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.

"we believe books, music, poetry..." - anatoly sergeyevich steiger

"We believe books, music, poetry..."
by Anatoly Sergeyevich Steiger

We believe books, music, poetry;
We believe dreams that we see in our sleep.
We believe words...(Even those words
Which are spoken to console us,
Spoken from the window of a train)...

the face of a woman - adonis

The Face Of A Woman
by Ali Ahmed Said [a.k.a. Adonis] (trans. by Kamal Abu-Deeb)

I dwell in the face of a woman
who dwells in a wave
flung by the tide
to a shore that has lost its harbor
in its shells.
I live in the face of a woman
who murders me,
who desires to be
a dead beacon
in my blood sailing
to the very end of madness.

villanelle: the psychological hour - ezra pound

Villanelle: The Psychological Hour
by Ezra Pound

I had over-prepared the event,
that much was ominous.
With middle-ageing care
I had lain out just the right books.
I had almost turned down the pages.

Beauty is so rare a thing.
So few drink of my fountain.

So much barren regret,
So many hours wasted!
And now I watch, from the window,
the rain, the wandering busses.

"Their little cosmos is shaken"--
the air is alive with that fact.
In their parts of the city
they are played on by diverse forces.
How do I know?
Oh, I know well enough.
For them there is something afoot.
As for me;
I had over-prepared the event--

Beauty is so rare a thing,
So few drink of my fountain.

Two friends: a breath of the forest...
Friends? Are people less friends
because one has just, at last, found them?
Twice they promised to come.

"Between the night and morning?"

Beauty would drink of my mind.
Youth would awhile forget
my youth is gone from me.

("Speak up! You have danced so stiffly?
Someone admired your works,
And said so frankly.

"Did you talk like a fool,
The first night?
The second evening?"

"But they promised again:
'To-morrow at tea-time.'")

Now the third day is here--
no word from either;
No word from her nor him,
Only another man's note:
"Dear Pound, I am leaving England."

things that might have been - jorge luis borges

Things That Might Have Been
by Jorge Luis Borges (tr. A. S. Kline)

I think of things that weren't, but might have been.
The treatise on Saxon myths Bede never wrote.
The inconceivable work Dante might have had a glimpse of,
As soon as he’d corrected the Comedy’s last verse.
History without the afternoons of the Cross and the hemlock.
History without the face of Helen.
Man without the eyes that gave us the moon.
On Gettysburg’s three days, victory for the South.
The love we never shared.
The wide empire the Vikings chose not to found.
The world without the wheel or the rose.
The view John Donne held of Shakespeare.
The other horn of the Unicorn.
The fabled Irish bird that lights on two trees at once.
The child I never had.

Pienso en las cosas que pudieron ser y no fueron.
El tratado de mitología sajona que Beda no escribió.
La obra inconcebible que a Dante le fue dada acaso entrever,
Ya corregido el último verso de la Comedia.
La historia sin la tarde de la Cruz y la tarde de la cicuta.
La historia sin el rostro de Helena.
El hombre sin los ojos, que nos han deparado la luna.
En las tres jornadas de Gettysburg la victoria del Sur.
El amor que no compartimos.
El dilatado imperio que los Vikings no quisieron fundar.
El orbe sin la rueda o sin la rosa.
El juicio de John Donne sobre Shakespeare.
El otro cuerno del Unicornio.
El ave fabulosa de Irlanda, que está en dos lugares a un tiempo.
El hijo que no tuve.

in the heart of the desert - al-tirimmah

In the Heart of the Desert
by Al-Tirimmah (tr. Omar S. Pound)

A foolish man rides here
with my saddle
and on my camel.

elizabeth hoar - ralph waldo emerson

Elizabeth Hoar
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Almost I am tempted to essay
For sympathetic eyes the portraiture
Of the good angels that environ me.
My sister is a Greek in mind & face
And well embodies to these latest years
The truth of those high sculptors old who drew
In marble or in bronze, on vase or frieze
The perfect forms of Pallas or the Muse;
Forms in simplicity complete
And beauty of the soul disdaining art.
So bright, so positive, so much itself,
Yet so adapted to the work it wrought
It drew true love, but was complete alone.
She seemed to commune with herself, & say,
I cannot stoop to custom & the crowd,
For either I will marry with a star,
Or I will pick threads in a factory.
So perfect in her action, one would say,
She condescended if she added speech.
Her look was sympathy, & though she spoke
Better than all the rest, she did not speak
Worthy of her. She read in many books,
And loved the Greek as t'were her mother tongue
She knew the value of the passing day
Thought it no mark of her virtue to be scornful
Or cry for better company, but held
Each day a solid good; never mistook
The fashionable judgment for her own.
So keen her perception that no judge or scribe
Could vie with her unerring estimate.
When through much silence & delay she spoke,
It was the Mind's own oracle, through joy
And love of truth or beauty so perceived:
Never a poor return on the self.

