ALL things can tempt me from this craft of verse:
One time it was a woman's face, or worse --
The seeming needs of my fool-driven land;
Now nothing but comes readier to the hand
Than this accustomed toil. When I was young,
I had not given a penny for a song
Did not the poet Sing it with such airs
That one believed he had a sword upstairs;
Yet would be now, could I but have my wish,
Colder and dumber and deafer than a fish.
Alas! This Is Not What I Thought Life Was
Alas! this is not what I thought life was.
I knew that there were crimes and evil men,
Misery and hate; nor did I hope to pass
Untouched by suffering, through the rugged glen.
In mine own heart I saw as in a glass
The hearts of others ... And when
I went among my kind, with triple brass
Of calm endurance my weak breast I armed,
To bear scorn, fear, and hate, a woful mass!
THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,
Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling she knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.
No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea.'
Fire on the mountain, fire under the lake.
Like children, we look on and dream.
We are loved, and none of the images
for love is absolute, so we are frightened.
We cast a glance into our past,
and not at any remarkable affair
but ordinary efforts – that spray of light
at breakfast where we ran out of milk –
we feel as somehow true.
Dare we touch it with a word
it loses its meaning, though not
its beauty. It becomes a fire
in the heart, incomprehensible and expressive,
an image of the whole, so that when finally a man
falls in love with life, it is like an arbor
begged of a desert, for he has accepted
the mirage. Now he is filled with goodness,
as if the unknown were something somehow
sightly slowed, a whole world
in one mountain, pool, and sky
under which we sit sipping milk.
So we are twelve again,
our sexual experience of the world focused
on that tree under which we undress.
The willow caresses us with a sudden gust,
but we have already turned, made up our mind.
It’s very cold in the mornings, and hot by noon.
Plants grow slowly and never die completely.
Nowhere is there greater sympathy
than between the porcelain sky
and the chlorinated waters of the pools.
Still it stays with us that at any moment
a miracle might enter us as easily.
For we are lucky, we are children
in their fullest expression – lonesome
because we are moving through time
like a dot that becomes a sleeping figure
who is actually dead,
who has been killed,
and from whose nightmare
we continually wake into another
world, a moment we feel like kissing
someone’s half-open mouth, once only
an image of fire and water.
From: Sadness of Spacemen. Toronto: Dreadnaught Press, 1980.
Come to me
I know we are out of sync
I know they will call it dying
but come to me anyway
I have tried to hate you with the strength
of many animals and I cannot hate you
so come to me burning
and I also will burn
come to me with ancient music and I will be a snake
writhing with my many wrists
each one more undulant than your long hair
o I still have nights and nights of you
all queued up in the thirst of a single slave
to work out
come to me with snow and I will promise
to be red in it
come to me unique and I will match you
stare for stare
come to me in greek in spanish in french in hebrew
and I will sing that I found you
because I overthrew reason
because I live in the wreck of my senses
by wish and magic
like a roc in the ruins of its egg
come to me dancing
that dark bacchanal of your kiss
so wet on my lips for days I will not want
drugs or water
just your own sea broken like a sheet of lightning
on your thigh so sensual
come to me because we will arrive
anyway at each other
because it has been many lives
and each time we touch
are again able to move
come to me cruel and lovely
because I am abandon
because I am silver
because a million years
you have suffered in slavery to men
and know at last how to be free
A process in the weather of the heart
Turns damp to dry; the golden shot
Storms in the freezing tomb.
A weather in the quarter of the veins
Turns night to day; blood in their suns
Lights up the living worm.
A process in the eye forwarns
The bones of blindness; and the womb
Drives in a death as life leaks out.
A darkness in the weather of the eye
Is half its light; the fathomed sea
Breaks on unangled land.
The seed that makes a forest of the loin
Forks half its fruit; and half drops down,
Slow in a sleeping wind.
A weather in the flesh and bone
Is damp and dry; the quick and dead
Move like two ghosts before the eye.
A process in the weather of the world
Turns ghost to ghost; each mothered child
Sits in their double shade.
A process blows the moon into the sun,
Pulls down the shabby curtains of the skin;
And the heart gives up its dead.
"Along the Hard Crust..." . 1917Along the hard crust of deep snows, To the secret, white house of yours, So gentle and quiet – we both Are walking, in silence half-lost. And sweeter than all songs, sung ever, Are this dream, becoming the truth, Entwined twigs’ a-nodding with favor, The light ring of your silver spurs...
I saw it hovering in the distance, a trim and pinioned harrier stalling in mid-flight, almost loitering, carrying out aerial reconnaissance in lordly indifferent leisure (yet bird-alert, genetic with intent), and reconnoitering the terrain that rolled away beneath its hanging there in level slabs of icy light and deckle-flecked leaf-shed shade, slice like a kid’s model glider in strictly-plotted arcs of eliding mathematical certitude.
And oh! how it rose then, abrupt in updraft, as if on a swing or swift and aquiline as a Frisbee; floated; and dropped slow and deliberate and soundless as a plumbline in water to fathom its shadow.
