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.
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
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.
8 . 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.
A NOOK TO STAY . 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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, eventually you will be able to see me.)
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.
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.
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.
PORTRAIT . 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.
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.