Monday, February 27, 2017

Snow by Mary Ruefle


Snow 

Every time it starts to snow, I would like to have 
sex. No matter if it is snowing lightly and unseri-
ously, or snowing very seriously, well on into the 
night, I would like to stop whatever manifestation 
of life I am engaged in and have sex, with the same 
person, who also sees the snow and heeds it, who 
might have to leave an office or meeting, or some ar-
duous physical task, or, conceivably, leave off having 
sex with another person, and go in the snow to me, 
who is already, in the snow, beginning to have sex in 
my snow-mind. Someone for whom, like me, this is 
an ultimatum, the snow sign, an ultimatum of joy, 
though as an ultimatum beyond joy as well as sor-
row. I would like to be in the classroom — for I am 
a teacher — and closing my book stand up, saying 
"It is snowing and I must go have sex, good-bye," 
and walk out of the room. And starting my car, in 
the beginning stages of snow, know that he is start-
ing his car, with the flakes falling on its windshield, 
or, if he is at home, he is looking at the snow and 
knowing I will arrive, snowy, in ten or twenty or 
thirty minutes, and, if the snow has stopped off, we, 
as humans, can make a decision, but not while it is 
still snowing, and even half-snow would be some
thing to be obeyed. I often wonder where the birds 
go in a snowstorm, for they disappear completely. 
I always think of them deep inside the bushes, and 
further along inside the trees and deep inside of the 
forests, on branches where no snow can reach, deep-
ly recessed for the time of the snow, not oblivious
to it, but intensely accepting their incapacity, and 
so enduring the snow in brave little inborn ways, 
with their feathered heads bowed down for warmth. 
Wings, the mark of a bird, are quite useless in snow. 
When I am inside having sex while it snows I want 
to be thinking about the birds too, and I want my 
love to love thinking about the birds as much as I 
do, for it is snowing and we are having sex under 
or on top of the blankets and the birds cannot be 
that far away, deep in the stillness and silence of the 
snow, their breasts still have color, their hearts are 
beating, they breathe in and out while it snows all 
around them, though thinking about the birds is not 
as fascinating as watching it snow on a cemetery, on 
graves and tombstones and the vaults of the dead, 
I love watching it snow on graves, how cold the 
snow is, even colder the stones, and the ground is 
the coldest of all, and the bones of the dead are in 
the ground, but the dead are not cold, snow or no 
snow, it means very little to them, nothing, it means 
nothing to them, but for us, watching it snow on the 
dead, watching the graveyard get covered in snow, it 
is very cold, the snow on top of the graves over the 
bones, it seems especially cold, and at the same time 
especially peaceful, it is like snow falling gently on 
sleepers, even if it falls in a hurry it seems gentle, 
because the sleepers are gentle, they are not anxious, 
they are sleeping through the snow and they will 
be sleeping beyond the snow, and although I will 
be having sex while it snows I want to remember 
the quiet, cold, gentle sleepers who cannot think of 
themselves as birds nestled in feathers, but who are 
themselves, in part, part of the snow, which is falling
with such steadfast devotion to the ground all the 
anxiety in the world seems gone, the world seems 
deep in a bed as I am deep in a bed, lost in the arms 
of my lover, yes, when it snows like this I feel the 
whole world has joined me in isolation and silence.

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

As I Walked Out One Evening by W. H. Auden


As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
        Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
        Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
        I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
        "Love has no ending.

"I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
        Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
        And the salmon sing in the street.

"I'll love you till the ocean
        Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
        Like geese about the sky.

"The years shall run like rabbits
        For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages
        And the first love of the world."

But all the clocks in the city
        Began to whirr and chime:
"O let not Time deceive you,
        You cannot conquer Time.

"In the burrows of the Nightmare
        Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
        And coughs when you would kiss.

"In headaches and in worry
        Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
        To-morrow or to-day.

"Into many a green valley
        Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
        And the diver's brilliant bow.

"O plunge your hands in water,
        Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
        And wonder what you've missed.

"The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
        The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
        A lane to the land of the dead.

"Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
        And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer
        And Jill goes down on her back.