And a small cowering thing huddling in that solemn hush of darkness stopped to cry out its astonishment as if it could, or mattered.
Roo Borson From: Night Walk, Selected Poems. Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1994.
Old shoes, where are you taking me now? You who've spent a night in the Pacific farther out than I dared to go -- and I found you again, bedraggled in the morning, separated from each other by fifty feet of beach, salt in all your seams, and sand, and seaweed. That time I thought you were lost for good. Old shoes, the first my grown feet accepted without the deep ache that comes of trying on what others have meant for me. Don't worry, it's me they're laughing at, those who find us unfashionable. Our last day upright on the earth we'll fit each other still. Don't let them trick you into sorrow. If they stow you in a box that's too small in the depths of some unfamiliar closet, remember the walks we took, the close companionship of shoes and feet. Remember the long mouthwatering days, each place we rested, just taking it in. We took it in for a reason, for the time when they'll stow us away where there is nothing to see, to do, to feel. And when you've relived it all as much as you need, when you tire of standing still, remember the imperceptible holes, how they tore and grew, the socks, pair by pair, those soft kittens that came between us, playful, how soon the walking wore them down.
After the funeral, mule praises, brays, Windshake of sailshaped ears, muffle-toed tap Tap happily of one peg in the thick Grave's foot, blinds down the lids, the teeth in black, The spittled eyes, the salt ponds in the sleeves, Morning smack of the spade that wakes up sleep, Shakes a desolate boy who slits his throat In the dark of the coffin and sheds dry leaves, That breaks one bone to light with a judgment clout, After the feast of tear-stuffed time and thistles In a room with a stuffed fox and a stale fern, I stand, for this memorial's sake, alone In the snivelling hours with dead, humped Ann Whose hooded, fountain heart once fell in puddles Round the parched worlds of Wales and drowned each sun (Though this for her is a monstrous image blindly Magnified out of praise; her death was a still drop; She would not have me sinking in the holy Flood of her heart's fame; she would lie dumb and deep And need no druid of her broken body) . But I, Ann's bard on a raise hearth, call all The seas to service that her wood-tongued virtue Babble like a bellbuoy over the hymning heads, Bow down the walls of the ferned and foxy woods That her love sing and swing through a brown chapel, Bless her bent spirit with four, crossing birds, Her flesh was meek as milk, but this skyward statue With the wild breast and blessed and giant skull Is carved from her in a room with a wet window In a fiercely mourning house in a crooked year. I know her scrubbed and sour humble hands Lie with religion in their cramp, her threadbare Whisper in a damp word, her wits dried hollow, Her fist of a face died clenched on a round pain; And sculptured Ann is seventy years of stone. These cloud-sopped, marble hands, this monumental Argument of the hewn voice, gesture and psalm, Storm me forever over her grave until The stuffed lung of the fox twitch and cry Love And the strutting fern lay seeds on the black sill.
Goatsucker . Old goatherds swear how all night long they hear The warning whirr and burring of the bird Who wakes with darkness and till dawn works hard Vampiring dry of milk each great goat udder. Moon full, moon dark, the chary dairy farmer Dreams that his fattest cattle dwindle, fevered By claw-cuts of the Goatsucker, alias Devil-bird, Its eye, flashlit, a chip of ruby fire.
So fables say the Goatsucker moves, masked from men's sight In an ebony air, on wings of witch cloth, Well-named, ill-famed a knavish fly-by-night, Yet it never milked any goat, nor dealt cow death And shadows only--cave-mouth bristle beset-- Cockchafers and the wan, green luna moth.
While the music played you worked by candlelight Those san francisco nights You were the best in town Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl You turned it on the world That’s when you turned the world around Did you feel like jesus Did you realize That you were a champion in their eyes On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene But yours was kitchen clean Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home Every a-frame had your number on the wall You must have had it all You’d go to l.a. on a dare And you’d go it alone Could you live forever Could you see the day Could you feel your whole world fall apart and fade away
Chorus: Get along, get along kid charlemagne Get along kid charlemagne
Now your patrons have all left you in the red Your low rent friends are dead This life can be very strange All those dayglow freaks who used to paint the face They’ve joined the human race Some things will never change Son you were mistaken You are obsolete Look at all the white men on the street
Clean this mess up else we’ll all end up in jail Those test tubes and the scale Just get them all out of here Is there gas in the car Yes, there’s gas in the car I think the people down the hall Know who you are
Careful what you carry ’cause the man is wise You are still an outlaw in their eyes
‘Perhaps not to be is to be without your being.’ . Perhaps not to be is to be without your being, without your going, that cuts noon light like a blue flower, without your passing later through fog and stones, without the torch you lift in your hand that others may not see as golden, that perhaps no one believed blossomed the glowing origin of the rose, without, in the end, your being, your coming suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life, blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze: and it follows that I am, because you are: it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we: and, because of love, you will, I will, We will, come to be.
