Sunday, December 31, 2006


Some January Poems

"January First"

The doors of the year open,
like the doors of language,
onto the unknown.

Last night you said:


we must draw signs,
sketch a langscape, hatch a plot
on the unfolded page
of paper and the day.
Tomorrow we must invent,
the reality of this world.

When I opened my eyes it was late.
For a second of a second
I felt like the Aztec
on the rock-strewn peak,
the cracks of horizons
for the uncertain return of time.

No, the year came back.
It filled the room,
and my glances could almost touch it.
Time, without our help,
had arranged
in the same order as yesterday,
the houses on the empty street,
the snow on the houses,
the silence on the snow.

You were beside me,
still sleeping.
The day had invented you,
but you hadn't yet accepted
your day's invention,
nor mine.
You were still in another day.

You were beside me,
and I saw you, like the snow,
asleep among the appearances.
Time, without our help,
invents houses, streets, trees,
sleeping women.

When you open your eyes
we'll walk, anew,
among the hours and their inventions,
and lingering among the appearances
we'll testify to time and its conjugations.
We'll open the doors of this day,
and go into the unknown.

--Octavio Paz
(translated by Eliot Weinberger)


"Orchard Trees, January"

It's not the case, though some might wish it so
Who from a window watch the blizzard blow

White riot through their branches vague and stark,
That they keep snug beneath their pelted bark.

They take affliction in until it jells
To crystal ice between their frozen cels,

And each of them is inwardly a vault
Of jewels rigorous and free of fault,

Unglimpsed by us until in May it bears
A sudden crop of green-pronged solitaires.

--Richard Wilbur


"Month of Cleansing"

January sunshine; frozen, denuding translucency.
All the clouds vanished suddenly. On the wooded hills,
still dark from the long dampness, rises
the sky blue smoke of shepherds. And the mountain ridges farther
absolutely sky blue -- that superb sky blue. No other color,
-- he says -- can fit in this great, limpid landscape
except a speck of red from the rooster they slaughtered
on the foundation stone. So he spoke. and by this he meant
the movement of two fingers uncovering
a naked shoulder, a wound, a fountain, or a dream.

--Yannis Ritsos
(translated by Kimon Friar)



"Cold as the moon," he'd mutter
In the January of 5 a. m. and 15 below
As he tried to tease the old Chev into greeting
One more misanthropic morning.

It was an art (though he never
Used that curious word) as he thumped
The gas pedal and turned the key
So carefully while he held his breath
And waited for the sharp jounce
And roar of an engaged engine.

"Shoulda brought in the battery last night."
"Shoulda got up around midnight
And turned it over once."

It was always early rising as he'd worked
A lifetime "in every damn sort
Of damn factory." Machines were
As natural to him as dogs and flowers.
A machine, as he put it, "was sensible."

I was so stupid about valves and intakes
He thought I was some religious type.
How had I lived as long as I had
And remained so out of it?
And why had I moved of my own free will
To a place that prided itself
On the blunt misery of January?

"No way to live," he'd say as he poked
A finger into the frozen throat
Of an unwilling carburetor.
His breath hung in the air
Like a white balloon.

Later on the way to the town where
We worked while the heater
Wheezed fitfully and the windshield
Show indifference to the defroster
He'd turn to me and say that
The two best things in this world
Were hot coffee and winter sunrises.
The icy road beckoned to no one,
Snow began to drift down sleepily,
The peace of servitude sighed and dreamed.

--Baron Wormser


"The New Year"

Someone dragged our Christmas tree
onto the bonfire. A blaze of white-gold, sudden
heat. The slender branches curled like fingers,
clutching and clutching
what was already gone. We stood close
together on the snowy edge of the beach.
My son was scrolling Happy
New Year in the air with sparklers,
and my daughter writing her name,
as if it might stay there.

