Saturday, December 24, 2016

999. The Good Shepherd - Stanley Moss

Because he would not abandon the flock for a lost sheep
after the others had bedded down for the night,
he turned back, searched the thickets and gullies.
Sleepless, while the flock dozed in the morning mist
he searched the pastures up ahead. Winter nearing,
our wool heavy with brambles, ropes of muddy ice,
he did not abandon the lost sheep, even when the snows came.
Still, I knew there was only a thin line
between the good shepherd and the butcher.
How many lambs had put their heads between the shepherd’s knees,
closed their eyes, offering their neck to the knife?
Familiar – the quick thuds of the club doing its work.
More than once at night I saw the halo coming.
I ran like a deer and hid among rocks,
or I crawled under a bush, my heart in thorns.
During the day I lived my life in clover
watching out for the halo.
I swore on the day the good shepherd catches hold,
trying to wrestle me to the ground and bind my feet,
I will buck like a ram and bite like a wolf,
although I taste the famous blood
I will break loose! I will race under the gates of heaven,

back to the mortal fields, my flock, my stubbled grass and mud.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

998. Compass - Jorge Luis Borges

  Translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reed

Every single thing becomes a word
in a language that Someone or Something, night and day,
writes down in a never-ending scribble,
which is the history of the world, embracing

Rome, Carthage, you, me, everyone,
my life, which I do not understand, this anguish
of being enigma, accident, and puzzle,
and all the discordant languages of Babel.

Behind each name lies that which has no name.
Today I felt its nameless shadow tremble
in the blue clarity of the compass needle,

whose rule extends as far as the far seas,
something like a clock glimpsed in a dream

or a bird that stirs suddenly in its sleep.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

997. Hojoki - Kennith Rexroth

Hojoki by Kennith Rexroth

A thing unknown for years, 
Rain falls heavily in June, 
On the ripe cherries, and on 
The half cut hay. 
Above the glittering 
Grey water of the inlet, 
In the driving, light filled mist, 
A blue heron 
Catches mice in the green 
And copper and citron swathes. 
I walk on the rainy hills. 

It is enough.

Friday, October 21, 2016

996. The Real World - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated by S. BaraƄczak and C. Cavanagh

The real world doesn’t take flight
the way dreams do.
No muffled voice, no doorbell
can dispel it,
no shriek, no crash
can cut it short.

Images in dreams
are hazy and ambiguous,
and can generally be explained
in many different ways.
Reality means reality:
that’s a tougher nut to crack.

Dreams have keys.
The real world opens on its own
and can’t be shut.
Report cards and stars
pour from it,
butterflies and flatiron warmers
shower down,
headless caps
and shards of clouds.
Together they form a rebus
that can’t be solved.

Without us dreams couldn’t exist.
The one on whom the real world depends
is still unknown,
and the products of his insomnia
are available to anyone
who wakes up.

Dreams aren’t crazy—
it’s the real world that’s insane,
if only in the stubbornness
with which it sticks
to the current of events.

It dreams our recently deceased
are still alive,
in perfect health, no less,
and restored to the full bloom of youth.
The real world lays the corpse
in front of us.
The real world doesn’t blink an eye.

Dreams are featherweights,
and memory can shake them off with ease.
The real world doesn’t have to fear forgetfulness.
It’s a tough customer.
It sits on our shoulders,
weighs on our hearts,
tumbles to our feet.

There’s no escaping it,
it tags along each time we flee.
And there’s no stop
along our escape route
where reality isn’t expecting us.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

995. Villanelle For Our Time - Frank Scott

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.

The lesser loyalties depart
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart

We rise to play a greater part.

Monday, August 15, 2016

994. For The Living - Stephen Meadows

Standing high on this hillside
the wind off the Pacific
forming the language of grasses
and escarpment eternally speaking
the sea birds far out
on their planes of air
gather and squander
what the short days encompass
We make what we can
of what reason can give us
we take from these all too brief moments
some reckoning of meaning
hoping as we hurtle haphazard
through this storm of a cosmos
to make some small imprint
while the birds in their white realm
reeling over the tumbling green ocean
this plated earth gliding
beneath us like a wind
under shoulders
and the language we hear
in the grass on this hillside
is all of it mythic and wondrous

as the Goddesses dream

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

993. Andree Rexroth by Kenneth Rexroth

Mt. Tamalpais

The years have gone. It is spring
Again. Mars and Saturn will
Soon come on, low in the West,
In the dusk. Now the evening

Sunlight makes hazy girders
Over Steep Ravine above 
The waterfalls. The winter
Birds from Oregon, robins
And varied thrushes, feast on
Ripe toyon and madrone
Berries. The robins sing as
The dense light falls,
Your Ashes
Were scattered in this place. Here
I wrote you a farewell poem,
And long ago another,
A poem of peace and love,
Of the lassitude of a long
Spring evening in youth. Now
It is almost ten years since
You came here to stay. Once more,
The pussy willows that come
After the New Year in this
Outlandish land are blooming.
There are deer and raccoon tracks
In the same places. A few
New sand bars and cobble beds
Have been left where erosion
Has gnawed deep into the hills.
The rounds of life are narrow.
War and peace have past like ghosts.
The human race sinks towards
Oblivion. A bittern
Calls from the same rushes where
You heard one on our first year
In the West; and where I heard
One again in the year
Of your death.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

992. Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain - Li Po

The birds have vanished down the sky,
Now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me,

until only the mountain remains.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

991. Eagle Poem - Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo - Eagle Poem

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you , see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we 
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.

In beauty.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

990. An Idea - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

An idea came to me
for a rhyme? a poem?
Well, fine I say stay awhile, we’ll talk.
Tell me a little more about yourself.
So it whispered a few words in my ear.
Ah, so that’s the story I say intriguing.
These matters have long weighed upon my heart.
But a poem about them? I don’t think so.
So it whispered a few words in my ear.
It may seem that way I reply
but you overestimate my gifts and powers.
I wouldn’t even know where to start.
So it whispered a few words in my ear.
You’re wrong I say a short, pithy poem
is much harder than a long one.
Don’t pester me, don’t nag, it won’t turn out.
So it whispered a few words in by ear.
All right then, I’ll try, since you insist.
But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I write, tear it up, and toss it out.
So it whispered a few words in by ear.
You’re right I say there are always other poets.
Some of them can do better.
I’ll give you names and addresses.
So it whispered a few words in by ear.
Of course I’ll envy them.
We envy even the weak poems.
But this one should . . . it ought to have . . .
So it whispered a few words in my ear.
Exactly, to have the qualities you’ve listed.
So let’s change the subject.
How about a cup of coffee?

  It just sighed.

And started vanishing.

And vanished.