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Six Nights of Poetry
ORNAMENTAL FROG —Joyce Odam, In a small green sink-jar filled with water and gray river stones I keep an old glass frog with one foot missing— happy there, I think. *** INVISIBLE —Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento The day I became invisible, I walked into a small photo shop, rang a bell for service, no one came. I stopped to visit a colleague on campus, students swarmed around him, I slipped out unnoticed. Through glass, I saw a friend engrossed in a meeting. I left with a cup of water from the cooler, then wandered to a park, watched ducks, an older woman also sat, bent, a spot of blood, the size of a nickel, seeped from her arm. "I'm not hurt, just old, my skin breaks easily." I felt I tiptoed at the edge of things, anonymous, it was somehow peaceful. ***
In the distance frogs croak in the mountain rice fields, The evening's single song. ~~~ Unable to sleep, I hear the voice of a young deer Rising from a mountain ridge. ~~~ The branches that will be used for this autumn's firewood are still blooming. Please gather some summer grasses, wet with dew, and come visit me. ~~~ Not much to offer you— just a lotus flower floating In a small jar of water. ~~~ In the pond near my hut the lotus flowers, covered with dew, Bloom in a row. ~~~ The willows are in full bloom! I want to pile up the blossoms Like mountain snow. In a summer meadow blossoming in a thicket the red starlily: this unrevealed love such a painful thing! —Lady Otomo of Sakanoe I hug a stone burnt in a fire— a dream of autumn. —Kanajo Hasegawa in the summer field that person with deep feelings and a sober face —Sonojo
the moon and I alone are left here cooling on the bridge —Kikusha In spirit and in truth silent prayer...just the moon on the road —Kikusha ***
THE WHIPPING WOMAN The woman I hire to daughter my mother makes bi-weekly visits to the dementia ward Lies down beside the near-still waters Accepts the mouth kisses wet with drool From where gravelly words dribble down washed-out gullies Like a whipping boy she bears the brunt of each face-to-face flagellation that my rawhide flesh refuses And for twenty dollars an hour I purchase like the contraposition of a professional mourner Substitution for services I can't supply *** THE DEAD IN FROCK COATS —Carlos Drummond de Andrade In the corner of the living room was an album of unbearable photos, many meters high and infinite minutes old, over which everyone leaned making fun of the dead in frock coats. Then a worm began to chew the indifferent coats, the pages, the inscriptions, and even the dust on the pictures. The only thing it did not chew was the everlasting sob of life that broke and broke from those pages
*** BOY CRYING IN THE NIGHT —Carlos Drummond de Andrade In the warm, humid night, noiseless and dead, a boy cries.
His crying behind the wall, the light behind the window are lost in the shadow of muffled footsteps, of tired voices. Yet the sound of medicine poured into a spoon can be heard. A boy cries in the night, behind the wall, across the street, far away a boy cries, in another city, in another world, perhaps. And I see the hand that llifts the spoon while the other holds the head, and I see the slick thread run down the boy's chin, and slip into the street, only a thread, and slip through the city. And nobody else in the world exists but that boy crying. *** This is an excerpt from his "Looking For Poetry": Enter the kingdom of words as if you were deaf. Poems are there that want to be written. They are dormant, but don't be let down, their virginal surfaces are fresh and serene. They are alone and mute, in dictionary condition. Live with your poems before you write them. If they're vague, be patient. If they offend, be calm. Wait untiil each one comes into its own and demolishes with its command of words and its command of silence. Don't force poems to let go of limbo. Don't pick up lost poems from the ground. Don't fawn over poems. Accept them as you would their final and definitive form, distilled in space. *** MUSE —Todd Cirillo, Grass Valley Reading the poems of my past to her she says “I had to go through a lot of pain for those.” “I know,” I said. Me too. *** APPLES —Ron Tranquilla, Grass Valley
A boy, I climbed the neighborhood apple tree; it lifted me to its shoulders so I could see my school, our church, the candy store. Leaning, holding on tightly, I had apples easily at hand. A boy perched in the trombones, I thought that girl with the pony tail in the second row of saxes was cute. I didn’t know then that I would be winded climbing such a little hill, the path lifting beside little houses all the same, all fruits gone. I didn’t know that I would fall in love with the saxophonist, or that she would be climbing at my side, as I lean on her, holding on for dear life. *** POEM ON BREAD —Vernon Scannell The poet is about to write a poem; He does not use a pencil or a pen. He dips his long, thin finger into jam Or something savoury preferred by men. This poet does not choose to write on paper; He takes a single slice of well-baked bread And with his jam or marmite-nibbed forefinger He writes his verses down on that instead. His poem is fairly short as all the best are. When he has finished it he hopes that you Or someone else—your brother, friend or sister— Will read and find it marvelous and true. If you can't read, then eat: it tastes quite good. If you do neither, all that I can say Is he who needs no poetry or bread Is really in a devilish bad way. *** BUSINESS AS USUAL —Kenneth Fearing This is the poet Who wrote the sonnet And was paid three dollars And sixty-five cents. This is the artist,
The man who has drawn it (For twenty-five bucks) A margin of nymphs— The nymphs in the sonnet That earned three dollars And sixty-five cents. Here is the printer Who published the page (Clearing upon it A hundred or so) Of nymphs, and the sonnet That earned three dollars And sixty-five cents. This is the empty Bottle of gin That cost three dollars And sixty-five cents That enabled the poet To write the sonnet That earned three dollars And sixty-five cents. ***
THE MOON IN YOUR HANDS —H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) If you take the moon in your hands and turn it round (heavy, slightly tarnished platter) you're there; if you pull dry sea-weed from the sand and turn it round and wonder at the underside's bright amber, your eyes look out as they did here, (you don't remember) when my soul turned round, perceiving the other-side of everything, mullein-leaf, dogwood-leaf, moth-wing and dandelion-seed under the ground. *** Fame is a bee. It has a song—
It has a sting— Ah, too, it has a wing. Emily: *** INTERRUPTION IN THE GOOD TIME OF KAIROS —Elsie Whitlow Feliz Every time I start to write a poem somone knocks at the door. They want to give me something—usually God. I must explain I already have God, rather She has me, and I was busy with Her work when they interrupted, and She's going to get them if they don't start moving. Oh, they say, you don't mean that you think God is a woman? That's when God comes to the door to stand by me. They don't like the look in Her eyes. We'll see you later, they say. When Hell freezes over, God says, and we go back to the work of writing.
*** I AM THE FIRST —Paul Celan I am the first to drink of the blue that still looks for its eye. I drink from your footprint and see: you roll through my fingers, pearl, and you grow! You grow, as do all the forgotten. You roll: the black hailstone of sadness is caught by a kerchief turned white with waving goodbye *** DIATRIBE AGAINST THE DEAD —Angel Gonzalez The dead are selfish: they make us cry and don't care, they stay quiet in the most inconvenient places, they refuse to walk, we have to carry them on our backs to the tomb as if they were children. What a burden!
Unusually rigid, their faces accuse us of something, or warn us; they are the bad conscience, the bad example, they are the worst things in our lives always, always. The bad thing about the dead is that there is no way you can kill them. Their constant destructive labor is for that reason incalculable. Insensitive, distant, obstinate, cold, with their insolence and their silence they don't realize what they undo ***
BEFORE I COULD CALL MYSELF ANGEL GONZALEZ —Angel Gonzalez Before I could call myuself Angel Gonzalez, before the earth could support the weight of my body, a long time and a great space were necessary: men from all the seas and all the lands, fertile wombs of women, and bodies and more bodies, incessantly fusing into another new body. Solstices and equinoxes illuminated with their changing lights, and variegated skies, the millenary trip of my flesh as it climbed over centruies and bones. Of its slow and painful journey, of its escape to the end, surviving shipwrecks, anchoring itself to the last sign of the dead, I am only the result, the fruit, what's left, rotting, among the remains; what you see here, is just that: tenacious trash resisting its ruin, fighting against wind, walking streets that go nowhere. The success of all failures. The insane force of dismay... *** WHATEVER YOU WANT —Angel Gonzalez When you have money, buy me a ring, when you have nothing, give me a corner of your mouth,
when you don't know what to do, come with me —but later don't say you didn't know what you were doing. In the morning you gather bundles of firewood and they turn into flowers in your arms. I hold you up grasping the petals, if you leave I'll take away your perfume. But I've already told you: if you decide to leave, here's the door: its name is Angel and it leads to tears. *** CITY —Angel Gonzalez Things glisten. Roof tiles rise over the tree tops. Almost to the breaking point, tense, the resilient streets. There you are: beneath the intersection of metallic cables, where the sun fits like a halo complimenting your image. Rapid swallows threaten impassive facades. Glass transmits luminous and secretive messages. Everything consists of brief, invisible gestures for habitual eyes. And suddenly you're not there. Good-bye, love, good-bye. You're already gone. Nothing remains of you. The city rotates: grinder in which everything is undone. ***
THE DRUNK AND THE MADMAN —Rumi I'm lost in your face, in your lost eyes. The drunk and the madman inside me take a liking to each other. They sit down on the ground together. Look at this mess of a life as the sun looks fondly into ruins. With one glance many trees grow from a single seed. Your two eyes are like a Turk born in Persia. He's on a rampage, a Persian shooting Turkish arrows. He has ransacked my house so that no lives here anymore,
just a boy running barefooted all through it. Your face is a garden that comes up where the house was. With our hands we tear down houses and make bare places. The moon has no desire to be described. No one needs this poetry. The loose hair-strands of a beautiful woman don't have to be combed. *** UNMARKED BOXES —Rumi Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. The child weaned from mother's milk now drinks wine and honey mixed. God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box, from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed. As roses, up from ground. Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish, now a cliff covered with vines, now a horse being saddled. It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open. Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep and changes shape. You might say, "Last night I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips, a field of grapevines." Then the phantasm goes away. You're back in the room. I don't want to make any one fearful. Hear what's behind what I say. Tatatumtum tatum tatadum. There's the light gold of wheat in the sunh and the gold of bread made from that wheat. I have neither. I'm only talking about them, as a town in the desert looks up at stars on a clear night. _______________________________ A few Rumi "quatrains": (1127) I drink streamwater and the air becomes clearer and everything I do. I become a waterwheel,
turning and tasting you, as long as water moves.
(914) Come to the orchard in Spring. There is light and wine, and sweethearts in the pomegranate flowers. If you do not come, these do not matter. If you do come, these do not matter.
(82) Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. ***
THE END AND THE BEGINNING —Wislawa Szymborska After every war someone's got to tidy up. Things won't pick themselves up, after all. Someone's got to shove the rubble to the roadsides so the carts loaded with corpses can get by. Someone's got to trudge through sludge and ashes, through the sofa springs, the shards of glass, the bloody rags. Someone's got to lug the post to prop the wall, someone's got to glaze the window, set the door in its frame. No sound bites, no photo opportunities and it takes years. All the cameras have gone to other wars. The bridges need to be rebuilt,
the railroad stations, too. Shirt sleeves will be rolled to shreds. Someone, broom in hand, still remembers how it was. Someone else listens, nodding his unshattered head. But others are bound to be bustling nearby who'll find all that a little boring. From time to time someone still must dig up a rusted argument from underneath a bush and haul it off to the dump. Those who knew what this was all about must make way for those who know little. And less than that. And at last nothing less than nothing. Someone's got to lie there in the grass that covers up the causes and effects with a cornstalk in his teeth, gawking at clouds. —translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh *** UNEXPECTED MEETING —Wislawa Szymborska 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 beyong salvation. Our people
have nothing to say. *** TO EDWARD DAHLBERG —Jack Kerouac Don't use the telephone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry. Amy Lowell: *** TIME Looking at myself in my metal mirror, I saw, faintly outlined, The figure of a crane Engraved upon its back.