On the point, someone lit fireworks
-- red, green, yellow -- like handerchiefs
plucked out of a top hat. They went up,
down. Phfft. Overhead, the stars
stayed in their places. The night was cold,
so cold, and for a moment I say time --
century on century -- frozen into place. Nothing
moved. They could have been under the glassy ice,

those things from the past. A howl
stopped in the throat. A thin child running, naked,
down a road. No going back for anything.
But then someone reached over
and kissed me. I offered
a bouquet of sparklers
to my son, who threw it,
joyously, across the icy harbour.
A tiny, extravagant flourish.

--Anne Simpson



Gone or away? Right now I prefer away
because a storm rolls down through the valley
with its load of leaves, twigs, bird nests
and soil from another continent
and makes the windows on the sunroom rattle like a castle in Siberia.
Saying gone would resonate too deeply
and damage the foundations of the house.
Away is a small white cloud, a kite
in a bleak September sky
a wheelbarrow tipped over the edge of the woods
a striped sock on the riverbank
away is the white pebbles on the bottom of a brook
whose water knows the secrets of astronomy.
With the changing seasons I have thought of you
as a wanderer between gone and away
a homeless sooul, an eye that cannot shut.
As fast as fire, water, darkness, and sun overtake
each other
on this afternoon early in January
I can only think of you as gone away. With the emphasis on gone.

--Henrik Nordbrandt
(translated by Thom Satterlee)


"The Sixth of January"

The cat sits on the back of the sofa looking
out the window through the softly falling snow
at the last bit of gray light.

I can't say the sun is going down.
We haven't seen the sun for two months.
Who cares?

I am sitting in the blue chair listening to this stillness.
The only sound: the occasional gurgle of tea
coming out of the pot and into the cup.

How can this be?
Such calm, such peace, such solitude
in this world of woe.

--David Budbill


"In This January"

This must be the month when someone decided
to make months; to count sunsets and full moons and ony give it
so much time. and though Janus looks both ways, this January

is intent only on winter's face. It cups and kisses it
on the forehead, on the eyeleashes. Why would winter
ever want to leave, if all that attention kept up.

I pass a half-built church on my walk every morning
and every morning I'm filled with the envy thinking of the dreams
the people building it must have. My dreams are shoeboxes

filled with bones from my feet. When I wake it's with a mouthful
of mother-may-I's and the taunting of another day,
daring me to take a step as it pulls the walls up even higher.

No, it doesn't look both ways, it makes me do that.
This house is a maze of those bare walls, perfect
for showing home movies on. And I've become the projector.

--Susan Goyette


"January Night"
Late, after walking for hours on the beach,
a storm rises, with wind, rain and lightning

In front of me on my desk
Is typewriter and paper,
And my beautiful jagged
Crystal, larger than a skull,
And beyond, the black window,
Framing the wet and swarming
Pointillism of the city
In the night, in the valley
And spread on the distant hills
Under the rain, and beyond,
Thin rivulets of lightning
Trickling down the sky,
And all the intervening
Air wet with the fecundity
Of time and the promises
Of the earth and its routine
Annual and diurnal
Yearly and daily changeless
Motion; and once more my hours
Turn in the trough of winter
And climb towards the sun.

--Kenneth Rexroth


"New Year's Day"

Each thing in the clean morning light
is a promise. I start the day
by building a feeding place for the birds,
stacking up castaway crates in the snow.
How they come! Sparrows and blue jays
dropping like leaves from the elms,
which though burned with disease
still promise some sort of a spring,
their branches lined with hard buds
like birds perching, or the seeds of birds,
still more birds to come.

--Ted Kooser


"January Apparition"

Where is last year's snow?
Where is this year's?
January gleams cold
like a scoured
limestone statue in the graveyard.
I throw black clods
at the winter trees
instead of snowballs.

I am blue, blue,
parched blue, insdie and out,
and stiffening with cold I remember
staggering, drunken reed-harvesters
who made pitchforks dance on the ice
and yelled, jumping all around:
mad land, mad land.

At least five grains of frost
would rolls here quickly,
at least five grains of pearls
from northern native countries.
I would multiply them
as Jesus did the fish,
I would multiply them
as Jesus did the bread.

