Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One Fatiguing Occupation

from Baudelaire
By Delmore Schwartz

...You know my strange life. Every day brings
Its quota of wrath. You little know
A poet's life, dear Mother: I must write poems,
The most fatiguing of occupations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One Missing Flashlight

A Contribution to Statistics
By Wislawa Szymborska

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better

doubting every step
-nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
-as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
-four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
-sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
-forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something

capable of happiness
-twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
-half at least,

when forced by circumstances
-better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
-just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
sooner or later,

-thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding

worthy of compassion

-a hundred out of a hundred.
thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

~Translated by Clare Cavanaugh

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One Tempting Rhyme

from Seven-Sided Poem
By Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Universe, vast universe
if I had been named Eugene
that would not be what I mean
but it would go into verse
Universe, vast universe
my heart is vaster.

Translated by Elizabeth Bishop

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

One Vertiginous Clamber

A Deep-Sworn Vow
By William Butler Yeats

Others because you did not keep
That deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine;
Yet always when I look death in the face,
When I clamber to the heights of sleep,
Or when I grow excited with wine,
Suddenly I meet your face.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One Missing Rib Cage

from When They Slip Out Through the Churchyard Grate
By Gunnar Ekelof

...Oh, these homeless dead!
They do us no harm
they only keep us awake
It is only that they are missing
a finger, a toe, an arm
perhaps an entire rib cage
which ancient and modern witches stole
and crushed to dust for new love powders

The living ones do us evil often
The dead ones do us no harm
The living ones are consuming us
The dead ones, they are nourishing
The dead ones are nourishing

Translated by Robert Bly

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Modern Tearduct

from Love Tokens
By Tran Da Tu

I'll give you a roll of barbwire
A vine for this modern epoch
Climbing all over our souls
That’s our love, take it, don’t ask

...I'm still here, sweetie, so many love tokens
Metal handcuffs to wear, sacks of sand for pillows
Punji sticks to scratch your back, fire hoses to wash your face
How do we know which gift to send each other
And for how long until we get sated

Lastly, I'll give you a tear gas grenade
A tear gland for this modern epoch
A type of tear neither sad nor happy
Drenching my face as I wait.

Translated by Linh Dinh ~ More

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One Cruel Moon

Anniversary of Death
By Onitsura

Rising autumn moon
Lighting in my lap this year
No pale sickly child

~Translated by Peter Bielenson

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

One Hooked Eyeball

You Have What I Look For
By Jaime Sabines

You have what I look for, what I long for, what I love,
you have it.
The fist of my heart is beating, calling.
I thank the stories for you,
I thank your mother and father
and death who has not seen you.
I thank the air for you.
You are elegant as wheat,
delicate as the outline of your body.
I have never loved a slender woman
but you have made my hands fall in love,
you moored my desire,
you caught my eyes like two fish.
And for this I am at your door, waiting.

Translated by W.S. Merwin

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One Disenchanted Frog

The Frog Prince
By Stevie Smith

I am a frog
I live under a spell
I live at the bottom
Of a green well

And here I must wait
Until a maiden places me
On her royal pillow
And kisses me
In her father's palace.

The story is familiar
Everybody knows it well
But do other enchanted people feel as nervous
As I do? The stories do not tell,

Ask if they will be happier
When the changes come
As already they are fairly happy
In a frog's doom?

I have been a frog now
For a hundred years
And in all this time
I have not shed many tears.

I am happy, I like the life,
Can swim for many a mile
(When I have hopped to the river)
And am for ever agile.

And the quietness,
Yes, I like to be quiet
I am habituated
To a quiet life.

But always when I think these thoughts
As I sit in my well
Another thought comes to me and says:
It is part of the spell

To be happy
To work up contentment
To make much of being a frog
To fear disenchantment

Says, it will be heavenly
To be set free,
Cries, heavenly the girl who disenchants
And the royal times, heavenly,
And I think it will be.

