Saturday, April 30, 2011

my life - henri michaux

My Life
by Henri Michaux (tr. Bernard Waldrop)

My life, you take off without me.
You roll
while I'm still waiting to take a step.
You carry the battle somewhere else.
You leave me alone like this.
I've never followed you.

I don't see too clearly what you offer.
The little I want, you never bring.
Because of this lack, my ideals go way up
To all sorts of things, to infinity almost . . .
because of this little that's lacking, that you never bring.

Friday, April 29, 2011

poem to shout in the ruins - louis aragon

Poem To Shout In The Ruins
by Louis Aragon (tr. Geoffrey Young)

Let's spit the two of us let's spit
On what we loved
On what we loved the two of us
Yes because this poem the two of us
Is a waltz tune and I imagine
What is dark and incomparable passing between us
Like a dialogue of mirrors abandoned
In a baggage-claim somewhere say Foligno
Or Bourboule in the Auvergne
Certain names are charged with a distant thunder
Yes let's spit the two of us on these immense landscapes
Where little rented cars cruise by
Yes because something must still
Some thing
Reconcile us yes let's spit
The two of us it's a waltz
A kind of convenient sob
Let's spit let's spit tiny automobiles
Let's spit that's an order
A waltz of mirrors
A dialogue in a void
Listen to these immense landscapes where the wind
Cries over what we loved
One of them is a horse leaning its elbow on the earth
The other a deadman shaking out linen the other
The trail of your footprints I remember a deserted village
On the shoulder of a scorched mountain
I remember your shoulder
I remember your elbow your linen your footprints
I remember a town where there was no horse
I remember your look which scorched
My deserted heart a dead Mazeppa whom a horse
Carries away like that day on the mountain
Drunkenness sped my run through the martyred oaks
Which bled prophetically while day
Light fell mute over the blue trucks
I remember so many things
So many evenings rooms walks rages
So many stops in worthless places
Where in spite of everything the spirit of mystery rose up
Like the cry of a blind child in a remote train depot

So I am speaking to the past Go ahead and laugh
At the sound of my words if you feel that way
He loved and Was and Came and Caressed
And Waited and Kept watch on the stairs which creaked
Oh violence violence I am a haunted man
And waited and waited bottomless wells
I thought I would die waiting
Silence sharpened pencils in the street
A coughing taxi drove off to die in the dark
And waited and waited smothered voices
In front of the door the language of doors
Hiccup of houses and waited
One after another familiar objects took on
And waited the ghostlike look And waited
Of convicts And waited
And waited God Damn
Escaped from a prison of half-light and suddenly
No Stupid No
The shoe crushed the nap of the rug
I barely return
And loved loved loved but you cannot know how much
And loved it's in the past
Loved loved loved loved loved
Oh violence
It's nothing but a joke to those
Who talk as if love were the story of a fling
Shit on all that pretence
Do you know when it truly becomes a story
You know
When every breath turns into a tragedy
When even the day's colors are laughable
Air a shadow in shade a name thrown out
That everything burns and you know deep down
That everything burns and you know deep down
That everything burns
And you say Let everything burn
And the sky is the taste of scattered sand
Love you bastards love for you
Is when you manage to sleep together
Manage to
And afterwards Ha ha all of love is in that
And afterwards
We manage to speak of what it is
To sleep together for years
Do you understand
For years
Just like a boat's sails toppling
Onto the deck of a ship loaded with lepers
In a film I saw recently
One by one
The white rose dies like the red rose
What is it then that stirs me up to such a pitch
In these last words
The word last perhaps a word in which
Everything is cruel cruelly irreparable
And torn to shreds Word panther Word electric
The last word of love imagine that
And the last kiss and the last
And the last step No kidding it's comic
Thinking simply of the last night
Ah everything takes on this abominable meaning
I meant the last moment
The last goodbye the last gasp
Last look
Horror horror horror
For years now horror

Yes let's spit
On what we loved together
Let's spit on love
On our unmade beds
On our silence and on our mumbled words
On the stars even if they are
Your eyes
On the sun even if it is
Your teeth
On eternity even if it is
Your mouth
And on our love
Even if it is
Your love
Yes let's spit

proem - octavio paz

by Octavio Paz (tr. Eliot Weinberger)

     At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of joy and the
vertigo of death;
     the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena
in submarine gardens;
     the laughter that sets fire to rules and the holy commandments;
     the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
     the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
     for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-
sorrow desert;
     the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipa-
tion of the self;
     the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors;
     the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and
the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
     the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the
cave of thought;
     the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
     the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
     the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid:  the love in

Syllables seeds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

i saw a man - stephen crane

I Saw A Man
by Stephen Crane

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never -- "

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

Friday, April 22, 2011

ex-basketball player - john updike

Ex-Basketball Player
by John Updike

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
Is on the corner facing west, and there,
Most days, you'll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.

Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—
Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,
Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.
One’s nostrils are two S’s, and his eyes
An E and O. And one is squat, without
A head at all—more of a football type.

Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.

He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.
His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.

Off work, he hangs around Mae’s Luncheonette.
Grease-gray and kind of coiled, he plays pinball,
Smokes those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphates.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nods
Beyond her face toward bright applauding tiers
Of Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

the other life - raymond carver

The Other Life
by Raymond Carver

                Now for the other life.  The one without mistakes.  -- Lou Lipsitz

My wife is in the other half of this mobile home
making a case against me.
I can hear her pen scratch, scratch.
Now and then she stops to weep,
then -- scratch, scratch.

The frost is going out of the ground.
The man who owns this unit tells me,
Don't leave your car here.
My wife goes on writing and weeping,
weeping and writing in our new kitchen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

sad song to bore everyone - pablo neruda

Sad Song To Bore Everyone
by Pablo Neruda (tr. Ilan Stavans)

I wasted my life all night
doing some counting
not cows,
not pounds,
not francs, not dollars,
no, nothing like that.

I wasted my life all night
doing some counting,
not cars,
not cats,
not loves,

I wasted my life in the light,
doing some counting,
not books,
not dogs,
not numbers,

I wasted the moon all night
doing some counting,
not kisses,
not brides,
not beds,

I wasted the night in the waves,
doing some counting,
not bottles,
not teeth,
not cups,

I wasted the war in peace
doing some counting,
not the dead,
not flowers,

I wasted the rain on the land
doing some counting,
not roads,
not songs,

I wasted the land in shadow
doing some counting,
not hair,
not wrinkles,
not lost things,

I wasted death in life
doing some counting,
and does it add up?
I don't remember,

I wasted life in death
doing some counting,
and if I show a loss
or a surplus,
I don't know,
and neither does the land.

Et cetera.

slapstick - wislawa szymborska

by Wislawa Szymborska (tr. Branczak & Cavanagh)

If there are angels,
I doubt they read
our novels
concerning thwarted hopes.

I'm afraid, alas,
they never touch the poems
that bear our grudges against the world.

The rantings and railings
of our plays
must drive them, I suspect,
to distraction.

Off duty, between angelic---
i.e., inhuman---occupations,
they watch instead
our slapstick
from the age of silent film.

To our dirge wailers,
garment renders,
and teeth gnashers,
they prefer, I suppose,
that poor devil
who grabs the drowning man by his toupee
or, starving, devours his own shoelaces
with gusto.

From the waist up, starch and aspirations;
below, a startled mouse
runs down his trousers.
I'm sure
that's what they call real entertainment.

A crazy chase in circles
ends up pursuing the pursuer.
The light at the end of the tunnel
turns out to be a tiger's eye.
A hundred disasters
mean a hundred comic somersaults
turned over a hundred abysses.

If there are angels,
they must, I hope,
find this convincing,
this merriment dangling from terror,
not even crying Save me Save me
since all of this takes place in silence.

I can even imagine
that they clap their wings
and tears run from their eyes
from laughter, if nothing else.

Monday, April 18, 2011

the obvious - jeffrey mcdaniel

The Obvious
by Jeffrey McDaniel

We didn't deny the obvious
but we didn't entirely accept it either

We said hello to it each morning in the foyer
we patted its little head as it made a mess in the backyard
but we never nurtured it.

Many nights the obvious showed up at our bedroom door in its pajamas
unable to sleep, in need of a hug

and we just stared at it like an Armenian
or even worse hid beneath the covers
and pretended not to hear its tiny sobs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

to the muse - james wright

To The Muse
by James Wright

It is all right. All they do
Is go in by dividing
One rib from another. I wouldn’t
Lie to you. It hurts
Like nothing I know. All they do
Is burn their way in with a wire.
It forks in and out a little like the tongue
Of that frightened garter snake we caught
At Cloverfield, you and me, Jenny
So long ago.

