Monday, June 30, 2008

685. Now I Become Myself - May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before––"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem, is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the Sun!

Friday, June 27, 2008

684. The Great Number - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by ?

Four billion people on this earth,
but my imagination is as it was.
It copes badly with great numbers,
moved only by the singular.
Flying through the dark like a beam of light,
it reveals the faces that are closest,
while the rest sink among the unnoticed,
the unthought, the regretted.
Dante himself couldn't have managed any better.
And I am no Dante,
even if all the muses were to help me.

Non omnis moriar,––a premature worry.
But do I live fully, and is it enough?
It never was, even less so now.
I choose by rejecting, for there is no other way,
but what I reject is more numerous,
more insistent than ever before.
At the price of indescribable loss––a short poem, a sigh.
To the sonorous calling I respond in whispers.
So much I have to leave unsaid.
A mouse at the foot of its mother mountain.
Life persists in a few scratches on the sand.

Even my dreams are not so peopled.
They are full of loneliness, not of noise and crowds.
Someone long dead stops in for a moment.
A single hand turns a doorknob.
Lean–to's of echo overgrow an empty house.
I run down from the threshold towards a valley
that is calm as if it were no one's already anachronistic.

Where does it come from, this space still in me––
I do not know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

683. Sarah Chang plays viloin - Kathleen Flenniken

Sarah Chang plays violin

and stamps her foot like a flamenco dancer.
White flames lick the hem of her Madame X dress
and the orchestra leans in, warming their hands

to her fire. The heat of her furious bow.
Her smoke. She's rubbed Tchaikovsky free
of his genie bottle. He is ready to grant any wish.

A man seated two rows down begins
to tick and twitch, his finely shaved neck
in a spasm of abandoned control. His wife

turns to him, concerned, wraps her arm
loosely about his shoulders. And you and I?
A man in rapt profile and his wife, a spigot

of weeping, streaming gratitude to this girl
whose playing reveals who I am––lover,
mother and daughter, afraid, alight, awake,

alone. Nothing, again, we'll ever talk about.
I grab your enormous hand and let her violin
sing what I can't say myself. As we drive home

two cars cut and weave through the steady traffic.
Their tail lights careen. We gasp but they
cross untouched and bleed into the future.

You can't hear her anymore? I almost ask
as you touch and touch the brake.
And you switch on the radio.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

682. Adam And Eve In Later Life - Howard Nemerov

On getting out of bed the one says, "Ouch!"
The other "What?" and when the one says "I said
'Ouch,' " the other says, "All right, you needn't shout."

Deucalion and Pyrrha, Darby and Joan, Philemon and Baucis,
Tracy and Hepburn––if this can happen to Hepburn
No one is safe––all rolled up into two,
Contented with the cottage and the cottage cheese
And envied only by ambitious gods . . .

Later, over coffee, they compare the backs of their hands
And conclude they are slowly being turned into lizards.
But nothing much surprises them these days.

Friday, June 20, 2008

681. Halloween - Mac Hammond

The butcher knife goes in, first, at the top
And carves out the round stemmed lid,
The hole of which allows the hand to go
In to pull the gooey mess inside, out––
The walls scooped clean with a spoon.
A grim design decided on, that afternoon,
The eyes are the first to go,
Isosceles or trapezoid, the square nose,
The down-turned mouth with three
Hideous teeth and, sometimes,
Round ears. At dusk it's
Lighted, the room behind it dark.
Outside, looking in, it looks like a
Pumpkin, it looks like ripeness
Is all. Kids come, beckoned by
Fingers of shadows on leaf-strewn lawns
To trick or treat. Standing at the open
Door, the sculptor, a warlock, drops
Penny candies into their bags, knowing
The message of winter: only the children,
Pretending to be ghosts, are real.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

