Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The El by Joan Murray

The El

No one ever grabbed my ass on the stairs down to
the D. But on the stairs up to the El, it happened
all the time. I guess it was anatomically more natural,
like reaching for an apple, but the first time,
I wasn’t sure how to feel. I think I felt warm,
which wasn’t an emotion. It felt like a rite of passage,
though I’d never heard of rites of passage.
Disgusting is what I said when I told my friends.
A grown man. I was twelve then. It felt like flattery.
From the El, I could look into other people’s windows,
but if I saw them at all, what they were doing mostly
were the same kinds of nothings we did in our own
apartment. What I usually saw were their curtains
blowing in and out, ’cause their windows were wide open.
It wasn’t like the High Line, where many years later
I saw two men in a hotel room doing a performance
just for me. The High Line used to be an El. It still is in a way,
though it’s covered with flowers. And I’m the train.
When I turned nineteen and got married, I went to live
up by Mt. Eden. It was cheap and noisy and the El
ran below our window and our daughter died and we were
still in school and took the D train to Manhattan now.
But coming home one night, I looked up and saw curtains
blowing in and out of someone’s window. I was on an El,
I don’t know where, or how I made it home. It wasn’t our El,
but it’s the El I dream about: I’ve just come down the stairs,
and now I’ve got to figure it out. Up on the platform
you could buy peanuts from a dispenser and either
give them to the pigeons or eat them yourself.

Monday, August 30, 2021

How to Listen by Major Jackson

How to Listen

I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy's Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won't talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky's stretch of faint stars.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Leaving the Island by Linda Pastan

Leaving the Island

We roll up the rugs and strip the beds by rote,
Summer expires as it has done before.
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat
Nor are we simply cargo, though we’ll float
Alongside heavy trucks—their stink and roar.
We roll up rugs and strip the beds by rote.
This bit of land whose lines the glaciers wrote
Becomes the muse of memory once more;
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat.
I’ll trade my swimsuit for a woolen coat;
The torch of autumn has but small allure.
We roll up rugs and strip the beds by rote.
The absences these empty shells denote
Suggest the losses winter has in store.
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat.
The songs of summer dwindle to one note;
The fog horn’s blast (which drowns this closing door.)
We rolled up rugs and stripped the beds by rote.
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Words from a Totem Animal by W. S. Merwin

Words from a Totem Animal

is where we were
but empty of us and ahead of
me lying out in the rushes thinking
even the nights cannot come back to their hill
any time
I would rather the wind came from outside
from mountains anywhere
from the stars from other
worlds even as
cold as it is this
ghost of mine passing
through me
I know your silence
and the repetition
like that of a word in the ear of death
that is the sound of my running
the plea
plea that it makes
which you will never hear
oh god of beginnings
I might have been right
not who I am
but all right
among the walls among the reasons
not even waiting
not seen
but now I am out in my feet
and they on their way
the old trees jump up again and again
there are no names for the rivers
for the days for the nights
I am who I am
oh lord cold as the thoughts of birds
and everyone can see me
Caught again and held again
again I am not a blessing
they bring me
that would fit anything
they bring them to me
they bring me hopes
all day I turn
making ropes
My eyes are waiting for me
in the dusk
they are still closed
they have been waiting a long time
and I am feeling my way toward them
I am going up stream
taking to the water from time to time
my marks dry off the stones before morning
the dark surface
strokes the night
above its way
There are no stars
there is no grief
I will never arrive
I stumble when I remember how it was
with one foot
one foot still in a name
I can turn myself toward the other joys and their lights
but not find them
I can put my words into the mouths
of spirits
but they will not say them
I can run all night and win
and win
Dead leaves crushed grasses fallen limbs
the world is full of prayers
arrived at from
a voice full of breaking
heard from afterwards
through all
the length of the night
I am never all of me
unto myself
and sometimes I go slowly
knowing that a sound one sound
is following me from world
to world
and that I die each time
before it reaches me
When I stop I am alone
at night sometimes it is almost good
as though I were almost there
sometimes then I see there is
in a bush beside me the same question
why are you
on this way
I said I will ask the stars
why are you falling and they answered
which of us
I dreamed I had no nails
no hair
I had lost one of the senses
not sure which
the soles peeled from my feet and
drifted away
It’s all one
stay mine
hold the world lightly
Stars even you
have been used
but not you
calling me when I am lost
Maybe I will come
to where I am one
and find
I have been waiting there
as a new
year finds the song of the nuthatch
Send me out into another life
lord because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Light of the World by Derek Walcott

