Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Hand Clapping

from An Ode to Himself
By Ben Jonson

Where dost thou careless lie
Buried in ease and sloth?
Knowledge that sleeps doth die;
And this Securitie,
It is the common Moth,
That eats on wits, and Arts, and oft destroys them both.

Are all th'Aonian springs
Dried up? lies Thespia waste?
Doth Clarius' Harp want strings,
That not a Nymph now sings?
Or droop they as disgraced,
To see their Seats and Bowers by chatt'ring Pies defaced?

If hence thou silent be,
As 'tis too just a cause,
Let this thought quicken thee:
Minds that are great and free
Should not on fortune pause,
'Tis crown enough to virtue still: her own applause.

What though the greedie Frie
Be taken with false Bayte
Of worded Balladrie,
And thinke it Poesie?
They die with their conceits,
And only pitious scorn, upon their folly waits.

Then take in hand thy Lyre,
Strike in thy proper strain,
With Japhet's line, aspire
Sol's Chariot for new fire,
To give the world again:
Who aided him, will thee, the issue of Jove's brain...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Lusty Tyrant

The artistic half of Baxter's nature exerted a lusty dominion over the human half—fed upon its disappointments and grew fat upon its joys and tribulations. This, indeed, is simply saying that the young man was a true artist.

—Henry James

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One Familiar Singer

The Oven Bird
By Robert Frost

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One Metallic Dessert

The Divorce
By Hans Magnus Enzenberger

At first it was an imperceptible tremor of the skin--
"Whatever you say"--where the flesh is darkest.
"What's wrong?"--Nothing. Opaque dreams
of embraces, but on the morning after
the other looks different, strangely bony.
Razor-sharp misunderstandings. "That time in Rome--"
I never said that. --Pause. Rapidly beating heart,
a kind of hate, strange. --"That's not the point."
Repetitions. Brilliantly clear the certainty:
everything is wrong from now on. Odorless, in focus
like a passport photo, this unknown person
with the tea glass at the table, eyes staring.
It is no use no use no use:
litany in the brain, a touch of nausea.
End of reproaches. Slowly the room
fills up to the ceiling with guilt.
The plaintive voice is a stranger's, but the shoes
that drop with a crash to the floor, the shoes are not.
The next time, in an empty restaurant,
slow motion, breadcrumbs, they talk about money,
laughing. The dessert tastes of metal.
Two untouchables. Strident rationality.
"Things could be much worse. But at night
the vindictiveness, the noiseless struggle, anonymous
like two bony barristers, two big crabs
in the water. Then the exhaustion. Slowly
the scabs peel off. Another tobacconist,
a new address. Pariahs, awfully relieved.
Shadows getting paler. Here are the papers.
Here are the keys. Here is the scar.

--Translated by Herbert Graf

Monday, November 17, 2008

One Overpoeticized Cow

"Terence, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow."

--A.E. Housman

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Diamond Shackle

Whoso list to hunt
By Francesco Petrarch

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

~Translated by Thomas Wyatt

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Two Unpolitical Arms

By W.B. Yeats

How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms!

One Convincing Lie

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.

~Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Bitten Eyeball

Spirit Song

spirit in the sky
come down here
right away
bite the world to death

I rise
up to the spirits
magician friends help me
reach the spirits

child child child
that can bite evil
come to us

and spirit at the bottom of the
earth I'm calling you I
live near you on top
bite our enemies

join your brother from the sky
each bite an eye out
of evil's face
so it can't see us

--Inuit, translated by Stephen Berg

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One Dark Silk

Slowly quietly gold is collected under your command
            slowly quietly
Slowly quietly wheat is distributed under your command
          slowly quietly
Slowly quietly people's bread is served out under your command
slowly quietly.

With you rapidly silk darkens spoils with you rapidly
Water is tied in knots becomes turbid rapidly with you
With you rapidly is atrophied the history of labor
And with you slowly slowly the name of pain written extensively
comes out on the copper quartz bronze.

-Ilhan Berk, translated by Suat Karantay

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Deep Burrow

By Wislawa Szymborska

"Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don`t know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."

~Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

One Venomed Dart

from Endymion
By John Keats

There lies a den,
Beyond the seeming confines of the space
Made for the soul to wander in and trace
Its own existence, of remotest glooms.
Dark regions are around it, where the tombs
Of buried griefs the spirit sees, but scarce
One hour doth linger weeping, for the pierce
Of new-born woe it feels more inly smart:
And in these regions many a venom'd dart
At random flies: they are the proper home
Of every ill: the man is yet to come
Who hath not journeyed in this native hell.
But few have ever felt how calm and well
Sleep may be had in that deep den of all.
There anguish does not sting; nor pleasure pall:
Woe-hurricanes beat ever at the gate,
Yet all is still within and desolate.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Pleasant Experiment

from Thoughts About the Person from Porlock
By Stevie Smith

...These thoughts are depressing I know. They are depressing.
I wish I was more cheerful, it is more pleasant,
Also it is a duty, we should smile as well as submitting
To the purpose of One Above who is experimenting

With various mixtures of human character which goes best,
All is interesting for him it is exciting, but not for us.
There I go again. Smile, smile, and get some work to do
Then you will be practically unconscious without positively having to go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One Trembling Dewlap

Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World
By Jane Hirshfield

If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.

Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.

Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.

Treat it as you yourself
would be treated, brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.

And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant--

stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you'd come to believe were yours,
and plunge in the knife.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling.

That you came to love it,
that was the gift.

Let the envious gods take back what they can.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One Malevolent Squint

from The Poor Poet
By Czeslaw Milosz

...now that the years have transformed my blood
And thousands of planetary systems have been born and died in my flesh,
I sit, a sly and angry poet
With malevolently squinted eyes,
And, weighing a pen in my hand,
I plot revenge.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

One Efficacious Slaughter

The Measures Taken
By Erich Fried

The lazy are slaughtered
the world grows industrious

The ugly are slaughtered
the world grows beautiful

The foolish are slaughtered
the world grows wise

The sick are slaughtered
the world grows healthy

The sad are slaughtered
the world grows merry

The old are slaughtered
the world grows young

The enemies are slaughtered
the world grows friendly

The wicked are slaughtered
the world grows good

Translated by Michael Hamburger

One Unpoetical Bodysnatcher

A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity - he is continually in for - and filling some other Body - The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute - the poet has none; no identity...

...not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature - how can it, when I have no nature?

...All I hope is that I may not lose all interest in human affairs - that the solitary indifference I feel for applause even from the finest Spirits, will not blunt any acuteness of vision I may have. I do not think it will - I feel assured I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the Beautiful even if my night's labours should be burnt every morning, and no eye ever shine upon them. But even now I am perhaps not speaking from myself: but from some character in whose soul I now live.

--John Keats ~ More

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

One Enslaved Father

By Vinicius de Moraes

Never take her away,
The daughter whom you gave me,
The gentle, moist, untroubled
Small daughter whom you gave me;
O let her heavenly babbling
Beset me and enslave me.
Don't take her; let her stay,
Beset my heart, and win me,
That I may put away
The firstborn child within me,
That cold, petrific, dry
Daughter whom death once gave,
Whose life is a long cry
For milk she may not have,
And who, in the nighttime, calls me
In the saddest voice that can be
Father, Father, and tells me
Of the love she feels for me.
Don't let her go away,
Her whom you gave—my daughter—
Lest I should come to favor
That wilder one, that other
Who does not leave me ever.

Translated by Richard Wilbur

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One Sincere Crocodile

Crocodile Tears
By Kay Ryan

The one sincere
crocodile has
gone dry eyed
for years. Why
bother crying
crocodile tears.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Worthy Patron

from What Mr. Cogito Thinks About Hell
By Zbigniew Herbert

The lowest circle of hell. Contrary to prevailing opinion it is inhabited neither by despots nor matricides, nor even by those who go after the bodies of others. It is the refuge of artists, full of mirrors, musical instruments, and pictures. At first glance this is the most luxurious infernal department, without tar, fire, or physical tortures.

...Beelzebub supports the arts. He provides his artists with calm, good board, and absolute isolation from hellish life.

Translated by Bogdana and John Carpenter

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Inattentive River

By Branko Miljkovic

While the river banks are quarreling,
The waters flow quietly.

