Monday, December 31, 2012

the art of poetry - jorge luis borges

The Art of Poetry
by Jorge Luis Borges

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness—such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

among many tasks - tadeusz rozewicz

Among Many Tasks
by Tadeusz Rozewicz  (tr. Magnus J. Krynski & Robert A. Maguire)

Among many tasks
very urgent
I've forgotten that
it's also necessary
to be dying

I have neglected this obligation
or have been fulfilling it

beginning tomorrow
everything will change
I will start dying assiduously
wisely optimistically
without wasting time

missing you - shu ting

Missing You
by Shu Ting (tr. Carolyn Kizer)

A multi-colored chart without a boundary;
An equation chalked on the board, with no solution;
A one-stringed lyre that tells the beads of rain;
A pair of useless oars that never cross the water.

Waiting buds in suspended animation;
The setting sun is watching from a distance.
Though in my mind there may be an enormous ocean,
What emerges is the sum: a pair of tears.

Yes, from these vistas, from these depths,
Only this.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

travel with grief--goodbye to joy - huynh sanh thong

Travel with Grief--Goodbye to Joy
by Nguyen Chi Thien (tr. Huynh Sanh Thong)

Travel with grief--goodbye to joy!
For baggage you have sweat and dust.
Some pocket money: poems and sweet dreams.
A dark, foul car--enjoy the smell.
Above the train a red flash grows:
somewhere, a storm is running wild?

a dress of fire - dahlia ravikovitch

A Dress Of Fire
by Dahlia Ravikovitch (tr. Chana Bloch & Ariel Bloch)

You know, she said, they made you
a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason's wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.
You've got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress that glows
like an ember, that burns like coals.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don't wear it.
It's not the wind whistling, it's the poison
seeping in.
You're not even a princess, what can you do to Medea?
Can't you tell one sound from another, she said,
it's not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I went out into the street.
The smell o shampoo trailed after me like a cloud.
Then I got sick from the wind and the rain.
I didn't know a thing about reading Greek tragedies,
but the smell of the perfume spread
and I was very sick.
Now I can see it's an unnatural perfume.

What will happen to you now, she said,
they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said. I know.
So why are you standing there, she said,
you've got to be careful.
You know what a burning dress is, don't you?

I know, I said, but I don't know
how to be careful.
The smell of that perfume confuses me.
I said to her, No one has to agree with me,
I don't believe in Greek tragedies.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted,
what are you saying?
I'm not wearing a dress at all,
what's burning is me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

belfast tune - joseph brodsky

Belfast Tune
by Joseph Brodsky

Here's a girl from a dangerous town.
     She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
     when someone gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
     Dropped, she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
     here where they eat.

Ah, there's more sky in these parts than, say,
     ground. Hence her voice's pitch,
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
     bulb when you switch

hemispheres, and her knee-length quilt
     skirt's cut to catch the squall.
I dream of her either loved or killed
     because the town's too small.

Friday, December 14, 2012

the new york intellectual - robert lowell

The New York Intellectual
by Robert Lowell

How often was their last salute recast?
Did the old critic need three hundred words,
such tact and tough, ascetic resonance,
the preposition for, five times in parallel,
to find himself "a beleaguered minority,
without fantasies of martyrdom,"
facing the graves of the New York Intellectuals,
"without joy, but neither with dismay"?
This art was needed for his quiet message,
his firm and unpermissive final sentence.
How often one would choose the poorman's provincial
out of town West Side intellectual
for the great brazen rhetorician serpent,
swimming the current with his iron smile!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

my november guest - robert frost

My November Guest
by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

life story - tennessee williams

Life Story
by Tennessee Williams

After you've been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
       Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with the mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all along,

and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.

Friday, November 16, 2012

fireflies in the garden - robert frost

Fireflies in the Garden
by Robert Frost

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the unknown citizen - w.h. auden

The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace:  when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"i would describe myself..." - rilke

"I would describe myself..."
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I would describe myself
like a landscape I've studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I'm coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother's face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

youth and art - robert browning

Youth and Art
by Robert Browning

“It once might have been, once only:
We lodged in a street together,
You, a sparrow on the housetop lonely,
I, a lone she-bird of his feather.

Your trade was with sticks and clay,
You thumb’d, thrust, patted and polish’d,
Then laugh’d, “They will see, some day,
Smith made, and Gibson demolish’d.”

My business was song, song, song:
I chirp’d, cheep’d, trill’d and twitter’d,
“Kate Brown ’s on the boards ere long,
And Grisi’s existence embitter’d!”

I earn’d, no more by a warble
Than you by a sketch in plaster;
You wanted a piece of marble,
I needed a music-master.

We studied hard in our styles,
Chipp’d each at a crust like Hindoos,
For air, look’d out on the tiles,
For fun, watch’d each other’s windows.

You lounged, like a boy of the South,
Cap and blouse—nay, a bit of beard too;
Or you it, rubbing your mouth
With fingers the clay adher’d to.

And I—soon managed to find
Weak points in the flower-fence facing,
Was forced to put up a blind
And be safe in my corset-lacing.

No harm! It was not my fault
If you never turn’d your eye’s tail up
As I shook upon E in alt,
Or ran the chromatic scale up:

For spring bade the sparrows pair,
And the boys and girls gave guesses,
And stalls in our street look’d rare
With bulrush and watercresses.

Why did not you pinch a flower
In a pellet of clay and fling it?
Why did not I put a power
Of thanks in a look, or sing it?

I did look, sharp as a lynx,
(And yet the memory rankles)
When models arriv’d, some minx
Tripp’d up stairs, she and her ankles.

But I think I gave you as good!
“That foreign fellow,—who can know
How she pays, in a playful mood,
For his tuning her that piano?”

Could you say so, and never say,
“Suppose we join hands and fortunes,
And I fetch her from over the way,
Her, piano, and long tunes and short tunes?”

No, no: you would not be rash,
Nor I rasher and something over;
You’ve to settle yet Gibson’s hash,
And Grisi yet lives in clover.

But you meet the Prince at the Board,
I ’m queen myself at bals-parés,
I ’ve married a rich old lord,
And you ’re dubb’d knight and an R. A.

