Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Charles Simic

Old Couple
By Charles Simic b. 1938 Charles Simic
They’re waiting to be murdered,
Or evicted. Soon
They expect to have nothing to eat.
In the meantime, they sit.

A violent pain is coming, they think.
It will start in the heart
And climb into the mouth.
They’ll be carried off in stretchers, howling.

Tonight they watch the window
Without exchanging a word.
It has rained, and now it looks
Like it’s going to snow a little.

I see him get up to lower the shades.
If their window stays dark,
I know his hand has reached hers
Just as she was about to turn on the lights.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Maureen Owen

Whenever I snow
I think of Black
when he was
pulling a cab

under a lamppost
his dark harness gathering flakes
a jet horse becoming white powder

a dark horse

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tomas Transtromer

April and Silence

Spring lies forsaken.
The velvet-dark ditch
crawls by my side
without reflections.

The only thing that shines
are yellow flowers.

I am cradled in my shadow
like a fiddle
in its black case.

The only thing I want to say
glimmers out of reach
like the silver
at the pawnbroker’s.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Federico García Lorca (1898 - 1936 / Fuente Vaqueros / Spain)

Dawn in New York has
four columns of mire
and a hurricane of black pigeons
splashing in the putrid waters.

Dawn in New York groans
on enormous fire escapes
searching between the angles
for spikenards of drafted anguish.

Dawn arrives and no one receives it in his mouth
because morning and hope are impossible there:
sometimes the furious swarming coins
penetrate like drills and devour abandoned children.

Those who go out early know in their bones
there will be no paradise or loves that bloom and die:
they know they will be mired in numbers and laws,
in mindless games, in fruitless labors.

The light is buried under chains and noises
in the impudent challenge of rootless science.
And crowds stagger sleeplessly through the boroughs
as if they had just escaped a shipwreck of blood.

Federico García Lorca

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon, by Wallace Stevens
Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Sonnet To Liberty by Oscar Wilde
These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret, and apart.
And now the brawlers of the auction mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant's price. I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet's heart
That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.

Is it not said that many years ago,
In a far Eastern town, some soldiers ran
With torches through the midnight, and began
To wrangle for mean raiment, and to throw
Dice for the garments of a wretched man,
Not knowing the God's wonder, or His woe?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Buddha in Glory
Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Shinto by Jorge Luis Borges
When sorrow lays us low
for a second we are saved
by humble windfalls
of the mindfulness or memory:
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water,
that face given back to us by a dream,
the first jasmine of November,
the endless yearning of the compass,
a book we thought was lost,
the throb of a hexameter,
the slight key that opens a house to us,
the smell of a library, or of sandalwood,
the former name of a street,
the colors of a map,
an unforeseen etymology,
the smoothness of a filed fingernail,
the date we were looking for,
the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count,
a sudden physical pain.

Eight million Shinto deities
travel secretly throughout the earth.
Those modest gods touch us—
touch us and move on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

John Keats (1795-1821)


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Steely Dan - Bodhisattva


Would you take me by the hand
Would you take me by the hand
Can you show me
The shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china
Can you show me

I'm gonna sell my house in town
I'm gonna sell my house in town
And I'll be there
To shine in your Japan
To sparkle in your China
Yes I'll be there

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ivan Borislavov


To Kiril Kadiiski

We are the illegitimate children of freedom,
we are the fallen angels with broken wings.
We were the boatswains of the cursed frigate
damned to sail in the impenetrable fog.

Day and night we chased our vague mirage
until we caught the virus of woe and darkness.
And, like naives, we wanted our dream
to take us at last to the promised coast.

We swore, we mutinied in search of vengeance.
The captain confessed – it was he who broke the compass.
And the blood in our veins suddenly turned to rust.

Since then we have been drifting ghostly in the fog,
wrapped in the spiderwebs of the ocean.
And by custom we salute the captain.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

A Dog Has Died
My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer

Pablo Neruda

Friday, August 19, 2011

Alfonsina Stomi (1892-1938)

What Would They Say?

What would the people say, reduced and empty,
If one fortuitous day, by some extreme fantasy,
I were to dye my hair silvery and violet, were to wear an old greek gown, exchanging the comb
for a circlet of flowers: forget-me-nots or jasmines,
were to sing through the streets to the rhythm of the violins,
or were to read my verses aloud, traveling the plazas
my gusto freed of common gags?

