Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

A Psalm
by Thomas Merton

Original Language English

When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings: the bottom drops out of my soul.

And from the center of my cellar, Love, louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.

New eyes awaken.
I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.
Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise
Shine on the face of the abyss
And I am drunk with the great wilderness
Of the sixth day in Genesis.

But sound is never half so fair
As when that music turns to air
And the universe dies of excellence.

Sun, moon and stars
Fall from their heavenly towers.
Joys walk no longer down the blue world's shore.

Though fires loiter, lights still fly on the air of the gulf,
All fear another wind, another thunder:
Then one more voice
Snuffs all their flares in one gust.

And I go forth with no more wine and no more stars
And no more buds and no more Eden
And no more animals and no more sea:

While God sings by himself in acres of night
And walls fall down, that guarded Paradise.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1976)

We embrace.
Rich cloth under my fingers
While yours touch poor fabric.
A quick embrace
You were invited for dinner
While the minions of law are after me.
We talk about the weather and our
Lasting friendship. Anything else
Would be too bitter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Li-Young Lee

For A New Citizen Of These United States

Forgive me for thinking I saw
the irregular postage stamp of death;
a black moth the size of my left
thumbnail is all I've trapped in the damask.
There is no need for alarm. And

there is no need for sadness, if
the rain at the window now reminds you
of nothing; not even of that
parlor, long like a nave, where cloud-shadow,
wing-shadow, where father-shadow
continually confused the light. In flight,
leaf-throng and, later, soldiers and
flags deepened those windows to submarine.

But you don't remember, I know,
so I won't mention that house where Chung hid,
Lin wizened, you languished, and Ming-
Ming hush-hushed us with small song. And since you
don't recall the missionary
bells chiming the hour, or those words whose sounds
alone exhaust the heart--garden,
heaven, amen--I'll mention none of it.

After all, it was just our life,
merely years in a book of years. It was
1960, and we stood with
the other families on a crowded
railroad platform. The trains came, then
the rains, and then we got separated.

And in the interval between
familiar faces, events occurred, which
one of us faithfully pencilled
in a day-book bound by a rubber band.

But birds, as you say, fly forward.
So I won't show you letters and the shawl
I've so meaninglessly preserved.
And I won't hum along, if you don't, when
our mothers sing Nights in Shanghai.
I won't, each Spring, each time I smell lilac,
recall my mother, patiently
stitching money inside my coat lining,
if you don't remember your mother
preparing for your own escape.

After all, it was only our
life, our life and its forgetting.

Li-Young Lee

Monday, January 28, 2013


Incantation Against Lilith
By Anonymous

Veiled in velvet, is she here?
Leave off, leave off:
You shall not enter,
you shall not emerge.
It is neither yours nor your share.

The sea is swelling;
its waves are calling.
I hold to the holy portion—
I am held in the holiness of the King.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

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!

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tom Waits

"Blue Valentines"

She sends me blue valentines
all the way from philadelphia
to mark the anniversary
of someone that I used to be
and it feels just like there's
a warrant out for my arrest
got me checkin' in my rearview mirrror
and I'm always on the run
thats why I change my name
and I didn't think you'd ever find me here

to send me blue valentines
like half forgotten dreams
like a pebble in my shoe
as I walk these streets
and the ghost of your memory
is the thistle in the kiss
and the burgler that that can break a roses neck
it's the tattooed broken promise
that I hide beneath my sleeve
and I see you every time I turn my back

she sends me blue valentines
though I try to remain at large
they're insisting that our love
must have a culogy
why do I save all of this madness
in the nightstand drawer
there to haunt upon my shoulders
baby I know
I'd be luckier to walk around everywhere I go
with a blind and broken heart
that sleeps beneath my lapel

she sends me blue valentines
to remind me of my cardinal sin
I can never wash the guilt
or get these bloodstains off my hands
and it takes a lot of whiskey
to make these nightmares go away
and I cut my bleedin' heart out every nite
and I die a little more on each st. valentine day
remember that I promised I would
write you...
these blue valentines
blue valentines
blue valentines

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

As The Sparrow

To give life you must take life,
and as our grief falls flat and hollow
upon the billion-blooded sea
I pass upon serious inward-breaking shoals rimmed
with white-legged, white-bellied rotting creatures
lengthily dead and rioting against surrounding scenes.
Dear child, I only did to you what the sparrow
did to you; I am old when it is fashionable to be
young; I cry when it is fashionable to laugh.
I hated you when it would have taken less courage
to love.

Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

Dutch Mistress

A hotel in whose ledgers departures are more prominent than arrivals.
With wet Koh-i-noors the October rain
strokes what's left of the naked brain.
In this country laid flat for the sake of rivers,
beer smells of Germany and the seaguls are
in the air like a page's soiled corners.
Morning enters the premises with a coroner's
punctuality, puts its ear
to the ribs of a cold radiator, detects sub-zero:
the afterlife has to start somewhere.
Correspondingly, the angelic curls
grow more blond, the skin gains its distant, lordly
white, while the bedding already coils
desperately in the basement laundry.

Joseph Brodsky

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kees Ouwens


I went to see the sea unburdened
I wanted my hands to be free
only my body could come with me

And for the mists to go ashore
with the wind that was turning, for
this to set a shadow over my eyes

When the dune lost glow at my
approach since blond had shown
itself but turned wan

On climbing over the last row
I familiarised myself after hesitation
whether the journey home could be chosen

Above the going along the beach
lay in vapour, and where in my head
was deliberation between onward motion

And retreat, the unknown that was my fear
and the emptiness my dread, my feet led me
through plea and counter-plea

Of their own accord, bearing me on,
away from home, falling the last downward steep
of the sea-strip’s flank, by leaps and bounds

Too quick for the sand where the grains
sped by, and my body at full tilt
could run out till the water turned me

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)


Welcome, the water’s voice
To one whom black sand overwhelmed,
Welcome, to the curved hand
The smooth column of the marble,
Welcome, slender labyrinths of water
Between the lemon trees,
Welcome the melodious zéjel,
Welcome is love, welcome the prayer
Offered to a God who is One,
Welcome the jasmine.

Vain the scimitar
Against the long lances of the host,
Vain to be the best.
Good to know, foreknow, grieving king,
That your courtesies are farewells,
That the key will be denied you,
The infidels’ cross eclipse the moon,
The afternoon you gaze on prove your last.

Granada, 1976.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

Album Verses

WHEN Eve had led her lord away,
And Cain had killed his brother,
The stars and flowers, the poets say,
Agreed with one another.

To cheat the cunning tempter's art,
And teach the race its duty,
By keeping on its wicked heart
Their eyes of light and beauty.

A million sleepless lids, they say,
Will be at least a warning;
And so the flowers would watch by day,
The stars from eve to morning.

On hill and prairie, field and lawn,
Their dewy eyes upturning,
The flowers still watch from reddening dawn
Till western skies are burning.

Alas! each hour of daylight tells
A tale of shame so crushing,
That some turn white as sea-bleached shells,
And some are always blushing.

But when the patient stars look down
On all their light discovers,
The traitor's smile, the murderer's frown,
The lips of lying lovers,

They try to shut their saddening eyes,
And in the vain endeavor
We see them twinkling in the skies,
And so they wink forever.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, January 18, 2013

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)

Lady with Camelias

Your whole way with shining evil's coal
Margaret, they all do bravely judge.
What's your fault? The body sinned as such,
Innocent you have retained your soul.

To all people it's the same, I know,
To all nodded with a blurry smile.
And with this sorrowful semi-smile
You have wept yourself long time ago.

Who will know? Whose hand will help along?
No exception to the rule, one thing entrances!
They eternally await embraces,
They eternally await, "I'm thirsty! Be my own!"

Day and night the bane of false confessions..
Day and night, tomorrow, and once more!
Spoke more eloquently than the word
Your dark glance, the martyr's dark expression.

The accursed ring is growing narrow,
On the goddess of the world avenges fate..
Smiling childishly, into your face
A young tender boy glances with sorrow.

