Wednesday, January 31, 2007

323. ∏ - Wislawa Szymborska

deserves our full admiration
three point one four one.
All its following digits are also non-recurring,
five nine two because it never ends.
It cannot be grasped six five three five at a glance,
eight nine in a calculus
seven nine in imagination,
or even three two three eight, in a conceit that is, a comparison
Four six with anything else
two six four three in the world
The longest snake on earth breaks off after several metres.
Likewise, though at greater length, do fabled snakes.
The series comprising
doesn’t stop at the edge of the sheet,
it can stretch across the table, through the air,
through the wall, leaf, bird’s nest, clouds, straight to heaven,
through all the heavens’ chasms and distensions.
How short, how mouse-like, is the comet’s tail!
How frail a star’s ray, that it bends in any bit of space!
Meanwhile, two three fifteen, three hundred nineteen
my telephone number the size of your shirt
the year nineteen hundred and seventy three sixth floor
the number of inhabitants sixty-five pennies
the waist measurement two fingers a charade a code
in which singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest
and please be calm
and also heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not no, certainly not,
she’s still on with her passable five
above above-average eight
the not-final seven
urging, yes, urging a sluggish eternity
to persevere.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

322. Of Three Or Four In A Room - Yehuda Amichai

(Translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell)

Of three or four in a room
there is always one who stands beside the window.
He must see the evil among thorns
and the fires on the hill.
And how people who went out of their houses whole
are given back in the evening like small change.
Of three of four or four in a room
there is always one who stands beside the window,
his dark hair above his thoughts.
Behind him, words.
And in front of him, voices wandering without a knapsack,
hearts without provisions, prophecies without water,
large stones that have been returned
and stay sealed, like letters that have no
address and no one to receive them

Monday, January 29, 2007

321. Warning - Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run by stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Friday, January 26, 2007

320. A Wandering Character - James Schevill

A wandering character,
His life cold he thinks warm;
Livid with heat he departs for the Arctic.
When questioned about his permanent home,
He replies only with a tone of conceit: "Home is in my head."
To us his head is a balloon,
An ascension, a stratosphere;
To him we are only rooted bodies,
Suction plants, honeycomb bees.
He wanders in his head as though
His search surrounds our quiet homes,
His restless heaven harvests invisible space
Above the earth we cannot leave;
Outside the security of our walls
His wandering head is often a star
That fades in the clear morning,
Its motion lost in an endless sky.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

319. Upon Finding... - L. E. Sissman

Upon Finding - Dying: An Introduction, by L. E. Sissman,
Remaindered at 1s.

I wandered lonely as a cloud in Foyles
Of incadescent, tight-knit air, when I
Spied a remainder counter, pied as a
Meadow in autumn with the relicts of
A foisonous summer: novels all the Réage
Short weeks ago, now smutched with rests and rots
Upon their colored calyces; memoirs
Of august personages laid to rest
As early as October; ghosts of Mod
Nonce-figures, once in, now as dead as God;
And there, a snip under a blackleg sign,
"These books reduced to 1s.," there is mine,
Dying: An Introduction. Well, if you
Preach about dying, you must practice, too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

318. Poem About Morning - William Meredith

Whether it's sunny or not, it's sure
To be enormously complex––
Trees or streets outdoors, indoors whoever you share,
And yourself, thirsty, hungry, washing,
An attitude towards sex.
No wonder half of you wants to stay
With your head dark and wishing
Rather than take it all on again:
Weren't you duped yesterday?
Things are not orderly here, no matter what they say.

But the clock goes off. if you have a dog
It wags, if you get up now you'll be less
Late. Life is some kind of loathsome hag
Who is forever threatening to turn beautiful.
Now she gives you a quick toothpaste kiss
And puts a glass of cold cranberry juice,
Like a big fake garnet, in your hand.
Cranberry juice! You're lucky, on the whole,
But there is a great deal about it you don't understand.

