Monday, August 31, 2020

I Am Tired by Fernando Pessoa

I Am Tired


I am tired, that is clear,

Because, at certain stage, people have to be tired.

Of what I am tired, I don't know:

It would not serve me at all to know

Since the tiredness stays just the same.

The wound hurts as it hurts

And not in function of the cause that produced it.

Yes, I am tired,

And ever so slightly smiling

At the tiredness being only this -

In the body a wish for sleep,

In the soul a desire for not thinking

And, to crown all, a luminous transparency

Of the retrospective understanding…

And the one luxury of not now having hopes?

I am intelligent: that's all.

I have seen much and understood much of what I have seen.

And there is a certain pleasure even in tiredness this brings us,

That in the end the head does still serve for something.


(Translated by Jonathan Griffin) 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Naming Ceremony by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Naming Ceremony


Shallow curve of the land

between master and owned

I have dismissed you until I come

upon kin     Since time my jaws

have collected accusations

from memory     No logic

grinding my teeth     I have not

been sold     The telling of the coppers

between fingers     (Skin)

I think that I have known freedom

This old story and yet I grieve

accented by our home

Your line reaching back

while I search for the cloth

of our mother’s  bodice

My line snapped     My mind

flying home at Ibo Landing

I think that I have known liberty in

the caverns I have lived in

Valley of Senegambia

Coast of Slaves    Gold    Ivory

(Loss)     The mud of the Bights

Benin     Listen to the talk

beaten by a man and his apprentice

a mortgaged youth     My body

lightened     mongreled currency

Biafra     beaten     Hear me

beaten down blood     free

unclaimed by garbled deity

My father’s call tricks

the music of stopped ears

The flesh of the young men is burning

One of us is Cain     the gardener

of perfidy     unblessed by lineage

the flesh of the young men is aglow

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Today is Sunday by Nazim Hikmet

Today is Sunday


Today is Sunday.

For the first time they took me out into the sun today.

And for the first time in my life I was aghast

that the sky is so far away

and so blue

and so vast

I stood there without a motion.

Then I sat on the ground with respectful devotion

leaning against the white wall.

Who cares about the waves with which I yearn to roll

Or about strife or freedom or my wife right now.

The soil, the sun and me…

I feel joyful and how.


(Translated by Talat Sait Halman)

Friday, August 28, 2020

Souvenir of the Ancient World by Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Souvenir of the Ancient World


Clara strolled in the garden with the children.

The sky was green over the grass,

the water was golden under the bridges,

other elements were blue and rose and orange,

a policeman smiled, bicycles passed,

a girl stepped onto the lawn to catch a bird,

the whole world—Germany, China—

   all was quiet around Clara.


The children looked at the sky: it was not forbidden.

Mouth, nose, eyes were open. There was no danger.

What Clara feared were the flu, the heat, the insects.

Clara feared missing the eleven o'clock trolley:

She waited for letters slow to arrive,

She couldn't always wear a new dress. But she strolled in the garden, in the morning!

They had gardens, they had mornings in those days!


(Translated by Mark Strand)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Closed Gentian Distances by James Schuyler

Closed Gentian Distances


A nothing day full of

wild beauty and the

timer pings. Roll up

the silver off the bay

take down the clouds

sort the spruce and

send to the laundry marked,

more starch. Goodbye

golden- and silver-

rod, asters, bayberry

crisp in elegance.

Little fish stream

by a river in water.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Wild Iris by Louise Glück

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering

there was a door.


Hear me out: that which you call death

I remember.


Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.

Then nothing. The weak sun

flickered over the dry surface.


It is terrible to survive

as consciousness

buried in the dark earth.


Then it was over: that which you fear, being

a soul and unable

to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth

bending a little. And what I took to be

birds darting in low shrubs.