Each life ’s unfulfill’d, you see;
It hangs still, patchy and scrappy:
We have not sigh’d deep, laugh’d free,
Starv’d, feasted, despair’d,—been happy;

And nobody calls you a dunce,
And people suppose me clever;
This could but have happen’d once,
And we miss’d it, lost it forever.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

cause and effect - charles bukowski

Cause and effect
by Charles Bukowski

the best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
why anybody
would ever want to
get away

be kind - charles bukowski

be kind
by Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
no matter how
foolish or

one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are

but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to

not their fault?

whose fault?

I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately

among so many


tough cob - charles bukowski

tough cob
by Charles Bukowski

we tend to like those artists
who starved or went mad or killed themselves
and were discovered afterwards.
it happens often
because great talent is usually fifty to
one hundred years ahead of its

most of those acclaimed in their
are mediocre performers.
of course, this is common knowledge,
so common that many of those who are not
recognized in their time
believe that this is a sign of their own true
and countless wives, children, relatives,
friends and bystanders
must suffer
because of this illusion.

to laugh truly is to continue anyhow.

Friday, November 2, 2012

tobacco shop - fernando pessoa

Tobacco Shop
by Fernando Pessoa (tr. Edwin Honig and Susan M Brown)

I'm nothing.
I'll always be nothing.
I can't even wish to be something.
Aside from that, I've got all the world's dreams inside me.

Windows of my room,
The room of just one of millions in the world nobody
(And what would they know, if they knew that?),
You open on the mystery of a street people are constantly
A street blocked off to all thought,
A street that's real, impossibly real, and right,
     unconsciously right,
With the mystery of things lying under live beings and
With death spreading dankness on walls and white hair on
With fate driving the cart of everything down nothingness

Today I'm bowled over, as though hit by the truth.
Today I'm clearheaded, as though I were going to die,
Having no more brotherly feeling for things
Than to say good-bye, turning this house and this side of
     the street
Into a line of coaches in a long train with its whistle
     shrieking good-bye
From inside my head,
And a nerve-wracking, bone-cracking jerk as it moves off.

Today I'm mixed up, like someone who thought
     something and grasped it, then lost it.
Today I'm torn between the allegiance I owe
Something real outside me -- the Tobacco Shop across
     the street,
And something real inside me -- the feeling that it's all a

I failed in everything.
Since I was up to nothing, maybe it was all really
From learning and training for anything for anything useful I escaped
By slipping out the back window.
I went off to the country with great plans,
But found only grass and trees there,
And when there were people, they were just like any
I leave the window, sit down in a chair. What should I
     think about?

How can I tell what I'll be, I who don't know what I am?
Be what I think? But I keep thinking I'm so many
And so many people think of being the same thing, there
     just can't be that many!
Genius? At this moment
A hundred thousand heads are dreaming they're geniuses
     like me,
And who knows if history will remember even one of
From all those dreams of glory there'll be nothing but
     manure in the end.
No, I don't believe in myself.
In every asylum there are madmen sure of so much!
I, sure of nothing, am I more sure or less sure than they?
No, not even of myself...
In how many garrets and nongarrets of the world
Are there self-styled geniuses dreaming now?
How many high-minded aspirations, noble and lucid --
Yes, really high-minded, noble and lucid --,
And who knows, even practicable,
Will ever see the real light of day or get a hearing?
The world is made for those born to conquer it,
Not those who dream of conquering it, right though they
     may be.
I've dreamt of more things than Napoleon went and did.
I've taken to my so-called heart more humanity than
     Christ ever did.
I've secretly thought up more philosophies than Kant ever
     wrote down.
Yet I am, and maybe always will be, the man in the garret,
Though I don't live in one;
I'll always simply be the one with all the promise;
I'll always be the one waiting for the door to open at the
     wall without a door,
Who sang his anthem to Infinity in a chicken coop,
Who heard the voice of God in a covered well.
Believe in myself? No, I don't, nor in anything.
Let Nature pour down upon my burning head
Her sun, her rain, the wind ruffling my hair,
And let the rest come, if it will or must, or not at all.
Cardiac cases enslaved by the stars,
We've conquered the world before getting out of bed,
But we wake and the world is opaque,
We get up and the world looks strange,
We go out in the street and there's the whole earth,
Plus solar System, Milky Way, and the old Indefinitude.

(Eat your chocolates, little girl!
Eat your chocolates!
Look, there's no metaphysics on earth but chocolates.
Look, all religions on earth have nothing more to teach
     us than a candy store does.
Eat, dirty little girl, eat them up!
If only I could gobble down those chocolates as trustily as
     you do!
But then I think, peeling off the silver wrapper, it's only
And toss it on the floor, just as I've tossed away my life.)

But at least, out of my bitterness at what I'll never be,
There's the quick calligraphy of these lines,
The broken archway to the Impossible.
And at least I reserve for myself this dry-eyed contempt --
Noble, at least, in the grand gesture I make
Flinging out the dirty clothes I am, with no laundry list,
     into the drift of things,
And stay at home, shirtless.

(Oh, my comforters, who don't exist and so may comfort,
Whether Greek goddess, conceived as a statue that springs
Or Roman matron, impossibly noble and ominous,
Or Princess of the troubadours, so blushing and so gentle,
Or eighteenth-century marchioness, so décolletée  and cool,
Or famous courtesan back in our parents' time,
Or modern whatever -- since I can't imagine what --
All of it, whatever it may be, if you can inspire, do it!
My heart's an emptied pail.
Like someone who can call up spooks calls up spooks,
I call myself up, and nothing's there.
I go the window and see the street in perfect clarity.
I see the shops, I see the pavement, I see the passing cars.
I see the dressed-up living passersby.
I see the dogs too, also alive,
And all of it weighs on me like a verdict of exile,
And all of it's strange to me, like everything else.)

I lived, I studied, I loved, I even believed,
And now there's no beggar I don't envy simply for not being
In each I see the rags, the sores, the lies,
And think: maybe you never lived, studied, loved, believed
(Because people can go through the motions without
     doing any of it);
Maybe you barely existed, like the lizard whose tail's been
And is just a tail, apart from the lizard, and beating

I made of myself something I didn't know,
And what I could become, I didn't.
The fancy costume I put on was wrong.
They saw me straight for what I wasn't; I didn't disabuse
     them, so I lost myself.
When I tried taking off the mask,
It stuck to my face.
When I pulled it off and looked in the mirror,
I'd grown older.
I was drunk and couldn't get into the fancy costume I
     hadn't taken off.
So I threw away the mask and slept in the cloakroom
Like a dog they let stay in the house
Because it's harmless,
And I'm about to write this story to prove I'm sublime.

