Monday, February 29, 2016

Vladimir Mayakofsky (1893-1930)

Call To Account!

Translated: by Lika Galkina with Jasper Goss, 2005.

The drum of war thunders and thunders.
It calls: thrust iron into the living.
From every country
slave after slave
are thrown onto bayonet steel.
For the sake of what?
The earth shivers
and stripped.
Mankind is vapourised in a blood bath
only so
can get hold of Albania.
Human gangs bound in malice,
blow after blow strikes the world
only for
someone’s vessels
to pass without charge
through the Bosporus.
the world
won’t have a rib intact.
And its soul will be pulled out.
And trampled down
only for someone,
to lay
their hands on
Why does
a boot
crush the Earth — fissured and rough?
What is above the battles’ sky -
When will you stand to your full height,
giving them your life?
When will you hurl a question to their faces:
Why are we fighting?
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1917)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

The Scarecrow

Once I said to a scarecrow, 'You must be tired of standing in this
lonely field.'

And he said, 'The joy of scaring is a deep and lasting one, and I
never tire of it.'

Said I, after a minute of thought, 'It is true; for I too have
known that joy.'

Said he, 'Only those who are stuffed with straw can know it.'

Then I left him, not knowing whether he had complimented or belittled

A year passed, during which the scarecrow turned philosopher.

And when I passed by him again I saw two crows building a nest
under his hat.
Khalil Gibran :

Friday, February 26, 2016

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

To Live in the Mercy of God

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
before ribs of shelter

To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
as salt water
would hold you,
once you dared.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

Belfast Tune

Here's a girl from a dangerous town
She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
when someone gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
Dropped, she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
here where they eat.

Ah, there's more sky in these parts than, say,
ground. Hence her voice's pitch,
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
bulb when you switch

hemispheres, and her knee-length quilt
skirt's cut to catch the squall,
I dream of her either loved or killed
because the town's too small.
Joseph Brodsky :

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)

Snow In My Shoe

Snow in my shoe
Sparrow's nest

Monday, February 22, 2016

Cesar Vallejo (1892-1938)


This afternoon it is raining, as never before; and I
have no desire to live, my heart.

This afternoon is sweet. Why should it not be?
Dressed in grace and pain; dressed like a woman.

This afternoon in Lima it is raining. And I recall
the cruel caverns of my ingratitude;
my block of ice over her poppy,
stronger than her "Don't be this way!"

My violent black flowers; and the barbaric
and terrible stoning; and the glacial distance.
And the silence of her dignity
with burning holy oils will put all end to it.

So this afternoon, as never before, I am
with this owl, with this heart.

Other women go by; and seeing me so sad,
they take on a bit of you
in the abrupt wrinkle of my deep remorse.

This afternoon it is raining, raining hard. And I
have no desire to live, my heart!
Cesar Vallejo :

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

If My Head Hurt A Hair's Foot

'If my head hurt a hair's foot
Pack back the downed bone. If the unpricked ball of my breath
Bump on a spout let the bubbles jump out.
Sooner drop with the worm of the ropes round my throat
Than bully ill love in the clouted scene.

'All game phrases fit your ring of a cockfight:
I'll comb the snared woods with a glove on a lamp,
Peck, sprint, dance on fountains and duck time
Before I rush in a crouch the ghost with a hammer, air,
Strike light, and bloody a loud room.

'If my bunched, monkey coming is cruel
Rage me back to the making house. My hand unravel
When you sew the deep door. The bed is a cross place.
Bend, if my journey ache, direction like an arc or make
A limp and riderless shape to leap nine thinning months.'

'No. Not for Christ's dazzling bed
Or a nacreous sleep among soft particles and charms
My dear would I change my tears or your iron head.
Thrust, my daughter or son, to escape, there is none, none, none,
Nor when all ponderous heaven's host of waters breaks.

