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