The Light of the World

     Kaya now, got to have kaya now,
     Got to have kaya now,
     For the rain is falling.
     Bob Marley
Marley was rocking on the transport's stereo
and the beauty was humming the choruses quietly.
I could see where the lights on the planes of her cheek
streaked and defined them; if this were a portrait
you'd leave the highlights for last, these lights
silkened her black skin; I'd have put in an earring,
something simple, in good gold, for contrast, but she
wore no jewelry. I imagined a powerful and sweet
odour coming from her, as from a still panther,
and the head was nothing else but heraldic.
When she looked at me, then away from me politely
because any staring at strangers is impolite,
it was like a statue, like a black Delacroix's
Liberty leading the People, the gently bulging
whites of her eyes, the carved ebony mouth,
the heft of the torso solid, and a woman's,
but gradually even that was going in the dusk,
except the line of her profile, and the highlit cheek,
and I thought, O Beauty, you are the light of the world!
It was not the only time I would think of that phrase
in the sixteen-seater transport that hummed between
Gros-Islet and the Market, with its grit of charcoal
and the litter of vegetables after Saturday's sales,
and the roaring rum shops, outside whose bright doors
you saw drunk women on pavements, the saddest of all things,
winding up their week, winding down their week.
The Market, as it closed on this Saturday night,
remembered a childhood of wandering gas lanterns
hung on poles at street corners, and the old roar
of vendors and traffic, when the lamplighter climbed,
hooked the lantern on its pole and moved on to another,
and the children turned their faces to its moth, their
eyes white as their nighties; the Market
itself was closed in its involved darkness
and the shadows quarrelled for bread in the shops,
or quarrelled for the formal custom of quarrelling
in the electric rum shops. I remember the shadows.
The van was slowly filling in the darkening depot.
I sat in the front seat, I had no need for time.
I looked at two girls, one in a yellow bodice
and yellow shorts, with a flower in her hair,
and lusted in peace, the other less interesting.
That evening I had walked the streets of the town
where I was born and grew up, thinking of my mother
with her white hair tinted by the dyeing dusk,
and the tilting box houses that seemed perverse
in their cramp; I had peered into parlours
with half-closed jalousies, at the dim furniture,
Morris chairs, a centre table with wax flowers,
and the lithograph of Christ of the Sacred Heart,
vendors still selling to the empty streets-
sweets, nuts, sodden chocolates, nut cakes, mints.
An old woman with a straw hat over her headkerchief
hobbled towards us with a basket; somewhere,
some distance off, was a heavier basket
that she couldn't carry. She was in a panic.
She said to the driver: 'Pas quittez moi a terre,'
which is, in her patois: 'Don't leave me stranded,'
which is, in her history and that of her people:
'Don't leave me on earth,' or, by a shift of stress:
'Don't leave me the earth' (for an inheritance);
'Pas quittez moi a terre, Heavenly transport,
Don't leave me on earth, I've had enough of it.'
The bus filled in the dark with heavy shadows
that would not be left on earth; no, that would be left
on the earth, and would have to make out.
Abandonment was something they had grown used to.
And I had abandoned them, I knew that there
sitting in the transport, in the sea-quiet dusk,
with men hunched in canoes, and the orange lights
from the Vigie headland, black boats on the water;
I, who could never solidify my shadow
to be one of their shadows, had left them their earth,
their white rum quarrels, and their coal bags,
their hatred of corporals, of all authority.
I was deeply in love with the woman by the window.
I wanted to be going home with her this evening.
I wanted her to have the key to our small house
by the beach at Gros-Ilet; I wanted her to change
into a smooth white nightie that would pour like water
over the black rocks of her breasts, to lie
simply beside her by the ring of a brass lamp
with a kerosene wick, and tell her in silence
that her hair was like a hill forest at night,
that a trickle of rivers was in her armpits,
that I would buy her Benin if she wanted it,
and never leave her on earth. But the others, too.
Because I felt a great love that could bring me to tears,
and a pity that prickled my eyes like a nettle,
I was afraid I might suddenly start sobbing
on the public transport with the Marley going,
and a small boy peering over the shoulders
of the driver and me at the lights coming,
at the rush of the road in the country darkness,
with lamps in the houses on the small hills,
and thickets of stars; I had abandoned them,
I had left them on earth, I left them to sing
Marley's songs of a sadness as real as the smell
of rain on dry earth, or the smell of damp sand,
and the bus felt warm with their neighbourliness,
their consideration, and the polite partings
in the light of its headlamps. In the blare,
in the thud-sobbing music, the claiming scent
that came from their bodies. I wanted the transport
to continue forever, for no one to descend
and say a good night in the beams of the lamps
and take the crooked path up to the lit door,
guided by fireflies; I wanted her beauty
to come into the warmth of considerate wood,
to the relieved rattling of enamel plates
in the kitchen, and the tree in the yard,
but I came to my stop. Outside the Halcyon Hotel.
The lounge would be full of transients like myself.
Then I would walk with the surf up the beach.
I got off the van without saying good night.
Good night would be full of inexpressible love.
They went on in their transport, they left me on earth.
Then, a few yards ahead, the van stopped. A man
shouted my name from the transport window.
I walked up towards him. He held out something.
A pack of cigarettes had dropped from my pocket.
He gave it to me. I turned, hiding my tears.
There was nothing they wanted, nothing I could give them
but this thing I have called 'The Light of the World.'

