Monday, December 21, 2020

One Considered Crumb

from The Sparrows of Butyrka
By Irina Ratushinskaya

...The sparrows – they know
Who to ask for bread.
Even though there’s a double grille on the windows –
And only a crumb can get through.
What do they care
Whether you were on trial or not?
If you’ve fed them, you’re OK.
The real trial lies ahead.
You can’t entice a sparrow –
Kindness and talents are no use.
He won’t knock
At the urban double-glazing.
To understand birds
You have to be a convict.
And if you share your bread,
It means your time is done.

--Translated by David McDuff

One Disseminated Halo

The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

One Long Weaving

from Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison
By Nazim Hikmet

If instead of being hanged by the neck
you’re thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, and people,’s your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.

....To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more—
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose its luster. 

 --Translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

One Shielding Wound

Long-felt desires, hopes as long as vain
— sad sighs — slow tears accustomed to run sad
into as many rivers as two eyes can add,
pouring like fountains, endless as the rain —

cruelty beyond humanity, a pain
so hard it makes compassionate stars go mad
with pity: these are the first passions I’ve had.
Do you think Love could root in my soul again?

If he arched the great bow back again at me,
licked me again with fire, and stabbed me deep
with the violent worst, as awful as before,
the wounds that cut me everywhere would keep
me shielded, so there would be no place free
for love. It covers me. It will pierce no more.

--By Louise Labe, translated by Annie Finch

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

One Sudden Footfall

The Cloak, the Boat, the Shoes
By W.B. Yeats

'What do you make so fair and bright?'

'I make the cloak of Sorrow:
O lovely to see in all men’s sight
Shall be the cloak of Sorrow,
In all men’s sight.'

'What do you build with sails for flight?'

'I build a boat for Sorrow:
O swift on the seas all day and night
Saileth the rover Sorrow,
All day and night.'

'What do you weave with wool so white?'

'I weave the shoes of Sorrow:
Soundless shall be the footfall light
In all men’s ears of Sorrow,
Sudden and light.'

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

One Visionless Future

from Damastes speaks
By Zbigniew Herbert reality I was a scholar and social reformer
my real passion was anthropometry

I invented a bed with the measurements of a perfect man
I compared the travelers I caught with this bed
it was hard to avoid–I admit–stretching limbs cutting legs
the patients died but the more there were who perished
the more I was certain my research was right
the goal was noble   progress demands victims

I longed to abolish the difference between the high and the low
I wanted to give a single form to disgustingly varied humanity
I never stopped in my efforts to make people equal

my life was taken by Theseus the murderer of the innocent Minotaur
the one who went through the labyrinth with a woman’s ball of yarn
an impostor full of tricks without principles or a vision of the future

I have the well-grounded hope others will continue my labor
and bring the task so boldly begun to its end

 --Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

One Suspicious Postcard

By Mourid Barghouti

A poet sits in a coffee shop, writing.
The old lady
thinks he is writing a letter to his mother,
the young woman
thinks he is writing a letter to his girlfriend,
the child
thinks he is drawing,
the businessman
thinks he is considering a deal,
the tourist
thinks he is writing a postcard,
the employee
thinks he is calculating his debts.
The secret policeman
walks, slowly, towards him.

--Translated by Radwa Ashour | Book

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

One Guileless Missile

from A Child is Something Else Again
By Yehuda Amichai

....A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him
but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body
for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They're training him to be a polite Job,
to say "Thank you" when the Lord has given,
to say "You're welcome" when the Lord has taken away.

A child is vengeance.
A child is a missile into the coming generations.
I launched him: I'm still trembling.

--Translated by Chana Bloch

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

One Long Chain

On a Bird Singing in Its Sleep 
By Robert Frost

A bird half wakened in the lunar moon
Sang halfway through its little inborn tune.
Partly because it sang but once all night
And that from no especial bush's height,
Partly because it sang ventriloquist
And had the inspiration to desist
Almost before the prick of hostile ears,
It ventured less in peril than appears.
It could not have come down to us so far,
Through the interstices of things ajar,
On the long bead chain of repeated birth,
To be a bird while we are men on earth,
If singing out of sleep and dream that way
Had made it much more easily a prey.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

One Inert Tongue

By A.E. Stallings

What tales we tell what talesWhat ails?
About the girls gone quietYet
The story-telling ones once
Who entertained the heartart
Till suddenly they ceased.eased
What makes the tongue inert?hurt.
What turns the voice to swordsWords,
Cutting the throat? What takesaches,
The name from the alibiI
Of the body? We were stern:turn
Stories, we said, are lies,ice,
We told her, don’t repeat them. eat them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

One Cleaved Burden

from In Memorium
By Alfred Tennyson

I know that this was Life,—the track
Whereon with equal feet we fared;
And then, as now, the day prepared
The daily burden for the back.

But this it was that made me move
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love:

Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
When mighty Love would cleave in twain
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to him.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

One Knowledgeable Child

Drank lonesome water:
Weren't but a tad then
Up in a laurel thick
Digging for sang;

Came on a place where
The stones was holler;
Something below them
Tinkled and rang.

