Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One Unfortunate Engagement

At the flea market
someone's selling genuine love for
no money,
no lie.

No one
My lover at the next stall
buys a golden ring.

--Translated from the German of Kerstin Hensel

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Survivalist Sonnet

There is no argument by which one can defend a poem. It defends itself by surviving, or it is indefensible.

--George Orwell

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Semidigested Meal

from Remembering My Father
By Zbigniew Herbert 

he was born for a second time slight very fragile
with transparent skin hardly perceptible cartilage
he diminished his body so I might receive it

in an unimportant place there is shadow under a stone

he himself grows in me we eat our defeats
we burst out laughing
when they say how little is needed

to be reconciled

--Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

One Unprepared Host

At my hut I fear
All I can really tempt you with...
Smallish mosquitoes

--Matsuo Basho, translated by Peter Beilenson

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Unbridgeable Distance

...that sort of poetry which seems as if sculpture or painting were just forced or forcing itself into words. The gulf between evocation and description, in this latter case, is the unbridgeable distance between genius and talent.

-- Ezra Pound on W.B. Yeats

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One Unprophetic Child

When I Banged My Head on the Door 
By Yehuda Amichai

When I banged my head on the door, I screamed,
"My head, my head," and I screamed, "Door, door,"
and I didn't scream "Mama" and I didn't scream "God."
And I didn't prophesy a world at the End of Days
where there will be no more heads and doors.

When you stroked my head, I whispered,
"My head, my head," and I whispered, "Your hand, your hand,"
and I didn't whisper "Mama" or "God."
And I didn't have miraculous visions
of hands stroking heads in the heavens
as they split wide open.

Whatever I scream or say or whisper is only
to console myself: My head, my head.
Door, door. Your hand, your hand.

--Translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell ~ Book

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Tardy Fact-Checker

And Day Brought Back My Night 
By Geoffrey Brock

It was so simple: you came back to me
And I was happy. Nothing seemed to matter
But that. That you had gone away from me
And lived for days with him—it didn’t matter.
That I had been left to care for our old dog
And house alone—couldn’t have mattered less!
On all this, you and I and our happy dog
Agreed. We slept. The world was worriless.

I woke in the morning, brimming with old joys
Till the fact-checker showed up, late, for work
And started in: Item: it’s years, not days. 
Item: you had no dog. Item: she isn’t back, 
In fact, she just remarried. And oh yes, item: you 
Left her, remember? I did? I did. (I do.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One Blushing Slaughterhouse

from Mr. Cogito on Virtue
By Zbigniew Herbert


It is not at all strange
she isn't the bride
of real men

of generals
athletes of power

for centuries she has stalked them
that whimpering old maid
in her hideous Salvation Army hat


but all around glorious life runs riot
blushing like a slaughterhouse at dawn

she becomes smaller and smaller
like a hair in the throat
like a buzzing in the ear


my God
if she were a little younger
a little prettier...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Long Days

I asked for a long life, I received four days
Two passed in desire, two in waiting.

--Bahadur Shah Zafar

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

One Ignored Insight

What it is 
By Eric Fried

It is madness
says reason
It is what it is
says love

It is unhappiness
says caution
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It has no future
says insight
It is what it is
says love

It is ridiculous
says pride
It is foolish
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love

~Translated by Stuart Hood

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Furious Goddess

Strong Goddess, Goddess Cybele, Goddess Lady ...
Spare my house, Queen, from total fury.
Hunt others. Seize others. Others appall.

--After Catullus, translated by Reynolds Price

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Restless Leaf

from Autumn Day
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Whoever has no home now will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

--Version based on a translation by Stephen Mitchell ~ Book

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One Untrimmed Tree

Please let my hair grow, mother.
Don't cut it.

A trimmed tree
is no place for singing birds.

--Pashto landay. Version based on a translation by Saduddin Shpoon

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

One Genuine Hermit

from Hermitage
By Wislawa Szymborska

You expected a hermit to live in the wilderness,
but he has a little house and a garden,
surrounded by cheerful birch groves,
ten minutes off the highway.
Just follow the signs.


Meanwhile a tight-lipped old lady from Bidgoszcz
whom no one visits but the meter reader
is writing in the guestbook:
"God be praised
for letting me
see a genuine hermit before I die"...

--Translated by Clare Cavanaugh

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

One Marked Mind

From the Travels of Abigdor Karo
By Miroslav Holub

That land
is marked by
a multitude of crosses,
large and small,
at crossroads,
along highways,
on a stone or a tree,
in the far corners
of forests,
and minds,
and towns.

Jesus Christ
is on many of them.
Many are
still free.

--Translated by David Young and Dana Habova

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Uncharming Problem

If girls were as charming after the fact as before it,
What man would ever tire?
But the sad truth is,
Just then the dearest of wives is a joyless problem.

--Rufinus, translated by Dudley Fitts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One Unsatisfactory Inebriate

from Kinaxixi
By Agostinho Neto

...I would see the tired footsteps
of the servants whose fathers also were servants
looking for love here, glory there, wanting
something more than drunkenness in every


--Translated by W.S. Merwin

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Affirmative Negative

Of all writers under the sun the poet is the least liar... the poet affirms nothing, and therefore never lies.

--Sir Philip Sidney

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One Scentless Fruit

from Contemplating Hell
By Bertolt Brecht

...Also in Hell,
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course,
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets
With great heaps of fruit, which nonetheless

Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos,
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere.
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty,
Even when inhabited. ...

--Translated by Robert Firmage

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One Erased Kiss

A kiss on the forehead 
By Marina Tsvetaeva

A kiss on the forehead—erases misery.
I kiss your forehead.

A kiss on the eyes—lifts sleeplessness.
I kiss your eyes.

A kiss on the lips—is a drink of water.
I kiss your lips.

A kiss on the forehead—erases memory.

--Version by Jean Valentine and Ilya Kaminsky

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One Bloodied Boomerang

from Threading
By Yehuda Amichai

...But the heart must kill one of us
on one of its forays,
if not you — me,
when it comes back empty-handed,
like Cain, a boomerang from the field.

--Translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One Thin Needle

from Threading
By Yehuda Amichai

Loving each other began this way: threading
loneliness into loneliness
patiently, our hands trembling and precise.

--Translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

One Bare Finger

Another Lullaby for Insomniacs
By A.E. Stallings

Sleep, she will not linger:
She turns her moon-cold shoulder.
With no ring on her finger,
You cannot hope to hold her.

She turns her moon-cold shoulder
And tosses off the cover.
You cannot hope to hold her:
She has another lover.

She tosses off the cover
And lays the darkness bare.
She has another lover.
Her heart is otherwhere.

She lays the darkness bare.
You slowly realize
Her heart is otherwhere.
There's distance in her eyes.

You slowly realize
That she will never linger,
With distance in her eyes
And no ring on her finger.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Bankrupting Kiss

I would love to kiss you.
 The price of kissing is your life. 
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
 What a bargain, let's buy it. 

 --Jelaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Soaked Spirit

Poets, though,
differ in combustibility.
Those soaked in spirits
catch fire first.

--Miroslav Holub, translated by David Young and Dana Habova

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

One Misleading Spine

Had we known the Ton she bore
We had helped the terror—
But she straighter walked for Freight
So be hers the error—

--Emily Dickinson