Tuesday, May 12, 2015

One Revealing Flame

from Further In
By Tomas Transtromer

I am transparent
and writing becomes visible
inside me
words in invisible ink
that appear
when the paper is held to the fire

--Translated by Robin Fulton

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Heavy Flag

I remember my mother toward the end,
folding the tablecloth after dinner
so carefully,
as if it were the flag
of a country that no longer existed,
but once had ruled the world.

--Jim Moore

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Overturned Stalactite

The Sandcastles 
By Haim Gouri

You remember,
it’s like the afternoon wave that washed away
the sandcastle,
the tunnels and the fortress towers,
the patience, the seashells and the stalactites,
extra trimmings.

And didn’t know.

The barbarism will return.
Insensitive to nuances, it doesn’t hang back.
It thinks big.

--Translated by Vivian Eden

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One Dark Polygon

There Is a Darkness
By Han Dong

I notice forest darkness
Darkness with a difference
Darkness like a square, in the forest
Darkness made by four people walking off in four directions
Darkness between the trees but not inside the trees
Darkness rising spreading through the sky
Darkness not of underground rocks that share everything
Darkness that weakens lights scattered evenly
Across a thousand miles to their lowest glow
Darkness gone through turns of endless trees unvanished
There is a darkness that forbids strangers to enter at any time
If you reach out a hand to stir it that is
Darkness in a giant glass
I notice forest darkness although I am not in the forest

~Translated by Maghiel van Crevel and Michael Day

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One Modern Poet

after belching out
a verse on the moon
the toad's belly shrinks

~Buson, translated by Stephen Addiss

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

One Fit Cure

I made a posy, while the day ran by:
“Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
My life within this band.”
But Time did beckon to the flowers, and they
By noon most cunningly did steal away,
And withered in my hand.

My hand was next to them, and then my heart;
I took, without more thinking, in good part
Time’s gentle admonition;
Who did so sweetly death’s sad taste convey,
Making my mind to smell my fatal day,
Yet, sug’ring the suspicion.

Farewell dear flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
Fit, while ye lived, for smell or ornament,
And after death for cures.
I follow straight without complaints or grief,
Since, if my scent be good, I care not if
It be as short as yours.

--George Herbert

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

One Thoughtless Flower

a morning glory

not knowing of our drinking


--Basho, translated by Stephen Addiss

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One Heavy Cornsack

from Song of Speaks-Fluently 

To have to carry your own corn far—
who likes it?
To follow the black bear through the thicket—
who likes it?
To hunt without profit, to return without anything—
who likes it?

You have to carry your own corn far.
You have to follow the black bear.
You have to hunt without profit.

If not, what will you tell the little ones?

--Osage, version by Mary Ruefle

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One Damaged Atlas

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

--Warsan Shire

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One Strong Spell

Song of a Marriageable Girl

Will a man come for me?
The good spirit of the forest knows.
He could tell little Medje;
But he will not tell.

There are things it is not right to know:
If there will be dew on the grass tomorrow,
If the fish will come to the trap and be caught,
If a spell put on the gazelle
Will let my father kill it.

~Translated from the Pygmy by Willard Trask, after O. De Labrouhe

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Scrubbed Surgeon

When exile took us by surprise,
a surgeon ready-scrubbed
treated us with scalpels
cleansed us of the dream tumors in our organs...

--Fawzi Karim

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

One Amphibious Centaur

Poetry is a centaur. The thinking, word-arranging, clarifying faculty must move and leap with the energizing, sentient, musical faculties. It is precisely the difficulty of this amphibious existence that keeps down the census record of good poets.

 --Ezra Pound

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Civilized Glance

And Dreams Paled 
By Eeva Kilpi

No sooner had I learned to
get along without
than I happened to think:
I will not give up this person,

And the sheets burst into bloom.
This is reality, he said,
and dreams paled.

So that was the kind of force
behind those civilized glances
that for years
we gave each other.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One Proven Death

from alternate names for black boys
By Danez Smith

1. smoke above the burning bush
2. archnemesis of summer night
3. first son of soil
4. coal awaiting spark & wind
5. guilty until proven dead
6. oil heavy starlight
7. monster until proven ghost
8. gone
9. phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One Happy Quarry

The So-called Singer of Nab 
By Sarah Lindsay

They have left behind the established cave
with its well-worn floor. Scholarship impels them
in hundreds, but generally one by one,
to find an unknown passage or scrape out their own.
Proto-Semitic linguistic theory,
Hittite stratigraphic anomalies,
microclimatic economics. "What do you see?"
invisible followers ask in their ears,
and they whisper "Wonderful things" as they quarry
a grain of rock at a time, or examine
a fleck of ore, or measure
the acidity of a trickle of water.
See! Behold! Look! Lo!
they cry in season, rapt, in love,
chipping away with their pocketknives,
pencils, rulers, fingernails,
but some have tunneled so narrowly and deep
that those behind see nothing but slivers of light
around an excavator's haunches.

A battered piece of a tablet is all that remains
of the so-called Singer of Nab.
Circa 1200 BCE,
he impressed, or had impressed, some words in clay.
He may have composed a religious hymn,
praise to the king, a poem of love,
an inventory of cattle. (He may have been she,
but this is unlikely.) The lines we have
could be the beginning or the middle;
there may have been ten more, or hundreds.
The word before this gap, in fact, means "hundreds."
Hundreds led in battle, hundreds slain?
A thousand times beloved, nine hundred sheep?
And the standard translation of this word, here,
is either "desire" or "need." But did he write
of a boundless yearning, or mercantile requirements?
Was he a "singer"? The scholars who care disagree.

Look at them, crouched in a long tunnel dug
by means of argument over an antique syntax,
warming their hands at a chunk of brick
baked maybe in the time of the Trojan War,
broken some moment between then and now—
peering at it with penlights, squandering eyesight.
They know they may crawl out hungry, mumbling,
aged and gray, clutching a secret message of small import
or nothing, nothing. They seem lost. They seem happy.

~ Book

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

One Unfaded Yellow

You have yourself remarked that my studies in the studio improve rather than lose their color with time.... This is crucial in my opinion--how to paint so that it hardens well....

 --Vincent van Gogh

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Insecure Bird

On my volcano grows the Grass
A meditative spot --
An acre for a Bird to choose
Would be the General thought --

How red the Fire rocks below --
How insecure the sod
Did I disclose -- Would populate
With awe my solitude.

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

One Wakeful Nightingale

They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remember'd how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.

--Callimachus, translated by William Johnson Cory

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Resilient Moon

Broken and broken
again on the sea, the moon
so easily mends

--Chosu, translated by Henry Behn

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Crumbling Citadel

Sightseers, take note
My heart crumbling

What a citadel
Sorrows have brought down

--Mir Taqi Mir, version by Laura Sheahen

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

One Cherished Cliff

I am the lord of the edge
I control this edge this edge is sacred to me
nothing goes over it I guard its correctness its silence
irregularities I observe and report to the highest authority
I take care of this edge it is everything to me
I repair where it tumbles or crumbles I add to, sweep up
I work hard on this edge
I do nothing else this edge

 --Marije Langelaar, translated by Diane Butterman