Saturday, December 31, 2011

winter: my secret - christina rossetti

Winter: My Secret
by Christina Rossetti

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,
And you're too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret's mine, and I won't tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there's none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today's a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to everyone who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro' my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro' my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring's an expansive time: yet I don't trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro' the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there's not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess.

queen victoria and me - leonard cohen

Queen Victoria And Me
by Leonard Cohen

Queen Victoria
my father and all his tobacco loved you
I love you too in all your forms
the slim unlovely virgin anyone would lay
the white figure floating among German beards
the mean governess of the huge pink maps
the solitary mourner of a prince
Queen Victoria
I am cold and rainy
I am dirty as a glass roof in a train station
I feel like an empty cast-iron exhibition
I want ornaments on everything
because my love she gone with other boys
Queen Victoria
do you have a punishment under the white lace
will you be short with her
and make her read little Bibles
will you spank her with a mechanical corset
I want her pure as power
I want her skin slightly musty with petticoats
will you wash the easy bidets out of her head
Queen Victoria
I'm not much nourished by modern love
Will you come into my life
with your sorrow and your black carriages
and your perfect memory
Queen Victoria
The 20th century belongs to you and me
Let us be two severe giants
(not less lonely for our partnership)
who discolour test tubes in the halls of science
who turn up unwelcome at every World's Fair
heavy with proverb and correction
confusing the star-dazed tourists
with our incomparable sense of loss

a waking - octavio paz

A Waking
by Octavio Paz (tr. Eliot Weinberger)

I was walled inside a dream.
Its walls had no consistency,
no weight: its emptiness was its weight.
The walls were hours and the hours
sorrow, hoarded forever.
The time of those hours was not time.

I leapt through a breach: in this world
it was four o'clock. The room was my room
and my ghost was in each thing.
I wasn't there. I looked out the window:
not a soul under the electric light.
Vigilant streetlamps, dirty snow,
houses and cars asleep, the insomnia
of a lamp, the oak that talks to itself,
the wind and its knives, the illegible
writing of the constellations.

The things were buried deep in themselves
and my eyes of flesh saw them
weary of being, realities
stripped of their names. My two eyes
were souls grieving for the world.
On the empty street the presence
passed without passing, vanishing
into its forms, fixed in its changes,
and turned now into houses, oaks, snow, time.
Life and death flowed on, blurred together.

Uninhabited sight, the presence
looked at me with nobody's eyes:
a bundle of reflections over the cliffs.
I looked inside: the room was my room
and I wasn't there. Being lacks nothing
-- always full of itself, always the same --
even though we are not there...Outside,
the clarities, still uncertain:
dawn in the jumble of the rooftops.
The constellations were being erased.

the flowers that i left in the ground - leonard cohen

The Flowers That I Left In The Ground
by Leonard Cohen

The flowers that I left in the ground,
that I did not gather for you,
today I bring them all back,
to let them grow forever,
not in poems or marble,
but where they fell and rotted.

And the ships in their great stalls,
huge and transitory as heroes,
ships I could not captain,
today I bring them back
to let them sail forever,
not in model or ballad,
but where they were wrecked and scuttled.

And the child on whose shoulders I stand,
whose longing I purged
with public, kingly discipline,
today I bring him back
to languish forever,
not in confession or biography,
but where he flourished,
growing sly and hairy.

It is not malice that draws me away,
draws me to renunciation, betrayal:
it is weariness, I go for weariness of thee.
Gold, ivory, flesh, love, G-d, blood, moon --
I have become the expert of the catalogue.

My body once so familiar with glory,
my body has become a museum:
this part remembered because of someone's mouth,
this because of a hand,
this of wetness, this of heat.

Who owns anything he has not made?
With your beauty I am as uninvolved
as with horses' manes and waterfalls.
This is my last catalogue.
I breathe the breathless
I love you, I love you --
and let you move forever.

possibilities - henry wadsworth longfellow

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Where are the Poets, unto whom belong
The Olympian heights; whose singing shafts were sent
Straight to the mark, and not from bows half bent,
But with the utmost tension of the thong?
Where are the stately argosies of song,
Whose rushing keels made music as they went
Sailing in search of some new continent,
With all sail set, and steady winds and strong?
Perhaps there lives some dreamy boy, un­taught
In schools, some graduate of the field or street,
Who shall become a master of the art,
An admiral sailing the high seas of thought,
Fearless and first, and steering with his fleet
For lands not yet laid down in any chart.

"the brain within its groove..." - emily dickinson

"The brain within its groove.." 
by Emily Dickinson

The brain within its groove
Runs evenly and true;
But let a splinter swerve,
'T were easier for you
To put the water back
When floods have slit the hills,
And scooped a turnpike for themselves,
And blotted out the mills!

the solitary reaper - william wordsworth

The Solitary Reaper
by William Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?--
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;--
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

this is a photograph of me - margaret atwood

This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)

Friday, December 30, 2011

wrestling with the angel - jacques prévert

Wrestling With The Angel
by Jacques Prévert (tr. Benedikt)

Don't bother
The fight's fixed
The match is rigged
and when he or she or it appears aloft above the ring
surrounded by spotlights
they'll all start singing Te Deum
and even before you have the chance to get up from your little
chair in the corner
their gong will sound
they'll throw their sacred sponge in your eyes
And you won't even get in a quick jab to the feathers
before they all grab you
and he or she or it will hit you below the belt
and you'll fall flat
arms stuck out stiff in an idiotic cross
outstretched in the sawdust
and you may never again be able to make love.

Le Combat avec l'Ange
par Jacques Prévert

N’y va pas
tout est combiné d’avance
le match est truqué
et quand il apparaîtra sur le ring
environné d’éclairs de magnésium
ils entonneront à tue-tête le Te Deum
et avant même que tu te sois levé de ta chaise
ils te sonneront les cloches à toute volée
ils te jetteront à la figure l’éponge sacrée
et tu n’auras pas le temps de lui voler dans les plumes
ils se jetteront sur toi
et il te frappera au-dessous de la ceinture
et tu t’écrouleras
les bras stupidement en croix
dans la sciure
et jamais plus tu ne pourras faire l’amour.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

a forge, and a scythe - raymond carver

A Forge, and a Scythe
by Raymond Carver

One minute I had the windows open
and the sun was out. Warm breezes
blew through the room.
(I remarked on this in a letter.)
Then, while I watched, it grew dark.
The water began whitecapping.
All the sport-fishing boats turned
and headed in, a little fleet.
Those wind-chimes on the porch
blew down. The tops of our trees shook.
The stove pipe squeaked and rattled
around in its moorings.
I said, "A forge, and a scythe."
I talk to myself like this.
Saying the names of things --
capstan, hawser, loam, leaf, furnace.
Your face, your mouth, your shoulder
inconceivable to me now!
Where did they go? It's like
I dreamed them.  The stones we brought
home from the beach lie face up
on the windowsill, cooling.
Come home. Do you hear?
My lungs are thick with the smoke
of your absence.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

feeling fucked up - etheridge knight

Feeling Fucked Up
by Etheridge Knight

Lord she's gone done left me done packed/up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white     crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs--

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

in the lobby of the hotel del mayo - raymond carver

In The Lobby of the Hotel del Mayo
by Raymond Carver

The girl in the lobby reading a leather-bound book.
The man in the lobby using a broom.
The boy in the lobby watering plants.
The desk clerk looking at his nails.
The woman in the lobby writing a letter.
The old man in the lobby sleeping in his chair.
The fan in the lobby revolving slowly overhead.
Another hot Sunday afternoon.