The entire world is saved by love!
In but her salvation and defense is.
All's in love. O Margaret, sleep in peace.
All's in love. I'm saved because I love.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Zachary Schomburg

The Abandoned Hotel
By Zachary Schomburg
Inside the woods is an abandoned hotel.
Trees grow in the lobby
and up through the rooms.
Limbs jut out through the windows.
It looks like outside

I climb the trees
through 1000 rooms.

I look for you
in each of them.

You're a long shiny line.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


OTHERS because you did not keep
That deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine;
Yet always when I look death in the face,
When I clamber to the heights of sleep,
Or when I grow excited with wine,
Suddenly I meet your face.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)


And therefore if to love can be desert,
I am not all unworthy. Cheeks as pale
As these you see, and trembling knees that fail
To bear the burden of a heavy heart,--
This weary minstrel-life that once was girt
To climb Aornus, and can scarce avail
To pipe now 'gainst the valley nightingale
A melancholy music,--why advert
To these things? O Beloved, it is plain
I am not of thy worth nor for thy place!
And yet, because I love thee, I obtain
From that same love this vindicating grace,
To live on still in love, and yet in vain,--
To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Linda Hogan

By Linda Hogan
How something is made flesh
no one can say. The buffalo soup
becomes a woman
who sings every day to her horses
or summons another to her private body
saying come, touch, this is how
it begins, the path of a newly born
who, salvaged from other lives and worlds,
will grow to become a woman, a man,
with a heart that never rests,
and the gathered berries,
the wild grapes
enter the body,
human wine
which can love,
where nothing created is wasted;
the swallowed grain
takes you through the dreams
of another night,
the deer meat becomes hands
strong enough to work.

But I love most
the white-haired creature
eating green leaves;
the sun shines there
swallowed, showing in her face
taking in all the light,

and in the end
when the shadow from the ground
enters the body and remains,
in the end, you might say,
This is myself
still unknown, still a mystery.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Aja - Steely Dan


Up on the hill
People never stare
They just don't care
Chinese music under banyan trees
Here at the dude ranch above the sea
When all my dime dancin' is through
I run to you

Up on the hill
They've got time to burn
There's no return
Double helix in the sky tonight
Throw out the hardware
Let's do it right
When all my dime dancin' is through
I run to you

Up on the hill
They think I'm okay
Or so they say
Chinese music always sets me free
Angular banjoes
Sound good to me
When all my dime dancin' is through
I run to you

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cesar Vallejo (1892-1938)

By César Vallejo 1892–1938
Translated By Don Paterson

I'm sitting here on the old patio
beside your absence. It is a black well.
We'd be playing, now. . . I can hear Mama yell
"Boys! Calm down!" We'd laugh, and off I'd go
to hide where you'd never look. . . under the stairs,
in the hall, the attic. . . Then you'd do the same.
Miguel, we were too good at that game.
Everything would always end in tears.

No one was laughing on that August night
you went to hide away again, so late
it was almost dawn. But now your brother's through
with this hunting and hunting and never finding you.
The shadows crowd him. Miguel, will you hurry
and show yourself? Mama will only worry.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tomas Transtromer


A blue light

radiates from my clothing.


Clattering tambourines of ice.

I close my eyes.

There is a silent world

there is a crack

where the dead

are smuggled across the border.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sara Miller

By Sara Miller Sara Miller
The evidence was in and it went to the contrary.
The contrary wound around us rather like a river.
The river reacted, spider-like, tangling up its legs
with other wet parts we thought we knew,
such as creeks and fjords and deltas and such.

A beaver sits on the riverbank watching all of this unfold.
He doesn’t know what a fjord is, and he doesn’t care
for other waters, or even other beavers, or the merest
hint of other business, so he removes this evidence.

Then he builds a structure which for years he is rehabbing.
Inside it is hollow and there is his nest.
He is a dark little bastard, all the same.
The water had a fine way of   being, now it is tortured
by these nests and their vassal.

Yet the river doesn’t overthrow the beaver.
Quite the contrary. The river goes around polite as a snake.
It argues a tiny bit at the edges of the lodge,
where young beavers could be napping.

You and I would let loose a flood of tears. Not the river.
You and I would seep hotly into our darkest places.
Not the river. It is a long way from home
and has that on its mind, the day of rising,
when the temples will all be cleansed
and the whole unfathomable truth will out.

According to the waters. According to their book.

Max Dauthendey

You are more than spring

Sweet lilac flowers appear on the tree but once a year;
Your breasts bloom for me every day; you are more than spring.

My desires shone brightly like chestnut shoots;
You brought them out into the sun. We sit under a roof of foliage,
Smiling at each other in the luscious shade.

Longing has scarred me like a tree struck by lightning;
Now your bees are with me, and my eyes overflow from your honey.

Max Dauthendey (1867-1918)

From: The Eternal Wedding. Love Songs (1905)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Midang So Chong-ju

Beside a chrysanthemum by Midang Sŏ Chŏng-ju

For one chrysanthemum to bloom

a nightingale

has sobbed since spring, perhaps.

For one chrysanthemum to bloom


has pealed in dark clouds, perhaps.

Flower! Like my sister standing

at her mirror, just back

from far away, far away byways of youth,

where she was racked with longing and lack:

last night's frost came down

to bid your yellow petals bloom, perhaps,

while I could not get to sleep.

Monday, January 7, 2013

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, January 6, 2013

Li-Young Lee


We two sit on our bed, you
between my legs, your back to me, your head
slightly bowed, that I may brush and braid
your hair. My father
did this for my mother,
just as I do for you. One hand
holds the hem of you hair, the other
works the brush. Both hands climb
as the strokes grow
longer, until I use not only my wrists,
but my arms, then my shoulders, my whole body
rocking in a rower's rhythm, a lover's
even time, as the tangles are undone,
and brush and bare hand run the thick,
fluent length of your hair, whose wintry scent
comes, a faint, human musk.

Last night the room was so cold
I dreamed we were in Pittsburgh again, where winter
persisted and we fell asleep in the last seat
of the 71 Negley, dark mornings going to work.
How I wish we didn't hate those years
while we lived them.
Those were days of books,
days of silences stacked high
as the ceiling of that great, dim hall
where we studied. I remember
the thick, oak tabletops, how cool
they felt against my face
when I lay my head down and slept.

How long your hair has grown.

Gradually, December.

There will come a day
one of us will have to imagine this: you,
after your bath, crosslegged on the bed, sleepy, patient,
while I braid your hair.

Here, what's made, these braids, unmakes
itself in time, and must be made
again, within and against
time. So I braid
your hair each day.
My fingers gather, measure hair,
hook, pull and twist hair and hair.
Deft, quick, they plait,
weave, articulate lock and lock, to make
and make these braids, which point
the direction of my going, of all our continuous going.
And though what's made does not abide,
my making is steadfast, and, besides, there is a making
of which this making-in-time is just a part,
a making which abides
beyond the hands which rise in the combing,
the hands which fall in the braiding,
trailing hair in each stage of its unbraiding.

Love, how the hours accumulate. Uncountable.
The trees grow tall, some people walk away
and diminish forever.
The damp pewter days slip around without warning
and we cross over one year and one year.
Li-Young Lee :

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks
by Jane Kenyon

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .

I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sherwin Bitsui

By Sherwin Bitsui
When we river,
blood fills cracks in bullet shells,
oars become fingers scratching windows into dawn,
and faces are stirred from mounds of mica.

I notice the back isn’t as smooth anymore,
the river crests at the moment of blinking;
its blood vessels stiffen and spear the drenched coat of flies
collecting outside the jaw.

Night slows here,
the first breath held back,
clenched like a tight fist in the arroyo under shattered glass.
But we still want to shake the oxygen loose from flypaper,
hack its veins,
divert its course,
and reveal its broken back,

the illusion of a broken back.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

A Lemon

Out of lemon flowers
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree's yellow
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
The harbors are big with it-
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
into the starry
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
aromatic facades.

So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

e e cummings

i carry your heart with me by E. E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Love The Universe To-Day

And who feels discord now or sorrow?
Love is the universe to-day--
These are the slaves of dim to-morrow,
Darkening Life's labyrinthine way.

Percy Bysshe Shelley