Friday, March 30, 2007

373. The Labors Of Thor - David Wagoner

Stiff as the icicles in their beards, the Ice Kings
Sat in the great cold hall and stared at Thor
Who had lumbered this far north to stagger them
With his gifts, which (back at home) seemed scarcely human.

“Immodesty forbids,” his sideman Loki
Proclaimed throughout the preliminary bragging,
And reeled off Thor’s accomplishments, fit for Sagas
Or a seat on the bench of the gods. With a sliver of beard

An Ice King picked his teeth: “Is he a drinker?”
And Loki boasted of challengers laid out
As cold as pickled herring. The Ice King offered
A horn-cup, long as a harp’s neck, full of mead.

Thor braced himself for elbow and belly room
And tipped the cup and drank as deep as mackerel,
Then deeper, reaching down for the halibut
Till his broad belt buckled. He had quaffed one inch.

“Maybe he’s better at something else,” an Ice King
Muttered, yawning. Remembering the boulders
He’d seen Thor heave and toss in the pitch of anger,
Loki proposed a bout of lifting weights.

“You men have been humping rocks from here to there
For ages,” an Ice King said. “They cut no ice.
Lift something harder.” And he whistled out
A gray-green cat with cold, mouseholey eyes.

Thor gave it a pat, then thrust both heavy hands
Under it, stooped and heisted, heisted again,
Turned red in the face and bit his lip and heisted
From the bottom of his heart—and lifted one limp forepaw.

Now pink in the face himself, Loki said quickly
That heroes can have bad days, like bards and beggars,
But Thor of all mortals was the grossest wrestler
And would stake his demigodhood on one fall.

Seeming too bored to bother, an Ice King waved
His chilly fingers around the mead-hall, saying,
“Does anyone need some trifling exercise
Before we go glacier-calving in the morning?”

An old crone hobbled in, four-faced and gamy,
As bent in the back as any bitch of burden,
As gray as water, as feeble as an oyster.
An Ice King said, “She’s thrown some boys in her time.”

Thor would have left, insulted, but Loki whispered,
“When the word gets south, she’ll be at least an ogress.”
Thor reached out sullenly and grabbed her elbow,
But she quicksilvered him and grinned her gums.

Thor tried his patented hammerlock takedown,
But she melted away like steam from a leaky sauna.
He tried a whole Nelson; it shrank to half, to a quarter,
Then nothing. He stood there, panting at the ceiling,

“Who got me into this demigoddiness?”
As flashy as lightning, the woman belted him
With her bony fist and boomed him to one knee,
But fell to a knee herself, and pale as moonlight.

Bawling for shame, Thor left by the back door,
Refusing to be consoled by Loki’s plans
For a quick revision the Northodox Version
Of the evening’s deeds, including Thor’s translation

From vulnerable flesh and sinew into a dish
Fit for the gods and a full apotheosis
With catches and special effects by the sharpest gleemen
Available in an otherwise flat season.

He went back south, tasting his bitter lesson,
Moment by moment, for the rest of his life,
Believing himself a pushover faking greatness
Along a tawdry strain of misadventures.

Meanwhile, the Ice Kings trembled in their chairs
But not from the cold--they’d seen a man hoist high
The Great Horn-Cup that ends deep in the ocean
And lower all Seven Seas by his own stature;

They’d seen him budge the Cat of the World and heft
The pillar on one paw, the whole north corner;
They’d seen a mere man wrestle with Death herself
And match her knee for knee, grunting like thunder.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

372. Prayer For My Son - James Applewhite

The low river flows like smoked glass.
Small bass guard their nest. Next
To our house, the cardinals in their
Crabapple feed two open mouths.
Parents and offspring, we flex
And swing in this future's coming,
Mirror we look into only darkly.
My youngest is boarding an airplane
To a New York he's never seen.
Raised in such slumberous innocence
Of Bible schools and lemonade,
I adjust poorly to this thirst for
Fame, this electronic buzz prizing
brilliance and murderers. Oh son,
Know that the psyche has its own
Fame, whether known or not, that
Soul can flame like feathers of a bird.
Grow into your own plumage, brightly,
So that any tree is a marvelous city.
I wave from here by this Indian Eno,
Whose lonely name I make known.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

371. Maximus - D. H. Lawrence

God is older than the sun and moon
and the eye cannot behold him
or voice describe him.