A YEAR PASSES Beyond the porcelain fence of the pleasure garden, I hear the frogs in the blue-green ricefields; But the sword-shaped moon Has cut my heart in two.
AUTUMN All day I have watched the purple vine-leaves Fall into the water. And now in the moonlight they still fall, But each leaf is fringed with silver. Can you handle one more? *** THE TAXI —Amy Lowell When I go away from you The world beats dead Like a slackened drum. I call out for you against the jutted stars And shout into the ridges of the wind. Streets coming fast, One after the other,
Wedge you away from me. And the lamps of the city prick my eyes So that I can no longer see your face. Why should I leave you, To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night? *** THE LETTER —Amy Lowell Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper Like draggled fly's legs, What can you tell of the flaring moon Through the oak leaves? Or of my uncurtained window and the bare floor Spattered with moonlight? Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them Of blossoming hawthorns, And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness Beneath my hand. I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against The want of you; Of squeezing it into little inkdrops, And posting it. And I scald alone, here, under the fire Of the great moon. *** AFTERGLOW —Amy Lowell Peonies The strange pink colour of Chinese porcelains; Wonderful—the glow of them. But, my Dear, it is the pale blue larkspur Which swings windily against my heart. Other Summers— And a cricket chirping in the grass. *** A DECADE —Amy Lowell When you came, you were like red wine and honey, And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness. Now you are like morning bread, Smooth and pleasant. I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished. *** THE BARE TREE —William Carlos Williams The bare cherry tree higher than the roof last year produced abundant fruit. But how speak of fruit confronted by that skeleton? Though live it may be there is no fruit on it. Therefore chop it down and use the wood against this biting cold. *** REFLECTIVE —A.R. Ammons I found a weed that had a mirror in it and that mirror looked in at a mirror in me that had a weed in it *** A COAT —William Butler Yeats I made my song a coat Covered with embroideries Out of old mythologies From heel to throat; But the fools caught it, Wore it in the world's eye As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it, For there's more enterprise In walking naked. Like An Elephant's Tail Six from Dogen (1200-1253):
The moon reflected In a mind clear As still water: Even the waves, breaking, Are reflecting its light. *** A white heron Hiding itself In the snowy field, Where even the winter grass Cannot be seen. *** If you ask, What is Buddha? An icicle Hanging From a mosquito net. *** Magpie building Its nest on his head, While a spider's web, Like tiny crabs, Covers his eyebrows. *** The world— Like an elephant's tail Not passing through the window, Although no one is there Holding it back. *** Contemplating the clear moon Reflecting a mind empty as the open sky— Drawn by its beauty,
I lose myself In the shadows it casts. SMALL SONG —A.R. Ammons The reeds give way to the wind and give the wind away. *** CARNATIONS —Charles Bukowski my my my my my love love love love love brought me 2 carnations brought me red brought me her told me not to worry told me not to die
my love is 2 carnations on a table while listening to Schoenberg on an evening darkening into night my love is young the carnations burn in the dark; she is gone leaving the taste of almonds her body tastes like almonds 2 carnations burning red as she sits far away now dreaming of china dogs tinkling through her fingers my love is ten thousand carnations burning my love is a hummingbird sitting that quiet moment on the bough as the cat crouches. ***
STYLE —Charles Bukowski style is the answer to everything— a fresh way to approach a dull or a dangerous thing.
to do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. Joan of Arc had style John the Baptist Christ Socrates Caesar, Garcia Lorca. style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done. 6 herons standing quietly in a pool of water or you walking out of the bathroom naked without seeing me. ***
GONE —R.S. Thomas There was a flower blowing and a hand plucked it. There was a stream flowing and a body smirched it. There was a pure mirror of water and a face came and looked in it. There were words and wars and treaties, and feet trampled the earth and the wheels seared it; and an explosion followed. There was dust and silence; and out of the dust a plant grew, and the dew formed upon it; and a stream seeped from the dew to construct a mirror, and the mirror was empty. ***
SUDDENLY —R.S. Thomas Suddenly after long silence he has become voluble. He addresses me from a myriad directions with the fluency of water, the articulateness of green leaves; and in the genes, too, the components of my existence. The rock, so long speechless, is the library of his poetry. He sings to me in the chain-saw, writes with the surgeon's hand on the skin's parchment messages of healing. The weather is his mind's turbine driving the earth's bulk round and around on its remedial journey. I have no need to despair; as at some second Pentecost of a Gentile, I listen to the things round me: weeds, stones, instruments, the machine itself, all speaking to me in the vernacular of the purposes of One who is. *** HAVE YOU EVER KISSED A PANTHER —Charles Bukowski this woman thinks she's a panther and sometimes when we are making love she'll snarl and spit and her hair comes down and she looks out from the strands and shows me her fangs but I kiss her anyhow and continue to love. have you ever kissed a panther? have you ever seen a female panther enjoying the act of love? you haven't loved, friend. you with your squirrels and chipmunks and elephants and sheep. you ought to sleep with a panther you'll never again want squirrels, chipmunks, elephants, sheep, fox, wolverines, never anything but the female panther
the female panther walking across the room the female panther walking across your soul all other love songs are lies when that black smooth fur moves against you and the sky falls down against your back, the female panther is the dream arrived real and there's no going back or wanting to— the fur up against you, the search over and you are locked against the eyes of a panther. *** SHORT ORDER —Charles Bukowski I took my girlfriend to your last poetry reading, she said. yes, yes? I asked. she's young and pretty, she said. and? I asked. she hated your guts. then she stretched out on the couch and pulled off her boots. I don't have very good legs, she said. all right, I thought, I don't have very good poetry; she doesn't have very good legs. scramble two *** A KISS REFUSED —Sinh Quang Le, Sacramento Since Eve Embraced the apple and kissed it, The Lord was angry. When Adam Embraced and kissed her apple, He was chased by the Lord Out of Eden. Aware that kissing is a sin,
Today—still there is a fool Who enjoys kissing the apple Though only once But he has been refused As she is afraid She could not enter into Paradise. *** GET OVER IT —A.R. Ammons I guess old men aren't really good for nothing: they can cuddle, shuffle, and look about for where it all went: harmless, they are attractive, gently innocent, on park benches or subways, or on the slow side of streets: women are reassured by them; they are witnesses without danger, guardian angels: out of the game, earnings free, they are what they earned before: they hardly compete at all: their toothless mouths need no upkeep, no reconstructions, no root canals or extraordinary measures: it doesn't matter if their piss-burnt pants stiffen up or if they seldom shave or use much hot water: they are wonderfully inexpensive: unless, of course, something goes wrong: they just hang out on corners or in alleys, useless, apologetic, inexcusable, supernumerary, invisible among the seeing: what good is a mess of stuff on its way out, nearly out: get on out, you might say, you're taking up room: but old men are good examples to the young of what becomes of things: working, loving, buying, living the dynamics, many can look down the steep gradient of the slope to where the rubbish edges the river and then reaffirmed they can look back into the lights and run along to do their parts: when I started this
piece, I intended under the guise of praise to pour the world's comtempt on old men, but I wasn't clever enough to modulate it gradually the way, say, Shakespeare moves easefully through changing weathers: but at times, old men will look up at the world, raise an eyebrow and smile a small smile hard to read. *** IN VIEW OF THE FACT —A.R. Ammons The people of my time are passing away: my wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it's Ruth we care so much about in intensive care: it was once weddings that came so thick and fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo: now, it's this that and the other and somebody else gone or on the brink: well, we never thought we would live forever (although we did) and now it looks like we won't: some of us are losing a leg to diabetes, some don't know what they went downstairs for, some know that a hired watchful person is around, some like to touch the cane tip into something steady, so nice: we have already lost so many, brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our address books for so long a slow scramble now are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our index cards for Christmases, birthdays, Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies: at the same time we are getting used to so many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip to the ones left: we are not giving up on the congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on
the nice old men left in empty houses or on the widows who decide to travel a lot: we think the sun may shine someday when we'll drink wine together and think of what used to be: until we die we will remember every single thing, recall every word, love every loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to others to love, love that can grow brighter and deeper til the very end, gaining strength and getting more precious all the way.... *** CONSUMMATION OF GRIEF —Charles Bukowski I even hear the mountains the way they laugh up and down their blue sides and down in the water the fish cry and all the water is their tears. I listen to the water on nights I drink away and the sadness becomes so great I hear it in my clock it becomes knobs upon my dresser it becomes paper on the floor it becomes a shoehorn a laundry ticket it becomes cigarette smoke climbing a chapel of dark vines... it matters little very little love is not so bad or very little life what counts is waiting on walls I was born for this I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead. ***
AN ANCIENT GESTURE —Edna St. Vincent Millay I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron: Penelope did this too. And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day And undoing it all through the night; Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight; And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light, And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years, Suddenly you burst into tears; There is simply nothing else to do. And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron: This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique, In the very best tradition, classic, Greek; Ulysses did this too. But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak, He learned it from Penelope... Penelope, who really cried. ***
THE DUNCE —Jacques Prevert He says no with his head but he says yes with his heart he says yes to what he loves he says no to the teacher he stands he is questioned and all the problems are posed sudden mad laughter seizes him and he erases all the words and figures names and dates sentences and snares and despite the teacher’s threats to the jeers of infant prodigies with chalk of every color on the blackboard of misfortune he draws the face of happiness. ***
DEPRESSED BY A BOOK OF BAD POETRY, I WALK TOWARD AN UNUSED PASTURE AND INVITE THE INSECTS TO JOIN ME
—James Wright Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone. I climb a slight rise of grass. I do not want to disturb the ants Who are walking single file up the fence post, Carrying small white petals, Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them. I close my eyes for a moment, and listen. The old grasshoppers Are tired, they leap heavily now, Their thighs are burdened. I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make. Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins In the maple trees. *** THE SPIDER AND THE GHOST OF THE FLY —Vachel Lindsay Once I loved a spider When I was born a fly, A velvet-footed spider With a gown of rainbow-dye. She ate my wings and gloated. She bound me with a hair. She drove me to her parlor Above her winding stair. To educate young spiders She took me all apart. My ghost came back to haunt her. I saw her eat my heart. Doom is Like the Handle of a Pot *** HA HA HA HA HA, HA HA —Charles Bukowski monkey feet small and blue walking toward you as the back of a building falls off and an airplane chews the white sky, doom is like the handle of a pot, it's there, know it, have ice in your tea, marry, have children, visit your
dentist, do not scream at night even if you feel like screaming, count ten make love to your wife or if your wife isn't there if there isn't anybody there count 20, get up and walk to the kitchen if you have a kitchen and sit there sweating at 3 a.m. in the morning monkey feet small and blue walking toward you. *** THE KISS —Anne Sexton My mouth blooms like a cut. I've been wronged all year, tedious nights, nothing but rough elbows in them and delicate boxes of Kleenex calling crybaby crybaby, you fool! Before today my body was useless. Now it's tearing at its square corners. It's tearing old Mary's garments off, knot by knot and see—Now it's shot full of these electric bolts. Zing! A resurrection! Once it was a boat, quite wooden and with no business, no salt water under it and in need of some paint. It was no more than a group of boards. But you hoisted her, rigged her. She's been elected. My nerves are turned on. I hear them like musical instruments. Where there was silence the drums, the strings are incurable playing. You did this. Pure genius at work. Darling, the composer has stepped into fire. *** THE NUDE SWIM —Anne Sexton On the southwest side of Capri we found a little unknown grotto
where no people were and we entered it completely and let our bodies lose all their loneliness. All the fish in us had escaped for a minute. The real fish did not mind. We did not disturb their personal life. We calmly trailed over them and under them, shedding air bubbles, little white balloons that drifted up into the sun by the boat where the Italian boatman slept with his hat over his face. Water so clear you could read a book through it. Water so buoyant you could float on your elbow. I lay on it as on a divan. I lay on it just like Matisse's Red Odalisque. Water was my strange flower. One must picture a woman without a toga or a scarf on a couch as deep as a tomb. The walls of that grotto were everycolor blue and you said, "Look! Your eyes are seacolor. Look! Your eyes are skycolor." And my eyes shut down as if they were suddenly ashamed. *** US —Anne Sexton I was wrapped in black fur and white fur and you undid me and then you placed me in gold light and then you crowned me, while snow fell outside the door in diagonal darts. While a ten-inch snow came down like stars in small calcium fragments,
we were in our own bodies (that room that will bury us) and you were in my body (that room that will outlive us) and at first I rubbed your feet dry with a towel because I was your slave and then you called me princess. Princess! Oh then I stood up in my gold skin and I beat down the psalms and I beat down the clothes and you undid the bridle and you undid the reins and I undid the buttons, the bones, the confusions, the New England postcards, the January ten o'clock night, and we rose up like wheat, acre after acre of gold, and we harvested, we harvested. ***
LIVING —Denise Levertov The fire in leaf and grass so green it seems each summer the last summer. The wind blowing, the leaves shivering in the sun, each day the last day. A red salamander so cold and so easy to catch, dreamily moves his delicate feet and long tail. I hold my hand open for him to go. Each minute the last minute. *** A REWARD
—Denise Levertov Tired and hungry, late in the day, impelled to leave the house and search for what might lift me back to what I had fallen away from, I stood by the shore waiting. I had walked in the silent woods: the trees withdrew into their secrets. Dusk was smoothing breadths of silk over the lake, watery amethyst fading to gray. Ducks were clustered in sleeping companies afloat on their element as I was not on mine. I turned homeward, unsatisfied. But after a few steps, I paused, impelled again to linger, to look North before nightfall—the expanse of calm, of calming water, last wafts of rose in the few high clouds. And was rewarded: the heron, unseen for weeks, came flying widewinged toward me, settled just offshore on his post, took up his vigil. If you ask why this cleared a fog from my spirit, I have no answer. ***
MADAM AND HER MADAM —Langston Hughes I worked for a woman, She wasn't mean— But she had a twelve-room House to clean. Had to get breakfast, Dinner, and supper, too— Then take care of her children When I got through. Wash, iron, and scrub, Walk the dog around— It was too much, Nearly broke me down. I said, Madam, Can it be You trying to make a Pack-horse out of me?
