Love by Czeslaw Milosz . Love means to learn to look at yourself The way one looks at distant things For you are only one thing among many. And whoever sees that way heals his heart, Without knowing it, from various ills— A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things So that they stand in the glow of ripeness. It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves: Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
Elegy . Oh destiny of Borges to have sailed across the diverse seas of the world or across that single and solitary sea of diverse names, to have been a part of Edinburgh, of Zurich, of the two Cordobas, of Colombia and of Texas, to have returned at the end of changing generations to the ancient lands of his forebears, to Andalucia, to Portugal and to those counties where the Saxon warred with the Dane and they mixed their blood, to have wandered through the red and tranquil labyrinth of London, to have grown old in so many mirrors, to have sought in vain the marble gaze of the statues, to have questioned lithographs, encyclopedias, atlases, to have seen the things that men see, death, the sluggish dawn, the plains, and the delicate stars, and to have seen nothing, or almost nothing except the face of a girl from Buenos Aires a face that does not want you to remember it. Oh destiny of Borges, perhaps no stranger than your own.
I’VE BROUGHT THIS SUMMER JUST FOR YOU . Your chest’s meadow has dried up You don’t write letters these days There’s a tumult of tears In your tempered letters Your body’s so tender; it makes me Want to cover you with many arms
There is no one else on this summer street, except The postman carrying his bag of strangled letters, And the girl who’s lost her childhood secrets When the strange bird of summer That drinks up all the streams in one swift gulp Arrives quietly, the rocks too come awake Children refuse to play Beneath the sun that daily soaks in blood and rises Inside an empty house, The telephone’s been ringing for a long time now Girls’ eyes are afloat in the haze
In an earlier summer, too hot For trees to stand their ground, You had called my body a live expanse I found, when I awoke from sleep, That the handbag where I had stashed away your kisses And our quarrels stiff with the salt of tears, Had been opened This summer that brings to mind A doused lamp’s acrid smell, I’ve brought along just for you Do write me letters. Do.
‘It Would Have Been Less Painful’ (IX: From ‘El Rayo Que No Cesa’)
It would have been less painful if it had been hard your complexion to my gaze, hard, thistle your skin to my touch, thistle, bitter-apple your voice to my ears, bitter. Bitter-apple is your voice to my ears, bitter, and I burn, in and around your voice, I burn, and I’m slow to burn, what I’m slow to offer, juniper oil, my voice for yours, juniper. Briar is your hand, if I hold it, briar, wave your body, if I reach for it, wave, close to me once, yet a thousand times not close. Heron is my pain, a slender sad heron, alone like a breath and a cry, alone, stubborn in its error and disgrace, stubborn.
He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven . Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
In My Craft Or Sullen Art . In my craft or sullen art Exercised in the still night When only the moon rages And the lovers lie abed With all their griefs in their arms I labour by singing light Not for ambition or bread Or the strut and trade of charms On the ivory stages But for the common wages Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart From the raging moon I write On these spindrift pages Nor for the towering dead With their nightingales and psalms But for the lovers, their arms Round the griefs of the ages, Who pay no praise or wages Nor heed my craft or art.
Solitude by Anna Akhmatova . So many stones have been thrown at me, That I'm not frightened of them anymore, And the pit has become a solid tower, Tall among tall towers. I thank the builders, May care and sadness pass them by. From here I'll see the sunrise earlier, Here the sun's last ray rejoices. And into the windows of my room The northern breezes often fly. And from my hand a dove eats grains of wheat... As for my unfinished page, The Muse's tawny hand, divinely calm And delicate, will finish it.
Your Buildings . Your buildings, tall and alien, Cover the land; Unfeeling concrete smothers, windows glint Like water to the sun. No breezes blow Through standing trees; No scent of pine lightens my burden. . I see your buildings rising skyward, majestic. Over the trails where once men walked, Significant rulers of this land Who still hold the aboriginal title In their hearts.
And Magdalene, after seven wasted years and dizzying hours of watching their blindness, heads to the desert, and this new space is a bowl God has made for her, and sand can be prayer, and stars eyes, and what can not be undone, skinned, turned inside out? Wind is her lover, the slim moon her torch, scorpions her servants with their wily calm, their armor— she longs for such armor. Here each thing shifts and slides, and nothing can be counted, or counted upon, the sun rules everything, even the cave, and she has never known such heat, its blast another kind of God, one not to be tackled— if this is a kiln, what mad potter placed her here, and can sweat be tears? her nakedness slick and proud, can it be armor? and nothing left between her and what comes close.