Suddenly, the girl lays her finger between the pages of
   her book.
The man leans on his broom and looks.
The boy stops in his tracks.
The desk clerk raises his eyes and stares.
The woman quits writing.
The old man stirs and wakes up.
What is it?

Someone is running up from the harbor.
Someone who has the sun behind him.
Someone who is barechested.
Waving his arms.

It's clear something terrible has happened.
The man is running straight for the hotel.
His lips are working themselves into a scream.
Everyone in the lobby will recall their terror.
Everyone will remember this moment for the rest of their lives.

unanswered letter - tess gallagher

Unanswered Letter
by Tess Gallagher

Your silence is leaning toward judgment.
Yesterday I bragged, writing to calm
my paranoid friend, that I never assume
the worst when my pals don’t write. Now
assuming the worst, I think what I must have
done, or not done. Surely some recognition
will brand the door of my house, or
rich attention flutter down.

How natural, in silence, to credit delay
with intention, like the word oar
insisting on water. The need also to
advise the self around exaggeration,
i.e., “nobody loves me,” because nothing is
coming back, and, next to nothing, not
to act like a transistor radio left on into
the night, voices singing like an ear
baffled by the rain, or someone refused
because they think so.

Those others you loved elsewhere, you miss
what they haven’t said. They belong
to some permission to go on as more
than yourself, a clarity that adds you back
to all you cast off, as when
you want to be the good light of a lamp
scanning the firmament, or rain- its pleasure
with an open boat.

So what is unanswered keeps you coming back
to yourself, telling you what you wanted
only when it didn’t come, having now
to make up this difference.
Even moments you think empty, the world
doesn’t stop speaking – the windshield
blurred suddenly by a sighting of gravestones,
before you are driven
through the underpass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

love at first sight - wislawa szymborska

Love at First Sight
by Wislawa Szymborska (tr. Baranczak & Cavanagh)

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways –
perhaps they’ve passed each other by a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember –
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver? –
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thickets?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night perhaps some dream
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the correspondence school instructor says goodbye to his poetry students - galway kinnell

The Correspondence School Instructor
Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students
by Galwlay Kinnell

Goodbye, lady in Bangor, who sent me
snapshots of yourself, after definitely hinting
you were beautiful; goodbye,
Miami Beach urologist, who enclosed plain
brown envelopes for the return of your very
"Clinical Sonnets", goodbye, manufacturer
of brassieres on the Coast, whose eclogues
give the fullest treatment in literature yet
to the sagging-breast motif; goodbye, you in San Quentin,
who wrote, "Being German my hero is Hitler,"
instead of "Sincerely yours," at the end of long,
neat-scripted letters demolishing
the pre-Raphaelites:

I swear to you, it was just my way
of cheering myself up, as I licked
the stamped, self-addressed envelopes,
the game I had
of trying to guess which one of you, this time,
had poisoned his glue.  I did care.
I did read each poem entire.
I did say what I thought was the truth
in the mildest words I knew.  And now,
in this poem, or chopped prose, not any better,
I realize, than those troubled lines
I kept sending back to you,
I have to say I am relieved it is over:
at the end I could only feel pity
for that urge toward more life
your poems kept smothering in words, the smell
of which, days later, would tingle
in your nostrils as new, God-given impulses
to write.

you who are, for me, the postmarks again
of shattered towns--Xenia, Burnt Cabins, Hornell--
their loneliness
given away in poems, only their solitude kept.

Friday, December 16, 2011

solitude - rainer maria rilke

by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Edward Snow)

Solitude is like a rain.
It rises from the sea toward evening;
from plains, which are distant and remote,
it goes to the sky, which always has it.
And only then it falls from the sky on the city.

It rains down in the in-between hours,
when all the crooked streets turn toward morning,
and when the bodies, which found nothing,
leave each other feeling sad and disappointed;
and when the people, who hate each other,
have to sleep together in one bed:

then solitude flows with the rivers . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2011

it is the season - josephine jacobsen

It Is The Season
by Josephine Jacobsen

when we learn
or do not learn
to say goodbye.

The crone leaves that as green
virgins opened themselves
to sun, creak at our feet

and all farewells return
to crowd the air:
say, Chinese lovers by a bridge,

with crows, and a waterfall;
He will cross
the bridge, the crows fly;

children who told each other
secrets, and will not speak
next summer;

Some speech of parting
mentions God, as in
à Dieu, Adios,

commending what cannot
be kept
to permanence.

There is nothing of north
unknown, as the dark
comes earlier.  The birds

take their lives in their wings
for the cruel trip;
all farewells are rehearsals.

Darling, the sun rose
later today.
Summer, summer

is what we had.
Say nothing yet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

between going and staying - octavio paz

Between Going And Staying
by Octavio Paz

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.

The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

the burning of the books - bertolt brecht

The Burning of The Books
by Bertolt Brecht

When the Regime commanded that books with harmful knowledge
Should be publicly burned on all sides
Oxen were forced to drag cart loads of books
To the bonfires, a banished
Writer, one of the best, scanning the list of the
Burned, was shocked to find that his
Books had been passed over. He rushed to his desk
On wings of wrath, and wrote a letter to those in power.
Burn me! he wrote with flying pen, burn me. Haven’t my books
Always reported the truth? And here you are
Treating me like a liar! I command you:
Burn me!

Monday, December 5, 2011

the christmas star - gabriela mistral

The Christmas Star
by Gabriela Mistral (tr. Maria Giachetti)

A little girl
comes running,
she caught and carries a star.
She goes flying, making the plants
and animals she passes
bend with fire.

Her hands already sizzle,
she tires, wavers, stumbles,
and falls headlong,
but she gets right up with it again.

Her hands don't burn away,
nor does the star break apart,
although her face, arms,
chest and hair are on fire.

She burns down to her waist.
People shout at her
and she won't let it go;
her hands are parboiled,
but she won't release the star.

Oh how she sows its seeds
as it hums and flies.
They try to take it away--
but how can she live
without her star?

It didn't simply fall--it didn't.
It remained without her,
and now she runs without a body,
changed transformed into ashes.

