Saturday, October 31, 2015

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

The Answer

To V. A. Komarovsky
Oh, what the unconventional words
April’s last days brought to me here.
You knew that in my heart and thoughts,
Is left that Holy Week of fear.

I was not hearing the knells,
Deploring in the azure-river,
But the bronze laugh – for seven days –
Or crying, like the flowing silver. 

And, sadly hiding off my face,
Like before fateful separation,
I was in waiting for the pace
Of her, called since ‘Excruciation’.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Big Night On The Town

drunk on the dark streets of some city,
it's night, you're lost, where's your
you enter a bar to find yourself,
order scotch and water.
damned bar's sloppy wet, it soaks
part of one of your shirt
It's a clip joint-the scotch is weak.
you order a bottle of beer.
Madame Death walks up to you
wearing a dress.
she sits down, you buy her a
beer, she stinks of swamps, presses
a leg against you.
the bar tender sneers.
you've got him worried, he doesn't
know if you're a cop, a killer, a
madman or an
you ask for a vodka.
you pour the vodka into the top of
the beer bottle.
It's one a.m. In a dead cow world.
you ask her how much for head,
drink everything down, it tastes
like machine oil.

you leave Madame Death there,
you leave the sneering bartender

you have remembered where
your room is.
the room with the full bottle of
wine on the dresser.
the room with the dance of the
Perfection in the Star Turd
where love died
Charles Bukowski :

Thursday, October 29, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

All That is Gold

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Merle Haggard

Listenin' To The Wind
******Merle Haggard

Listenin' to the wind
Tryin' to hear the voice of a distant friend
Wishing you and I were close again
Listenin' the wind

Listenin' to the breeze
As it wispers through the poplar trees
Do you think of me way back then?
Do you listen to the wind?

Listenin' to the night 
Wishin' we could hold and squeeze each other tight
I can almost hear the stars so bright
Listenin' to the night

Listenin' to the sound
Of a highway through some distant town
I can almost hear the pale moonlight
Do you listen to the night?

Listenin' to my mind
Searching through my thoughts for the perfect line
Using tricks and telepathy at times
Do you listen to your mind?

Listenin to the breeze 
As it wispers through the poplar trees
Wishin you and I were close again
Just listenin' to the wind.........

Bill Howell (b.1946)

Calling It In, Regent Park

Bill Howell
From:   Porcupine Archery. Insomniac Press, 2009.

Eight shots in five seconds, rabid adrenaline smacks
back from the quadrangle across the street. You hit
the light switch, find 911 by touch. I get to the bedroom
curtain, spot the dark parka crumpled in the slush.

People edge around it, get on the payphones. You overhear
reports of the same calls I'm watching. At last the blats
and wails, slashing lights, wincing brakes: first uniforms
on their knees, probing for a pulse. In two days that bundle

will become a terse paragraph in a busy crime column:
Mario Rebelto Carmona, age 23. We'll hear at the corner
store he'd slip chocolate bars up his sleeves, the owner
ignoring him in the surveillance mirrors. A Family Court

judge will postpone a drug appearance by his kid brother
so everyone can make the funeral. Flowers left on the spot
will turn to mush in hours. And they'll find an unrelated
handgun on a nearby roof. Tonight his time being gets

lots of help lifting the stretcher. You're off the phone:
"They said: shot in the head." So it's an execution.
Standing in our unlit unit, staring down at the world:
shotguns, flak vests, barrier tape, rakes sifting the snow

for shell casings. Searching for evidence, if not sense.
The lights throb on as if they've got an all-night permit.
Everything loses heat. The ambulance crews rediscover
time, leave without sirens. That's when we know for sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Anne Michaels (b.1958)

Phantom Limbs

Anne Michaels
From:   The Weight of Oranges / Miner's Pond. McClelland & Stewart, 1997. p.86
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

"The face of the city changes more quickly, alas! than the mortal heart."
      —Charles Baudelaire

So much of the city
is our bodies. Places in us
old light still slants through to.
Places that no longer exist but are full of feeling,
like phantom limbs.

Even the city carries ruins in its heart.
Longs to be touched in places
only it remembers.