Would they go to watch me, covering the sidewalks?
Would they burn me like they burned enchantresses?
Would they ring the bells, calling to mass?

In truth, when I think of it, I laugh a little.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


Go thou to Rome,—at once the Paradise,
The grave, the city, and the wilderness;
And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise,
And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress
The bones of Desolation’s nakedness
Pass, till the Spirit of the spot shall lead
Thy footsteps to a slope of green access
Where, like an infant’s smile, over the dead,
A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread.
And grey walls moulder round, on which dull Time
Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand;
And one keen pyramid with wedge sublime,
Pavilioning the dust of him who planned
This refuge for his memory, doth stand
Like flame transformed to marble; and beneath,
A field is spread, on which a newer band
Have pitched in Heaven’s smile their camp of death,
Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguished breath.
Here pause: these graves are all too young as yet
To have outgrown the sorrow which consigned
Its charge to each; and if the seal is set,
Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind,
Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find
Thine own well full, if thou returnest home,
Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind
Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
What Adonais is, why fear we to become?
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments.—Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled!—Rome's azure sky,
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.
Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my Heart?
Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here
They have departed; thou shouldst now depart!
A light is passed from the revolving year,
And man, and woman; and what still is dear
Attracts to crush, repels to make thee wither.
The soft sky smiles,—the low wind whispers near:
'Tis Adonais calls! oh, hasten thither,
No more let Life divide what Death can join together.
That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,
That Beauty in which all things work and move,
That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse
Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love
Which through the web of being blindly wove
By man and beast and earth and air and sea,
Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of
The fire for which all thirst, now beams on me,
Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality.
The breath whose might I have invoked in song
Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven
Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng
Whose sails were never to the tempest given;
The massy earth and spherèd skies are riven!
I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar;
Whilst burning through the inmost veil of Heaven,
The soul of Adonais, like a star,
Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle's flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own -- but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it's late. And the truth is laborious.

Berkeley, 1980.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

Otomo no Yakamochi

If I see that bridge
That is spanned by flights of magpies
Across the arc of heaven
Made white with a deep-laid frost,
Then the night is almost past.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Anne Sexton (1928-1974)


"Too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold."
From an essay by W. B. Yeats

Big heart,
wide as a watermelon,
but wise as birth,
there is so much abundance
in the people I have:
Max, Lois, Joe, Louise,
Joan, Marie, Dawn,
Arlene, Father Dunne,
and all in their short lives
give to me repeatedly,
in the way the sea
places its many fingers on the shore,
again and again
and they know me,
they help me unravel,
they listen with ears made of conch shells,
they speak back with the wine of the best region.
They are my staff.
They comfort me.

They hear how
the artery of my soul has been severed
and soul is spurting out upon them,
bleeding on them,
messing up their clothes,
dirtying their shoes.
And God is filling me,
though there are times of doubt
as hollow as the Grand Canyon,
still God is filling me.
He is giving me the thoughts of dogs,
the spider in its intricate web,
the sun
in all its amazement,
and a slain ram
that is the glory,
the mystery of great cost,
and my heart,
which is very big,
I promise it is very large,
a monster of sorts,
takes it all in--
all in comes the fury of love.

Anne Sexton

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Amiri Baraka

"Wise I"

WHY's (Nobody Know
The Trouble I Seen)

If you ever find
yourself, some where
lost and surrounded
by enemies
who won't let you
speak in your own language
who destroy your statues
& instruments, who ban
your oom boom ba boom
then you are in trouble
deep trouble
they ban your
oom boom ba boom
you in deep deep


probably take you several hundred years
to get

- Amiri Baraka

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

Here is my gift
Here is my gift, not roses on your grave,
not sticks of burning incense.
You lived aloof, maintaining to the end
your magnificent disdain.
You drank wine, and told the wittiest jokes,
and suffocated inside stifling walls.
Alone you let the terrible stranger in,
and stayed with her alone.

