Tuesday, May 30, 2006

124. Late Abed - Archibald MacLeish

Ah, but a good wife!
To lie late in a warm bed
(warm where she was) with your life
suspended like a music in the head,
hearing her foot in the house, her broom
on the pine floor of the down-stairs room,
hearing the window toward the sun go up,
the tap turned on, the tap turned off,
the saucer clatter to the coffee cup . . .

To lie late in the odor of coffee
thinking of nothing at all, listening . . .

and she moves here, she moves there,
and your mouth hurts still where last she kissed you:
you think how she looked as she left, the bare
thigh, and went to her adorning . . .

You lie there listening and she moves –––
prepares her house to hold another morning,
prepares another day to hold her loves . . .

You lie there
thinking of nothing
watching the sky . . .

Monday, May 29, 2006


(translated by William Wehrmeister)

My soul moves through the hard veins
of stony mountains, in slender threads of ore;
So deep inside, there is no light in sight,
and no distance: all around is at hand
and all is turning to stone.

It is like this, when looking at suffering,—
this vast darkness hides all in stone;
so you the outsider, are the one, who has
the power, and the skill to delve deep:
to return all to the open sky, my soul,
and what was hidden there
in its darkest moments.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


This afternoon I came up the stairs from the subway
at the southwest corner of Broadway and 96th Street
at the exact same moment you were striding
north on that corner. Tall; dark overcoat—
it’s false to put together
recalled details, as if I’d seen a stranger.
How then to remember and separate what I saw?
It was you. Pure pleasure in recognition
doesn’t say it either. There you were
so simply before my eyes and walking fast
and a split second later you saw me too.
A gift, a gift! Did we kiss? I took your arm,
we hardly missed a beat, we crossed the street
and did our errands––wine, squid, number one
pencils, grapefruit––went home; went on living

This walking arm in arm in harmony
having come from separate directions––
this is a marriage too. It looks so easy
and is perhaps so easy and is not.
It always is a gift.
It gives a form to life
perhaps invisibly. I don’t look married.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

121. VIETMAN - Wislawa Szymborska

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

"Woman what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you?" Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" " I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."

Friday, May 26, 2006

120. THOSE WINTER SUNDAYS - Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Thursday, May 25, 2006


When I was child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out" I am
an orphan."

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

118. About the Author - Dorothy Parker

(from Sunset Gun)

Dorothy Parker is slightly over five feet in height, dark and attractive, with somewhat weary eyes and a sad mouth. Her favorite possession is Robinson, a dachshund. She is superstitious, pessimistic, hates to be alone, and prefers to be considered a satirist rather than a humorist. She usually writes in longhand, crossing out every other word in order to achieve the utmost simplicity; she tries to avoid a feminine style. Being extremely near-sighted, she wears glasses when writing, but she has never been seen on the street with them. Earnest Hemingway is her favorite author—flowers and a good cry are reported to be among her favorite diversions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

117. ANY CASE - Wislawa Szymborska

(translated by Grazyna Drabik and Sharon Olds)

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
one step away, a hair away––

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net's mesh was tight, but you––through the mesh?
I can't stop wondering at it, can't be silent enough.
how quickly your heart is beating in me.

Monday, May 22, 2006


(translated by Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass)

I descended toward the Seine, shy, a traveler,
A young barbarian just come to the capital of the world.

We were many, from Jassy and Koloshvar, Wilno and Bucharest, Saigon and Marrakesh,
Ashamed to remember the customs of our homes,
About which nobody here should ever be told:
The clapping for servants, barefooted girls hurry in,
Dividing food with incantations,
Choral prayers recited by master and household together.

I had left the cloudy provinces behind,
I entered the universal, dazzled and desiring.

Soon enough, many from Jassy and Koloshvar, or Saigon or Marrakesh
Would be killed because they wanted to abolish the customs of their homes.

Soon enough, their peers were seizing power
In order to kill in the name of the universal, beautiful ideas.