Translated by Charles Simic

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One Burning City

The Bell Zygmunt
By Jane Hirshfield

For fertility, a new bride is lifted to touch it with her left hand,
or possibly kiss it.
The sound close in, my friend told me later, is almost silent.

At ten kilometers, even those who have never heard it know what it is.

If you stand near during thunder, she said,
you will hear a reply.

Six weeks and six days from the phone's small ringing,
replying was over.

She who cooked lamb and loved wine and wild mushroom pastas.
She who when I saw her last was silent as the great Zygmunt mostly is,
a ventilator's clapper between her dry lips.

Because I could, I spoke. She laid her palm on my cheek to answer.
And soon again, to say it was time to leave.

I put my lips near the place a tube went into
the back of one hand.
The kiss - as if it knew what I did not yet - both full and formal.

As one would kiss the ring of a cardinal, or the rim
of that cold iron bell, whose speech can mean "Great joy,"
or - equally - "The city is burning. Come.”


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Thirsty Deity

from psalm
By Alicia Ostriker

I am not lyric any more
I will not play the harp
for your pleasure

I will not make a joyful
noise to you, neither
will I lament

for I know you drink
lamentation, too,
like wine...


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One Nonexistent Mentor

from Letters to a Young Poet
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

One Rich Etcetera

from Song in the Manner of Housman
By Ezra Pound

O woe, woe,
People are born and die,
We also shall be dead pretty soon
Therefore let us act as if we were dead already.

The bird sits on the hawthorn tree
But he dies also, presently.
Some lads get hung, and some get shot.
Woeful is this human lot.
Woe! woe, etcetera...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

One Stable Marsh

It is the roots from all the trees that have died
out here, that's how you can walk
safely over the soft places.

--Olav Hauge, translated by Robert Bly

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One Unsaleable Shroud

My Stars
By Abraham ibn Ezra

On the day I was born,
The unalterable stars altered.
If I decided to sell lamps,
It wouldn't get dark till the day I died.

Some stars. Whatever I do,
I'm a failure before I begin.
If I decided to sell shrouds,
People would suddenly stop dying.

~Translated by Robert Mezey

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Unmarriageable Nose

From Luristan to Thule
By Sarah Lindsay

Delirium was the last country she saw clearly.
Mounting its exotic, riven flanks
on the back of a patient fever,
she left with regret the land of her hosts--
divisions of snow, upended stone threaded with tracks
between the goatskin houses with goatskin beds--
then left too the regret.

For decades she'd taken pleasure in imposing
the first white profile (with its great spinster nose)
upon such places, barely named,
as lay a few days' journey beyond fable,
uplands that bore no showy gold or ziggurat,
only the shallow marks of laboring generations,
the central campfires repeated deep in their eyes.

Past rocks tipped early out of the cradle of myth,
she finally became separated from her pack
with its twenty pencils, the notorious hat,
coins and aspirin, equally useless,
and yielded to discovery of one state
that lacks the primary luxuries: return,
and the safely delivered story.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One Monochrome Winter

the sound of the wind
withered by
winter-one-color world

--Basho, translated by Stephen Addiss

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

One Blameless Artist

...the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master - something that, at times, strangely wills and works for itself. ...Be the work grim or glorious, dread or divine, you have little choice left but quiescent adoption. As for you - the nominal artist - your share in it has been to work passively under dictates you neither delivered nor could question - that would not be uttered at your prayer, nor suppressed nor changed at your caprice. If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you, who almost as little deserve blame.

--Charlotte Bronte

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Unsheathed Cortex

from Via Insomnia
By Adrienne Rich

...Is this how it is to be newly dead? unbelieving
the personal soul, electricity unsheathing
from the cortex, light-waves fleeing
into the black universe
to lie awake half-sleeping, wondering
Where, when will I sleep

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One Pestered Angel

from my old Guardian Angel
By Tadeusz Rozewicz

the avalanche of angels
brought about
by inspired poets
artists priests
and American
movie directors
is infinitely more foolish
than the one brought about
by Romantic poets

the products
of the dream factory
--the "holy wood"--
are sugary white
like the cotton candy
young children

my Guardian Angel who
is 83 years old
and remembers all
my misdeeds
flew to me in consternation
and told me he was
being pestered
by salesmen
pedophiles sodomites
from commercial public
and religious TV
to endorse "angel's milk" custard
dance hip-hop with seniors
and sell
sanitary napkins
with wings
and without...

