Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blanca Varela (1926-2009)

So It Shall Be

The day stays behind,
scarcely spent and already useless.
The great light commences,
all the doors open before
a sleeping man,
time is a tree incessantly growing.
the great half-open door,
the blinding star.
It is not with eyes one sees the birth
of that drop of light that will be,
that was a day.
Sing, bee, unhurried,
traverse the illumined labyrinth,
on a party.
Breathe and sing.
Where everything ends spread your wings.
You are the sun,
the morning’s sting,
the sea kissing the mountains,
the total clarity,
the dream. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Sonnet 14 - If Thou Must Love Me, Let It Be For Nought


If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning :

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Ode To Bird Watching

Let's look for birds!
The tall iron branches
in the forest,
The dense
fertility on the ground.
The world
is wet.
A dewdrop or raindrop
a diminutive star
among the leaves.
The morning time
mother earth
is cool.
The air
is like a river
which shakes
the silence.
It smells of rosemary,
of space
and roots.
a crazy song.
It's a bird.
out of its throat
smaller than a finger
can there fall the waters
of its song?
Luminous ease!
of music
in the leaves.
Sacred conversations!
Clean and fresh washed
is this
day resounding
like a green dulcimer.
I bury
my shoes
in the mud,
jump over rivulets.
A thorn
bites me and a gust
of air like a crystal
splits up inside my chest.
are the birds?
Maybe it was
rustling in the foliage
or that fleeting pellet
of brown velvet
or that displaced
perfume? That
leaf that let loose cinnamon smell
- was that a bird? That dust
from an irritated magnolia
or that fruit
which fell with a thump -
was that a flight?
Oh, invisible little
birds of the devil
with their ringing
with their useless feathers.
I only want
to caress them,
to see them resplendent.
I don't want
to see under glass
the embalmed lightning.
I want to see them living.
I want to touch their gloves
of real hide,
which they never forget in
the branches
and to converse with
sitting on my shoulders
although they may leave
me like certain statues
undeservedly whitewashed.
You can't touch them.
You can hear them
like a heavenly
rustle or movement.
They converse
with precision.
They repeat
their observations.
They brag
of how much they do.
They comment
on everything that exists.
They learn
certain sciences
like hydrography.
and by a sure science
they know
where there are harvests
of grain
Pablo Neruda :

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kenneth Sherman (b.1950)

Peanut Puppets

Kenneth Sherman
From:   Jackson's Point. Oberon Press, 1989

(for Marie)

Tiny halves of peanut shells — corrugated, wrinkled.
With red and black markers
You sketched on one a dog's face, on the rest
The likenesses of our family members,
Your quick strokes cartooning the pocked surface
Into a surprised line of vaudeville expressions.
Shreds of felt for dangling basset ears and human hair.
They wagged from the fleshy tips of your fingers
Their dumb show of affection.
And who could explain the length to which I loved them,
Their sweet meat long gone,
Marveling at what is made out of dried husk and pen.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Gonzalo Rojas (1916-2011)

Álvaro Mutis
And in the patio where my grandparents played,
with its modest well and its high walls
worked with ageless white coral,
in the house of Capuchin Street
there has been revealed to me again and forever
the secret cipher of my name,
the secret of my blood, the voice of my own folk.
I name now that port which sun
and salt built to win in time
an extensive portion of their region
and I say Cádiz put my wait in order
so that nothing or anything may try in vain
to disinherit me once again of what has been
‘the kingdom for me’

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ruben Dario (1867-1916)

from Thistles

First, a look;
then the burning touch
of hands; and then
the racing blood
and the kiss that triumphs.
Later, night and delight. Later, the flight
of that craven gossip
seeking another victim.
You are right to weep, but it is too late!
Do you see? I told you!


I would not want to see you a mother,
my dark sweet woman.
But then, there is a canal
not far from your house,
and of course it is well known
that man is not born with the knowledge
of how to swim.

Translated from the Spanish by Lysander Kemp

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Alice Bolin

Landscape: stages

I traced a facsimile
on a sheet of graph paper:
the boreal forest. A field loud
with colorless birds. Delirious
as a midnight locomotive,
mood ring, you should be afraid
of me. Faithfully, faithfully,
I have fed on regrets
and reddened sentiments, a season
like the strain of a canary
in the apartment next door.
What regrets. A sense of the public
contracting like a woman’s chest.
My most brutal loneliness,
those fields ripping by
the covered wagon. Last night
under the stage lights,
I was taken by bare resignation,
a new fault line craning inside me.
To keep from crying, I considered you
a frontier, a fallowed wing.
I bit my lip into a talisman.  end

