Monday, April 30, 2007

398. Golf Links - Sarah N. Cleghorn

(From: An Anthology of Revolutionary Poetry, 1929)

The GOLF LINKS lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

398. Onion - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Sharon Olds

It's really something, the onion
It doesn't have entrails.
It is itself, through and through,
all of it just onion.
Onionlike on the outside,
oniony to the core,
the onion could look into itself
without any fear.

In us lurks the strange and the wild
barely covered by the skin.
In us, an inferno of guts,
violent anatomy.
In the onion, nothing but the onion,
no twisted intestines,
Undressed many times, it repeats itself
to its depths.

A consistent creature, the onion,
a well-made thing.
Inside one, simply another,
in a larger, a smaller,
and in the next, the next.
Centrifugal fugue.
Echo in unison.

The onion, I do appreciate it:
the prettiest belly in the world.
It wears halos
for its own glory.
In us, fat, nerves, veins,
valves, and secrets.
For us it's unattainable,
the idiotism of perfection.

Friday, April 27, 2007

397. Onions - William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

The could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick), Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It's true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there's nothing to an onion
but skin, and it's true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secret.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It's there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

395. Reality Demands (1&2) - Wislawa Szymborska

Reality Demands (1)
Translated from Polish by Joanna Maria Trzeciak

Reality demands
we also state the following:
life goes on.
It does so near Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Polje and Guernica.

There is a gas station
in a small plaza in Jericho,
and freshly painted
benches near Bila Hora.
Letters travel
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a furniture truck passes
before the eyes of the lion of Cheronea,
and only an atmospheric front advances
towards the blossoming orchards near Verdun.

There is so much of Everything
that Nothing is quite well concealed.
Music flows
from yachts near Actium
and couples on board dance in the sunlight.

So much keeps happening,
that it must be happening everywhere.
Where stone is heaped on stone,
there is an ice cream truck
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima had been,
Hiroshima is again
manufacturing products
for everyday use.

Not without its charms is this terrible world,
not without its mornings
worth our waking.

In the fields of Maciejowice
the grass is green
and on the grass is––you know how grass is––
transparent dew.

Maybe there are no fields other than battlefields,
those still remembered,
and those long forgotten,
birch woods and cedar woods,
snows and sands, iridescent swamps,
and ravines of dark defeat
where today, in sudden need,
you squat behind a bush.

What moral flows from this? Maybe none.
But what really flows is quickly-drying blood,
and as always, some rivers and clouds.

On the tragic mountain passes
the wind blows hats off heads
and we cannot help––
but laugh.

Reality Demands (2)
Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Reality demands
that we also mention this:
Life goes on.
It continues at Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Polje and Guernica.

There's a gas station
on a little square in Jericho,
and wet paint
on park benches in Bila Hora.
Letters fly back and forth
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a moving van passes
beneath the eye of the lion at Chaeronea,
and the blooming orchards near Verdun
cannot escape
the approaching atmospheric front.

There is so much Everything
that Nothing is hidden quite nicely.
Music pours
from the yachts moored at Actium
and couples dance on the sunlit decks.

So much is always going on,
that it must be going on all over.
Where not a stone still stands,
you see the Ice Cream Man
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.
This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.

The grass is green
on Maciejowice's fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don't cower
under a bush but squat behind it.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only that blood flows, drying quickly,
and, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.

On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can't help
laughing at that.

From: Miracle Fair
Reality Demands notes

Cannae: an ancient village in Italy, the setting of the crushing defeat suffered by the Romans at the hand of Hannibal in 216 B.C.

Borodino: a village seventy miles west of Moscow, saw major conflict between the French army under Napoleon and the Russian army under General Kutuzov on September 7, 1812. The battle is chiefly remembered for the heavy casualties suffered on both sides.

Kosovo Polje: is infamous for the battle fought there on June 5, 1389, between Serbia and the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the collapse of Serbia.

Guernica: a small city in the Basque region of Spain, was subjected to a massive aerial bombing attack by the German air force, aided by Italy and Spain's national Fascist party, on April 26, 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War.

Jericho, located on the bank of the West Bank of the Jordan river, was the first Canaanite city to be attacked by the Israelites according to the account given in Joshua I:I-6:27.

