Monday, February 28, 2011

A. E.Housman

From "More Poems"


I lay me down and slumber
And every morn revive.
Whose is the night-long breathing
That keeps a man alive?

When I was off to dreamland
And left my limbs forgot,
Who stayed at home to mind them,
And breathed when I did not?

. . . . .

-- I waste my time in talking,
No heed at all takes he,
My kind and foolish comrade
That breathes all night for me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sylvia Plath

The telegram says you have gone away
And left our bankrupt circus on its town;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The maestro gives the singing birds their pay
And they buy tickets for the tropic zone;
The telegram says you have gone away.

The clever wolly dogs have had their day
They shoot the dice for one remaining bone;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The lion and the tigers turn to clay
And Jumbo sadly trumpets into stone;
The telegram says you have gone away.

The morbid cobra's wits have run astray;
He rents his poisons out by telegram;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The colored tenst all topple in the bay;
The magic sawdust writes: address unknown.
The telegram says you have gone away;
There is nothing more for me to say.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sylvia Plath

All the Dead Dears
In the Archæological Museum in Cambridge is a stone
coffin of the fourth century A.D. containing the skeletons
of a woman, a mouse and a shrew. The ankle-bone of the
woman has been slightly gnawed.

Rigged poker -stiff on her back
With a granite grin
This antique museum-cased lady
Lies, companioned by the gimcrack
Relics of a mouse and a shrew
That battened for a day on her ankle-bone.

These three, unmasked now, bear
Dry witness
To the gross eating game
We'd wink at if we didn't hear
Stars grinding, crumb by crumb,
Our own grist down to its bony face.

How they grip us through think and thick,
These barnacle dead!
This lady here's no kin
Of mine, yet kin she is: she'll suck
Blood and whistle my narrow clean
To prove it. As I think now of her hand,

From the mercury-backed glass
Mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother
Reach hag hands to haul me in,
And an image looms under the fishpond surface
Where the daft father went down
With orange duck-feet winnowing this hair ---

All the long gone darlings: They
Get back, though, soon,
Soon: be it by wakes, weddings,
Childbirths or a family barbecue:
Any touch, taste, tang's
Fit for those outlaws to ride home on,

And to sanctuary: usurping the armchair
Between tick
And tack of the clock, until we go,
Each skulled-and-crossboned Gulliver
Riddled with ghosts, to lie
Deadlocked with them, taking roots as cradles rock.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Al Purdy

The Dead Poet
Al Purdy

I was altered in the placenta
by the dead brother before me
who built a place in the womb
knowing I was coming:
he wrote words on the walls of flesh
painting a woman inside a woman
whispering a faint lullaby
that sings in my blind heart still

The others were lumberjacks
backwoods wrestlers and farmers
their women were meek and mild
nothing of them survives
but an image inside an image
of a cookstove and the kettle boiling
— how else explain myself to myself
where does the song come from?

Now on my wanderings:
at the Alhambra's lyric dazzle
where the Moors built stone poems
a wan white face peering out
— and the shadow in Plato's cave
remembers the small dead one
— at Samarkand in pale blue light
the words came slowly from him
— I recall the music of blood
on the Street of the Silversmiths

Sleep softly spirit of earth
as the days and nights join hands
when everything becomes one thing
wait softly brother
but do not expect it to happen
that great whoop announcing resurrection
expect only a small whisper
of birds nesting and green things growing
and a brief saying of them
and know where the words came from

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jorge Luis Borges

Oh destiny of Borges
to have sailed across the diverse seas of the world
or across that single and solitary sea of diverse
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,
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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vincente Huidobro

A small town
A train stopped on the plain

Deaf stars sleep
in every puddle
And the water trembles
Curtains to the wind

Night hangs in the grove

A lively drizzle
From the flower-covered steeple
Bleeds the stars

Now and then
Ripe hours

Drop on life

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Angela Garcia

I touch the breath. With my index finger and thumb I gently press emptiness. Touch refers to heat. The hand with its loose expectant fingers while the pioneering index finger and thumb, their tips almost lightly touching, drink the sensation, deceived by the indefinable contour of that which is touched. They touch the thing struggling between them, the flame, for a short while a tongue held upwards, contradicting gravity and unhurriedly taking, drinking the air while its heart waves: a transparent night. But this flame is a drop, a substance, a circle at times like the almond-shaped eye of its indigo well, so transparent.

The fixed look in the flame builds another. One in each pupil, twins, with the same oxygen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Andrea Cote

Do not summon any longer, María,
the soul of destitute things
that are no more than the bones of this dead house.

Do not look for the emptiness of your body in the walls
that do not know about you
that do not ask about you;
nor for the scars in the air
of the embalmed blue
that’s only here as proof of an abolished sky.

The landscape is all that you see,
but it doesn’t know you exist,
just as these things will tell nothing about you,
about your wounds.