She opened her mouth. She cried, Oh, no! You know, Alberta, I love you so! I said, Madam, That may be true— But I'll be dogged If I love you! *** I, TOO —Langston Hughes I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America. ***
DADDY SAYS HE TEACHES —Judy Halebsky Daddy says he teaches people about people but that’s not really the word I want to know the word so when people ask me what he does I can tell them He won’t tell me because I don’t know he thinks I won’t understand
but I just want to know the word so I can tell other people like passing along a note I won’t read or a cup of water I won’t spill *** REMINDERS AT THE READINGS —Ann Menebroker, Sacramento Never use words you don't understand or can't pronounce. Don't steal lines because there's always someone who remembers, intimately, who wrote it. Don't mumble your poem into the microphone, or look down at your feet, that were never capable of writing a sonnet or even free verse. Look out at your audience as if it was your lover, and feel the passion flying from you to them. Why is everything finally reduced to sex? Because it causes life and response. Would you come to hear me read if I said I was going to yodel Beethoven's Fifth while I picked my teeth and ate cold cereal? Well, probably. It's too crazy to miss. I'd come, too. *** APPRECIATING GRAPES —William S. Gainer, Grass Valley One by one— she ate the grapes from the center of the bunch, until finally it looked like a cartoon sketch of a discarded fish carcass. I ate the head, then the tail and hid the bones from the cat
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in —e.e. cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) ***
HAT ONE —Charles Bukowski your your your your your child has no name hair has no color face has no flesh feet have no toes country has ten flags
your voice has no tongue your ideas slide like snakes your eyes do not match you eat bouquets of flowers throw poisoned meat to the dogs I see you linger in alleys with a club I see you with a knife for anybody I see you peddling a fishhead for a heart and when the sun comes churning down you'll come walking in from the kitchen with a drink in your hand humming the latest tune and smiling at me in your red tight dress extraordinary... *** HEN
—Zbigniew Herbert The hen is the best example of what living constantly with humans leads to. She has completely lost the lightness and grace of a bird. Her tail sticks up over her protruding rump like a too large hat in bad taste. Her rare moments of ecstasy, when she stands on one leg and glues up her round eyes with filmy eyelids, are stunningly disgusting. And in addition, that parody of song, throat-slashed supplications over a thing unutterably comic: a round, white, maculated egg. The hen brings to mind certain poets. (translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott) *** OUR FEAR —Zbigniew Herbert Our fear does not does not does not does not
wear a night shirt have owl's eyes lift a casket lid extinguish a candle
does not have a dead man's face either our fear is a scrap of paper found in a pocket "Warn Wojcik the place on Dluga Street is hot" our fear does not rise on the wings of the tempest does not sit on a church tower it is down-to-earth it has the shape of a bundle made in haste with warm clothing provisions and arms our fear does not have the face of a dead man the dead are gentle to us we carry them on our shoulders sleep under the same blanket close their eyes adjust their lips
pick a dry spot and bury them not too deep not too shallow (translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott) ***
REMEMBERING MY FATHER —Zbigniew Herbert His face severe in clouds above the waters of childhood so rarely did he hold my warm head in his hands given to belief not forgiving faults because he cleared out woods and straightened paths he carried the lantern high when we entered the night I thought I would sit at his right hand and we would separate light from darkness and judge those of us who live —it happened otherwise a junk-dealer carried his throne on a hand-cart and the deed of ownership the map of our kingdom he was born for a second time slight very fragile with transparent skin hardly perceptible cartilage he diminished his body so I might receive it in an unimportant place there is shadow under a stone he himself grows in me we eat our defeats we burst out laughing when they say how little is needed to be reconciled (Translated from the Polish by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter) *** PLAYING WITH MY FOUR-YEAR-OLD FRIEND —Joyce Koff, Los Angeles Chris and I play and I become four and he says "never ever" to eveything and I repeat "never ever"
"stop copying me" he says "never ever" and the game continues he kicks his foot up in the air like a karate champ and looks in the mirror to see his tough image he's ready to control the world with his small fists and scare the dark monsters and scare me when he talks about them his eyes get big and his voice gets loud and I keep repeating "never ever" to his "never ever" and he continues "stop copying me" and then it's time to leave and with a voice smooth and soft as a baby's he says pointing to my husband "are you going to kiss him when you get home"
*** What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, I have forgotten, and what arms have lain Under my head till morning; but the rain Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh Upon the glass and listen for reply, And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain For unremembered lads that not again Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree, Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: I cannot say what loves have come and gone, I only know that summer sang in me A little while, that in me sings no more. —Edna St. Vincent Millay *** THE DREAM —Linda Boyden, Redding Upon my finger The diamond ring disintegrated: Each separate stone released itself From the band willingly, Nothing violent.
More an act of erosion than Something geothermal. Each spilling into a void, Floating on singular journeys; Miniature stars, but still within my reach. I stretched. The diamonds settled On slender fingerpads. The hem of my dress sashayed In a whirl As I clenched my fist and I awoke: To the memory of your tongue Inside my mouth; The intoxicating twinge, Bittersweet. I surrendered back to sleep, Relaxed my grip, Dimly aware of diamonds Cascading freely, Like river tears over roc *** WITH A GREEN SCARF —Marin Sorescu With a green scarf I blindfolded the eyes of the trees and asked them to catch me. At once the trees caught me, their leaves shaking with laughter. I blindfolded the birds with a scarf of clouds and asked them to catch me. The birds caught me with a song. Then with a smile I blindfolded my sorrow and the day after it caught me with a love. I blindfolded the sun with my nights and asked the sun to catch me. I know where you are, the sun said,
just behind that time. Don't bother to hide any longer. Don't bother to hide any longer, said all of them, as well as all the feelings I tried to blindfold. (translated from the Romanian by Michael Hamburger) *** PRECAUTIONS —Marin Sorescu I pulled on a suit of mail made of pebbles worn smooth by water. I balanced a pair of glasses on my neck so as to keep an eye on whatever was coming behind me. I gloved and greaved my hands, my legs, my thoughts, leaving no part of my person exposed to touch or other poisons. Then I fashioned a breastplace from the shell of an eight-hundred-year-old turtle. And when everything was just so I tenderly replied: —I love you too. (translated from the Romanian by Paul Muldoon and Joana Russell-Gebbett) *** FRESCO —Marin Sorescu In hell, maximum use Is made of the sinners. With the help of tweezers, Brooches and bracelets, hairpins and rings,
Linen and bedclothes Are extracted from the heads of the women. Who are subsequently thrown Into boiling cauldrons To keep an eye on the pitch, And see that it doesn't boil over. Then some of them Are transformed into dinner pails In which hot sins are carried to the domiciles Of pensioned-off devils. The men are employed For the heaviest work, Except for the hairiest of them, Who are spun afresh And made into mats. (translated from the Romanian by D.J. Enright and Joana Russell-Gebbett) *** THE TEAR —Marin Sorescu I weep and weep a tear Which will not fall No matter how much I weep. Its pang in me Is like the birth of an icicle. Colder and colder, the earth Curves on my eyelid, The northern ice-cap keeps rising. O, my arctic eyelid. (translated from the Romanian by Seamus Heaney and Joana Russell-Gebbett) ***
THE PLEASURES OF THE DOOR —Francis Ponge Kings do not touch doors. They know nothing of this pleasure: pushing before one gently or brusquely one of those large familiar panels, then turning back to replace it—holding a door in one's arms.