Bilá Hora, near Prague, was the site of the Bohemian defeat at the hands of the Habsburgs on November 8 1620.

Pearl Harbor was a United States naval base attacked without warning by the Japanese air force on December 7, 1941.
Hastings, sixty-two miles southeast of London, is famed as the setting for the victory of Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror over English forces serving King Harold on October 14, 1066.

Chaeronea, and ancient town in central Greece, was the site of the victory of Philip II of Macedon over a confederation of Greek states in 338 B.C.

Verdon, a garrison town in northeastern France, was reduced to ruins during its historic resistance to German forces in a series of World War I battles that ended in French victory during August 1917.

Actium was the scene of the decisive naval victory of Octavian over Mark Antony and Cleopatra on September 2.

Hiroshima is the Japanese city on which the United States dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare on August 6, 1945.

Maciejowice is a village near Garwlolin, Poland, where on October 10, 1794, Polish forces under Tadeusz Kosciuszko were defeated by the Russian army under General Fersen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

394. To The Collector Of Taxes - William Dickey

William Dickey - To The Collector of Taxes, City and County
of San Francisco

No, there is no dog, terrier, male, dog's name Pedro
at this address. Pedro is in San Anselmo.

So I do not owe you the $4.00 license fee
(raised by the Supervisors to $5.00) I wish I did.

Is the point of being a poet to clean your plate,
use up things, make every loss valuable?

And when the last loss has been made valuable
disappear like night into the crouching wood?

I like you because you are such a plain image. You seem to say
if I pay my tax there is something I can own

for another year. There's nothing. There's no dog.
But thank you for even suggesting that there is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

393. Telemachus - William Dickey


You are grown up, surely it is time for you
to set off and look for your father, who is missing.
You have had photographs, but they were taken
by the family, mostly in black-and-white.
Those who knew him, women especially,
say: "He was better looking.
You would have had to see him yourself."
They flutter their fans.
Resentfully, they say:
"There is nothing here that does him justice."

You are over six foot yourself, and well set-up.
Nothing has been lacking in your education.
But it is not for you they languish and decline
in their silken reveries, it is not for you
that their eyes soften, mouths tickle with remembrance.
They think of someone they are jealous of in time.

Up to now, you have hardly been in time.
For twenty years, the sea has been a bowl,
still, permanent, in which the island sat.
The ladies were so many courtesy aunts,
the suitors people who for her own amusement
your mother entertains. They can be woven
into her habitual account of day upon day:
those webs in which you are peripheral, or missing.

Without announcement, you will find yourself
a small boat, launched into an actual Ocean.
If you look for hands, there will be only two.
If you think, you are the mirror of your thinking.
Your skin burns, your hair bleaches from the salt.
Any sail you put up has your own name marked upon it.
In the wake you leave, the waves rehearse
and forget you.

The Ocean is empty, but there are always
landfalls. Arriving at evening, no water left,
sailing by a difficult strait into the harbor,
you will find, always, your father has been there before you.
In one village they will tell you that they ate him,
but they are not convincing, their eyes shift.
In another port
you will find his image in a mud phallic god.
Always the ladies,
holding up the bronze mirror, rouging their nipples,
will say of him: "How could I not remember?"
Out of remembering, they will take you to their beds
where he has been before you.
It is hard to imagine a place he has not been.


You must sail into another Ocean, outside
the possible world: a frozen
incumbrance of a place, ice monuments
breaking and re-forming, the song of the tall ice.
If there are inhabitants, they do not speak
any of the supple tongues you have picked up, voyaging.
They neither remember you nor remember him.
They sing into your mind: "He is not here"
Images flicker and dance in the inhuman sky:
it might be your father, but it is only image.
You have arrived beyond the end of the world.
You have yourself, otherwise there is nothing here.

Even into these waters, Summer comes.
A short slackening of the ice
out of which your boat goes free, unguided.
You are interior to the wave, you are yourself.
Being is not a comfort, but an instruction.
As you move north, you civilize
the islands: these are people who could be men.
They incline to you, recognizing the change
in your face. They offer their daughters to you,
none of whom has lain with a man. They cry: "Change!"
What they see, looking at you, effects it.

