be safe in my corset-lacing.

No harm! It was not my fault
If you never turn’d your eye’s tail up
As I shook upon E in alt,
Or ran the chromatic scale up:

For spring bade the sparrows pair,
And the boys and girls gave guesses,
And stalls in our street look’d rare
With bulrush and watercresses.

Why did not you pinch a flower
In a pellet of clay and fling it?
Why did not I put a power
Of thanks in a look, or sing it?

I did look, sharp as a lynx,
(And yet the memory rankles)
When models arriv’d, some minx
Tripp’d up stairs, she and her ankles.

But I think I gave you as good!
“That foreign fellow,—who can know
How she pays, in a playful mood,
For his tuning her that piano?”

Could you say so, and never say,
“Suppose we join hands and fortunes,
And I fetch her from over the way,
Her, piano, and long tunes and short tunes?”

No, no: you would not be rash,
Nor I rasher and something over;
You’ve to settle yet Gibson’s hash,
And Grisi yet lives in clover.

But you meet the Prince at the Board,
I ’m queen myself at bals-parés,
I ’ve married a rich old lord,
And you ’re dubb’d knight and an R. A.

Each life ’s unfulfill’d, you see;
It hangs still, patchy and scrappy:
We have not sigh’d deep, laugh’d free,
Starv’d, feasted, despair’d,—been happy;

And nobody calls you a dunce,
And people suppose me clever;
This could but have happen’d once,
And we miss’d it, lost it forever.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

cause and effect - charles bukowski

Cause and effect
by Charles Bukowski

the best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
why anybody
would ever want to
get away
from
them

be kind - charles bukowski

be kind
by Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious.

one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
with
kindliness,
especially if they are
aged.

but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
badly
because they have
lived
out of focus,
they have refused to
see.

not their fault?

whose fault?
mine?

I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
fear.

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately
wasted
life

among so many
deliberately
wasted
lives

is.

tough cob - charles bukowski

tough cob
by Charles Bukowski

we tend to like those artists
who starved or went mad or killed themselves
and were discovered afterwards.
it happens often
because great talent is usually fifty to
one hundred years ahead of its
time.

most of those acclaimed in their
lifetime
are mediocre performers.
of course, this is common knowledge,
so common that many of those who are not
recognized in their time
believe that this is a sign of their own true
genius
and countless wives, children, relatives,
friends and bystanders
must suffer
because of this illusion.

to laugh truly is to continue anyhow.

Friday, November 2, 2012

tobacco shop - fernando pessoa

Tobacco Shop
by Fernando Pessoa (tr. Edwin Honig and Susan M Brown)

I'm nothing.
I'll always be nothing.
I can't even wish to be something.
Aside from that, I've got all the world's dreams inside me.

Windows of my room,
The room of just one of millions in the world nobody
     knows
(And what would they know, if they knew that?),
You open on the mystery of a street people are constantly
     crossing,
A street blocked off to all thought,
A street that's real, impossibly real, and right,
     unconsciously right,
With the mystery of things lying under live beings and
     stones,
With death spreading dankness on walls and white hair on
     heads,
With fate driving the cart of everything down nothingness
     road.

Today I'm bowled over, as though hit by the truth.
Today I'm clearheaded, as though I were going to die,
Having no more brotherly feeling for things
Than to say good-bye, turning this house and this side of
     the street
Into a line of coaches in a long train with its whistle
     shrieking good-bye
From inside my head,
And a nerve-wracking, bone-cracking jerk as it moves off.

Today I'm mixed up, like someone who thought
     something and grasped it, then lost it.
Today I'm torn between the allegiance I owe
Something real outside me -- the Tobacco Shop across
     the street,
And something real inside me -- the feeling that it's all a
     dream.

I failed in everything.
Since I was up to nothing, maybe it was all really
     nothing.
From learning and training for anything for anything useful I escaped
By slipping out the back window.
I went off to the country with great plans,
But found only grass and trees there,
And when there were people, they were just like any
     others.
I leave the window, sit down in a chair. What should I
     think about?

How can I tell what I'll be, I who don't know what I am?
Be what I think? But I keep thinking I'm so many
     things!
And so many people think of being the same thing, there
     just can't be that many!
Genius? At this moment
A hundred thousand heads are dreaming they're geniuses
     like me,
And who knows if history will remember even one of
     them.
From all those dreams of glory there'll be nothing but
     manure in the end.
No, I don't believe in myself.
In every asylum there are madmen sure of so much!
I, sure of nothing, am I more sure or less sure than they?
No, not even of myself...
In how many garrets and nongarrets of the world
Are there self-styled geniuses dreaming now?
How many high-minded aspirations, noble and lucid --
Yes, really high-minded, noble and lucid --,
And who knows, even practicable,
Will ever see the real light of day or get a hearing?
The world is made for those born to conquer it,
Not those who dream of conquering it, right though they
     may be.
I've dreamt of more things than Napoleon went and did.
I've taken to my so-called heart more humanity than
     Christ ever did.
I've secretly thought up more philosophies than Kant ever
     wrote down.
Yet I am, and maybe always will be, the man in the garret,
Though I don't live in one;
I'll always simply be the one with all the promise;
I'll always be the one waiting for the door to open at the
     wall without a door,
Who sang his anthem to Infinity in a chicken coop,
Who heard the voice of God in a covered well.
Believe in myself? No, I don't, nor in anything.
Let Nature pour down upon my burning head
Her sun, her rain, the wind ruffling my hair,
And let the rest come, if it will or must, or not at all.
Cardiac cases enslaved by the stars,
We've conquered the world before getting out of bed,
But we wake and the world is opaque,
We get up and the world looks strange,
We go out in the street and there's the whole earth,
Plus solar System, Milky Way, and the old Indefinitude.