Musical essence of my useless poems,
If only I could find you in something I'd really made,
And not forever fixed by the Tobacco Shop across the
Stamping my feet on the consciousness of being alive,
Like a rug some drunkard stumbles over
Or a doormat the gypsies stole not worth a dime.

But the Tobacco Shop Owner has come to his door and
     stands there now.
I look at him, straining my half-turned neck,
Straining my half-blind soul.
He'll die and so will I.
He'll leave his signboard, I'll leave poems.
After a while his signboard will perish too, and so will my
A little later the street will die where his signboard hung,
And so will the language my poems were written in.
Then the spinning planet where all this happened will die,
In other satellites in other systems something like people
Will go on making things like poems and living under
     things like signboards,
Always one thing against another,
Always one thing as useless as another,
Always the impossible thing as stupid as the real thing,
Always the fundamental mystery as certain as the sleeping
     surface mystery,
Always this thing or that, or neither one nor the other.
But now a man's gone into the Tobacco Shop (to buy
And the plausible reality of it all suddenly hits me.
I'm getting up, full of energy, convinced, human,
and about to try writing these lines, which say the

I light a cigarette and think of writing them,
And in the cigarette I savor my liberation from all
I follow the smoke like a lane of my own,
For one sensitive dexterous moment enjoying
The freedom from all speculation
And the consciousness that metaphysics comes from
     feeling out of sorts.

Then I fall back in my chair
And go on smoking.
As long as fate permits, I'll go on smoking.

(If I married my washwoman's daughter,
Maybe I'd be happy. )
I think of this, get up from my chair. I go to the window.
The man is leaving the Shop (putting change into his
     pants' pocket?)
Ah, I know him: it's nonmetaphysical Stevens.
(The Tobacco Shop Owner comes back to the door. )
As if by divine instinct, Stevens turns around and sees
He waves me a hello, I shout back, Hello Stevens! and the
Reorganizes itself for me, without hopes or ideals, and the
     Tobacco Shop Owner smiles.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

pete the parrot and shakespeare - don marquis

pete the parrot and shakespeare
by don marquis

i got acquainted with
a parrot named pete recently
who is an interesting bird
pete says he used
to belong to the fellow
that ran the mermaid tavern
in london then i said
you must have known
shakespeare know him said pete
poor mutt i knew him well
he called me pete and i called him
bill but why do you say poor mutt
well said pete bill was a
disappointed man and was always
boring his friends about what
he might have been and done
if he only had a fair break
two or three pints of sack
and sherris and the tears
would trickle down into his
beard and his beard would get
soppy and wilt his collar
i remember one night when
bill and ben jonson and
frankie beaumont
were sopping it up

here i am ben says bill
nothing but a lousy playwright
and with anything like luck
in the breaks i might have been
a fairly decent sonnet writer
i might have been a poet
if i had kept away from the theatre
yes says ben i ve often
thought of that bill
but one consolation is
you are making pretty good money
out of the theatre

money money says bill what the hell
is money what i want is to be
a poet not a business man
these damned cheap shows
i turn out to keep the
theatre running break my heart
slap stick comedies and
blood and thunder tragedies
and melodramas say i wonder
if that boy heard you order
another bottle frankie
the only compensation is that i get
a chance now and then
to stick in a little poetry
when nobody is looking
but hells bells that isn t
what i want to do
i want to write sonnets and
songs and spenserian stanzas
and i might have done it too
if i hadn t got
into this frightful show game
business business business
grind grind grind
what a life for a man
that might have been a poet

well says frankie beaumont
why don t you cut it bill
i can t says bill
i need the money i ve got
a family to support down in
the country well says frankie
anyhow you write pretty good
plays bill any mutt can write
plays for this london public
says bill if he puts enough
murder in them what they want
is kings talking like kings
never had sense enough to talk
and stabbings and stranglings
and fat men making love
and clowns basting each
other with clubs and cheap puns
and off color allusions to all
the smut of the day oh i know
what the low brows want
and i give it to them

well says ben jonson
don t blubber into the drink
brace up like a man
and quit the rotten business
i can t i can t says bill
i ve been at it too long i ve got to
the place now where i can t
write anything else
but this cheap stuff
i m ashamed to look an honest
young sonneteer in the face
i live a hell of a life i do
the manager hands me some mouldy old
manuscript and says
bill here s a plot for you
this is the third of the month
by the tenth i want a good
script out of this that we
can start rehearsals on
not too big a cast
and not too much of your
damned poetry either
you know your old
familiar line of hokum
they eat up that falstaff stuff
of yours ring him in again
and give them a good ghost
or two and remember we gotta
have something dick burbage can get
his teeth into and be sure
and stick in a speech
somewhere the queen will take
for a personal compliment and if
you get in a line or two somewhere
about the honest english yeoman
it s always good stuff
and it s a pretty good stunt
bill to have the heavy villain
a moor or a dago or a jew
or something like that and say
i want another
comic welshman in this
but i don t need to tell
you bill you know this game
just some of your ordinary
hokum and maybe you could
kill a little kid or two a prince
or something they like
a little pathos along with
the dirt now you better see burbage
tonight and see what he wants
in that part oh says bill
to think i am
debasing my talents with junk
like that oh god what i wanted
was to be a poet
and write sonnet serials
like a gentleman should
well says i pete
bill s plays are highly
esteemed to this day
is that so says pete
poor mutt little he would
care what poor bill wanted
was to be a poet


the lesson of the moth - don marquis

the lesson of the moth
by don marquis

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break  into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him 
out of his philosophy 
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice 
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Altar
by Charles Simic

The plastic statue of the Virgin
On the top of a bedroom dresser
With a blackened mirror
From a bad-dream grooming salon.

Two pebbles from the grave of a rock star,
A small, grinning windup monkey,
A bronze Egyptian coin
And a red movie-ticket stub.