Months, perhaps years later, after meeting
with easy indifference women with the feet of birds,
women with dogs barking from their bellies, you return
to the place you set out from, a place
difficult to remember.

Old women come down to the beach. Their fans have rotted.
suitors come down, but they have now no swords.
Your mother comes. She does not know what to say
after all this time. Her eyes have blurred
with the years, even in that place of long-woven calm.
She finds you hard to recognize. "Welcome, Son?"
she says with uncertainty. "Welcome, Husband?"

Monday, April 23, 2007

392. Odysseus To Telemachus - Joseph Brodsky

(Translated from the Russian by George L. Kline)

My dear Telemachus,

The Trojan War
is over now; I don't recall who won it.
The Greeks, no doubt, for only they would leave
so many dead so far from their own homeland.
But still, my homeward was has proved too long.
While we were wasting time there, old Poseidon,
it almost seems, stretched and extended space.

I don't know where I am or what this place
can be. It would appear some filthy island,
with bushes, buildings, and great grunting pigs.
A garden choked with weeds; some queen or other.
Grass and huge stones . . . Telemachus, my son!
To a wanderer the faces of all islands
resemble one another. And the mind
trips, numbering waves; eyes, sore from sea horizons,
run; and the flesh of water stuffs the ears.
I can't remember how the war come out;
even how old you are––I can't remember.

Grow up, then, my Telemachus, grow strong.
Only the gods know if we'll see each other
again. You've long since ceased to be that babe
before whom I reined in the plowing bullocks.
Had it not been for Palamedes' trick
we two would still be living in one household.
But maybe he was right; away from me
you are quite safe from all Oedipal passions,
and your dreams, my Telemachus, are blameless.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

391. Therefore - William Dickey

Nothing exists that is not marred; therefore
we are obliged to imagine how things might be:
the sea
at its green uttermost, the shore
white to exaggeration, white before
it was checked and clouded by its spent debris.

Nothing exists that does not end, and so
to knowledge we must deliberately be untrue:
murmuring that you will not go, when you will go,
promising to do always what you cannot do:
hold the sun steady, and the sky new.

No one exists who can be loved the same
by day as by dark; it is that sleeping place,
we attempt to follow into and cannot trace,
that makes us lie, saying we know his face
as if we knew even half of his true name.

Friday, April 20, 2007

390. No Finis - David Schubert

When you cannot go further
It is time to go back and wrest
Out of failure some
Thing shining.

As when a child I sat
On the stoop and spoke
The state licenses, the makes
Of autos going somewhere, ––

To others I leave this fleeting
Memory of myself.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

389. The Joy Of Writing - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

Where is the written doe headed through these written woods?
To drink from the written spring
that copies her muzzle like carbon paper?
Why is she raising her head, does she hear something?
Perched on four legs borrowed from the truth
she pricks up her ears from under my fingertips.
Silence––even this word rustles across the page
and parts the branches
stemming from the word "woods."

Above the blank page, poised to pounce, lurk
letters, which might spell trouble,
penning sentences
from which there will be no escape.

There is, in an ink drop, a goodly supply
of hunters, eyes winked,
ready to charge down this steep pen,
circle the doe, and sight their guns.

They forget there is no life here.
Different laws, black and white, hold sway.
The blink of an eye will last as long as I want,
allowing division into little eternities
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Nothing will happen forever here if I say so.
Not even a leaf will fall without my go-ahead,
nor will a blade of grass bend under the full stop of the hoof.

Then is there such a world
where I wield fate unfettered?
A time I bind with strings of signs?
Existence without end at my command?