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ricky Laurentiis (b.1989)

Study in Black
Tu Fu, “Thoughts While Traveling at Night”
There’s a wind in the grass – 
Is there here
       a boat’s mast claiming my lonely night too?
                                                                        I see the stars
                    can’t be called hanged, exactly,
just hanging down,
                                  not over emptiness, but honest ground,
the moon trying the black skin of this river, black corpse    . . .    
                                                                                 But, even plainer – 
       I wonder if these words, my words,
will ever bring me fame.
       I have my age, my injuries. They limit me.
                                                                       I’m like some spook bird
I know, solo and roped between
                                                           where rotting happens and a sky.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Magical Mystery Tour

I am in this low-slung sports car
painted a deep, rich yellow
driving under an Italian sun.
I have a British accent.
I'm wearing dark shades
an expensive silk shirt.
there's no dirt under my
the radio plays Vivaldi
and there are two women with
one with raven hair
the other a blonde.
they have small breasts and
beautiful legs
and they laugh at everything I

as we drive up a steep road
the blonde squeezes my leg
and nestles closer
while raven hair
leans across and nibbles my

we stop for lunch at a quaint
rustic inn.
there is more laughter
before lunch
during lunch and after

after lunch we will have a
flat tire on the other side of
the mountain
and the blonde will change the
raven hair
photographs me
lighting my pipe
leaning against a tree
the perfect background
perfectly at peace
Charles Bukowski :

Monday, September 21, 2015

Earle Birney (1904-1995)

Plaza de la Inquisición

(for pat)
Earle Birney
From:   Fall by Fury. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977. With permission of the Estate of Earle Birney.
A spider's body
limp and hairy
appeared at the bottom of my coffee

The waiter being Castilian
said passionately nothing
And why indeed should apologies
be made to me

It was I who was looking in
at the spider
It might be years
before I slipped and drowned
in somebody else's cup

Madrid 1963

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Xavier Villaurrutia (1903-1950)

Fear Nocturne

Everything at night lives a secret doubt:
silence and noise, time and place.
Motionless sleepers or wide-awake somnambulists,
we are helpless against secret anxiety.
And it is not enough to close our eyes in the darkness
or sink them in sleep to see no more,        
for in the hard darkness and in the cavern of sleep
the same nocturnal light still keeps us awake.
Then, with the tread of an awake sleeper,
aimless and pointless we begin to walk.
Night pours over us its mystery,
and something tells that us to die is to awake.
And who among the shadows of a deserted street,
in the wall, a livid mirror of solitude,
one has not seen coming and going to his encounter
and has not felt fear, pain, mortal doubt?
The fear of being nothing but an empty body
that someone, myself or any other, can occupy,
and the pain of being outside oneself, alive,
and the doubt of being or not being real.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jose Lezama Lima (1901-1976)

Old Surrealist Ballad

When the rivulet swells with lashing
snaketails and the piano with its backside turned
displays its shoes shining like the night
when it sinks, a sagging armchair whose old wicker
strands are still a plaything for the boy with a big head
Taking shelter from a slice of violin melon
the dancers bump their heads and perspire sawdust
and midnight is as bored
as a chessboard leaned against a blackboard
I had no plan to go, but my keychain was missing
the enormous lock the dog that always follows me
until it goes off licking the back of its leg
The violin like an arm covered with frogs
began releasing drops of evaporated honey
The chief’s canoe crossed the crystal lake
at the stroke of two in the morning
and those who woke up danced with those who were sleeping
The woman we waited for is here and I hid
like a hypocrite behind a child’s box of pencils
which lent me their yellow fingers
and scraps of the accordion like a grapefruit packed in syrup
I used to save tears like bread crumbs
to throw into the pool of sissified alligators
When the doughnut began to puff
the patent leather definitely squealed
and the chiefs canoe was filled with crystal shards.

20 September 1975 Cuba

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ruth Stone (1915-2011)

Look To The Future

To you born into violence,
the wars of the red ant are nothing;
you, in the heart of the eruption.

I am speaking from immeasurable grass blades.
You, there on the rubble,
what is the river of vapor to you?

You who are helpless as small birds
downed on the ice pack.
You who are spoiled as
commercial fruit by the medfly.

To you the machine guns.
To you the semen of fire,
the birth of the maggot in the corpse.