You who do not remember

passage from the other world

I tell you I could speak again: whatever

returns from oblivion returns

to find a voice:


from the center of my life came

a great fountain, deep blue

shadows on azure seawater.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Almost Human by Ocean Vuong

Almost Human


It’s been a long time since my body.

Unbearable, I put it down

on the earth the way my old man

rolled dice. It’s been a long time since

time. But I had weight back there. Had substance

& sinew, damage you could see

by looking between your hands & hearing

blood. It was called reading, they told me,

too late. But too late. I red. I made a killing

in language & was surrounded

by ghosts. I used my arsenal

of defunct verbs & broke

into a library of second chances,

the E.R. Where they bandaged

my head, even as the black words

kept seeping through,

like this. Back there, I couldn’t

get the boys to look at me

even in my best jean jacket.

It was 2006 or 1865 or .327.

What a time to be alive! they said,

this time louder, more assault rifles.

Did I tell you? I come from a people of sculptors

whose masterpiece was rubble. We

tried. Indecent, tongue-tied, bowl-cut & diabetic,

I had a feeling. The floorboards creaked

as I wept motionless by the rehab window.

If words, as they claimed, had no weight

in our world, why did we keep

sinking, Doctor—I mean

Lord—why did the water swallow

our almost human hands

as we sang? Like this.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Truth by Ross Gay

The Truth


Because he was 38, because this

was his second job, because

he had two daughters, because his hands

looked like my father's, because at 7

he would walk to the furniture warehouse,

unload trucks 'til 3 AM, because I

was fourteen and training him, because he made

$3.75 an hour, because he had a wife

to look in the face, because

he acted like he respected me,

because he was sick and would not call out

I didn't blink when the water

dropped from his nose

into the onion's perfectly circular

mouth on the Whopper Jr.

I coached him through preparing.

I did not blink.

Tell me this didn't happen.

I dare you.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Nothing Twice by Wisława Szymborska

Nothing Twice


Nothing can ever happen twice.

In consequence, the sorry fact is

that we arrive here improvised

and leave without the chance to practice.


Even if there is no one dumber,

if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,

you can’t repeat the class in summer:

this course is only offered once.


No day copies yesterday,

no two nights will teach what bliss is

in precisely the same way,

with exactly the same kisses.


One day, perhaps, some idle tongue

mentions your name by accident:

I feel as if a rose were flung

into the room, all hue and scent.


The next day, though you’re here with me,

I can’t help looking at the clock:

A rose? A rose? What could that be?

Is it a flower or a rock?


Why do we treat the fleeting day

with so much needless fear and sorrow?

It’s in its nature not to stay:

Today is always gone tomorrow.


With smiles and kisses, we prefer

to seek accord beneath our star,

although we’re different (we concur)

just as two drops of water are.


(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Apartment Living by Meghan O'Rourke

Apartment Living

So those despotic loves have become known to you,

rubbing cold hands up your thighs, leaving oily trails,

whispering, Just how you like it, right?

Upstairs the sorority girls are playing charades

again, smoking cigarettes, wearing shifts, burning

pain into their synapses.

Life is a needle. And now it pricks you:

the silver light in which you realize

your attempts at decadence

tire the earth and tire you. The etymology

of “flag” as in “to signal to stop”

is unknown. It is time to sit and watch. Don’t

call that one again, he’s pitiless in his self-certainty.

You used to be so.

You laid your black dress on the bed.

You stepped in your heels over sidewalk cracks.

You licked mint and sugar from the cocktail mixer,

singing nonsense songs,

and the strangers, they sang along.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Clay out of Silence by C. K. Williams

Clay out of Silence


chances are we will sink quietly back

into oblivion without a ripple

we will go back into the face

down through the mortars as though it hadn’t happened


earth: I’ll remember you

you were the mother you made pain

I’ll grind my thorax against you for the last time

and put my hand on you again to comfort you


sky: could we forget?

we were the same as you were

we couldn’t wait to get back sleeping

we’d have done anything to be sleeping


and trees angels for being thrust up here

and stones for cracking in my bare hands

because you foreknew

there was no vengeance for being here


when we were flesh we were eaten

when we were metal we were burned back

there was no death anywhere but now

when we were men when we became it



From Which I Flew by Tyree Daye

From Which I Flew 

Only together holding their hands in silence can I see what a field has done

to my mother, aunts and uncles.