The joy of writing.
The prospect of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

388. Wild Geese - Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting––
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

387. Venice - Kenneth Rexroth


May Day

Once more it is early summer,
Like an opal, in Venice.
I listen to the monks sing
Vespers in San Giorgio Maggiore.
Ten years have gone by. I am
No longer alone. My little
Daughter and I sit hand in hand,
As the falling sunlight rises
Up Palladio’s noble aisles
And shimmers in the incense.
The incense billows over
The altar. The Magnificat
Of May Day surges through the incense.
Six years ago, another May Day,
Mary played in a meadow stream,
And caught emerald green baby frogs.
Overhead then, dive bombers wrote
Monograms of death in the sky.
They are still there. Now they have
A new trick. At “He has put down
The mighty from their seat,” one
Of them breaks the sound barrier
With a shuddering belch of hate,
One omnipresent sound in
The sky of Tiepolo.
The same shave jowled apes sit at
The same round mahogany tables,
Just across those pretty mountains.
They are pushing all this pretty
Planet, Venice, and Palladio,
And you and me, and the golden
Sun, nearer and nearer to
Total death. Nothing can stop them.
Soon it will be over. But
This music, and the incense,
And the solemn columned thought,
And the poem of a virgin,
And you and me, and Venice
In the May Day evening on the
Fiery waters, we have our own
Eternity, so fleeting that they
Can never touch it, or even
Know that it has passed them by.

Monday, April 16, 2007

386. Before You Came - Faiz Ahmed Faiz

(English Translation by Naomi Lazard)

Before you came things were just what they were:
the road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,
the limit of what could be seen,
a glass of wine was no more than a glass of wine.

With you the world took on the spectrum
radiating from my heart: your eyes gold
as they open to me, slate the color
that falls each time I lost all hope.

With your advent roses burst into flame:
you were the artist of dried-up leaves, sorceress
who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot.
You lacquered the night black.

As for the sky, the road, the cup of wine:
one was my tear-drenched shirt,
the other an aching nerve,
the third a mirror that never reflected the same thing.

Now you are here again—stay with me.
This time things will fall into place;
the road can be the road,
the sky nothing but sky;
the glass of wine, as it should be, the glass of wine

Saturday, April 14, 2007

385. First Death In Nova Scotia - Elizabeth Bishop

In the cold, cold parlor
my mother laid out Arthur
beneath the chromographs:
Edward, Prince of Wales,
with Princess Alexandra,
and King George with Queen Mary.
Below them on the table
stood a stuffed loon
shot and stuffed by Uncle
Arthur, Arthur's father.

Since Uncle Arthur fired
a bullet into him,
he hadn't said a word.
He kept his own counsel
on his white, frozen lake,
the marble-topped table.
His breast was deep and white,
cold and caressable;
his eyes were red glass,
much to be desired.

"Come," said my mother,
"come and say good-bye
to your little cousin Arthur."
I was lifted up and given
one lily of the valley
to put in Arthur's hand.
Arthur's coffin was
a little frosted cake,
and the red-eyed loon eyed it
from his white, frozen lake.

Arthur was very small.
He was all white, like a doll
that hadn't been painted yet.
Jack Frost had started to paint him
the way he always painted
the Maple Leaf (Forever).
He had just begun on his hair,
a few red strokes, and then
Jack Frost had dropped the brush
and left him white, forever.

The gracious royal couples
were warm in red and ermine;
their feet were well wrapped up
in the ladies' ermine trains.
They invited Arthur to be
the smallest page at court.
But how could Arthur go,
clutching his tiny lily,
with his eyes shut up so tight
and the roads deep in snow?

Friday, April 13, 2007

384. For Eli Jacobson - Kenneth Rexroth

December 1952

There are few of us now, soon
There will be none. We were comrades
Together, we believed we
Would see with our own eyes the new
World where man was no longer
Wolf to man, but men and women
Were all brothers and lovers
Together. We will not see it.
We will not see it, none of us.
It is farther off than we thought.
In our young days we believed
That as we grew old and fell
Out of rank, new recruits, young
And with the wisdom of youth,
Would take our places and they
Surely would grow old in the
Golden Age. They have not come.
They will not come. There are not
Many of us left. Once we
Marched in closed ranks, today each
Of us fights off the enemy,
A lonely isolated guerrilla.
All this has happened before,
Many times. It does not matter.
We were comrades together.
Life was good for us. It is
Good to be brave — nothing is
Better. Food tastes better. Wine
Is more brilliant. Girls are more
Beautiful. The sky is bluer
For the brave — for the brave and
Happy comrades and for the
Lonely brave retreating warriors.
You had a good life. Even all
Its sorrows and defeats and
Disillusionments were good,
Met with courage and a gay heart.
You are gone and we are that
Much more alone. We are one fewer,
Soon we shall be none. We know now
We have failed for a long time.
And we do not care. We few will
Remember as long as we can,
Our children may remember,
Some day the world will remember.
Then they will say, “They lived in
The days of the good comrades.
It must have been wonderful
To have been alive then, though it
Is very beautiful now.”
We will be remembered, all
Of us, always, by all men,
In the good days now so far away.
If the good days never come,
We will not know. We will not care.
Our lives were the best. We were the
Happiest men alive in our day.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