Now you're gone, and nobody says a word
about your troubled and exalted life.
Only my voice, like a flute, will mourn
at your dumb funeral feast.
Oh, who would have dared believe that half-crazed I,
I, sick with grief for the buried past,
I, smoldering on a slow fire,
having lost everything and forgotten all,
would be fated to commemorate a man
so full of strength and will and bright inventions,
who only yesterday it seems, chatted with me,
hiding the tremor of his mortal pain.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia

Black Peter

Lyrics By: Robert Hunter

Music By: Jerry Garcia

All of my friends come to see me last night
I was laying in my bed and dying
Annie Beauneu from Saint Angel
Say "the weather down here so fine"

Just then the wind came squalling through the door
But who can the weather command
Just want to have a little peace to die
And a friend or two I love at hand

Fever roll up to a hundred and five
Roll on up, gonna roll back down
One more day I find myself alive
Tomorrow maybe go beneath the ground

See here how everything
Lead up to this day
And it's just like any other day
That's ever been
Sun going up and then
The sun going down
Shine through my window
And my friends they come around
Come around, come around

The people might know, but the people don't care
That a man can be as poor as me
Take a look at poor Peter, he's lying in pain
Now let's come run and see
Run and see
Run and see
Run, run and see, and see

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)

Song on the End of the World by Czeslaw Milosz
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A Fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through fields under their umbrellas
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet,
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world there will be,
No other end of the world there will be.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

Heavenly Grass

My feet took a walk in heavenly grass.
All day while the sky shone clear as glass.
My feet took a walk in heavenly grass,
All night while the lonesome stars rolled past.
Then my feet come down to walk on earth,
And my mother cried when she give me birth.
Now my feet walk far and my feet walk fast,
But they still got an itch for heavenly grass.
But they still got an itch for heavenly grass.

Tennessee Williams

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Elizabeth Reninger

by Elizabeth Reninger
(1963 - ) Timeline

at this time
when the light is not yet
useful, merely

when a bright
honey pours
nectar over a curved
horizon, into a nameless

chalice, and your vision
wakes also, as if
to meet it, touching

when for an endless
moment all
colors are

color a shimmering
fabric an infinite
wisdom this

of pure love, so suddenly

your own. . .

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953 / Swansea / Wales)

Being But Men
Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.

If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.

Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder, that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.

That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim and the end.

Being but men, we walked into the trees.

Dylan Thomas

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973 / Parral / Chile)

Don't Go Far Off
Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Pablo Neruda

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)


Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart!
Unlike our uses and our destinies.
Our ministering two angels look surprise
On one another, as they strike athwart
Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art
A guest for queens to social pageantries,
With gages from a hundred brighter eyes
Than tears even can make mine, to play thy part
Of chief musician. What hast thou to do
With looking from the lattice-lights at me,
A poor, tired, wandering singer, singing through
The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree?
The chrism is on thine head,--on mine, the dew,--
And Death must dig the level where these agree.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jakob van Hoddis (1887-1942)

World's End
The hat flies off the burgher's pointed head.
There's an echo of screams and shouts in the air.
Roofers are crashing and breaking in two.
Along the coast, the papers say, the flood is rising.

The storm is here, wild oceans are hopping
ashore to crush big fat embankments.
Most people have a runny nose and sniffle,
and trains are falling off the bridges.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

Hops by Boris Pasternak
Beneath the willow wound round with ivy
we take cover from the worst
of the storm, with a greatcoat round
our shoulders and my hands around your waist.

I've got it wrong. That isn't ivy
entwined in the bushes round
the wood, but hops. You intoxicate me!
Let's spread the greatcoat on the ground.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)


THERE where the course is,
Delight makes all of the one mind,
The riders upon the galloping horses,
The crowd that closes in behind:
We, too, had good attendance once,
Hearers and hearteners of the work;
Aye, horsemen for companions,
Before the merchant and the clerk
Breathed on the world with timid breath.
Sing on: somewhere at some new moon,
We'll learn that sleeping is not death,
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,
And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)

The prophet said:

God guides the redeemed through a narrow way
into the broad road,
so that they come into the wide and broad place;
that is to say, into true freedom of the spirit,
when one has become a spirit with God.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Anne Michaels

Women on a Beach

Anne Michaels
From: The Weight of Oranges / Miner's Pond. McClelland & Stewart, 1997. p.30

Light chooses white sails, the bellies of gulls.

Far away in a boat, someone wears a red shirt,
a tiny stab in the pale sky.

Your three bodies form a curving shoreline,
pink and brown sweaters, bare legs.

The beach glows grainy under the sun's copper pressure,
air the colour of tangerines.
One of you is sleeping, the wind's finger
on your cheek like a tendril of hair.

Night exhales its long held breath.
Stars puncture through.

At dusk you are a small soft heap, a kind of moss.
In the moonlight, a boulder of women.