Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kamran Mir Hazar


Writing viruses
And electronic labyrinths
With a blackout and no computer
In a rented house, at seven thousand a month;
Kabul, the Afghan capital!
What silly poem is this?

You ask yourself, is poetry the same lonely words that wander in electronic corridors,
Cut off from their existence,
Thrown away, with no choice but to become a poem?
You watch imagination wandering through paths, over the paths,
You throw the leash at yet another word,
Trying to subdue this wild one,
And if you fail,
You stop functioning,
Like a computer crashed.

There was someone, someone who wrote viruses
Behind a diesel-powered laptop
Looking for URLs and
An anonymous mail would be sent
Connecting you to a site, infected;
“I am from Florida, the USA, and 23 years of age,
Looking for someone to follow the link, and make happy”;
To open the mail and to make someone happy?
First, stop the programs;
Passing through security, typing 97, 98, 99,
Approaching the death of romance between zero and one.

A virus-writer drank half a beer bottle at once;
Then, computer deaths;
First to the east of Paris, a house,
Australia, three minutes more,
A man is waiting out the last minutes of an office shift
Needs to get home;
A party is starting in half an hour;
The Philippines, minutes later,
A 19-year-old girl
In a chat room,
Showing off a used body;
In Egypt, more or less the same time,
And the next morning, Kabul.

You, and you, also you,
Yes, you and also you,
You are all arrested!

They tell me, stop writing!
You write and we’ll show you Guantanamo at home,
You write, we’ll kill you.
Kabul, summer of ’07
Hands in handcuffs, feet tied up;
This is Afghanistan, and this here where it is going,
Dead bodies over dead bodies.
The poem has no choice but to stop writing itself.
This is prison.

They asked a Kabul sparrow
Just what is mankind up to?
The sparrow considered this and died!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)

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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wendell Berry

The Wish to Be Generous
All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jennifer Ley


I thought this was the season of the resurrection,

the time when we unwrapped our shrouds and

found new skin, shed the carapace of so many

unoriginal sins. I thought the only stones

were those rolled wide to set the risen free,

not those hurled by other hands, nor rocks

that worked their way into my clutch, cutting

deep. I thought I was supposed to speak

in tongues, bud from bulb in sunny

comprehension. Tomorrow the resurrection

may light my lips and face. But tonight I wait

crouched close to earth, a crocus fearing frost.

Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Jennifer Ley. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 27, 2011

William Cliff (1940)


(on a drawing by Frédéric Pajak)

when I was a child all alone in the country
and the gaping sky fell on my head
and the surrounding sea murmured to come
slowly to enclose me in its polluted tide

when in my absurd grubby shorts
I showed my knock knees and was
an insect lost in the limitless bad temper
of the evil adults who spat out their blasphemies

then I stopped for a moment at the edge of the sea
and covered my face with my hand to shut out the sight
of the horror of being born on this earth
and of always waiting for the morning light

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)


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

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

A Process in the Weather of the Heart

A process in the weather of the heart
Turns damp to dry; the golden shot
Storms in the freezing tomb.
A weather in the quarter of the veins
Turns night to day; blood in their suns
Lights up the living worm.

A process in the eye forwarns
The bones of blindness; and the womb
Drives in a death as life leaks out.

A darkness in the weather of the eye
Is half its light; the fathomed sea
Breaks on unangled land.
The seed that makes a forest of the loin
Forks half its fruit; and half drops down,
Slow in a sleeping wind.

A weather in the flesh and bone
Is damp and dry; the quick and dead
Move like two ghosts before the eye.

A process in the weather of the world
Turns ghost to ghost; each mothered child
Sits in their double shade.
A process blows the moon into the sun,
Pulls down the shabby curtains of the skin;
And the heart gives up its dead.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself---
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

A gray wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.

This red wall winces continually :
A red fist, opening and closing,
Two gray, papery bags---
This is what I am made of , this and a terror
Of being wheeled off under crosses and a rain of pietas.

On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
Swivel thier heads and cry.
There is no talk of immortality among these!
Cold blanks approach us :
They move in a hurry.

Joseph Brodsky (1940 - 1996 / Leningrad / Russia)

A Polar Explorer

All the huskies are eaten. There is no space
left in the diary, And the beads of quick
words scatter over his spouse's sepia-shaded face
adding the date in question like a mole to her lovely cheek.
Next, the snapshot of his sister. He doesn't spare his kin:
what's been reached is the highest possible latitude!
And, like the silk stocking of a burlesque half-nude
queen, it climbs up his thigh: gangrene.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Charles Bukowski

So Now? by Charles Bukowski
the words have come and gone,
I sit ill.
the phone rings, the cats sleep.
Linda vacuums.
I am waiting to live,
waiting to die.
I wish I could ring in some bravery.
it's a lousy fix
but the tree outside doesn't know:
I watch it moving with the wind
in the late afternoon sun.
there's nothing to declare here,
just a waiting.
each faces it alone.
Oh, I was once young,
Oh, I was once unbelievably
from Transit magazine, 1994

Benno Barnard

The Poets
sightless voyeurs under the petticoats
of the heavens,
deaf philosophers scratching away
at violins,
living authorities on our death –
we are mad with desire

for you,

but have nothing but froth
under skirts, catgut art,
pointless evocations of great
our desire lacks an all-
encompassing music.

“Narrative! Narrative!” you cry.

And so there’s love and death:
someone strings an impossible bow;
another assumes the cloak of madness
to avenge his begetter,
in middle age the third looks up
in the old chaos of the sun.

We’ve held out up till now,
because, despite it all, the anecdote
needs the sublime and the sublime,
the anecdote. Forgive us our pitiful
fiddling with commas and colons.