Meanwhile the city behaved in accordance with its nature,
Rustling with throaty laughter in the dark,
Baking long breads and pouring wine into clay pitchers,
Buying fish, lemons, and garlic at street markets,
Indifferent as it was to honor and shame and greatness and glory,
Because that had been done already and had transformed itself
Into monuments representing nobody knows whom,
Into arias hardly audible and into turns of speech.

Again I lean on the rough granite of the embankment,
As if I had returned from travels through the underworlds
And suddenly saw in the light the reeling wheel of the seasons
Where empires have fallen and those once living are now dead.

There is no capital of the world, neither here nor anywhere else,
And the abolished customs are restored to their small fame
And now I know that the time of human generations is not like the time of the earth.

As to my heavy sins, I remember one most vividly:
How, one day, walking on a forest path along a stream,
I pushed a rock down onto a water snake coiled in the grass.

And what I have met with in life was the just punishment
Which reaches, sooner of later, the breaker of a taboo.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

115. OUR ANCESTORS' SHORT LIVES - Wislawa Szymborska

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Few if them made it to thirty
Old age was the privilege of rocks and trees.
Childhood ended as fast as wolf cubs grow.
One had to hurry, to get on with life
before the sun went down,
before the first snow.
Thirteen-year-olds bearing children,
four-year-olds stalking birds’ nests in the rushes,
leading the hunt at twenty—
they aren’t yet, then they are gone.
Infinity’s ends fused quickly.
Witches chewed charms
with all the teeth of youth intact.
A son grew to manhood beneath his father’s eye.
Beneath the grandfather’s blank sockets the grandson
was born.

And anyway they didn’t count the years.
They counted nets, pods, sheds, and axes.
Time, so generous toward any petty star in the sky,
offered them a nearly empty hand
and quickly took it back, as if the effort were too much.
One step more, two steps more
along the glittering river
that sprang from darkness and vanished into darkness.

There wasn’t a moment to lose,
no deferred questions, no belated revelations,
just those experienced in time.
Wisdom couldn’t wait for gray hair.
It had to see clearly before it saw the light
and to hear every voice before it sounded.

Good and evil—
they knew little of them, but knew all:
when evil triumphs, good goes into hiding;
when good is manifest, then evil lies low.
Neither can be conquered
or cast off beyond return.
Hence, if joy, then with a touch of fear;
if despair, then not without some quiet hope.
Life, however long, will always be short.
Too short for anything to be added.

Friday, May 19, 2006

114. JANUARY IN PARIS - Billy Collins

‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned’ Paul Valery

That winter I had nothing to do
but tend the kettle in my shuttered room
on the top floor of a pensione near a cemetery,

but I would sometimes descend the stairs,
unlock my bicycle, and pedal along the cold city streets

often turning from a wide boulevard
down a narrow side street
bearing the name of an obscure patriot.

I followed a few private rules,
never crossing a bridge without stopping
mid-point to lean my bike on the railing,
and observe the flow of the river
as I tried to better understand the French.

In my pale coat and my Basque cap
I pedaled past the windows of a patisserie
or sat up tall in the seat, arms folded,
and clicked downhill filling my nose with winter air.

I would see beggars and street cleaners
in their bright uniforms, and sometimes
I would see the poems of Valery,
the ones he never finished but abandoned,
wandering the streets of the city half clothed.

Most of them needed only a final line
or two, a little verbal flourish at the end,
but whenever I approached,
they would retreat from their makeshift fires
into the shadows- thin specters of incompletion,

forsaken for so many long decades
how could they ever trust another man with a pen?

I came across the one I wanted to tell you about
sitting with a glass of rose’ at a cafe’ table-
beautiful, emaciated, unfinished,
cruelly abandoned with a flick of panache

by Monsieur Paul Valery himself,
big fish in the school of Symbolism
and for a time, president of the Committee of Arts and Letters
of the League of Nations if you please.

