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

the spirit escapes - pierre reverdy

The Spirit Escapes
by Pierre Reverdy (tr. Michael Benedikt)

So many books; A temple, whose thick walls are built of books.  And inside, there where I had entered without quite knowing how, or without knowing where, I was suffocating; the ceilings were grey with dust.  Not a sound.  And all the great ideas moved no more; they slept, or were dead.  It was so hot, so dark in this sad palace.
   With my nails I scratched at the paneling and, bit by bit, I made a hole in the right-hand wall.  It became a window and the sun practically blinded me but could not prevent me from looking out through it.
   It was the street out there but now the palace had vanished.  Already I was confronting a different dust and other walls surrounding the sidewalk.

L'esprit sort

Que de livres ! Un temple dont les murs épais étaient bâtis en livres ! Et là-dedans, où j’étais entré on ne saura comment, je ne sais par où, j’étouffais ; le plafond étais gris de poussière. Pas un bruit. Et toutes ces idées si grandes ne bougent plus ; elles dorment, ou sont mortes. Il fait dans ce triste palais si chaud, si sombre !

De mes ongles j’ai griffé la paroi et, morceau à morceau, j’ai fait un trou dans le mur de droite. C’était une fenêtre et le soleil qui voulait m’aveugler n’a pas pu m’empêcher de regarder dehors.

C’était la rue mais le palais n’étais plus là. Je connaissais déjà une autre poussière et d’autres murs qui bordaient le trottoir.

from a journal - louise glück

From A Journal
by Louise Glück

I had a lover once,
I had a lover twice,
easily three times I loved.
And in between
my heart reconstructed itself perfectly
like a worm.
And my dreams also reconstructed themselves.

After a time, I realized I was living
a completely idiotic life.
Idiotic, wasted --
And sometime later, you and I
began to correspond, inventing
an entirely new form.

Deep intimacy over great distance!
Keats to Fanny Brawne, Dante to Beatrice --

One cannot invent
a new form in
an old character.  The letters I sent remained
immaculately ironic, aloof
yet forthright.  Meanwhile, I was writing
different letters in my head,
some of which became poems.

So much genuine feeling!
So many fierce declarations
of passionate longing!

I loved once, I loved twice,
and suddenly
the form collapsed:  I was
unable to sustain ignorance.

How sad to have lost you, to have lost
any chance of actually knowing you
or remembering you over time
as a real person, as someone I could have grown
deeply attached to, maybe
the brother I never had.

And how sad to think
of dying before finding out
anything.  And to realize
how ignorant we all are most of the time,
seeing things
only from the one vantage, like a sniper.

And there were so many things
I never got to tell you about myself,
things which might have swayed you.
And the photo I never sent, taken
the night I looked almost splendid.

I wanted you to fall in love.  But the arrow
kept hitting the mirror and coming back.
And the letters kept dividing themselves
with neither half totally true.

And sadly, you never figured out
any of this, though you always wrote back
so promptly, always the same elusive letter.

I loved once, I loved twice,
and even though in our case
things never got off the ground
it was a good thing to have tried.
And I still have the letters, of course.
Sometimes I will take a few years' worth
to reread in the garden,
with a glass of iced tea.

And I feel, sometimes, part of something
very great, wholly profound and sweeping.

I loved once, I loved twice,
easily three times I loved.

five minutes - dunya mikhail

Five Minutes
by Dunya Mikhail (tr. Elizabeth Winslow)

In five minutes, the world will end . . .
The owner of the shop next door
has just put up the "Closed" sign
and gone away
as if he knows there is no time left for work.
There are other stores open.
Their owners are still absorbed in work,
but the world will end in . . .
A group of lively boys
rushes by in the street;
following them, a dog
leading an old man.
The traffic light is red.
The bus driver makes a slight adjustment
to the rearview mirror.
There are still several scenes
that move across the mirror.
The driver pulls away now.
The traffic light is green.
It will keep changing, even after
five minutes!
A young man checks his watch
and waits for the next bus . . .
In the public park, a couple walks past the statues
and smiles under the sun.
The statues are carefree.
They stare firmly at nothing.
A tourist wanders full of curiosity
and takes pictures of what will soon be absent.
There, in the white hospital,
women bear new babies
too late.
The babies might leave the world
without names.
In one of the wards,
they will be left
forever in test tubes
while the wiggling lab mouse
performing a test
will be free at last
from the big eye that always watches.
The test is not difficult,
but time will run out
before the answer.
And it no longer matters
whether or not you knew.
Smell the roses and keep going.
The rose always knows
that the world will end in five minutes . . .
The blue shirt in the shop window
seems beautiful on the mannequin.
A young woman points it out to her friend
and they head toward the revolving door
to be swallowed by the towering building . . .
On the wall, glossy advertisements:
but the world will end . . .
In his walled room
inside the walled palace
inside the walled city,
the tyrant is chewing on an apple
and watching himself on television.
Who would believe that in five minutes
he will relinquish his throne?
Another defendant receives a life sentence.
His attorney wants an appeal
but the world will . . .
Passengers push through the exit door
others come in through the entrance door.
A woman sets down her suitcase
and waves her hand
(it is not me).
A man waves to her from behind the airport glass
(it is not you).
I don't know if they met
or if the time . . .
That university student
prefers to travel by train.
It doesn't make much difference now.
He has agreed with a friend
to go on a picnic.
I don't know if the picnic ended before the world
or the world before the picnic!
As for me, I am writing a letter.
I don't think it will be finished
within five minutes.

the new year - dunya mikhail

The New Year
by Dunya Mikhail (tr. Elizabeth Winslow)

There is a knock at the door.
How disappointing . . .
It is the New Year and not you.

I don't know how to add your absence to my life.
I don't know how to subtract myself from it.
I don't know how to divide it
among the laboratory flasks.

Time stopped at twelve o'clock
and confused the watchmaker.
There were no flaws with the watch.
It was just a matter of the hands
which embraced and forgot the world.

the miracle is the shortest time - charles bukowski

the miracle is the shortest time
by Charles Bukowski

you know
it was very good
it was
better than

it was like
we could
pick up
look at
and then laugh

we were on the
we were in the
god damned moon,
we had it

we were in the garden
we were in the
endless pit

never such a place
as that

it was deep
it was light
it was high

it got so near
to insanity
we laughed so

your laughter

I remember when
your eyes
said love

as these walls
so quietly

have you anything to say in your defense? - césar vallejo

Have You Anything To Say In Your Defense?
by César Vallejo

Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

They all know that I'm alive,
that I'm vicious ; and they don't know
The December that follows from that January.
Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

There is an empty place
in my metaphysical shape
that no one can reach :
a cloister of silence
that spoke with the fire of its voice muffled.

On the day I was born,
God was sick.

Brother, listen to me, Listen . . .
Oh, all right.  Don't worry, I won't leave
without taking my Decembers along,
without leaving my Januaries behind.
Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

They all know that I'm alive,
that I chew my food . . . and they don't know
why harsh winds whistle in my poems,
the narrow uneasiness of a coffin,
winds untangled from the Sphinx
who holds the desert for routine questioning.

Yes, they all know . . . Well, they don't know
that the light gets skinny
and the darkness gets bloated . . .
and they don't know that the Mystery joins things
     together . . .
that he is the hunchback
musical and sad who stands a little way off and foretells
the dazzling progression from the limits to the Limits.

On the day I was born,
God was sick,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

televison - roald dahl

by Roald Dahl

The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

in a library - emily dickinson

In A Library
by Emily Dickinson

A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.