Come then, royal girl and royal times,
Come quickly,
I can be happy until you come
But I cannot be heavenly,
Only disenchanted people
Can be heavenly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Insufficient Earth

from Merciful God
By Kadya Molodowsky

Merciful God,
Choose another people,
Elect another.

We are tired of death and dying,
We have no more prayers.

Choose another people,
Elect another.

We have no more blood
To be a sacrifice.
Our house has become a desert.
The earth is insufficient for our graves,
No more laments for us,
No more dirges
In the old, holy books.

Merciful God,
Sanctify another country,
Another mountain.

We have strewn all the fields and every stone
With ash, with holy ash.
With the aged,
With the youthful,
And with babies, we have paid
For every letter of your Ten Commandments...

--Translated by Kathryn Hellerstein ~ Book

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One Re-Reddened Pepper

Sudden radiance...
After October rainstorm
re-reddened peppers

--Buson, translated by Peter Beilenson

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One Great Yes

Che Fece… Il Gran Refiuto
By C.P. Cavafy

For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and saying it,

he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no—the right no—
drags him down all his life.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Two Great Gifts

Art offers two great gifts of emotion: the emotion of recognition and the emotion of escape.

--Duncan Phillips

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One Endless Winter

from The Sonnets to Orpheus
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Be ahead of all parting, as though it were
already behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering it through will your heart survive.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One Tone-Deaf Cricket

Even with insects...
Some are hatched out musical...
Some, alas, tone-deaf

--Issa, translated by Peter Beilenson

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One Blinky Peacock

from A Birthday
By Christina Rossetti

...Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One Weak Solution

By Nina Cassian

A rug of dead butterflies at my feet,
dead and limp
(they don't experience rigor mortis).
I, on the other hand, am quite healthy:
I've extracted my liver,
plucked out my lungs,
wrenched out my heart,
and nothing hurts anymore.

To become a ghost
is a solution
I weakly recommend.

Translated by Christopher Hewitt ~ Book

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

One Unread Paper

from Recuerdo
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

...We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three Unsuspecting Bloodhounds

Lord Randall

'O where hae ye been, Lord Randall, my son?
O where hae ye been, my handsome young man?'
'I hae been to the wild wood; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down.'

'Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randall, my son?
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?'
'I din'd wi' my true-love; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down.'

'What gat ye your dinner, Lord Randall, my son?
What gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?'
'I gat eels boil'd in broo; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down.'

'What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randall, my son?
What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?'
'O they swell'd and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi hunting, and fain wald lie down.'

'O I fear ye are poison'd, Lord Randall, my son!
O I fear ye are poison'd, my handsome young man!'
'O yes! I am poison'd; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down.'

One Disobedient Artist

The artist...may be tempted to satisfy himself in expressing his emotions as subject matter or psychological phenomena (which is the opposite of obeying intuitive or creative emotion).

--Jacques Maritain

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One Bug-Depreciated Summer

O springtime twilight...
Precious moment worth to me
A thousand pieces


O summer twilight
Bug-depreciated to a
Mere five hundred


Translated by Peter Beilenson

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Smiling Arrow

from The Judgment of Paris
By W.S. Merwin

...on that day
the one with the gray eyes spoke first
and whatever she said he kept
thinking he remembered
but remembered it woven with confusion and fear
the two faces that he called father
the first sight of the palace
where the brothers were strangers
and the dogs watched him and refused to know him
she made everything clear she was dazzling she
offered it to him
to have for his own but what he saw
was the scorn above her eyes
and her words of which he understood few
all said to him Take wisdom
take power
you will forget anyway

the one with the dark eyes spoke
and everything she said
he imagined he had once wished for
but in confusion and cowardice
the crown
of his father the crowns the crowns bowing to him
his name everywhere like grass
only he and the sea
she made everything sound possible she was
dazzling she offered it to him
to hold high but what he saw
was the cruelty around her mouth
and her words of which he understood more
all said to him Take pride
take glory
you will suffer anyway

