Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mother by Zbigniew Herbert


Mother

He fell from her knees like a ball of yarn. 
He unwound in a hurry and ran blindly away. 
She held the beginning of life. She would wind it 
on her finger like a ring, she wanted to preserve him. 
He was rolling down steep slopes, sometimes 
he was climbing up. He would come back tangled, and 
be silent. 
Never will he return to the sweet throne of her knees. 

The stretched-out hands are alight in the darkness 
like an old town.

(Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)



Friday, May 29, 2015

Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong by Ocean Vuong


Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong

After Frank O’Hara / After Roger Reeves

Ocean, don’t be afraid.
The end of the road is so far ahead
it is already behind us.
Don’t worry. Your father is only your father
until one of you forgets. Like how the spine
won’t remember its wings
no matter how many times our knees
kiss the pavement. Ocean,
are you listening? The most beautiful part
of your body is wherever
your mother’s shadow falls.
Here’s the house with childhood
whittled down to a single red tripwire.
Don’t worry. Just call it horizon
& you’ll never reach it.
Here’s today. Jump. I promise it’s not
a lifeboat. Here’s the man
whose arms are wide enough to gather
your leaving. & here the moment,
just after the lights go out, when you can still see
the faint torch between his legs.
How you use it again & again
to find your own hands.
You asked for a second chance
& are given a mouth to empty into.
Don’t be afraid, the gunfire
is only the sound of people
trying to live a little longer. Ocean. Ocean,
get up. The most beautiful part of your body
is where it’s headed. & remember,
loneliness is still time spent
with the world. Here’s
the room with everyone in it.
Your dead friends passing
through you like wind
through a wind chime. Here’s a desk
with the gimp leg & a brick
to make it last. Yes, here’s a room
so warm & blood-close,
I swear, you will wake—
& mistake these walls
for skin.




Thursday, May 28, 2015

Faith, Dogma, and Heresy by Frank Stanford


Faith, Dogma, and Heresy

It was Sunday, before dinner.
My uncles were listening to the opera.
O.Z. and I carried my brother in
And laid him on the table.
The women started screaming.
My brother raised up on his side
With dried blood on his hands,
We killed those goddamn Canale brothers
And nobody is ever going to touch us!
The men shut their eyes and danced.
We drank until morning
When everything was quiet.
They wiped their eyes, kissed us goodbye and left.



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich


Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.




Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Another Day in This Here Cosmos by Maureen N. McLane


Another Day in This Here Cosmos

Stormthreat, Clouddarkened
mountain, computer
unplugged. Commuters
to nature on a plain

of grass the sheep
munch clear of clover.
A park’s a way to keep
what’s gone enclosed forever.

Rhyme is cheap.
So is pop.
Easy to be obese
in a land fat with rape.

Now the sun burns
unprotected skin.
Now the sheep
dream of lanolin.

To everything alive
we’re kin.
Eat or be eaten—
what the vegan

spurns and the Jain.
I saved a fly
I baptized William Blake
and released to the sky.
Of course he’ll die.

The new grasses
a brighter green
than the older spears
make this a scene

of summer starring
black butterflies. The Faerie
Queene alights from her magic car
a red convertible

and she a glam tranny.
The sheep don’t care.
The sheep don’t mind.
In three months the wind

will blow these trees bare
but for tall pines
littering the forest floor
with browning needles

gone soft in the slow trample
of small creatures and long rain.
A park’s a way to keep
what’s gone enclosed forever.



Monday, May 25, 2015

The Rain by Zbigniew Herbert


The Rain

When my older brother
came back from war
he had on his forehead a little silver star
and under the star
an abyss

a splinter of shrapnel
hit him at Verdun
or perhaps at Grünwald
(he’d forgotten the details)

he used to talk much
in many languages
but he liked most of all
the language of history

until losing breath
he commanded his dead pals to run
Roland Kowalski Hannibal

he shouted
that this was the last crusade
that Carthage soon would fall
and then sobbing confessed
that Napoleon did not like him

we looked at him
getting paler and paler
abandoned by his senses
he turned slowly into a monument

into musical shells of ears
entered a stone forest
and the skin of his face
was secured
with the blind dry
buttons of eyes

nothing was left him
but touch

what stories
he told with his hands
in the right he had romances
in the left soldier’s memories

they took my brother
and carried him out of town
he returns every fall
slim and very quiet
he does not want to come in
he knocks at the window for me

we walk together in the streets
and he recites to me
improbable tales
touching my face
with blind fingers of rain


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Poetry by Richard Kenney


Poetry

Nobody at any rate reads it much. Your
lay
citizenry have other forms of fun.