The land around my grandmother's

old tin roof has changed,

I doubt she'd recognize it from above.

How many blackbirds does it take

to lift a house? I'll bring my living,

you wake your dead.


We have nowhere to go, but we're leaving anyhow,

by many ways. When they ask    why

you want to fly, Blackbird? Say


I want to leave the south

because it killed the first man I loved

and so much more killing.

Say my son's name,


his death was the first thing to break me in

and fly me through town.


If grief has a body it wears his Dodgers cap

and still walks to the corner store to buy lottery tickets

and Budweiser 40s.


I don't like what I have to be here to be.


All the blackbirds with nowhere to go

keep leaving.

Monday, August 17, 2020

I Stop Writing the Poem by Tess Gallagher

 I Stop Writing the Poem


to fold the clothes. No matter who lives

or who dies, I'm still a woman.

I'll always have plenty to do.

I bring the arms of his shirt

together. Nothing can stop

our tenderness. I'll get back

to the poem. I'll get back to being

a woman. But for now

there's a shirt, a giant shirt

in my hands, and somewhere a small girl

standing next to her mother

watching to see how it's done.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

In Memory of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden

 In Memory of W. B. Yeats




He disappeared in the dead of winter. 

The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted, 

And snow disfigured the public statues; 

The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.

O all the instruments agree

The day of his death was a dark cold day. 


Far from his illness,

The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,

The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;

By mourning tongues

The death of the poet was kept from his poems. 


But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,

An afternoon of nurses and rumors;

The provinces of his body revolted,

The squares of his mind were empty,

Silence invaded the suburbs,

The current of his feeling failed. He became his admirers. 


Now he is scattered among a hundred cities.

And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections;

To find his happiness in another kind of wood,

And be punished under a foreign code of conscience:

The words of a dead man

Are modified in the guts of the living. 


But in the importance and noise of tomorrow,

When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse, 

And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed, 

And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom, 

A few thousand will think of this day, 

As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual. 

He was silly like us: His gift survived it all. 


O all the instruments agree

The day of his death was a dark cold day.




Earth, receive an honored guest; 

William Yeats is laid to rest: 

Let the Irish vessel lie 

Emptied of its poetry. 


Time that is intolerant

Of the brave and innocent, 

And indifferent in a week

To a beautiful physique, 


Worships language and forgives 

Everyone by whom it lives, 

Pardons cowardice, conceit, 

Lays its honors at their feet. 


Time that with this strange excuse 

Pardoned Kipling and his views, 

And will pardon Paul Claudel, 

Pardons him for writing well. 


In the nightmare of the dark 

All the dogs of Europe bark, 

And the living nations wait,

Each sequestered in its hate. 


Intellectual disgrace

Stares from every human face, 

And the seas of pity lie 

Locked and frozen in each eye. 


Follow, poet, follow right 

To the bottom of the night, 

With your unconstraining voice 

Still persuade us to rejoice. 


With the farming of a verse 

Make a vineyard of the curse, 

Sing of human unsuccess 

In a rapture of distress. 


In the deserts of the heart 

Let the healing fountains start, 

In the prison of his days 

Teach the free man how to praise.

Friday, August 14, 2020

So Where Are We? by Lawrence Joseph

So Where Are We?

So where were we? The fiery

avalanche headed right at us—falling,


flailing bodies in mid-air—

the neighborhood under thick gray powder—


on every screen. I don’t know

where you are, I don’t know what


I’m going to do, I heard a man say;

the man who had spoken was myself.


What year? Which Southwest Asian war?