Through the yellow hooves
of the ginkgo, parchment light;
in that apartment where I first
touched your shoulders under your sweater,
that October afternoon you left keys
in the fridge, milk on the table.
The yard - our moonlight motel -
where we slept summer's hottest nights,
on grass so cold it felt wet.
Behind us, freight trains crossed the city,
a steel banner, a noisy wall.
Now the hollow diad !
floats behind glass
in office towers also haunted
by our voices.

Few buildings, few lives
are built so well
even their ruins are beautiful.
But we loved the abandoned distillery:
stone floors cracking under empty vats,
wooden floors half rotted into dirt;
stairs leading nowhere; high rooms
run through with swords of dusty light.
A place the rain still loved, its silver paint
on rusted things that had stopped moving it seemed, for us.
Closed rooms open only to weather,
pungent with soot and molasses,
scent-stung. A place
where everything too big to take apart
had been left behind.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

In Memory Of Marina Tsvetaeva

Dismal day, with the weather inclement.
Inconsolably rivulets run
Down the porch in front of the doorway;
Through my wide-open windows they come.

But behind the old fence on the roadside,
See, the public gardens are flooded.
Like wild beasts in a den, the rainclouds
Sprawl about in shaggy disorder.

In such weather, I dream of a volume
On the beauties of Earth in our age,
And I draw an imp of the forest
Just for you on the title-page.

Oh, Marina, I'd find it no burden,
And the time has been long overdue:
Your sad clay should be brought from Yelabuga
By a requiem written for you.

All the triumph of your homecoming
I considered last year in a place
Near a snow-covered bend in the river
Where boats winter, locked in the ice.

What can I do to be of service?
Convey somehow your own request,
For in the silence of your going
There's a reproach left unexpressed.

A loss is always enigmatic.
I hunt for clues to no avail,
And rack my brains in fruitless torment:
Death has no lineaments at all.

Words left half-spoken, self-deception,
Promises, shadows-all are vain,
And only faith in resurrection
Can give the semblance of a sign.

Step out into the open country:
Winter's a sumptuous funeral wake.
Add currants to the dusk, then wine,
And there you have your funeral cake.

The apple-tree stands in a snowdrift
Outside. All this year long, to me,
The snow-clad city's been a massive
Monument to your memory.

With your face turned to meet your Maker.
You yearn for Him from here on Earth,
As in the days when those upon it
Were yet to appreciate your worth
Boris Pasternak :

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

First Evening (Première Soirée)

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.

Perched on my enormous easy chair,
Half nude, she clasped her hands.
Her feet trembled on the floor,
As soft as they could be.

I watched as a ray of pale light,
Trapped in the tree outside,
Danced from her mouth
To her breast, like a fly on a flower.

I kissed her delicate ankles.
She had a soft, brusque laugh
That broke into shining crystals -
A pretty little laugh.

Her feet ducked under her chemise;
'Will you please stop it!…'
But I laughed at her cries -
I knew she really liked it.

Her eye trembled beneath my lips;
They closed at my touch.
Her head went back; she cried:
'Oh, really! That's too much!

'My dear, I'm warning you…'
I stopped her protest with a kiss
And she laughed, low -
A laugh that wanted more than this…

Her clothes were almost off;
Outside, a curious tree
Beat a branch at the window
To see what it could see.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)

The Stranger

The Stranger (La Extranjera)

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.
- Gabriela Mistral

Friday, October 23, 2015

Margaret Atwood


I'm thinking about you. What else can I say?
The palm trees on the reverse
are a delusion; so is the pink sand.
What we have are the usual
fractured coke bottles and the smell
of backed-up drains, too sweet,
like a mango on the verge
of rot, which we have also.
The air clear sweat, mosquitoes
& their tracks; birds & elusive.

Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one
day after the other rolling on;
I move up, it's called
awake, then down into the uneasy
nights but never
forward. The roosters crow
for hours before dawn, and a prodded
child howls & howls
on the pocked road to school.
In the hold with the baggage
there are two prisoners,
their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates
of queasy chicks. Each spring
there's race of cripples, from the store
to the church. This is the sort of junk
I carry with me; and a clipping
about democracy from the local paper.

