Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One Strange Button

from The Rain
By Zbigniew Herbert

When my older brother
came back from war
he had on his forehead a little silver star
and under the star
an abyss

a splinter of shrapnel
hit him at Verdun
or perhaps at Gr├╝nwald
(he'd forgotten the details)

...we looked at him
getting paler and paler
abandoned by his senses
he turned slowly into a monument

into musical shells of ears
entered a stone forest
and the skin of his face
was secured
with the blind dry
buttons of eyes

nothing was left him
but touch

what stories
he told with his hands
in the right he had romances
in the left soldier's memories

they took my brother
and carried him out of town
he returns every fall
slim and very quiet
(he does not want to come in)
he knocks at the window for me

we walk together in the streets
and he recites to me
improbable tales
touching my face
with blind fingers of rain

--Translated by Czeslaw Milosz

One Dizzy Fire

...When I look at you
Brochea, not a part of my
voice comes out,
but my tongue breaks,
and right away
a delicate fire runs just beneath
my skin,

I see a dizzy nothing,
my ears ring with noise,
the sweat runs down
upon me, and a trembling
that I cannot stop
seizes me limb and loin,
I am greener than grass, and
death seems so near...

--Sappho, translated by Edward Sanders

One Bad Wax

from Waiting for Icarus
By Muriel Rukeyser

He said he would be back and we'd drink wine together
He said that everything would be better than before
He said we were on the edge of a new relation
He said he would never again cringe before his father
He said that he was going to invent full-time
He said he loved me that going into me
He said was going into the world and the sky
He said all the buckles were very firm
He said the wax was the best wax
He said Wait for me here on the beach
He said Just don't cry ...more

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One Scary Wristwatch

By Mario Susko

I came upon a man in black who sat on a tank,
tending his sheep that grazed impassively
around the craters and among dead bodies.

I am looking for my son, I said squinting.
The bullets in his cartridge belt slung
over his shoulder shone in the sun like teeth.

He smiled, chewing a cigarette to the other
corner of his mouth, and motioned with his hand
to the field. Plenty to choose from, he said.

The sheep were moving away towards the shade
of a big oak tree, the bodies following
on all fours. I strained my ears to hear the bell

I knew. He slid down and stared at me.
Is that your stomach growling, he asked.
I am just trying to find my son, I whispered.

You want me to shoot one? He spat out the butt
and stomped it with his boot that was like my son’s.
We are talking about some good meat, he grinned.

The shirt looked familiar, but I couldn’t tell.
My sheep started to fan out and I suddenly heard
a dog yelp behind me. He whistled, the sound

thin and piercing, making the bodies stop.
I felt the sweat run down my buttocks and legs,
as if someone punctured holes in my ribs.

Have you seen my son, I uttered, not knowing
whether any sound left my mouth. You never had
a son, he yelled and cocked his submachine gun.

The boots were the same, and so was the shirt.
And the Mickey Mouse watch on his hand was the same.
Tell you what, he said and laughed. I’ll be your son.

One Gallant Foe

Ballad for Gloom
By Ezra Pound

For God, our God is a gallant foe
That playeth behind the veil.

I have loved my God as a child at heart
That seeketh deep bosoms for rest,
I have loved my God as a maid to man—
But lo, this thing is best:

To love your God as a gallant foe
that plays behind the veil;
To meet your God as the night winds meet
beyond Arcturus' pale.

I have played with God for a woman,
I have staked with my God for truth,
I have lost to my God as a man, clear-eyed—
His dice be not of ruth.

For I am made as a naked blade,
But hear ye this thing in sooth:

Who loseth to God as man to man
Shall win at the turn of the game.
I have drawn my blade where the lightnings meet
But the ending is the same:
Who loseth to God as the sword blades lose
Shall win at the end of the game.

For God, our God is a gallant foe
that playeth behind the veil.
Whom God deigns not to overthrow
hath need of triple mail.

One Chubby Mosaic

A Byzantine Mosaic
By Wislawa Szymborska

"O Theotropia, my empress consort."

"O Theodendron, my consort emperor."

"How fair thou art, my hollow-cheeked beloved."

"How fine art thou, blue-lipped spouse."

"Thou art so wondrous frail
beneath thy bell-like gown,
the alarum of which, if but removed,
would waken all my kingdom."

"How excellently mortified thou art,
my lord and master,
to mine own shadow a twinned shade."

