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.