Outside the window
they're building the damn hotel,
nail by nail, someone's
crumbling dream. A universe that includes you
can't be all bad, but
does it? At this distance
you're a mirage, a glossy image
fixed in the posture
of the last time I saw you.
Turn you over, there's the place
for the address. Wish you were
here. Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on
& on, a hollow cave
in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.
Margaret Atwood :

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

On Aging

When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.
Maya Angelou :

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Milton Acorn (1923-1986)


Milton Acorn
From:  Dig Up My Heart: Selected Poems 1952-83. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1983. p.62.
One day in a lifetime
I saw one with wings
a pipesmoke blur
shaped like half a kiss
and its raspberry-stone
heart winked fast
in a thumbnail of a breast.

In that blink it
was around a briar
and out of sight, but
I caught a flash
of its brain
where flowers swing
udders of sweet cider;
and we pass as thunderclouds or,
dangers like death, earthquake, and war,
ignored because it's no use worrying ....

By him I mean. Responsibility
Against the threat of termination
by war or other things
is given us as by a deity.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tony Hoagland (b.1953)

Special Problems in Vocabulary

By Tony Hoagland     

There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

No verb for accidentally
breaking a thing
while trying to get it open
 —a marriage, for example.

No particular phrase for
losing a book
in the middle of reading it,
and therefore never learning the end.

There is no expression, in English, at least,
for avoiding the sight
of your own body in the mirror,
for disliking the touch

of the afternoon sun,
for walking into the flatlands and dust
that stretch out before you
after your adventures are done.

No adjective for gradually speaking less and less,
because you have stopped being able
to say the one thing that would
break your life loose from its grip.

Certainly no name that one can imagine
for the aspen tree outside the kitchen window,
in spade-shaped leaves

spinning on their stems,
working themselves into
a pale-green, vegetable blur.

No word for waking up one morning
and looking around,
because the mysterious spirit

that drives all things
seems to have returned,
and is on your side again.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tomas Transtromer (1931-2015)

Landscape with Suns
The sun emerges from behind the house
stands in the middle of the street
and breathes on us
with its red wind.
Innsbruck I must leave you.
But tomorrow
there will be a glowing sun
in the gray, half-dead forest
where we must work and live.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)


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.
Jane Kenyon :

Friday, October 16, 2015

Jorge Eduardo Eielson (1924-2006)

there will be the purest of machines
a perfect copy of itself
& it will have a thousand green eyes
& a thousand purple lips
& it won’t be of use at all
but it will have your name
oh eternity

endless digit endless dig-
it endless digit that never
splendorous quantity
splintering zero
you tell me why
you tell me where when how
which is the blind thread
that burns between my fingers
& why the closed skies
& my closed eyes
& the sand in its entirity
under my shoe
& why in the sunlight only
in the sunlight I wake up
in the sunlight I knock off

oh laberynth
goossestepping diamonds
eectricity that sings
in its high divine cyllinders
how far now my heart
my intestines & my voice        everything
mysteriously ready in cupolas
selfsame like the seasons
or the cape of the hours
everything in search
of wonders that don’t arrive
of evaporated worlds
of faraway & high velocities
that don’t forgive

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)

Veni Seer

Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards,
or when snow covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.

I am only a human being: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well,
that the statue in church lift its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore, call one person, anywhere on earth,
not me-after all I have some decency-
and allow me, when I look at that person,
to marvel at you.
Czeslaw Milosz :

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Paul Celan (1920-1970)

With Every Thought

With every Thought I went
out of the World: there you were,
you my Gentle One, you my Open One, and –
you received us.

says that for us everything died,
that for us there the Eye broke?
Everything woke, all things began.

Vast, a Sun came swimming by, bright
a Soul and a Soul engaged, clear,
masterfully made a silence for it
a path ahead.

you opened your Lap, quiet
rose a Breath in the Aether,
and what became cloud, was it not,
was it not Form, and for us then,
was it not
as good as a Name?
Paul Celan :

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wole Soyinka (b.1934)


Your hand is heavy, Night, upon my brow.
I bear no heart mercuric like the clouds,
to dare.
Exacerbation from your subtle plough.
Woman as a clam, on the sea's cresent.
I saw your jealous eye quench the sea's
Flouorescence, dance on the pulse incessant
Of the waves. And I stood, drained
Submitting like the sands, blood and brine
Coursing to the roots. Night, you rained
Serrated shadows through dank leaves
Till, bathed in warm suffusion of your dappled cells
Sensations pained me, faceless, silent as night thieves.
Hide me now, when night children haunt the earth
I must hear none! These misted cells will yet
Undo me; naked, unbidden, at Night's muted birth.

