Wednesday, March 30, 2011

i would like to describe - zbigniew herbert

I Would Like To Describe
by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Milosz & Scott)

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say - I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face
and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the wood was just right - argyris chionis

The Wood Was Just Right
by Argyris Chionis (tr. Allegro Shartz & Nanos Valaoritis)

The wood was just right
for us to make a house or a boat
beautiful cypress wood, aromatic,
we made a boat and we disappeared

Friday, March 25, 2011

certainty - octavio paz

by Octavio Paz (tr. Charles Tomlinson)

If it is real the white
light from this lamp, real
the writing hand, are they
real, the eyes looking at what I write?

From one word to the other
what I say vanishes.
I know that I am alive
between two parentheses.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

there's no forgetting (sonata) - pablo neruda

There's No Forgetting (Sonata)
by Pablo Neruda

If you should ask me where I've been all this time
I have to say "Things Happen."
I have to dwell on stones darkening the earth,
on the river ruined in its own duration:
I know nothing save the things the birds have lost,
the sea I left behind, or my sister crying.
Why this abundance of places? Why does day lock
with Day? Why the dark night swilling round
in our mouths? And why the dead?

Should you ask me where I come from, I must talk
with broken things,
with fairly painful utensils,
with great beasts turned to dust as often as not
and my afflicted heart.

These are not memories that have passed each other
nor the yellowing pigeon asleep in our forgetting;
these are tearful faces
and fingers down our throats
and whatever among leaves falls to the ground:
the dark of a day gone by
grown fat on our grieving blood.

Here are violets, and here swallows,
all things we love and which inform
sweet messages seriatum
through which time passes and sweetness passes.

We don't get far, though, beyond these teeth:
Why waste time gnawing the husks of silence?
I not what to answer:
there are so many dead,
and so many dikes the red sun breached,
and so many heads battering hulls
and so many hands that have closed over kisses
and so many things that I want to forget.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

life - tasos livaditis

by Tasos Livaditis (tr. Nanos Valaoritits)

Ah, Life!  Somebody else's hat worn in haste during a bombardment.

the artist - oscar wilde

The Artist
by Oscar Wilde

     One evening there came into his soul the desire to fashion an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment. And he went forth into the world to look for bronze. For he could only think in bronze.
     But all the bronze of the whole world had disappeared, nor anywhere in the whole world was there any bronze to be found, save only the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever.
     Now this image he had himself, and with his own hands, fashioned, and had set it on the tomb of the one thing he had loved in life. On the tomb of the dead thing he had most loved had he set this image of his own fashioning, that it might serve as a sign of the love of man that dieth not, and a symbol of the sorrow of man that endureth for ever. And in the whole world there was no other bronze save the bronze of this image.
     And he took the image he had fashioned, and set it in a great furnace, and gave it to the fire.
     And out of the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever he fashioned an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment.

i have dreamed of you so much - robert desnos

I Have Dreamed Of You So Much
by Robert Desnos (tr. Paul Auster)

   I have dreamed of you so much that you are no longer real.
   Is there still time for me to reach your breathing body, to kiss your mouth 
and make your dear voice come alive again?
   I have dreamed of you so much that my arms, grown used to being crossed
on my chest as I hugged your shadow, would perhaps not bend to the shape
of your body.
   For faced with the real form of what has haunted me and governed me for
so many days and years, I would surely become a shadow.
   O scales of feeling.
   I have dreamed of you so much that surely there is no more time for me
to wake up.  I sleep on my feet, prey to all the forms of life and love, and you,
the only one who counts for me today, I can no more touch your face and
lips than touch the lips and face of some passerby.
   I have dreamed of you so much, have walked so much, talked so much, slept
so much with your phantom, that perhaps the only thing left for me is to
become a phantom among phantoms, a shadow a hundred times more shadow
than the shadow that moves and goes on moving, brightly, over the sundial
of your life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

you who never arrived - rainer maria rilke

You Who Never Arrived
by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Stephen Mitchell)

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't know even what songs
would please you.  I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment.  All the immense
images in me-- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods-
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing.  An open window
in a country house--, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,--
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image.  Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate in the evening...

Monday, March 21, 2011

description of a lost thing - charles simic

Description Of A Lost Thing
by Charles Simic

It never had a name,
Nor do I remember how I found it.
I carried it in my pocket
Like a lost button.

