Monday, March 31, 2014

Mimesis by Fady Joudah


My daughter
                        wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
She waited
Until it left of its own accord

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
And you’d get to go biking

She said that’s how others
Become refugees isn’t it?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dedication by Franz Wright


It’s true I never write, but I would gladly die with you.
Gladly lower myself down alone with you into the enormous mouth
that waits, beyond youth, beyond every instant of ecstasy, remember:
before battle we would do each other’s makeup, comb each other’s
                   hair out
saying we are unconquerable, we are terrible and splendid—
the mouth waiting, patiently waiting. And I will meet you there
beyond bleeding thorns, the endless dilation, the fire that alters
I am there already past snowy clouds, balding moss, dim
swarm of stars even we can step over, it is easier this time, I promise—
I am already waiting in your personal heaven, here is my hand,
I will help you across. I would gladly die with you still,
although I never write  
from this gray institution. See
they are so busy trying to cure me,
I’m condemned—sorry, I have been given the job
of vacuuming the desert forever, well, no more than eight hours
                   a day.
And it’s really just about a thousand miles of cafeteria;
a large one in any event. With its miniature plastic knives,
its tuna salad and Saran-Wrapped genitalia will somebody
get me out of here, sorry. I am happy to say that
every method, massive pharmaceuticals, art therapy
and edifying films as well as others I would prefer
not to mention—I mean, every single technique
known to the mouth—sorry!—to our most kindly
compassionate science is being employed
to restore me to normal well-being
and cheerful stability. I go on vacuuming
toward a small diamond light burning
off in the distance. Remember
me. Do you
remember me?   
In the night’s windowless darkness
when I am lying cold and numb
and no one’s fiddling with the lock, or
shining flashlights in my eyes,
although I never write, secretly
I long to die with you,
does that count?

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Dream of Death by W. B. Yeats

A Dream of Death

I dreamed that one had died in a strange place
Near no accustomed hand,
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
The peasants of that land,
Wondering to lay her in that solitude,
And raised above her mound
A cross they had made out of two bits of wood,
And planted cypress round;
And left her to the indifferent stars above
Until I carved these words:
She was more beautiful than thy first love,
But now lies under boards.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Allegro by Tomas Tranströmer


I play Haydn after a black day
and feel a simple warmth in my hands.

The keys are willing. Soft hammers strike.
The resonance green, lively and calm.

The music says freedom exists
and someone doesn’t pay the emperor tax.

I push down my hands in my Haydnpockets
and imitate a person looking on the world calmly.

I hoist the Haydnflag – it signifies:
“We don’t give in. But want peace.’

The music is a glass-house on the slope
where the stones fly, the stones roll.

And the stones roll right through
but each pane stays whole.

(Translated by Robin Fulton)

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Scholar by Don Paterson

A Scholar

Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli 

The light is dying, and the clock has died;
the page succumbs to the atrocious care
that disinters the things not wholly there
by which your solemn field is justified. 
You burnish them until they bear the shine 
of common knowledge, knowing one black skill 
is yours alone: before the greater will
all text is dream, and takes on the design
of what was sought there. Thus your word is God. 
This grammarie electrifies the gate;
none pass but such as you initiate.
The students hurry by you in the quad 
attending to their feet. What can you say? 
You know your Shakespeare would have walked that way. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Still Life in Landscape by Sharon Olds

Still Life in Landscape

It was night, it had rained, there were pieces of cars and
half-cars strewn, it was still, and bright,
a woman was lying on the highway, on her back,
with her head curled back and tucked under her shoulders
so the back of her head touched her spine
between her shoulder-blades, her clothes
mostly accidented off, and her
leg gone, a long bone
sticking out of the stub of her thigh—
this was her her abandoned matter,
my mother grabbed my head and turned it and
clamped it into her chest, between
her breasts. My father was driving—not sober
but not in this accident, we’d approached it out of
neutral twilight, broken glass
on wet black macadam, like an underlying
midnight abristle with stars. This was
the world—maybe the only one.
The dead woman was not the person
my father had recently almost run over,
who had suddenly leapt away from our family
car, jerking back from death,
she was not I, she was not my mother,
but maybe she was a model of the mortal,
the elements ranged around her on the tar—
glass, bone, metal, flesh, and the family. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Lie by Don Paterson

The Lie

As was my custom, I’d risen a full hour
before the house had woken to make sure
that everything was in order with The Lie,
his drip changed and his shackles all secure.

I was by then so practiced in this chore
I’d counted maybe thirteen years or more
since last I’d felt the urge to meet his eye.
Such, I liked to think, was our rapport.

I was at full stretch to test some ligature
when I must have caught a ragged thread, and tore
his gag away; though as he made no cry,
I kept on with my checking as before.

Why do you call me The Lie? he said. I swore:
it was a child’s voice. I looked up from the floor.
The dark had turned his eyes to milk and sky
and his arms and legs were all one scarlet sore.

He was a boy of maybe three or four.
His straps and chains were all the things he wore.
Knowing I could make him no reply
I took the gag before he could say more

and put it back as tight as it would tie
and locked the door and locked the door and locked the door

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I Go Back to May 1937 by Sharon Olds

I Go Back to May 1937

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Voice at 3:00 A.M. by Charles Simić

The Voice at 3:00 A.M.