Wole Soyinka :

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Herta Muller


 These days I don’t think of youBut after the soot covers me.
begin to wonder where those Evenings have gone, those wanderings
In the spacious lawns of enchantment That smacked of no design,
though We were bent on making a sense The early birds get their worms
lie in the tireless ticking of my old watch Counting the bits of frozen blood,
Listening to the worms That are in all of us Then I begin to crawl towards
the womb That threw me off a long way back And look for the dark,
 the black hole To suck me up.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

The Art of Picasso
          the biological
          and dynastic phenomenon
          which constitutes the cubism
          has been
the first great imaginative cannibalism
surpassing the experimental ambitions
of modern mathematical physics.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sergei Alexandrovitch Yesenin (1895-1925)

What I have retained of my own -
Just a whistle. That's all I can.
What I've got - just an ill renown
Of a ribald and filthy man.

What a funny and comic disfavor!
Life is full of this comic woe.
It's a shame I despised my Savior.
It's a pity I can't stand Him now.

Golden vistas, so far, so distant -
All's got burned in life's fiery gyre,
And my ribaldry was so indecent
Just to make it a brighter fire.

Poets always caressed and scrawled.
They are destined to act like that.
Snow-white roses and muddy toads
Were the ones whom I wanted to wed.

Though I failed, both in parts and in whole,
To achieve that ambitious dream,
But if Satan obsessed the soul
So the angels abode therein.

Now it's time to depart from here.
Fore the moment I turn cold and still
I would like the ones who'll be near
To accomplish my dying will.

So that they, for all of my bygones,
For my sins which were hard and dark,
Let me die on a bed under icons
Simply clad in the Russian sark.
Sergey Alexandrovich Yesenin :

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bei Xiao Huang (c.1970)


  • by Bei Xiaohuang

  • Chancing to query, I give* a try.
  • Just like when lost in the hills, I ask for direction
  • from a wrinkled old granny.

  • One day, I keyed in “Bei Xiao Huang”^,
  • and found a few traces of a man:
  • he has the habit of using a green mugwort twig,
  • dipping it in the moon-lit brook
  • and writing down seductive, inconsequential words.

  • Baidu? When will my inquiry
  • lead me to my moon maiden, peaceful and tranquil,
  • among the rustling reeds at the water’s edge.

  • Ferry? There will come a day
  • when I arrive at the flowery other shore.
  • Will anyone there be gently tapping the keys Bei – Xiao – Huang?
  • Like his name, he still lives quietly in the light of the day.
           *a search engine

          ^Bei Xiao Huang, little northern wasteland, the poet’s pen name.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leonard Cohen (lyrics)

A Thousand Kisses Deep Lyrics

The ponies run, the girls are young
The odds are there to beat
You win a while and then it's done
Your little winning streak
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat
You live your life as if it's real
A thousand kisses deep
I'm turning tricks, I'm getting fixed
I'm back on boogie street
You lose your grip and then you slip
Into the masterpiece
And maybe I had miles to drive
And promises to keep
You ditch it all to stay alive
A thousand kisses deep
And sometimes when the night is slow
The wretched and the meek
We gather up our hearts and go
A thousand kisses deep
Confined to sex we pressed against
The limits of the sea
I saw there were no oceans left
For scavengers like me
I made it to the forward deck
I blessed our remnant fleet
And then consented to be wrecked
A thousand kisses deep
I'm turning tricks I'm getting fixed
I'm back on boogie street
I guess they won't exchange the gifts
That you were meant to keep
And quiet is the thought of you
The file on you complete
Except what we forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep
And sometimes when the night is slow
The wretched and the meek
We gather up our hearts and go
A thousand kisses deep
The ponies run, the girls are young
The odds are there to beat
You win a while and then it's done
Your little winning streak
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat
You live your life as if it's real
A thousand kisses deep


Leonard Cohen - A Thousand kisses deep

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Octavio Paz (1914-1998)

The Bridge

Between now and now,
between I am and you are,
the word bridge.