Monday, January 22, 2007

317. The Hunters In The Snow - William Carlos Williams

The over-all picture is winter
icy mountains
in the background the return

from the hunt it is toward evening
from the left
sturdy hinters lead in

their pack the inn-sign
hanging from a
broken hinge is a stag a crucifix

between his antlers the cold
inn yard is
deserted but for a huge bonfire

that flares wind-driven tended by
women who cluster
about it to the right beyond

the hill is a pattern of skaters
Brueghel the painter
concerned with it all has chosen

a winter-stuck bush for his
foreground to
complete the picture

316. Hunters In The Snow: Brueghel - Joseph Langland

Quail and rabbit hunters with tawny hounds,
Shadowless, out of late afternoon
Trudge toward the neutral evening of indeterminate form.
Done with their blood-annunciated day
Public dogs and all the passionless mongrels
Through deep snow
Trail their deliberate masters
Descending from the upper village home in hovering light.
Sooty lamps
Glow in the stone-carved kitchens.

This is the fabulous hour of shape and form
When Flemish children are grey-black-olive
And green-dark-brown
Scattered and skating informal figures
On the mill ice pond.
Moving in stillness
A hunched dame struggles with her bundled sticks,
Letting her evening's comfort cudgel her
While she, like jug or wheel, like a wagon cart
Walked by lazy oxen along the old snowlanes,
Creeps and crunches down the dusky street.

High in the fire-red dooryard
Half unhitched the sign of the Inn
Hangs in the wind
Tipped to the pitch of the roof.
Near it anonymous parents and peasant girl,
Living like proverbs carved in the alehouse walls,
Gather the country evening into their arms
And lean to the glowing flames.

Now in the dimming distance fades
The other village; across the valley
Imperturbable Flemish cliffs and crags
Vaguely advance, close in, loom,
Lost in nearness. Now
The night-black raven perched in branching boughs
Opens its early wing and slipping out
Above the grey-green valley

Weaves a net of slumber over the snow-capped homes.
And now the church, and then the walls and roofs
Of all the little houses are become
Close kin to shadow with small lantern eyes.
And now the bird of evening
With shadows streaming down from its gliding wings
Circles the neighboring hills
Of Hertogenbosch, Brabant.

Darkness stalks the hunters,
Slowly sliding down.
Falling in beating rings and soft diagonals.
Lodged in the vague vast valley the village sleeps.

Friday, January 19, 2007

315. Winter Landscape - John Berryman

The three men coming down the winter hill
In brown, with tall poles and a pack of hounds
At heel, through the arrangement of the trees,
Past the five figures at the burning straw,
Returning cold and silent to their town.

Returning to the drifted snow, the rink
Lively with children, to the older men
The long companions they can never reach,
The blue light, men with ladders, by the church
The sledge and shadow in the twilit street,

Are not aware that in the sandy time
To come, the evil waste of history
Outstretched they will be seen upon the brow
Of that same hill: when all their company
Will have been irrecoverably lost,

These men, this particular three in brown
Witnessed by the birds will keep the scene and say
By their configuration with the trees,
The small bridge, the red houses and the fire,
What place, what time, what morning occasion

Sent them into the wood, a pack of hounds
At heel and the tall poles upon their shoulders,
Thence to return as now we see them and
Ankle-deep in snow down the winter hill
Descend, while three birds watch and the fourth flies.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

314. A Renoir For Ireland - James Schevill

Imperious, proud, when the Lady died,
She willed to the Irish a painted nude,
A Renoir of generous and lucent flesh.
It was her desire to be fleshly rude.

In Dublin, the prim official mocked:
"Take it and bury this obscene lust
In Joyce's grave in Switzerland.
Gin the traitor his dream of dust."

She lies with Joyce in the exile's wind,
Molly's Yes singing through damp graves
The promise of warm flesh for bitter bones,
A Renoir for Ireland as winter raves.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

313. A Walk - Rainer Maria Rilke

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance––

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave . . .
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

312. "You, Andrew Marvell" --Archibald MacLeish

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .

Monday, January 15, 2007

311. The English Are So Nice! - D. H. Lawrence

The English are so nice
so awfully nice
they're the nicest people in the world.
And what's more, they're very nice about being nice
about your being nice as well!
If you're not nice, they soon make you feel it.