But a naked man, a stranger, leaned on the gate
with his cloak over his arm, waiting to asked in.
So I called him: Come in, if you will!––
He came in slowly, and sat down by the hearth.
I said to him: And what is your name?––
He looked at me without answer, but such a loveliness
entered me, I smiled to myself, saying: He is a God!
So he said: Hermes!

God is older than the sun and moon
and the eye cannot behold him
nor the voice describe him:
and still, this is the God Hermes, sitting by my hearth.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

370. From: The True Born Englishman - Daniel Defoe

Thus from a mixture of all kinds began
That heterogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes and furious lust begot
Between a painted Briton and a Scot;
Whose gendering offspring quickly learnt to bow
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough;
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name nor nation, speech or fame;
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infused between a Saxon and a Dane;
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Received all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.

Monday, March 26, 2007

369. Any Case - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Father off.
It happened, but not to you.

You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. On the left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck - there was a forest.
You were in luck - there were no trees.
You were in luck - a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a jam, a turn, a quarter inch, an instant.
You were in luck - just then a straw went floating by.

As a result, because, although, despite.
What would have happened if a hand, a foot,
within an inch, a hairsbreadth from
an unfortunate coincidence

So you're here? Still dizzy from another dodge, close shave,
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or speechless.
how your heart pounds inside of me.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

368. so you want to be a writer? - Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.

Friday, March 23, 2007

367. The Image - Robert Hass

The child brought blue clay from the creek
and the woman made two figures: a lady and a deer.
At that season deer came down from the mountain
and fed quietly in the redwood canyons.
The woman and the child regarded the figure of the lady,
the crude roundnesses, the grace, the coloring like shadow.
They were not sure where she came from,
except the child's fetching and the woman's hands
and the lead-blue clay of the creek
where the deer sometimes showed themselves at sundown.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

366. We Started Home, My Son And I - Jaan Kaplinski

(Translated from the Estonian by Jaan Kaplinski with Sam Hamill and Riina Tamm)

We started home, my son and I.
Twilight already. The young moon
stood in the western sky and beside it
a single star. I showed them to my son
and explained how the moon should be greeted
and that this star is the moon's servant.
As we neared home, he said
that the moon is far, as far
as that place where we went.
I told him the moon is much, much farther
and reckoned: if one were to walk
ten kilometers each day, it would take
almost a hundred years to reach the moon.
But this was not what he wanted to hear.
The road was already almost dry.
The river was spread on the marsh; ducks and other waterfowl
crowed the beginning of night. The snow's crust
crackled underfoot––it must
have been freezing again. All the houses' windows
were dark. Only in our kitchen
a light shone. Beside our chimney, the shining moon,
and beside the moon, a single star.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

365. The Hebrew Class - Carol Rumens

Dark night of the year, the clinging ice
a blue pavement-Dresden,
smoking still, and in lands more deeply frozen,
the savage thaw of tanks:

but in the Hebrew class it is warm as childhood.
It is Cheder and Sunday school.
It is the golden honey of approval,
the slow, grainy tear saved for the bread

of a child newly broken
on the barbs of his Aleph-Bet,
to show him that knowledge is sweet
– and obedience, by the same token.

So we taste power and pleasing,
and the white wand of chalk lisps on the board,
milky as our first words.
We try to shine for our leader.

How almost perfectly human
this little circle of bright heads bowed before
the declaration of grammatical law.
Who could divide our nation

of study? Not even God.
We are blank pages hungry for the pen.
We are ploughed fields, soft and ripe for planting.
What music rises and falls as we softly read.

Oh smiling children, dangerously gifted ones,
take care that you learn to ask why,
for the room you are in is also history.
Consider your sweet compliance

in the light of that day when the book
is torn from your hand;
when, to answer correctly the teacher's command,
you must speak for this ice, this dark.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

364. The Turn of the Century - Wislawa Szyborska

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

It was supposed to be better than the rest, our twentieth century,
But it won't have time to prove it.
Its years are numbered,
its step unsteady,
its breath short.

Already too much has happened
that was not supposed to happen.
What was to come
has yet to come.

Spring was to be on its way,
and happiness, among other things.

Fear was to leave the mountains and valleys.
The truth was supposed to finish before the lie.

Certain misfortunes
were never to happen again
such as war and hunger and so forth.