the third one the color of whose eyes
later he could not remember
spoke last and slowly and
of desire and it was his
though up until then he had been
happy with his river nymph
here was his mind
filled utterly with one girl gathering
yellow flowers
and no one like her
the words
made everything seem present
almost present
they said to him Take her
you will lose her anyway

it was only when he reached out to the voice
as though he could take the speaker
that his hand filled with
something to give
but to give to only one of the three
an apple as it is told
discord itself in a single fruit its skin
already carved
To the fairest

then a mason working above the gates of Troy
in the sunlight thought he felt the stone
in the quiver on Paris's back the head
of the arrow for Achilles' heel
smiled in its sleep
and Helen stepped from the palace to gather
as she would do every day in that season
from the grove the yellow ray flowers tall
as herself
whose roots are said to dispel pain


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One Clear View

The Death of Fred Clifton
By Lucille Clifton

I seemed to be drawn
to the center of myself
leaving the edges of me
in the hands of my wife
and I saw with the most amazing
so that I had not eyes but
and, rising and turning,
through my skin,
there was all around not the
shapes of things
but oh, at last, the things

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One Tiny Pearl

When One Has Come as Far as I in Pointlessness
By Gunnar Ekelof

When one has come as far as I in pointlessness
Each word is once more fascinating:
Finds in the loam
Which one turns up with an archaeologist's spade:
The tiny word you
Perhaps a pearl of glass
Which once hung around someone's neck
The huge word I
Perhaps a flint shard
With which someone who had no teeth scraped his own

Translated by Robert Bly ~ Book

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One Bad Blight

Spring and Fall
to a Young Child
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

One Screaming Painter

We do not teach students to paint, for that would be like teaching an injured person to scream.

--Albert Barnes

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One Hopeful Hunch

By Adam Zagajewski

Bent under burdens which sometimes
can be seen and sometimes can't,
they trudge through mud or desert sands,
hunched, hungry,

silent men in heavy jackets,
dressed for all four seasons,
old women with crumpled faces,
clutching something--a child, the family
lamp, the last loaf of bread?

It could be Bosnia today,
Poland in September '39, France
eight months later, Thuringia in '45,
Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt.

There's always a wagon or at least a wheelbarrow
full of treasures (a quilt, a silver cup,
the fading scent of home),
a car out of gas marooned in a ditch,
a horse (soon left behind), snow, a lot of snow,
too much snow, too much sun, too much rain,

and always that distinctive hunch
as if leaning towards another, better planet,
with less ambitious generals,
less snow, less wind, fewer cannons,
less History (alas, there's no
such planet, just that hunch).

Shuffling their feet,
they move slowly, very slowly
toward the country of nowhere,
and the city of no one
on the river of never.

-Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

One Sick Enemy

from The New Mistress
By A. E. Housman

Oh, sick I am to see you, will you never let me be?
You may be good for something but you are not good for me.
Oh, go where you are wanted, for you are not wanted here
And that was all the farewell when I parted from my dear.

I will go where I am wanted, to a lady born and bred
Who will dress me free for nothing in a uniform of red;
She will not be sick to see me if I only keep it clean:
I will go where I am wanted for a soldier of the Queen.

...I will go where I am wanted, where there's room for one or two,
And the men are none too many for the work there is to do;
Where the standing line wears thinner and the dropping dead lie thick;
And the enemies of England they shall see me and be sick.

One Defrauding Thief

from The Artist

The True Artist:
Draws out all from his heart;
works with delight; makes things with calm, with sagacity;
works like a true Toltec; composes his objects;
works dexterously; invents;
arranges materials; adorns them; makes them adjust.

The Carrion Artist:
Works at random; sneers at the people;
makes things opaque; brushes across the surface of the face of things;
works without care; defrauds people; is a thief.