(Eat your chocolates, little girl!
Eat your chocolates!
Look, there's no metaphysics on earth but chocolates.
Look, all religions on earth have nothing more to teach
     us than a candy store does.
Eat, dirty little girl, eat them up!
If only I could gobble down those chocolates as trustily as
     you do!
But then I think, peeling off the silver wrapper, it's only
     tinfoil,
And toss it on the floor, just as I've tossed away my life.)

But at least, out of my bitterness at what I'll never be,
There's the quick calligraphy of these lines,
The broken archway to the Impossible.
And at least I reserve for myself this dry-eyed contempt --
Noble, at least, in the grand gesture I make
Flinging out the dirty clothes I am, with no laundry list,
     into the drift of things,
And stay at home, shirtless.

(Oh, my comforters, who don't exist and so may comfort,
Whether Greek goddess, conceived as a statue that springs
     alive,
Or Roman matron, impossibly noble and ominous,
Or Princess of the troubadours, so blushing and so gentle,
Or eighteenth-century marchioness, so décolletée  and cool,
Or famous courtesan back in our parents' time,
Or modern whatever -- since I can't imagine what --
All of it, whatever it may be, if you can inspire, do it!
My heart's an emptied pail.
Like someone who can call up spooks calls up spooks,
I call myself up, and nothing's there.
I go the window and see the street in perfect clarity.
I see the shops, I see the pavement, I see the passing cars.
I see the dressed-up living passersby.
I see the dogs too, also alive,
And all of it weighs on me like a verdict of exile,
And all of it's strange to me, like everything else.)

I lived, I studied, I loved, I even believed,
And now there's no beggar I don't envy simply for not being
     me.
In each I see the rags, the sores, the lies,
And think: maybe you never lived, studied, loved, believed
(Because people can go through the motions without
     doing any of it);
Maybe you barely existed, like the lizard whose tail's been
     snipped
And is just a tail, apart from the lizard, and beating
     frantically.

I made of myself something I didn't know,
And what I could become, I didn't.
The fancy costume I put on was wrong.
They saw me straight for what I wasn't; I didn't disabuse
     them, so I lost myself.
When I tried taking off the mask,
It stuck to my face.
When I pulled it off and looked in the mirror,
I'd grown older.
I was drunk and couldn't get into the fancy costume I
     hadn't taken off.
So I threw away the mask and slept in the cloakroom
Like a dog they let stay in the house
Because it's harmless,
And I'm about to write this story to prove I'm sublime.

Musical essence of my useless poems,
If only I could find you in something I'd really made,
And not forever fixed by the Tobacco Shop across the
     street,
Stamping my feet on the consciousness of being alive,
Like a rug some drunkard stumbles over
Or a doormat the gypsies stole not worth a dime.

But the Tobacco Shop Owner has come to his door and
     stands there now.
I look at him, straining my half-turned neck,
Straining my half-blind soul.
He'll die and so will I.
He'll leave his signboard, I'll leave poems.
After a while his signboard will perish too, and so will my
     poems.
A little later the street will die where his signboard hung,
And so will the language my poems were written in.
Then the spinning planet where all this happened will die,
In other satellites in other systems something like people
Will go on making things like poems and living under
     things like signboards,
Always one thing against another,
Always one thing as useless as another,
Always the impossible thing as stupid as the real thing,
Always the fundamental mystery as certain as the sleeping
     surface mystery,
Always this thing or that, or neither one nor the other.
But now a man's gone into the Tobacco Shop (to buy
     tobacco?)
And the plausible reality of it all suddenly hits me.
I'm getting up, full of energy, convinced, human,
and about to try writing these lines, which say the
     opposite.

I light a cigarette and think of writing them,
And in the cigarette I savor my liberation from all
     thoughts.
I follow the smoke like a lane of my own,
For one sensitive dexterous moment enjoying
The freedom from all speculation
And the consciousness that metaphysics comes from
     feeling out of sorts.

Then I fall back in my chair
And go on smoking.
As long as fate permits, I'll go on smoking.

(If I married my washwoman's daughter,
Maybe I'd be happy. )
I think of this, get up from my chair. I go to the window.
The man is leaving the Shop (putting change into his
     pants' pocket?)
Ah, I know him: it's nonmetaphysical Stevens.
(The Tobacco Shop Owner comes back to the door. )
As if by divine instinct, Stevens turns around and sees
     me.
He waves me a hello, I shout back, Hello Stevens! and the
     universe
Reorganizes itself for me, without hopes or ideals, and the
     Tobacco Shop Owner smiles.


(1928)