...The pleasure of grabbing the midriff of one of these tall obstacles to a room by its porcelain node; that short clinch during which movement stops, the eye widens, and the whole body adjusts to its new surrounding. With a friendly hand one still holds on to it, before closing it decisively and shutting oneself in—which the click of the tight but well-oiled spring pleasantly confirms. *** THE FROG —Francis Ponge When little matchsticks of rain bounce off drenched fields, an amphibian dwarf, a maimed Ophelia, barely the size of a fist, sometimes hops under the poet's feet and flings herself into the next pond. Let the nervous little thing run away. She has lovely legs. Her whole body is sheathed in waterproof skin. Hardly meat, her long muscles have an elegance neither fish nor fowl. But to escape one's fingers, the virtue of fluidity joins forces with her struggle for life. Goitrous, she starts panting... And that pounding heart, those wrinkled eyelids, that drooping mouth, move me to let her go *** BEASTS BOUNDING THROUGH TIME— —Charles Bukowski Van Gogh writing his brother for paints Hemingway testing his shotgun Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine the impossibility of being human Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town the impossibility of being human Burroughs killing his wife with a gun Mailer stabbing his the impossibility of being human Maupassant going mad in a rowboat Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller the impossibility Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops the impossibility Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench Chatterton drinking rat poison Shakespeare a plagiarist Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness the impossibility the impossibility
Nietzsche gone totally mad the impossibility of being human all too human this breathing in and out out and in these punks these cowards these champions these mad dogs of glory moving this little bit of light toward us impossibly. *** FAWN'S FOSTER MOTHER —Robinson Jeffers The old woman sits on a bench before the door and quarrels With her meager pale demoralized daughter. Once when I passed I found her alone, laughing in the sun And saying that when she was first married She lived in the old farmhouse up Garapatas Canyon. (It is empty now, the roof has fallen But the log walls hang on the stone foundation; the redwoods Have all been cut down, the oaks are standing; The place is now more solitary than ever before.) "When I was nursing my second baby My husband found a day-old fawn hid in a fern-brake And brought it; I put its mouth to the breast Rather than let it starve, I had milk enough for three babies. Hey, how it sucked, the little nuzzler, Digging its little hoofs like quills into my stomach. I had more joy from that than from the others." Her face is deformed with age, furrowed like a bad road With market-wagons, mean cares and decay. She is grown up to the surface of things, a cell of dry skin Soon to be shed from the earth's old eyebrows, I see that once in her spring she lived in the streaming arteries, The stir of the world, the music of the mountain. *** Sleepy 3:16 AND ONE HALF... —Charles Bukowski here I'm supposed to be a great poet and I'm sleepy in the afternoon here I am aware of death like a giant bull charging at me
and I'm sleepy in the afternoon here I'm aware of wars and men fighting in the ring and I'm aware of good food and wine and good women and I'm sleepy in the afternoon I'm aware of a woman's love and I'm sleepy in the afternoon, I lean into the sunlight behind a yellow curtain I wonder where the summer flies have gone I remember the most bloody death of Hemingway and I'm sleepy in the afternoon. some day I won't be sleepy in the afternoon some day I'll write a poem that will bring volcanoes to the hills out there but right now I'm sleepy in the afternoon and somebody asks me, "Bukowski, what time is it?" and I say, "3:16 and a half." I feel very guilty, I feel obnoxious, useless, demented, I feel sleepy in the afternoon, they are bombing churches, o.k., that's o.k., the children ride ponies in the park, o.k., that's o.k., the libraries are filled with thousands of books of knowledge, great music sits inside the nearby radio and I am sleepy in the afternoon, I have this tomb within myself that says, ah, let the others do it, let them win, let me sleep, wisdom is in the dark sweeping through the dark like brooms, I'm going where the summer flies have gone, try to catch me. *** FUGITIVE FROM MEDUSA'S HAIRNET —D. Jayhne Edwards, Santa Rosa there's a snake in-my watery wash basin no no no no eyes mouth fangs tail
she? it? often appears after-I comb my hair writhing slithering his? her? its? way downward toward the drain: One human hair *** THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM —Wallace Stevens The house was quiet and the world was calm. The reader became the book; and summer night Was like the conscious being of the book. The house was quiet and the world was calm. The words were spoken as if there was no book, Except that the reader leaned above the page, Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom The summer night is like a perfection of thought. The house was quiet because it had to be. The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind: The access of perfection to the page. And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world, In which there is no other meaning, itself Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself Is the reader leaning late and reading there. *** BIG ISLAND ROMANTIC —Todd Cirillo, Grass Valley
Lovers in the dark hiding behind seawalls loving in the moonlight slowly caressing tender soft parts hoping their tide will finally come in. *** MINIATURE —Yannis Ritsos The woman stood up in front of the table. Her sad hands begin to cut thin slices of lemon for tea like yellow wheels for a very small carriage made for a child's fairy tale. The young officer sitting opposite is buried in the old armchair. He doesn't look at her. He lights up his cigarette. His hand holding the match trembles, throwing light on his tender chin and the teacup's handle. The clock holds its heartbeat for a moment. Something has been postponed. The moment has gone. It's too late now. Let's drink our tea. Is it possible, then, for death to come in that kind of carriage? To pass by and go away? And only this carriage to remain, with its little yellow wheels of lemon parked for so many years on a side street with unlit lamps, and then a small song, a little mist, and then nothing? *** NO HELP FOR THAT —Charles Bukowski there is a place in the heart that will never be filled a space and even during the best moments and the greatest times we will know it
we will know it more than ever there is a place in the heart that will never be filled and we will wait and wait in that space. ***
AT THE ZOO, A.D. 2184 —Taylor Graham, Somerset A child points, What’s that? It’s a bird, the father says. A Robin. It can fly, but it has to flap its wings. I remember a poem in school about Who Killed Cock Robin, and just look, here he is. I move on, passing the Endangered Species Wall, and the Extinct. Hawk and Warbler from a century ago. Porpoise and Whale that slipped away. Orangutan, Antelope, Shark and Otter, Bullfrog, Horse and Bear. At the mammal cages, a Domestic Cat in ancient Pharaoh profile gazes down at me, indifferent as a household tabby on a window-sill, if this were 1984. But in these modern days, who keeps cats? And here’s the Dog, a brownish mutt heir to hundreds of dead breeds. He drops his bone and comes to the fence as if to beg, like that old picture of a puppy at the Pound. Oh please oh take me home. *** MY MOTHER ONCE TOLD ME —Yehuda Amichai My mother once told me
Not to sleep with flowers in the room. Since then I have not slept with flowers. I sleep alone, without them. There were many flowers. But I’ve never had enough time. And persons I love are already pushing themselves Away from my life, like boats Away from the shore. My mother said Not to sleep with flowers. You won’t sleep. You won’t sleep, mother of my childhood. The bannister I clung to When they dragged me off to school Is long since burnt. But my hands, clinging, Remain Clinging. (Translated by Assia Gutmann) *** ASPEN TREE —Paul Celan Aspen tree your leaves glance white into the dark. My mother’s hair was never white. Dandelion, so green is the Ukraine. My yellow-haired mother did not come home. Rain cloud, above the well do you hover My quiet mother weeps for everyone. Round star, you wind the golden loop. My mother’s heart was ripped by lead. Oaken door, who lifted you off your hinges? My gentle mother cannot return. (Translated by Michael Hamburger) *** YOUR MOTHER SINGS —Michael Hettich Your mother sings
an old song as she hangs the wash. She looks around— And when she is sure no one is watching (but you are watching) she lets the pigeons she keeps at the bottom of her laundry basket fly free— Each has a note in its beak. And now a pigeon flies in your window, dies at your feet. The note says: I live alone, please come, please help me. But she doesn’t live alone, your mother is downstairs now moving pots and pans, starting dinner, singing a song she sang, you imagine, when you couldn’t sleep. You hear her down there singing. You see the pigeon on the floor. *** My Eyes Have Pages Like a Book" CHANGES —James Lee Jobe, Davis 1 Look at the skeleton people that my toes have become! Perhaps they have lives of their own! When the master pulls the strings they rattle their bones at him. It is all in a day's work. A World War One vet said to me, "You'll know you're old when the whole rest of the world seems like idiots." "Some people are born old," I told him.
2 My fingers have been replaced by ploughshares, beaten
from someone else's sword. Each digit lives it's own dream, so my hands are like movie theaters! A matinee is starting soon, and anyway, the real money is in the snack bar. I hold my fingers up in the bathroom light, lightening bolts shoot from the tips, and I remember, for once, to put the seat down for my wife.
3 Dreams and memories seem more and more alike, and in those moments when I am neither asleep or awake it is hard to tell the difference between the two. What I did, what I remember, what I dream—it is all the same now. Why compare? My nose is a hound dog, here to sniff it all out! My ears are also dogs, and they stare at the gate, waiting for the master to return.
4 If ever I was innocent, I can't remember it. It seems like I've always been behind my place in the race, but with a good reason that I just can't explain. My eyes have pages like a book, and written on these pages is a story that you really don't need to know. Please be careful not to lose my place! Each page is the weight of a submarine.
5 The sun is setting, but it is winter, really it is still quite early. Don't be fooled by darkness! Dinner will be ready soon, and all of the family will sit together in a circle. My hair is green lichen that covers all, like on the boulders
of the Yuba River. Every meal, every year, every day, I pull them all closer and closer *** CHARACTER —Taslima Nasrin You're a girl and you'd better not forget that when you step over the threshold of your house men will look askance at you. When you keep on walking down the land men will follow you and whistle. When you cross the land and step onto the main road men will revile you and call you a loose woman. If you've got no character you'll turn back and if not you'll keep on going as you're going now. *** BORDER —Taslima Nasrin I'm going to move ahead. Behind me my whole family is calling, my child is pulling at my sari-end, my husband stands blocking the door, but I will go. There's nothing ahead but a river I will cross. I know how to swim but they won't let me swim, won't let me cross. There's nothing on the other side of the river but a vast expanse of fields. But I'll touch this emptiness once and run against the wind, whose whooshing sound makes me want to dance. I'll dance someday and then return. I've not played keep-away for years as I did in childhood. I'll raise a great commotion playing keep-away someday and then return. For years I have't cried with my head in the lap of solitude.
I'll cry to my heart's content someday and then return. There's nothing ahead but a river and I know how to swim. Why shouldn't I go? I'll go. (Both poems were translated from the Bengali by Carolyne Wright and Farida Sarkar) *** THE WASHERWOMAN —Veronica Volkow, Mexico She feels her hands, scabrous as fish, blind fish striking against the rock, incessantly against the rock for years and years; she watches the night pierced with eyes, humid, slippery glances, the mute faces shifting, disappearing, brilliant glances of girls, the dazed look of exhausted mothers. The day ends and people return to their houses and water runs from the faucet monotonously as a song, the water has lost the shape of pipes, lost the memory of its mountain source and has pounded out its course, besieged by obstacles like the feet, like the eyes, like the hands. She looks at shadows people drag along, shadows on the walls, corners, the streets, fugitive ink that marks the beaten roads, desperate roads, laborious, looking for only, perhaps, a fidelity. (Translated from the Spanish by Forrest Gander) *** THE KEY OF WATER —Octovio Paz, Mexico After Rishikesh the Ganges is still green. The glass horizon breaks among the peaks. We walk upon crystals. Above and below great gulfs of calm. In the blue spaces white rocks, black clouds.