'Now to awake husked of gestures and my joy like a cave
To the anguish and carrion, to the infant forever unfree,
O my lost love bounced from a good home;
The grain that hurries this way from the rim of the grave
Has a voice and a house, and there and here you must couch and cry.

'Rest beyond choice in the dust-appointed grain,
At the breast stored with seas. No return
Through the waves of the fat streets nor the skeleton's thin ways.
The grave and my calm body are shut to your coming as stone,
And the endless beginning of prodigies suffers open.'
Dylan Thomas :

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Early Spring

Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.
Rainer Maria Rilke :

Friday, February 19, 2016

Vasko Popa (1922-1991)

Far Within Us #6

From the wrinkle between my brows
You watch till day breaks
On my face

The waxen night
Is beginning to singe
The fingers of dawn

Black bricks
Have already tiled
The whole dome of the sky

Trans. by Anne Pennington

Anonymous submission.
Vasko Popa :

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!--yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.--A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.--One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!--For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.
Percy Bysshe Shelley :

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

"Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter's pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year's ill,
And prayer to purify the new year's will."
 Helen Hunt Jackson, A Calendar of Sonnet's: February

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Sonnet Ix: There Where The Waves Shatter

There where the waves shatter on the restless rocks
the clear light bursts and enacts its rose,
and the sea-circle shrinks to a cluster of buds,
to one drop of blue salt, falling.

O bright magnolia bursting in the foam,
magnetic transient whose death blooms
and vanishes--being, nothingness--forever:
broken salt, dazzling lurch of the sea.

You & I, Love, together we ratify the silence,
while the sea destroys its perpetual statues,
collapses its towers of wild speed and whiteness:

because in the weavings of those invisible fabrics,
galloping water, incessant sand,
we make the only permanent tenderness.
Pablo Neruda :

Monday, February 15, 2016

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Blue, Blue got up, got up and fell.
Sharp, Thin whistled and shoved, but didn’t get through.
From every corner came a humming.
FatBrown got stuck—it seemed for all eternity.
-------------------------------It seemed. It seemed.
You must open your arms wider.
-------------------------------Wider. Wilder.
And you must cover your face with red cloth.
And maybe it hasn’t shifted yet al all; it’s just that you’ve shifted.
White leap after white leap.
And after this white leap. In every white leap a white leap.
But that’s not good at all, that you don’t see the gloom; in the gloom is
-----------where it is.
That’s where everything begins. ………………………….
With a………………………………Crash………………..


(from Klänge, 1912).

-Translated by Mary Ann Caws

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Nalini Paul

The Fourth Craw
‘wasnae there at a’

Too much is said about night – 
its fullness jug-heavy with distance
poured out into star-mapped flight.

But in the sky, protecting her addled head, 
was a strange sense of grounding – 
as if light were solid, for standing.

And from these things – 
sparks in the high darkness
a smouldering moon – 
came music, the raven’s song.

Its sound could wither the feathers of eagles
make fire from ice
play tricks with existence
changing form at a whim.

In the dim-lit great hall of glittering stories
the broken shine of the moon crackles.

Nalini Paul
from The Raven’s Song (2015)
Reprinted by permission of the author.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


THERE is grey in your hair.
Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath
When you are passing;
But maybe some old gaffer mutters a blessing
Because it was your prayer
Recovered him upon the bed of death.
For your sole sake -- that all heart's ache have known,
And given to others all heart's ache,
From meagre girlhood's putting on
Burdensome beauty -- for your sole sake
Heaven has put away the stroke of her doom,
So great her portion in that peace you make
By merely walking in a room.

Your beauty can but leave among us
Vague memories, nothing but memories.
A young man when the old men are done talking
Will say to an old man, 'Tell me of that lady
The poet stubborn with his passion sang us
When age might well have chilled his blood.'

Vague memories, nothing but memories,
But in the grave all, all, shall be renewed.
The certainty that I shall see that lady
Leaning or standing or walking
In the first loveliness of womanhood,
And with the fervour of my youthful eyes,
Has set me muttering like a fool.