So Now? by Charles Bukowski . the words have come and gone, I sit ill. the phone rings, the cats sleep. Linda vacuums. I am waiting to live, waiting to die. I wish I could ring in some bravery. it's a lousy fix but the tree outside doesn't know: I watch it moving with the wind in the late afternoon sun. there's nothing to declare here, just a waiting. each faces it alone. Oh, I was once young, Oh, I was once unbelievably young! from Transit magazine, 1994
Iron Gate Pass at world's edge, Few travelers to be seen. One lowly official closes the gate, All day just see stone walls. Mountain bridge, a thousand dangerous steps, Narrow road winds between sharp cliffs. I climbing west tower to look, One glance and my head turns white!
There's just no accounting for happiness, or the way it turns up like a prodigal who comes back to the dust at your feet having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive? You make a feast in honor of what was lost, and take from its place the finest garment, which you saved for an occasion you could not imagine, and you weep night and day to know that you were not abandoned, that happiness saved its most extreme form for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never knew about, who flies a single-engine plane onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes into town, and inquires at every door until he finds you asleep midafternoon as you so often are during the unmerciful hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell. It comes to the woman sweeping the street with a birch broom, to the child whose mother has passed out from drink. It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker, and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots in the night. It even comes to the boulder in the perpetual shade of pine barrens, to rain falling on the open sea, to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
Anfisa Osinnik (Russia, *1957) Five poems in translation by Johannes Beilharz
Renoir Amok II Personal City Dualism Bio note
Renoir . Renoir liked to enlarge women's eyes, giving roundness to cheeks and lips. Renoir liked to play with women's hair. Excellent painter and magnificent hatter, every hat in his pictures shouts: I'm the spirit of nature! When he mixed crimson, cobalt and cinnabar on his pallet, the oil in the paint turned solar, the sun took unceremonious walks on his canvases without noticing the frame. The day he died was gray, gray, gray, or maybe it wasn't, or maybe he died at night. But I think that his spirit, looking at his own portrait in the frame of the coffin, thought: Here's my worst picture. Then the spirit fled, surely towards the sun, surely to step on women's hats, surely to portray angels with enlarged eyes, with round cheeks and fleshy lips. Of course the angels wear hats now; the angels like natural beauty turned spiritual.
Amok II .
A Malay with a face of withered leaves appeared in my dream. Piercing my heart with a spear, he said: "This is amok." Midnight is impenetrable. I am midnight. The stars are my wounds, the moon is my throat ... Give me, Malay, the medicine to heal my wounds and silence the moon's strange, painful lament. No medicine, said the Malay, will cure amok. How do you heal wounds when they are stars? How can you silence the voice when the moon is your throat? I know all that, old fellow, don't tell me ... The solo of the moon in my throat, in the dark star anise, the bird composes a chant for me: amok, amok, amok.
Personal . My hemispherical world, feminine, left-handed, between complexes of filth and queen. And your right-handed world, and your global oedipal mind ...
With Eve's putrefaction, with Eve's depravity Eve's apple becomes the sapphire-colored hermaphrodite flower, the impossible flower ...
Dark House This is a dark house, very big. I made it myself, Cell by cell from a quiet corner, Chewing at the grey paper, Oozing the glue drops, Whistling, wiggling my ears, Thinking of something else.
It has so many cellars, Such eelish delvings! U an round as an owl, I see by my own light. Any day I may litter puppies Or mother a horse. My belly moves. I must make more maps.
These marrowy tunnels! Moley-handed, I eat my way. All-mouth licks up the bushes And the pots of meat. He lives in an old well, A stoney hole. He's to blame. He's a fat sort.
Pebble smells, turnipy chambers. Small nostrils are breathing. Little humble loves! Footlings, boneless as noses, It is warm and tolerable In the bowel of the root. Here's a cuddly mother.
Al Purdy From: Beyond Remembering - The collected poems of Al Purdy. 2000.
When he makes love to the young girl what does the middle-aged long-married man say to himself and the girl? — that lovers live and desk clerks perish?
When neons flash the girl into light and shadow the room vanishes and all those others guests who checked out long ago are smiling and only the darkness of her may be touched only the whiteness looked at she stands above him as a stone goddess weeping tears and honey she is half his age and far older and how can a man tell his wife this?
Later they'll meet in all politeness not quite strangers but never friends and hands touched elsewhere may shake together with brush of fingers and casual eyes and the cleanser cleans to magic whiteness and love survives in the worst cologne (but not girls' bodies that turn black leather) for all believe in the admen's lies
In rare cases among the legions of married men such moments of shining have never happened and whether to praise such men for their steadfast virtue or condemn them as fools for living without magic answer can hardly be given
There are rooms for rent in the outer planets and neons blaze in Floral Sask we live with death but it's life we die with in the blossoming earth where springs the rose In house and highway in town and country what's given is paid for blood gifts are sold that stars' white fingers unscrew the light bulbs the bill is due and the desk clerk wakes outside our door the steps are quiet light comes and goes from a ghostly sun where only the darkness may be remembered and the rest is gone