Never mind how I got her out of the cafe’,
past the concierge and up the flight of stairs-
remember that Paris is the capital of public kissing.

And never mind the holding and the pressing.
It is enough to know that I moved my pen
in such a way as to bring her to completion,

a simple, final stanza, which ended,
as this poem will, with the image
of a gorgeous orphan lying on a rumpled bed,
her large eyes closed,
a painting of cows in a valley over her head,
and off to the side, me in a window seat
blowing smoke from a cigarette at dawn.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

113. BOHEMIA - Dorothy Parker

Authors and actors and artists and such
Never know nothing, and never know much.
Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
Playwrights and poets and such horses’ necks
Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
Diarists, critics, and similar roe
Never say nothing, and never say no.
People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
God, for a man that solicits insurance!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

112. The Man Withe The Hoe - Edwin Markham

The Man with the Hoe - Edwin Markham (1852-1940)
Written after seeing Millet's world-famous painting)

('This poem of social protest appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 15 January 1899, and quickly became that rare thing, a poem that galvanizes public opinion.')

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And markt their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this ––
More tongued with censure of the world's blind greed ––
More filled with signs and portents for the soul ––
More packt with danger to the universe.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rife of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time's tragedy is in that aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the World,
A protest that is also prophecy.

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quencht?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidlous wrongs, Immedicable woes?

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds or rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings ––
With those who shaped him to the thing he is ––
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world,
After the silence of the centuries?


Dai K lives at the end of a valley. One is not quite sure
whether it has been drowned or not. His Mam
Loves him too much and his Dada drinks.
As for his girlfriend Blodwen, she's pregnant. So
Are all the other girls in the village - there's been a Revival.
After a performance of Elijah, the mad preacher
Davies the Doom has burnt the chapel down.
One Saturday night after the dance at the Con Club,
With the Free Wales Army up to no good in the back lanes,
A stranger comes to the village; he is, of course,
God, the well known television personality. He succeeds
In confusing the issue, whatever it is, and departs
On the last train before the line is closed.
The colliery blows up, there is a financial scandal
Involving all the most respected citizens; the Choir
Wins at the National. It is all seen, naturally,
Through the eyes of a sensitive boy who never grows up.
The men emigrate to America, Cardiff and the moon. The girls
Find rich and foolish English husbands. Only daft Ianto
Is left to recite the Complete Works of Sir Lewis Morris
To puzzled sheep, before throwing himself over
The edge of the abandoned quarry. One is not quite sure
Whether it is fiction or not.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

110. JULY - Harvey Shapiro

You poets of the Late T'ang send me messages this morning.
The eastern sky is streaked with red.
Linkages of bird song make a floating chain.
In a corner of the world, walled in by ocean and sky,
I can look back on so many destructive days and nights,
and forward too, ego demons as far as mind reaches.
Here, for a moment, the light holds.

Monday, May 15, 2006

109. FROM FATHER TO SON - John Stuart Williams

There is no limit to the number of times
Your father can come to life, and he is as tender as ever he was
And as poor, his overcoat buttoned to the throat,
His face blue from the wind that always blows in the outer
He comes towards you, hesitant,
Unwilling to intrude and yet driven at the point of love
To this encounter.

You may think
That love is all that is left of him, but when he comes
He comes with all his winters and all his wounds.
He stands shivering in the empty street,
Cold and worn like a tramp at the end of a journey
And yet a shape of unquestioning love that you
Uneasy and hesitant of the cold touch of death
Must embrace.

Then, before you can touch him
He is gone, leaving on your fingers
A little more of his weariness
A little more of his love.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

108. INTERIOR - Dorothy Parker

Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room, and tall,
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom
And mottoes on the wall.

There all the things are waxen neat
And set in decorous lines;
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little, straightened vines.

Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart
Out wailing in the rain.

Friday, May 12, 2006

107. THE MAID-SERVANT AT THE INN - Dorothy Parker

“It’s queer,” she said, “ I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright–
We’ve not had stars like that again!

“And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening—
This new one’s better than the old.