You are more beautiful than any one,
And yet your body had a flaw:
Your small hands were not beautiful,
And I am afraid that you will run
And paddle to the wrist
In that mysterious, always brimming lake
Where those What have obeyed the holy law
paddle and are perfect.  Leave unchanged
The hands that I have kissed,
For old sake's sake.

The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in the one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird


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


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.
Wallace Stevens :

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)


I pray to the sunbeam from the window -
It is pale, thin, straight.
Since morning I have been silent,
And my heart - is split.
The copper on my washstand
Has turned green,
But the sunbeam plays on it
So charmingly.
How innocent it is, and simple,
In the evening calm,
But to me in this deserted temple
It's like a golden celebration,
And a consolation.

Anna Akhmatova :

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Margaret Atwood (b1939)

Morning In The Burned House

In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.
Margaret Atwood :

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gary Geddes (b.1940)

The Last Canto

Gary Geddes
From:   Changes of State, 1986

I seldom budge
from Rapallo.
Venice is no Byzantium
these final days.
Stench from the canals
worse than the cattle ship
I sailed to Europe on.

Mr. Nixon was half-right:
poetry did not pay,
but there was a future in it.
The age demanded
a scapegoat and a saint.
Being American
I applied for both jobs.

The world has been my whale-road,
wanderer and seafarer
among the lost manuscripts,
charting connections
few had even dreamed of.
I've gone about my business
like a pack-rat.
You have to do that,
have on hand ten times
what you can ever hope to use.
Tennyson was right
about being part of all he met,
but he hadn't met enough.

As the range broadened
my speech became barbarous,
that of a man who's lost contact
with the words of his fellows,
though he knows their hearts'
most intimate desires.

I once advised trashing the metronome
and composing with the music
of the speaking voice.
Now I say:
Exercise the mind
and school the heart;
voice will rejoice
in its tender chains
like a bridegroom.

While my former countrymen
have given up on ideas,
except in things,
whatever that means,
and play with themselves
like clergymen,
less out of need than habit,
I dream
of ideas in action
and of forma, even the canetto,
where the dance of ear
and intellect
draw dormant filings
into the pattern of a rose.

I wrote in an article
in T.P.'s Weekly in 1913:
The artist is always beginning.
Any work of art
which is not a beginning,
an invention, a discovery,
is of little worth.

I still hold that view
though at times, I admit,
I counted the cost.

I have spoken too much of usura,
or not enough.
Even the air we breathe
is rented for a price.

Forget my dicta:
direct treatment of the thing
and all that rot.
The thing, so-called,
has yet to be revealed.
I have found poems
to be wiser and more honest
than poets.

Remember the ideogram
from the Chinese,
the one representing truth
which shows a man
standing beside his word.
Nothing more.
The merchant's wife
dying alone
in her unkempt garden
by the river
my irregular feet,
though she draws the line
at Social Credit.

Forget me too:
listen to the poems.

You see, I'm prescriptive
to the end, a weakness
acquired in Hailey, Idaho
and never shaken.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter

The west was getting out of gold,
The breath of air had died of cold,
When shoeing home across the white,
I thought I saw a bird alight.

In summer when I passed the place
I had to stop and lift my face;
A bird with an angelic gift
Was singing in it sweet and swift.

No bird was singing in it now.
A single leaf was on a bough,
And that was all there was to see
In going twice around the tree.

From my advantage on a hill
I judged that such a crystal chill
Was only adding frost to snow
As gilt to gold that wouldn't show.

A brush had left a crooked stroke
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through.
Robert Frost :

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Philip Whalen (1923-2002)

A Vision of the Bodhisattvas


By Philip Whalen 1923–2002       
They pass before me one by one riding on animals
"What are you waiting for," they want to know

Z—, young as he is (& mad into the bargain) tells me
"Some day you'll drop everything & become a rishi, you know."