The road catches fire
and our braids burn,
and now we all receive her
because the entire Earth is burning.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

doria (dorian girl) - ezra pound

Doria (Dorian Girl)
by Ezra Pound

Be in me as the eternal moods
             of the bleak wind, and not
As transient things are--
       gaiety of flowers.
Have me in the strong loneliness
       of sunless cliffs
And of grey waters.
       Let the gods speak softly of us
In days hereafter,
       The shadowy flowers of Orcus
Remember thee.

it must have been the spirits - c.p. cavafy

It Must Have Been The Spirits 
by C.P. Cavafy (tr. Daniel Mendelsohn)

It must have been the spirits that I drank last night,
it must have been that I was drowsing, I'd been tired all day long.

The black wooden column vanished before me,
with the ancient head; and the dining-room door,
and the armchair, the red one; and the little settee.
In their place came a street in Marseille.
And freed now, unabashed, my soul
appeared there once again and moved about,
along with the form of a sensitive, pleasure-bent youth--
the dissolute youth:  that too must be said.

It must have been the spirits that I drank last night,
it mast have been that I was drowsing, I'd been tired all day long.

My soul was released; the poor thing, it's
always constrained by the weight of the years.

My soul was released and it showed me
sympathique street in Marseille,
with the form of the happy, dissolute youth
who never felt ashamed, not he, certainly.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

a fairly sad tale - dorothy parker

A Fairly Sad Tale
by Dorothy Parker

I think that I shall never know
Why I am thus, and I am so.
Around me, other girls inspire
In men the rush and roar of fire,
The sweet transparency of glass,
The tenderness of April grass,
The durability of granite;
But me- I don’t know how to plan it.
The lads I’ve met in Cupid’s deadlock
Were- shall we say?- born out of wedlock.
They broke my heart, they stilled my song,
And said they had to run along,
Explaining, so to sop my tears,
First came their parents or careers.
But ever does experience
Deny me wisdom, calm, and sense!
Though she’s a fool who seeks to capture
The twenty-first fine, careless rapture,
I must go on, till ends my rope,
Who from my birth was cursed with hope.
A heart in half is chaste, archaic;
But mine resembles a mosaic-
The thing’s become ridiculous!
Why am I so? Why am I thus?

Friday, December 2, 2011

to tu fu from shantung - li po

To Tu Fu From Shantung
by Li Po

You ask how I spend my time–
I nestle against a treetrunk
and listen to autumn winds
in the pines all night and day.

Shantung wine can’t get me drunk.
The local poets bore me.
My thoughts remain with you,
like the Wen River, endlessly flowing.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

balance - adam zagajewski

by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh)

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport's labyrinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day’s sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

banking - cara benson

by Cara Benson

Sometimes I pick up the phone and there is a person
the person speaks.
Sometimes I have spoken first and I say things
like hello is someone there I am here.
I worry sometimes.  Sometimes I worry so much
I pick up the phone to call someone to tell them
about my worries.  Sometimes they try to talk me out of worrying
but sometimes this doesn't work so I hang up.
When I hang up after efforts to calm me fail I sometimes
call the person back to apologize and worry my apology will not be accepted.
When my apology is accepted I feel better
till I remember the initial worry but only sometimes
my apology is accepted because I have done this before.  Maybe more than once.
But when I speak and worry and do not apologize
other people sometimes worry about me.
I speak a lot and apologize less.
On the phone I sound confident sometimes.
I call out of state and leave messages.  I do
not leave a return number because I do
not want to speak with the person.
Sometimes the person can get my number anyway because of technology
but they usually do not call back because they are not worried about it.
These people I don't apologize to.  Not ever.

my strip club - denise duhamel

My Strip Club
by Denise Duhamel

In my strip club
the girls crawl on stage
wearing overalls
and turtlenecks
then slowly pull on
gloves, ski masks
and hiking boots.
As the music slows,
they lick the pole
and for a tantalizing second
their tongues stick
because it's so cold.
They zip up parkas
and tie tight bows
under their hoods.
A big spender
can take one of my girls
into a back room
where he can clamp
her snowshoes.

unexpected dangers - louise erdrich

Unexpected Dangers
by Louise Erdrich

I'm much the worse for wear, it's double true.
Too many incidents
a man might misconstrue--
my conduct, for a lack of innocence.

I seem to get them crazed or lacking sense
in the first place.
Ancient, solid gents
I sit by on the bus because they're safe,

get me going, coming, with their canes,
or what is worse
the spreading stains
across the seat.  I recognize at once

just what they're up to, rustling in their coats.
There was a priest,
the calmer sort,
his cassock flowing  down from neck to feet.

We got to talking and I brushed his knee
by accident,
and dutifully,
he took my hand and put it back

not quite where it belonged; his judgement
was not that exact.
I underwent
a kind of odd conversion from his act.

They do call minds like mine one-track.
One track is all you need
to understand
their loneliness, then bite the hand that feeds

upon you, in a terrible blind grief.

Monday, November 28, 2011

dss dream - martin espada

DSS Dream
by Martin Espada

I dreamed
the Department of Social Services
came to the door and said:
"We understand you have a baby,
a goat, and a pig living here
in a two-room apartment.
This is illegal.
We have to take the baby away,
unless you eat the goat."

"The pig's OK?" I asked.
"The pig's OK," they said.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

a poem of that man - george makris

A Poem Of That Man
by George Makris (tr. Nanos Valaoritis)

At dawn when laughter and dream have vanished,
in a wooden shack, I, under a military blanket
curse the roof that lets in gusts of wind
the blackening sky and the cries of cart drivers.
I stay there with cold eyes and without a thought
of the well and other curiosities of sleep.
When on the stairs I step accidentally on the child
its mother -- with repulsive breasts -- emerges.
Never never, I swear, will I confess the truth
about the strange pleasure I feel
stepping on its fingers with clenched teeth.
The hard pavement and the calm girl holding a basket
entice my eyes and pull me along hastening
towards the morning meal full of flies and curses,
and the waiter who accidentally gouged out his eye.
An old bookseller impoverished, without memory
I drool and my eyes suffer from cataracts.
My clothes stink and I have a hard time urinating
I'm a broken sword and a sacrificed rooster
I'm the wine turned sour and the rotten egg.
Even the maid servants call me a filthy old toilet,
an aged bookseller taking his morning stroll
going straight to work with painful kidneys.
I, old bookseller, ill and unpretentious
without a thought in my head, God forbid,
sold an antique from Venice to a captain;
God bless this gracious captain.