"O look, look in the mirror, 
        O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
        Although you cannot bless.

"O stand, stand at the window
        As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
        With your crooked heart."

It was late, late in the evening,
        The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming
        And the deep river ran on.

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What Do Women Want? by Kim Addonizio


What Do Women Want?

I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I’m the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it’ll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.

 

Friday, February 24, 2017

For A Father by Anthony Cronin


For A Father

With the exact length and pace of his father's stride
The son walks, 
Echoes and intonations of his father's speech 
Are heard when he talks.

Once when the table was tall and the chair a wood 
He absorbed his father's smile 
And carefully copied the way that he stood.

He grew into exile slowly 
With pride and remorse, 
In some way better than his begetters, 
In others worse.

And now having chosen, with strangers, 
Half glad of his choice 
He smiles with his father's hesitant smile 
And speaks with his voice.

 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quarantine by Eavan Boland


Quarantine

In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north. 

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
   He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived. 

In the morning they were both found dead. 
   Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her. 

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.  
   There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory: 

Their death together in the winter of 1847.   
   Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

For Love by Robert Creeley


For Love
    
    for Bobbie

Yesterday I wanted to 
speak of it, that sense above   
the others to me 
important because all 

that I know derives 
from what it teaches me.   
Today, what is it that   
is finally so helpless, 

different, despairs of its own   
statement, wants to 
turn away, endlessly 
to turn away. 

If the moon did not ... 
no, if you did not 
I wouldn’t either, but   
what would I not 

do, what prevention, what   
thing so quickly stopped.   
That is love yesterday   
or tomorrow, not 

now. Can I eat 
what you give me. I 
have not earned it. Must   
I think of everything 

as earned. Now love also   
becomes a reward so 
remote from me I have 
only made it with my mind. 

Here is tedium, 
despair, a painful 
sense of isolation and   
whimsical if pompous 

self-regard. But that image   
is only of the mind’s 
vague structure, vague to me   
because it is my own. 

Love, what do I think 
to say. I cannot say it. 
What have you become to ask,   
what have I made you into, 

companion, good company,   
crossed legs with skirt, or   
soft body under 
the bones of the bed. 

Nothing says anything   
but that which it wishes   
would come true, fears   
what else might happen in 

some other place, some   
other time not this one.   
A voice in my place, an   
echo of that only in yours. 

Let me stumble into 
not the confession but   
the obsession I begin with   
now. For you 

also (also) 
some time beyond place, or   
place beyond time, no   
mind left to 

say anything at all, 
that face gone, now. 
Into the company of love   
it all returns.

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Theory vs. Practice by Meghan O'Rourke


Theory vs. Practice

Our ménage à trois by candlelight—;
the various absurdities: black lace,
pink mules, a little-bo-peep teddy. 

Afterward, bad Champagne 
in the kitchen of the pied-à-terre.
The mind is an unforgettable red space.

But I, I can’t escape this place;—
the steep of ridged limbs,
the mountainous dark pining;

and love, the flickering hood of flame.

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Evening of the Mind by Donald Justice


The Evening of the Mind

Now comes the evening of the mind.
Here are the fireflies twitching in the blood;
Here is the shadow moving down the page
Where you sit reading by the garden wall.
Now the dwarf peach trees, nailed to their trellises,
Shudder and droop. Your know their voices now,
Faintly the martyred peaches crying out
Your name, the name nobody knows but you.
It is the aura and the coming on.
It is the thing descending, circling, here.
And now it puts a claw out and you take it.
Thankfully in your lap you take it, so.

You said you would not go away again,
You did not want to go away—and yet,
It is as if you stood out on the dock
Watching a little boat drift out
Beyond the sawgrass shallows, the dead fish ...
And you were in it, skimming past old snags,
Beyond, beyond, under a brazen sky
As soundless as a gong before it’s struck—
Suspended how?—and now they strike it, now
The ether dream of five-years-old repeats, repeats,
And you must wake again to your own blood
And empty spaces in the throat.