Dug where I heard it
Drippling below me:
Should a knowed better,
Should a been wise;

Leant down and drank it,
Clutching and gripping
The overhung cliv
With the ferns in my eyes.


I'd drunk lonesome water,
I knowed in a minute
Never larnt nothing
From then till today;

Nothing worth larning,
Nothing worth knowing.
I'm bound to the hills
And I can't get away.


I know where the grey foxes
Uses up yander,
Know what'll cure ye
Of ptisic or chills,

But I never been way from here,
Never got going:
I've drunk lonesome water,
I'm bound to the hills.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

from Global Event
By Lucas Pingel

 ...just like the veins that stay
hidden until we age enough for our skin

to fall slack. Just like how a march races
to the coda the moment the conductor

moves his baton. No. Just like

the moment he sees his baton
and decides that it must be moved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

One Garbled Word

from The Tree of Knowledge
By Shane McCrae

The hastily assembled angel saw...

..... And what he saw was everything would come
Together at the same time everything
Would fall apart and that was humans thinking

The world was meant for them and other things
Were accidental or were decora-
tions meant for them and therefore purposeful
That humans thought that God had told them so

And what the hastily assembled angel
Thought was that probably God had said the same thing
To every living thing on Earth and on-
ly stopped when one said Really back but then

Again the hastily assembled angel
Couldn’t tell human things apart and maybe
That Really mattered     what would he have heard
Holy or maybe Folly or maybe Kill me

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

One Satisfied Cell

from Origin
By Sarah Lindsay

The first cell felt no call to divide.
Fed on abundant salts and sun,
still thin, it simply spread,
rocking on water, clinging to stone,
a film of obliging strength.

..... With no incidence
of loneliness, inner conflict, or deceit,
no predator nor prey,
it had little to do but thrive,
draw back from any sharp heat
or bitterness, and change its pastel
colors in a kind of song.
We are descendants of the second cell.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

One Saline Pool

After Love
By Sara Teasdale

There is no magic any more,
We meet as other people do,
You work no miracle for me
Nor I for you.

You were the wind and I the sea—
There is no splendor any more,
I have grown listless as the pool
Beside the shore.

But though the pool is safe from storm
And from the tide has found surcease,
It grows more bitter than the sea,
For all its peace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

One Buried Look

from Selling Gold
By Nguyen Duy

Our soul -- a slab of pure gold.
We'll have to sell it piece by piece.
One piece for a son, one for a wife,
others for parents and friends.

The inner wealth hard to keep,
we're rich men, but our children eat dirt,
still, we walk, noses in the air, wife in hock,
parents drowned in storms and floods.

We dream and dance on without shame
don't give a damn for the leaky roof,
don't give a damn for a son's rags,
don't give a damn for a wife's withered hand.

We'd get drunk with the ocean and sky
just to get away from what's closest to us,
the rice pot empty, we turn our backs,
worry safely buried in a wife's hidden look.

~Translated by Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung | Book

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

One Sharp Needle

Sonnet XXIV
By Louise Labe

Do not reproach me, ladies, if I’ve loved
And felt a thousand torches burn my veins,
A thousand griefs, a thousand biting pains.
If all my days to bitter tears dissolved,

Then, ladies, do not denigrate my name.
If I did wrong, the pain and punishment
Are now. Don’t file their needles to a point.
Consider: Love is master of the game:

No need of Vulcan to explain your fire,
Nor of Adonis to excuse desire,
But with less cause than mine, far less occasion,

As the whim takes him, idly he can curse
You with a stranger and a stronger passion.
But O take care your suffering's not worse.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

One Strange Plagiarizer

The Aviator
By Shota Iatashvili

He flew off and turned out to be right:
They praised him, blessed him, bent his neck down.
He flew off again, and again turned out to be right:
They gave him a reception and didn’t grudge him bread, water and
A comb for his wing and plumage.
He flew off a third time and this time, too, he turned out to be right:
They put up with him, tolerated him.
He flew off a fourth time and turned out to be in the wrong:
They called him a silly plagiarizer of an angel.
But he still flew off a fifth time –
They fired at him,
They killed him.

--Translated by Donald Rayfield

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

One Unearthed Wallet

from The Summer A Tribe Called Quest Broke Up
By Hanif Abdurraqib

all them black
boys in the 'hood
had they wallets
unearthed in cities
they ain’t never
seen before & they
was all empty
'cept for maybe the bones
of the last woman
to hold them in her arms &
call them by the
name they blessed the
earth with


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

One Stolen Dance

from The United States Welcomes You
By Tracy K. Smith

Why and by whose power were you sent?
What do you see that you may wish to steal?
Why all this dancing? Why do your dark bodies
Drink up the light? What are you demanding
That we feel? Have you stolen something? Then
What is that leaping in your chest?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

One Worthwhile War

When the war is over 
By W.S. Merwin

When the war is over
We will be proud of course the air will be
Good for breathing at last
The water will have been improved the salmon
And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly
The dead will think the living are worth it we will know
Who we are
And we will all enlist again