In the hope that the wind will blow through our work
we write our lovesick poems

to you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

In the wave-strike over unquiet stones’

In the wave-strike over unquiet stones
the brightness bursts and bears the rose
and the ring of water contracts to a cluster
to one drop of azure brine that falls.
O magnolia radiance breaking in spume,
magnetic voyager whose death flowers
and returns, eternal, to being and nothingness:
shattered brine, dazzling leap of the ocean.
Merged, you and I, my love, seal the silence
while the sea destroys its continual forms,
collapses its turrets of wildness and whiteness,
because in the weft of those unseen garments
of headlong water, and perpetual sand,
we bear the sole, relentless tenderness.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

A Bridal Song

The golden gates of Sleep unbar
Where Strength and Beauty, met together,
Kindle their image like a star
In a sea of glassy weather!
Night, with all thy stars look down,--
Darkness, weep thy holiest dew,--
Never smiled the inconstant moon
On a pair so true.
Let eyes not see their own delight;--
Haste, swift Hour, and thy flight
Oft renew.

Fairies, sprites, and angels, keep her!
Holy stars, permit no wrong!
And return to wake the sleeper,
Dawn,—ere it be long!
O joy! O fear! what will be done
In the absence of the sun!
Come along!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alexandr Blok

"All On the Earth..."
All on the earth will die – and youth and mother,
Wife will betray you, leave once faithful friend,
But you learn to enjoy the bliss another –
Look in a mirror of the polar land.

Get on your bark, sail to the distant Pole
In walls of ice – and bit by bit forget
How they loved there, perished, fought, gained goal…
Forget your passions’ ever painful set.

And let your soul, tiered all to bear,
Come used to shudder of the slow colds –
Such that it will not crave for something here,
When once from there the dazzling lighting bolts.

Marko Vešovic

summa summarum
The leaves of the ilex by the graveyard
Whisper prophetically.

And barley-corn ripens
Like those actors who
In the same role for the hundredth time
Stand forth before the audience.

Yet do not extol,
To the skies, your native land.
It ought to extol you.

Seen from this cloud
These meadows and fields
Are a stamp album;

And to the ant a smoke ring
Twirling from your cigarette
Is a whole new landscape!

And stop threatening for once
To return next time
To this handful of land without history
Only in the shape of a rider in bronze.

And before you leave
Stroke the bark of these trees
Which al the while have given you
Free lessons in standing tall!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wendell Berry

The Wish to be Generous
All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pwu Jean Lee


Some men live for a rose.
Some die for its scent.

No rose but withers, nor its scent lasts.

What does a man want from a woman?

Her face of rose?
Or her scent of a saint?

What is it
but her ways of Yin.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Constantine P. Cavafy

The Souls Of Old Men
Inside their worn, tattered bodies
sit the souls of old men.
How unhappy the poor things are
and how bored by the pathetic life they live.
How they tremble for fear of losing that life, and how much
they love it, those befuddled and contradictory souls,
sitting -half comic and half tragic-
inside their old, threadbare skins.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Han Shan T'e Ch'ing 1600

Look upon the body as unreal,
an image in a mirror,
the reflection of the moon in water.
Contemplate the mind as formless,
yet bright and pure.

Not a single thought arising,
empty, yet perceptive;
still, yet illuminating;
complete like the great emptiness,
containing all that is wonderful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fran Castan


The widow always wears a black coat.
She is cold in this coat even in summer.
She is here to receive the flag.
She is here to say hers is a small sacrifice
for God and for country. Valium
is the drug of choice for such occasions.
She will not cry out. She will not collapse.
Two men, solid as a pair of bookends,
flank her and grip her arms.
They wear dark suits or other uniforms.
"Hero," is the theme of the eulogy,
as if her husband chose to give his life.
Tonight, she will sleep with the widow's quilt,
the folded flag taken from his coffin.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Renee Ashley


"Ladies don't sweat, dear. They glow."
-- Mother

Glow my ass. Women sweat
wet as the tongues of dogs,
wildly slick beneath the breasts, beneath
the arms the body's water,
the body's salts like an oily sea;
and, where the soft thighs part at the open
mouth of the sex, where the dusky
flesh smothers, raw as an oyster, slick
as a throat, and bright like pearl or shell
in the dark, the musty smell of rich effluvium
lingers like air heavy with pollen and heat.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

About a year has passed. I've returned to the place of the battle,
to its birds that have learned their unfolding of wings
from a subtle
lift of a surprised eyebrow, or perhaps from a razor blade
- wings, now the shade of early twilight, now of state
bad blood.

Now the place is abuzz with trading
in your ankles's remnants, bronzes
of sunburnt breastplates, dying laughter, bruises,
rumors of fresh reserves, memories of high treason,
laundered banners with imprints of the many
who since have risen.

All's overgrown with people. A ruin's a rather stubborn
architectural style. And the hearts's distinction
from a pitch-black cavern
isn't that great; not great enough to fear
that we may collide again like blind eggs somewhere.

At sunrise, when nobody stares at one's face, I often,
set out on foot to a monument cast in molten
lengthy bad dreams. And it says on the plinth "commander
in chief." But it reads "in grief," or "in brief,"
or "in going under."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

To Nature
It may indeed be phantasy, when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wislawa Szymborska

Three Oddest Words

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Paula Gunn Allen

Out in the light on sitting alone.
Sorting, straightening tangled skins.
(They're always trying lives in knots.)
I would like to be sleeping. Not
dreaming, just black out:
no one bumping, around in my brain-
no angels, no deaths, just quite
empty nests, just threads
lying straight and ordered and still.
outside the window I can see
sweet winter birds
Rise up from tall weeds
chattering. They fly
into sunrisen sky that holds them
in light.
(Allen, 1992: 1989)