Tuesday, December 08, 2009

One Fading Power

The poet...must use his special abilities to disappear.

--Stephen Burt

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

One Free Flower

from The Book of Hours
By Rainer Maria Rilke

And so they say: my life, my wife, my child,
my dog, well knowing all that they have styled
their own: life, wife, child, dog, remain
shapes foreign and unknown,
that blindly groping they must stumble on...

...in the beggary of their wandering
they cannot claim a bond with any thing,
but, driven from possessions they have prized,
not by their own belongings recognized,
they can own wives no more than they own flowers
whose life is alien and apart from ours.

--Translated by Babette Deutsch

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Abstract Eyeball

The Vision of Willie Yeats
By Louise Bogan

Suddenly into my chamber, I certainly would be at a loss to say from where,
A large roomy animal with mad abstract eyes, and considerable concrete hair
Advanced towards me with astronomical slowness, as I sat glued to my Byzantine chair.
While the sizzle of either Mrs. Yeats frying sausages, or sausages frying Mrs. Yeats, slouched up the winding stair.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Good Letter

I have conquered, and shall go on conquering.

--William Blake

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One Reliable Debtor

To nothing fitter can I thee compare
Than to the son of some rich penny-father,
Who, having now brought on his end with care,
Leaves to his son all he had heap'd together;
This new-rich novice, lavish of his chest,
To one man gives, doth on another spend,
Then here he riots, yet among the rest
Haps to lend some to one true honest friend.
Thy gifts thou in obscurity dost waste,
False friends thy kindness, born but to deceive thee,
Thy love that is on the unworthy plac'd,
Time hath thy beauty, which with age will leave thee;
Only that little which to me was lent
I give thee back, when all the rest is spent.

--Michael Drayton

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Slight Doom

The worst thing that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.

--J. D. Salinger

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One Fell Impaler

Fate slew Him, but He did not drop --
She felled -- He did not fall --
Impaled Him on Her fiercest stakes --
He neutralized them all --

She stung Him -- sapped His firm Advance --
But when Her Worst was done
And He -- unmoved -- regarded Her --
Acknowledged Him a Man.

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One Stymied Lobe

They make you sit up and not think, which is perhaps the real point of poetry.

--Colm Toibin

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

One Handy Book

We are happy, we are merry:
We got a rhyming dictionary.

--Bart Simpson

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Broken Blue

from Love Under House Arrest
By Nizar Qabbani

I ask your leave to go
for the blood I used to think would never turn to water
has turned to water
and the sky whose blue crystal I used to think
could not break...has broken

....and the words
I used to cover you with when you slept
have fled like frightened birds
and left you naked.

Translated by Lena Jayyusi and W.S. Merwin ~ Book

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

One Clear View

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.

--John Ruskin

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Floating Shadow

from Carillon
By Tomas Transtromer

I lie on the bed with my arms outstretched
I am an anchor that has dug itself down
and holds steady the huge shadow
floating up there

the great unknown
that I am a part of
and which is certainly
more important than me.

-Translated by Robin Fulton

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One Long Chime

Gather wood, build the bonfire high
I will give myself
only in bright light

Midnight. You are not here--
these blankets burn me like fire

All night
like a bell and with jewels
I chimed in your arms

Never fall asleep beside my body
I belong to those
who keep vigil over me

If I strangle that rooster
will you lie longer
in my arms

--Pashto landays, versions by Laura Sheahen

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One Defeatable Wall

The wall is high
but my beloved is tall

--Qahar Asi

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Familiar Smell

By Muriel Rukeyser

Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the
roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was
the Sphinx. Oedipus said, "I want to ask one question.
Why didn't I recognize my mother?" "You gave the
wrong answer," said the Sphinx. "But that was what
made everything possible," said Oedipus. "No," she said.
"When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning,
two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered,
Man. You didn't say anything about woman."
"When you say Man," said Oedipus, "you include women
too. Everyone knows that." She said, "That's what
you think."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

One Damned Gender

from Sestina: Altaforte
By Ezra Pound

...And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace
His lone might 'gainst all darkness opposing....

There's no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle's rejoicing,
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges 'gainst The Leopard's rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry 'Peace!'

And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear the swords clash!
Hell blot black for alway the thought 'Peace'!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One Veiled Arm

from Ghazal XV
By Ghalib

Almost none
of the beautiful faces
come back to be glimpsed for an instant in some flower

once the dust owns them

All day three stars
the Daughters of the Bier
hid in back of the light

then they step forth naked
but their minds are the black night

Sleep comes to him
peace belongs to him
the night is his

over whose arm your hair is spread

--Translated by W.S. Merwin

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Well-Hidden Child

By Robert Frost

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really find us out.

'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all--from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar--
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One Calm Sea

When I was a child I truly loved:
Unthinking love as calm and deep
As the North Sea. But I have lived,
And now I do not sleep.

--John Gardner

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

One Swift Lily

from Photograph
By Zbigniew Herbert

...my little boy my Isaac bend your head
just a moment of pain and then you will be
anything you like--a swallow a lily of the valley


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Thoughtful Haystack

The horse's mind
So swiftly
Into the hay's mind.