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Edge of the Hurricane by Amy Clampitt

The Edge of the Hurricane

Wheeling, the careening
winds arrive with lariats
and tambourines of rain.
Torn-to-pieces, mud-dark
flounces of Caribbean
cumulus keep passing,
keep passing.    By afternoon
rinsed transparencies begin
to open overhead, Mediterranean
windowpanes of clearness
crossed by young gusts’
vaporous fripperies, liquid
footprints flying, lacewing
leaf-shade brightening
and fading. Sibling
gales stand up on point
in twirling fouettés
of debris. The day ends
bright, cloud-wardrobe
packed away. Nightfall
hangs up a single moon
bleached white as laundry,
serving notice yet again how
levity can also trample,
drench, wring and mangle.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Notes toward an Elegy by Elisa Gonzalez

Notes toward an Elegy

The Cypriot sun is impatient, a woman undressed
who can’t spare the time to dress, so light
like a vitrine holds even a storm.
One day in the Old City, a pineapple rain.
And I’m on my way home from the pharmacy, carrying my little bag of cures.
Refuge at the café in the nameless square.
Nihal brings espresso poured over ice, turns off the music.
We listen to rain fall through the light until the end.
White wine greening in a glass.
Lion rampant in the sky. Moon reclined gorgeous in her silver shift.
Polished newels. Door askew in its frame.
Hot mornings. Hot apple tea, honeyed.
The mountains a fist knuckled on the horizon.
Dust is coming, dust is not yet here.
Whenever her hands dance, I tell her how beautiful.
She says there’s so much other movement I do not perceive.
And I accept the presence of dances invisible to me.
Figs in the tree, figs on the stones.
Stains of rotting fruit spread and shadow at the sun’s whim.
That steady dissolution of body into form that signals the progress of a masterpiece.
Copper bowl in her hands. In the bowl in the hands, olive leaves burn.
I ask her to read to me. I like the way her voice handles words.
What will she read? First she laughs.
It’s a good day to laugh. The coffee is strong. And the light.
Why read when we can talk? When all our friends are here?
My perversity is silence, a shudder stopped
in the throat. When all the time I hear her voice:
I am glad my soul met your soul.
—Examples of what, I do not know. It’s just that
for a time I took Love out walking
with me everywhere and sometimes I thought Child, whose is this child?
when it played in the square. A sunshine creature, terrifying,
yet still I looked at it like I’ve never looked at a stranger
who promises water to the waterless for nothing.
And now I lie awake pretending
everyone in the world lies still the way the living are still:
not entirely, never entirely.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Revolt of the Turtles by Stephen Dunn