I would lie to you
If I could.
But the only way I can get you to come up
Out of the suckhole, the south face
Of the Powhatan pit, is to tell you
What you know:

You come up after dark, you poise alone
With me on the shore.
I lead you back to this world.

Three lady doctors in Wheeling open
Their offices at night.
I don’t have to call them, they are always there.
But they only have to put the knife once
Under your breast.
Then they hang their contraption.
And you bear it.

It’s awkward a while. Still, it lets you
Walk about on tiptoe if you don’t
Jiggle the needle.
It might stab your heart, you see.
The blade hangs in your lung and the tube
Keeps it draining.
That way they only have to stab you
Once. Oh Jenny.

I wish to God I had made this world, this scurvy
And disastrous place. I
Didn’t, I can’t bear it
Either, I don’t blame you, sleeping down there
Face down in the unbelievable silk of spring,
Muse of black sand,

I don’t blame you, I know
The place where you lie.
I admit everything. But look at me.
How can I live without you?
Come up to me, love,
Out of the river, or I will
Come down to you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

the quiet world - jeffrey mcdaniel

The Quiet World
by Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

a contribution to statistics - wislawa szymborska

A Contribution To Statistics
by Wislawa Szymborska (tr. by Baranczak & Cavanagh)

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better

doubting every step
---nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
---as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
---four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
---sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
---forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something

capable of happiness
---twenty-something tops,

harmless singly,
savage in crowds
---half at least,

when forced by circumstances
---better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
---just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
sooner or later,

---thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding

worthy of compassion

---a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

last news about the little box - vasko popa

Last News About The Little Box
by Vasko Popa

The little box which contains the world
Fell in love with herself
And conceived
Still another little box

The little box of the little box
Also fell in love with herself
And conceived
Still another little box

And so it went on forever

The world from the little box
Ought to be inside
The last offspring of the little box

But not one of the little boxes
Inside the little box in love with herself
Is the last one

Let's see you find the world now

Friday, April 8, 2011

through a glass darkly - jamie sexton holme

Through A Glass Darkly
by Jamie Sexton Holme

What can be learned of any life
Except a blend of facts and lies?
The secret springs that move the soul
Are not disclosed to curious eyes,

And glib biographers who think
That death reveals all hidden places
Perform autopsies on our hearts
And find but immaterial traces.

Death is not sound enough a sleep
To lose the guard we keep so well.
The letters that we dared not keep
Were those that brought us heaven or hell.

The legends that you hear of me,
Are only what the world may know,
And while I know your heart is sad,
I cannot tell what made it so.

But let me see your dearest book --
The one most worn...its well-thumbed pages --
The marginal lines your pencil traced --
Shall tell me more than all the sages.

And let me know whose dreams you've shared --
By what Pierian fountains tarried --
What lines you say by heart at night --
Not where you've lived, nor whom you married!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

on the road to san romano - andré breton

On The Road To San Romano
by André Breton (tr. Charles Simic & Michael Benedikt)

Poetry is made in bed like love
Its unmade sheets are the dawn of things
Poetry is made in a forest

She has the space which she needs
Not this one but the other
     Governed by the hawk's eye
     The dew on the spindle
     The memory of a moist bottle of Traminer on a silver platter
     A tall rod of tourmaline over the sea
     A road of mental adventure
     Which climbs abruptly
     One pause and it's instantly overgrown

Don't shout that from the roof tops
It's not fitting to leave the doors open
Or go around calling for witnesses

     The shoals of fishes the hedges of small birds
     The rails at the approach to the great station
     The glow of two river banks
     The furrows on a loaf of bread
     Bubbles in a brook
     The days of the calendar

The act of love and the act of poetry
Are incompatible
With reading newspapers at the top of one's voice

     The way the sunlight falls
     The livid glitter which binds the ax-strokes of the
     The string of a kite in the shape of a heart or a fish-trap
     The steady waving of the beaver's tail
     The perseverance of lightning
     The flinging down of sweets from the top of an old staircase
     An avalanche
The room of marvels
No gentlemen not the forbidden chamber
Nor the fumes of the barracks from Sunday evenings

     The figure of the dance executed  transparently above the
     The body of a woman outlined by throwing knives
     The lucent rings of smoke
     The curls of your hair
     The twisting of a sponge from the Philippines
     The snakelike coils of coral
     The ivy's slitherings into the ruins
     She has all of time ahead of her