680. To Be Of Use - Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

679. Going To Sea - David Wagoner

Since we're setting out to sea, everything in our world
Has suddenly one of two clear, separate names:
What We Leave Behind
And What We Take With Us. We have no need to rehearse disasters,
Like being wrecked and stranded, to choose our cargo.
We were born marooned,
Have been castaways all our lives, Practicing the survival
Of our fittest, and now we know what's necessary:
Relics of our bodies
And souls, what's left of our minds, remnants of our hearts,
And something more weatherproof than our bare skins
To hold between us
And the sun, the rain, and the wind which keep no promises
And no appointments, but which will surely arrive
With or without our approval––
Add food and water, and we can subsist on these alone
After a dying fashion. We make our X
At the crux of departure
And bury there all we no longer treasure: death's-heads
Over bones crossing like sabers, a dead man's chest,
Songs hollow as laughter,
Our pieces of eight and gold doubloons, our empty bottle
Left in the sand behind us, holding the message
Of our light parting breath.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

678. The Poet On The Island - Richard Murphy

(To Theodore Roethke)

On a wet night, laden with books for luggage,
And stumbling under the burden of himself,
He reached the pier, looking for a refuge.

Darkly he crossed to the island six miles off:
The engine pulsed, the sails invented rhythm,
While the sea expanded and the rain drummed softly.

Safety on water, he rocked with a new theme:
And in the warmth of his mind's greenhouse bloomed
A poem as graceful as a chrysanthemum.

His forehead, a Prussian helmet, moody, domed,
Relaxed in the sun: a lyric was his lance.
To be loved by the people, he, a stranger, hummed

In the herring-store on Sunday crammed with drunks
Ballads of bawdry with a speakeasy stress.
Yet lonely they left him, "one of the Yanks."

The children understood. This was not madness.
How many orphans had he fathered in words
Robust and cunning, but never heartless.

He watched the harbour scouted by sea-birds:
His fate was like fish under poetry's beaks:
Words began weirdly to take off inwards.

Time that they calendar in seasons not in clocks,
In gardens dug over and houses roofed,
Was to him a see-saw of joys and shocks,

Where his body withered but his style improved.
A storm shot up, his glass cracked in a gale:
An abstract thunder of darkness deafened

The listeners he'd once given roses, now hail.
He'd burst the lyric barrier: logic ended.
Doctors were called, and he agreed to sail.

Friday, June 13, 2008

677. When We Saw The Islands Again - Tomas Tranströmer

As the boat draws near
a sudden downpour blinds it.
Quicksilver shot bounces on the water.
The blue-grey lies down.

The sea's in the cottages too.
A stream of light in the dark hallway.
Heavy steps upstairs
and chests with newly ironed smiles.
An Indian orchestra of copper pans.
A baby with eyes all at sea.

(The rain starts disappearing.
The smoke takes a few faltering steps
in the air above the roofs.)

Here comes more
bigger than dreams.

The beach with the hovels of elms.
A notice with the word CABLE.
The old heathery moor shines
for someone who comes flying.

Behind the rocks rich furrows
and the scarecrow our outpost
beckoning the colours to itself.

An always-bright surprise
when the island reaches out a hand
and pulls me up from sadness.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

676. Utopia - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

675. In Those Years - Adrienne Rich

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and, yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through rages of fog
where we stood, saying I

Monday, June 09, 2008

674. What We Want - Linda Pastan

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names--
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

Friday, June 06, 2008

673. Objector - William Stafford

In line at lunch I cross my fork and spoon
to ward off complicity—the ordered life
our leaders have offered us. Thin as a knife,
our chance to live depends on such a sign
while others talk and The Pentagon from the moon
is bouncing exact commands: "Forget your faith;
be ready for whatever it takes to win: we face
annihilation unless all citizens get in line."

I bow and cross my fork and spoon: somewhere
other citizens more fearfully bow
in a place terrorized by their kind of oppressive state.
Our signs both mean, "You hostages over there
will never be slaughtered by my act." Our vows
cross: never to kill and call it fate.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

672. A Vision - Wendell Berry

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
there, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

671. The Heart Of Hercules - Kenneth Rexroth

Lying under the stars in the summer night
Late while the autumn constellations climb the sky
as the cluster of Hercules falls down the west
I put the telescope by......
my body is asleep only my eyes and brain are awake
the stars stand around me like gold eyes
I can no longer tell where I begin and leave off
the faint breeze in the dark pines and the
invisible grass
the tipping earth
the swarming stars have an eye that sees itself.

Monday, June 02, 2008

670. Musicians - Jan Zwicky

"Please remove the poem #670, "Musicians" from your site. It is incorrect and offensive" Jan Zwicky