a traveler at night writes his thoughts - tu fu

A Traveler at Night Writes His Thoughts
by Tu Fu (tr. Watson)

Delicate grasses, faint wind on the bank;
stark mast, a lone night boat:
stars hang down, over broad fields sweeping;
the moon boils up, on the great river flowing.
Fame--how can my writings win me that?
Office--age and sickness have brought it to an end.
Fluttering, fluttering--where is my likeness?
Sky and earth and one sandy gull.

tale of the assyrian statue - mahmoud al-buraikan

Tale of the Assyrian Statue
by Mahmoud al-Buraikan (tr. Lena Jayyusi and Naomi Shihab Nye)

In a glass room
In a museum that squats
in a lost city that crouches
in a deserted land
on a vast continent
I live, elevated, confronting the eyes of men,
and paralyzing them.
At silence's end, I shake them off
the events of time, and the
terror of the ninth century.

Idol of Nineveh
Its Master.
In an inscrutable moment
My being emerged
to the echo of a chisel
in the hands of a sculptor
in the hall of stones and clay.

In terror, tribes of the dead
make me blood offerings.
How many voices
tremble with the nightmare in the cadence
of the chant
I was called many names
Scented with perfumes and essences,
Hung with rings
My eyes, two diamonds that pierce
the night,
come from mines whose secrets
no man has discovered.

Does Time admit to this memory?
I have seen the gentle moon
at night's beginning, heard the tumult
of the earthquake before the hour of ten.
I have seen the horses
invade women's cloisters
I saw the lances rise high
with skulls of men
I saw the sword's descent
I saw how the bride dances in the ceremony
of death,
and how suns extinguish
the storms of capitals.

Does Time admit to this memory?
The fall of castles and walls
drought and rains
wheat and iron
and the power of the sword, at which men stare
with awe, as it lies
in its leather scabbard?

Does Time admit
to that allusion?
The secret date for the death of a legend
and the beginning of an impossible undertaking,
the plagues of history,
cycles of unknown duration,
the blaze of fires coloring
faces, coloring the gardens and sky,
the will to power
the lust to destroy.

I have lost my jewels
been stripped of my rings,
my locks sheared
I've been rolled off my original base
moved from place to place
The owls and eagles spoke to me,
little boys climbed my ribs
A hammer was once tested on my body
I was tied with ropes,
dragged along, stretched out on my face,
behind a pair of mules.
Once I guarded a wall
Another time I stood at the gate of a palace
Marched in file in one of the armies,
Was abandoned in the desert,
spread out, to be washed by the gales,
for the hot sandstorms to dry out
my deepest chambers,
casting an eternal gaze,
my white sockets open
to the world of stars.

The sea recedes, only the shells remain
at the bottom of the earth
wind after wind
redistributes the red sands.
The ravens
have landed here, and meshed into the cycle of the horizon
Eagles' wings have fluttered
on my neck, then burned on the summits
of sand dunes.
Old wolves made a pillow of my body
as they passed by, fleeing to somewhere.
Caravans of thieves
took shade at my sides, where precious stones
left their mark, where ants built
the earthen kingdom of blind balance.