---Fazil Husnu Daglarca

One Steely Tap

from poet in the house
By Nic Sebastian

...you say I choose

what is difficult with a thin steel
dentist’s probe that I tap

and live for echoes
of fissures of

cavities and it’s not like I want
to fix them I just want

to find them

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Absurd World


I never meant
For you to go. The thing you heard
I never meant
for you to hear. The night you went
away I knew our whole absurd
sweet world had fallen with a word
I never meant.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

One Irritated Creator

All the great art we know of carries within its compass a guarantee that its creator is not content.

--Clive James

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One Surreptitious Pie

from A Message from the Wanderer
By William Stafford

Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago, I bent my skill to keep
my cell locked. I had chains smuggled to me
in pies, and shouted my plans to the jailers;
but always, new plans would occur to me,
or the new heavy locks bent the hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys. ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nine Fierce Herbs

from Charm of the Nine Healing Herbs

...On stone in crags
You grow Stime
Fierce you are
You beat back pain
You fight all venoms
So fierce you're called
The grass that defeats the snake

A seal bore you up
Over the sea's high ridge
You heal all evil brought
By the nine wicked spirits
You stand strong against pain
You beat down poison
Fierce against the three and the thirty
You broke the demon's claw
You hold off the wicked glance
You break the harmful spells
Of every wicked thing

These nine healing herbs
Fight the nine laming demons
And the nine evil poisons
And the nine flying ills
They fight the red poison
The white poison and the purple
They fight the yellow poison
And the green poison
The black poison and the blue
And the brown poison
And the crimson

They fight the worm-boil
And the water-blister
The thorn-blister and thistle-swell
They fight the ice-blister
And swollen bite

Only I know the power
Of the stream that clears
And the nine slithering ones know it

Now all the fields bloom
Full of healing herbs
When I blow these ills away
The very salt of the sea disappears
And the waters clear forever

~Anonymous, translated by David Cloutier

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One Young Rain

By Rolf Jacobsen

What sower walked over earth,
which hands sowed
our inward seeds of fire?
They went out from his fists like rainbow curves
to frozen earth, young loam, hot sand,
they will sleep there
greedily, and drink up our lives
and explode it into pieces
for the sake of a sunflower that you haven't seen
or a thistle head or a chrysanthemum.

Let the young rain of tears come.
Let the calm hands of grief come.
It's not all as evil as you think.

~Translated by Robert Bly

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

One Deaf Language

Often enough I tried language, often enough I tried song, but they didn't hear you.

--Friedrich Hölderlin

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One Venomous Font

from Parting, Without a Sequel
By John Crowe Ransom

She has finished and sealed the letter
At last, which he so richly has deserved,
With characters venomous and hatefully curved,
And nothing could be better.

But even as she gave it,
Saying to the blue-capped functioner of doom
"Into his hands," she hoped the leering groom
Might somewhere lose and leave it...


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Serviceable Body

Only too often, sadly, a good poet turns into a damned poor keeper of his body, but I believe he is usually issued a highly serviceable one to start out with.

--J.D. Salinger

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One Tortured No

T. S. Eliot, in fact, put it best. When asked if his tortured life as a poet had been worth it, he said, simply, "No."

--Alex Williams (apocryphal)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One Unhorsed Pasture

Grazing Horses
By Kay Ryan

Sometimes the
green pasture of the mind
tilts abruptly.
The grazing horses
struggle crazily
for purchase
on the frictionless
nearly vertical
surface. Their
legs buckle
on the incline,
unhorsed by slant
they weren't
designed to climb
and can't.

One Midnight Battlement

...my Poet—every poet—is an insomniac. My own reads or wanders about our apartment for the best part of most nights. She told me she often feels she would give up every poem she's ever written for one good night's sleep. A friend of mine....tells me he finds it profoundly reassuring that while we ordinary mortals are asleep, there exist lit rooms containing anxious, vigilant souls. A terrible responsibility, he says, devolves upon the poet, that requires her never to be fully awake or asleep: at night, wakeful poets buoy humanity to the surface, to consciousness, preventing our slumbering bulk from sinking too far; during the day, these same poets anchor the madding masses to the depths. The world will end, he once told me, when the final poet awake closes her eyes. Last night I woke up sweating, having dreamed of sinking with the rest of humanity into cold oblivion. Sure enough my Poet was fast asleep beside me—the first deep sleep she'd entered in more than a week. So I knocked a pile of books to the floor, and returned to my blissful slumbers, much comforted by the thought that at least one poet would wander the midnight battlements, keep watch, and preserve us all for one more day.

–Naeem Murr

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Discouraging Fowl

I don't know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens.

--E. B. White

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Unrealized Woman

As a woman she would of course have had to be loved, for in being loved the feminine achieves its realization...but on the other hand she was also an artist and had to be able to help herself.

--Rainer Maria Rilke on Clara Westhoff

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

One Stained-Glass Body

In this world
love has no color--
but how deeply my body
is stained by yours.

--Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield