Monday, December 31, 2012

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)

Song on The End of The World

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.

Czeslaw Milosz

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

The Companionable Ills
The nose-end that twitches, the old imperfections---
Tolerable now as moles on the face
Put up with until chagrin gives place
To a wry complaisance---

Dug in first as God's spurs
To start the spirit out of the mud
It stabled in; long-used, became well-loved
Bedfellows of the spirit's debauch, fond masters.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mary Oliver

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012)

Miracle Fair

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it's backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

Wislawa Szymborska :

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chung Ho-seung

The Snow Path

I see someone’s footsteps
that have walked
on the all white snow path.
They belong to a bird.
Good heavens.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

James Joyce (1882-1941)

Tutto è Sciolto

By James Joyce

A birdless heaven, sea-dusk and a star
Sad in the west;
And thou, poor heart, love’s image, fond and far,

Her silent eyes and her soft foam-white brow
And fragrant hair,
Falling as in the silence falleth now
Dusk from the air.

Ah, why wilt thou remember these, or why,
Poor heart, repine,
If the sweet love she yielded with a sigh
Was never thine?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Leonard Cohen

"The Future"

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it's lonely here,
there's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that's an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

There'll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You'll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
coming round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin'

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

When they said REPENT REPENT ...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

The Snow Man



One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lew Welch (1926-1971)

Chicago Poem
Chicago Poem
By Lew Welch 1926–1971 Lew Welch
I lived here nearly 5 years before I could
meet the middle western day with anything approaching
Dignity. It’s a place that lets you
understand why the Bible is the way it is:
Proud people cannot live here.

The land’s too flat. Ugly sullen and big it
pounds men down past humbleness. They
Stoop at 35 possibly cringing from the heavy and
terrible sky. In country like this there
Can be no God but Jahweh.

In the mills and refineries of its south side Chicago
passes its natural gas in flames
Bouncing like bunsens from stacks a hundred feet high.
The stench stabs at your eyeballs.
The whole sky green and yellow backdrop for the skeleton
steel of a bombed-out town.

Remember the movies in grammar school? The goggled men
doing strong things in
Showers of steel-spark? The dark screen cracking light
and the furnace door opening with a
Blast of orange like a sunset? Or an orange?

It was photographed by a fairy, thrilled as a girl, or
a Nazi who wished there were people
Behind that door (hence the remote beauty), but Sievers,
whose old man spent most of his life in there,
Remembers a “nigger in a red T-shirt pissing into the
black sand.”

It was 5 years until I could afford to recognize the ferocity.
Friends helped me. Then I put some
Love into my house. Finally I found some quiet lakes
and a farm where they let me shoot pheasant.

Standing in the boat one night I watched the lake go
absolutely flat. Smaller than raindrops, and only
Here and there, the feeding rings of fish were visible a hundred
yards away — and the Blue Gill caught that afternoon
Lifted from its northern lake like a tropical! Jewel at its ear
Belly gold so bright you’d swear he had a
Light in there. His color faded with his life. A small
green fish . . .

All things considered, it’s a gentle and undemanding
planet, even here. Far gentler
Here than any of a dozen other places. The trouble is
always and only with what we build on top of it.

There’s nobody else to blame. You can’t fix it and you
can’t make it go away. It does no good appealing
To some ill-invented Thunderer
Brooding above some unimaginable crag . . .

It’s ours. Right down to the last small hinge it
all depends for its existence
Only and utterly upon our sufferance.

Driving back I saw Chicago rising in its gases and I
knew again that never will the
Man be made to stand against this pitiless, unparalleled
monstrocity. It
Snuffles on the beach of its Great Lake like a
blind, red, rhinoceros.
It’s already running us down.

You can’t fix it. You can’t make it go away.
I don’t know what you’re going to do about it,
But I know what I’m going to do about it. I’m just
going to walk away from it. Maybe
A small part of it will die if I’m not around

feeding it anymore.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Elizabeth Stoddard (1823-1902)

A Thought

By Elizabeth Stoddard

Falling leaves and falling men!
When the snows of winter fall,
And the winds of winter blows,
Will be woven Nature’s pall.

Let us, then, forsake our dead;
For the dead will surely wait
While we rush upon the foe,
Eager for the hero’s fate.

Leaves will come upon the trees;
Spring will show the happy race;
Mothers will give birth to sons—
Loyal souls to fill our place.

Wherefore should we rest and rush?
Soldiers, we must fight and save
Freedom now, and give our foes
All their country should—a grave!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods
from 'Childe Harold'

THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)


It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cynthia Huntington

The Fish-Wife
By Cynthia Huntington
I’ll take a bath when it snows,
when I can look out the window up high
and see the sky all pale
and blank like a fish’s eye.
And I know the boats won’t go out tonight,
the fishermen drinking whiskey, locked
in a bar-dream, the music rocking them deeper.

