Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, of thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don't leave now that you're here—
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine."

[Before You Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz,
translated by Agha Shahid Ali]

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Very little grows
on jagged rock.
Be ground.

Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years.
Try something different.

- Rumi

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.
(C) Jack Gilbert

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Cities" by H. D.

Can we believe—by an effort
comfort our hearts:
it is not waste all this,
not placed here in disgust,
street after street,
each patterned alike,
no grace to lighten
a single house of the hundred
crowded into one garden-space.
Crowded—can we believe,
not in utter disgust,
in ironical play—
but the maker of cities grew faint
with the beauty of temple
and space before temple,
arch upon perfect arch,
of pillars and corridors that led out
to strange court-yards and porches
where sun-light stamped
black on the pavement.
That the maker of cities grew faint
with the splendour of palaces,
paused while the incense-flowers
from the incense-trees
dropped on the marble-walk,
thought anew, fashioned this—
street after street alike.
For alas,
he had crowded the city so full
that men could not grasp beauty,
beauty was over them,
through them, about them,
no crevice unpacked with the honey,
rare, measureless.
So he built a new city,
ah can we believe, not ironically
but for new splendour
constructed new people
to lift through slow growth
to a beauty unrivalled yet—
and created new cells,
hideous first, hideous now—
spread larve across them,
not honey but seething life.
And in these dark cells,
packed street after street,
souls live, hideous yet—
O disfigured, defaced,
with no trace of the beauty
men once held so light.
Can we think a few old cells
were left—we are left—
grains of honey,
old dust of stray pollen
dull on our torn wings,
we are left to recall the old streets?
Is our task the less sweet
that the larvae still sleep in their cells?
Or crawl out to attack our frail strength:
You are useless. We live.
We await great events.
We are spread through this earth.
We protect our strong race.
You are useless.
Your cell takes the place
of our young future strength.
Though they sleep or wake to torment
and wish to displace our old cells—
thin rare gold—
that their larve grow fat—
is our task the less sweet?
Though we wander about,
find no honey of flowers in this waste,
is our task the less sweet—
who recall the old splendour,
await the new beauty of cities?
The city is peopled
with spirits, not ghosts, O my love:
Though they crowded between
and usurped the kiss of my mouth
their breath was your gift,
their beauty, your life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An extract from Nick Makoha’s poem titled Beatitude. He is Uganda born and lives in London.

When a rebel leader promises you the world seen in commercials,
he will hold a shotgun to the radio announcer’s mouth,
and use a quilt of bristling static to muffle the tears.
When the bodies disappear, discarded like the husk of mangoes.
He will weep with you in those hours of reckoning and judgement
into the hollow night when the crowds disperse.
When by paraffin light his whiskey breath tells you
your mother’s wailings in your father’s bed are a song
for our nation, sits with you on the veranda to witness the sunrise,
say nothing. Slaughter your herd. Feed the soldiers
who looted your mills and factories. Let them dance
in your garden while an old man watches.
Then when they sleep and your blood turns to kerosene,
find your mother gathering water at the well to stave off
the burning. Shave her head with a razor from the kiosk.
When the fury has gathered, take her hand and run
past the fields an odour of blood and bones. Past the checkpoint,
past the swamp to towards the smoky disc flaring in the horizon.
Run till your knuckles become as white as handkerchiefs,
Run into the night’s fluorescent silence. Run till your lungs
become a furnace of flames. Run past the border.
Run till you no longer see yourself in other men’s eyes.
Run past sleep, past darkness visible.
Stop when you find a country where they do not know your name.
©Copyright Nicholas Makoha 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ride the Turtle's Back ~Beth Brant

A woman grows hard and skinny.
She squeezes into small corners.
Her quick eyes uncover dust and cobwebs.
She reaches out
for flint and sparks fly in the air.
Flames turned loose on fields
burn down to bare seeds
we planted deep.
The corn is white and sweet.
Under is pale, perfect kernels.
a rotting cob is betrayal
it lies in our bloated stomachs.
I lie in Grandmother's bed
and dream the earth into a turtle.
She carries us slowly across the universe.
The sun warms us.
At night, the stars do tricks.
The moon caresses us.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Small Thing

'A hurt so small,' Say you, 'A thread of grey On blue, So slight a thing Less than a wild rose sting Nothing at all.' And yet, When thrushes call, Or winds awake And sigh – and sink – And fall – Into the evening’s grey I think – And think This small heartbreak Will wear my life away. Marion Angus