In the glass room
I stand erect, women stare
at my uncomplicated body,
(stare precisely at the center of the crotch)
children take delight
because my ear has fallen off, and my eyebrow is broken,
because in my chest
there is a gaping hole (so frightening in the light).
In the glass room
sound does not enter
the surface of death is not touched

Some men appear, and continue whispering,
perhaps about my left nail.
In the glass room
the worn-out fingers do not fall off
the sun does not penetrate, but the microscope does.
In the glass room alone
the solitary corpse stands erect.

nicholas, the expirimental dog - raymond queneau

Nicholas, The Experimental Dog
by Raymond Queneau (tr. Rexroth)

You ran away from the hospital
They told you you weren’t sick
You were just an animal
You didn’t know

They told you you were phthisick
Leprous, chorean, cholerick
You were enigmatick
They didn’t know

Everybody ran after you
They found you in the rue d’Bellechasse
Where you didn’t need to go
You didn’t know

You’ve got a kidney in your neck
Your aorta is full of holes
Incisions all over you
You didn’t know

You were really a man
Just like all of us
The pancreas in the gum
The stomach in the rum
Some brains in the heart
The lungs coming out of the fingers
The intestines coming out of the nose
An ear in the liver
Just like all of us
And just like you
Nobody knows.

the room - vladimir nabokov

The Room
by Vladimir Nabokov

The room a dying poet took
at nightfall in a dead hotel
had both directories -- the Book
of Heaven and the Book of Bell.

It had a mirror and a chair,
it had a window and a bed,
its ribs let in the darkness where
rain glistened and a shopsign bled.

Not tears, not terror, but a blend
of anonymity and doom,
it seemed, that room, to condescend
to imitate a normal room.

Whenever some automobile
subliminally slit the night,
the walls and ceiling would reveal
a wheeling skeleton of light.

Soon afterwards the room was mine.
A similar striped cageling, I
groped for the lamp and found the line
"Alone, unknown, unloved, I die"

in pencil, just above the bed.
It had a false quotation air.
Was it a she, wild-eyed, well-read,
or a fat man with thinning hair?

I asked a gentle Negro maid,
I asked a captain and his crew,
I asked the night clerk. Undismayed,
I asked a drunk. Nobody knew.

Perhaps when he had found the switch
he saw the picture on the wall
and cursed the red eruption which
tried to be maples in the fall?

Artistically in the style
of Mr. Churchill at his best,
those maples marched in double file
from Glen Lake to Restricted Rest.

Perhaps my text is incomplete.
A poet's death is, after all,
a question of technique, a neat
enjambment, a melodic fall.

And here a life had come apart
in darkness, and the room had grown
a ghostly thorax, with a heart
unknown, unloved -- but not alone.

many red devils - stephen crane

"Many red devils..." 
by Stephen Crane

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page.
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.

(dedications) - adrienne rich

by Adrienne Rich

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in a stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
i know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

decisions - boris novak

by Boris Novak (tr. Dintinjana)

Between two words
choose the quieter one.

Between word and silence
choose listening.

Between two books
choose the dustier one.

Between the earth and the sky
choose a bird.

Between two animals
choose the one who needs you more.

Between two children
choose both.

Between the lesser and the bigger evil
choose neither.

Between hope and despair
choose hope:
it will be harder to bear.

from "grapefruit" by yoko ono

from "Grapefruit"
by Yoko Ono


Give death announcements each time you
move instead of giving announcements of
the change of address.
Send the same when you die.

1962 summer


Give a moving announcement each time
you die.

1963 summer

"of all your forgotten ones..." - lea goldberg

"Of all your forgotten ones..."
by Lea Goldberg (tr. Back)

Of all your forgotten ones I
am the most forgotten.
Of all the faces
you have seen in the mirror
my face
is the most transparent.
And my voice
is lower than a cut field. And my name
is engraved on a heavy stone
at the bottom of a well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

not waving but drowning - stevie smith

Not Waving But Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And no waving but drowning.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

child - sylvia plath

by Sylvia Plath

Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new

Whose names you meditate ---
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

vocation - sandra beasley

by Sandra Beasley

For six months I dealt Baccarat in a casino.
For six months I played Brahms in a mall.
For six months I arranged museum dioramas;
my hands were too small for the Paleolithic
and when they reassigned me to lichens, I quit.
I type ninety-one words per minute, all of them
Help. Yes, I speak Dewey Decimal.
I speak Russian, Latin, a smattering of Tlingit.
I can balance seven dinner plates on my arm.
All I want to do is sit on a veranda while
a hard rain falls around me. I'll file your 1099s.
I'll make love to strangers of your choice.
I'll do whatever you want, as long as I can do it
on that veranda. If it calls you, it's your calling,
right? Once I asked a broker what he loved
about his job, and he said Making a killing.
Once I asked a serial killer what made him
get up in the morning, and he said The people.