Still, who would wish to live in a culture
of which future anthropologists would say
Oddly, they had none?


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Crumpled-Up Note Blowing Away by Franz Wright


Crumpled-Up Note Blowing Away

Were no one
here to witness it,
could the sun be
said to shine? Clearly,
you pedantic fool.

But I’ve said all that
I had to say.
In writing.
I signed my name.
It’s death’s move.

It can have mine, too.
It’s a perfect June morning,
and I just turned eighteen;
I can’t even believe
what I feel like today.

Here am I, Lord,
sitting on a suitcase,
waiting for my train.
The sun is shining.
I’m never coming back.


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Garden by Fanny Howe


The Garden

Black winter gardens
engraved at night
keep soft frost
on them to read the veins
of our inner illustrator’s
hand internally light
with infant etching.
Children book
on blizzard winds
and then the picture
is blown to yonder
and out of ink:
the black winter verses
are buds and sticks.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mr Cogito and the little Creature by Zbigniew Herbert


Mr Cogito and the little Creature

It’s unclear whether anyone knows its personal zoological name, so small is it, so low, near the very bottom, beyond the naked eye. It is something that wavers between existence and absence, insignificant, fleeting as a scrap of print, a particle, the paring of a diacritical mark, the chip of a comma, a speck of lead from the printer’s cabinet.
I open my winter reading and there it is crouching down on the page, a Very Little Creature, motionless at first, but soon it is off on its way, sniffing between the lines, and then it lurches ahead like a horse from the stable, forward at the speed of the Very Little Creature’s light (the creature is blind).
This season (it may be the last season of my life)—everything was as before, the Very Little Creature amused me and warmed my black heart, when one day I decided to give the book to friends in London. I made a parcel of it and sent it off. With the Creature inside.
What does it do during the long sea voyage? It has plenty to read; it doesn’t eat very much; but what does it think of me, its old companion who proved so treacherous?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Prelude by Tomas Tranströmer


Prelude

Waking up is a jump, a skydive from the dream.
Free of the smothering whirl the traveler
sinks toward morning's green zone.
Things start to flare. He perceives—in the trembling lark's
position—the mighty tree-root systems'
underground swinging lamps. But standing
above—in tropical profusion—is verdure, with
upraised arms, listening
to the rhythm of an invisible pumping station. And he
sinks toward summer, is lowered
into its blinding crater, down
through shafts of ages green with damp
quaking under the turbine of the sun. So ceases
this vertical flight through the moment, and the wings spread out
into the osprey's repose over streaming water.
The Bronze Age trumpet's
tone of exile
hovers over bottomlessness.

In the first hours of day consciousness can embrace the world
just as the hand grasps a sun-warm stone.
The traveler stands under the tree. After
the plunge through death's whirling vortex, will
a great light unfurl over his head?

(Translated by Rika Lesser)


Monday, May 18, 2015

To the Muse by James Wright


To the Muse

It is all right. All they do
Is go in by dividing
One rib from another. I wouldn’t   
Lie to you. It hurts
Like nothing I know. All they do   
Is burn their way in with a wire.
It forks in and out a little like the tongue   
Of that frightened garter snake we caught   
At Cloverfield, you and me, Jenny   
So long ago.

I would lie to you
If I could.
But the only way I can get you to come up   
Out of the suckhole, the south face
Of the Powhatan pit, is to tell you   
What you know:

You come up after dark, you poise alone   
With me on the shore.   
I lead you back to this world.

Three lady doctors in Wheeling open
Their offices at night.
I don’t have to call them, they are always there.   
But they only have to put the knife once   
Under your breast.
Then they hang their contraption.
And you bear it.

It’s awkward a while. Still, it lets you   
Walk about on tiptoe if you don’t   
Jiggle the needle.
It might stab your heart, you see.
The blade hangs in your lung and the tube   
Keeps it draining.
That way they only have to stab you   
Once. Oh Jenny.

I wish to God I had made this world, this scurvy   
And disastrous place. I
Didn’t, I can’t bear it
Either, I don’t blame you, sleeping down there   
Face down in the unbelievable silk of spring,   
Muse of black sand,
Alone.