Who put canned laughter
Into my crucifixion scene?

Monday, March 10, 2014

A ballad that we do not perish by Zbigniew Herbert

A ballad that we do not perish

Those who sailed at dawn
but will never return
left their trace on a wave--

a shell fell to the bottom of the sea
beautiful as lips turned to stone

those who walked on a sandy road
but could not reach the shuttered windows
though they already saw the roofs--

they have found shelter in a bell of air

but those who leave behind only
a room grown cold a few books
an empty inkwell white paper--

in truth they have not completely died
their whisper travels through thickets of wallpaper
their level head still lives in the ceiling

their paradise was made of air
of water lime and earth an angel of wind
will pulverize the body in its hand
they will be
carried over the meadows of this world 

Still Life by Thom Gunn

Still Life

I shall not soon forget
The greyish-yellow skin
To which the face had set:
Lids tight: nothing of his,
No tremor from within,
Played on the surfaces.

He still found breath, and yet
It was an obscure knack.
I shall not soon forget
The angle of his head,
Arrested and reared back
On the crisp field of bed,

Back from what he could neither
Accept, as one opposed,
Nor, as a life-long breather,
Consentingly let go,
The tube his mouth enclosed
In an astonished O.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Report from the Besieged City by Zbigniew Herbert

Report from the Besieged City

Too old to carry arms and fight like the others - 

they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler 
I record - I don't know for whom - the history of the siege 

I am supposed to be exact but I don't know when the invasion began 
two hundred years ago in December in September perhaps yesterday at dawn 
everyone here suffers from a loss of the sense of time 

all we have left is the place the attachment to the place 
we still rule over the ruins of temples spectres of gardens and houses 
if we lose the ruins nothing will be left 

I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks 
monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency 
tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants 
wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our 
we don't know where they are held that is the place of torture 
thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected 
the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender 
friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender 
N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back 
an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance 

all of this is monotonous I know it can't move anyone 

I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write about the 
only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets 
yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world 
that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children 
our children don’t like fairy tales they play at killing 
awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones 
just like dogs and cats 

in the evening I like to wander near the outposts of the city 
along the frontier of our uncertain freedom. 
I look at the swarms of soldiers below their lights 
I listen to the noise of drums barbarian shrieks 
truly it is inconceivable the City is still defending itself 
the siege has lasted a long time the enemies must take turns 
nothing unites them except the desire for our extermination 
Goths the Tartars Swedes troops of the Emperor regiments of the 
who can count them 
the colours of their banners change like the forest on the horizon 
from delicate bird's yellow in spring through green through red to winter's 

and so in the evening released from facts I can think 
about distant ancient matters for example our 
friends beyond the sea I know they sincerely sympathize 
they send us flour lard sacks of comfort and good advice 
they don’t even know their fathers betrayed us 
our former allies at the time of the second Apocalypse 
their sons are blameless they deserve our gratitude therefore we are grateful 
they have not experienced a siege as long as eternity 
those struck by misfortune are always alone 
the defenders of the Dalai Lama the Kurds the Afghan mountaineers 

now as I write these words the advocates of conciliation 
have won the upper hand over the party of inflexibles 
a normal hesitation of moods fate still hangs in the balance 

cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller 
yet the defence continues it will continue to the end 
and if the City falls but a single man escapes 
he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile 
he will be the City 

we look in the face of hunger the face of fire face of death 
worst of all - the face of betrayal 
and only our dreams have not been humiliated 

(Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Canoe by Keith Douglas


Well, I am thinking this may be my last
summer, but cannot lose even a part
of pleasure in the old-fashioned art
of idleness. I cannot stand aghast

at whatever doom hovers in the background:
while grass and buildings and the somnolent river,
who know they are allowed to last forever,
exchange between them the whole subdued sound

of this hot time. What sudden fearful fate
can deter my shade wandering next year
from a return? Whistle and I will hear
and come again another evening, when this boat

travels with you alone toward Iffley:
as you lie looking up for thunder again,
this cool touch does not betoken rain;
it is my spirit that kisses your mouth lightly.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fatalville, Ark by Franz Wright

Fatalville, ARK

To you this world’s the other world. The first transparent leaves wind-blown to spreading green flames—how strange everything looks all at once, my room looks different, and I am afraid of it. You’ll never guess why the universe just turned into somebody’s name, the morning light a look of love: a single double-nostriled blast (40 mg per). A single white rose glows on the tabletop, filling the room with the distant and close to inaudible voices singing from its whorled earlike depths, the connection nearly lost … What can you do but walk toward it? I cross the room for several years staying one step ahead of the avalanche and resisting attempting, at each star-filled canyon’s ledge, flight. I reach the bed at last and lie down, like you entertaining no need whatsoever to open my eyes, to move my hand, or pronounce another word, ever. Let someone else give it a try, and they will, too. My friend I never met, I think you would agree: the deans are never going to let that cow go. I don’t wonder how many more of them there are these days, all those masters of the art in their early twenties, just like John Keats and Hart Crane! We don’t have to think about it anymore. The poet will come, no matter what they do.