The defenselessness of the defenseless,
was going to be respected.
Same for trust and the like.

Whoever wanted to enjoy the world
faces an impossible task.

Stupidity is not funny.
Wisdom is not cheerful.

is no longer the same young girl
et cetera. Alas.

God was at last to believe in man:
good and strong,
But good and strong
are still two different people.

How to live--someone asked me in a letter,
someone I had wanted
to ask the very same thing.

Again and as always,
and as seen above
there are no questions more urgent
than the naive ones.

Monday, March 19, 2007

363. The Definition of Love - Andrew Marvell

My Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing
Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown
But vainly flapped its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixed,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect Loves; nor lets them close:
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant Poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole World on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embraced.

Unless the giddy Heaven fall,
And Earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the World should all
Be cramped into a planisphere.

As lines so Love oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet:
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the Love which us doth bind
But Fate so enviously debars
Is the conjunction of the Mind,
And opposition of the Stars.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

362. A Performance of Henry V At Stratford-Upon-Avon, Elizabeth Jennings

Nature teaches us our tongue again
And the swift sentences came pat. I came
Into cool night rescued from rainy dawn.
And I seethed with language - Henry at
Harfleur and Agincourt came apt for war
In Ireland and the Middle East. Here was
The riddling and right tongue, the feeling words
Solid and dutiful. Aspiring hope
Met purpose in "advantages" and "He
That fights with me today shall be my brother."
Say this is patriotic, out of date.
But you are wrong. It never is too late

For nights of stars and feet that move to an
Iambic measure; all who clapped were linked,
The theatre is our treasury and too,
Our study, school-room, house where mercy is

Dispensed with justice. Shakespeare has the mood
And draws the music from the dullest heart.
This is our birthright, speeches for the dumb
And unaccomplished. Henry has the words
For grief and we learn how to tell of death
With dignity. "All was as cold" she said
"As any stone" and so, we who lacked scope
For big or little deaths, increase, grow up
To purposes and means to face events
Of cruelty, stupidity. I walked
Fast under stars. The Avon wandered on
"Tomorrow and tomorrow". Words aren't worn
Out in this place but can renew our tongue,
Flesh out our feeling, make us apt for life.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

361. In The Night - Elizabeth Jennings

Out of my window late at night I gape
And see the stars but do not watch them really,
And hear the trains but do not listen clearly;
Inside my mind I turn about to keep
Myself awake, yet am not there entirely.
Something of me is out in the dark landscape.

How much am I then what I think, how much what I feel?
How much the eye that seems to keep stars straight?
Do I control what I can contemplate
Or is it my vision that's amenable?
I turn in my mind, my mind is a room whose wall
I can see the top of but never completely scale.

All that I love is, like the night, outside,
Good to be gazed at, looking as if it could
With a simple gesture be brought inside my head
Or in my heart. But my thoughts about it divide
Me from my object. Now deep in my bed
I turn and the world turns on the other side.

Friday, March 16, 2007

360. For the Anniversary Of My Death - W. S. Merwin

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Thursday, March 15, 2007

359. Nothing Twice - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with exactly the same kisses.

One day, perhaps, some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

358. Daybreak - Galway Kinnell

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity they sank down
into the mud; they faded down
into it and lay still; and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

357. One Art - Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master.
So many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And, look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master,
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Monday, March 12, 2007

356. By The Bivouac'w Fitful Flame - Walt Whitman

By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and
slow––but first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be
stealthily watching me,)
While wind in procession thought, O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of
those that are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac's fitful flame.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

355. The Battle of Salamis - Aeschylus

Aeschylus (525-456 B. C.) - The Battle of Salamis
From: The Persians, translated by Peter Levi