Americans and French and Germans and so on
they're all very well
but they're not really nice, you know
They're not as nice in our sense of the word are they now?

That's why one doesn't have to take them seriously.
We must be nice to them, of course,
of course, naturally––
But it doesn't really matter what you say to them,
they don't really understand––
you can just say anything to them:
be nice, you know, just be nice––
but you must never take them seriously, they wouldn't understand
just be nice, you know! oh, fairly nice,
not too nice of course, they take advantage––
but nice enough, just nice enough
to let them feel they're not quite as nice as they might be.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

310. Ignorance - Philip Larkin

Strange to know nothing: never to be sure
Of what is true or right or real
But forced to qualify or so I feel
Or Well, it does seem so:
Someone must know.

Strange to be ignorant of the way things work:
Their skill at finding what they need,
Their sense of shape, their punctual spread of seed
And willingness to change;
Yes, it is strange,

Even to wear such knowledge--for our flesh
Surrounds us with its own decisions--
And yet spend all our life on imprecisions,
That when we start to die
Have no idea why.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

309. Privilege of Being - Robert Hass

Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another's hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man's shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shutter pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because i realized
that you could not, as much as i love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

Monday, January 08, 2007

308. A Blessing - James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

307. BOOM! - Howard Neverov

Atlantic City, June 23, 1957 (AP).-President Eisenhower's pastor said tonight that Americans are living in a period of "unprecedented religious activity" caused partially by paid vacations, the eight-hour day and modern conveniences.
"These fruits of material progress," said the Rev. Edward L. R. Elson of the National Presbyterian Church, Washington, "have provided the leisure, the energy, and the means for a level of human and spiritual values never before reached."

Here at the Vespasian-Carlton, it's just one
religious activity after another; the sky
is constantly being crossed by cruciform
airplanes, in which nobody disbelieves
for a second, and the tide, the tide
of spiritual progress and prosperity
miraculously keeps rising, to a level
never before attained. The churches are full,
the beaches are full, and the filling stations
are full, God's great ocean is full
of paid vacationers praying an eight-hour day
to the human and spiritual values, the fruits,
the leisure, the energy, and the means, Lord,
the means for the level, the unprecedented level,
and the modern conveniences, which also are full.
Never before, O Lord, have the prayers and praises
from belfry and phonebooth, from ballpark and barbecue
the sacrifices, so endlessly ascended.

It was not thus when Job in Palestine
sat in the dust and cried, cried bitterly;
when Damien kissed the lepers on their wounds
it was not thus; it was not thus
when Francis worked a fourteen-hour day
strictly for the birds; when Dante took
a week's vacation without pay and it rained
part of the time, O Lord, it was not thus.

But now the gears mesh and the tires burn
and the ice chatters in the shaker and the priest
in the pulpit, and Thy Name, O Lord,
is kept before the public, while the fruits
ripen and religion booms and the level rises
and every modern convenience runneth over,
that it may never be with us as it hath been
with Athens and Karnak and Nagasaki,
nor Thy sun for one instant refrain from shining
on the rainbow Buick by the breezeway
or the Chris Craft with the uplift life raft;
that we may continue to be the just folks we are,
plain people with ordinary superliners and
disposable diaperliners, people of the stop'n'shop
'n'pray as you go, of hotel, motel, boatel,
the humble pilgrims of no deposit no return
and please adjust thy clothing, who will give to Thee,
if Thee will keep us going, our annual
Miss Universe, for Thy Name's Sake, Amen.

Friday, January 05, 2007

306. Villanelle - Marilyn Hacker

Every day our bodies separate,
explode torn and dazed,
Not understanding what we celebrate

we grope through languages and hesitate
and touch each other, speechless and amazed;
and every day our bodies separate

us further from our planned, deliberate
ironic lives. I am afraid, disphased,
not understanding what we celebrate

when our fused limbs and lips communicate
the unlettered power we have raised.
Every day our bodies' separate

routines are harder to perpetuate.
In wordless darkness we learn wordless praise,
not understanding what we celebrate;

wake to ourselves, exhausted, in the late
morning as the wind tears off the haze,
not understanding how we celebrate
our bodies. Every day we separate.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