I don’t blame you, I know
The place where you lie.
I admit everything. But look at me.   
How can I live without you?
Come up to me, love,
Out of the river, or I will
Come down to you.



Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered by Clive James


The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book –
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs. 

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys. 

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler's War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper 
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee's Promenades and Pierrots—
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor's Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
"My boobs will give everyone hours of fun". 

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error—
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets! 
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Did This Ever Happen to You by Franz Wright


Did This Ever Happen to You

A marble-colored cloud
engulfed the sun and stalled,

a skinny squirrel limped toward me
as I crossed the empty park

and froze, the last
or next to last

fall leaf fell but before it touched
the earth, with shocking clarity

I heard my mother’s voice
pronounce my name. And in an instant I passed

beyond sorrow and terror, and was carried up
into the imageless

bright darkness
I came from

and am. Nobody’s
stronger than forgiveness.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Atlantis by Wisława Szymborska


Atlantis

They were or they weren't.
On an island or not.
An ocean or not an ocean
swallowed them up or it didn't.

Was there anyone to love anyone?
Did anybody have someone to fight?
Everything happened or it didn't
there or someplace else.

Seven cities stood there.
So we think.
They were meant to stand forever.
We suppose.

They weren't up to much, no.
They were up to something, yes.

Hypothetical. Dubious. 
Uncommemorated.
Never extracted from air,
fire,water, or earth.

Not contained within a stone
or drop of rain.
Not suitable for straight-faced use
as a story's moral.

A meteor fell. 
Not a meteor.
A volcano exploded.
Not a volcano.
Someone summoned something. 
Nothing was called.

On this more-or-less Atlantis.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Insomnia by Elizabeth Bishop


Insomnia

The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me. 



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

45 Mercy Street by Anne Sexton


45 Mercy Street

In my dream, 
drilling into the marrow 
of my entire bone, 
my real dream, 
I'm walking up and down Beacon Hill 
searching for a street sign - 
namely MERCY STREET. 
Not there. 

I try the Back Bay. 
Not there. 
Not there. 
And yet I know the number. 
45 Mercy Street. 
I know the stained-glass window 
of the foyer, 
the three flights of the house 
with its parquet floors. 
I know the furniture and 
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, 
the servants. 
I know the cupboard of Spode 
the boat of ice, solid silver, 
where the butter sits in neat squares 
like strange giant's teeth 
on the big mahogany table. 
I know it well. 
Not there. 

Where did you go? 
45 Mercy Street, 
with great-grandmother 
kneeling in her whale-bone corset 
and praying gently but fiercely 
to the wash basin, 
at five A.M. 
at noon 
dozing in her wiggy rocker, 
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry, 
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid, 
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower 
on her forehead to cover the curl 
of when she was good and when she was... 
And where she was begat 
and in a generation 
the third she will beget, 
me, 
with the stranger's seed blooming 
into the flower called Horrid. 

I walk in a yellow dress 
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes, 
enough pills, my wallet, my keys, 
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five? 
I walk. I walk. 
I hold matches at street signs 
for it is dark, 
as dark as the leathery dead 
and I have lost my green Ford, 
my house in the suburbs, 
two little kids 
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me 
and a husband 
who has wiped off his eyes 
in order not to see my inside out 
and I am walking and looking 
and this is no dream 
just my oily life 
where the people are alibis 
and the street is unfindable for an 
entire lifetime. 

Pull the shades down - 
I don't care! 
Bolt the door, mercy, 
erase the number, 
rip down the street sign, 
what can it matter, 
what can it matter to this cheapskate 
who wants to own the past 
that went out on a dead ship 
and left me only with paper? 

Not there. 

I open my pocketbook, 
as women do, 
and fish swim back and forth 
between the dollars and the lipstick. 
I pick them out, 
one by one 
and throw them at the street signs, 
and shoot my pocketbook 
into the Charles River. 
Next I pull the dream off 
and slam into the cement wall 
of the clumsy calendar 
I live in, 
my life, 
and its hauled up 
notebooks. 