You said: Le pays est plein de sources. That night I dipped my hands in your breasts. MOON, FLOWERS, MAN —Su Tung P'o I raise my cup and invite The moon to come down from the Sky. I hope she will accept Me. I raise my cup and ask The branches, heavy with flowers, To drink with me. I wish them Long life and promise never To pick them. In company With the moon and the flowers, I get drunk, and none of us Every worries about good Or bad. How many people Can comprehend our joy? I Have wine and moon and flowers. Who else do I want for drinking companions? *** YOU WILL HEAR THUNDER AND REMEMBER ME —Anna Akhmatova You will hear thunder and remember me, And think: she wanted storms. The rim Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson. And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire. That day in Moscow, it will all come true, When, for the last time, I take my leave, And hasten to the heights that I have longed for, Leaving my shadow still to be with you. *** LET ANY, WHO WILL, STILL BASK IN THE SOUTH —Anna Akhmatova You are with me once more, Autumn my friend! —Annensky Let any, who will, still bask in the south On the paradisal sand, It's northerly here—and this year of the north Autumn will be my friend. I'll live, in a dream, in a stranger's house
Where perhaps I have died, Where the mirrors keep something mysterious To themselves in the evening light. I shall walk between black fir-trees, Where the wind is at one with the heath, And a dull splinter of the moon will glint Like an old knife with jagged teeth. Our last, blissful unmeeting I shall bring To sustain me here— The cold, pure, light flame of conquering What I was destined for. (Translated by D.M. Thomas) *** DEATH —Anna Akhmatova I I was on the edge of something For which there is no precise name... An insistent drowsiness, A self-evasion... 2 And I am standing on the threshold of something That befalls everyone, but at different cost... On this ship there is a cabin for me And wind in my sails—and the terrible moment Of taking leave of my native land. (Translated by Judith Hemschemeyer) *** "EVERYTHING IS PLUNDERED..." —Anna Akhmatova Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold, Death's great black wing scrapes the air, Misery gnaws to the bone. Why then do we not despair? By day, from the surrounding woods, cherries blow summer into town; at night the deep transparent skies glitter with new galaxies.
And the miraculous comes so close to the ruined, dirty houses— something not known to anyone at all, but wild in our breast for centuries. *** OF ALL WORKS —Bertold Brecht Of all works I prefer Those used and worn. Copper vessels with dents and with flattened rims Knives and forks whose wooden handles Many hands have grooved: such shapes Seemed the noblest to me. So too the flagstones around Old houses, trodden by many feet and ground down, With clumps of grass in the cracks, these too Are happy works. Absorbed into the use of the many Frequently changed, they improve their appearance, growing enjoyable Because often enjoyed. Even the remnants of broken sculptures With lopped-off hands I love. They also Lived with me. If they were dropped at least they must have been carried. If men knocked them over they cannot have stood too high up. Buildings half dilapidated Revert to the look of buildings not yet completed Generously designed: their fine proportions Can already be guessed; yet they still make demands On our understanding. At the same time They have served already, indeed have been left behind. All this Makes me glad. (Translated from the German by Michael Hamburger) *** I REMEMBER WHEN my father climbed the western mountain. Every day he chopped more of its peak off so we could have more daylight to grow our food in, and when he'd chopped deep enough that in midsummer we had sun for an extra minute, which is, of course, an exaggeration, he knew he had done something real, and called us to watch the sun settle in the chink and disappear.
Next day the sun had moved, but he dept digging the same dent, wanting one day a year. One day, he told us, the mountain would be chopped in two and there would be one complete day hours longer than there'd ever been. People in the town called him "Father" too. Some volunteered to help, but no, it was his, his dent and his light; they were lucky he was willing to share. At night there were new stars. —When he hit a spring and the water gushed out a waterfall, flooding the valley, the town, to form a beautiful lake, deep, cold, and full of fish found nowhere else, the animals that lived wild on his mountain rejoiced and grew wilder, more passionate. They rejoiced! We still do. —Michael Hettich *** WHAT ARE THE STARS? —James Lee Jobe The stars are little holes in the sky that let the light of Heaven shine through, so that the night will be softer. The stars are flying soldiers protecting the world from things far above us. The stars are maps to our souls; once you open these maps you can never close them again. The stars are the spirits of all our loved ones who went before us. *** THINGS —Jorge Luis Borges My cane, my pocket change, this ring of keys,
The obedient lock, the belated notes The few days left to me will not find time To read, the deck of cards, the tabletop, A book, and crushed in its pages the withered Violet, monument to an afternoon Undoubtedly unforgettable, now forgotten, The mirror in the west where a red sunrise Blazes its illusion. How many things, Files, doorsills, atlases, wine glasses, nails, Serve us like slaves who never say a word, Blind and so mysteriously reserved. They will endure beyond our vanishing; And they will never know that we have gone. *** RILKE AT THE ZOO —Taylor Graham, Somerset That afternoon in the Jardin des Plantes the poet stood before the elephant to memorize its slow depths and textured surfaces; and then the hippopotamus, simple as an artist’s vision, shiny as molten metal out of water. But it was the panther, abstracted behind its bars—what sculptor dare steal those ligaments and muscle? A poet strips them to the word. He stood before the creature till it stopped its pacing, it almost forgot to breathe. As if a poem could rob the object of its pulse, take that rhythm for itself. Who could forget the glazed stare of those eyes as he turned to go, after he found the rhyme? *** THE PANTHER —Rainer Maria Rilke In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris His vision, from the constantly passing bars, has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else. It seems to him there are a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world. As he paces in cramped circles, over and over, the movement of his powerful soft strides is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed. Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly—. An image enters in, rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles, plunges into the heart and is gone. ***
TALKING IN BED —Philip Larkin Talking in bed ought to be easiest, Lying together there goes back so far, An emblem of two people being honest. Yet more and more time passes silently. Outside, the wind’s incomplete unrest Builds and disperses clouds about the sky, And dark towns heap up on the horizon. None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why At this unique distance from isolation It becomes still more difficult to find Words at once true and kind, Or not untrue and not unkind. *** BAMBOO —Ryokan The thick bamboo grove near my hut Keeps me nice and cool. Shoots proliferate, blocking the path, While old branches reach for the sky. Years of frost give bamboo spirit; They are most mysterious when wrapped in mist. Bamboo is as hardy as pine and oak, And more subtle than peach or plum blossoms. It grows straight and tall, Empty inside but with a sturdy root. I love the purity and honesty of my bamboo, And want them to thrive here always! *** Wild peonies Now at their peak In glorious full bloom: Too precious to pick,
Too precious not to pick. O lonely pine! I'd gladly give you My straw hat and Thatches coat To ward off the rain. —Ryokan *** How can I possibly sleep This moonlit evening? Come, my friends, Let's sing and dance All night long. Stretched out, Tipsy, Under the vast sky: Splendid dreams Beneath the cherry blossoms. Wild roses, Plucked from fields, Full of croaking frogs: Float them in your wine And enjoy every minute! —Ryokan ________________________ SUMMER EVENING —Ryokan The night advances toward dawn, Dew drips from the bamboo onto my brushwood gate. My neighbor to the west has stopped pounding his mortar; My little hermit's garden grows moist. Frogs croak near and far, Fireflies flit high and low. Wide awake, it's not possible to sleep tonight. I smooth my pillow and let my thoughts drif Spring rains, Summer showers, A dry autumn: May nature smile on us And we all will share in the bounty. Please don't mistake me
For a bird When I swoop Into your garden To eat the cherry apples. I went there To beg rice But the blooming bush clover Among the stones Made me forget the reason. WHAT ELSE —Miroslav Holub What else to do but drive a small dog out of yourself with a stick? Scruff bristling with fright he huddles against the wall, crawls in the domestic zodiac, limps, bleeding from the muzzle. He would eat out of your hand but that's no use. What else is poetry but killing that small dog in yourself? And all around the barking, barking, the hysterical barking of cats.’ THE FOREST —Miroslav Holub Among the primary rocks where the bird spirits crack the granite seeds and the tree statues with their black arms threaten the clouds, suddenly there comes a rumble, as if history were being uprooted,
the grass bristles, boulders tremble, the earth's surface cracks and there grows a mushroom, immense as life litself, filled with billions of cells immense as life itself, eternal, watery, appearing in this world for the first and last time. ________________________ BEHIND THE HOUSE —Miroslav Holub Behind the house is a leaky saucepan of destinies. A scooter grown wise with age. On a clothesline a wisp of stale breath. Nitrogen oxide. A drop of blood. And in the shed in a heap rags, ropes, rumpuses and angels. PAINTED WINDOWS —Gloria Fuertes I lived in a house with two real windows and the other two painted on: Those painted windows caused my first sorrow. I'd touch the sides of the hall trying to reach the windows from inside. I spent my whole childhood wanting to lean out and see what could be seen from the windows that weren't there. MIRRORS —Jane Blue, Sacramento The mirror in my childhood bedroom tucked in a corner. The mirror of the Haunted House ride at Disneyland, someone you didn’t expect
grimacing by your shoulder. The mirror of my history. Why should I live elsewhere? You write and discover. The mirror of discovery. Once in the town of Willows I saw the mirror of blooming almond orchards. Foothills in summer, baked brown, the absorbent shimmer of insignificant plants. The Scarlet Pimpernel. When I first learned its name, that tiny weed astonished me. I’d seen the movie, but the plant was nothing! No hero. To me even the invading star thistle is beautiful— heathery purple oldgrowth like a dry sea in the hills. A dry snow that occurs only in California. It’s cold again, an arctic wind blowing down. The months mean little to me any more. They are mirrors of other months. Honeybees have survived an epidemic of parasites. That means I can grow zucchini if this rain ever stops.
THE CALM OF A MIRROR —Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento so often deceives. It frightens to know my image is smaller than what I see. Two black specs, minute spiders float at the edge of each iris, chipped imperfections eating their way out— growing larger with time. This flaw, hardly noticed in summer, by winter screams “don’t wear black,” it reveals creases. By evening, old Sycamores cast round shapes on soft lamps, furrows disappear behind walls, firelight neutralizes smoke etched mirrors, and hairline cracks recede into bone white china.
SUZHOU: THE CITY OF SILK —Don Feliz, Sacramento Marco Polo called it The Venice of Asia. Some canals are now paved streets, others teem with tourist boats. Children wave at us from balconies— women on stone steps will wash clothes in the gray-green water where boatmen once embarked taking fine silks to the Emperor in Beijing. EVERYTHING CHANGES —Bertolt Brecht Everything changes. You can make A fresh start with your final breath. But what has happened has happened. And the water You once poured into the wine cannot be Drained off again. What has happened has happened. The water You once poured into the wine cannot be Drained off again, but Everything changes. You can make A fresh start with your final breath. ________________________ WHO MAKES THESE CHANGES? —Rumi Who makes these changes? I shoot an arrow right. It lands left. I ride after a deer and find myself chased by a hog. I plot to get what I want and end up in prison. I dig pits to trap others and fall in. I should be suspicious of what I want.
I AM A BOOK I NEITHER WROTE NOR READ
—Delmore Schwartz I am a book I neither wrote nor read, A comic, tragic play in which new masquerades Astonishing as guns crackle like raids Newly each time, whatever one is prepared To come upon, suddenly dismayed and afraid, As in the dreams which make the fear of sleep The terror of love, the depth one cannot leap. How the false truths of the years of youth have passed! Have passed at full speed like trains which never stopped There where I stood and waited, hardly aware, How little I knew, or which of them was the one To mount and ride to hope or where true hope arrives. I no more wrote than read that book which is The self I am, half-hidden as it is From one and all who see within a kiss The lounging formless blackness of an abyss. How could I think the brief years were enough To prove the reality of endless love? The Endless Patience of the Light LONG AFTERNOONS —Adam Zagajewski Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me. The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea. Long afternoons, the coast of ivory. Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts stared at me with bold and hostile eyes. Professors left their schools with vacant faces, as if the Iliad had finally done them in. Evening papers brought disturbing news, but nothing happened, no one hurried. There was no one in the windows, you weren't there; even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives. Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished and I was left with the city's opaque demon, like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine and September's black rain falling. Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze that sees but doesn't penetrate; tell me how to cure myself of silence.