But only a bobbing-necked gander
with ruffled feathers
is stepping whitely toward me.
He's ambling down from the tall roost.
Purple flashes of lightning keep
leaping from his waxed beak.
I stop and stare:
this goose, too, could be a castrated swan!

Where is last year's snow?
And my God, where is this year's?
Where are the tongues of the snow-covered
sleighbells and where the carnival yells?
A sparrow pecks frozen
breadcrumbs from the ground,
and flies away with one, like
a skeletal alien, filled with fright.

--Sandor Csoori
(translated by Len Roberts)


"No Possum, No Sop, No Taters"

He is not here, the old sun,
As absent as if we were asleep.

The field is frozen. The leaves are dry.
Bad is final in this light.

In this bleak air the broken stalks
Have arms without hands. They have trunks

Without legs or, for that, without heads.
They have heads in which a captive cry

Is merely the moving of a tongue.
Snow sparkles like eyesight falling to earth,

Like seeing fallen brightly away.
The leaves hop, scraping on the ground.

It is deep January. The sky is hard.
The stalks are firmly rooted in ice.

It is in this solitude, a syllable,
Out of these gawky flitterings,

Intones its single emptiness,
The savagest hollow of winter-sound.

It is here, in this bad, that we reach
The last purity of the knowledge of good.

The crow looks rusty as he rises up.
Bright is the malice in his eye . . .

One joins him there for company,
But at a distance, in another tree.

--Wallace Stevens


"Midwinter Thaw"

Stunned in their voiceless way to be alive
This drizzling three-day January thaw,
Green lilac buds appear that won't survive
When Arctic winds crack down from Canada
And half-starved foxes shake and paw
A rabbit carcass in its stiffened fur.
Green lilac buds appear that won't survive
This third day of our January thaw,
This gap in time, this season not their own,
Merely a mockery of spring
With sun's warmth wasted on a stone,
And still my mind goes groping in the mud to bring
Some stubborn sprouts up through the stubble hay,
To follow in the path of their brief blossoming
In search of brighter green to come. No way!

--Robert Pack


"Rain in January"

I woke before dawn, still
in a body. Water ran
down every window, and rushed
from the eaves.

Beneath the empty feeder
a skunk was prowling for suet
or seed. The lamps flickered off
and then came on again.

Smoke from the chimney
could not rise. It came down
into the yard, and brooded there
on the unlikelihood of reaching

heaven. When my arm slipped
from the arm of the chair
I let it hand beside me, pale,
useless, and strange.

--Jane Kenyon


"Reading: Winter"

He's not sure how to get the jack on -- he must have recently bought the car, although it's an ancient,
impossibly decrepit, barely holding-together Chevy: he has to figure out how each part works,
the base plate, the pillar, the thing that hooks on to the bumper, even the four-armed wrench,
before he can get it all together, knock the hubcap off and wrestle free the partly rusted nuts.
This all happens on a bed of sheet ice: it's five below, the coldest January in a century.
Cars slip and skid a yard away from him, the flimsy jack is desperately, precariously balanced,
and meanwhile, when he goes into the trunk to get the spare, a page of old newspaper catches his attention
and he pauses, rubbing his hands together, shoulders hunched, for a full half minute, reading.

--C. K. Williams


"January Morning"


    I HAVE discovered that most of
    the beauties of travel are due to
    the strange hours we keep to see them:

    the domes of the Church of
    the Paulist Fathers in Weehawken
    against a smoky dawn -- the heart stirred --
    are beautiful as Saint Peters
    approached after years of anticipation.

    Though the operation was postponed
    I saw the tall probationers
    in their tan uniforms
    hurrying to breakfast!
    -- and from basement entries
    neatly coiffed, middle aged gentlemen
    with orderly moustaches and
    well-brushed coats

    -- and the sun, dipping into the avenues
    streaking the tops of
    the irregular red houselets,
    the gay shadows drooping and drooping.

    -- and a young horse with a green bed-quilt
    on his withers shaking his head:
    bared teeth and nozzle high in the air!

