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

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

One Gold Scar

The Joins
By Chana Bloch

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending precious pottery with gold.

What's between us
seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.

Seems flexible but isn’t;
what's between us
is made of clay

like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.

We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history

and the cup is precious to us
we saved it.

In the art of kintsugi
a potter repairing a broken cup
would sprinkle the resin

with powdered gold.
Sometimes the joins
are so exquisite

they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

One Incomprehensible Flower

I see you do not want things to continue
This way
In this particular case
We speak of forget-me-nots
A flower about which we understand

--Alberto de Lacerda, translated from the Portuguese by Calvin Olsen

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One Gasping Wasp

from the boy detective loses love
By Sam Sax

there should be a word for how the world turns
to amber resin with a long dead wasp gasping
inside when somebody leaves you. the boy tries
to catalogue each betrayal, rage shouting
up through his skin. ...

...this is stasis. this is a fish split
open and thrashing on a dock beneath a sky
with no stars. this is how all the light gets
swallowed. how we store our sorrow in clear
glass jars that tint the winter's light and keep
us warm through the coldest months.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

One Obfuscating Desk

Lashing the Body from the Bones 
By Lee Sharkey

Do you plead guilty to this—


So why did you confess to—

I was not involved in—

Perhaps you pled guilty to acting in concert with—

You have seen to what extent I have been under the influence of—

Why did you give such testimony—

I shudder to think—I was searching myself for—

How is it you confirmed—and now are denying—

I became ashamed of—

So what you are saying is that—did things that were not—and became a nest of—

It became clear—it takes only one plague bacillus—

An appropriate person for criminal—

It is difficult for me to accuse—he is a person who is to some degree— there are elements in his—

Could it be—

By nature he is a convinced—

Was—an active—

Yes—an active—at one time he occupied a little desk—

From your answers—to conclude that—these—and together with—

Everyone was speaking out against—

So are we to understand—the entire—was against you, and you were against—

On the first evening—I already understood that things were going to—

Where is the truth—

I speak with complete openness and honesty

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One Victorious Hand

from The Bacchae
By Euripides

When shall I dance once more
with bare feet the all-night dances,
tossing my head for joy
in the damp air, in the dew,
as a running fawn might frisk
for the green joy of the wide fields,
from from fear of the hunt,
free from the circling beaters
and the nets of woven mesh
and the hunters hallooing on
their yelping packs?

 ...What gift of the gods
is held in honor like this:
to hold your hand victorious over those you hate?
Honor is precious forever.

--translated by William Arrowsmith

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