 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The First Peary Arctic Expedition Arrives in Greenland by Robin Coste Lewis


The First Peary Arctic Expedition Arrives in Greenland

The dogs do not speak English
So you curse each one in French,
Trying to crack your new virgin
Whip - a finely scraped strip of dried walrus

Hide. But there’s no snap.
Nobody cringes.
If you could speak Inuktitut, you would
Hear the King Dog cackling

At your attempts. You could understand
Ikwah’s and Analka’s silence,

Inside of which they ponder how a man
Who commands such a vast wooden ship

Can’t convince a dog team to huk-huk
Not even an inch, yet still believes

He can survive one year on the ice
Trudging north toward – of all things – just
More ice. Between the private flakes
Of falling snow, and their secret discussions

On Beauty, a royal crown of bitches
Toss and purr, rolling onto their backs
Eyes wet and wide, smiling
At their King, waiting for his cue.

 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Clearing by Tomas Tranströmer


The Clearing

Deep in the forest there’s an unexpected clearing that can be reached only by someone who has lost his way.
The clearing is enclosed in a forest that is choking itself. Black trunks with the ashy beard stubble of lichen. The trees are tangled tightly together and are dead right up to the tops, where a few solitary green twigs touch the light. Beneath them: shadow brooding on shadow, and the swamp growing.
But in the open space the grass is unexpectedly green and alive. There are big stones lying here as if they’d been arranged. They must be the foundation stones of a house, but I could be wrong. Who lived here? No one can tell us. The names exist somewhere in an archive that no one opens (only archives stay young). The oral tradition has died and with it the memories. The gypsy people remember but those who have learned to write forget. Write down, and forget.
The homestead murmurs with voices, it is the center of the world. But the inhabitants die or move out, the chronicle breaks off. Desolate for many years. And the homestead becomes a sphinx. At last everything’s gone, except the foundation stones.
Somehow I’ve been here before, but now I must go. I dive in among the thickets. I can push my way through only with one step forward and two to the side, like a chess knight. Bit by bit the forest thins and lightens. My steps get longer. A footpath creeps toward me. I am back in the communications network.
On the humming electricity pole a beetle is sitting in the sun. Beneath the shining wing covers its wings are folded up as ingeniously as a parachute packed by an expert.

(Translated by Robert Fulton) 

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

From “summer, somewhere” by Danez Smith


From “summer, somewhere”

somewhere, a sun. below, boys brown
as rye play the dozens & ball, jump

in the air & stay there. boys become new
moons, gum-dark on all sides, beg bruise

-blue water to fly, at least tide, at least
spit back a father or two. I won’t get started.

history is what it is. it knows what it did.
bad dog. bad blood. bad day to be a boy

color of a July well spent. but here, not earth
not heaven, boys can’t recall their white shirt

turned a ruby gown. here, there is no language
for officer or law, no color to call white.

if snow fell, it’d fall black. please, don’t call
us dead, call us alive someplace better.

we say our own names when we pray.
we go out for sweets & come back.


--


this is how we are born: come morning
after we cypher/feast/hoop, we dig

a new boy from the ground, take
him out his treebox, shake worms

from his braids. sometimes they’ll sing
a trapgod hymn (what a first breath!)

sometimes it’s they eyes who lead
scanning for bonefleshed men in blue.

we say congrats, you’re a boy again!
we give him a durag, a bowl, a second chance.

we send him off to wander for a day
or ever, let him pick his new name.

that boy was Trayvon, now called RainKing.
that man Sean named himself I do, I do.

O, the imagination of a new reborn boy
but most of us settle on alive.


--


sometimes a boy is born
right out the sky, dropped from

a bridge between starshine & clay.
one boy showed up pulled behind

a truck, a parade for himself
& his wet red gown. years ago

we plucked brothers from branches
unpeeled their naps from bark.

sometimes a boy walks into his room
then walks out into his new world

still clutching wicked metals. some boys
waded here through their own blood.

does it matter how he got here if we’re all here
to dance? grab a boy, spin him around.

if he asks for a kiss, kiss him.
if he asks where he is, say gone.