In my youth I studied to be a lifeguard
a whole six months, I poured over elements of anatomy
submitted to strict exams, I was a hell of a lad
I made the rounds in a lifeboat wearing a cap
I saved those drowning on public beaches
Oh!  Oh! the beautiful and tough occupation
when I smelt danger patrolling those shores,
the red clouds foreboding wind.
The red horn of my gramophone
puts me in a trance me when I stare into it
like the open mouth of a patient at the dentist.
Then they find the occasion to steal my books.
The red clouds and my mustaches inside a box. . . .
These drowsy middays and suffocating evenings
a bookseller man with little knowledge
I have no need to visit the notary and I'm not afraid
of anything except the wrath of God upon the world.
An old and ailing merchant, I rise with the red clouds
up toward the Kingdom of Heaven.

side 32 - victor hernandez cruz

Side 32
by Victor Hernandez Cruz

I am glad that I am not one of those
Big Con Edison pipes that sits by the
River crying smoke
I am glad that I am not the doorknob
Of a police car patrolling the Lower
East Side
How cool I am not a subway token
That has been lost and is sitting
Quietly and lonely by the edge of
A building on 47th Street
I am nothing and no one
I am the possibility of everything
I am a man in this crazy city
I am a door and a glass of water
I am a guitar string cutting through the
Vibrating and bringing morning
My head is a butterfly
Over the traffic jams.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

when - miltos sachtouris

by Miltos Sachtouris (tr. Dino Siotis)

When I close my eyes
my beloved starts out from faraway
she comes
and looks at me

individuality - paul klee

by Paul Klee (tr. Anselm Hollo)

is not of the substance of elements.
It is an organism, indivisibly
by elementary objects of a divergent character:
if you
were to attempt division, these parts
would die.

for instance: an entire dramatic company.

Enter an ancestor, prophetic;
enter a hero, brutal
a rake, alcoholic, to argue
with a learned professor.
A lyrical beauty, rolling her eyes
heavenward, a case
of chronic infatuation --
enter a heavy father,
to take care of that,
enter a liberal uncle -- to arbitrate. . . .
Aunt Chatterbox gossiping in a corner.
Chambermaid Lewdie, giggling.

And I, watching it all,
astonishment in my eyes.
Poised, in my left hand
a sharpened pencil.

A pregnant woman!, a mother
is planning her
entrance --
Shushhh! you
don't belong here
are divisible!
She fades.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

spleen - charles baudelaire

by Charles Baudelaire (tr. Sir John Squire)

When the low heavy sky weighs like a lid
Upon the spirit aching for the light
And all the wide horizon's line is hid
By a back day sadder than any night;

When the changed earth is but a dungeon dank
Where batlike Hope goes blindly fluttering
And, striking wall and roof and mouldered plank,
Bruises his tender head and timid wing;

When like grim prison bars stretch down the thin,
Straight, rigid pillars of the endless rain,
And the dumb throngs of infamous spiders spin
Their meshes in the caverns of the brain,

Suddenly, bells leap forth into the air,
Hurling a hideous uproar to the sky
As 'twere a band of homeless spirits who fare
Through the strange heavens, wailing stubbornly.

And hearses, without drum or instrument,
File slowly through my soul; crushed, sorrowful,
Weeps Hope, and Grief, fierce and omnipotent,
Plants his black banner on my drooping skull.


by Charles Baudelaire 

Quand le ciel bas et lourd pèse comme un couvercle
Sur l'esprit gémissant en proie aux longs ennuis,
Et que de l'horizon embrassant tout le cercle
II nous verse un jour noir plus triste que les nuits;

Quand la terre est changée en un cachot humide,
Où l'Espérance, comme une chauve-souris,
S'en va battant les murs de son aile timide
Et se cognant la tête à des plafonds pourris;

Quand la pluie étalant ses immenses traînées
D'une vaste prison imite les barreaux,
Et qu'un peuple muet d'infâmes araignées
Vient tendre ses filets au fond de nos cerveaux,

Des cloches tout à coup sautent avec furie
Et lancent vers le ciel un affreux hurlement,
Ainsi que des esprits errants et sans patrie
Qui se mettent à geindre opiniâtrement.

— Et de longs corbillards, sans tambours ni musique,
Défilent lentement dans mon âme; l'Espoir,
Vaincu, pleure, et l'Angoisse atroce, despotique,
Sur mon crâne incliné plante son drapeau noir.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

should, should not - czeslaw milosz

Should, Should Not
by Czeslaw Milosz

A man should not love the moon.
An ax should not lose weight in his hand.
His garden should smell of rotting apples
And grow a fair amount of nettles.
A man when he talks should not use words that are dear to him,
Or split open a seed to find out what is inside it.
He should not drop a crumb of bread, or spit in the fire
(So at least I was taught in Lithuania).
When he steps on marble stairs,
He may, the boor, try to chip them with his boot
As a reminder that the stars will not last forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

introduction to poetry - billy collins

Introduction To Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

to paint the portrait of a bird - jacques prévert

To Paint The Portrait Of A Bird
by Jacques Prevert (tr. John Dixon Hunt)

Paint first a cage
with an open door
paint then
something pretty
something simple
something handsome
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
Sometimes the bird arrives at once
but it may also take many years
before making up its mind
Do not be discouraged
wait if need be many years
a speedy or a delayed arrival
bears no relation
to the success of the portrait
When the bird arrives
if it arrives
observe the most profound silence
wait until the bird enters the cage
and when it has entered
close the door gently with a stroke of the brush
paint out one by one all the bars of the cage
taking care to touch none of the bird's feathers
Paint then the portrait of a tree
choosing the loveliest of its branches
for the bird
paint too the green foliage and the fresh wind
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the grass in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to sing
If the bird does not sing
it is a bad sign
a sign that the picture is bad
but if it sings it is a good sign
a sign that you can sing
So you pluck gently then
one of the bird's feathers
and you write your name in a corner of the portrait.

Monday, October 31, 2011

presentiment - rainer maria rilke

by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Edward Snow)

I am like a flag surrounded by distances.
I sense the winds that are coming, and must live them,
while the things down below don't yet stir:
the doors still close softly, and in the chimneys there's silence;
the windows don't tremble yet, and the dust is still calm.

Then I know the storms already and grow embroiled like the sea.
And spread myself out and plunge deep inside myself
and cast myself off and am entirely alone
in the great storm.

Monday, October 24, 2011

what birds? - pedro salinas

What Birds
by Pedro Salinas (tr Willis Barnstone)

Birds?  Birds?
Is there only one bird in the world
flying with a thousand wings, singing
in innumerable trillings, always alone?
Are land and sky mirrors?  Is air
a mirror of air, and does the great unique
bird multiply
its solitude in myriad appearances?
(Is that why
we call it birds?)

