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.