--


no need for geography
now that we’re safe everywhere.

point to whatever you please
& call it church, home, or sweet love.

paradise is a world where everything
is a sanctuary & nothing is a gun.

here, if it grows it knows its place
in history. yesterday, a poplar

told me of old forest
heavy with fruits I’d call uncle

bursting red pulp & set afire,
harvest of dark wind chimes.

after I fell from its limb
it kissed sap into my wound.

do you know what it’s like to live
someplace that loves you back?


--


here, everybody wanna be black & is.
look — the forest is a flock of boys

who never got to grow up, blooming
into forever, afros like maple crowns

reaching sap-slow toward sky. watch
Forest run in the rain, branches

melting into paper-soft curls, duck
under the mountain for shelter. watch

the mountain reveal itself a boy.
watch Mountain & Forest playing

in the rain, watch the rain melt everything
into a boy with brown eyes & wet naps — 

the lake turns into a boy in the rain
the swamp — a boy in the rain

the fields of lavender — brothers
dancing between the storm.


--


if you press your ear to the dirt
you can hear it hum, not like it’s filled

with beetles & other low gods
but like a mouth rot with gospel

& other glories. listen to the dirt
crescendo a boy back.

come. celebrate. this
is everyday. every day

holy. everyday high
holiday. everyday new

year. every year, days get longer.
time clogged with boys. the boys

O the boys. they still come
in droves. the old world

keeps choking them. our new one
can’t stop spitting them out.


--


ask the mountain-boy to put you on
his shoulders if you want to see

the old world, ask him for some lean
-in & you’ll be home. step off him

& walk around your block.
grow wings & fly above your city.

all the guns fire toward heaven.
warning shots mince your feathers.

fall back to the metal-less side
of the mountain, cry if you need to.

that world of laws rendered us into dark
matter. we asked for nothing but our names

in a mouth we’ve known
for decades. some were blessed

to know the mouth.
our decades betrayed us.


--


there, I drowned, back before, once.
there, I knew how to swim but couldn’t.

there, men stood by shore & watched me blue.
there, I was a dead fish, the river’s prince.

there, I had a face & then I didn’t.
there, my mother cried over me

but I wasn’t there. I was here, by my own
water, singing a song I learned somewhere

south of somewhere worse. that was when
direction mattered. now, everywhere

I am is the center of everything.
I must be the lord of something.

what was I before? a boy? a son?
a warning? a myth? I whistled

now I’m the God of whistling.
I built my Olympia downstream.


--


you are not welcome here. trust
the trip will kill you. go home.

we earned this paradise
by a death we didn’t deserve.

I am sure there are other heres.
a somewhere for every kind

of somebody, a heaven of brown
girls braiding on golden stoops

but here — 
                        how could I ever explain to you — 



            someone prayed we’d rest in peace
            & here we are
             
            in peace             whole                all summer

 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

At the Metropolitan Museum by Matthew Siegel


At the Metropolitan Museum

I had sworn I wouldn’t write
another poem about my mom
but in the museum there is a room
filled with centuries-old pottery sherds
and it is difficult not to start seeing
symbols everywhere. We walk through
the frigid air toward a reconstructed
temple, likely stolen, I say, and she
looks at me. A rope keeps us from going
further. Who are you texting? she asks
and I want to scream but don't.
What question could she ask
that wouldn't make me bristle?
I once called our fights a kind of dance
in a poem I rightly tore up. I won’t
call it anything I tell myself in the poem
I told myself I wouldn’t write.
I’d change the subject but resistance
is a sign to go forward, I tell my students
because something is wrong with me.
So I go forward into what it might mean
to struggle a few hours with the one
who made me, whose dark I once lived
inside. We step into the centuries
between us and the vessels behind glass
which once held water, grain, and now
the silence of a light so gentle
as to not damage the precious things.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Before by Ada Limón


Before

No shoes and a glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
between us, there was the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Salt by C. K. Williams


Salt

Abashingly eerie that just because I’m here on the long low-tide beach of age with
              briny time
licking insidious eddies over my toes there’d rise in me those mad weeks a lifetime
              ago
when I had two lovers, one who soaked herself so in Chanel that before I went to the
              other
I’d scrub with fistfuls of salt and not only would the stink be vanquished but I’d feel
              shame-shriven, pure,
which thinking about is a joke: how not acknowledge—obsolete notion or no—that
              I was a cad.