SONG OF THE BARREN ORANGE TREE —Federico Garcia Lorca Woodcutter. Cut my shadow from me. Free me from the torment of seeing myself without fruit. Why was I born among mirrors? The day walks in circles around me, and the night copies me in all its stars. I want to live without seeing myself. And I will dream that ants and thistleburrs are my leaves and my birds. Woodcutter. Cut my shadow from me. Free me from the torment of seeing myself without fruit. (trans. by W.S. Merwin)
BIRDS, AT RANDOM —Jacques Prevert I learned very late to love birds I regret it a little but now it's all arranged we understand each other they don't occupy themselves with me I don't occupy myself with them I look at them I leave them alone all the birds do their best they set an example not the example as for example Mister Glacis who remarkably courageously conducted himself during the war or the example of little Paul who was so poor and so handsome and so very honest and who later became the great Paul so rich so old so honorable and so repulsive and so avaricous and so charitable and so pious or for example that old servant who had an exemplary life and death never any arguments not that with her nail tapping a tooth not that no arguments with Mr. or Mrs. on the subject of that frightful question of salaries no
birds set an example a proper example the example of birds the example of the feathers the wings the flight of birds the example of the nests the voyages and the songs of birds the example of the beauty of birds the example of the heart of birds the light of birds. ________________________ AT THE FLORIST'S —Jacques Prevert A man enters a florist's and chooses some flowers the florist wraps up the flowers the man puts his hand in his pocket to find the money the money to pay for the flowers but at the same time he puts all of a sudden his hand on his heart and he falls At the same time that he falls the money rolls on the floor and then the flowers fall at the same time as the man at the same time as the money and the florist stands there with the money rolling with the flowers spoiling with the man dying obviously all this is very sad and she's got to do something the florist but she doesn't know quite where to start she doesn't know at which end to begin There's so many things to do with this man dying with these flowers spoiling and this money this money that rolls that doesn't stop rolling. _ Sleep is like a bridge which reaches from today to tomorrow.
Below, like a dream, the water flows by. —Juan Ramon Jimenez
THE SECRET —Denise Levertov Two girls discover the secret of life in a sudden line of poetry. I who don't know the secret wrote the line. They told me (through a third person) they had found it but not what it was not even what line it was. No doubt by now, more than a week later, they have forgotten the secret, the line, the name of the poem. I love them for finding what I can't find, and for loving me for the line I wrote, and for forgetting it so that a thousand times, till death finds them, they may discover it again, in other lines in other happenings. And for wanting to know it, for assuming there is such a secret, yes, for that
most of all. SINCE NINE O'CLOCK— —C.P. Cavafy Half past twelve. The time has passed quickly since nine o'clock when I lit the lamp, and sat down here. I sat without reading, and without speaking. With whom could I speak all alone in this house. Since nine o'clock when I lit the lamp, the vision of my youthful body has appeared and found me and reminded me of closed heavily scented rooms, and pleasure long past—what audacious pleasure! And it also brought before my eyes streets that have now become unrecognizable, centers full of movement that are ended, and theaters and cafes that once used to be. The vision of my youthful body appeared and brought me also the sad memories; family mournings, separations, feelings of my dear ones, feelings of the dead so little esteemed. Half past twelve. How the time has passed. Half past twelve. How the years have passed AND I RECLINED AND LAY DOWN ON THEIR BEDS —C.P. Cavafy When I entered the house of pleasure, I did not remain in the room where they celebrate recognized loves with some semblance of order. I went into the hidden rooms and I reclined and lay down on their beds. I went into the hidden rooms that they are even ashamed to name. But not shameful to me—for then what kind of poet or craftsman would I be? I'd rather lead a hermit's life. It would be more consonant, much more consonant with my poetry; than for me to enjoy myself in the commonplace room. _______________________ HALF AN HOUR —C.P. Cavafy
I neither had you, nor will I ever have you, I guess. A few words, a coming close as in the bar the other day, and nothing more. It is a pity, I do not deny. But we of the world of Art sometimes create pleasure with intensity of mind, and of course only for a short while, which almost gives the effect of the real. So in the bar the other day—the merciful alcohol also helping much— I had a perfect erotic half-hour. And it seems to me you understood, and you purposely stayed somewhat longer. That was very necessary. Because for all of imagination and the magic alcohol, I needed to see your lips too, I needed to have your body close to me. ________________________ THE BANDAGED SHOULDER —C.P. Cavafy He said that he had hurt himself on a wall or that he had fallen. But there was probably another reason for the wounded, bandaged shoulder. With a somewhat forceful movement, to bring down from a shelf some photographs that he wanted to see at close range, the bandage was loosened and a little blood ran. I bandaged the shoulder again, and tying it I was somewhat slow; because it did not hurt, and I liked to look at the blood. That blood was part of my love. After he left I found a blood-drenched rag in front of the chair, from the bandages, a rag headed for the garbage; which I brought up to my lips, and which I held there for a long time— the blood of love on my lips. FOR A FIVE-YEAR-OLD —Fleur Adcock A snail is climbing up the window-sill Into your room, after a night of rain. You call me in to see, and I explain That it would be unkind to leave it there: It might crawl to the floor; we must take care
That no one squashes it. You understand, And carry it outside, with careful hand, To eat a daffodil. I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails: Your gentleness is moulded still by words From me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds, From me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed Your closest relatives, and who purveyed The harshest kind of truth to many another. But that is how things are: I am your mother, And we are kind to snails SLEEP —Russell Edson There was a man who didn't know how to sleep, nodding off every night into a drab, unprofessional sleep. Sleep that he had grown so tired of sleeping. He tried reading The Manual of Sleep, but it just put him to sleep. That same old sleep that he had grown so tired of sleeping...
He needed a sleeping master, who with a whip and a chair could discipline the night, and make him jump through hoops of gasolined fire. Someone who could make a tiger sit on a tiny pedestal and yawn. THE TORMENTED MIRROR —Russell Edson Let me gaze into your lovely eyes, said a man to a mirror. The mirror said nothing, but gazed back into the man's lovely eyes. His mother said, stop tormenting the mirror. I'm gazing into its lovely eyes, said the man. Those are your lovely eyes, said the mother, which are not so lovely, as they are more like spyglasses than eyes.
His father said, what lovely thing are you doing to the mirror? Tormenting it, said the man as he continued to gaze into the mirror's lovely eyes... A LETTER FROM HOME —Russell Edson
One night a man's shadow died. Slumping, it groped its heart and dripped down the wall into a dark stain on the floor in the shape of a man who died in his bedroom alone... The man writes home: Dear mom, my shadow is dead. I may have to be reborn, if you and dad are up to it, and have a new shadow attached... His mother writes back: Dear Ken, please don't count on it. In truth, dear, given another chance I think I would ask for an abortion... SADNESS —Shuntara Tanikawa Sadness A half-peeled apple Not a metaphor Not a poem Merely there A half-peeled apple Sadness Merely there Yesterday's evening paper Merely there Merely there A warm breast Merely there Nightfall Sadness Apart from words Apart from the heart Merely here The things of today. STONE AND LIGHT —Shuntaro Tanikawa The stone doesn't repel the light, The stone doesn't absorb the light. On the stone sits a deerfly, The light is radiant in its downy hair. The light just now arrived on earth. _______________________ CONCERNING A GIRL —Shuntaro Tanikawa from a little basket on the kitchen shelf I was about to pick a star the girl insisted she didn't care about a harvest I thought I had planted a seed but perhaps we too had been planted seeds without realizing it we were raised
and ripened and will probably wither away later we're nothing more than a tiny clod of earth in the middle of the world's garden yet this time we are the ones that will raise someone will stand on us and grope for a star with a huge hand perhaps even check for ripeness however we are not fertilizer for stars even at that time a girl wise beyond doubt will be there to plant her naked feet within us then she herself will become a flower and when ripe a star will naturally fall the flower knows all about this and so will not be afraid of dying when standing on my tiptoes about to pick a star I was called by the girl (Today's poetry was translated from the Japanese by Harold Wright.) THE WORLD WAS WARM AND WHITE WHEN I WAS BORN —Delmore Schwartz The world was warm and white when I was born: Beyond the windowpane the world was white, A glaring whiteness in a leaded frame, Yet warm as in the hearth and heart of light. Although the whiteness was almond and was bone In midnight's still paralysis, nevertheless The world was warm and hope was infinite All things would come, fulfilled, all things would be known All things would be enjoyed, fulfilled, and come to be my own. How like a summer the years of youth have passed! —How like the summer of 1914, in all truth!— Patience, my soul, the truth is never known Until the future has become the past And then, only, when the love of truth at last Becomes the truth of love, when both are one, Then, then, then, Eden becomes Utopia and is surpassed: For then the dream of knowledge and knowledge knows Motive and joy at once wherever it goes. _______________________ ALL OF THE FRUITS HAD FALLEN —Delmore Schwartz All of the fruits had fallen, The bears had fallen asleep, And the pears were useless and soft Like used hopes, under the starlight's Small knowledge, scattered aloft In a glittering senseless drift: The jackals of remorse in a cage Drugged beyond mirth and rage. Then, then, the dark hour flowered!
Under the silence, immense And empty as far-off seas, I wished for the innocence Of my stars and my stones and my trees All the brutality and inner sense A dog and a bird possess, The dog who barked at the moon As an enemy's white fang, The bird that thrashed up the bush And soared to soar as it sang, A being all present as touch, Free of the future and past —Until, in the dim window glass, The fog or cloud of my face Showed me my fear at last! THE SUFFERING OF SPIDERS —Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento They waddle into our homes grown to black and tangly proportions delicately treading over linoleum and the tidied carpet creeping into little valleys Little boy cries out kill it! kill it! watch with decrepid pain the anguish of the spider unharmed, yet daunted by innocence waiting in its path suffering continues the spider is surveyed, legs lame from walking instinctually waiting for webbed insects and the escape from the reverberating sounds of the screeching boy the boy shouts it, we do it kill it! kill it! dead is the spider, something less than what it was before we wash our hands
think that the innocent cheering was something we liked, but didn’t quite understand until the boy becomes dull and silent. ________________________ THE MOTH —Miroslav Holub The moth having left its pupa in the galaxy of flour grains and pots of rancid drippings, the moth discovers in this topical darkness that it's a kind of butterfly but it can't believe it, it can't believe it, it can't believe that it's a tiny, flying, relatively free moth and it wants to go back, but there's no way. Freedom makes the moth tremble forever, that is, twenty-two hours. (translated from the Czech by David Young and Dana Habova) LITERARY BASH —Miroslav Holub Like eggs of hail from the blue sky, the buzz of greasy bluebottles, the twitter of eggheads. Interior sounds of matter fatigue. Never stopping. But even Orpheus
when things got togher and he was leading Eurydice out of the underworld was quiet as a grave, the only sound his crunching step on the bodies of snails shedding indigo blood. In those days, of course, there were no literary bashes. _______________________ THE RAIN AT NIGHT —Miroslav Holub With mouse-like teeth the rain gnaws at stone. The trees parade through the town like prophets. Perhaps it's the sobbing of the monstrous angels of darkness, perhaps the suppressed laughter of the flowers out there in the garden, trying to cure consumption by rustling. Perhaps the purring of the holy drought under any kind of cover. An unspeakable time, when the voice of loudspeakers cracks and poems are made not of words but of drops. THE MOON CATCHER —Richard Zimmer, Sacramento The Story Teller settled in his chair, lit his pipe and asked his audience what story they would like to hear. He then told a tale of the Chinese poet Li Po, who was reading a poem to the moon. He leaned over to catch its reflection, and fell into the Yellow River and drowned.