Or maybe there isn't one bird?
And are they
fatal plural immense, like the sea,
a numberless band, a surge of wings,
where one seeks a vision and the soul wants
to separate the truth of one lone bird
from its unending essence, from the one,
   handsome bird?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

attempt at a description - jacques prévert

from Attempt At A Description Of A Supper Of Various Heads In Paaris, France
by Jacques Prevert (tr. Michael Benedikt)

The sun shines for all mankind, except of course for prisoners
and miners, and also for
those who scale the fish
those who eat the spoiled meat
those who turn out hairpin after hairpin
those who blow the glass bottles that others will drink from
those who slice their bread with pocketknives
those who vacation at their workbenches or their desks
those who never quite know what to say
those who milk your cows yet who never drink their milk
those you won't find anesthetized at the dentist's
those who cough out their lungs in the subway
those who down in various holes turn out the pens with which
   others in the open air will write something to the effect that
   everything turns out for the best
those who have too much to even begin to put into words
those whose labors are never over
those who haven't labors
those who look for labors
those who water your horses
those who watch their own dogs dying
those who daily bread is available on a more or less weekly 
those who go to church to keep warm in their winter
those whom Swiss Guards send outdoors to keep warm
those who simply rot
those who enjoy the luxury of eating
those who travel beneath your wheels
those who stare at the Seine flowing by
those whom you hire, to whom you express your deepest thanks,
   whom you are charitable toward, whom you deprive, whom
   you manipulate, whom you step on, whom you crush
those from whom even fingerprints are taken
those whom you order to break ranks at random and shoot down
   quite methodically
those who go on forced marches beneath the Arch of Triumph
those who don't know how to fall in with the custom of the
   country any place on earth
those who never ever see the sea
those who always smell of fresh linen because they weave the
   sheets you lie on
those without running water
those whose goal is eternally the blue horizon
those who scatter salt on the snow in all directions in order to
   collect a ridiculous salary
those whose life expectancy is a lot shorter than yours is
those who've never yet knelt down to pick up a dropped hairpin
those who die of boredom on a Sunday afternoon
     because they see Monday morning coming
     and also Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday
     and Saturday too
     and the next Sunday afternoon as well.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

a man feared - stephen crane

A Man Feared
by Stephen Crane

A man feared that he might find an assassin;
Another that he might find a victim.
One was more wise than the other.

Friday, October 21, 2011

asides - paul valéry

by Paul Valéry (tr. William Jay Smith

What do you do?  Why, everything.
What are you worth?  Worth, well,
The worth of mastery and disgust,
Presentiment and trial . . .
What are you worth?  Worth, well . . .
What do you want?  Nothing, all.

What do you know?  Boredom.
What can you do?  Dream?
And with the power of the mind
Can turn the morning into night.
What can you do?  Dream,
And so drive boredom from the mind.

What do you want?  My own good.
What must you do?  Learn.
Learn and master and foresee,
All, of course, to no good.
What do you fear?  The will.
Who are you?  Nothing, nothing at all.

Where are you going?  To death.
What will you do there?  Die;
Nor ever return to this rotten game,
Forever and ever and ever the same.
Where are you going?  To die.
What will you do there?  Be dead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the quiet life - alexander pope

The Quiet Life
by Alexander Pope

HAPPY the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
                In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,      
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
                In winter fire.

Blest who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
                Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixt, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
                With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
                Tell where I lie.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

lying in a hammock - james wright

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota
by James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

heat - denis johnson

by Denis Johnson

Here in the electric dusk your naked lover
tips the glass high and the ice cubes fall against her teeth.
It's beautiful Susan, her hair sticky with gin,
Our Lady of Wet Glass-Rings on the Album Cover,
streaming with hatred in the heat
as the record falls and the snake-band chords begin
to break like terrible news from the Rolling Stones,
and such a last light—full of spheres and zones.
                 you're just an erotic hallucination,
just so much feverishly produced kazoo music,
are you serious?—this large oven impersonating night,
this exhaustion mutilated to resemble passion,
the bogus moon of tenderness and magic
you hold out to each prisoner like a cup of light?

excerpt from 'denity crisis - christopher durang

excerpt from 'Denity Crisis
by Christopher Durang

When I was eight years old, someone brought me to this... theatre. Full of lots of other children. We were supposed to be watching a production of "Peter Pan." And I remember that something seemed terribly wrong with the whole production. Odd things kept happening. For instance, when the children would fly, the ropes they were on would just keep breaking ... and the actors would come thumping to the ground and they had to be carried off by stagehands. And there seemed to be an unlimited supply of understudies, to take their places, and then they'd just fall to the ground. And then the crocodile that chases Captain Hook, seemed to be a real crocodile, it wasn't an actor. And at one point it fell off the stage and crushed a couple of kids in the front row. And then some of the understudies came and took their places in the audience. And from scene to scene, Wendy just seemed to get fatter and fatter until finally by the end of act one she was completely immobile and they had to move her off stage with a cart.

You remember how in the second act Tinkerbell drinks some poison that peter is about to drink in order to save him? And then Peter turns to the audience and he says that "Tinkerbell is going to die because not enough people believe in fairies. But if all of you clap your hands real hard to show that you do believe in fairies, maybe she won't die." So, we all started to clap. I clapped so long and so hard that my palms hurt and they even started to bleed I clapped so hard. Then suddenly the actress playing peter pan turned to the audience and she said, "That wasn't enough. You did not clap hard enough. Tinkerbell is dead." And then we all started to cry. The actress stomped off stage and refused to continue with the production. They finally had to lower the curtain. The ushers had to come help us out of the aisles and into the street. I don't think that any of us were ever the same after that experience. It certainly turned me against theatre. And even more damagingly, I think it's warped my total sense of life. I mean nothing seems worth trying if Tinkerbell is just going to die.

song - brigit pegeen kelly

by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Listen: there was a goat’s head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat’s head
Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat’s headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called to the body. The body to the head.
They missed each other. The missing grew large between them,
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped….
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night’s bush of stars, because the goat’s silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train’s horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn’t hear the train’s horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gauging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat’s body
By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles
At the goat’s torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take
These things away so that the girl would not see them.
They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat.
They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear
Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke….
But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have
Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they
Had imagined, this silly sacrifice, but they finished the job,
Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark.
What they didn’t know was that the goat’s head was already
Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn’t know
Was that the goat’s head would go on singing, just for them,
Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen,
Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would
Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees
Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There
Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last, a song,
The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call.
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.

the way it is - william stafford

The Way It Is
by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

death comes to me again, a girl - dorianne laux

Death comes to me again, a girl
by Dorianne Laux

Death comes to me again, a girl
in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
It’s not so terrible she tells me,
not like you think, all darkness
and silence. There are windchimes
and the smell of lemons, some days
it rains, but more often the air is dry
and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
built from hair and bone and listen
to the voices of the living. I like it,
she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
especially when they fight, and when they sing.

wait - andrew bird

by Andrew Bird

Wait, don't go too early
You're tired but everyone's tired
But no one is tired enough
Only wait a little and listen

Music of hair, music of pain
Music of looms weaving all our loves again
Be there to hear it, it's your only chance