The Revolt of the Turtles

On gray forgetful mornings like this
sea turtles would gather in the shallow waters
of the Gulf to discuss issues of self-presentation
and related concerns like, If there were a God
would he have a hard shell and a retractable head,
and whether speed on land
was of any importance to a good swimmer.
They knew that tourists needed to placate
their children with catchy stories, and amuse
themselves with various cruelties
such as turning turtles over on their backs
and watching their legs wriggle.
So the turtles formed a committee to address
How to Live Among People Who Among
Other Atrocities Want to Turn You into Soup.
The committee was also charged with wondering
if God would mind a retelling of their lives,
one in which sea turtles
were responsible for all things
right-minded and progressive, and men
and women for poisoning the water.
The oldest sea turtle among them knew
that whoever was in control of the stories
controlled all the shoulds and should-nots.
But he wasn’t interested in punishment,
only ways in which power could bring about
fairness and decency. And when he finished speaking
in the now-memorable and ever-deepening
waters of the Gulf, all the sea turtles
began to chant, Only fairness, only decency.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Groundhog by Ellen Bryant Voigt


not unlike otters which we love frolicking
floating on their backs like truant boys unwrapping lunch
same sleek brown pelt some overtones of gray and rust
though groundhogs have no swimming hole and lunch
is rooted in the ground beneath short legs small feet
like a fat man’s odd diminutive loafers not
frolicking but scurrying layers of fat his coat
gleams as though wet shines chestnut sable darker
head and muzzle lower into the grass
a dark triangular face like the hog-nosed skunk another delicate
nose and not a snout doesn’t it matter what they’re called I like swine
which are smart and prefer to be clean using their snouts
to push their excrement to the side of the pen
but they have hairy skin not fur his fur
shimmers and ripples he never uproots the mother plant his teeth
I think are blunt squared off like a sheep’s if cornered does he
cower like sheep or bite like a sow with a litter is he ever
attacked he looks to me inedible he shares his acreage
with moles voles ravenous crows someone
thought up the names his other name is botched Algonquin
but yes he burrows beneath the barn where once a farmer
dried cordwood he scuttles there at speech cough laugh
at lawnmower swollen brook high wind he lifts his head
as Gandhi did small tilt to the side or stands erect
like a prairie dog or a circus dog but dogs don’t waddle like Mao
with a tiny tail he seems asexual like Gandhi like Jesus if Jesus
came back would he be vegetarian also pinko freako homo
in Vermont natives scornful of greyhounds from the city
self-appoint themselves woodchucks unkempt hairy macho
who would shoot on sight an actual fatso shy mild marmot radiant
as the hog-nosed skunk in the squirrel trap both cleaner than sheep
fur fluffy like a girl’s maybe he is a she it matters
what we’re called words shape the thought don’t say
rodent and ruin everything

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Allegory by Gregory Pardlo


Professional wrestler Owen Hart embodied his own
omen when he battled gravity from rafters to canvas
in a Kansas City stadium. Like a great tent collapsing,
he fell without warning, no hoverboard, no humming-
bird’s finesse for the illusion of flight, no suspension
of disbelief to hammock his burden—the birth of virtue—
in its virtual reality. His angelic entrance eclipsed
when his safety harness failed. He fell out of the ersatz
like a waxwing duped by infinities conjured in a squeegee’s
mirage. Spectators wilted as the creature of grief emerged
to graze on their sapling gasps and shrieks. I’d like to think
that, freed of self-hype, he realized his mask was not a shield,
and that he didn’t spend his last attempting to method
Zeno’s proofs. E.M.T.s like evangelicals huddled to jolt
the hub of Hart’s radiating soul as fans prayed the stunt
might yet parade the emperor’s threads wrestlers call kayfabe.
Kayfabe, a dialect of pig Latin, lingo for the promise to drop
at the laying on of hands. To take myth as history. Semblance
as creed. A grift so convincing one might easily believe
it could work without someone else pulling the strings.

Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Animals by Hayan Charara


The phone call, from my wife.
She’s hungry, she’s pregnant,
someone kicked her
in the stomach—we have to.
I say yes, but the reply
I keep to myself is,
 We don’t have to do a goddamn thing.
A dog. I’m talking about a dog
I would have otherwise left to starve.
Now though, five years since,
I love this animal, Lucy,
more than I can most people.
A boy names his dog and five cats
after our Lucy. The boy, my brother,
born in Henry Ford’s hometown,
lives now in Lebanon,
which the Greeks called Phoenicia,
and they tried but failed
to subdue it, same as the Egyptians,
Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians,
Alexander the Great, Romans, Arabs,
Crusaders, Turks, the British,
the French, the Israelis.
There, my father built a house
with money earned in Detroit—
as a grocer, with social security.
Also there, the first alphabet
was created, the first law school built,
the first miracle of Jesus—
water, wine.
On the first day
the bombs fall they flee
and the boy asks
to go back for Lucy,
the dog. As for the cats,
No. They take care of themselves.
One week into it
he wonders who feeds them,
who fills the water bowls.
Maybe the neighbors,
the mother thinks out loud.
The father is indignant: Neighbors
what neighbors? They’re gone.
The mother is stunned:
What do you mean, gone?
After a month, everyone forgets
or just stops talking about
the animals. During the ceasefire
my father drives south,
a thirty-minute trip that lasts
six hours—wreckage upon wreckage
piled on the roads, on what is left
of the roads. The landscape
entirely gray, so catastrophic
he asks a passerby how far
to his town and is told,
You’re in it.
My father finds three of the cats,
all perforated, one headless.
The dog is near the carport,
where it hid during lightning storms,
its torso splayed in half
like meat on a slab, its entrails
eaten by other dogs
scavenging on the streets.
Look. They’re animals.
Which is to say, there are also people.
And I haven’t even begun telling you
what was done to them.

[He Said it Bummed Him Out His Dick Didn’t Work Anymore] by Diane Seuss

[He Said it Bummed Him Out His Dick Didn’t Work Anymore]

He said it bummed him out his dick didn’t work anymore.
But it was never about dick for us. Was it. Though for a while
it was all about dick for him. San Francisco dick. Far far away
from his brutal fireman father. And me. He could finally do what 
he wanted with his dick and other people’s dicks. And dress as I 
Love Lucy. And write a serial featuring Dyke Van Dick. And refer 
to himself when not wearing dress and wig as an existential cowboy. 
“The charismatic impresario of all we did” Alan said of him. But that
wasn’t how it was for us. We did not waste our charisma on each other.
Did not dress for each other. Or did I dress for him a little bit. Did
I perform for him. I knew no other way. The last time I saw him.
Before he lost his mind and filled with ocean. Died. He said Di 
your body changed. I’d just given birth to a ten pound baby. Jesus 
Christ. What do you want from me. What did you ever want from me.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Orifice Jones by Jayy Dodd

Orifice Jones

I am wearing my mother’s wedding ring. I stopped wearing the one
the man I loved gave me because it was only a gift
& I needed to treat it as such. Ornament jams my frequency. All
my jewelry gotta be caught from somewhere. The esophagus is a pipe.
A faucet is present. Drip Season. Hard to lie with everything
hanging out. Any depth is hidden but access is unending. Organic jives
oscillating in more average levels every day. I’m telling
everyone I know about what’s coming in. I am presently more development than research.
Past trials include: The Study of  Fissure Maintained. A brief
dance around waste, blood, fear, inspection. The Study of Old Wound Memory.
The practicality of scar, a tombstone, grown over. My fragility
begins with stories of tearing. Same riot-birth of near dismemberment. Then mouth
to feed to teach. I learned no one knows the difference
between closeness or ephemera. I only pass as not passing. Today
I had more smoke than food. I am still getting used to loving
this thing. I am asking are you well? & mean it, from an open place.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Decades by Gerald Stern


With me, it wasn’t a yellow cab
but an orange streetcar going 40 mph
on a hillside through the woods and everything
shaking and rattling and through a short tunnel
slightly lit by dim blue lights a seat for
the conductor, a kind of throne I sometimes sat on
and that makes two things gone this morning, I’m only
counting for obsession’s sake, I thought of
the card we put in the living room window, “ice”
it said on one side, “coal” the other, but I’ve
done that already, how about making colored
fans and selling them door to door, how about
being a helper and shoveling the dirty coal
down the chutes at 25 cents an hour—
I have to check if anyone else has done this,
one of my upstate or New England friends,
I loved to watch men working, I loved to sit
and eat with them, and see them smoke and listen
to them talk, they were my first prophets.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Walking Home by Marie Howe

Walking Home

Everything dies, I said. How had that started?
A tree? The winter? Not me, she said.
And I said, Oh yeah? And she said, I’m reincarnating.
Ha, she said, See you in a few thousand years!
Why years, I wondered, why not minutes? Days?
She found that so funny—Ha Ha—doubled over—
Years, she said, confidently.
I think you and I have known each other a few lifetimes, I said.
She said, I have never before been a soul on this earth.
(It was cold. We were hungry.) Next time, you be the mother, I said.
No way, Jose, she said, as we turned the last windy corner.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Spring by Ishion Hutchinson