The Story Teller smiled, as he added— Li Po then, was carried away on the back of a dolphin, for a trip to join the Immortals. IF I BECAME A STONE —So Chong-Ju If I became a stone stone would become lotus lotus, lake and if I became a lake lake would become lotus lotus, stone. A SNEEZE —So Chong-Ju Somewhere is someone saying my words? I stepped out into the blue autumn day's winds that touched the ricepaper door. I sniffed at the weather, and sneezed. Somewhere is someone saying my words? Somewhere as someone says my words, has a flower overheard and passed them along? Traces that stir the waves of an old love. Is someone somewhere saying my words?
As someone says them has an ox overheard? Does he pass them along? (Translated from the Korean by David R. McKann) The Heat of Midnight Tears THE COFFER WITH THE POISONOUS SNAKE —Mirabai Rana sent a gold coffer of complicated ivory; But inside a black and green asp was waiting, “It is a necklace that belonged to a great Queen!” I put it around my neck; it fit well. It became a string of lovely pearls, each with a moon inside. My room then was full of moonlight as if the full moon Had found its way in through the open window. _______________________ THE HEAT OF MIDNIGHT TEARS —Mirabai Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening, Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night. If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water, I would have asked to be born a fish in this life. If we could reach Him through nothing but berries and wild nuts Then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came from the womb! If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves Then the goats would surely get to the Holy One before us! If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way, I would have adored a granite mountain years ago. Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God. ODE TO THE SPELL CHECKER —Anonymous Eye halve a spelling chequer It came with my pea sea It plainly marques four my revue Miss steaks eye kin knot sea. Eye strike a key and type a word And weight four it two say Weather eye am wrong or write
It shows me strait a weigh. As soon as a mist ache is maid It nose bee fore two long And eye can put the error rite It's rare lea ever wrong. Eye have run this poem threw it I am shore your pleased two no Its letter perfect awl the weigh My chequer tolled me sew.
The old dog is leading the way— visiting family graves —Issa *** Wolves are keening in harmony— this snowy evening —Joso *** Hiding its tail among the ears of barley— an old fox —Tesshi *** Even small birds fly past and do not enter— so deep the woods —Chine *** If it had no voice the heron might disappear— this morning's snow —Chiyo ***
A thin layer of snow coats the wings of mandarin ducks— such stillness! —Shiki HALF-CASTE (by John Agard) Excuse me standing on one leg I'm half-caste Explain yuself wha yu mean when yu say half-caste yu mean when picasso mix red an green is a half-caste canvas/ explain yuself wha yu mean when yu say half-caste yu mean when light an shadow mix in de sky is a half-caste weather/ well in dat case england weather nearly always half-caste in fact some o dem cloud half-caste till dem overcast so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass ah rass/ explain yuself wha yu mean when yu say half-caste yu mean tchaikovsky sit down at dah piano an mix a black key wid a white key is a half-caste symphony/ Explain yuself wha yu mean Ah listening to yu wid de keen half of mih ear Ah lookin at yu wid de keen half of mih eye and when I'm introduced to yu I'm sure you'll understand why I offer yu half-a-hand an when I sleep at night I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream I dream half-a-dream an when moon begin to glow I half-caste human being cast half-a-shadow but yu must come back tomorrow wid de whole of yu eye an de whole of yu ear an de whole of yu mind an I will tell yu de other half of my story © John Agard Dear God get me out of here: let me go somewhere else where I can fight the evil which surrounds me here and which I am forbidden to fight —but do not take from me my anger my indignation at injustice so that I may continue to burn to right it or destroy. Oh I know I have asked for this before in other predicaments and found myself most wildly involved But if it be possible and conformable to your will dear God, get me out of here. © Dennis Brutus ADOLESCENCE II (by Rita Dove)
Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting. Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert. Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips. Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines. They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the wash bowl, One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door. "Can you feel it yet?" they whisper.
I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle, Patting their sleek bodies with their hands. "Well, maybe next time." And they rise, Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight, And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness. Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue. © Rita Dove False Tooth (by Julius Chingono) A false tooth got lost during a tongue dance that was misty and full of froth. It was found holding on to a rotting gum. A false tooth also smiles when real teeth smile do they have any feelings? Are you aware all those people died to make certain you lost the election?
COCKROACHES —Julius Chingono Two cockroaches met talked of their experiences since they parted one big wingless cockroach told the other cockroach that the hotel they used to stay in was no more suitable for habitation for the floors were well scrubbed and shiny cavities filled and plastered walls were sparkling in new paint sinks and cupboards glittered in enamel. "The new environment was too dry."
The wingless cockroach complained "Often made me restless." I came out through a keyhole weak but determined to escape. __________________ LOST A VERSE —Julius Chingono I was immersed in working a poem when an emergent business man whom I shared a park bench with received a call a business call I presumed. He borrowed the pen I was scribbling with I lost a verse he got an order. ____________ QUEUES —Julius Chingono There are queues many queues cheeky rowdy bread queues disjointed tension charged sugar queues bumper to bumper fuel warlike mealie meal queues anxiety mobbed telephone queues sick winding hospital queues deathly silent mortuary queues yet the longest but invisible queue is the queue to the queue.
THE BLUE WALL —Joyce Odam, Sacramento (after LADY IN BLUE, 1939—Tamara De Lempicka) There is a sadness that holds a woman close. She calls it mood—colors it blue, sits within until the blue adheres. The blue is a wall— flat and
shadowless. It fastens to her like a painting. Her face does not give you more than this. She will not let you find her eyes with yours. She folds her arms and looks into a receding distance from which she may or may not return. Whatever you would ask will not be answered. The blue wall guards against this, protects her from invasion— whispers to her—reminds her of its power, pulls her closer and closer. _________________ CONSTELLATION —Joyce Odam (after Dusk by Ben Shawn) She glides by the long soft wall of twilight with its graffiti of stars. She pulls her cloak close to her face and has a hard time holding its folds in place. She is that vague white movement in the dusk—moving so slowly one might not think she is moving at all. The wall is a long one; she is trying to reach the other end of it, before she is seen, before she is recognized. She is from another sleep in someone else’s dream. She cannot find the night she started from. She is losing definition and starting to blend into the wall. three stars have fastened to her robe, thinking her part of the sky. Still, she hides in her cloak, as if invisible. _________________ BEHIND THE GREEN WALLS —Patrica Pashby, Sacramento The ER is crowded and they keep coming, filling all the chairs, leaning against the grungy walls. Confusion and fear come in quietly, huddle in the corner, whispering.
Worry and anger push through the doors, letting them slam behind them. Suffering and pain whimper softly, louder sobs coming without warning. Resignation and defeat sit alone, slumped, heads down, eyes averted. Patience and tolerance stand outside on the stairs, smoking, staring down at their feet. Loving kindness drives by, glances at the no-parking signs, makes a U-turn and moves on down the street. _________________ WALLS —Michelle Kunert, Sacramento A mid-17th-century proverb says, "Good fences make good neighbors." My parents had neighbors they got along great with for years until they got a rowdy dog that practically destroyed the property line fence The divorced mom with kids mostly left the lab mix alone all day Out of boredom it attacked and chewed through the wooden beams in between Finally when the dog punched through its timbers into my parents' yard Well, that was the end of friendly relations and "war" with them began since the fence’s weathering couldn't let it hold up to such abuse Most insulting was that the neighbors would not pay for it to be mended for they were renters and my parents were property owners So hence, the fence fell into being entirely my parents' responsibility even though they weren't the ones at fault for causing the damage Meanwhile as the neighbors neglected the dog they outright refused offers to give "Buddy" to someone else who could provide him plenty of roaming space rather than the suburban plot he'd outgrown from puppyhood Buddy refused to be contained within such walls as such a tame pet So the dog regularly busted its way out of their adjacent front gate and threatened to attack others, including an elderly lady living next door (his owners even bailed him out of the pound though they wouldn't "walk" him!) Perhaps prayers to stay at peace with his owners were answered when these neighbors decided to move rather than, likely, end up in court… THERE ARE DREAMS TODAY— —Chrys Mollett, Angels Camp Dog, don't bark. Phone, don't ring. I rise and stretch slowly. Don't shake em' out. They're the dewy placenta surrounding my sleep.
I let them dry out on the page— Gently revealing themselves. And the worlds they want me to remember... __________________ DREAMS are a painful experience away from myself reminding me of things things that I don't have of desired destiny of love far away from my reach of a broken heart of life yet to be lived and of all others of my dream. —Tinashe Muchuri, Zimbabwe I AM THE ONLY ONE LEFT all the others have left. they accuse you of barrenness they want fruits of your womb. I love the comfort you offer I am free I am not scared of anything I love you no matter what they say I am the only one left all the others have left. —Tinashe Muchuri __________________ ONE WAY —Tinashe Muchuri people trees grass animals birds fish creatures rocks water in the soil all sink. __________________
A WIFE'S PRAYER —Tinashi Muchuri God, when you commanded my men to work hard on the soil and to eat the fruits of his lies did you mean he will forget his children and wife and eats fruits of his sweat away from us? __________________ YOU, ME, US —Tinashe Muchuri i am talking about me to myself you! i am speaking about you to me myself. i am screaming about myself to me about you. i am not alone. you are not alone. we are together. i am you. you are me. we are one. COIN TOSS —Patricia Pashby, Sacramento I float slowly down through the frothy fountain to the darkness below, settling among the coins that are buried in the algae-covered layers of fragmented fantasies. __________________
THE WORDLESS POEM —Richard Zimmer A poem should be wordless as the flight of birds. —Archibald MacLeish A poet spends dark, comfortless night in the room of a wayside inn. An owl, by his window, hooted and screeched all night, denying him his needful sleep. After the weary overnight’s stay the poet starts to write a poem unfettered by any rhyme or form, and thought impossible to make. He creates a wordless poem…not trusted to the tongue, but conveyed only by a nod, a shrug, and a look, punctuated with a wink or frown. __________________ MOVIE TIME (A Fantasy) —Richard Zimmer The movie, Casablanca, was on TV. I decided to step right into the film. The actors were ignoring me, as if I wasn’t there, so I ordered a martini at Rick’s bar. I told them to use vodka, not gin…my usual. I tapped Sam on the shoulder, telling him to play, As Time Goes By. He frowned and said, Rick doesn’t like that song. I shrugged and said that the Hunchback, in that other old film, rang the bells of Notre Dame for me, but Sam wasn’t buying it. ___________________ THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG? —Richard Zimmer Which came first? It was the chicken, I say. By some strange quirk, It happened this way… The chicken came first,
from out of pure matter, appearing on earth, and this much I gather… Out of pure matter a chicken had come. A wise Creator made an egg-bearing one, that went forth and multiplied, and led to the beginning of Kentucky Fried. __________________ THIS IS ONLY A TEST —Richard Zimmer The makers of the Atomic Bomb were unsure of what its test results could bring…perhaps even a chain reaction that would destroy the earth. They code-named the first A-test Trinity, after John Donne’s poem, "Holy Sonnet XIV"… Batter my heart, three-personed God…break, blow, burn, and make me new. __________________ THE PRACTICAL PIGEON (and the Seagull who dreams) —Richard Zimmer Patty Pigeon, head bobbing up and down, walks with a sure-footed strut. She’s a practical pigeon, and no one can ever put anything over on her. Sammy Seagull sleepily pecks the ground for food. He’s a dreamer… not prone to worry about things… lets the chips fall where they may. Charlie, the caustic crow, always likes to stir things up. He says, A gull and a pigeon—both words mean someone who’s an easy mark. The crow then hops over to Sammy Seagull, and says, You, my pal, have the right idea. It takes a dreamer, like you to get by in this impractical world.