The embrace of poetry like the embrace of the naked body
Protects while it lasts
Against all access by the misery of the world

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

salutations to a mouse - marsden hartley

Salutations To A Mouse
by Marsden Hartley

If a mouse makes a nest
Of one's written words
Is there else to do but accept
The flattery?
I have deemed it wise to do so.
I have thanked him
As he scurried in and out
Of the room.
He has faced the winter
With a nest of my words.
I did not suspect them
Of such worth against the cold.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

barbara - jacques prévert

by Jacques Prévert (tr. Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

Remember Barbara
It rained all day on Brest that day
And you walked smiling
Flushed enraptured streaming-wet
In the rain
Remember Barbara
It rained all day on Brest that day
And I ran into you in Siam Street
You were smiling
And I smiled too
Remember Barbara
You whom I didn't know
You who didn't know me
Remember that day still
Don't forget
A man was taking cover on a porch
And he cried your name
And you ran to him in the rain
Streaming-wet enraptured flushed
And you threw yourself in his arms
Remember that Barbara
And don't be mad if I speak familiarly
I speak familiarly to everyone I love
Even if I've seen them only once
I speak familiarly to all who are in love
Even if I don't know them
Remember Barbara
Don't forget
That good and happy rain
On your happy face
On that happy town
That rain upon the sea
Upon the arsenal
Upon the Ushant boat
Oh Barbara
What shitstupidity the war
Now what's become of you
Under this iron rain
Of fire and steel and blood
And he who held you in his arms
Is he dead and gone or still so much alive
Oh Barbara
It's rained all day on Brest today
As it was raining before
But it isn't the same anymore
And everything is wrecked
It's a rain of mourning terrible and desolate
Nor is it still a storm
Of iron and steel and blood
But simply clouds
That die like dogs
Dogs that disappear
In the downpour drowning Brest
And float away to rot
A long way off
A long long way from Brest
Of which there's nothing left.

Monday, April 4, 2011

korf's joke - christian morgenstern

Korf's Joke
by Christian Morgenstern (tr. R.F.C. Hull)

Korf has invented a new kind of joke:
The point comes only many hours after.
All listen to them with disdain and boredom.

But like the light that shineth in the darkness
They rouse you from your slumbers wildly gurgling,
Holding your sides and laughing like a drain.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

envy - yevgeny yevtushenko

by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

I envy.
            This secret
I have not revealed before.
I know
            there is somewhere a boy
whom I greatly envy.
I envy
           the way he fights;
I myself was never so guileless and bold.
I envy
          the way he laughs --
as a boy I could never laugh like that.
He always walks about with bumps and bruises;
I've always been better combed,
He will not miss
                           all those passages in books
I've missed.
                  Here he is stronger too.
He will be more blunt and harshly honest,
forgiving no evil for any good it might bring;
and where I'd dropped my pen:
                                                   "It isn't worth it . . ."
he'd assert:
                    "It's worth it!"
                                           and pick up the pen.
If he can't unravel a knot,
                                             he'll cut through,
where I can neither unravel a knot,
                                                            nor cut it through.
Once he falls in love,
                                   he won't fall out of it,
while I keep falling in
                                    and out of love.
I'll hide my envy.
                             Start to smile.
I'll pretend to be a simple soul:
"Someone has to smile;
someone has to live in a different way . . ."
But as much as I tried to persuade myself of this,
                  "To each man his fate . . ."
I can't forget there is somewhere a boy
who will achieve far more than I.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

dream - paul klee

by Paul Klee (tr. Anselm Hollo)

To visit a sorcerer
in his garden . . . there is a bench
of crimson rose petals

Take a seat, he
says, pray
be seated, and I

pretend to be so
he himself
sits down without batting

an eyelid,
my pseudo-posture -- downright
embarrassing . . .
Opposite, by a window
stands the sorcerer's

I give her
a smile, apologetic, but she
slams the window!,

still watching me

and with less inhibition
behind her curtain.

In dreams
moments return
that stunned us for moments,

as often as not

the great
that called for

do not

Friday, April 1, 2011

lady love - paul éluard

Lady Love
by Paul Éluard (tr. Samuel Beckett)

She is standing on my lids
And her hair is in my hair
She has the colour of my eye
She has the body of my hand
In my shade she is engulfed
As a stone against the sky

She will never close her eyes
She does not let me sleep
And her dreams in the bright day
Make the suns evaporate
And me laugh cry and laugh
Speak when I have nothing to say