Thursday, December 9, 2010

Keeping Things Whole

by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Forgetting Someone

Forgetting someone is like forgetting to turn off the light
in the backyard so it stays lit all the next day

But then it is the light that makes you remember.

Yehuda Amichai -

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Onions

by William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It’s true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there’s nothing to an onion
but skin, and it’s true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It’s there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seville

by Imtiaz Dharker

In broad daylight, out
on the road, shameless,
flaunting their true colours
to the open air, following no code,

not nicely dressed in plastic
wrap in supermarket bins,
with proper marks and labels
to cover naked skin

not bought or sold or
paid for at beeping tills,
taken home in plastic bags,
accounted for in lists and bills,

these oranges here are flagrant,
open to the public stare,
on a tree in the generous heart
of Al Mutamid's city

fragrant,
owned by no one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Any Fool Can Get Into An Ocean

- Jack Spicer
Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
water hardly moves
You might get out through all the waves and rocks
Into the middle of the poem to touch them
But when you’ve tried the blessed water long
Enough to want to start backward
That’s when the fun starts
Unless you’re a poet or an otter or something supernatural
You’ll drown, dear. You’ll drown
Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crochet

by Jan Mordenski

Even after darkness closed her eyes 

my mother could crochet. 

Her hands would walk the rows of wool 

turning, bending, to a woolen music.

The dye lots were registered in memory: 

appleskin, chocolate, porcelain pan, 

the stitches remembered like faded rhymes: 

pineapple, sunflower, window pane, shell.

Tied to our lives those past years 

by merely a soft colored yarn, 

she’d sit for hours, her dark lips 

moving as if reciting prayers, 

coaching the sighted hands.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Woodchucks

by Maxine Kumin

Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother.She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next.O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form.I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Sad Children's Song

by Grace Paley

This house is a wreck said the children
when they came home with their children
Your papers are all over the place
The chairs are covered with books
and look brown leaves are piled on the floor under the wondering jews

Your face is a wreck said the children
when they came home with their children
There are lines all over your face
your necks like curious turtles
Why did you let yourself go?
Where are you going without us?

This world is a wreck said the children
When they came home with their children
There are bombs all over the place
There's no water The fields are all poisoned
Why did you leave things like this
Where can we go said the children
what can we say to our children?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Musical Instrument



- Luis Cernuda
Translated by Stephen Kessler

If the Arab musician
Plucks the lute strings
With an eagle quill
To awaken the notes,

What hand plucks
With what bird's quill
The wound in you
That awakens the word?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ode on A Grecian Urn- John Keats

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunt about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal - yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Saint Francis and the Sow

by Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The More Loving One wh auden

The More Loving One
by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kapil's Garden

By Sudipta Chatterjee

One of life’s tiny crayons,
He stood under the rainbow
Lost in the lush mango groves of his home
In the curled up fishing village
Bonpukuria, at the back of beyond.
The green mangoes were his own
The light in the leaves, the roots going down
Down into the verdant past
When his father was all alive
And he got to sit on his shoulders
And smell the sun in his hair.
Kapil was fond of gardens,
What with fragments of clouds in his eye
And the flora he nurtured within.
After the boats took away his father
For the last time, into the heart of river Ganga
Kapil resolved to grow a garden in the vacant space within
A little patch of marigolds,
Tuberoses, sunflowers turning to the sky.
But shades of grey interfered with his colours
In spite of all the weeding and watering,
For the boats kept coming back
Empty.
As Kapil’s mother grew pumpkins, ridge-gourds
On their thatched cottage roof,
Kapil attended to the cattle,
His cheeks fragrant
From fruits he plucked for his mother’s pickles.
At times, he went around
Vending fresh milk and home-made curd
Vending dreams and carrying his colours
Towards the next watercolour sunrise.
As shades of grey
Kept interfering with him,
Little Kapil tended to his garden.

A Few Brief Poems by Vera Pavlova

1. A Beast in Winter
A beast in winter,
a plant in spring,
an insect in summer,
a bird in autumn.
The rest of the time I am a woman.

2. Why is the Word...
Why is the word YES so brief?
It should be
the longest,
the hardest,
so that you could not decide in an instant to say it,
so that upon reflection you could stop
in the middle of saying it...

3. Why Do I Recite My Poems?
Why do I recite my poems by heart?
Because I write them by heart
because I know that kind of spleen
by heart. But, I lie to the pen
not daring to describe how I ambled
along the distant ramparts of love,
barefoot, wearing a birthday suit:
the placental slime and blood.

4. If I Only Knew...
If I only knew from what tongue
your I Love You has been translated,
If I could find the original,
consult the dictionary
be sure the rendition is exact:
the translator is not at fault!

5. I Broke your heart
I broke your heart.
Now barefoot I tread
on shards.


6. Remedy for Insomnia
Not sheep coming down the hills,
not cracks on the ceiling—
count the ones you loved,
the former tenants of dreams
who would keep you awake,
once meant the world to you,
rocked you in their arms,
those who loved you . . .
You will fall asleep, by dawn, in tears.

The Things

- Donald Hall

When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I’ve cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother’s rocker,
a dead dog’s toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother’s souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.

Following a Stream

- Davind Wagoner

Don’t do it, the guidebook says,
if you’re lost. Then it goes on
to talk about something else,
taking the easy way out,
which of course is what water does
as a matter of course always
taking whatever turn
the earth has told it to
while and since it was born,
including flowing over
the edge of a waterfall
or simply disappearing
underground for a long dark time
before it reappears
as a spring so far away
from where you thought you were
and where you think you are
it might never occur
to you to imagine where
that could be as you go downhill.

The Task

- Jane Hirshfield

It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily - open eyes, braid hair -
a robe unfurled in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we've taken on,
though also vast:
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk,
to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse's patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms.

Followers