Entering it
you enter yourself:
the world connects
and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,
there is always
a body stretched:
a rainbow.
I'll sleep beneath its arches.
Octavio Paz :

Monday, October 5, 2015

Jorge Eduardo Eielson (b.1924)

Prince of Oblivion

Am I, spinning sands, unbound stars,
caved-in sky, the one who leans
and kisses her pure face between veils and serpents?
A thousand years asleep beside a skull, I have kissed her.
Over my head her breathing goes forth,
Her deaf lips, like a noise of drums.
Unbreathable and holy is her punishment, her skeleton!
(Here, under the shadow, velvet crater,
Wisely furnished is the volcano, that which is hers
Like fire, forgotten halls of horrid lace,
Sofas where her body hoarsely cries, beheaded.)
Burial of the flesh, I ask of you,
Caged horses, unattainable dust,
Just one warm, perfect moment by her side,
Just one moment alive, and oblivion, the flow
Of a thousand years shattered by a kiss.
Her face adrift matters no more, illumined
And dripping with snails, the ten fingers
Of turquoise in which she dilutes the ages.
Her lighted lantern underground matters no more,
If before that she was to surround me tamely
With her eyes and her lips still living,
If before that she was to attend, like a shadow, the fall
Of the fruit on the world. Vitreous mansions
With lizard wings, amid the clouds,
Aerial lakes pass by before me, flapping their ashes.
I only know, my buried queen, unmoving gorgon,
Which is my chair and crown, which is my sadness. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Gioconda Belli (b.1948)


So far,
all over the world,
women have survived it.
Perhaps it was that our grandmothers were stoic
or, that back then, they weren’t entitled to complain,
still they reached old age
wilting bodies
but strong souls.
Now, instead,
dissertations are written on the subject.
As early as thirty agony sets in,
Foretelling the catastrophe.

A body is much more than the sum of its hormones.
Menopausal or not
a woman remains a woman,
beyond the production of secretions or eggs.
To miss a period does not imply the loss of syntax
or coherence;
it shouldn’t lead to hiding
as a snail in a shell,
nor provoke endless brooding.
If  depression sets in
it won’t be a new occurrence,
each menstrual cycle has come to us with tears
and its load of irrational anger.
There is no reason, then,
to feel devalued:
Get rid of  tampons
and sanitary napkins!
Use them to light a bonfire in your garden!
Be naked
Dance the ritual of aging
And survive
Like so many
Before you.


is an author, novelist and renowned Nicaraguan poet. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)


It opens, the gate to the garden
with the docility of a page
that frequent devotion questions
and inside, my gaze
has no need to fix on objects
that already exist, exact, in memory.
I know the customs and souls
and that dialect of allusions
that every human gathering goes weaving.
I've no need to speak
nor claim false privilege;
they know me well who surround me here,
know well my afflictions and weakness.
This is to reach the highest thing,
that Heaven perhaps will grant us:
not admiration or victory
but simply to be accepted
as part of an undeniable Reality,
like stones and trees.
Jorge Luis Borges :

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Li-Young Lee (b1958)

The City In Which I Loved You

And when, in the city in which I love you,
even my most excellent song goes unanswered,
andI mount the scabbed streets,
the long shouts of avenues,
and tunnel sunken night in search of you...

That I negotiate fog, bituminous
rain rining like teeth into the beggar's tin,
or two men jackaling a third in some alley
weirdly lit by a couch on fire, that I
drag my extinction in search of you...

Past the guarded schoolyards, the boarded-up churches, swastikaed
synagogues, defended houses of worship, past
newspapered windows of tenements, along the violated,
the prosecuted citizenry, throughout this
storied, buttressed, scavenged, policed
city I call home, in which I am a guest...

a bruise, blue
in the muscle, you
impinge upon me.
As bone hugs the ache home, so
I'm vexed to love you, your body

the shape of returns, your hair a torso
of light, your heat
I must have, your opening
I'd eat, each moment
of that soft-finned fruit,
inverted fountain in which I don't see me.

My tongue remembers your wounded flavor.
The vein in my neck
adores you. A sword
stands up between my hips,
my hidden fleece send forth its scent of human oil.

The shadows under my arms,
I promise, are tender, the shadows
under my face. Do not calculate,
but come, smooth other, rough sister.
Yet, how will you know me

among the captives, my hair grown long,
my blood motley, my ways trespassed upon?
In the uproar, the confusion
of accents and inflections
how will you hear me when I open my mouth?