383. Strawberries - Edwin Morgan

There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you
let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

382. The End And The Beginning - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from Polish by Joanna Maria Trzeciak

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won't
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We'll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

381. Images - Valery Larbaud

(Translated from the French by William Jay Smith)

One day in a popular quarter of Kharkov,
(O that southern Russia where all the women
With white-shawled heads look so like Madonnas!)
I saw a young woman returning from the fountain,
Bearing, Russian-style, as Roman women did in the time of Ovid,
Two pails suspended from the ends of a wooden
Yoke balanced on neck and shoulders.
And I saw a child in rags approach and speak to her.
Then, bending her body lovingly to the right,
She moved so the pail of pure water touched the cobblestone
Level with the lips of the child who had kneeled to drink.

One morning, in Rotterdam, on Boompjes quai
(It was September 18, 1900, around eight o'clock),
I observed two young ladies on their way to work;
Opposite one of the great iron bridges, they said farewell,
Their paths diverging.
Tenderly they embraced; their trembling hands
Wanted, but did not want, to part; their mouths
Withdrew sadly and came together again soon again
While they gazed fixedly into each other's eyes . . .
They stood thus for a long moment side by side,
Straight and still amid the busy throng,
While the tugboats rumbled by on the river,
And the whistling trains maneuvered on the iron bridges.

Between Cordova and Seville
Is a little station where the South Express,
For no apparent reason, always stops.
In vain the traveler looks for a village
Beyond the station asleep under the eucalyptus:
He sees but the Andalusian countryside: green and golden.
But across the way, on the other side of the track,
Is a hut made of black boughs and clay.
From which, at the sound of the train, ragged children swarm forth,
The eldest sister, leading them, comes forward on the platform
And, smiling, without uttering word,
Dances for pennies.
Her feet in the heavy dust look black;
Her dark, filthy face is devoid of beauty;
She dances, and through the large holes of her ash-gray skirt,
One can see the the agitation of her thin, naked thighs,
And the roll of her little yellow belly;
At the sight of which a few gentlemen,
Amid an aroma of cigars, chuckle obscenely in the dining car.

O Lord will it never be possible for me
To know the sweet woman, there in southern Russia,
And those two young friends in Rotterdam,
And the young Andalusian beggar
And join with them
In an indissoluble friendship?
(Alas, they will not read these poems,
They will know neither my name, nor the feeling in my heart;
And yet they exist; they live now).
Will it never be possible for me to experience the great joy
Of knowing them?
For some strange reason, Lord, I feel that with those four
I should conquer a whole world!

Monday, April 09, 2007

380. In Answer To Your Query - Naomi Lazard

We are sorry to inform you
the item you ordered
is no longer being produced.
It has not gone out of style
nor have people lost interest in it.
In fact, it has become
one of our most desired products.
Its popularity is still growing.
Orders for it come in
at an ever increasing rate.
However, a top-level decision
has caused this product
to be discontinued forever.

Instead of the item you ordered
we are sending you something else.
It is not the same thing,
nor is it a reasonable facsimile.
It is what we have in stock,
the very best we can offer.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

379. Sarah's Song - Jane Flanders

Always, I am leaving you,
As fragrance leaves lavender,
As the ladybird leaves cupped hands,
As stiffness departs from starched linen.
As the memory of starched linen departs.

I am going away so gradually
No one will notice,
As flavor leaves fruit, as
Men leave pleasure, unwillingly.
As ice leaves the river,
I am leaving you.