It doesn’t snow enough here,
though some would say otherwise,
fearing accidents. But the paper boy, skidding
uphill on his bike in light snow, knows better,
making S-tracks when his wheels slide sideways.

We really needed this snow, the old men will say,
putting to bed the surface roots of trees,
putting to bed the too-travelled streets.

When everything is covered
the earth has a light of its own;
the snow falls down from the moon
as everyone knows, and brings that light
back to us. I needed this light.

All day I kept by the window, watching the sky,
a prisoner in my clothes, the wind felt dry
and mean. Starlings stalked the yard with evil eyes
—I hated them, and hated, too, my neighbor’s house
where sparks from the chimney fell back in a stinking
cloud—black ashes bringing no blessing.

When the roads are covered,
when the water is black and snow falls
into the waves, the birds’ hunger swirls
the air, dark lovely shapes. All hungers
are equal now. I'll give them bread and seeds.

I have no money; the whiskey is gone,
and I must bathe in water. Fishermen, please
do not go out in your flimsy boats tonight
to chase after the cod and mackerel,
to hook the giant eels. Go safe,
go free. Let your feet leave trails
through streets and yards, wandering
home, your crooked voyages to bed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Navaho (Anonymous) (19th Cent.)

Beauty is before me,
And beauty is behind me.
Above and below me hovers the beautiful.
I am surrounded by it.
I am immersed in it.
In my youth I am aware of it,
And in old age I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Eldrid Lunden

The image of the white bear is back

It’s almost entirely white. An infinite white
mountainside and the white bear
with her cubs tumbling between her legs

She turns her head towards the wind
I’m thinking of her black moist muzzle
but I can only see her head seeking
backwards and forwards

She knows she can smell a male long before
he smells her. And that is her one
advantage. The male believes the cubs are rivals
in the mating season

As she move sideways up the mountain and
disappears over the edge, my book gently closes

Friday, December 14, 2012

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


'TIME to put off the world and go somewhere
And find my health again in the sea air,'
i{Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,}
'And make my soul before my pate is bare.'

'And get a comfortable wife and house
To rid me of the devil in my shoes,'
i{Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,}
'And the worse devil that is between my thighs.'

And though I'd marry with a comely lass,
She need not be too comely -- let it pass,'
i{Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,}
'But there's a devil in a looking-glass.'

'Nor should she be too rich, because the rich
Are driven by wealth as beggars by the itch,'
i{Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,}
'And cannot have a humorous happy speech.'

'And there I'll grow respected at my ease,
And hear amid the garden's nightly peace.'
i{Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,}
'The wind-blown clamour of the barnacle-geese.'

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Umberto Saba (1883-1957)

Winter Noon

(In quel momento ch’ero già felice)

At that moment when I was still happy

(God forgive that vast and terrible

word) what almost changed my joy

to tears? You’ll say: ‘Some

lovely creature passing by

who smiled at you’. No, a balloon,

a turquoise balloon, drifting

through the blue sky, with the native

air never so bright in the cold

clear noon of a winter’s day.

The sky with a little white cloud,

and the windows alight in the sun,

and meagre smoke from a chimney or two,

and above those things, divine

things, the sphere that escaped a child’s

incautious hand (surely he wept,

in the midst of the crowd, out of grief,

his terrible grief) between the Stock

Exchange and the Coffee House, where

I sat, clear-eyed, admiring his prize,

beyond the glass, now rising, and now falling.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Li-Young Lee

Early In The Morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

Li-Young Lee

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

COME to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world; and be
As kind to others as to me.

Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth.
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say—My love! why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Anne Spencer (1882-1975)


by: Anne Spencer (1882-1975)

E trekked into a far country,
My friend and I.
Our deeper content was never spoken,
But each knew all the other said.
He told me how calm his soul was laid
By the lack of evil and strife.
"The wooing kestrel," I said, "mutes his mating-note
To please the harmony of this sweet silence."
And when at the day's end
We laid tired bodies 'gainst
The loose warm sands,
And the air fleeced its particles for a coverlet;
When star after star came out
To guard their lovers in oblivion --
My soul so leapt that my evening prayer
Stole my morning song!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

A Radio With Guts

it was on the 2nd floor on Coronado Street
I used to get drunk
and throw the radio through the window
while it was playing, and, of course,
it would break the glass in the window
and the radio would sit there on the roof
still playing
and I'd tell my woman,
"Ah, what a marvelous radio!"
the next morning I'd take the window
off the hinges
and carry it down the street
to the glass man
who would put in another pane.
I kept throwing that radio through the window
each time I got drunk
and it would sit there on the roof
still playing-
a magic radio
a radio with guts,
and each morning I'd take the window
back to the glass man.
I don't remember how it ended exactly
though I do remember
we finally moved out.
there was a woman downstairs who worked in
the garden in her bathing suit,
she really dug with that trowel
and she put her behind up in the air
and I used to sit in the window
and watch the sun shine all over that thing
while the music played.

