Friday, December 25, 2009

843. Sunrise - Mary Oliver

.
You can
die for it -
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. but

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

842. The Laboratory - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Walter Whipple

Did it all
happen in the laboratory?
Beneath one lamp by day
and billions by night?

Are we a trial generation?
Poured from one beaker to another,
shaken in retorts,
observed by something more than an eye,
each one individually
taken by forceps?

Or maybe otherwise:
no interventions.
The transformations occur on their own
in accordance with a plan.
The needle draws
the expected zigzags.

Maybe until now there was nothing interesting in us.
The control monitors are seldom switched on,
except when there's a war, and a rather big one at that,
several flights over the lump of clay called Earth,
or significant movements from point A to point B.

Or perhaps thus:
they only have a taste for episodes.
Look! a little girl on a big screen
is sewing a button to her sleeve.

The monitors begin to shriek,
personnel come running in.
Oh, what short of tiny creature
with a little heart beating on the inside!
What graceful dignity
in the way she draws the thread!
Someone calls out in rapture:
Tell the Boss,
and let him come see for himself!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

841. A Primer of the daily Round - Howard Nemerov

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E's knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H's grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L's head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away.

Friday, December 11, 2009

840. But Wise Men Apprehend What Is Imminent - C. P. Cavafy

Translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn

"The gods perceive what lies in the future, and mortals, what occurs in the present, but wise men apprehend what is imminent."
-Philostratus, Life of Apolloniur of Tyans, VII, 7

Mortal men perceive things as they happen.
What lies in the future the gods perceive,
full and sole possessors of all enlightenment.
Of all the future holds, wise men apprehend
what is imminent. Their hearing,

sometimes, in moments of complete
absorption in their studies, is disturbed. The secret call
of events that are about to happen reaches them.
And they listen to it reverently. While in the street
outside, the people hear nothing at all.

Monday, December 07, 2009

839. Of Simplicity - James Kavanaugh

.
Simplicity calls
After all the schemings done,
Now that I've paid homage
To damn near everyone.
God should be satisfied,
Parents got their due.
My education's justified.
I proved myself to you.

Simplicity calls
Now that everyone's been paid,
But even so I hesitate
Because I'm still afraid.
One of these days,
I'll jump the last few walls:
Give no explanation
Save "Simplicity calls"!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

838. Insomnia - Linda Pastan

.
I remember when my body
was a friend.

when sleep like a good dog
came when summoned.

The door to the future
had not started to shut,

and lying on my back
between cold sheets

did not feel
like a rehearsal.

Now what light is left
comes up—a stain in the east,

and sleep, reluctant
as a busy doctor,

gives me a little
of its time.