Monday, May 11, 2015

In Love with You by Kenneth Koch


In Love with You 

                                                      I

O what a physical effect it has on me
To dive forever into the light blue sea
Of your acquaintance! Ah, but dearest friends,
Like forms, are finished, as life has ends! Still,
It is beautiful, when October
Is over, and February is over,
To sit in the starch of my shirt, and to dream of your sweet
Ways! As if the world were a taxi, you enter it, then
Reply (to no one), “Let’s go five or six blocks.”
Isn’t the blue stream that runs past you a translation from the Russian?
Aren’t my eyes bigger than love?
Isn’t this history, and aren’t we a couple of ruins?
Is Carthage Pompeii? is the pillow the bed? is the sun
What glues our heads together? O midnight! O midnight!
Is love what we are,
Or has happiness come to me in a private car
That’s so very small I’m amazed to see it there?

                                                       2

We walk through the park in the sun, and you say, “There’s a spider
Of shadow touching the bench, when morning’s begun.” I love you.
I love you fame I love you raining sun I love you cigarettes I love you love
I love you daggers I love smiles daggers and symbolism.

                                                       3

Inside the symposium of your sweetest look’s
Sunflower awning by the nurse-faced chrysanthemums childhood
Again represents a summer spent sticking knives into porcelain raspberries, when China’s
Still a country! Oh, King Edward abdicated years later, that’s
Exactly when. If you were seventy thousand years old, and I were a pill,
I know I could cure your headache, like playing baseball in drinking-water, as baskets
Of towels sweetly touch the bathroom floor! O benches of nothing
Appear and reappear—electricity! I’d love to be how
You are, as if
The world were new, and the selves were blue
Which we don
Until it’s dawn,
Until evening puts on
The gray hooded selves and the light brown selves of . . .
Water! your tear-colored nail polish
Kisses me! and the lumberyard seems new
As a calm
On the sea, where, like pigeons,
I feel so mutated, sad, so breezed, so revivified, and still so unabdicated—
Not like an edge of land coming over the sea!



Sunday, May 10, 2015

End of Winter by Louise Glück


End of Winter

Over the still world, a bird calls
waking solitary among black boughs.

You wanted to be born; I let you be born.
When has my grief ever gotten
in the way of your pleasure?

Plunging ahead
into the dark and light at the same time
eager for sensation

as though you were some new thing, wanting
to express yourselves

all brilliance, all vivacity

never thinking
this would cost you anything,
never imagining the sound of my voice
as anything but part of you—

you won't hear it in the other world,
not clearly again,
not in birdcall or human cry,

not the clear sound, only
persistent echoing
in all sound that means good-bye, good-bye—

the one continuous line
that binds us to each other.



Saturday, May 9, 2015

Everybody Who Is Dead by Frank Stanford

Everybody Who Is Dead

When a man knows another man
Is looking for him
He doesn’t hide.

He doesn’t wait
To spend another night
With his wife
Or put his children to sleep.

He puts on a clean shirt and a dark suit
And goes to the barber shop
To let another man shave him.

He shuts his eyes
Remembers himself as a boy
Lying naked on a rock by the water.

Then he asks for the special lotion.
The old men line up by the chair
And the barber pours a little
In each of their hands.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Reasons by Thomas James



Reasons

For our own private reasons
We live in each other for an hour.
Stranger, I take your body and its seasons,
Aware the moon has gone a little sour

For us. The moon hangs up there like a stone
Shaken out of its proper setting.
We lie down in each other. We lie down alone
and watch the moon’s flawed marble getting

Out of hand. What are the dead doing tonight?
The padlocks of their tongues embrace the black,
Each syllable locked in place, tucked out of sight.
Even this moon could never pull them back,

Even if it held them in its arms
And weighed them down with stones,
Took them entirely on their own terms
And piled the orchard’s blossom on their bones.

I am aware of your body and its dangers.
I spread my cloak for you in leafy weather
Where other fugitives and other strangers
Will put their mouths together.




Thursday, May 7, 2015

Unable to Write It by May Swenson


Unable to Write It

Tears do not make good ink.
Their message invisible,
no one reads this hurt.

I lie alone in dirt despair.
Alone beside one who does not feel
lightning strike and agony crackle.

I sink into black, the inkwell
wordless, filled with tears.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Broken Spoke by Mary Ruefle


Broken Spoke

You grow old.
You love everybody.
You forgive everyone.
You think: we are all leaves
dragged along by the wind.
Then comes a splendid spotted
yellow one—ah, distinction!
And in that moment
you are dragged under.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright


Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.