A splotch of sunlight on the framed
Communion photograph of a boy
With the eyes of someone
Who will drown in a lake real soon.

An altar dignifying the god of chance.
What is beautiful, it cautions,
Is found accidentally and not sought after.
What is beautiful is easily lost.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"To fight aloud, is very brave..."
by Emily Dickinson

To fight aloud, is very brave--
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Calvalry of Woe--

Who win, and nations do not see--
Who fall--and none observe--
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love--

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go--
Rank after Rank, with even feet--
And Uniforms of Snow.

my husband discovers poetry - diane lockwood

My Husband Discovers Poetry
by Diane Lockward

Because my husband would not read my poems,
I wrote one about how I did not love him.
In lines of strict iambic pentameter,
I detailed his coldness, his lack of humor.
It felt good to do this.

Stanza by stanza, I grew bolder and bolder.
Towards the end, struck by inspiration,
I wrote about my old boyfriend,
a boy I had not loved enough to marry
but who could make me laugh and laugh.
I wrote about a night years after we parted
when my husband's coldness drove me from the house
and back to my old boyfriend.
I even included the name of a seedy motel
well-known for hosting quickies.
I have a talent for verisimilitude.

In sensuous images, I described
how my boyfriend and I stripped off our clothes,
got into bed, and kissed and kissed,
then spent half the night telling jokes,
many of them about my husband.
I left the ending deliberately ambiguous,
then hid the poem away
in an old trunk in the basement.

You know how this story ends,
how my husband one day loses something,
goes into the basement,
and rummages through the old trunk,
how he uncovers the hidden poem
and sits down to read it.

But do you hear the strange sounds
that floated up the stairs that day,
the sounds of an animal, its paw caught
in one of those traps with teeth of steel?
Do you see the wounded creature
at the bottom of the stairs,
his shoulders hunched over and shaking,
fist in his mouth and choking back sobs?
It was my husband paying tribute to my art.

berryman - w.s. merwin

by W.S. Merwin

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

Thursday, October 25, 2012

the poet's occasional alternative - grace paley

The Poet's Occasional Alternative
by Grace Paley

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead      it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft       a poem would have had some
distance to go       days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it       many friends
will say      why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadness I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership      I do not
want to wait a week      a year      a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ars poetica: strategy - alicia ostriker

Ars Poetica: strategy
by Alicia Ostriker

When the wind is against you, run faster and keep your head down.
When there is a cross wind, run faster.

When there is a tail wind, fly.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

skipping the reception - dean young

Skipping the Reception 
by Dean Young

I don't really want to meet Burkard.
Just because I like his books.
He's probably disappointing in person.
I know I am. In person you have to commit
to what comes fumping out of your mouth
like popped ketchup. John suggests
go bowling so as not to say anything.
I know a woman who takes off her blouse.
All good ideas. Even with old friends,
you end up in used bookstores inspecting
old typewriters sacrificed to decoration.
Making your way across the parking-lot
ice. We are not monkeys! Throw something
down hard enough, you discover its laws.
We are not brains in big pyrex jars
connected to the generators running
everything although we try to talk like it.
The sound of the crash barely reaches us
so it sounds like someone else's problem.
Precious moments of life ebbing away.
What a pathetic thing to say. How
did we get on this subject? Do you
have a cat? Is this shirt ugly? What
are those marks on your arm? I don't think
my voice will ever emerge from the center
of my chest. Here's your fire extinguisher,
welcome to the glacier.

Monday, September 24, 2012

finally i called - leonard cohen

Finally I Called 
by Leonard Cohen

Finally I called the people I didn’t want to hear from
After the third ring I said
I’ll let it ring five more times then what will I do
The telephone is a fine instrument
but I never learned to work it very well
Five more rings and I’ll put the receiver down
I know where it goes I know that much
The telephone was black with silver rims
The booth was cozier than the drugstore
There were lots of creams and scissors and tubes
I needed for my body
I was interested in many coughdrops
I believe the drugstore keeper hated
his telephone and people like me
who ask for change so politely
I decided to keep to the same street
and go into the fourth drugstore
and call them again

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

the sun has wept rose - arthur rimbaud

The Sun Has Wept Rose 
by Arthur Rimbaud (tr. Paul Schmidt)

The sun has wept rose in the shell of your ears,
The world has rolled white from your back, your thighs;
The sea has stained rust the crimson of your breasts,
And Man has bled black at your sovereign side.

L'étoile a pleuré rose au coeur de tes oreilles,
L'infini roulé blanc de ta nuque à tes reins
La mer a perlé rousse à tes mammes vermeilles
Et l'Homme saigné noir à ton flanc souverain.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

they hanged him, i said dismissively - dennis brutus

They Hanged Him, I Said Dismissively
by Dennis Brutus

They hanged him, I said dismissively
having no other way to say he died
or that he was a dear friend
or that work wove us most intimately
in common tasks, ambitions, desires.
Now he is dead: and I dare not think
of the anguish that drove him to where he was
or the pain at their hands he must have faced
or how much he was racked by my distress:
now, it is still easiest to say, they hanged him,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

i live my life in growing orbits - rainer maria rilke

I live my life in growing orbits
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.

sonnet xcviii - william shakespeare

by William Shakespeare

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leapt with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
   Yet seemed it winter still, and you away,
   As with your shadow I with these did play.

exhaustion at sunset - mark strand

Exhaustion at Sunset
by Mark Strand

The empty heart comes home from a busy day at the office.  And what is the empty heart to do but empty itself of emptiness.  Sweeping out the unsweepable takes an effort of mind, the fruitless exertion of faculties already burdened.  Poor empty heart, old before its time, how it struggles to do what the mind tells it to do.  But the struggle comes to nothing.  The empty heart cannot do what the mind commands.  It sits in the dark, daydreams, and the emptiness grows.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

assembly line - shu ting

Assembly Line
by Shu Ting (tr. Carolyn Kizer)

In time's assembly line
Night presses against night.
We come off the factory night-shift
In line as we march towards home.
Over our heads in a row
The assembly line of stars
Stretches across the sky.
Beside us, little trees
Stand numb in assembly lines.

The stars must be exhausted
After thousands of years
Of journeys which never change.
The little trees are all sick,
Choked on smog and monotony,
Stripped of their color and shape.
It's not hard to feel for them;
We share the same temp and rhythm.