--Aztec, translated by Miguel León-Portilla

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

One Breaking Vein

Before You Came
By Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, or thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don't leave now that you're here--
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

--Translated by Agha Shahid Ali ~ Book

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One Leaky Moon

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

--Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani

One Unbiased Critic

But the great landscape architect himself, when his work had been completed, on looking at it and listening to the Gloria and Hallelujah of his angelic chorus, will have felt the craving for a clear, unbiased eye to view it with him, the eye of a critic, a connoisseur and an arbiter. With what creature, in all Paradise, will he have found that eye? With the Serpent!

--Isak Dinesen

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One Bad Script

Deus ex machina
By A.E. Stallings

Because we were good at entanglements, but not
Resolution, and made a mess of plot,
Because there was no other way to fulfil
The ancient prophecy, because the will
Of the gods demanded punishment, because
Neither recognized who the other was,
Because there was no difference between
A tragic ending and a comic scene,
Because the play was running out of time,
Because the mechanism of the sublime
Was in good working order, but needed using,
Because it was a script not of our choosing,
Because we were actors, because we knew for a fact
We were only actors, because we could not act.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Impossible Nymph

Eurydice is impossible
If Orpheus looks away
Eurydice doubts and weeps
If Orpheus looks at her
Eurydice dies

--Thomas Merton

One Cheating Translation

The original is not faithful to the translation.

--Jorge Luis Borges

Nine Dirty Toes

To see Mad Tom of Bedlam
Ten thousand miles I'll travel
Mad Maud sets out on dirty toes
To save her shoes from gravel.

Still I sing bonny boys,
bonny mad boys,
Bedlam boys are bonny--

For they all go bare

and they live by the air
and they want no drink nor money.

--English ballad

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One Polleny Trail

House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.

Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
An offering I make.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
Restore my voice for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.

Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feelings may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.

Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.

May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.
In beauty it is finished.

--Navajo prayer

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One Luminous Poison

from The Favors of the Moon
By Charles Baudelaire

The moon, who is caprice itself, looked through the window while you were sleeping in your cradle, and said to herself: "I like this child."

And softly she decended her staircase of clouds and, noiselessly, passed through the window-panes. Then she stretched herself out over you with the supple tenderness of a mother, and laid down her colors on your face. Ever since, the pupils of your eyes have remained green and your cheeks unusually pale. It was while contemplating this vistor that your eyes became so strangely enlarged; and she clasped your neck so tenderly that you have retained for ever the desire to weep.

However, in the expansion of her joy, the Moon filled the whole room with phosphorescent vapour, like a luminous poison; and all the living light thought and said: "You shall suffer forever the influence of my kiss. You shall be beautiful in my fashion. You shall love that which I love and that which loves me: water, clouds, silence and the night; the immense green sea...."

...And that, my dear, cursed, spoiled child, is why I am now lying at your feet, seeking in all your person the reflection of the formidable divinity, of the foreknowing godmother, the poisoning wet-nurse of all the lunatics.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One Stone Sword

Modern Love I
By George Meredith

By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand's light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One Suppurating Power

from Power
By Adrienne Rich

...Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

One Good Sale

I go to the house of my one true lover, the Lifter of Mountains.
When I see his beauty, I only crave him more.
At dusk I go to him, at dawn I return.
Whatever his pleasure, day and night I am his.
The clothes he gives me, I wear. The food he offers, I eat.
Where he wants me to be, I stay. If he wants to sell me, I want to be sold.

--Mirabai, translated by Robert Bly and Jane Hirshfield

One Persevering Seducer

You call an artist a seducer and are not aware that you are paying him the highest of compliments. The whole attitude of the artist towards the Universe is that of a seducer. For what does seduction mean but the ability to make, with infinite trouble, patience, and perseverance, the object upon which you concentrate your mind give forth, voluntarily and enraptured, its very core and essence?

--Isak Dinesen

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

One Righteous Murderess

from Clytemnestra Triumphant
By Aeschylus

So he goes down, and the life is bursting out of him--
great sprays of blood, and the murderous shower
wounds me, dyes me black and I, I revel
like the Earth when the spring rains come down
the blessed gifts of god, and the new green spear
splits the sheath and rips to birth in glory!