The Way Through The Woods . They shut the road through the woods Seventy years ago. Weather and rain have undone it again, And now you would never know There was once a road through the woods Before they planted the trees. It is underneath the coppice and heath, And the thin anemones. Only the keeper sees That, where the ring-dove broods, And the badgers roll at ease, There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods Of a summer evening late, When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools Where the otter whistles his mate. (They fear not men in the woods, Because they see so few) You will hear the beat of a horse's feet, And the swish of a skirt in the dew, Steadily cantering through The misty solitudes, As though they perfectly knew The old lost road through the woods…. But there is no road through the woods.
The Kiss . My mouth blooms like a cut. I've been wronged all year, tedious nights, nothing but rough elbows in them and delicate boxes of Kleenex calling crybaby crybaby , you fool !
Before today my body was useless. Now it's tearing at its square corners. It's tearing old Mary's garments off, knot by knot and see — Now it's shot full of these electric bolts. Zing! A resurrection!
Once it was a boat, quite wooden and with no business, no salt water under it and in need of some paint. It was no more than a group of boards. But you hoisted her, rigged her. She's been elected.
My nerves are turned on. I hear them like musical instruments. Where there was silence the drums, the strings are incurably playing. You did this. Pure genius at work. Darling, the composer has stepped into fire.
public space . Wandering wordless through the heat of High Park. High summer. Counting the chipmunks who pause and demand the scrub stand by till their flitty, piggybacked equal signs can think through this math of dogwood, oak-whip, mulch. Children glue mouths to ice cream and chips, punch and kick at the geese, while rug-thick islands of milt-like scum sail the duckpond’s copper stillness – Over-fat, hammerhead carp with predator brains... We can wreck a day on the shoals of ourselves. Cramped, you broke last night and wept at the war, at the ionized, cobalt glow that fish-tanked the air. We’re here to be emptied under the emptying sky, eyes cast outward, trolling for the extraordinary.
Returning To Live in the South . When young, I'd not enjoyed the common pleasures, My nature's basic love was for the hills. Mistakenly I fell into the worldly net, And thus remained for thirteen years. A bird once caged must yearn for its old forest, A fish in a pond will long to return to the lake. So now I want to head to southern lands, Returning to my fields and orchards there. About ten acres of land is all I have, Just eight or nine rooms there in my thatched hut. There's shade from elms and willows behind the eaves, Before the hall are gathered peaches and plums. Beyond the dark and distance lies a village, The smoke above reluctant to depart. A dog is barking somewhere down the lane, And chickens sit atop the mulberry tree. The mundane world has no place in my home, My modest rooms are for the most part vacant. At last I feel released from my confinement, I set myself to rights again.
Poetry . The words come Fluttering, thundering Returning from a journey They only give hints at, Tickling the imagination And caressing the heart; They arrive with no rules to hold them, And drift into place-- Read aloud, perhaps senseless, But held quietly, and they grow-- Into feelings envisioned, Into truths admitted, Into landscapes of us.
Child's Park Stones . In sunless air, under pines Green to the point of blackness, some Founding father set these lobed, warped stones To loom in the leaf-filtered gloom Black as the charred knuckle-bones
Of a giant or extinct Animal, come from another Age, another planet surely. Flanked By the orange and fuchsia bonfire Of azaleas, sacrosanct
These stones guard a dark repose And keep their shapes intact while sun Alters shadows of rose and iris --- Long, short, long --- in the lit garden And kindles a day's-end blaze
Colored to dull the pigment Of azaleas, yet burnt out Quick as they. To follow the light's tint And intensity by midnight By noon and throughout the brunt
Of various weathers is To know the still heart of the stones: Stones that take the whole summer to lose Their dream of the winter's cold; stones Warming at core only as
Frost forms. No man's crowbar could Uproot them: their beards are ever- Green. Nor do they, once in a hundred Years, go down to drink the river: No thirst disturbs a stone's bed.
In that place either silent or blind You're writing the only poem. In the backyard of time you've written the lines to replace words and objects.
Before the destruction you started the poem which no one can kidnap, which has no beginning. It's approaching the winter. The pen tip gleams. The last stroke in the dark brings the world to a sudden halt.
Those whose ears were stolen will never forgive. The disaster caused by the snow storm awoke all the intoxicated.
A gardener who keeps death and roses is trying to learn cool wisdom with the short days of his life. Doors and windows are tightly closed. How you wish you could keep your relatives here and let trees enjoy the silent twilight.
You're doomed to write this only poem. The breath of the blooming words is short-- you linger on.
Broken Stars . Walking a summer road, following humanities trail. Revealing light of constellations amid scattered stars of broken glass. Glinting remains of pepsi, 7-up and beer bottles. Wondering if a lesson is to be found… Nothing else comes As man made stars destine me to silently and hypnotically move along.
Archaeologists document: The history of any culture is told in garbage. By this account modern civilization has already thrown away its tale. Leaving me to understand: The time of lessons just passed on by.