Luckily though, I’ve hung onto my Cornell box of pastness with its ten thousand
              compartments,
so there’s a place for these miniature mountains of salt, each with its code-tag of
              amnesia,
and also for the flock of Donnas and Ednas and Annies, a resplendent feather from
              each,
and though they’re from the times I was not only crass, stupid, and selfish but
              thoughtless—
art word for shitty—their beaks open now not to berate but stereophonically warble
              forgiveness.

Such an engrossing contrivance: up near a corner, in tinsel, my memory moon, still
              glowing,
still cruel, because of the misery it magnified the times I was abandoned— “They
              flee . . . oh they flee . . .”
I’d abrade myself then not with salt but anapests, iambs, enjambments, and here
              they still are,
burned in ink, but here too, dead center, Catherine, with her hand-carved frame in
              a frame—
like the hero in Westerns who arrives just in time to rescue the town she galloped up
              to save me.

Well, I suppose soon the lid with its unpickable latch will come down, but the top
              I hope will be glass,
see-through, like Cornell’s, so I’ll watch myself for a while boinging around like a
              pinball,
still loving this flipper-thing life that so surprisingly cannoned me up from oblivion’s
              ramp,
and to which I learned to sing in my own voice but sometimes thanks be in the voice
              of others,
which is why I can croon now, “My lute be still . . .” and why I can cry, “For I have
              done.”

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bent Tones by C. D. Wright


Bent Tones 

There was a dance at the black school.
In the shot houses people were busy. 

A woman washed her boy in a basin, sucking
a cube of ice to get the cool. 

The sun drove a man in the ground like a stake.
Before his short breath climbed the kitchen's steps 

She skipped down the walk in a clean dress.
Bad meat on the counter. In the sky, broken glass. 

When the local hit the trestle everything trembled —
The trees she blew out of, the shiver owl, 

Lights next door — With her fast eye
She could see Floyd Little
Changing his shirt for the umpteenth time. 

 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sleeping Alone by Derrick Austin


Sleeping Alone

Consider the moths throwing themselves into lampposts,
knocking the threshold of light: consider the fireflies’

green glow, clear as human need: consider the shining
poppies: consider the ghosts of his hands on the mirror:

as each light goes out, consider he, too, will sleep alone:
consider how these arms are empty in bed and know

when darkness presses a poppy’s soft, pink folds,
it’s not absence, for once, just another coupling.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Glass House by Heather McHugh


Glass House

Everything obeyed our laws and
we just went on self-improving
till a window gave us pause and
there the outside world was, moving. 

Five apartment blocks swept by,
the trees and ironwork and headstones
of the next town’s cemetery.
Auto lots. Golf courses. Rest homes.
Blue-green fields and perishable vistas
wars had underscored in red
were sweeping past,
with cloudscapes, just 

as if the living room were dead.
Which way to look? Nonnegative?
Nonplussed? (Unkilled? Unkissed?)
Look out, you said; the sight’s on us: 

If we don’t move, we can’t be missed.

 

Friday, February 10, 2017

As by Paul Muldoon


As

As naught gives way to aught
and oxhide gives way to chain mail
and byrnie gives way to battle-ax
and Cavalier gives way to Roundhead
and Cromwell Road gives way to the Connaught
and I Am Curious (Yellow) gives way to I Am Curious (Blue)
and barrelhouse gives way to Frank’N’Stein
and a pint of Shelley plain to a pint of India Pale Ale   
I give way to you.

As bass gives way to baritone
and hammock gives way to hummock
and Hoboken gives way to Hackensack
and bread gives way to reed bed
and bald eagle gives way to Theobald Wolfe Tone   
and the Undertones give way to Siouxsie Sioux   
and DeLorean, John, gives way to Deloria, Vine,   
and Pierced Nose to Big Stomach
I give way to you.