...I glory.
And if I'd pour upon his body the libation
it deserves, what wine could match my words?
It is right and more than right.

--Translated by Robert Fagles

One Undeceased Wanda

Wanda Why Aren't You Dead
By Wanda Coleman

wanda when are you gonna wear your hair down
wanda. that's a whore's name
wanda why ain't you rich
wanda you know no man in his right mind want a
ready-made family
why don't you lose weight
wanda why are you so angry
how come your feet are so goddamn big
can't you afford to move out of this hell hole
if i were you were you were you
wanda what is it like being black
i hear you don't like black men
tell me you're ac/dc. tell me you're a nympho. tell me you're
into chains
wanda i don't think you really mean that
you're joking. girl, you crazy
wanda what makes you so angry

wanda i think you need this
wanda you have no humor in you you too serious
wanda i didn't know i was hurting you
that was an accident
wanda i know what you're thinking

wanda i don't think they'll take that off of you

wanda why are you so angry

i'm sorry i didn't remember that that that
that that that was so important to you

wanda you're ALWAYS on the attack

wanda wanda wanda i wonder

why ain't you dead

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One Green Blade

from Unrecounted
By W.G. Sebald

They say
that Napoleon
was colorblind

and blood for him
as green as grass

Translated by Michael Hamburger ~ Book

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One Blank Snow

from Desert Places
By Robert Frost

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

One Pitiless Tuning

from Fruit-Gathering
By Rabindranath Tagore

the pain was great
when the strings were being tuned,
my Master

begin your music...
let me feel in beauty
what you had in your mind
through those pitiless days.

One Thoughtful Alien

from A Sick Child
By Randall Jarrell

...If I can think of it, it isn't what I want.
I want...I want a ship from some near star
To land in the yard, and beings to come out
And think to me: "So this is where you are!

Come." Except that they won't do,
I thought of them... And yet somewhere there must be
Something that's different from everything.
All that I've never thought of--think of me!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

One Sunny Smile

A Poison Tree
By William Blake

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunnéd it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One Heartbreaking Cuckoo

In Kyoto,
hearing the cuckoo,
I long for Kyoto.

--Basho, translated by Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One Good Bipolar

Here Lies a Lady
By John Crowe Ransom

Here lies a lady of beauty and high degree.
Of chills and fever she died, of fever and chills,
The delight of her husband, her aunt, an infant of three,
And of medicos marveling sweetly on her ills.

For either she burned, and her confident eyes would blaze,
And her fingers fly in a manner to puzzle their heads –
What was she making? Why, nothing; she sat in a maze
Of old scraps of laces, snipped into curious shreds.

Or this would pass, and the light of her fire decline
Till she lay discouraged and cold, like a thin stalk white and blown,
And would not open her eyes, to kisses, to wine;
The sixth of these states was her last; the cold settled down.

Sweet ladies, long may ye bloom, and toughly I hope ye may thole,
But was she not lucky? In flowers and lace and mourning,
In love and great honor we bade God rest her soul
After six little spaces of chill, and six of burning.

One Good Leukocyte

from Pathologic Vistas
By Stephen Vadenhoff

... a part of another world where cells have grown
Mutinous or failed in their duty.

But here's a white blood cell, patrolling the blood
Like some Roman centurion watching
The mist-shrouded, far bank of the Rhine
With civilization at his back
And the savagery of the unknown forest before him.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

One Hovering Sunset

The Dark Hills
By Edwin Arlington Robinson

Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading and all wars were done.

One Capital Crime

...an artist to his fingertips, regarding the failure of completeness as a crime...

--Henry James

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

One Granulated Soul

Crush Syndrome
By Miroslav Holub

Once when, in winter dark,
I was cleaning the concrete-mixer,
its cogwheels, like the teeth
of a bored rat of Ibadan,
snapped up the glove
with the hand inside. The finger bones
said a few things you don't hear very often
and then it grew quiet, because
even the rat had panicked.

In that moment
I realized I had a soul.
It was soft, with red stripes,
and it wanted to be wrapped in gauze.