"Oh how it pleaseth me
to see my lady's palms,
like unto palm leaves verily,
clasped to her mantle's throat."

"Wherewith, raised heavenward,
I would pray thee mercy for our son,
for he is not such as we, O Theodendron."

"Heaven forfend, O Theotropia.
Pray, what might he be,
begotten and brought forth
in godly dignity?"

"I will confess anon, and thou shalt hear me.
Not a princeling but a sinner have I borne thee.
Pink and shameless as a piglet,
plump and merry, verily,
all chubby wrists and ringlets came he
rolling unto us."

"He is roly-poly?"

"That he is."

"He is voracious?"

"Yea, in truth."

"His skin is milk and roses?"

"As thou sayest."

"What, pray, does our archimandrite say,
a man of most penetrating gnosis?
What say our consecrated eremites,
most holy skeletesses?
How should they strip the fiendish infant
of his swaddling silks?"

"Metamorphosis miraculous
still lies within our Savior's power.
Yet thou, on spying
the babe's unsightliness,
shalt not cry out
and rouse the sleeping demon from his rest?"

"I am thy twin in horror.
Lead on, Theotropia."

--Translated by Clare Cavanaugh

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One Good Flute

To a Traitor

The traitor’s skull, we shall drink out of it,
His teeth we shall wear as a necklace,
From his bones we shall make flutes,
Of his skin we shall make a drum,
Then we shall dance.

--Translated by Willard Trask after Richard Pietschmann

One Strange Talk

from The Silence Afterwards
By Rolf Jacobsen

it is way too late...
...words don't exist any longer,
there are no more words,
from now on all the talk will take place
with the voices stones and trees have.

--Translated by Robert Bly

One Smart Beggar

Some--Work for Immortality--
The Chiefer part, for Time--
The former--Checks--on Fame--

Slow Gold--but Everlasting--
The Bullion of Today--
Contrasted with the Currency
Of Immortality--

A Beggar--Here and There--
Is gifted to discern
Beyond the Broker's insight--
One's--Money--One's--the Mine--

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

One Drenched River

The Lotus
By Li Po

Lotus flowers blossomed,
and the river was drenched in red.
Sir, you said the lotuses were more beautiful than me.
Yesterday, when I passed by the flowers,
why, then, didn't people look at the lotus?

--Translated by Arthur Sze

One Glaring Light

into the blinding sun
the funeral procession's
glaring headlights

--By Nicholas Virgilio

One Contrary Wave

from West-Running Brook
By Robert Frost

'Speaking of contraries, see how the brook
In that white wave runs counter to itself.
It is from that in water we were from
Long, long before we were from any creature.
Here we, in our impatience of the steps,
Get back to the beginning of beginnings,
The stream of everything that runs away.
Some say existence like a Pirouot
And Pirouette, forever in one place,
Stands still and dances, but it runs away,
It seriously, sadly, runs away
To fill the abyss' void with emptiness.
It flows beside us in this water brook,
But it flows over us. It flows between us
To separate us for a panic moment.
It flows between us, over us, and with us.
And it is time, strength, tone, light, life and love-
And even substance lapsing unsubstantial;
The universal cataract of death
That spends to nothingness--and unresisted,
Save by some strange resistance in itself,
Not just a swerving, but a throwing back,
As if regret were in it and were sacred.
It has this throwing backward on itself
So that the fall of most of it is always
Raising a little, sending up a little.
Our life runs down in sending up the clock.
The brook runs down in sending up our life.
The sun runs down in sending up the brook.
And there is something sending up the sun.
It is this backward motion toward the source,
Against the stream, that most we see ourselves in,
The tribute of the current to the source.
It is from this in nature we are from.
It is most us.'

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

One Smart Orphan

from The Orphan Reformed
By Stevie Smith

Orphan, the people who will not be your parents are not evil,
Not the devil.
But still she cries Father, Mother
Must I be alone forever?
Yes you must. Oh wicked orphan, oh rebellion
Must an orphan not be alone is that your opinion?
At last the orphan is reformed. Now quite
Alone she goes; now she is right.
Now when she cries, Father, Mother, it is only to please.
Now the people do not mind, now they say she is a mild tease.

One Soundless Snow

Without a sound
resin buried underground is turning into amber
while above the first snow is falling

Ko Un, translated by Brother Anthony ~ Book

One Good Blessing

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship,
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.