You, to whom we send these gifts;
at the heart of light we are crushed together.
When the sun dies we will become one.
Ruth Stone :

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ada Limon (b.1976)

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use

By Ada Limón b. 1976       

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012)

The End And The Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Wislawa Szymborska :

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bob Kaufman (1925-1986)

Where the string
some point,
Was umbilical jazz,
Or perhaps,
In memory,
A long lost bloody cross,
Buried in some steel cavalry.
In what time
For whom do we bleed,
Lost notes, from some jazzman's
Broken needle.
Musical tears from lost
Broken drumsticks, why?
Pitter patter, boom dropping
Bombs in the middle
Of my emotions
My father's sound
My mother's sound,
Is love,
Is life.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Linda Pastan (b.1932)


Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal
the verticality of trees which we notice in December
as if for the first time: row after row of dark forms
yearning upwards. And since we will be horizontal
ourselves for so long, let us now honor
the gods of the vertical: stalks of wheat which
to the ant must seem as high as these trees do to us,
silos and telephone poles, stalagmites and skyscrapers.
but most of all these winter oaks, these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch whose bark is like roughened skin against
which I lean my chilled head, not ready to lie down.
Linda Pastan :

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Charles Simic

Pigeons at Dawn

Extraordinary efforts are being made
To hide things from us, my friend.
Some stay up into the wee hours
To search their souls.
Others undress each other in darkened rooms.

The creaky old elevator
Took us down to the icy cellar first
To show us a mop and a bucket
Before it deigned to ascend again
With a sigh of exasperation.

Under the vast, early-dawn sky
The city lay silent before us.
Everything on hold:
Rooftops and water towers,
Clouds and wisps of white smoke.

We must be patient, we told ourselves,
See if the pigeons will coo now
For the one who comes to her window
To feed them angel cake,
All but invisible, but for her slender arm.
Charles Simic :

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

I Taught Myself To Live Simply

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.
Anna Akhmatova :

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Valentine de Saint-Point [France] (1875-1953)

The Puppet and Death

The cavern was dark and the gathering was great.
In our midst, a puppet, the object of the wake.
We stood on either side of it, myself and Death,
With each one tugging at an arm. My final breath

Was encased in that flaccid, inanimate mask!
With my whole body I bent, as against a blast
Of icy wind, fighting Death with all my vigor,
Which blazed at the thought of emerging the victor.
If I failed in my effort, I knew I was lost;
My will to live grew tense—my life would be the cost.

But then Death ripped the miserable puppet in half—
I held on to my part, The crowd burst out in laugh-
ter. Then seizing its limp, mutilated trophy,
Death fled… and I now feared for my own destiny.

After Death disappeared, the crowd slowly vanished
Before my empty eyes. As the noise diminished,
I looked at my half of the puppet with a moan,
In the cavern grown dark where I stood all alone.

Translated from the French by Guy Bennett

Monday, September 7, 2015

Andres Eloy Blanco (1896-1955)

Poet: Andrés Eloy Blanco

Oh world, to that black woman, Juana
what a bad hand was dealt,
Her black man has died,
yes sir.
—Ay, my dearest compadre,
¡he was so healthy, my black man!
I could not feel his folds,
I could not see his bones;
as I became thiner,
I used my body as measure,
and he began to thin out
as I thinned out as well.
My black man has died;
as God willed it;
he will be next to him now
like an angel in heaven.
Face reality, comadre,
black angels don't exist.
Oh Painter who paints bedroom saints,
painter who's heart knows no land,
that while painting these saints
never remembers your countrymen,
that when you paint virgins,
always paints such beautiful angels,
but never remembers
to paint a black angel.
Painter born in my country,
with a foreign paintbrush,
painter that follows the path,
of so many painters of old,
even if the Virgin is white,
paint her some black angels.
There are no painters to paint
angels for my countrymen.
I want some white angels
next to the brown skinned ones.
Angels from good families
are not enough for my heaven.
If there is a painter of saints left,
if there is a painter of heavens left,
to make a heaven for this land,
with the hues of my countrymen,
with angels of fine pearl,
and angels of auburn hair,
with blond angels,
and brown skinned angels,
with white angels,
and Indian angels,
and black angels,
walking along eating mangoes
through the neighborhoods of heaven.
If I go to heaven someday,
I will search for him there,
my devil of an angel,
my dark black seraphim.
If you know how to paint your land,
you should paint your heaven thus,
with a sun that toasts the whites,
and makes the black ones sweat,
for that’s what it’s for,
warm and good to all.
So even if the Virgin is white,
paint me some black angels.
Is there no church anywhere,
Is there no church in any country,
where they have allowed
black angels on the canvass?
If not, where do they go,
the angels of my country,
the little vultures of the Guaribe,
or the black crows of Barvolento?
Painter that paints this country,
if you want to paint your heaven,
when you paint angels,
remember your countrymen
and next to the blond angel
side by side with the brunette one
Even if the Virgin is white
paint me some black angels.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Alice Major