Hair will become interesting
Pain will become interesting
Secondhand gloves will become lovely again

Wait, wait for now
Distrust everything if you have to
But trust the hours
Haven't they carried you everywhere up to now?

the voice of robert desnos - robert desnos

The Voice Of Robert Desnos
by Robert Desnos

So like a flower and a current of air
the flow of water fleeting shadows
the smile glimpsed at midnight this excellent evening
so like every joy and every sadness
it is the midnight past lifting its naked body above belfries and poplars
I call to me those lost in the fields
old skeletons young oaks cut down
scraps of cloth rotting on the ground and linen drying in farm country
I call tornadoes and hurricanes
storms typhoons cyclones
tidal waves
I call the smoke of volcanoes and the smoke of cigarettes
the rings of smoke from expensive cigars
I call lovers and loved ones
I call the living and the dead
I call gravediggers I call assassins
I call hangmen pilots bricklayers architects
I call the flesh
I call the one I love
I call the one I love
I call the one I love
the jubilant midnight unfolds its satin wings and perches on my bed
the belfries and the poplars bend to my wish
the former collapse the latter bow down
those lost in the fields are found in finding me
the old skeletons are revived by my voice
the young oaks cut down are covered with foliage
the scraps of cloth rotting on the ground and in the earth
snap to at the sound of my voice like a flag of rebellion
the linen drying in farm country clothes adorable women
whom I do not adore
who come to me
obeying my voice, adoring
tornadoes revolve in my mouth
hurricanes if it is possible redden my lips
storms roar at my feet
typhoons if it is possible ruffle me
I get drunken kisses from the cyclones
the tidal waves come to die at my feet
the earthquakes do not shake me but fade completely
at my command
the smoke of volcanoes clothes me with its vapors
and the smoke of cigarettes perfumes me
and the rings of cigar smoke crown me
loves and love so long hunted find refuge in me
lovers listen to my voice
the living and the dead yield to me and salute me
the former coldly the latter warmly
the gravediggers abandon the hardly-dug graves
and declare that I alone may command their nightly work
the assassins greet me
the hangmen invoke the revolution
invoke my voice
invoke my name
the pilots are guided by my eyes
the bricklayers are dizzied listening to me
the architects leave for the desert
the assassins bless me
flesh trembles when I call

the one I love is not listening
the one I love does not hear
the one I love does not answer.

Si semblable à la fleur et au courant d’air
au cours d’eau aux ombres passagères
au sourire entrevu ce fameux soir à minuit
si semblable à tout au bonheur et à la tristesse
c’est le minuit passé dressant son torse nu
au dessus des beffrois et des peupliers
j’appelle à moi ceux-là perdus dans les campagnes
les vieux cadavres les jeunes chênes coupés
les lambeaux d’étoffe pourissant sur la terre et le linge
séchant aux alentours des fermes
j’appelle à moi les tornades et les ouragans
les tempètes les typhons les cyclones
les raz de marée
les tremblements de terre
j’appelle à moi la fumée des volcans et celle des cigarettes
les ronds de fumée des cigarres de luxe
j’appelle à moi les amours et les amoureux
j’appelle à moi les vivants et les morts
j’appelle les fossoyeurs j’appelle les assassins
j’appelle les bourreaux j’appelle les pilotes les maçons et
les architectes
les assassins
j’appelle la chair
j’appelle celle que j’aime
j’appelle celle que j’aime
j’appelle celle que j’aime
le minuit triomphant déploue ses ailes de satin
et se pose sur mon lit
les beffois et les peupliers se plient à mon désir
ceux-là s’éroulent ceux-là s’affaissent
les perdus dans la campagne se retrouvent en me trouvant
les vieux cadavres ressuscitent à ma voix
les jeunes chênes coupés se couvrent de verdure
les lambeaux d’étoffe pourissent dans la terre et sur la terre
claquent à ma voix comme l’étendard de la révolte
le linge séchant aux alentours des fermes habille d’adorables femmes
que je n’adore pas qui viennent à moi obéissent à ma voix et m’adorent
les tornades tournent dans ma bouche
les ouragans rougissent s’il est possible mes lèvres
les tempètes grondent à mes pieds
les typhons s’il est possible me dépeignent
je reçois les baisers d’ivresse des cyclones
les raz de marrée viennent mourir à mes pieds
les tremblements de terre ne m’ébranlent pas
mais font tout crouler à mon ordre
la fumée des volcans me vêt de ses vapeurs
et celle des cigarettes me parfume
et les ronds de fumée des cigares me couronnent
les amours et l’amour si longtemps poursuivis se réfugient en moi
les amoureux écoutent ma voix
les vivants et les morts se soumettent et me saluent
les premiers froidement les seconds familièrement
les fossoyeurs abandonnent les tombes à peine creusées
et déclarent que moi seul puis commander leurs noctures travaux
les assassins me saluent
les bourreaux invoquent la révolution
invoquent ma voix
invoquent mon nom
les pilotes se guident sur mes yeux
les maçons ont le vertige en m’écoutant
les assassins me bénissent
la chair palpite à mon appel
celle que j’aime ne m’écoute pas
celle que j’aime ne m’entend pas
celle que j’aime ne me répond pas

14 décembre 1926

nest - claire gheerardyn

by Claire Gheerardyn

He said, When I arrived in Hungary,
a basket was my most precious possession,
a basket woven out of chestnut twigs,
a basket to be carried on my back.

In Hungary, he said,
I soon discovered that objects
have a life of their own.
That he who forgets his umbrella somewhere
also forgets a year of his life,
and that coat-hangers are ubiquitous.
That the wind takes your hat off
as if it were your head.

We both sipped our glass of yellow water.

And what was the life that your basket led?, I asked.
He softly smiled and said:
In Hungary, I would sit down at my desk
to invent bird names.
I would say the name aloud
and ask myself: ‘Can this bird really fly?’
If it couldn’t, then, I would just throw the name away.
But when it could,
I would very carefully lay the name of the bird
in the basket that I was carrying on my back.