I put it beside me on the seat
and steered with the healthy hand. At the clinic,
during the injections of local anesthetic
and the stitching,
the soul held firmly with its mandibles
to the stainless-steel knob of the adjustable table.
It was now whitish crystal
and had a grasshopper's head.

The fingers healed.
The soul turned, at first,
to granulation tissue,
and later a scar, scarcely visible.

--Translated by David Young and Dana Habova ~ Book

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One Fake Passport

And Then Who Shows Up (Hymn to Aphrodite)
By Jean Gallagher

How did I not know you but you fool me
every time. The alias, the fake passport, the clever
excuse for why you talk like me. Then you fell
like something fancy and on fire in my lap
and there's no going home for me. For you,
there's the long track of shine in which no one,
you included, can ever say your name.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

One Nice Chair

Oh No
By Robert Creeley

If you wander far enough
you will come to it
and when you get there
they will give you a place to sit

for yourself only, in a nice chair,
and all your friends will be there
with smiles on their faces
and they will likewise all have places.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

One Insulting Citizenry

from Complaint
By Andrzej Bursa

Mr. Minister of Justice...
you Sir offend me.
I don't know you personally, but I saw your photo in the paper
and I feel deeply offended,
unfortunately not just by you Sir,
the majority of State-run and social institutions
are insults to me,
almost every one of the citizens of our state
is an insult aimed directly at me.
Really, not just once do I ask myself for whom was it so vital to construct so enormous a machine
with architecture, a military, law and crime,
so that it would
personally plague ME.
Even the blind man installed on the street corner is there to drive me insane. ...more

--Translated by Kevin Christianson and Halina Ablamowicz

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

One Icy Shell

from The Children of the Poor
By Gwendolyn Brooks

People who have no children can be hard:
Attain a mail of ice and insolence:
Need not pause in the fire, and in no sense
Hesitate in the hurricane to guard.

...we others hear
The little lifting helplessness, the queer
Whimper-whine; whose unridiculous
Lost softness softly makes a trap for us... more

One Strange Flower

The falling flower
I saw drift back to the branch
Was a butterfly.

--Moritake, translated by Babette Deutsch

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Silent Meteor

from The Princess
By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One Empty Island

from Utopia
By Wislawa Szymborska

Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously... more

--Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One Pale Lily

Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae
By Ernest Dowson

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

One Popular Item

In Answer to Your Query
By Naomi Lazard

We are sorry to inform you
the item you ordered
is no longer being produced.
It has not gone out of style
nor have people lost interest in it.
In fact, it has become
one of our most desired products.
Its popularity is still growing.
Orders for it come in
at an ever increasing rate.
However, a top-level decision
has caused this product
to be discontinued forever.

Instead of the item you ordered
we are sending you something else.
It is not the same thing,
nor is it a reasonable facsimile.
It is what we have in stock,
the very best we can offer.

If you are not happy
with this substitution
let us know as soon as possible.
As you can imagine
we already have quite an accumulation
of letters such as the one
you may or may not write.
To be totally fair
We respond to these complaints
as they come in.
Yours will be filed accordingly,
answered in its turn.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

One Motionless Rose

Casida of the Rose
By Federico Garcia Lorca

The rose
was not searching for the sunrise:
almost eternal in its branch,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for darkness or science:
borderline of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for the rose.
Motionless in the sky
it was searching for something else.

--Translated by Robert Bly ~ Book

One Confusing Boot

Plain Talk
By William Jay Smith

"There are people so dumb," my father said,
"That they don't know beans from an old bedstead.
They can't tell one thing from another,
Ella Cinders from Whistler's Mother,
A porcupine quill from a peacock feather,
A buffalo-flop from Florentine leather,
Meatless shanks boiled bare and blue,
They bob up and down like bones in a stew;
Don't know their arse from a sassafras root,
And couldn't pour piss from a cowhide boot
With complete directions on the heel."

That's how he felt. That's how I feel.