And when the light of the sun had perished
and night came on, the masters of the oar
and men at arms went down into the ships;
then line to line the longships passed the word,
and every one sailed in commanded line.
All that night long the captains of the ships
ordered the sea people at their stations.
The night went by, and still the Greek fleet
gave order for no secret sailing out.
But when the white horses of the daylight
took over the whole earth, clear to be seen,
the first noise was the Greeks shouting for joy,
like singing, like triumph, and then again
echoes rebounded from the island rocks.
The barbarians were afraid our strategy
was lost, there was no Greek panic in
that solemn battle-song they chanted then,
but battle-hunger, courage of spirit;
the trumpet's note set everything ablaze.
Suddenly by command their foaming oars
beat, beat in the deep of the salt water,
and all at once they were clear to be seen.
First the right wing in perfect order leading,
then the whole fleet followed out after them,
and one great voice was shouting in our ears:
"Sons of the Greeks, go forward, and set free
your fathers' country and set free your sons,
your wives, the holy places of your gods,
the monuments of your own ancestors,
now is the one battle for everything."
Our Persian voices answered roaring out,
and there was no time left before the clash.
Ships smashed their bronze beaks into ships,
it was a Greek ship in the first assault
that cut away the whole towering stem
from a Phoenician, and another rammed
timber into another. Still at first
the great flood of the Persian shipping held,
but multitudes of ships crammed up together,
no help could come from one to the other,
they smashed on another with brazen beaks,
and the whole rowing fleet shattered itself.
So then the Greek fleet with a certain skill
ran inwards from a circle around us,
and the bottoms of ships were overturned,
there was no seawater in eyesight,
only wreckage and bodies of dead men,
and beaches and rocks all full of dead.
Whatever ships were left out of our fleet
rowed away in no order in panic.
The Greeks with broken oars and bits of wreck
smashed and shattered the men in the water
like tunny, like gaffed fish. One great scream
filled up all the sea's surface with lament,
until the eye of darkness took it all.

Friday, March 09, 2007

354. The Question - F. T. Prince

And so we too came where the rest have come,
To where each dreamed, each drew, the other home
From all distractions to the other's breast,
Where each had found, each was, the wild bird's nest.
For that we came, and knew that we must know
The thing we knew of but we did not know.

We said then, What if this were now no more
Than a faint shade of what we dreamed before?
If love should here find little joy or none,
And done, it were as if it were not done,
Would we not love still? What if none can know
The thing we know of but we do not know.

For we know nothing but that, long ago,
We learnt to love God whom we cannot know.
I touch your eyelids that one day must close,
Your lips as perishable as a rose:
And say that all must face, before we know
The thing we know of but we do not know.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

353. Lot's Wife - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire

They say I looked back from curiosity.
But I could have had reasons other than curiosity.
I looked back from regret for a silver bowl.
From distraction while fastening the latchet of my sandal.
To avoid looking longer at the righteous neck
of Lot my husband.
From sudden certainty that had I died
he would not even have slowed his step.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Alert to the pursuit.
Suddenly serene, hopeful that God had changed His mind.
Our two daughters were almost over the hilltop.
I felt old age within me. Remoteness.
The futility of our wandering. Sleepiness.
I looked back while laying my bundle on the ground.
I looked back from fear of where next to set my foot.
On my path appeared serpents,
spiders, field mice, and fledgling vultures.
By now it was neither the righteous nor the wicked --- simply all living
crept and leapt in common panic.
I looked back from loneliness.
From shame that I was stealing away.
From a desire to shout, to return.
Or just when a sudden gust of wind
undid my hair and lifted up my garment.
I had the impression they watched it all from the walls of Sodom
and burst out in loud laughter time and time again.
I looked back from anger
To relish their great ruin
I looked back for all the reasons I have mentioned.
I looked back despite myself.
It was only a rock that turned back, growling under foot.
A sudden crevice that cut my path.
On the edge a hamster scampered, up on his two hind feet.
It was then that we both glanced back.
No, no. I ran on,
I crept and clambered up,
until the darkness crashed down from heaven,
and with it, burning gravel and dead birds.
For lack of breath I spun about repeatedly.
If anyone had seen me, he might have thought me dancing.
It is not ruled out that my eyes were open.
It could be that I fell, my face turned toward the city.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

352. An Elegy For Ernest Hemingway - Thomas Merton

Now for the first time on the night of your death
your name is mentioned in convents, ne cadas in

Now with a true bell your story becomes final. Now
men in monasteries, men of requiems, familiar with
the dead, include you in their offices.

You stand anonymous among thousands, waiting in
the dark at great stations on the edge of countries
known to prayer alone, where fires are not merciless,
we hope, and not without end.

You pass briefly through our midst. Your books and
writing have not been consulted. Our prayers are
pro defuncto N.

Yet some look up, as though among a crowd of prisoners
or displaced persons, they recognized a friend
once known in a far country. For these the sun also
rose after a forgotten war upon an idiom you made
great. They have not forgotten you. In their silence
you are still famous, no ritual shade.

