Friday, April 3, 2020

The Abandoned Valley by Jack Gilbert

The Abandoned Valley

Can you understand being alone so long
you would go out in the middle of the night
and put a bucket into the well
so you could feel something down there
tug at the other end of the rope?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What the Body Can Say by Natasha Trethewey

What the Body Can Say

Even in stone the gesture is unmistakable—
the man upright, though on his knees, spine

arched, head flung back, and, covering his eyes,
his fingers spread across his face.  I think

grief, and since he’s here, in the courtyard
of the divinity school, what he might ask of God.        
            
How easy it is to read this body’s language,
Or those gestures we’ve come to know—the raised thumb    
                   
that is both a symbol of agreement and the request
for a ride, the two fingers held up that once meant     
                  
victory, then peace.  But what was my mother saying
that day not long before her death—her face tilted up

at me, her mouth falling open, wordless, just as
we open our mouths in church to take in the wafer,

meaning communion? What matters is context—
the side of the road, or that my mother wanted

something I still can’t name: what, kneeling,
my face behind my hands, I might ask of God.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

You Will Know When You Get There by Allen Curnow

You Will Know When You Get There

Nobody comes up from the sea as late as this
in the day and the season, and nobody else goes down

the last steep kilometre, wet-metalled where 
a shower passed shredding the light which keeps

pouring out of its tank in the sky, through summits, 
trees, vapours thickening and thinning. Too

credibly by half celestial, the dammed
reservoir up there keeps emptying while the light lasts 

over the sea where ‘it gathers the gold against
it’. The light is bits of crushed rock randomly

glinting underfoot, wetted by the short 
shower, and down you go and so in its way does

the sun which gets there first. Boys, two of them, 
turn campfirelit faces, a hesitancy to speak

is a hesitancy of the earth rolling back and away
behind this man going down to the sea with a bag

to pick mussels, having an arrangement with the tide,
the ocean to be shallowed three point seven meters,

one hour’s light to be left, and there’s the excrescent
moon sponging off the last of it. A door

slams, a heavy wave, a door, the sea-floor shudders.
Down you go alone, so late, into the surge-black fissure.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Moment by Marie Howe

The Moment

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment 
when,   nothing  
happens  
no what-have-I-to-do-today-list   

maybe   half a moment   
the rush of traffic stops.   
The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be  
slows to silence, 
the white cotton curtains hanging still.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Scintilla, Star by Jameson Fitzpatrick

Scintilla, Star

In the old place, there was no place
that did not see me.
Wherever I went mothers whispered
about me like a Greek chorus:
I heard that boy    ...    I heard that.
I was just a boy. But it was
true, what they said, that I liked
other boys, that I had stolen Sarah’s,
though he was four years older
and they were very much in love.
I made him break up with her
in a Chili’s parking lot
while I waited inside. I was
fourteen. How embarrassing
to have been fourteen, to have eaten
at that Chili’s, often. That summer
I had no taste for anything
but him. Faintly of chlorine.
When he left for college
I had no one. Sarah’s friends
stared me down at school.
I found it was better,
if I could not be no one,
to be someone. Small, but
particular. Specified, which was
an apprenticeship for special.
Cold, another word for cool.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Three Women by Dunya Mikhail

Three Women

Another night on the way to the cages
and the stars—dead eggs glistening—
don’t know the secret of the stone.

For ten years the stone was left
in the basement with the three
kidnapped women inside it.

Their souls broke the door and escaped.
Their bodies lagged a few steps behind.
They will never look back.

If they do, they will find their feathers
scattered everywhere, and a bell
with no ring, and three shadows

trapped inside a stone.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Remembering My Father by Zbigniew Herbert

Remembering My Father

His face severe in clouds above the waters of childhood
so rarely did he hold my warm head in his hands
given to belief not forgiving faults
because he cleared our woods and straightened paths
he carried the lantern high when we entered the night

I thought I would sit at his right hand
and we would separate light from darkness
and judge those of us who live
—it happened otherwise

A junk dealer carried his throne on a hand-cart
and the deed of ownership the map of our kingdom

he was born a second time slight very fragile
with transparent skin hardly perceptible cartilage
he diminished his body so I might receive it

in an unimportant place there is shadow under a stone 

he himself grows in me we eat our defeats
we burst out laughing
when they say how little is needed
to be reconciled

(Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)