Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Simultaneous Mood

Her states of mind were not progressive but approximately simultaneous.

--George Whicher on Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Black Robes

from Binding Song of the Eumenides
By Aeschylus

I have chosen overthrow
of houses, where the Battlegod
grown within strikes near and dear
down. So we swoop upon this man
here. He is strong, but we wear him down
for the blood that is still wet on him.

Men's illusions in their pride under the sky melt
down, and are diminished into the ground, gone
before the onset of our black robes, pulsing
of our vindictive feet against them.

For with a long leap from high
above and dead drop of weight
I bring foot's force crashing down
to cut the legs from under even
the runner, and spill him to ruin.

....All holds. For we are strong and skilled;
we have authority; we hold
memory of evil; we are stern
nor can men's pleading bend us. We
drive through our duties, spurned, outcast
from gods...

primeval yet is mine, nor am I without place
though it be underneath the ground
and in no sunlight and in gloom that I must stand.

--Translated by Richmond Lattimore

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Silent Sheet

from Compromise
By Akhtar-ul-Iman


...People dream and ride the high winds,
then reach a stage when they weep bitterly
and break like branches.
They find loved ones,
the focus of their desires and lives,
then come to hate them
even while loving them still.

I hate her, she despises me.
But when we meet
in the loneliness, the darkness,
we become one whole, like a lump of kneaded clay,
hatred leaves, silence stays,
the silence that covered the earth
after it was created,
and we go on breaking
like branches.

We don't talk about the dreams we once dreamt,
we don't talk about the joys,
we simply go on breaking.

I'm fond of drinking,
she's addicted to smoking,
wrapped in a sheet of silence we cling to each other,
we go on breaking
like tender branches.

--Translated by C.M. Naim and Vinay Dharwadker

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Jammed Highway

from Snow Is Falling
By Tomas Tranströmer

The funerals keep coming
more and more of them
like the traffic signs
as we approach a city.

--Translated by Robin Fulton

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ten Good Fingers

from Lullaby

This little girl
only born to
gather wild roses.

Only born to
shake the wild rice loose
with her little fingers.

Only to collect the sap
of young hemlocks
in spring….

little girl was
only born to
gather wild roses.

--Tsimshian/Pacific Northwest Indians

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Cornered Room

from Purdah
By Imtiaz Dharker

…Purdah is a kind of safety.
The body finds a place to hide.
The cloth fans out against the skin
much like the earth that falls
on coffins after they put dead men in.

People she has known
stand up, sit down as they have always done.
But they make different angles
in the light, their eyes aslant,
a little sly.

She half-remembers things
from someone else’s life,
perhaps from yours, or mine –
carefully carrying what we do not own:
between the thighs, a sense of sin.

We sit still, letting the cloth grow
a little closer to our skin.
A light filters inward
through our bodies’ walls.
Voices speak inside us,
echoing in the places we have just left.

She stands outside herself,
sometimes in all four corners of a room.
Wherever she goes, she is always
inching past herself…


Passing constantly out of her own hands,
into the corner of someone else’s eyes
while the doors keep opening
inward and again


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

One Tailored Suit

In the middle of life, death comes
to take your measurements. The visit
is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit
is being sewn on the sly.

--Tomas Tranströmer

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Dispirited Muse

Why does my Muse only speak when she is unhappy?
She does not, I only listen when I am unhappy
When I am happy I live and despise writing
For my Muse this cannot but be dispiriting.

--Stevie Smith

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One Touchy Creature

The poet...a creature consisting of nothing but antennae and nerves.

--Durs Grunbein

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

One Long River

Not to know. Not to remember.
With this one hope:
That beyond the River Lethe, there is memory, healed.

--Czeslaw Milosz

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One Wobbly Ladder

from Song for the Dying

Before you get to the king-tree
Come back
Before you get to the peach-tree
Come back
Before you get to the line of fence
Come back
Before you get to the bushes
Come back

....Before you get to the fire
Come back
Before you get to the middle of the ladder
Come back

--Seminole Indian

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One Recidivist Night

I watch over
the spring night—
but no amount of guarding
is enough to make it stay.

--Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One Polite Fib

...nothing is more difficult than to talk indifferently or insincerely on the subject of one's craft. The writer, without much effort, can reel off polite humbug about pictures, the painter about books; but to fib about the art one practices is incredibly painful.

--Edith Wharton

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Naked Throat

John Keats
John Keats
Please put your scarf on.

--Seymour Glass

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Instantaneous Toxin

The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken on an immortal wound--that he will never get over it. ...The proof of a poem is not that we have never forgotten it, but that we knew at sight that we never could forget it. There was a barb to it and a toxin that we owned to at once.

--Robert Frost

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One Undespairing Beak

five-story house in laleli
By Gisela Kraft

one lies in rags on the street
and his stomach is empty
and he wishes for death

one sits with friends at tea and backgammon
and his mind is empty
and he wishes for death

one sits in a straight-backed chair at a desk
and his bank account is empty
and he wishes for death

one lies in bed staring out to sea
and the place next to him in bed is empty
and he wishes for death

one flies back with food in its beak
and its nest is empty
and only this one says
we should give it another try

Translated by Laura Leichum

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

One Empty Bed

The true poet is all the time a visionary and whether with friends or not, as much alone as a man on his death bed.

--W.B. Yeats

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One Thunderous Alas

A long time back when we were first in love
Our bodies were always as one
Later you became my dearest
And I became your dearest alas
And now my beloved lord
And now you are my husband
I am your wife
Our hearts must be hard as the middle of thunder
Now what have I to live for?

--Indian, translated by J. Moussaieff Masson and W.S. Merwin

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

One False Word

"Therefore" is a word the poet must not know.

--André Gide

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

One Heavy Medal

All human beings should have a medal,
A god cannot carry it, he is not able.

--Stevie Smith

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Wasted Treasure

I have lived and I have loved;
I have waked and I have slept;
I have sung and I have danced;
I have smiled and I have wept;
I have won and wasted treasure;
I have had my fill of pleasure;
And all these things were weariness,
And some of them were dreariness.
And all these things, but two things,
Were emptiness and pain:
And Love--it was the best of them;
And Sleep--worth all the rest of them.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

One Enthusiastic Crowd

A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music... and then people crowd about the poet and say to him: "Sing for us soon again;" that is as much as to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul."

--Soren Kierkegaard