Look for me, one of the drab population
under fissured edifices, fractured
artifices. Make my various
names flock overhead,
I will follow you.
Hew me to your beauty.

Stack in me the unaccountable fire,
bring on me the iron leaf, but tenderly.
Folded one hundred times and
creased, I'll not crack.
Threshed to excellence, I'll achieve you.

but in the city
in which I love you,
no one comes, no one
meets me in the brick clefts;
in the wedged dark,

no finger touches me secretly, no mouth
tastes my flawless salt,
no one wakens the honey in the cells, finds the humming
in the ribs, the rich business in the recesses;
hulls clogged, I continue laden, translated

by exhaustion and time's appetite, my sleep abandoned
in bus stations and storefront stoops,
my insomnia erected under a sky
cross-hatched by wires, branches,
and black flights of rain. Lewd body of wind

jams me in the passageways, doors slam
like guns going off, a gun goes off, a pie plate spins
past, whizzing its thin tremolo,
a plastic bag, fat with wind, barrels by and slaps
a chain-link fence, wraps it like clung skin.

In the excavated places,
I waited for you, and I did not cry out.
In the derelict rooms, my body needed you,
and there was such flight in my breast.
During the daily assaults, I called to you,

and my voice pursued you,
even backward
to that other city
in which I saw a woman
squat in the street

beside a body,
and fan with a handkerchief flies from its face.
That woman
was not me. And
the corpse

lying there, lying there
so still it seemed with great effort, as though
his whole being was concentrating on the hole
in his forehead, so still
I expected he'd sit up any minute and laugh out loud:

that man was not me;
his wound was his, his death not mine.
and the soldier
who fired the shot, then lit a cigarette:
he was not me.

And the ones I do not see
in cities all over the world,
the ones sitting, standing, lying down, those
in prisons playing checkers with their knocked-out teeth:
they are not me. Some of them are

my age, even my height and weight;
none of them is me.
The woman who is slapped, the man who is kicked,
the ones who don't survive,
whose names I do not know;

they are not me forever,
the ones who no longer live
in the cities in which
you are not,
the cities in which I looked for you.

The rain stops, the moon
in her breaths appears overhead.
the only sound now is a far flapping.
Over the National Bank, the flag of some republic or other
gallops like water on fire to tear itself away.

If I feel the night
move to disclosures or crescendos,
it's only because I'm famished
for meaning; the night
merely dissolves.

And your otherness is perfect as my death.
Your otherness exhausts me,
like looking suddenly up from here
to impossible stars fading.
Everything is punished by your absence.

Is prayer, then, the proper attitude
for the mind that longs to be freely blown,
but which gets snagged on the barb
called world, that
tooth-ache, the actual? What prayer

would I build? And to whom?
Where are you
in the cities in which I love you,
the cities daily risen to work and to money,
to the magnificent miles and the gold coasts?

Morning comes to this city vacant of you.
Pages and windows flare, and you are not there.
Someone sweeps his portion of sidewalk,
wakens the drunk, slumped like laundry,
and you are gone.

You are not in the wind
which someone notes in the margins of a book.
You are gone out of the small fires in abandoned lots
where human figures huddle,
each aspiring to its own ghost.

Between brick walls, in a space no wider than my face,
a leafless sapling stands in mud.
In its branches, a nest of raw mouths
gaping and cheeping, scrawny fires that must eat.
My hunger for you is no less than theirs.

At the gates of the city in which I love you,
the sea hauls the sun on its back,
strikes the land, which rebukes it.
what ardor in its sliding heft,
a flameless friction on the rocks.

Like the sea, I am recommended by my orphaning.
Noisy with telegrams not received,
quarrelsome with aliases,
intricate with misguided journeys,
by my expulsions have I come to love you.

Straight from my father's wrath,
and long from my mother's womb,
late in this century and on a Wednesday morning,
bearing the mark of one who's experienced
neither heaven nor hell,

my birthplace vanished, my citizenship earned,
in league with stones of the earth, I
enter, without retreat or help from history,
the days of no day, my earth
of no earth, I re-enter

the city in which I love you.
And I never believed that the multitude
of dreams and many words were vain.
Li-Young Lee :