Tuesday, April 10, 2018

One Buried Look

from Selling Gold
By Nguyen Duy

Our soul -- a slab of pure gold.
We'll have to sell it piece by piece.
One piece for a son, one for a wife,
others for parents and friends.

The inner wealth hard to keep,
we're rich men, but our children eat dirt,
still, we walk, noses in the air, wife in hock,
parents drowned in storms and floods.

We dream and dance on without shame
don't give a damn for the leaky roof,
don't give a damn for a son's rags,
don't give a damn for a wife's withered hand.

We'd get drunk with the ocean and sky
just to get away from what's closest to us,
the rice pot empty, we turn our backs,
worry safely buried in a wife's hidden look.

~Translated by Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung | Book

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

One Sharp Needle

Sonnet XXIV
By Louise Labe

Do not reproach me, ladies, if I’ve loved
And felt a thousand torches burn my veins,
A thousand griefs, a thousand biting pains.
If all my days to bitter tears dissolved,

Then, ladies, do not denigrate my name.
If I did wrong, the pain and punishment
Are now. Don’t file their needles to a point.
Consider: Love is master of the game:

No need of Vulcan to explain your fire,
Nor of Adonis to excuse desire,
But with less cause than mine, far less occasion,

As the whim takes him, idly he can curse
You with a stranger and a stronger passion.
But O take care your suffering's not worse.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

One Strange Plagiarizer

The Aviator
By Shota Iatashvili

He flew off and turned out to be right:
They praised him, blessed him, bent his neck down.
He flew off again, and again turned out to be right:
They gave him a reception and didn’t grudge him bread, water and
A comb for his wing and plumage.
He flew off a third time and this time, too, he turned out to be right:
They put up with him, tolerated him.
He flew off a fourth time and turned out to be in the wrong:
They called him a silly plagiarizer of an angel.
But he still flew off a fifth time –
They fired at him,
They killed him.

--Translated by Donald Rayfield

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

One Unearthed Wallet

from The Summer A Tribe Called Quest Broke Up
By Hanif Abdurraqib

all them black
boys in the 'hood
had they wallets
unearthed in cities
they ain’t never
seen before & they
was all empty
'cept for maybe the bones
of the last woman
to hold them in her arms &
call them by the
name they blessed the
earth with


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

One Stolen Dance

from The United States Welcomes You
By Tracy K. Smith

Why and by whose power were you sent?
What do you see that you may wish to steal?
Why all this dancing? Why do your dark bodies
Drink up the light? What are you demanding
That we feel? Have you stolen something? Then
What is that leaping in your chest?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

One Worthwhile War

When the war is over 
By W.S. Merwin

When the war is over
We will be proud of course the air will be
Good for breathing at last
The water will have been improved the salmon
And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly
The dead will think the living are worth it we will know
Who we are
And we will all enlist again

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

One Troubling Treasure

Crying, my little one, footsore and weary?
Fall asleep, pretty one, warm on my shoulder:
I must tramp on through the winter night dreary,
While the snow falls on me colder and colder.

You are my one, and I have not another;
Sleep soft, my darling, my trouble and treasure;
Sleep warm and soft in the arms of your mother,
Dreaming of pretty things, dreaming of pleasure.

--By Christina Rossetti

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

One Concernless No

A Clock stopped—
Not the Mantel’s—
Geneva’s farthest skill
Can’t put the puppet bowing
That just now dangled still—

An Awe came on the trinket!
The Figures hunched with pain—
Then quivered out of Decimals
Into Degreeless Noon—

It will not stir for doctors—
This Pendulum of snow—
The Shopman importunes it—
While cool—concernless No

Nods from the gilded pointers—
Nods from the seconds slim—
Decades of Arrogance between
The Dial life—
And Him—

By Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

One Full Mouth

from Thanks
By W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

One Gutted Sonnet

To Eros
By Alfonsina Storni

Here at the edge of the sea, I captured you
by the scruff of your neck while you were readying
the arrows in your quiver to strike me down.
I saw your floral crown, set on the sand.