too many names - pablo neruda

Too Many Names
by Pablo Neruda

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

he said turn here - dean young

He Said Turn Here
by Dean Young

and then Tony showed us the lake
where he had thrown some of his sadness last summer
and it had dissolved like powder
so he thought maybe the lake could take
some of the radiant, aluminum kind
he had been making lately.
And it did.
It was a perfect lake,
none of the paint had chipped off,
no bolts showing, the arms that Dante
and Virgil would have to hack through
not even breaking the surface.
Mumbling Italian to itself,
it had climbed down two wooden stairs
back to the beach now that the rains were done.
How strange to be water so close to the ocean
yet the only other water you get to talk to
comes from the sky. Maybe this is why
it seems so willing to take on
Tony’s sadness which sometimes corrodes
his friends, which is really
many different sadnesses, smaller
and smaller, surrounded by more
and more space, each a world and
at its core an engine like a bee
inside a lily, like buzzing inside
the bee. It seems like nothing
could change its color although
we couldn’t tell what color it was,
it kept changing. In the summer,
Tony says he comes down early each day
and there’s no one around so the lake
barely says a thing when he dives in
and once when his kitchen was on fire in Maine
and he was asleep, the lake came and bit his hand,
trying to drag him to safety
and some nights in New Mexico,
he can hear it howling,
searching for him in the desert
so we’re glad Tony has this lake
and we promise to come back in August
and swim with him across,
maybe even race.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

secretaries - czeslaw milosz

by Czeslaw Milosz

I am no more than a secretary of the invisible thing
That is dictated to me and a few others.
Secretaries, mutually unknown, we walk the earth
Without much comprehension.  Beginning a phrase in the middle
Or ending it with a comma.  And how it looks when completed
Is not up to us to inquire, we won't read it anyway.

the house surrounded - jules supervielle

The House Surrounded
by Jules Supervielle (tr. Patricia Terry)

The mountain hesitates outside my window:
"How can I come in, if I am a mountain,
Extending as I do upwards, with rock and pebbles,
A piece of the Earth, and changing under the Sky?"
The foliage of woods surrounds my house:
"What have the woods to say about all this?
Our world spread out in branches, leafy world,
What can it do in that room with its white bed,
Where a candlestick is burning at its peak,
Close to the flower sipping from a glass?
What can it do for that man who leans on his arm,
For a hand which writes in the shelter of four walls?
Let us take counsel from our fragile roots,
He hasn't seen us, he searches within himself
For trees which understand what he has to say."
And the river: "This is no concern of mine;
For myself alone I flow and know nothing of men.
Wherever they find me I have already gone,
Always ahead of myself, I fear to linger.
Who cares for people who walk away on their legs--
They leave and they will return the way they came."
But the star says, "Trembling I hang by a thread;
I cease to exist if no one thinks of me."

temptation - czeslaw milosz

by Czeslaw Milosz

Under a starry sky I was taking a walk,
On a ridge overlooking neon cities,
With my companion, the spirit of desolation,
Who was running around and sermonizing,
Saying that I was not necessary, for if not I, then someone else
Would be walking here, trying to understand his age.
Had I died long ago nothing would have changed.
The same stars, cities, and countries
Would have been seen with other eyes.
The world and its labors would go on as they do.

For Christ's sake, get away from me.
You've tormented me enough, I said.
It's not up to me to judge the calling of men.
And my merits, if any, I wouldn't know anyway.

account - czeslaw milosz

by Czeslaw Milosz

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle's flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among the adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own---but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it's late.  And the truth is laborious.

preparation - czeslaw milosz

by Czeslaw Milosz

Still one more year of preparation.
Tomorrow at the latest I'll start working on a great book
In which my century will appear as it really was.
The sun will rise over the righteous and the wicked.
Springs and autumns will unerringly return,
In a wet thicket a thrush will build his nest lined with clay
And foxes will learn their foxy natures.

And that will be the subject, with addenda.  Thus: armies
Running across the frozen plains, shouting a curse
In a many-voiced chorus; the cannon of a tank
Growing immense at the corner of a street; the ride at dusk
Into a camp with watchtowers and barbed wire.

No, it won't happen tomorrow.  In five or ten years.
I still think too much about the mothers
And ask what is man born of woman.
He curls himself up and protects his head
While he is kicked by heavy boots; on fire and running,
He burns with bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps him into a clay pit.
Her child.  Embracing a teddy bear.  Conceived in ecstasy.

I haven't yet learned to speak as I should, calmly.

With not-quite truth
and not-quite art
and not-quite law
and not-quite science

Under not-quite heaven
on the not-quite earth
the not-quite guiltless
and the not-quite degraded

the palace of laughter - zbigniew herbert

The Palace Of Laughter
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

A swing, a whirlabout, a shooting-gallery -- these are the amusements of common people.  Subtle intellects, reflective natures prefer the Palace of Laughter.  Its lofty and secret purpose is to prepare us for the worst.  Here in one mirror is shown our body taken down from the wheel -- a misshapen sack of broken bones, in another our body taken down from the meat-hook after a long dry distillation in the air.
   Visit the Palace of Laughter.  Visit the Palace of Laughter.  This is the vestibule of life, the anteroom of torture.

episode - zbigniew herbert

by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

We walk by the sea-shore
holding firmly in our hands
the two-ends of an antique dialogue
- do you love me?
- I love you

with furrowed eyebrows
I summarize all wisdom
of the two testaments
astrologers prophets
philosophers of the gardens
and cloistered philosophers

and it sounds about like this:
- don't cry
- be brave
- look how everybody

you pout your lips and say
- you should be a clergyman
and fed up you walk off
nobody loves moralists

   what should I say on the shore of
   a small dead sea

   slowly the water fills
   the shapes of feet which have vanished

voice - zbigniew herbert

by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

I walk on the sea-shore
to catch that voice
between the breaking of one wave
and another

but there is no voice
only the senile garrulity of water
salty nothing
a white bird's wing
stuck dry to a stone

I walk to the forest
where persists the continuous
hum of an immense hour-glass
sifting leaves into humus
humus into leaves
powerful jaws of insects
consume the silence of the earth

I walk into the fields
green and yellow sheets
flattened with pins of insect beings
sing at every touch of the wind

where is that voice
it should speak up
when for a moment there is a pause
in the unrelenting monologue of the earth

nothing but whispers
clappings explosions

I come home
and my experience takes on
the shape of an alternative
either the world is dumb
or I am deaf

but perhaps
we are both
doomed to our afflictions

therefore we must
arm in arm
go blindly on
towards new horizons
towards contracted throats
from which rises
an unintelligible gurgle

the seventh angel - zbigniew herbert

The Seventh Angel
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

The seventh angel
is completely different
even his name is different

he is no Gabriel
the aureate
upholder of the throne
and baldachin

and he's no Raphael
tuner of choirs

and he's also no
surveyor of infinity
perfect exponent of theoretical physics

is black and nervous
and has been fined many times
for illegal import of sinners

between the abyss
and the heavens
without a rest his feet go pit-a-pat

his sense of dignity is non-existent
and they only keep him in the squad
out of consideration for the number seven
but he is not like the others

not like the hetman of the hosts
all scales and feathery plumes

nor like Azrafael
interior decorator of the universe
warden of its luxuriant vegetation
his wings shimmering like two oak trees

not even like
apologist and cabalist

Shemkel Shemkel
- the angels complain
why are you not perfect

the Byzantine artists
when they paint all seven
reproduce Shemkel
just like the rest

because they suppose
they might lapse into heresy
if they were to portray him
just as he is
black nervous
in his old threadbare nimbus

episode in a library - zbigniew herbert

Episode In A Library
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

A blonde girl is bent over a poem.  With a pencil sharp as a lancet she transfers the words to a blank page and changes them into strokes, accents, caesuras.  The lament of a fallen poet now looks like a salamander eaten away by ants.
   When we carried him away under machine-gun fire, I believed that his still warm body would be resurrected in the word.  Now as I watch the death of the words, I know there is no limit to decay.  All that will be left after us in the black earth will be scattered syllables.  Accents over nothingness and dust.