Yes, I'm numb to my own existence
As if, like the trees and stars
--perhaps just out of habit
--perhaps just out of sorrow,
I'm unable to show concern
For my own manufactured fate.

unexpected meeting - wislawa szymborska

Unexpected Meeting
by Wislawa Szymborska (tr. Magnus J. Krynaski & Robert A. Maguire)

We are very polite to each other,
insist it's nice meeting after all these years.

Our tigers drink milk.
Our hawks walk on the ground.
Our sharks drown in water.
Our wolves yawn in front of the open cage.

Our serpents have shaken off lightning,
monkeys--inspiration, peacocks--feathers.
The bats--long ago now--have flown out of our hair.

We fall silent in mid-phrase,
smiling beyond salvation.
Our people
have nothing to say.

kaleidoscope - maria elena cruz varela

by Maria Elena Cruz Varela (tr. Mairym Cruz-Bernal & Deborah Digges)

All of us were there:
the one who fell marked by the water spurt
the one who ruined his countenance through ineptitude
the one who did not strike a flame
and violated the city in martial law.

The one who suffered the sin of clairvoyance
the one who fertilized with bizarre feces
the one who could not give more nails to the torture
the one who was not on time for the demolitions
the one who came early
the one who didn't come
and resolved by saying he wasn't informed.

All of us were there:
the innocent ones because they didn't know
and the guilty ones for legal ignorance
the more cultivated accomplices
the ones who fed themselves with prejudices
the more elaborated ones
the more cyclic ones
the singers with the lagger tone
the blind blind from not wanting to see
the ones subject to criticism
the critics subject to their dogmas
the denominators with their tabula rasa
the unbeaten facade
the marked backs

All of us were there
waiting for medals and judgments

Monday, July 23, 2012

i wonder how many people in this city - leonard cohen

I Wonder How Many People In This City
by Leonard Cohen

I wonder how many people in this city
live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when I look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
looking back at me,
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

a man in his life - yehuda amichai

A Man In His Life
by Yehuda Amichai (tr. Benjamin Harshav & Barbara Harshav)

A man in his life has no time to have
Time for everything.
He has no room to have room
For every desire.  Ecclesiastes was wrong to claim that.

A man has to hate and love all at once,
With the same eyes to cry and to laugh
With the same hands to throw stones
And to gather them,
Make love in war and war in love.

And hate and forgive and remember and forget
And order and confuse and eat and digest
What long history does
In so many years.

A man in his life has no time.
When he loses he seeks
When he finds he forgets
When he forgets he loves
When he loves he begins forgetting.

And his soul is knowing
And very professional,
Only his body remains an amateur
Always.  It tries and fumbles.
He doesn't learn and gets confused,
Drunk and blind in his pleasures and pains.

In autumn, he will die like a fig,
Shriveled, sweet, full of himself.
The leaves dry out on the ground,
And the naked branches point
To the place where there is time for everything.

Friday, July 20, 2012

the music crept by us - leonard cohen

The Music Crept By Us
by Leonard Cohen

I would like to remind
the management
that the drinks are watered
and the hat-check girl
has syphilis
and the band is composed
of former SS monsters
However since it is
New Year's Eve
and I have lip cancer
I will place my
paper hat on my
concussion and dance

Thursday, July 19, 2012

the broken bell - charles baudelaire

The Broken Bell 
by Charles Baudelaire (tr. Wallace Fowlie)

It is bitter and sweet, during winter nights,
To listen, near the fire which crackles and smokes,
To the distant memories slowly rising
At the noise of chimes singing in the fog.

Happy is the bell with the vigorous throat
Which, despite its age, alert and strong,
Faithfully sends forth its religious cry,
Like an old soldier standing sentinel under the tent!

My soul is cracked, and when in its boredom
It wishes to fill the cold air of night with its songs,
It often comes about that its weakened voice
Resembles the thick rattle of a wounded man forgotten
On the edge of a lake of blood, under a great pile of the
And who dies, without moving, after tremendous efforts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

reading myself - robert lowell

Reading Myself
by Robert Lowell

Like millions, I took just pride and more than just,
first striking matches that brought my blood to boiling;
I memorized tricks to set the river on fire,
somehow never wrote something to go back to.
Even suppose I had finished with wax flowers
and earned a pass to the minor slopes of Parnassus . . .
No honeycomb is built without a bee
adding circle to circle, cell to cell,
the wax and honey of a mausoleum--
this round dome proves its maker is alive,
the corpse of such insect lives preserved in honey,
prays that the perishable work live long
enough for the sweet-tooth bear to desecrate--
this open book . . . my open coffin.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

a character whose name i forget - tsering wangmo dhompa

A character whose name I forget
by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

This question of desire or its equivalent erupting
from caudal concerns.  How a man walked all night
in black hush to discover hunger and loneliness
in fields of heliotrope, and the stars, belonging to the night,
not his.  Never his.  He is from a book so I relate to him.
I am unable to interpret the function of a heart while
the body must be fed through purchases and contracts.
Reading suffering in phrases; thinking this is how others live.
No one is there to say otherwise.  In the story, the man
never recovers from the walk.  Keeps his eye attentive to the path,
till he is killed ironically, by accident.  And then of course,
it does not matter.  To remember this man from all
stories heard make him sadder.  Still, it does not matter.