As vent gives way to Ventry
and the King of the World gives way to Finn MacCool   
and phone gives way to fax
and send gives way to sned
and Dagenham gives way to Coventry
and Covenanter gives way to caribou
and the caribou gives way to the carbine
and Boulud’s cackamamie to the cock-a-leekie of Boole   
I give way to you.

As transhumance gives way to trance
and shaman gives way to Santa
and butcher’s string gives way to vacuum pack   
and the ineffable gives way to the unsaid   
and pyx gives way to monstrance
and treasure aisle gives way to need-blind pew   
and Calvin gives way to Calvin Klein
and Town and Country Mice to Hanta   
I give way to you.

As Hopi gives way to Navaho
and rug gives way to rag
and Pax Vobiscum gives way to Tampax
and Tampa gives way to the water bed
and The Water Babies gives way to Worstward Ho
and crapper gives way to loo
and spruce gives way to pine
and the carpet of pine needles to the carpetbag   
I give way to you.

As gombeen-man gives way to not-for-profit   
and soft soap gives way to Lynn C. Doyle   
and tick gives way to tack
and Balaam’s Ass gives way to Mister Ed
and Songs of Innocence gives way to The Prophet
and single-prop Bar-B-Q gives way to twin-screw   
and the Salt Lick gives way to the County Line   
and “Mending Wall” gives way to “Build Soil”   
I give way to you.

As your hummus gives way to your foul madams   
and your coy mistress gives way to “The Flea”
and flax gives way to W. D. Flackes   
and the living give way to the dead
and John Hume gives way to Gerry Adams   
and Television gives way to U2
and Lake Constance gives way to the Rhine   
and the Rhine to the Zuider Zee   
I give way to you.

As dutch treat gives way to french leave   
and spanish fly gives way to Viagra   
and slick gives way to slack
and the local fuzz give way to the Feds   
and Machiavelli gives way to make-believe
and Howards End gives way to A Room with a View
and Wordsworth gives way to “Woodbine
Willie” and stereo Nagra to quad Niagara   
I give way to you.

As cathedral gives way to cavern
and cookie cutter gives way to cookie
and the rookies give way to the All-Blacks   
and the shad give way to the smoke shed
and the roughshod give way to the Black Horse avern
that still rings true
despite that T being missing from its sign   
where a little nook gives way to a little nookie   
when I give way to you.

That Nanook of the North should give way to Man of Aran
as ling gives way to cod
and cod gives way to kayak
and Camp Moosilauke gives way to Club Med   
and catamite gives way to catamaran
and catamaran to aluminum canoe
is symptomatic of a more general decline   
whereby a cloud succumbs to a clod
and I give way to you.

For as Monet gives way to Juan Gris
and Juan Gris gives way to Joan Miró
and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gives way to Miramax
and the Volta gives way to Travolta, swinging the red-hot lead,   
and Saturday Night Fever gives way to Grease
and the Greeks give way to you know who
and the Roman IX gives way to the Arabic 9
and nine gives way, as ever, to zero
I give way to you.

 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Answer by Bei Dao


The Answer

Debasement is the password of the base, 
Nobility the epitaph of the noble. 
See how the gilded sky is covered 
With the drifting twisted shadows of the dead. 

The Ice Age is over now, 
Why is there ice everywhere? 
The Cape of Good Hope has been discovered, 
Why do a thousand sails contest the Dead Sea? 

I came into this world 
Bringing only paper, rope, a shadow, 
To proclaim before the judgment 
The voice that has been judged: 

Let me tell you, world, 
I—do—not—believe! 
If a thousand challengers lie beneath your feet, 
Count me as number thousand and one. 

I don't believe the sky is blue; 
I don't believe in thunder's echoes; 
I don't believe that dreams are false; 
I don't believe that death has no revenge. 

If the sea is destined to breach the dikes 
Let all the brackish water pour into my heart; 
If the land is destined to rise 
Let humanity choose a peak for existence again. 

A new conjunction and glimmering stars 
Adorn the unobstructed sky now; 
They are the pictographs from five thousand years. 
They are the watchful eyes of future generations.

(Translated by Bonnie S. McDougall)