I know
The forest is there, I've lived in it
    More certainly than this town? Irrelevant—

    What am I waiting for?
A change in customs that will take 1000 years to come about?
Who's to make the change but me?

    "Returning again and again," Amida says

Why's that dream so necessary? walking out of whatever house alone
Nothing but the clothes on my back, money or no
Down the road to the next place the highway leading to the   
From which I absolutely must come back

What business have I to do that?
I know the world and I love it too much and it
Is not the one I'd find outside this door.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Vasko Popa (1922-1991)

Give Me Back My Rags #11

I've wiped your face off my face
Ripped your shadow off my shadow

Leveled the hills in you
Turned your plains into hills

Set your seasons quarreling
Turned all the ends of the world from you

Wrapped the path of my life around you
My impenetrable my impossible path

Just try to meet me now

Trans. by Anne Pennington
Vasko Popa :

Friday, February 5, 2016

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)

Dark Poet

Dark Poet, a maid's breast
Haunts you,
Embittered poet, life seethes
And life burns,
And the sky reabsorbs itself in rain,
Your pen scratches at the heart of life.

Forest, forest, alive with your eyes,
On multiple pinions;
With storm-bound hair,
The poets mount horses, dogs.

Eyes fume, tongues stir,
The heavens surge into our senses
Like blue mother's milk;
Women, harsh vinegar hearts,
I hang suspended from your mouths.

Umbilical Limbo 1926
Translated by Victor Corti

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Charles Simic (b.1938)

Mirrors At 4 A.M

You must come to them sideways
In rooms webbed in shadow,
Sneak a view of their emptiness
Without them catching
A glimpse of you in return.

The secret is,
Even the empty bed is a burden to them,
A pretense.
They are more themselves keeping
The company of a blank wall,
The company of time and eternity

Which, begging your pardon,
Cast no image
As they admire themselves in the mirror,
While you stand to the side
Pulling a hanky out
To wipe your brow surreptitiously.
Charles Simic :

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ruth Stone (1915-2011)


By Ruth Stone 1915–2011      
I wore a large brim hat
like the women in the ads.
How thin I was: such skin.
Yes. It was Indianapolis;
a taste of sin.

You had a natural Afro;
no money for a haircut.
We were in the seedy part;
the buildings all run-down;
the record shop, the jazz
impeccable. We moved like
the blind, relying on our touch.
At the corner coffee shop,
after an hour’s play, with our
serious game on paper,
the waitress asked us
to move on. It wasn’t much.

Oh mortal love, your bones
were beautiful. I traced them
with my fingers. Now the light
grows less. You were so angular.
The air darkens with steel
and smoke. The cracked world
about to disintegrate,
in the arms of my total happiness.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Sonnet Xxv

A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borne
From year to year until I saw thy face,
And sorrow after sorrow took the place
Of all those natural joys as lightly worn
As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn
By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace
Were changed to long despairs, till God's own grace
Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn
My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring
And let it drop adown thy calmly great
Deep being ! Fast it sinketh, as a thing
Which its own nature doth precipitate,
While thine doth close above it, mediating
Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning :

Monday, February 1, 2016

Valerie Gillies (b.1948)

Head: Sabre Wound
The strokes of a sabre
on his wan head –
those blows repeated
in the heat
of battle
where sabres whirl
like flames.

An attack
by a tiger
or the wake
of a cutlass?
He is conscious 
but he can’t speak.

Better the clean cut
of the sabre than all
the musket-fire, grape-shot
or tearaway cannonball.

A field surgeon knows
such a head injury
gives ‘frequent opportunities
of seeing the upper
and the lateral parts
of the cerebrum
by sabre wounds.’

To manoeuvre a cavalry horse
ridden in balance
staying steady
leaving the sabre arm free
is a skill
parried by another:
to remove fragments of bone
from the skull
allowing the wounded
to recover.

Valerie Gillies