Always you will discover
Something of me has vanished during the night,
Something no one can do without.
You have told yourself this so long
You are beginning to doubt it.
Do not doubt, it is true,
But it takes a long time.

You must not count my age in years,
But days, even hours,
There will be more that way.
They will approximate my departure.

It is not easy, this drifting away,
Maintaining what stays behind,
The empty lung, the hair,
Fingers playing the sheet.

My limbs grow wafer-light.
My skull is a bowl of dark wine.
You raise me up, higher than your head.
People have gathered,
But I cannot fly. The leaving is gradual.

You think this song will end.
You buy a black hat, hire the mourners.
One of them dies.
I help grieve for her.

You prepare my last meal, and again my last.
We are progressing.
You must think of the cracks on the ceiling,
The peculiar behaviour of mice.
It will become automatic as breath,
You will say, yes,
She is still among us.

Friday, April 06, 2007

378. My Country In Darkness - Eavan Boland

After the wolves and before the elms
the bardic order ended in Ireland.

Only a few remained to continue
a dead art in a dying land:

This is a man
on the road from Youghal to Cahirmoyle.
He has no comfort, no food and no future.
He has no fire to recite his friendless measures by.
His riddles and flatteries will have no reward.
His patrons sheath their swords in Flanders and Madrid.

Reader of poems, lover of poetry—
in case you thought this was a gentle art
follow this man on a moonless night
to the wretched bed he will have to make:

The Gaelic world stretches out under a hawthorn tree
and burns in the rain. This is its home,
its last frail shelter. All of it—
Limerick, the Wild Geese and what went before—
falters into cadence before he sleeps:
He shuts his eyes. Darkness falls on it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

377. The Work Of The Poet Is To Name What Is Holy - Diane Ackerman

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy:

the spring snow
that hides unevenness
but also records
a dog walked at lunchtime,
the hieroglyphs of birds,
pawprints of a life
tiny but resolute;

how, like Russian dolls,
we nest in previous selves;

the lustrous itch
that compels an oyster
to forge a pearl,
or a poet a verse;

the drawing on of evening
belted at the waist;

snowfields of diamond dust;

the cozy monotony
of our days, in which
love appears with a holler;

the way a man's body
has its own geography––
cliffs, aqueducts, pumice fields,
but a woman's is the jungle,
hot, steamy, full of song;

the brain's curiosity shop
filled with quaint mementos
and shadow antiques
hidden away in drawers;

the plain geometry
of you, me, and art––
our angles at rest
among shifting forms.

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy,

and not to mind so much
the pinch of words
to cope with memories
weak as falling buildings,

or render loss, love,
and the penitentiary
of worry where we live.

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy,
a task fit for eternity,
or the small Eden of this hour.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

376. Drinking Wine - Wislaswa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

He looked at me, bestowing beauty,
and I took it for my own.
Happy, I swallowed a star.

I let him invent me
in the image of the reflection
in his eyes. I dance, I dance
in an abundance of sudden wings.

A table is a table, wine is wine
in a wineglass, which is a wineglass
and it stands standing on a table
but I am a phantasm,
a phantasm beyond belief,
a phantasm to the core.

I tell him what he wants to hear—

about ants dying of love
under a dandelion's constellation.
I swear that sprinkled with wine
a white rose will sing.

I laugh, and tilt my head
carefully, as if I were testing
an invention. I dance, I dance
in astounded skin, in the embrace
that creates me.

Eve from a rib, Venus from sea foam,
Minerva from the head of Jove
were much more real.

When he's not looking at me,
I search for my reflection
on the wall. All I see
is a nail on which a painting hung.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

375. The Secret - Denise Levertov

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

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

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

Monday, April 02, 2007

374. Tracks - Tomas Tranströmer

(Translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly)

Night, two o'clock: moonlight. The train has stopped
in the middle of the plain. Distant bright points of a town
twinkle cold on the horizon.

As when someone has gone into a dream so far
that he'll never remember he was there
when he comes back to his room.

And as when someone goes into a sickness so deep
that all his former days become twinkling points, a swarm,
cold and feeble on the horizon.

The train stands perfectly still.
Two o'clock: full moonlight, few stars.