Monday, July 9, 2012

slamdancing to the blues - david lerner

Slamdancing To The Blues
by David Lerner

there's a sadness that's
better than love
it fell in the air
the other night

little girl face
with a mind as wild as Egypt

she reads all the high-class
sex literature
the pornography of Miller
even the later novels of Rechy
now into the novelization of
Liquid Sky
and The Apocalypse Culture

during the days she
takes off her clothes to
Tom Waits and the Dead Kennedys
at the theatre on Market
while the customers finger their crotches
and tip paper money

she said, "How do I look?"
and I told her she looked like
a 14-year-old beatnik with an
IQ of 200

she wasn't sure she liked that
she has invented herself so well
she's not sure she can

I know that song

Sunday, July 8, 2012

10 - lawrence ferlinghetti

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

          I have not lain with beauty all my life
                  telling over to myself
                                               its most rife charms

     I have not lain with beauty all my life
                                             and lied with it as well
                  telling over to myself
                                     how beauty never dies
                     but lies apart
                                  among the aborigines
                                                             of art
                       and far above the battlefields
                                                             of love

               It is above all that
                                       oh yes
        It sits upon the choicest of
                                            Church seats
   up there where art directors meet
to choose the things for immortality
                                                And they have lain with beauty
                              all their lives
                                            And they have fed on honeydew
        and drunk the wines of Paradise
                                                   so that they know exactly how
   a thing of beauty is a joy
         forever and forever
                                   and how it never never
              quite can fade
                                into a money-losing nothingness

   Oh no I have not lain
                               on Beauty Rests like this
       afraid to rise at night
                               for fear that I might somehow miss
some movement beauty might have made
     Yet I have slept with beauty
                                           in my own weird way
and I have made a hungry scene or two
                                                    with beauty in my bed
   and so spilled out another poem or two
        and so spilled out another poem or two
                                                     upon the Bosch-like world

Saturday, July 7, 2012

ox cart man - donald hall

Ox Cart Man
by Donald Hall

In October of the year,
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,
counting the seed, counting
the cellar's portion out,
and bags the rest on the cart's floor.

He packs wool sheared in April, honey
in combs, linen, leather
tanned from deerhide,
and vinegar in a barrel
hooped by hand at the forge's fire.

He walks by his ox's head, ten days
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,
and the bag that carried potatoes,
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose
feathers, yarn.

When the cart is empty he sells the cart.
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,
harness and yoke, and walks
home, his pockets heavy
with the year's coin for salt and taxes,

and at home by fire's light in November cold
stitches new harness
for next year's ox in the barn,
and carves the yoke, and saws planks
building the cart again.

Friday, July 6, 2012

nursery tale - philip larkin

Nursery Tale
by Philip Larkin

All I remember is
The horseman, the moonlit hedges,
The hoofbeats shut suddenly in the yard,
The hand finding the door unbarred:
And I recall the room where he was brought,
Hung black and candlelit; a sort
Of meal laid out in mockery; for though
His place was set, there was no more
Than one unpolished pewter dish, that bore
The battered carcase of carrion crow.

So every journey that I make
Leads me, as in the story he was led,
To some new ambush, to some fresh mistake:
So every journey I begin foretells
A weariness of daybreak, spread
With carrion kisses, carrion farewells.

Monday, June 25, 2012

282 - michelangelo

by Michelangelo

   In such slavery, and with so much boredom,
and with false conceptions and great peril
to my soul, to be here sculpting divine things.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"you, darkness..." - rainer maria rilke

"You, darkness..."
by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy)

You, darkness, of whom I am born --

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations -- just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

Friday, May 18, 2012

the narrow sea - robert graves

The Narrow Sea
by Robert Graves

With you for mast and sail and flag,
And anchor never known to drag,
Death's narrow but oppressive sea
Looks not unnavigable to me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

to a steam roller - marianne moore

To A Steam Roller
by Marianne Moore

The illustration
is nothing to you without the application.
   You lack half wit.  You crush all the particulars down
      into close conformity and then walk back and
         forth on them.

Sparkling chips of rock
are crushed down to the level of the parent block.
   Were not "impersonal judgement in aesthetic
      matters, a metaphysical impossibility", you
might fairly achieve
it.  As for butterflies, i can hardly conceive
   of one's attending upon you, but to question
      the congruence of the compliment is vain, if it

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

foutain at tsarskoye selo - alexander pushkin

Fountain At Tsarskoye Selo
by Alexander Pushkin (tr. D.M. Thomas)

The girl has dropped the urn, and broken it on a rock.
Sadly the girl sits, and holds the empty shard.
But miraculously the water does not dry up;
The girl sits timelessly sad over the timeless stream.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'i have outlived...' - peter vyazemsky

'I have outlived...' 
by Peter Vyazemsky (tr. A. Myers)

I have outlived most things and people round me
and weighed the worth of most things in this life;
these days I drag along though bars surround me,
exist within set limits without strife.
Horizons now for me are close and dreary
and day by day draw nearer and more dark.
Reflection's dipping flight is slow and weary,
my soul's small world is desolate and stark.
My mind no longer casts ahead with boldness,
the voice of hope is dumb -- and on the route,
now trampled flat by living's mundane coldness,
I am denied the chance to set my foot.
And if my life has seemed among the hardest
and though my storeroom's stock of grain is small,
what sense is there in hoping still for harvest
when snow from winter clouds begins to fall?
In furrows cropped by scythe or sickle clearance
there may be found, it's true, some living trace;
in me there may be found some past experience,
but nothing of tomorrow's time or space.
Life's balanced the accounts, she is unable
to render back what has been prised away
and what the earth, in sounding vaults of marble,
has closed off, pitiless, from light of day.

garden - marina tsvetayeva

by Marina Tsvetayeva (tr. D. McDuff)

Cure for this hell,
This fever, send
Me a garden
Toward my life's end,

Toward my life's end,
For my life's cares,
My years of work,
My hunchbacked years...

Toward my life's end,
Dog-like -- a bone,
Of burning years --
Cool garden stone.

For an outcast, send
A garden down,
With no one in,
No one around.

Garden: not a step!
Garden: not an eye!
Garden: not a peep!
Garden: not a cry!

Send me a garden down,
Deaf to every call,
With no sweetheart,
No hearts at all.

Tell me: of torment, that's enough --
A garden -- lonely as myself.
(But don't Yourself then stand nearby!)
A garden, solitary as I.

That's the garden I want, when I grow old...
That garden?  Maybe -- that future world?
For my old age send it to me,
To take my soul and set it free.

Monday, May 14, 2012

'freshness of words...' - anna akhmatova

'Freshness of words...' 
by Anna Akhmatova (tr. D.M. Thomas)

Freshness of words, simplicity of emotions,
If we lost these, would it not be as though
Blindness had stricken Fra Angelico,
Or an actor lost his power of voice and motion?

