Jorge Luis Borges, “Music Box” … “what vigils by an unknown sea”

•November 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Jorge Luis Borges
“Music Box”

Music of Japan. Parsimoniously
from the water clock the drops unfold
in lazy honey or ethereal gold
that over time reiterates a weave
eternal, fragile, enigmatic, bright.
I fear that every one will be the last.
They are a yesterday come from the past.
But from what shrine, from what mountain’s slight
garden, what vigils by an unknown sea,
and from what modest melancholy, from
what lost and rediscovered afternoon
do they arrive at their far future: me?
Who knows? No matter. When I hear it play
I am. I want to be. I bleed away.

[Trans. Tony Barnstone]

“Heroics” by Julia Alvarez

•November 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Julia Álvarez

Julia Álvarez

Julia Alvarez

We keep coming to this part
of the story where we’re sad:
I’ve broken up with my true love
man after man.
You’ve found it.
Once, It was god.
Once, revolution
in the third world.
Now, It’s love.

You’ll survive, our mothers said
when romance was once.
Now they keep tight faces
for our visits home
and tell their friends
all that education
has confused us,
all those poems.

They have, we laugh,
and buy the dreams—
Redbook, House Beautiful,
Mademoiselle & Vogue
to read our stories in them
and send the clippings home.
Sometimes the bright chase
of ad lovers in a meadow set
sells us to belief again
in that worn plot of love …

Sadly, we turn the page
to right our hearts,
knowing our lives too well
to be the heroines
of our mothers’ stories.
We’re careful with the words
we pick, the loves with no returns
like the ones we wanted.
Aunts to our sisters’ boys,
we bring them squawking rubber monsters,
birthday poems pasted in the growing albums.

Paul Celan, “Line the wordcaves” …

•September 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

paul celan2Paul Celan

“Line the wordcaves”

Line the wordcaves
with panther skins,

widen them, hide-to and hide-fro,
sense-hither and sense-thither,

give them courtyards, chambers, drop doors
and wildnesses, parietal,

and listen for their second
and each time second and second

(from Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry: A Bilingual Edition | Trans. Pierre Joris)

Carolyn Forché, “Skin Canoes” …

•September 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

carolyn_forche scarf
Carolyn Forché
“Skin Canoes”

Swallows carve lake wind,
trailers lined up, fish tins.
The fires of a thousand small camps
spilled on a hillside.

I pull leeks, morels from the soil,
fry chubs from the lake in moonlight.
I hear someone, hear the splash, groan
of a waterpump, wipe my mouth.
Fish grease spits at darkness.

Once I nudged a canoe through that water,
letting its paddle lift, drip.
I was sucked down smaller than the sound
of the dropping, looked out
from where I had vanished.

Kevin Young, “Negative” …

•September 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Kevin Young


Wake to find everything black
what was white, all the vice
versa—white maids on TV, black

sitcoms that star white dwarfs
cute as pearl buttons. Black Presidents,
Black Houses. White horse

candidates. All bleach burns
clothes black. Drive roads
white as you are, white songs

on the radio stolen by black bands
like secret pancake recipes, white back-up
singers, ball-players & boxers all

white as tar. Feathers on chickens
dark as everything, boiling in the pot
that called the kettle honky. Even

whites of the eye turn dark, pupils
clear & changing as a cat’s.
Is this what we’ve wanted

& waited for? to see snow
covering everything black
as Christmas, dark pages written

white upon? All our eclipses bright,
dark stars shooting across pale
sky, glowing like ash in fire, shower

every skin. Only money keeps
green, still grows & burns like grass
under dark daylight.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Just” …

•September 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Jorge Luis Borges, Fotografía por J Kudelmarf
Jorge Luis Borges
“The Just”
A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a café in the South,
     a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets this page well,
     though it may not please him.
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets
     of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done him.
He who is grateful for the existence of a Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.
          (Trans. Alastair Reid)

Ai, “Conversation” …

•September 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

ai image download (1)Ai


        for Robert Lowell

We smile at each other
and I lean back against the wicker couch.
How does it feel to be dead? I say.
You touch my knees with your blue fingers.
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Don’t tell me, I say. I don’t want to hear.
Did you ever, you start,
wear a certain kind of silk dress
and just by accident,
so inconsequential you barely notice it,
your fingers graze that dress
and you hear the sound of a knife cutting paper,
you see it too
and you realize how that image
is simply the extension of another image,
that your own life
is a chain of words
that one day will snap.
Words, you say, young girls in a circle, holding hands,
and beginning to rise heavenward
in their confirmation dresses,
like white helium balloons,
the wreaths of flowers on their heads spinning,
and above all that,
that’s where I’m floating,
and that’s what it’s like
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible.
Could anyone alive survive it?


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