Charles Bukowski :

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Sonnet XVII

My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes
God set between his After and Before,
And strike up and strike off the general roar
Of the rushing worlds a melody that floats
In a serene air purely. Antidotes
Of medicated music, answering for
Mankind's forlornest uses, thou canst pour
From thence into their ears. God's will devotes
Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine.
How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for most use ?
A hope, to sing by gladly ? or a fine
Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse ?
A shade, in which to sing--of palm or pine ?
A grave, on which to rest from singing ? Choose.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

To read in the morning and at night
My love
Has told me
That she needs me.

That's why
I take good care of myself
Watch out where I'm going and
Fear that any drop of rain
Might kill me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Time and Again

TIme and again, however well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

The Deer and the Snake
By Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972 Kenneth Patchen
The deer is humble, lovely as God made her
I watch her eyes and think of wonder owned

These strange priests enter the cathedral of woods
And seven Marys clean their hands to woo her

Foot lifted, dagger-sharp—her ears
Poised to their points like a leaf's head

But the snake strikes, in a velvet arc
Of murderous speed—assassin beautiful

As mountain water at which a fawn drank
Stand there, forever, while poison works
While I stand counting the arms of your Cross
Thinking that many Christs could hang there, crying.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eleanor Agnes Lee (1841-1873)


Suddenly bells and flags!
Suddenly -- door to door --
Tidings! Can we believe,
We, who were used to war?

Yet we have dreamed her face,
Knowing her light must be,
Knowing that she must come.
Look -- she comes, it is she!

Tattered her raiment floats,
Blood is upon her wings.
Ah, but her eyes are clear!
Ah, but her voice outrings!

Soon where the shrapnel fell
Petals shall wake and stir.
Look -- she is here, she lives!
Beauty has died for her.

Eleanor Agnes Lee :

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

The Annunciation - Written in 1957

Ashes of paper, ashes of a world
Wandering, when fire is done:
We argue with the drops of rain!

Until one comes Who walks unseen
Even in elements we have destroyed.
Deeper than any nerve
He enters flesh and bone.
Planting His truth, He puts our substance on.
Air, earth, and rain
Rework the frame that fire has ruined.
What was dead is waiting for His Flame.
Sparks of His Spirit spend their seeds, and hide
To grow like irises, born before summertime.
These blue thinas bud in Israel.

The girl prays by the bare wall
Between the lamp and the chair.
(Framed with an angel in our galleries
She has a richer painted room, sometimes a crown.
Yet seven pillars of obscurity
Build her to Wisdom's house, and Ark, and Tower.
She is the Secret of another Testament
She owns their manna in her jar.)

Fifteen years old -
The flowers printed on her dress
Cease moving in the middle of her prayer
When God, Who sends the messenger,
Meets His messenger in her Heart.
Her answer, between breath and breath,
Wrings from her innocence our Sacrament!
In her white body God becomes our Bread.

It is her tenderness
Heats the dead world like David on his bed.
Times that were too soon criminal
And never wanted to be normal
Evade the beast that has pursued
You, me and Adam out of Eden's wood.
Suddenly we find ourselves assembled
Cured and recollected under several green trees.

Her prudence wrestled with the Dove
To hide us in His cloud of steel and silver:
These are the mysteries of her Son.
And here my heart, a purchased outlaw,
Prays in her possession
Until her Jesus makes my heart
Smile like a flower in her blameless hand.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)


When, in the night, I wait for her, impatient,
Life seems to me, as hanging by a thread.
What just means liberty, or youth, or approbation,
When compared with the gentle piper's tread?

And she came in, threw out the mantle's edges,
Declined to me with a sincere heed.
I say to her, 'Did you dictate the Pages
Of Hell to Dante?' She answers, 'Yes, I did.'

Anna Akhmatova

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Alone for a Week
By Jane Kenyon
I washed a load of clothes
and hung them out to dry.
Then I went up to town
and busied myself all day.
The sleeve of your best shirt
rose ceremonious
when I drove in; our night-
clothes twined and untwined in
a little gust of wind.

For me it was getting late;
for you, where you were, not.
The harvest moon was full
but sparse clouds made its light
not quite reliable.
The bed on your side seemed
as wide and flat as Kansas;
your pillow plump, cool,
and allegorical. . . .