Smoke from infants’ brains


on fire from the phosphorus hours

after they’re killed, killers


reveling in the horror. The more obscene

the better it works. The point


at which a hundred thousand massacred

is only a detail. Asset and credit bubbles


about to burst. Too much consciousness

of too much at once, a tangle of tenses


and parallel thoughts, a series of feelings

overlapping a sudden sensation


felt and known, those chains of small facts

repeated endlessly, in the depths


of silent time. So where are we?

My ear turns, like an animal’s. I listen.


Like it or not, a digital you is out there.

Half of that city’s buildings aren’t there.


Who was there when something was, and a witness

to it? The rich boy general conducts the Pakistani


heroin trade on a satellite phone from his cave.

On the top floor of the Federal Reserve


in an office looking out onto Liberty

at the South Tower’s onetime space,


the Secretary of the Treasury concedes

they got killed in terms of perceptions.


Ten blocks away is the Church of the Transfiguration,

in the back is a Byzantine Madonna—


there is a God, a God who fits the drama

in a very particular sense. What you said—


the memory of a memory of a remembered

memory, the color of a memory, violet and black.

The lunar eclipse on the winter solstice,

the moon a red and black and copper hue.


The streets, the harbor, the light, the sky.

The blue and cloudless intense and blue morning sky.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Dad Poem (Ultrasound #2) by Joshua Bennett

 Dad Poem (Ultrasound #2)


       with a line from Gwendolyn Brooks

Months into the plague now,

I am disallowed

entry even into the waiting

room with Mom, escorted outside

instead by men armed

with guns & bottles

of hand sanitizer, their entire

countenance its own American

metaphor. So the first time

I see you in full force,

I am pacing maniacally

up & down the block outside,

Facetiming the radiologist

& your mother too,

her arm angled like a cellist’s

to help me see.

We are dazzled by the sight

of each bone in your feet,

the pulsing black archipelago

of your heart, your fists in front

of your face like mine when I

was only just born, ten times as big

as you are now. Your great-grandmother

calls me Tyson the moment she sees

this pose. Prefigures a boy

built for conflict, her barbarous

and metal little man. She leaves

the world only months after we learn

you are entering into it. And her mind

the year before that. In the dementia’s final

days, she envisions herself as a girl

of seventeen, running through fields

of strawberries, unfettered as a king

-fisher. I watch your stance and imagine

her laughter echoing back across the ages,

you, her youngest descendant born into

freedom, our littlest burden-lifter, world

-beater, avant-garde percussionist

swinging darkness into song.

Anti-Pastoral by Vievee Francis




How often have I spoken of the thistle,

the honeysuckle, the blistering bee?

How often have I asked how? I’ve grown tired

of my questions. And you’ve grown tired

of the limits of my language. I hate this measure

of memory, the constant return to the creek, the field,

the sundering South. I want release from the pasture

of my youth, from its cows and cobs in the mouth.

Forgive me my tiresome nostalgia. Forget it.

Let me forge a fissure between what was and is.

I have no accent. You would not know where I was from

if I didn’t keep reminding you. Look at my city

shoes crunching through the new snow

on the sidewalk. Not a blade of grass anywhere.



Which is not to say, Praise the urban, privilege the shadow

of the alley over the shade beneath a tree, or the average sky-

scraper over a clearing.



Not in a surfeit of emotion, but in its thoughtful

consideration, later, when natural rage, through meditation,

may be pulled as milk through an udder, into a purer stream

—this is how Wordsworth would have it,

not red-eyed and trembling, but clearheaded,

the tempest assuaged. Can you believe that?

Easy to say from some green-lined walking trail,

but this is a city, and here is an old woman

on the curb, broken as easily as a wafer she might have

had with her iced tea later this evening. Here is a reason

to prefer whiskey over a cow’s poor offering. Whiskey,

essential as water, worthy of pain and erasure.

And she is one of many, so I drink to her and her and her—