EMPIRE OF DREAMS —Charles Simic On the first page of my dreambook It's always evening In an occupied country. Hour before the curfew. A small provincial city. The houses all dark. The store-fronts gutted. I am on a street corner Where I shouldn't be. Alone and coatless I have gone out to look For a black dog who answers to my whistle. I have a kind of halloween mask Which I am afraid to put on. DISTANT HOWLING —Miroslav Holub In Alsace, on July 6, 1885, a rabid dog knocked Joseph Meister down and bit him fourteen times. Meister was the first patient saved by Pasteur's vaccine, in thirteen gradually increased doses of weakened virus. Pasteur died of ictus ten years later. Fifty years later the watchman Meister committed suicide when the Germans occupied Pasteur's Institute including the poor dogs. Only the virus never got involved. WHAT ELSE —Miroslav Holub What else to do but drive a small dog
out of yourself with a stick? Scruff bristling with fright he huddles against the wall, crawls in the domestic zodiac, limps, bleeding from the muzzle. He would eat out of your hand but that's no use. What else is poetry but killing that small dog in yourself? And all around the barking, barking, the hysterical barking of cats. ______________________ THE BOMB —Miroslav Holub Murder in the lithosphere. Clay burst from the rock, fire flowed from the clay. At the base of the crater a naked, tender, loving frog's heart still beats. _______________________ BEHIND THE HOUSE —Miroslav Holub Behind the house the cracked pots of human fate, the child's scooter, wise in its old age. On the clothesline, a cloud of elderly breath. Nitrogen oxide. A drop of blood. And in the shed, in a heap, torn rags, rusted rasps and ratchets, new regrets, old quarrels and angels. WHAT SHE WANTED —Pascale Petit
What she wanted was to return to the original rainforest hear water pushing through the sapwood and leaves eating light as she wanted to eat light. She knew her nature was to be water, not wood. She knew there was a grove of vertical rivers of roaring waterfall-trees, and a grove of whirlpool-trees with vortices she could dive through, past the hollow years of her life right back to the roots. ______________________ —Medusa Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their poetry, photos and art, and announcements of Northern California poetry events to firstname.lastname@example.org for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)
posted by Kathy Kieth @ 8:31 AM Tuesday, November 28, 2006 The Moon With a Serpent's Mouth THE GARDEN OF LOVE —William Blake I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen: A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And 'Thou shalt not' writ over the door; So I turn'd to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore;
And And And And
I saw it was filled with graves, tomb-stones where flowers should be; Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, binding with briars my joys & desires.
GACELA OF THE DARK DEATH —Federico Garcia Lorca I want to sleep the dream of the apples, to withdraw from the tumult of cemeteries, I want to sleep the dream of that child who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas. I don't want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood, that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water. I don't want to learn of the tortures of the grass, nor of the moon with a serpent's mouth that labors before dawn. I want to sleep awhile, awhile, a minute, a century; but all must know that I have not died; that there is a stable of gold in my lips; that I am the small friend of the West wind; that I am the immense shadow of my tears. Cover me at dawn with a veil, because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me, and wet with hard water my shoes so that the pincers of the scorpion slide. For I want to sleep the dream of the apples, to learn a lament that will cleanse me of the earth; for I want to live with that dark child who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas. (translated from the Spanish by Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili) _______________________ GACELA OF THE FLIGHT —Federico Garcia Lorca I have lost myself in the sea many times with my ear full of freshly cut flowers, with my tongue full of love and agony. I have lost myself in the sea many times as I lost myself in the heart of certain children. There is no one who in giving a kiss does not feel the smile of faceless people, and no one who in touching a newborn child
forgets the motionless skulls of horses. Because the roses seach in the forehead for a hard landscape of bone and the hands of man have no other purpose than to imitate the roots below the earth. As I lose myself in the heart of certain children, I have lost myself in the sea many times. Ignorant of the water I go seeking a death full of light to consume me. (translated by Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili) GACELA OF UNFORESEEN LOVE —Federico Garcia Lorca No one understood the perfume of the dark magnolia of your womb. No one knew that you tormented a hummingbird of love between your teeth. A thousand Persian ponies fell asleep in the moonlit plaza of your forehead, while through four nights I embraced your waist, enemy of the snow. Between plaster and jasmines, your glance was a pale branch of seeds. I sought in my heart to give you the ivory letters that say always, always, always: garden of my agony, your body elusive always, the blood of your veins in my mouth, your mouth already lightless for my death. (translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin) _______________________ GACELA OF THE TERRIBLE PRESENCE —Federico Garcia Lorca I want the water reft from its bed, I want the wind left without valleys. I want the night left without eyes and my heart without the flower of gold. And the oxen to speak with great leaves and the earthworm to perish of shadow.
And the teeth of the skull to glisten and the yellows to overflow the silk. I can see the duel of the wounded night writhing in battle with noon. I resist a setting of green venom and the broken arches where time suffers. But do not illumine your clear nude like a black cactus open in the reeds. Leave me in an anguish of dark planets, but do not show me your cool waist. (translated by W.S. Merwin)
STEMS —Denise Levertov (after Jules Supervielle) A poplar tree under the stars, what can it do. And the bird in the poplar tree dreaming, his head tucked into far-and-near exile under his wing— what can either of them in their confused alliance of leaves and feathers do to avert destiny? Silence and the ring of forgetting protect them until the moment when the sun rises and the memory with it. Then the bird breaks with his beak the thread of dream within him, and the tree unrolls the shadow that will guard it throughout the day. ______________________ THE WILLOWS OF MASSACHUSETTS —Denise Levertov Animal willows of November in pelt of gold enduring when all else has let go all ornament and stands naked in the cold. Cold shine of sun on swamp water, cold caress of slant beam on bough, gray light on brown bark. Willows—last to relinquish a leaf, curious, patient, lion-headed, tense with energy, watching the serene cold through a curtain of tarnished strands. SELF-PORTRAIT WITH MONKEY AND PARROT —Pascale Petit I who painted this with brushes of flame cannot tell you where I have been this morning. But I can't silence Bonito. He perches just below my left ear, repeating
sounds he learnt form the sun, when he flew into its core. Fulang-Chang went with him, swinging through the canopies of fire forests, searching for the tree that burns at the centre of my life. These gold leaves are the few he brought back— they still hum many years after my body has cooled. And you— how long will you listen to these colours before you hear the language of light? ________________________ SKINS —Pascale Petit I am sewing the skins of birds end to end. Snakeskins, woodskins, even the skin on water must be dried, conserved, worn. I am wearing my grandmother's spirits. Her skin was rough from too much work— I flay a tree, proof the bark for the river. Her skin was soft from too much rain but I cannot wear water. So I have come to the world's loudest storm to hear her sing. The sky-skin rips. Her cheeks appear, wrinkled with lightning. ________________________ THE STRAIT-JACKETS —Pascale Petit I lay the suitcase on Father's bed and unzip it slowly, gently. Inside, packed in cloth strait-jackets lie forty live hummingbirds tied down in rows, each tiny head cushioned on a swaddled body. I feed them from a flask of sugar water, inserting every bill into the pipette, then unwind their bindings so Father can see their changing colours as they dart around his room. They hover inches from his face as if he's a flower, their humming just audible above the oxygen recycler. For the first time since I've arrived he's breathing easily, the cannula attached to his nostrils almost slips out. I don't know how long we sit there but when I next glance at his face
he's asleep, lights from their feathers still playing on his eyelids and cheeks. It takes me hours to catch them all and wrap them in their strait-jackets. I work quietly, he's in such a deep sleep he doesn't wake once. AFTER READING HAIKU, I STEP OUTSIDE AND CONTEMPLATE THREE PINK DOGWOOD BLOSSOMS —Shawn Pittard, Sacramento 1. A scrub jay hunts for insects below the half-stare of our garden Buddha. Its gray legs and black beak sift through a shroud of scattered blossoms. I sit under the dogwood tree, sketch gestures of its supple limbs with a yellow stub of pencil— sharpened to a crisp, fine point by my pocketknife’s small blade. 2. Issa wrote— What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms. 3. When she was too weak to walk outside, my wife’s grandmother watched the dogwood tree bloom from her kitchen table. While her hatred of the color pink was fierce, she would tolerate its presence on her tree each spring. “Wait until fall,” she would say. “The leaves turn a wonderful rust red.” EATING POETRY —Rumi My poems resemble the bread of Egypt—one night Passes over it, and you can't eat it any more. So gobble them down now, while they're still fresh, Before the dust of the world settles on them. Where a poem belongs is here, in the warmth of the chest; Out in the world it dies of cold. You've seen a fish—put him on dry land, He quivers for a few minutes, and then is still. And even if you eat my poems while they're still fresh, You still have to bring forward many images yourself.
Actually, friend, what you're eating is your own imagination. These poems are not just some old sayings and saws. (translated by Robert Bly) NOVEMBER GEESE —David Humphreys, Stockton About three weeks ago you heard them for the first time calling in the clouds above you and then again ever since occasionally in different places like the front door this morning in the dark as you reached down for the fog-wrapped newspaper. A few days ago it was in the rain, lovely sound cutting time’s fabric with the saw teeth of seamstress scissors, cutting like a memory of hip-waders in muddy rice fields setting decoys before dawn in the smell of Pop’s pipe tobacco. The sound of geese is like loons haunting the Maine woods hung like a portrait above the living room piano.
The year will be over soon, But I'm still here in my little hut. Cold autumn rain falls sadly, And leaves pile up on the temple steps. I pass time absent-mindedly reading sutras And chanting some old poems. Suddenly a child appears and says, "Come, let's go to the village together." —Ryokan ________________________ At dusk I often climb To the peak of Kugami. Deer bellow, Their voices Soaked up by Piles of maple leaves Lying undisturbed at The foot of the mountain. —Ryokan ______________________ A VISIT TO MR. FUJI'S VILLA —Ryokan It's several miles outside the town And I walked there together with a woodsman Along a meandering footpath through rows of verdant pines. In the valley around us, sweet-smelling wild plum blossoms. Every time I visit, I gain something new, And there I feel truly at ease. The fish in his pond are big as dragons, And the surrounding forest is still the day long. The inside of his home is full of treasures: Volumes of books scattered about! Inspired, I loosen my robe, browse through the books And then compose my own verse. At twilight I walk along the eastern corridor Where I'm greeted again by a little flock of spring birds. (Today's poems by Ryokan were translated from the Japanese by John Stevens.) EVERYTHING CHANGES —Bertold Brecht Everything changes. You can make A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water You once poured into the wine cannot be Drained off again. What has happened has happened. The water You once poured into the wine cannot be Drained off again, but Everything changes. You can make A fresh start with your final breath.
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