How slowly this bell tolls in a monastery tower for a
whole age, and for the quick death of an unready
dynasty, and for that brave illusion: the adventurous

For with one shot the whole hunt is ended!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

351. Some Like Poetry - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Regina Grol

Some -
thus not all. Not even the majority of all but the minority.
Not counting schools, where one has to,
and the poets themselves,
there might be two people per thousand.

Like -
but one also likes chicken soup with noodles,
one likes compliments and the color blue,
one likes an old scarf,
one likes having the upper hand,
one likes stroking a dog.

Poetry -
but what is poetry.
Many shaky answers
have been given to this question.
But I don't know and don't know and hold on to it
like to a sustaining railing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

350. The difficult Arch Of The Bridge In The Japanese Tea Garden - James Schevill

To create an expert difficulty
That defeats the difficulty of destruction,
Build a Japanese bridge.
Arch the wood in a high curve––
Block it with steep, splintery steps,
Flow under it a clear stream
With red fish for contemplation.
Assemble families for the climb.
Vary ages, sizes, forms, minds,
Quiet, ugly, lazy, combative temperaments;
Children to scream, stare, giggle at danger;
Frantic, laughing parents to warn of falls,
Broken legs; grandparents to mutter "impossible,"
And watch with resigned pleasure
The high, difficult crossing . . .
Shouts of triumph should be an absolute joy
Aimed to clarify the air, not muddle the fog.
At night, let the aging, wooden bridge
Rest in the silence of its lofty curve,
Worn, mirrored in the moonlit water,
The wheel of life that turns,
Extending the invitation of difficulty.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

349. My Life - Mark Strand

The huge doll of my body
refuses to rise.
I am the toy of women.
My mother

would prop me up for her friends.
“Talk, talk,” she would beg.
I moved my mouth
but words did not come.

My wife took me down from the shelf.
I lay in her arms. “We suffer
the sickness of self,” she would whisper.
And I lay there dumb.

Now my daughter
gives me a plastic nurser
filled with water
“You are my real baby,” she says.

Poor child!
I look into the brown
mirrors of her eyes
and see myself

diminishing, sinking down
to a depth she does not know is there.
Out of breath,
I will not rise again.

I grow into my death.
My life is small
and getting smaller. The world is green
Nothing is all.

Friday, March 02, 2007

348. A Large Number Analysis - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Four billion people on this earth,
but my imagination is the way it's always been:
bad with large numbers.
It is still moved by particularity.
It flits about the darkness like a flashlight beam,
disclosing only random faces,
while the rest go blindly by,
unthought of, unpitied.
Not even a Dante could have stopped that.
So what do you do when you're not,
even with all the muses on your side?

Non omnis moriar—a premature worry.
Yet am I fully alive, and is that enough?
It never has been, and even less so now.
I select by rejecting, for there's no other way,
but what I reject, is more numerous,
more dense, more intrusive than ever.
At the cost of untold losses—a poem, a sigh.
I reply with a whisper to a thunderous calling.
How much I am silent about I can't say.
A mouse at the foot of mother mountain.
Life lasts as long as a few lines of claws in the sand.

My dreams—even they are not as populous as they should be.
There is more solitude in them than crowds or clamor.
Sometimes someone long dead will drop by for a bit.
A single hand turns a knob.
Annexes of echo overgrow the empty house.
I run from the threshold down into the quiet
valley seemingly no one's—an anachronism by now.

Where does all this space still in me come from—
that I don't know.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

347. At The Edge Of The Known - Diane Ackerman

We distill truth in a jungle
clearing where you learn
the native hearsay of my life
whose myths and legends
reveal my tribe's past, fetiches,
kinship and taboos.

The big picture: as a nuanced listener
and ecologist of the psyche,
you do see the forest for the trees,

but not many of my quirky tastes,
only a scattering of oases
where my curiosity dines,
just a peek at the closet meditations
where I store my moods,
rarely a health update, precious
few of my raving passions.

Did you know I've painted
my study the color
of spring light in the forest?

Or that floaters in my eyes
often plague me
with a small meteor storm?

In these cropped hours,
though our hearts devour them,
what can be known
of a life and the assemblage
it grows to embrace?
Hardly anything but the shadow
of a fragment of a trace.