But don't behave as if you own
What has been given you by the Saviour:
We ourselves know, we are condemned to squander
Our wealth, and not save. Alone

Go out and heal the cataract,
And later, witness your own disciples'
Malice and jeers, and see the people's
Stolid indifference to the act.

ill luck - charles baudelaire

Ill Luck
by Charles Baudelaire (tr. Wallace Fowlie)

To raise a weight so heavy,
Sisyphus, we would need your courage!
Although we have a strong heart for the work,
Art is long and Time is short.

Far from famous graves,
Toward a lonely cemetery,
My heart, like a muffled drum,
Comes beating a funeral march.

--Many a gem lies buried
In darkness and oblivion,
Far from pickaxes and drills;

Many a flower pours forth regretfully
Its perfume sweet as a secret
In solitary shades.

Le Guignon

Pour soulever un poids si lourd,
Sisyphe, il faudrait ton courage!
Bien qu'on ait du coeur à l'ouvrage,
L'Art est long et le Temps est court.

Loin des sépultures célèbres,
Vers un cimetière isolé,
Mon coeur, comme un tambour voilé,
Va battant des marches funèbres.

— Maint joyau dort enseveli
Dans les ténèbres et l'oubli,
Bien loin des pioches et des sondes;

Mainte fleur épanche à regret
Son parfum doux comme un secret
Dans les solitudes profondes.

facet - dean young

by Dean Young

For weeks, I've gone unbroken
but not unpunished by the quiet
of zero degrees which is worse than
the quiet of twenty when at least
you can't hear the stars wheeze.
I can't make it any clearer than that
and stay drunk. A crash course
in the afterlife where I still walk
beside you but unable to touch your hair.
It worries me I could no longer care
or only in a detached way like a monk
for a scorpion.

the last leaf - oliver wendell holmes

The Last Leaf
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

I saw him once before,
As he passed by the door,
     And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o'er the ground
     With his cane.

They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
     Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
     Through the town.

But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
     Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
     "They are gone."

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has pressed
     In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
     On the tomb.

My grandmamma has said--
Poor old lady, she is dead
     Long ago--
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
     In the snow.

But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
     Like a staff,
And a crook in his back,
And a melancholy crack
     In his laugh.

I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
     At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
     Are so queer!

And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
     In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
     Where I cling.

Friday, April 20, 2012

don't turn around - gunter grass

Don't Turn Round
by Gunter Grass (tr. Michael Hamburger & Christopher Middleton)

Don't go into the wood,
in the wood is the wood.
Whoever walks in the wood,
looks for trees,
will not be looked for later in the wood.

Have no fear,
fear smells of fear.
Whoever smells of fear
will be smelled out
by heroes who smell like heroes.

Don't drink from the sea,
the sea tastes of more sea.
Whoever drinks from the sea
henceforth feels
a thirst only for oceans.

Don't build a home,
or you'll be at home
Whoever is at home
waits for
late callers and opens the door.

Don't write a letter,
archives will boast of letters you post.
Whoever writes the letter
lends his name
to the posthumous paper game.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

giantess - charles baudelaire

by Charles Baudelaire (tr. Richard Howard)

Had I been there when primal Nature teemed
with monstrous progeny, I would have tried
to live beside some mammoth girl, the way
a cat will sprawl at the feet of a queen;

loving to watch her ripen (body and soul
growing tremendous with her terrible games),
to guess from rainclouds darkening her eyes
what thunderbolts were gathered in her heart;

scaling the slopes of her enormous knees,
to saunter through the landscape of her lap,
and when the fetid summers made her stretch

herself across the countryside, to sleep
untroubled in the shadow of her breasts
like a peaceful village at the mountain's base.

"it's raining" - fernando pessoa

"It's raining.  There is silence since the rain itself"
by Fernando Pessoa (tr. Edwin Honig and Susan M Brown)

It's raining.  There is silence since the rain itself
Allows no sound but peacefulness.
It's raining.  The sky's asleep.  When the soul's been
For what it cannot tell, feeling's blind.
It's raining.  My self (who I am) I take leave of . . .

The rain is so peaceful it loosens itself in the air
(Not even seemingly cloudy) so that it seems
It's not rain but a whispering
Which in its whispering forgets itself.
It's raining.  Nothing to long for . . .

There's no wind hovering.  There's no sky I feel.
It's raining far away and imperceptibly,
Like something true that lies to us,
Like some overwhelming wish deceiving us.
It's raining.  Nothing in me feels . . .

Sunday, April 1, 2012

dissolver of sugar - jelaluddin rumi

Dissolver of Sugar
by Jelaluddin Rumi

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of a hand, or a look.
Every morning I wait at dawn. That's when
it's happened before. Or do it suddenly
like an execution. How else
can I get ready for death?

You breathe without a body like a spark.
You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter.
You keep me away with your arm,
but the keeping away is pulling me in.


Pale sunlight,
pale the wall.

Love moves away.
The light changes.

I need more grace
than I thought.

portrait of a lady - t.s. eliot

Portrait Of A Lady
by T.S. Eliot

Thou hast committed--
Fornication: but that was in another country
And besides, the wench is dead.
          The Jew of Malta.


Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon
You have the scene arrange itself--as it will seem to do--
With "I have saved this afternoon for you";
And four wax candles in the darkened room,
Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,
An atmosphere of Juliet's tomb
Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid.
We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole
Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and finger-tips.
"So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul
Should be resurrected only among friends
Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom
That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room."
--And so the conversation slips
Among velleities and carefully caught regrets
Through attenuated tones of violins
Mingled with remote cornets
And begins.
"You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends,
And how, how rare and strange it is, to find
In a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends,
(For indeed I do not love it ... you knew? you are not blind!
How keen you are!)
To find a friend who has these qualities,
Who has, and gives
Those qualities upon which friendship lives.
How much it means that I say this to you--
Without these friendships--life, what cauchemar!"

   Among the windings of the violins
And the ariettes
Of cracked cornets
Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins
Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,
Capricious monotone
That is at least one definite "false note."
--Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
Admire the monuments
Discuss the late events,
Correct our watches by the public clocks.
Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.


Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
And twists one in her fingers while she talks.
"Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know
What life is, you should hold it in your hands";
(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)
"You let it flow from you, you let it flow,
And youth is cruel, and has no remorse
And smiles at situations which it cannot see."
I smile, of course,
And go on drinking tea.
"Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all."