journey to kraków - zbigniew herbert

Journey To Krakow
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

As soon as the train got going
the tall dark type begins
and he speaks like this to the boy
with a book on his knees

- you like to read boy

- I like it - replies the latter
it makes the time go by
always plenty of work at home
here it doesn't bother people

- Well there you're certainly right
what is it you're reading

- The Peasants - replies the latter
very true to life
only a little too long
it's the right length for winter

I've also read The Folk Wedding
that's actually a play
very hard to follow
too many people

The Deluge is something else again
you read and it's like you'd seen it
really - he says - great
almost as good as a movie

Hamlet - by a foreign writer
also very interesting
only this Danish prince
is a bit too much of a sissy

dark in the train
the conversation suddenly breaks off
the authoritative commentary ceases

in the white margins
the prints of fingers and the soil
have marked with rough thumb-nail
rapture and condemnation

the wind and the rose - zbigniew herbert

The Wind And The Rose
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

Once in a garden there grew a rose.  A wind fell in love with her.  They were completely different, he - light and fair; she - immobile and heavy as blood.
   There came a man in wooden clogs and with his thick hands he plucked the rose.  The wind leapt after him, but the man slammed the door in his face.
   - O that I might turn to stone - wept the unlucky one - I was able to go round the whole world, I was able to stay away for years at a time, but I knew she was always there waiting.
   The wind understood that, in order to really suffer, one has to be faithful.

you know the way - saskia hamilton

You Know The Way
by Saskia Hamilton

What he wants from me is numb, it is crushed
inside the dark hole of the last place you’d ever look.

I have practiced dreaming. It works sometimes.
My heart is there, somewhere thrilling away.

I can’t kiss anyone for just this reason.
And there’s just the voice in my ear, which says:

I’m looking for one rusty black bike
one rusty thing to take me down the road.

an old man's winter night - robert frost

An Old Man's Winter Night
by Robert Frost

All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him -- at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off; -- and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
So late-arising, to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man -- one man -- can't keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night.

my father's eye - eleni vakalo

My Father's Eye
by Eleni Vakalo

My Father had a glass eye

On Sundays when he stayed home he took out of his pockets other eyes and polished them
with the edge of his sleeve and called my mother to choose.  My mother laughed.

In the mornings my father was happy.  He played with his eye in his palm before he put it on
and declared it was a good eye.  But I didn't want to believe it.

I threw a dark shawl over my shoulders pretending I was too old to watch what was going on.
In the end I caught him once weeping.  There was no difference from a real eye.

     This poem
     is not to be read
     by those who don't love me
     by those
     who don't know me
     if they don't believe
     I existed

After the story of my father I suspected even those who had real eyes.

a song at the end of the world - czeslaw milosz

A Song At The End Of The World
by Czeslaw Milosz

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

"you can't get away with it..." - yevgeny yevtushenko

"You can't get away with it..."
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (tr. Boyars & Franklin)

You can't get away with it--
Neither the slightest detour
From your predetermined path,
Nor being friends with a scoundrel,
Nor showing off to dazzle
A fool of a star-struck girl.

You can't get away with it:
Not a false move, or a sound--
For the false has a dangerous echo--
Nor lusting for wealth,
Nor calculating steps
Up the stair of success.

You can't get away with it--
Not the forgotten friend
Who makes you feel awkward,
Nor the tiniest ant
Under your shoe,
Squashed without spite.

This is the vicious circle:
You can't get away with it,
And even if you do,
Nothing comes free--
And a man, bit by small bit,
Goes out of his mind . . .

ars poetica - jorge luis borges

Ars Poetica
by Jorge Luis Borges (tr. W.S. Merwin)

To look at the river made of time and water
And remember that time is another river,
To know that we are lost like the river
And that faces dissolve like water.

To be aware that waking dreams it is not asleep
While it is another dream, and that the death
That our flesh goes in fear of is that death
Which comes every night and is called sleep.

To see in the day or in the year a symbol
Of the days of man and of his years,
To transmute the outrage of the years
Into a music, a murmur of voices, and a symbol,

To see in death sleep, and in the sunset
A sad gold—such is poetry,
Which is immortal and poor. Poetry
returns like the dawn and the sunset.

At times in the evenings a face
Looks at us out of the depths of a mirror;
Art should be like that mirror
Which reveals to us our own face.

They say that Ulysses, sated with marvels,
Wept tears of love at the sight of his Ithaca,
Green and humble. Art is that Ithaca
Of green eternity, not of marvels.

It is also like the river with no end
That flows and remains and is the mirror of one same
Inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
And is another, like the river with no end.

Arte Poética

Mirar el río hecho de tiempo y agua
Y recordar que el tiempo es otro río,
Saber que nos perdemos como el río
Y que los rostros pasan como el agua.

Sentir que la vigilia es otro sueño
Que sueña no soñar y que la muerte
Que teme nuestra carne es esa muerte
De cada noche, que se llama sueño.

Ver en el día o en el año un símbolo
De los días del hombre y de sus años,
Convertir el ultraje de los años
En una música, un rumor y un símbolo,

Ver en la muerte el sueño, en el ocaso
Un triste oro, tal es la poesía
Que es inmortal y pobre. La poesía
Vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.

A veces en las tardes una cara
Nos mira desde el fondo de un espejo;
El arte debe ser como ese espejo
Que nos revela nuestra propia cara.

Cuentan que Ulises, harto de prodigios,
Lloró de amor al divisar su Itaca
Verde y humilde. El arte es esa Itaca
De verde eternidad, no de prodigios.

También es como el río interminable
Que pasa y queda y es cristal de un mismo
Heráclito inconstante, que es el mismo
Y es otro, como el río interminable.

interval of joy - dinos christianopoulos

Interval Of Joy
by Dinos Christianopoulos

just as I was saying I would stop writing about love and lust
and write something instead about the unhappiness of my
I met you and fell into complete confusion
and all my resolutions went up in air
now see where I sit and write songs again
burning for your somewhat green eyes
thirsting for your saliva
recollecting our one love-walk in the country
when the mosquitoes bit us in confused bewilderment
at this incomparable devotion of ours
and the thorns pierced into our bodies
astonished at the extent of our indifference

it was an interval of joy
may the unhappy forgive me for it
I have not yet suffered enough
for the pain of my neighbor to touch me