The moon of magpies quarrelling

Alice Major
From:   Tales for an Urban Sky. Fredricton: Broken Jaw Press, 2001.

shimmers in the pale sky of early morning
like a court reporter's screen. It records
the magpies' proceedings - litigious birds
with ermine draped across their glossy shoulders,
their bellies drooped in prosperous curves.
They introduce their offspring to the court's
attention in harsh, good-natured voices.
They teach their fledglings legalese, the value
of bright shiny objects and their importance
in the scheme of branches.
                                   They do not mean to be
so handsome, so much bigger than the other
birds, or to have such clever eyes. It's just
the way things are, they tell
judiciously brightening skies.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

John B.Lee

Being Human

John B. Lee

I am reading Rumi
reading Tu Fu and thinking of being human
last summer Marty and I slept in the farmhouse loft
under French heaven near Vitteaux
and we lay in our separate cots
like boys at camp
laughing, talking silly
making fun of everyone
we were mostly ourselves, middle aged men
with the window open
to starlight
and the evening breath of the fields

look up at the slant of ceiling
the slant of beams
this room was built
for dreaming
and we were giddy as lads
with happy lives, not
old Tu Fu, his sadness settled
like shadows, like rivers
like cold stones of winter
and the bitter darkness of long nights
and the lonesome insomnia
of small hours
like the mystical beauty of death and dying
and the inescapable anger of the soul

our hearts
refusing the silence
with a lovely slowing exhalation
as we each become more pensive in
the loosening limbs of slumber
relaxing our hands like unfurled leaves
and pressing our faces to linen

meanwhile great rivers of the earth
the Tigres and Euphrates
the Yangtse
the Amazon of my father's last days
flow on
and what would I buy
from the famous floating markets of Bangkok

I would purchase the rains of remember
I would purchase the stars of recall
and what to preserve in a poem
but the drenching of darkness with light.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Doom of Exiles

Now we, returning from the vaulted domes
Of our colossal sleep, come home to find
A tall metropolis of catacombs
Erected down the gangways of our mind.Green alleys where we reveled have become
The infernal haunt of demon dangers;
Both seraph song and violins are dumb;
Each clock tick consecrates the death of strangersBackward we traveled to reclaim the day
Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
All we find are altars in decay
And profane words scrawled black across the sun.Still, stubbornly we try to crack the nut
In which the riddle of our race is shut.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Erez Biton (b.1942)


At the Jerusalem School for the Blind
Mister Zvi, the school principal,
would introduce me to visitors
and say:
“This boy
when he grows up
we will make for him
one strap for the left shoulder
one strap for the right shoulder
and turn him into a weaver
who will weave rugs
for kings and princes.”

I did not become a weaver
and yet
at times
during moments of grace
my poems turn into
small rugs
for all and sundry

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Claudia Lars (1899-1974)

Sketch of the woman of the future

Standing tall in the mud.
Not like the flower's stalk
and butterfly’s desire . . .
No roots, no flitting,
more erect, more sure
and more free.

Knower of shadow and thorn,
With miracle held high
in her triumphant arms.
With obstacle and abyss.
beneath her stride.

Absolute queen of her flesh
returned to the center of her spirit:
vessel of the celestial,
domus aurea, home of the golden;
clod where shoots burst forth into
maize and fragrant flower.

Forgotten: the Mona Lisa's smile.
Broken: the spell of centuries.
Conquered: the fears.
Bright and naked in the pure, clean day.

Unequalled lover
in enjoyment of a love so lofty
that no one today could predict it.
with controlled sweetness
that doesn't hurt or intoxicate the drinker.

Maternal still,
without the caress that holds back flight
nor tenderness that traps,
nor submission and giving in, that little by little, smothers.

Pioneer of the clouds.
Guide to the labyrinth.
Weaver of veil and song.
Adorned only in her simplicity.

She stands up from the dust . . .
Not like the flowering stem
that’s not so beautiful.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pedro Serrano

Black Poplars

green height on blue,
scraping, climbing the air.
Each one makes its own ascent,
hair to the wind,
its own prayer.
They emerge from the greenest mass,
articulating themselves,
wilful filaments in air.
Calm, proud,
centred on their crowns,
flickering, almost immaterial.
They tremble with fear,
each leaf, each branch
a silken mane, vertical.
God's legions, poets
of discipline or of exhaustion,
brushstrokes of blue, green jaguars,
Cut-outs of water, virtual reflections,
totems of glass.