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

More

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Invisible Bull's-Eye

Talent hits the target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.

--Arthur Schopenhauer

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

One Satiating Moon

Watching the full moon,
a small hungry boy forgets
to eat his dinner.

--Basho, translated by Henry Behn

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One Recharted Course

Wind
By Olav Hauge

I was a boat becalmed,
You were wind.

South southwest
North or east
The direction I wanted to go
Is forgotten

Who cares about steering
With a wind like that!


--Version by Laura Sheahen

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One Serviceable Prosthesis

from Mr. Cogito Meditates on Suffering 
By Zbigniew Herbert

All attempts to remove
the so-called cup of bitterness—
by reflection
frenzied actions on behalf of homeless cats
deep breathing
religion—
failed

one must consent
gently bend the head
not wring the hands
make use of the suffering gently moderately
like an artificial limb
without false shame
but also without unnecessary pride
...

~Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter | Book

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

One Ordinary Wedding

We both knew we could not do it
But she promised so I promised too

--Munir Niazi, translated by Anwar Dil

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

One Collapsed Hive

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One Suffering Orchestra

from Definition of mutations
By Octavian Paler

When wood learns to suffer
And to dream as people do
It shall henceforth be called Violin...

~Translated by Ileana Stefanescu and S. D. Curtis | Book

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

One Artistic STD

from Philosophy of Autumn
By Miroslav Holub

...I ask myself if the prevailing
shortage of geniuses
may not be caused by the disappearance
of tertiary stages of syphilis.

--Translated by Ewald Osers | Book

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

One Keyless Door

from Secrecy 
By Margaret Atwood

 ...it's in you, secrecy.
Ancient and vicious, luscious
as dark velvet.
It blooms in you,
a poppy made of ink.

...Once you have it, you want more.
What power it gives you!
Power of knowing without being known,
power of the stone door,
power of the iron veil,
power of the crushed fingers,
power of the drowned bones
crying out from the bottom of the well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Unapocalyptic War

It Bids Pretty Fair 
By Robert Frost

The play seems out for an almost infinite run.
Don't mind a little thing like the actors fighting.
The only thing I worry about is the sun.
We'll be all right if nothing goes wrong with the lighting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One Delightsome Tickling

Here are a list of facts on which I and 9,000,000 other poets have spieled endlessly:

1. Spring is a pleasant season. The flowers, etc. etc. sprout bloom etc. etc
2. Young man's fancy. Lightly, heavily, gaily etc. etc.
3. Love, a delightsome tickling. Indefinable etc. A) By day, etc. etc. etc B) By night, etc. etc. etc.
4. Trees, hills etc are by a provident nature arranged diversely, in diverse places.
5. Winds, clouds, rains, etc flop thru and over 'em.
6. Men love women. ...
7. Men fight battles, etc. etc.
8. Men go on voyages.

--Ezra Pound

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One Restored Painting

from At Yale 
By Czeslaw Milosz

...There was once an artist
Faithful and hardworking. His workshop
Together with all he had painted, burned down,
He himself was executed. Nobody has heard of him.
Yet his paintings remain. On the other side of fire.

--Book

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One Unfortunate Engagement

At the flea market
someone's selling genuine love for
no money,
no lie.

No one
stops.
My lover at the next stall
buys a golden ring.

--Translated from the German of Kerstin Hensel