Sunday, January 31, 2010

847. Fidelity - Grace Paley

After supper I returned to
my reading book I had
reached page one hundred
and forty two hundred and twenty
more to go I had been thinking that
evening as we spoke
early at dinner with a couple of young
people of the time dense improbable
life of that book in which I had become so comfortable
the characters were now my troubled companions
I knew them understood I could
reenter these lives without loss
so firm my habitation I scanned the shelves
some books so dear to me I had missed them
learned forward to take the work into
my hands I took a couple of deep breaths
thought about the acceleration of days
yes I could reenter them but . . .
No how could I desert that other whole life
those others in their city basements
Abandonment How could I have allowed myself
even thought of a half hour's distraction
when life had pages or decades to go
so much was about to happen to people
I already know and nearly loved

Sunday, January 24, 2010

846. I Live My Life In Widening Circles - Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in widening circles
that drift out over the things.
I may not achieve the very last,
but it will be my aim.

I circle around God, around the age-old tower;
I've been circling for millennia
and still I don't know: an I a falcon a storm,
or a sovereign song?

Friday, January 15, 2010

845. King Demetrius - C. P. Cavafy

Translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn
Not like a king, but like an actor, he exchanged his showy robe of state for a dark cloak, and in secret stole away.
Plutarch, Life of Demetrius

When the Macedonians deserted him,
and made it clear that it was Pyrrhus they preferred
King Demetrius (who had a noble
soul) did not—so they said—
behave at all like a king. He went
and cast off his golden clothes,
and flung off his shoes
of richest purple In simple clothes
he dressed himself quickly and left:
doing just as an actor does
who, when the performance is over,
changes his attire and departs.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

844. The Caedmon Room - Allen Grossman

Upstairs, one floor below the Opera House
(top floor of the building), is the Caedmon
room––a library of sorts. The Caedmon room
was empty of readers most of the time.
When the last reader left and closed the door,
I locked it and moved in for life. Right now,
I am writing this in the Caedmon room.
Caedmon was an illiterate, seventh-century
British peasant to whom one night a lady
appeared in a dream. She said to him, speaking
in her own language, "Caedmon! Sing me something!"
And he did just that. What he sang, in his
own language, was consequential––because
he did not learn the art of poetry
from men, but from God. For that reason,
he could not compose a trivial poem,
but what is right and fitting for a lady
who wants a song. These are the words he sang:
"Now praise the empty sky where no words are."
This was Caedmon's song. Caedmon's voice is sweet.
In the Caedmon room shelves groan under the
weight of his eloquent blank pages, Histories
of a sweet world in which we are not found.
Caedmon turned each page, page after page
until the last page––on which is written:
"To the one who conquers, I give the morning star."