“I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

“I never saw a sweeter child—
The little one, the darling one!—
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You’d know he was his mother’s son.

“It’s queer that I should see them so—
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I’ve prayed that all is well with them.”

Thursday, May 11, 2006

106. A WELSH WORDSCAPE - Peter Finch

To live in Wales,

Is to be mumbled at
by re-incarnations of Dylan Thomas
in numerous diverse disguises.

Is to be mown down
by the same words
at least six times a week.

Is to be bored
by Welsh visionaries
with wild hair and grey suits.

Is to be told
of the incredible agony
of an exile
that can be at most
a day's travel away.

And the sheep, the sheep,
the bloody flea-bitten Welsh sheep,
chased over the same hills
by a thousand poetic phrases
all saying the same things.

To live in Wales
is to love sheep
and be afraid
of dragons.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

105. LET'S HEAR IT FOR GOLIATH - Jon Dressel

Let's Hear It For Goliath

who never asked to be born either,
let alone grow nine feet

tall and wind up a metaphor;
fat chance he had of

avoiding the shove from behind;
his old man no doubt gave him

a sword to teethe on,
and a scout for Philistine

host probably had him under
contract by the end of junior high;

it was a fix;
and who wouldn't have cursed

at the sight of that arrogant runt
with the sling, who

for all his psalms, would later
buy one wife with a hundred

bloody pecker-skins, and another
with a King's X on Uriah; bah,

let's hear it for Goliath, a big
boy who got bad press but

who did his job, absorbed a flukey
shot, and died with a thud.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

104. THE WHITE TIGER - R. S. Thomas

The White Tiger - R. S. Thomas

It was beautiful as God
must be beautiful: glacial
eyes that had looked on
violence and come to terms

with it; a body too huge
and majestic for the cage in which
it had been put; up
and down in the shadow

of its own bulk it went
lifting, as it turned,
the crumpled flower of its face
to look into my own

face without seeing me. It
was the colour of the moonlight
on snow and as quiet
as moonlight, but breathing

as you can imagine that
God breaths within the confines
of our definition of him, agonizing
over immensities that will not return.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

103. A BALLADE OF A BOOK-REVIEWER - G. K. Chesterton

I have not read a rotten page
Of 'Sex-Hate' or 'The Social Test,'
And here comes 'Husks' and 'Heritage'...
O Moses, give us all a rest!
'Ethics of Empire! ... I protest
I will not even cut the strings,
I'll read 'Jack Redskin on the Quest'
And feed by brain with better things.

Somebody want a Wiser Age
(He also wants me in invest);
Somebody likes the Finnish Stage
Because the jesters do not jest;
And grey with dust is Dante's crest
The bell of Rabelais soundless swings;
And the winds come out of the west
And feed my brain with better things.

Lord of our laughter and our rage,
Look on us with our sins oppressed!
I, too, have trodden mine heritage
Wickedly wearying of the best.
Burn from my brain and from my breast
Sloth, and the cowardice that clings,
And stiffness and the soul's arrest:
And feed by brain with better things.

Prince, you are host and I am guest,
Therefore I shrink from cavillings ...
But I should have the fizz suppressed
And feed by brain with better things.

Friday, May 05, 2006

102. I LIVE MY LIFE - Rainer Maria Rilke

(translated by Robert Bly)

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

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

Thursday, May 04, 2006

101. SURVEY - Jonathan Monroe

How many losses
came between you

and your most recent

Just now, for example,
what evidence do you have

that you were here
when this started

that the signals
you were sending

will be here
when you're gone,

will outlast you?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

100. SOME TREES - John Ashbery

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbour, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defence.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


(translated by Stephen Mitchell)

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood's dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions . . . For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Monday, May 01, 2006


(translated by Robert Bly)

Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the daringly imagined arch
holding up the astounding bridges.

Miracle doesn't lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.

To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words;
denser and denser the pattern becomes––
being carried along is not enough.

Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.