305. Song Of The Black Bear - Navajo

My moccasins are black obsidian,
My leggings are black obsidian,
My shirt is black obsidian.
I am girded with a black arrowsnake.
Black snakes go up from my head.
With zigzag lightning darting from the ends of my feet I step,
With zigzag lightning streaming out from my knees I step,
With zigzag lightning streaming from the tip of my tongue I speak.
Now a disk of pollen rests on the crown of my head.
Gray arrowsnakes and rattlesnakes eat it.
Black obsidian and zigzag lightning streams out from me in four ways,
Where they strike the earth, bad things, bad talk down not like it.
It causes the missiles to spread out.
Long Life, something frightful I am.
Now I am.

There is danger where I move my feet.
I am whirlwind.
There is danger when I move my feet.
I am a gray bear.
When I walk, where I step, lightning flies from me,
Where I walk, one to be feared I am.

Where I walk, Long Life.
One to feared I am.
There is danger where I walk.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

304. Sad Sestina - Robin Becker

For Susanna Kaysen
from The Horse Fair illustrates

Today’s sadness is different from yesterday’s:
more green in it, some light rain, premonition of departures
and the unpacking of books and papers. It’s not a bad thing
to be sad, my friend Susanna says. Go with it. I’m going by foot
into this sadness, the way we go as children into the awful
school day and the hours of cruelty and misunderstanding,

the way we go into family, into the savagery of standing
up for ourselves among siblings and parents, in yesterday’s
living room, where secrecy turns to habit and we learn the awful,
unthinkable fact: time twists our days into a series of departures.
When he was mad, my father used to say Someone’s got to foot
the bills, and I think of him now, this man who knew one thing

for sure: you had to pay your own way, since nothing
came free in this life. A young dyke, grandstanding
before the relatives, I held my sadness close, one foot
already out the door. Who could believe in yesterday’s
homilies while women cruised me, seventeen and hot for departure?
Today’s sadness unfurls without drama, without the awful

punishments or reprisals of that house. In its place, the awful,
simple, mystery of human melancholy. Most days, I’d trade anything
to be rid of the blues, accustomed to flight and departure,
strategies that saved my life. Today I’m befriending it, standing
beside my sadness like a pal down on her luck, who knows yesterday
isn’t always a good predictor for tomorrow. A rabbit’s foot

won’t help; when the time comes, it’s a question of putting my foot
in the stirrup and riding the sad horse of my body to the awful
little stable at the edge of town. And there to wait while yesterday
has its way with time. Susanna said, To be sad is not a bad thing,
and I believe her, as I pull the heavy saddle from the standing
horse and hang the bridle away. Sadness readies for my departure,

and I for hers. In a most unlikely departure
from the ordinary, even the tough butch on a bike will be a tenderfoot
when it comes to goodbyes. We carry on, notwithstanding
all the good times gone and December’s awful
cheerfulness. Susanna, if I ever discern something
useful about sadness, I’ll wish I’d known it yesterday.

I’ve put distracting things aside and discovered, underfoot,
no wisdom absent yesterday. Still, a saint would find this awful:
a standing date with change, a season of departures.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

303. Greed And Aggression - Sharon Olds

Someone in Quaker meeting talks about greed and aggression
and I think of the way I lay the massive
weight of my body down on you
like a tiger lying down in gluttony and pleasure on the
elegant heavy body of the eland it eats,
the spiral horn pointing to the sky like heaven.
Ecstasy has been given to the tiger,
forced into its nature the way the
forcemeat is cranked down the throat of the held goose,
it cannot help it, hunger and the glory of
eating packed at the center of each
tiger cell, for the life of the tiger and the
making of new tigers, so there will
always be tigers on the earth, their stripes like
stripes of night and stripes of fire-light––
so if they had a God it would be striped,
burnt-gold and black, the way if
I had a God it would renew itself the
way you live and live while I take you as if
consuming you while you take me as if
consuming me, it would be a God of
love as complete satiety,
greed and fullness, aggression and fullness, the
way we once drank at the body of an animal
until we were so happy we could only
faint, our mouths running, into sleep.

Monday, January 01, 2007

302. The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.