Horror movies,
All-night cafeterias,
Dark barrooms
And poolhalls,
On rain-slicked streets.

It led a quiet, unremarkable existence
Like a shadow in a dream,
An angel on a pin,
And then it vanished.
The years passed with their row

Of nameless stations,
Till somebody told me this is it!
And fool that I was,
I got off on an empty platform
With no town in sight.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

prophecy - jules supervielle

by Jules Supervielle (tr. Jean Cassou)

One day the Earth will be only
A blind space turning,
Mingling night with day.
Under the great sky of the Andes
It will have no more mountains,
Not even a small ravine.

From all the houses of the world
Only one balcony will remain
And from the human map of the world
A sadness without bounds.
From the late Atlantic Ocean
A small taste of salt in the air,
One flying magical fish
Which will remember nothing of the sea.

From a carriage of 1905
(Four wheels and no road!)
Three young girls of that time
Remaining in the form of smoke
Will look out of the window
Believing Paris not far off
And they will smell nothing
But the smell of the sky which catches in your throat.

Where the forest was
A bird’s song will rise up
Which no one will place,
Nor prefer, nor even hear,
Except God. When He listens,
He’ll say: “It’s a goldfinch!”

the gifts - miltos sahtouris

The Gifts
by Miltos Sahtouris (tr. Kimon Friar)

Today I wore a
warm red blood
today men love me
a woman smiled at me
a girl gave me a seashell
a boy gave me a hammer

Today I kneel on the sidewalk
and nail the naked white feet of the passers-by
to the pavement tiles
they are all in tears
but no one is frightened
all remain in the places to which I had come in time
they are all in tears
but they gaze at the celestial advertisements
and at a beggar who sells hot cross buns
in the sky

Two men whisper
what is he doing  is he nailing our hearts?
yes he is nailing our hearts
well then he is a poet

forever there - pierre reverdy

Forever There
by Pierre Reverdy (tr. Michael Benedikt)

I have a need not to encounter myself anymore and to forget
   about everything
To speak with people I've never known
To shout without being heard
For absolutely no actual reason and in utter isolation
I know the whole world step by step down to the last
I want to tell my whole life's story without anyone there to
Heads and eyes all turn away from me
Toward night
My head is a heavy full ball
Rolling across the earth making barely a sound

Vast distance
Nothing in front of me nothing behind me
In the emptiness into which I descend
A few gusts of air
Blowing around me
Cruel and cold
These come from doors only half-closed
On memories still not quite forgotten
The world is interrupted like some pendulum
And everybody is is suspended for eternity
Like a spider an aviator slides down along a wire
Everybody dances around weightlessly
Between sky and earth
But a single light-ray escaped
From a lamp you forgot to put out
On the landing
No it's not over
We're not finished yet with forgetting
And I still have the need to get to know myself just a little bit

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a felicitous life - czeslaw milosz

A Felicitous Life
by Czeslaw Milosz
His old age fell on years of abundant harvest.
There were no earthquakes, droughts or floods.
It seemed as if the turning of the seasons gained in constancy,
Stars waxed strong and the sun increased its might.
Even in remote provinces no war was waged.
Generations grew up friendly to fellow men.
The rational nature of man was not a subject of derision.
It was bitter to say farewell to the earth so renewed.
He was envious and ashamed of his doubt,
Content that his lacerated memory would vanish with him.
Two days after his death a hurricane razed the coasts.
Smoke came from volcanoes inactive for a hundred years.
Lava sprawled over forests, vineyards, and towns.
And war began with a battle on the islands.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

what i'm doing here - leonard cohen

What I'm Doing Here
by Leonard Cohen

I do not know if the world has lied
I have lied
I do not know if the world has conspired against love
I have conspired against love
The atmosphere of torture is no comfort
I have tortured
Even without the mushroom cloud
still I would have hated
I would have done the same things
even if there were no death
I will not be held like a drunkard
under the cold tap of facts
I refuse the universal alibi

Like an empty telephone booth passed at night
and remembered
like mirrors in a movie palace lobby consulted
only on the way out
like a nymphomaniac who binds a thousand
into strange brotherhood
I wait
for each one of you to confess