Translated by Bill Johnston ~ Book

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One Spilled Bucket

from Moon Eclipse Exorcism

come out come out come out
the moon has been killed

who kills the moon? crow
who often kills the moon? eagle
who usually kills the moon? chicken hawk
who also kills the moon? owl
in their numbers they assemble
for moonkilling

come out, throw sticks at your houses
come out, turn your buckets over
spill out all the water don't let it turn
bloody yellow
from the wounding and death
of the moon

o what will become of the world, the moon
never dies without cause
only when a rich man is about to be killed
is the moon murdered...

--Alsea, translated by Armand Schwerner and Leo J. Trachtenberg

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

One Late Laurel

Several Voices Out of a Cloud
By Louise Bogan

Come, drunks and drug-takers; come perverts unnerved!
Receive the laurel, given, though late, on merit;
to whom
and wherever deserved.

Parochial punks, trimmers, nice people, joiners true-blue,
Get the hell out of the way of the laurel.
It is deathless
And it isn't for you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One Vertical Glare

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death--
Most like a monumental statue set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:
If it could weep, it could arise and go.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Cold Algebraist

[The poet] is no longer the disheveled, delirious man, someone who writes an entire poem in a night of fever; now he's a cool savant, almost an algebraist, in the service of a subtle dreamer.

--Paul Valery

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

One Appropriated Harvest

A Black Man Talks of Reaping
By Arna Bontemps

I have sown beside all waters in my day.
I planted deep within my heart the fear
that wind or fowl would take the grain away.
I planted safe against this stark, lean year.

I scattered seed enough to plant the land
in rows from Canada to Mexico,
but for my reaping only what the hand
can hold at once is all that I can show.

Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields
my brother's sons are gathering stalk and root.
Small wonder then my children glean in fields
they have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

One Insulting Sun

All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the moldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me.

--Herman Melville

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

One Blue-Smoking Torch

Bavarian Gentians
By D. H. Lawrence

Not every man has gentians in his house
in soft September, at slow, sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime, torch-like, with the smoking blueness of Pluto's gloom,
ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto's dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendor of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on
the lost bride and her groom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One Dusty Cell

from Women
By Louise Bogan

Women have no wilderness in them,
They are provident instead,
Content in the tight hot cell of their hearts
To eat dusty bread.

They do not see cattle cropping red winter grass,
They do not hear
Snow water going down under culverts
Shallow and clear.

They wait, when they should turn to journeys,
They stiffen, when they should bend.
They use against themselves that benevolence
To which no man is friend.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

One Sealed Note

written in pencil in the sealed railway car
By Dan Pagis

here in this carload
I am eve
with abel my son
if you see my other son
cain son of man
tell him i

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Skeptical Tic

By Ben Downing

-- which is to say "God willing," more or less:
a phrase that rose routinely to her lips
whenever plans were hatched or hopes expressed,
the way we knock on wood, yet fervently,
as if to wax too confident might be
to kill the very thing she wanted most.

It used to pique and trouble me somehow,
this precautionary tic of hers, but now
I understand why she was skeptical
of what Allah in His caprice allots,
because that she should live He did not will
or, more terribly, He did that she should not.

in memoriam Mirel Sayinsoy 1967-1999

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

One Aching Instep

from After Apple-Picking
By Robert Frost

...I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One Grumley Guest

The Gray Selchie

In the north away there lives a maid:
"Bye loo, my baby," she begins;
"Little know I my child's father
Or if land or sea he's living in."

Then there arose at her bed feet
An grumley guest, I'm sure it was he,
Saying, "Here am I, thy child's father,
Although that I am not comely."

"I am a man upon the land,
I am a selchie in the sea.
And when I am in my own country,
My dwelling is in Sule Skerrie."

And he has taken a purse of gold,
And he has put it upon her knee,
Saying, "Give to me my little wee son,
And take thee up thy nurse's fee."

"And it shall come to pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines hot on every stone,
That I shall take my little wee son
And teach him for to swim in the foam.

"And you will marry a hunter good
And a proud good hunter I'm sure he will be,
But he'll go out on a May morning,
And kill my little wee son and me."

And lo, she did marry a hunter good.
And a proud good hunter, I'm sure it was he,
And the very first shot that ere he did shoot
He killed the son and the gray selchie.

In the north away there lives a maid:
"Bye loo, my baby," she begins;
"Little know I my child's father,
Or if land or sea he's living in."

--Old English Ballad

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One Worrying Job

I always think that poetry is more terrible than painting, though painting is a dirtier and a much more worrying job.

--Vincent van Gogh

One Green-Haired Army

I Hear an Army Charging Upon the Land
By James Joyce

I hear an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.

They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.

They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One Tenacious Clock

The Clock on the Wall
By Samih al-Qasim

My city collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
Our neighborhood collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The street collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The square collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
My house collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The wall collapsed
The clock
Ticked on

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

One Self-Replicating City

The City
By Constantine Cavafy

You said, "I will go to another land, I will go to another sea.
I will find another city, better than this.
Every effort of mine is condemned by fate;
and my heart is -- like a corpse -- buried.
How long in this wasteland will my mind remain.
Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I look
I see the black ruins of my life here,
where I spent so many years,
and ruined and wasted."

There are no new lands, no other seas to find.
The city will follow you. You will roam the same
streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods;
in these same houses you will grow gray.
Always you will arrive in this city. To another land -- do not hope --
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have ruined your life
in this little corner, you have destroyed it in the whole world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One Great Ge

Not another lament for the makers
By Aileen Kelly

What can you do with the pissed-off major poets?
Five marvellous books, translated to diverse tongues yet
toaded by work all day, half-drunk at night,
their trousers bagged by stones of unhappiness, even
on Margate sands among sunny kids and sundried oldsters
they groan with humanity’s torment and angle deathwards
so ignited, so solipsistic or red or straight,
mourning lost lovers, icons and apposite breakdowns.

Great Ge of death and birth, can’t you recycle them
into multiple minor poets who’d suckle for years
each on the juice of their one great poem and ever
party with whoopee streamers and rockets towards you
down to a last careless and satisfied breath?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Stalking Foot

They Flee from Me
By Sir Thomas Wyatt

They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,
With naked foot stalking in my chamber:
Once have I seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild, and do not once remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with continual change.

Thanked be Fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once especial,
In thin array, after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown did from her shoulders fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small,
And therewithal sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said, 'Dear heart, how like you this?'

It was no dream; I lay broad awaking:
But all is turn'd now through my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness;
And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I unkindly so am served
How like you this, what hath she now deserved?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Sneaky Pelt

Love Song

If I might be an ox,
An ox, a beautiful ox,
Beautiful but stubborn;
The merchant would buy me,
Would buy and slaughter me,
Would spread my skin,
Would bring me to the market.
The coarse woman would bargain for me;
The beautiful girl would buy me.
She would crush perfumes for me;
I would spend the night rolled up around her;
I would spend the afternoon rolled up around her.
Her husband would say: "It is a dead skin!"
But I would have my love!

--Ethiopian, translated by Enrico Cerulli

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

One Suicidal Flower

Go, Lovely Rose
By Edmund Waller

Go, lovely Rose—
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

Tell her that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.

Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.

Then die! —That she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

One Transmogrifying Bee

Janet Waking
By John Crowe Ransom

Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke then
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.

One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby;
No kiss at all for her brother.

"Old Chucky, Old Chucky!" she cried,
Running on little pink feet upon the grass
To Chucky’s house, and listening. But alas,
Her Chucky had died.

It was a transmogrifying bee
Came droning down on Chucky’s old bald head
And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled,
But how exceedingly

And purply did the knot
Swell with the venom and communicate
Its rigour! Now the poor comb stood up straight
But Chucky did not.

So there was Janet
Kneeling on the wet grass, crying her brown hen
(Translated far beyond the daughters of men)
To rise and walk upon it.

And weeping fast as she had breath
Janet implored us, “Wake her from her sleep!”
And would not be instructed in how deep
Was the forgetful kingdom of death.