   The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune
Of a broken violin on an August afternoon:
"I am always sure that you understand
My feelings, always sure that you feel,
Sure that across the gulf you reach your hand.

   You are invulnerable, you have no Achilles' heel.
You will go on, and when you have prevailed
You can say: at this point many a one has failed.
But what have I, but what have I, my friend,
To give you, what can you receive from me?
Only the friendship and the sympathy
Of one about to reach her journey's end.

   I shall sit here, serving tea to friends...."

   I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends
For what she has said to me?
You will see me any morning in the park
Reading the comics and the sporting page.
Particularly I remark An English countess goes upon the stage.
A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance,
Another bank defaulter has confessed.
I keep my countenance, I remain self-possessed
Except when a street piano, mechanical and tired
Reiterates some worn-out common song
With the smell of hyacinths across the garden
Recalling things that other people have desired.
Are these ideas right or wrong?


The October night comes down; returning as before
Except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease
I mount the stairs and turn the handle of the door
And feel as if I had mounted on my hands and knees.

"And so you are going abroad; and when do you return?
But that's a useless question.
You hardly know when you are coming back,
You will find so much to learn."
My smile falls heavily among the bric-à-brac.

   "Perhaps you can write to me."
My self-possession flares up for a second;
This is as I had reckoned.
"I have been wondering frequently of late
(But our beginnings never know our ends!)
Why we have not developed into friends."
I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark
Suddenly, his expression in a glass.
My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark.

   "For everybody said so, all our friends,
They all were sure our feelings would relate
So closely! I myself can hardly understand.
We must leave it now to fate.
You will write, at any rate.
Perhaps it is not too late.
I shall sit here, serving tea to friends."

   And I must borrow every changing shape
To find expression ... dance, dance
Like a dancing bear,
Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape.
Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance--

   Well! and what if she should die some afternoon,
Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and rose;
Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand
With the smoke coming down above the housetops;
Doubtful, for quite a while
Not knowing what to feel or if I understand
Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon ...
Would she not have the advantage, after all?
This music is successful with a "dying fall"
Now that we talk of dying--
And should I have the right to smile?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

unrequited love poem - sierra demulder

Unrequited Love Poem 
by Sierra DeMulder

You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.

In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.

In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have every loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.

At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?

You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.

Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

to m.b. - joseph brodsky

To M.B.
by Joseph Brodsky (tr. George Kline)

When I embraced these shoulders, I beheld
the room as it was now revealed beyond us.
I saw how a straight chair pushed from the wall
had blended with the brilliant glow behind it.
The huge bulb in the lamp was far too strong --
its fierce glare made worn furniture look hollow;
the threadbare cover of the sofa shone
so greenly brown as to seem almost yellow.
The table stood deserted, and the floor
lay gleaming, while the stove seemed dark; a dusty
wood frame held a stiff landscape. The sideboard
appeared to be alone among the living.
A moth, aflutter in the this empty blaze,
shook my fixed stare out of its frozen orbit.
If any ghost had tried to haunt this place,
he must have left, for surely he abhorred it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

favor of alexander balas - c.p. cavafy

Favor of Alexander Balas
by C.P. Cavafy (tr. Dalven)

O, I am not upset that a wheel of my chariot
is broken, and I have lost a foolish victory.
I will spend the night with fine wines
and amid lovely roses. Antioch belongs to me.
I am the young man most glorified.
I am Balas's weakness, his adored one.
Tomorrow, you'll see, they'll say that the contest was unfair.
(But if I were coarse, and had ordered it in secret --
the flatters would have voted first prize even to my
crippled chariot.)

infidelity - c.p. cavafy

by C.P. Cavafy (tr. Dalven)

At the nuptial banquet of Thetis and Peleus
Apollo rose from the sumptuous marriage
table, and gave the newlyweds his divine blessing
for the offspring that would be born of their union.
He siad, "No sickness shall ever touch him and he
shall have a long, long life." -- When he spoke these words
Thetis rejoiced beyond measure, for the words
of Apollo who knew all about prophecies
seemed a guarantee for the life of her son.
And through the years when Achilles was growing up
and his fine looks were the glory of Thessaly,
Thetis remembered the words of the god.
But one day old men arrived with news
and they told of the slaying of Achilles at Troy.
And Thetis tore off her purple garments,
and she kept on tearing off and casting upon
the ground her bracelets and rings.
And in her lamentation she recalled the past;
and she asked what the wise Apollo was doing,
where was the poet wandering who speaks
so divinely at feasts, where was the prophet roaming
when they were slaying her son in the prime of his youth.
And the old men answered her that Apollo
himself had gone down to Troy,
and with the Trojans he had slain Achilles.

monotony - c.p. cavafy

C.P. Cavafy (tr. Dalven)

One monotonous day follows another
identical monotony. The same things
will happen, they will happen again --
the same moments find us and leave us.

A month passes and ushers in another month.
One can easily guess the coming events;
they are those tedious ones of yesterday.
And the morrow ends by not resembling a morrow.

theatre impressions - wislawa szymborska

Theatre Impressions
by Wislawa Szymborska (trans. by Krynski & Maguire)

For me a tragedy's most important act is the sixth:
the resurrecting from the stage's battlegrounds,
the adjusting of wigs, of robes,
the wrenching of knife from breast,
the removing of noose from neck,
the lining up among the living
to face the audience.

Bows solo and ensemble:
the white hand on the heart's wound,
the curtsey of the lady suicide,
the nodding of the lopped-off head.

Bows in pairs:
fury extends an arm to meekness,
the victim looks blissfully into the hangman's eyes,
the rebel bears no grudge as he walks beside the tyrant.

The trampling of eternity with the tip of a golden slipper.
The sweeping of morals away with the brim of a hat.
The incorrigible readiness to start afresh tomorrow.

The entry in single file of those who died much earlier,
in the third, the fourth, or between the acts.
The miraculous return of those lost without a trace.
The thought that they've been waiting patiently backstage,
not taking off costumes,
not washing off makeup,
moves me more than the tragedy's tirades.

But truly elevating is the lowering of the curtain,
and that which can still be glimpsed beneath it:
here one hand hastily reaches for a flower,
there a second snatches up a dropped sword.
Only then does a third, invisible,
perform its duty:
it clutches at my throat.