  In memoriam, Adam Zagajewski (June 21, 1945-March 21, 2021)
Cool as the breeze, spring
comes and proves the proven
blank which was sorrow
a turbulent need, a healing.
Who am I kidding? To say “spring,”
and to say so on the front steps
just after noon in the bright cool of the day,
is a form of dissolution.
How have I arrived at that?
Your death is only two weeks old, sudden
and tender as the buds on the firethorn
returning, and an old siren sound
carrying on the breeze
between two finches darting
through shattered power lines
cements a kind of comfort.
I accept this. These creosote
tears you must’ve seen on a Kraków
statue streaked with rain. What arrives next
is the marvellous phrase
“half sea half land”
(not yours but close), marvellous I mouth
before I digress,
and then zoom away to teach them, Adam,
your “To Go to Lvov.”

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Telescope by Louise Glück


There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.
You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.
You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.
Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.
You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.
You see again how far away
each thing is from every other thing.

Friday, August 6, 2021

A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth by Wisława Szymborska

A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth

She’s been in this world for over a year,
and in this world not everything’s been examined
and taken in hand.
The subject of today’s investigation
is things that don’t move by themselves.
They need to be helped along,
shoved, shifted,
taken from their place and relocated.
They don’t all want to go, e.g., the bookshelf,
the cupboard, the unyielding walls, the table.
But the tablecloth on the stubborn table
—when well-seized by its hems—
manifests a willingness to travel.
And the glasses, plates,
creamer, spoons, bowl,
are fairly shaking with desire.
It’s fascinating,
what form of motion will they take,
once they’re trembling on the brink:
will they roam across the ceiling?
fly around the lamp?
hop onto the windowsill and from there to a tree?
Mr. Newton still has no say in this.
Let him look down from the heavens and wave his hands.
This experiment must be completed.
And it will.
(Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

Thursday, August 5, 2021

I Ask My Mother to Sing by Li-Young Lee

I Ask My Mother to Sing

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Break by Dorianne Laux


We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Old Cumberland Beggar by William Wordsworth

