Wisława Szymborska, “The End and the Beginning” …

•July 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment


 
 
Wisława Szymborska

 
 
“The End and the Beginning”

 

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

 
         (Trans. Joanna Trzeciak)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Jack Gilbert, “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart” …

•July 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment


 
A poem from The Great Fires:
 
 
 
 
Jack Gilbert

 
 
 
“The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart”

 
 
 
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Natasha Trethewey, “After Your Death” … “I twisted a ripe fig loose from its stem”

•July 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment


 
 
A poem from Natasha Trethewey’s brilliant collection Native Guard:

 
 
“After Your Death”

 
 
 
First, I emptied the closets of your clothes,
threw out the bowl of fruit, bruised
rom your touch, left empty the jars

you bought for preserves. The next morning,
birds rustled the fruit trees, and later
when I twisted a ripe fig loose from its stem,

I found it half eaten, the other side
already rotting, or—like another I plucked
and split open—being taken rom the inside:

a swarm of insects hollowing it. I’m too late,
again, another space emptied by loss.
Tomorrow, the bowl I have yet to fill.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Yosa Buson, “Washing the hoe–” …

•July 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Landscape with a Solitary Traveler by Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson – master of the haiku as well as painting – is a figure wielding great influence in my own life and work. Here’s my favorite of Buson’s poems:

       Washing the hoe–
ripples on the water;
       far off, wild ducks.

              (Trans. Robert Hass)

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

•July 20, 2018 • 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)
 
 
 
 
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Seven poems, must-reads for me… #7: Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”

•July 11, 2018 • 1 Comment


 
Seven poems, must-reads for me… no particular order #7:

 
 
Adrienne Rich

 
 
“Diving into the Wreck”

 
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.
 
 
 
 
***
 
 
 
 

Seven poems, must-reads for me… #6: James Wright, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”

•July 8, 2018 • 1 Comment

Seven poems, must-reads for me… no particular order #6:

 
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.
 
 
 
 
***