Remember, María,
that you are the house and the walls
that you came to demolish
and that childhood is the territory
in which the spook longs for
I don’t know what dark nook to stay on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tomas Transtromer

The Half-Finished Heaven
Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a drink.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

John Keats

Bright Star
by John Keats

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gabriela Mistral

The Stranger (La Extranjera)

She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands;
She prays to a formless, weightless God,
Aged, as if dying.
In our garden now so strange,
She has planted cactus and alien grass.
The desert zephyr fills her with its breath
And she has loved with a fierce, white passion
She never speaks of, for if she were to tell
It would be like the face of unknown stars.
Among us she may live for eighty years,
Yet always as if newly come,
Speaking a tongue that plants and whines
Only by tiny creatures understood.
And she will die here in our midst
One night of utmost suffering,
With only her fate as a pillow,
And death, silent and strange.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rabgyai Basang


When I was still a child at the breast,

I never thought of molding clay figures, or playing hide-and-seek,

Nor of the sky and earth,

But I had a vague impression:

“There is nothing in the world

As sweet as my motherland’s embrace.”

From the remote border region,

I crossed the Yangtze and Yellow rivers:

Though I haven’t been to the Changbai Mountains,

I whisper to myself in my heart:

“There is nothing in the world

As sweet as my motherland’s embrace.”


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tao Chien

I made my home amidst this human bustle,
Yet I hear no clamour from the carts and horses.
My friend, you ask me how this can be so?
A distant heart will tend towards like places.
From the eastern hedge, I pluck chrysanthemum flowers,
And idly look towards the southern hills.
The mountain air is beautiful day and night,
The birds fly back to roost with one another.
I know that this must have some deeper meaning,
I try to explain, but cannot find the words.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Margaret Atwood

This Is A Photograph Of Me

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alexander Pope

Ode on Solitude
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose heards with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

William Butler Yeats

After Long Silence by William Butler Yeats
Speech after long silence; it is right,
All other lovers being estranged or dead,
Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade,
The curtains drawn upon unfriendly night,
That we descant and yet again descant
Upon the supreme theme of Art and Song:
Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young
We loved each other and were ignorant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adrienne Rich

Living In Sin by Adrienne Rich
She had thought the studio would keep itself;
no dust upon the furniture of love.
Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal,
the panes relieved of grime. A plate of pears,
a piano with a Persian shawl, a cat
stalking the picturesque amusing mouse
had risen at his urging.
Not that at five each separate stair would writhe
under the milkman's tramp; that morning light
so coldly would delineate the scraps
of last night's cheese and three sepulchral bottles;
that on the kitchen shelf amoong the saucers
a pair of beetle-eyes would fix her own--
envoy from some village in the moldings...
Meanwhile, he, with a yawn,
sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard,
declared it out of tune, shrugged at the mirror,
rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes;
while she, jeered by the minor demons,
pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found
a towel to dust the table-top,
and let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove.
By evening she was back in love again,
though not so wholly but throughout the night
she woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming
like a relentless milkman up the stairs.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Joseph Brodsky

Belfast Tune
Here's a girl from a dangerous town
She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
when someone gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
Dropped, she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
here where they eat.

Ah, there's more sky in these parts than, say,
ground. Hence her voice's pitch,
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
bulb when you switch

hemispheres, and her knee-length quilt
skirt's cut to catch the squall,
I dream of her either loved or killed
because the town's too small.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

John Donne

Holy Sonnets X

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

~John Donne

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hsu Yun


Cold smoke lingers like fog around a single lit house.
Like a lonely star the house rises up out of the cloud.

The ground is red like the inside of a fish's cheeks.
The mountains dark blue like a spiral conch's flared headdress.

Around half the pond grow poet Tao Qian's willows
And every ten miles stands one of Lord Xie Lingyun's pavilions.

To say Hello and Goodbye to such congenial and famous guests
Takes my breath away! Gives me a heady feeling
That's pretty hard to match.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alberto Velez

She is alone.
She strokes her face with a cold hand, forcing a smile.
What weariness.
How heavy, the hour on her back.
It folds, takes shelter in her tremulous flesh.
It’s not loneliness she fears
But those necessary encounters
Hitting her with handshakes, laughter,
Jokes, opinions.
She would so much like to be alive. But she cannot.
Day after day work devours her.
Crushes her against her own bones.
If she could fly and close her eyes,
Turn into rain, or wind,
Into a child again.

But she is alone. And doesn’t dream.
Weariness flows down her cheeks
And overwhelms her,
Sinks her into a guttural sob
That strips her naked.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Miguel Hernandes

Final Sonnet
For un-feathering the glacial archangels,
the barbed-lily snowfall of slender teeth
is condemned to the weeping of fountains
and the sadness of well-springs.
For diffusing its soul into metal,
for the fire to grant its sunrise to iron,
the torrential blacksmiths’ draw it
to the sorrow of harsh anvils.
To the painful sting of the thorn,
to the fatal discouragement of the rose,
and the corrosive action of dying,
I see myself given, and all this ruin
is for no other misfortune, no other reason
than loving you, and only loving you.