Friday, March 30, 2012

Self-Portrait as Housewife by Austen Rosenfeld

Your dreams hold your days together. You spend your time transforming stars into kitchen implements that you could bake potatoes in. Or coming up with one good reason for crying over dirty socks or falling asleep each night with all the lights on in the house. Waking, you can’t help remembering the first, but not the only, time you took off all your clothes and stood there like a pile of unopened letters. And then the kissing would begin; tongues rummaging like hands through someone else’s desk drawer, decoding his system for living. Remembering those few extra minutes you stayed in the shower–– because you wanted to. Because it meant something to you. A woman is wading through the dark rooms of her house, each one stagnant and swarming with loneliness. She wants to say I, but can only say You. And a man hates his son’s crooked teeth so much it hurts: they ring like a fire alarm. Pieces of a shattered mirror keep falling in her eyes, she can’t help it. Come now, the dishes never put themselves away. Reapply your eyeliner, pick a fight with a saleslady. Living is forgetting, blue wings beating against the window, portraits through the centuries with every feature exaggerated. I cry out to the trucks heading South, the shifting clouds, anything that moves: I know what it’s like, take me with you.

Tamil poem by Nammalvar [trans. A. K. Ramanujan, *Poems of Love and War*]

(This is on the the god of thresholds) Nammalvar was a Sangam poet: The Poem: We here, and that man, this man, and that other in-between, and that woman, this woman, and that other, whoever, those people, and these, and these others in-between, this thing, that thing, and this other in-between, whichever all things dying, these things, those things, those others in-between, good things, bad things, things that were, that will be, being all of them, He stands there.

If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know one thing. You know how this is: if I look at the crystal moon, at the red branch of the slow autumn at my window, if I touch near the fire the impalpable ash or the wrinkled body of the log, everything carries me to you, as if everything that exists, aromas, light, metals, were little boats that sail toward those isles of yours that wait for me. Well, now, if little by little you stop loving me I shall stop loving you little by little. If suddenly you forget me do not look for me, for I shall already have forgotten you. If you think it long and mad, the wind of banners that passes through my life, and you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots, remember that on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land. But if each day, each hour, you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness, if each day a flower climbs up to your lips to seek me, ah my love, ah my own, in me all that fire is repeated, in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten, my love feeds on your love, beloved, and as long as you live it will be in your arms without leaving mine. Pablo Neruda

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Undeserved Sweetness by Ben Okri

After the wind lifts the beggar From his bed of trash And blows to the empty pubs At the road's end There exists only the silence Of the world before dawn And the solitude of trees. Handel on the set mysteriously Recalls to me the long Hot nights of childhood spent In malarial slums In the midst of potent shrines At the edge of great seas. Dreams of the past sing With voices of the future. And now the world is assaulted With a sweetness it doesn't deserve Flowers sing with the voices of absent bees The air swells with the vibrant Solitude of trees who nightly Whisper of re-invading the world. But the night bends the trees Into my dreams And the stars fall with their fruits Into my lonely world-burnt hands. *****

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Night Letters #4 (from the collection: Keeping the Night)

You gave me words in your tongue, I learned I love you and goodbye-- words like hooks in my throat I gave you a flight of birds to make visible the winds you loved. Weights. Anchors. And they hold down nothing. (C) Peter Everwine

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Passion for Solitude - By CESARE PAVESE (Translated by GEOFFREY BROCK)

I'm eating a little supper by the bright window.
The room's already dark, the sky's starting to turn.
Outside my door, the quiet roads lead,
after a short walk, to open fields.
I'm eating, watching the sky—who knows
how many women are eating now. My body is calm:
labor dulls all the senses, and dulls women too.

Outside, after supper, the stars will come out to touch
the wide plain of the earth. The stars are alive,
but not worth these cherries, which I'm eating alone.
I look at the sky, know that lights already are shining
among rust-red roofs, noises of people beneath them.
A gulp of my drink, and my body can taste the life
of plants and of rivers. It feels detached from things.
A small dose of silence suffices, and everything's still,
in its true place, just like my body is still.

All things become islands before my senses,
which accept them as a matter of course: a murmur of silence.
All things in this darkness—I can know all of them,
just as I know that blood flows in my veins.
The plain is a great flowing of water through plants,
a supper of all things. Each plant, and each stone,
lives motionlessly. I hear my food feeding my veins
with each living thing that this plain provides.

The night doesn't matter. The square patch of sky
whispers all the loud noises to me, and a small star
struggles in emptiness, far from all foods,
from all houses, alien. It isn't enough for itself,
it needs too many companions. Here in the dark, alone,
my body is calm, it feels it's in charge.