The Old Cumberland Beggar

I saw an aged Beggar in my walk;
And he was seated, by the highway side,
On a low structure of rude masonry
Built at the foot of a huge hill, that they
Who lead their horses down the steep rough road
May thence remount at ease. The aged Man
Had placed his staff across the broad smooth stone
That overlays the pile; and, from a bag
All white with flour, the dole of village dames,
He drew his scraps and fragments, one by one;
And scanned them with a fixed and serious look
Of idle computation. In the sun,
Upon the second step of that small pile,
Surrounded by those wild unpeopled hills,
He sat, and ate his food in solitude:
And ever, scattered from his palsied hand,
That, still attempting to prevent the waste,
Was baffled still, the crumbs in little showers
Fell on the ground; and the small mountain birds,
Not venturing yet to peck their destined meal,
Approached within the length of half his staff.
Him from my childhood have I known; and then
He was so old, he seems not older now;
He travels on, a solitary Man,
So helpless in appearance, that for him
The sauntering Horseman-traveller does not throw
With careless hand his alms upon the ground,
But stops,—that he may safely lodge the coin
Within the old Man's hat; nor quits him so,
But still when he has given his horse the rein
Towards the aged Beggar turns a look
Side-long—and half-reverted. She who tends
The Toll-gate, when in summer at her door
She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees
The aged Beggar coming, quits her work,
And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.
The Post-boy, when his rattling wheels o'ertake
The aged Beggar in the woody lane,
Shouts to him from behind; and, if perchance
The old Man does not change his course, the Boy
Turns with less noisy wheels to the road-side,
And passes gently by,—without a curse
Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.
He travels on, a solitary Man,—
His age has no companion. On the ground
His eyes are turned, and, as he moves along,
They move along the ground; and, evermore,
Instead of common and habitual sight
Of fields with rural works, of hill and dale,
And the blue sky, one little span of earth
Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day,
Bowbent, his eyes for ever on the ground,
He plies his weary journey; seeing still,
And never knowing that he sees, some straw,
Some scattered leaf, or marks which, in one track,
The nails of cart or chariot wheel have left
Impressed on the white road,—in the same line,
At distance still the same. Poor Traveller!
His staff trails with him; scarcely do his feet
Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
Ere he have passed the door, will turn away,
Weary of barking at him. Boys and Girls,
The vacant and the busy, Maids and Youths,
And Urchins newly breeched—all pass him by:
Him even the slow-paced Waggon leaves behind.
But deem not this Man useless.—Statesmen! ye
Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye
Who have a broom still ready in your hands
To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud,
Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate
Your talents, power, and wisdom, deem him not
A burthen of the earth. 'Tis Nature's law
That none, the meanest of created things,
Of forms created the most vile and brute,
The dullest or most noxious, should exist
Divorced from good—a spirit and pulse of good,
A life and soul to every mode of being
Inseparably linked. While thus he creeps
From door to door, the Villagers in him
Behold a record which together binds
Past deeds and offices of charity,
Else unremembered, and so keeps alive
The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years,
And that half-wisdom half-experience gives,
Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign
To selfishness and cold oblivious cares.
Among the farms and solitary huts,
Hamlets and thinly-scattered villages,
Where'er the aged Beggar takes his rounds,
The mild necessity of use compels
To acts of love; and habit does the work
Of reason; yet prepares that after joy
Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul,
By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursued,
Doth find itself insensibly disposed
To virtue and true goodness. Some there are,
By their good works exalted, lofty minds
And meditative, authors of delight
And happiness, which to the end of time
Will live, and spread, and kindle; minds like these,
In childhood, from this solitary Being,
This helpless Wanderer, have perchance received
(A thing more precious far than all that books
Or the solicitudes of love can do!)
That first mild touch of sympathy and thought,
In which they found their kindred with a world
Where want and sorrow were. The easy Man
Who sits at his own door,—and, like the pear
Which overhangs his head from the green wall,
Feeds in the sunshine; the robust and young,
The prosperous and unthinking, they who live
Sheltered, and flourish in a little grove
Of their own kindred;—all behold in him
A silent monitor, which on their minds
Must needs impress a transitory thought
Of self-congratulation, to the heart
Of each recalling his peculiar boons,
His charters and exemptions; and, perchance,
Though he to no one give the fortitude
And circumspection needful to preserve
His present blessings, and to husband up
The respite of the season, he, at least,
And 'tis no vulgar service, makes them felt.
Yet further.——Many, I believe, there are
Who live a life of virtuous decency,
Men who can hear the Decalogue and feel
No self-reproach; who of the moral law
Established in the land where they abide
Are strict observers; and not negligent,
Meanwhile, in any tenderness of heart
Or act of love to those with whom they dwell,
Their kindred, and the children of their blood.
Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace!
—But of the poor man ask, the abject poor,
Go and demand of him, if there be here
In this cold abstinence from evil deeds,
And these inevitable charities,
Wherewith to satisfy the human soul?
No—Man is dear to Man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been
Themselves the fathers and the dealers-out
Of some small blessings, have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart.
—Such pleasure is to one kind Being known,
My Neighbour, when with punctual care, each week
Duly as Friday comes, though prest herself
By her own wants, she from her chest of meal
Takes one unsparing handful for the scrip
Of this old Mendicant, and, from her door
Returning with exhilarated heart,
Sits by her fire and builds her hope in heaven.
Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!
.And while in that vast solitude to which
The tide of things has led him, he appears
To breathe and live but for himself alone,
Unblamed, uninjured, let him bear about
The good which the benignant law of Heaven
Has hung around him; and, while life is his,
Still let him prompt the unlettered Villagers
To tender offices and pensive thoughts.
—Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!
And, long as he can wander, let him breathe
The freshness of the valleys; let his blood
Struggle with frosty air and winter snows;
And let the chartered wind that sweeps the heath
Beat his gray locks against his withered face.
Reverence the hope whose vital anxiousness
Gives the last human interest to his heart.
May never House, misnamed of Industry,
Make him a captive! for that pent-up din,
Those life-consuming sounds that clog the air,
Be his the natural silence of old age!
Let him be free of mountain solitudes;
And have around him, whether heard or not,
The pleasant melody of woodland birds.
Few are his pleasures: if his eyes have now
Been doomed so long to settle on the earth
That not without some effort they behold
The countenance of the horizontal sun,
Rising or setting, let the light at least
Find a free entrance to their languid orbs.
And let him, where and when he will, sit down
Beneath the trees, or by the grassy bank
Of high-way side, and with the little birds
Share his chance-gathered meal; and, finally,
As in the eye of Nature he has lived,
So in the eye of Nature let him die.