I gutted out your belly like a doll's
and took a close look at your phony gears;
and picking through your mess of golden pulleys,
I found a secret trapdoor that said 'sex'.

I held you, sad and tattered on the beach,
and showed the sun, exposer of your exploits.
A ring of panic-stricken sirens watched.

The moon, your patroness of trickery,
began to climb her white way through the sky,
and I threw you to the wide mouth of the waves.

 ~Translated by Nicholas Friedman

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

One Tasteful Nemesis

Good taste is the enemy of creativity.

 --Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

One Kindred Spider

By Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One Quelled Child

from The Woman Who Cannot

The woman who cannot bring forth her child: go to a dead man’s grave and then step three times over the grave, and then say these words three times:

This is my cure for the loathsome late-birth
This is my cure for the bitter black-birth
This is my cure for the loathsome imperfect-birth

And when that woman is with child and she goes to her lord in his bed, then let her say:

Up I go, over you I step,
with a quick child, not a quelled one,
with a full-born one, not a doomed one.

And when the mother feels the child is quick, go then to a church, and when she comes before the altar say then:

Christ, I said it. This has been uttered.

The woman who cannot bring forth her child: grasp a handful of her own child’s grave, and after that, bind it in black wool and sell it to peddlers, and say then:

I sell it, you sell it.
This blackened wool, this sorrow seed.

--Anonymous, translated from the Old English by Miller Oberman

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

One Fiery Risk

We gave a helping hand to grass–
it turned into corn.
We gave a helping hand to fire–
it turned into a rocket.

we give a helping hand
to people,
to some people...

--By Miroslav Holub

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

One Flat Land

from Special Problems in Vocabulary
By Tony Hoagland

There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

No verb for accidentally
breaking a thing
while trying to get it open
 —a marriage, for example.

....There is no expression, in English, at least,
for avoiding the sight
of your own body in the mirror,
for disliking the touch

of the afternoon sun,
for walking into the flatlands and dust
that stretch out before you
after your adventures are done.

No adjective for gradually speaking less and less,
because you have stopped being able
to say the one thing that would
break your life loose from its grip.

....No word for waking up one morning
and looking around,
because the mysterious spirit

that drives all things
seems to have returned,
and is on your side again.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

One Dead Sea

By Zbigniew Herbert

We walk by the sea-shore
holding firmly in our hands
the two ends of an antique dialogue
—do you love me?
—I love you

with furrowed eyebrows
I summarize all wisdom
of the two testaments
astrologers prophets
philosophers of the gardens
and cloistered philosophers

and it sounds about like this:
—don’t cry
—be brave
—look how everybody

you pout your lips and say
—you should be a clergyman
and fed up you walk off
nobody loves moralists

what should I say on the shore of
a small dead sea

slowly the water fills
the shapes of feet which have vanished

--Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott | Book

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

One Deep Bed

The Tides 
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I saw the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenseless land
Th'insurgent waters with tumultuous roar.
All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love, laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o’er me
They swept again from their deep ocean bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

One Freighted If

from In Memoriam A. H. H.
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Calm is the morn without a sound,
 Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
 And only thro' the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground: 

Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
 And on these dews that drench the furze.
 And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:

Calm and still light on yon great plain
 That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
 And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
 These leaves that redden to the fall;
 And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
 And waves that sway themselves in rest,
 And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

One Intolerant Profession

No artist tolerates reality.

--Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

One Crumbling Face

Still When I Picture It the Face of God Is a White Man’s Face 
By Shane McCrae

Before it disappears

on the sand his long white beard    before it disappears

The face of the man

in the waves I ask her does she see it ask her does

The old man in the waves as the waves crest    she see it does

she see the old man his

White his face crumbling face it looks

as old as he’s as old as

The ocean looks

and for a moment almost looks

His face like it’s all the way him

As never such old skin

looks my / Daughter age four

She thinks it might he might be real she shouts Hello

And after there’s no answer answers No