    --and a semicircle of dirt-colored men
    about a fire bursting from an old
    ash can,

    -- and the worn,
    blue car rails (like the sky!)
    gleaming among the cobbles!

    -- and the rickety ferry-boat "Arden"!
    What an object to be called "Arden"
    among the great piers, -- on the
    ever new river!
    "Put me a Touchstone
    at the wheel, white gulls, and we'll
    follow the ghost of the Half Moon
    to the North West Passage -- and through!
    (at Albany!) for all that!"

    Exquisite brown waves -- long
    circlets of silver moving over you!
    enough with crumbling ice crusts among you!
    The sky has come down to you,
    lighter than tiny bubbles, face to
    face with you!
    His spirit is
    a white gull with delicate pink feet
    and a snowy breast for you to
    hold to your lips delicately!

    The young doctor is dancing with happiness
    in the sparkling wind, alone
    at the prow of the ferry! He notices
    the curdy barnacles and broken ice crusts
    left at the slip's base by the low tide
    and thinks of summer and green
    shell-crusted ledges among
    the emerald eel-grass!

    Who knows the Palisades as I do
    knows the river breaks east from them
    above the city -- but they continue south
    -- under the sky -- to bear a crest of
    little peering houses that brighten
    with dawn behind the moody
    water-loving giants of Manhattan.

    Long yellow rushes bending
    above the white snow patches;
    purple and gold ribbon
    of the distant wood:
    what an angle
    you make with each other as
    you lie there in contemplation.

    Work hard all your young days
    and they'll find you too, some morning
    staring up under
    your chiffonier at its warped
    bass-wood bottom and your soul --
    -- among the little sparrows
    behind the shutter.

    -- and the flapping flags are at
    half-mast for the dead admiral.

All this --
was for you, old woman.
I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you can't understand it?
But you got to try hard --
But --
Well, you know how
the young girls run giggling
on Park Avenue after dark
when they ought to be home in bed?
that's the way it is with me somehow.
--William Carlos Williams

Friday, December 15, 2006


Poems with Rain

"The Rain at Night"

With mouse-like teeth
the rain gnaws at the stone.
The trees parade through the town
like prophets.

Perhaps it's the sobbing
of the monstrous angels of darkness,
perhaps the suppressed laughter
of the flowers out there in the garden,
trying to cure consumption
by rustling.

Perhaps the purring
of the holy drought
under any kind of cover.

An unspeakable time,
when the voice of loudspeakers cracks
and poems
are not made of words
but of drops.

--Miroslav Holub
(translated by George Theiner)


"The Rented House in Maine"

At dawn, the liquid clatter of rain
pocks the bay and stutters on the roof.
Even when it's this gray, the first slant light
predicts across the rug gaunt shadows
of the generic paper birds
my landlord's pasted to the eastern wall,

all glass, to fend specific birds
from bonking themselves dull or worse
against the bright blare of false sky.
From the bay the house must look
like a grade-school homeroom gussied up
for parents' night. I like to build

a small fire first thing in the morning,
drink some coffee, drive to town,
buy the Times, drive back to embers
the color of canned tomato soup
(made not with water but with milk).
In this house I fell -- no, hurled myself --

in love, and elsewhere, day by day,
it didn't last. Tethered to lobster traps,
buoys wobble on the bay. On the slithering
surface of the water, the rain seems
topexplode -- chill shrapnel, and I look
away. Embers and cool coffee. Matter,

energy, the speed of light: the universe
can be explained by an equation. Everything
that goes from one side of the equal sign
is exactly replaced from the other; i. e.,
nothing much happens at a speed so fast
we scarcely notice it, but so steadily

the math always checks out. This is thought
as I know and love it. Why did that marriage
fail? I know the reasons and count the ways.
The clouds with squalls in their cheeks,
like chaws or tongues, have broken up.
The fire is down, the coffee cold, the sun is up.

--William Matthews


"The Three Way Tavern"

Wake up,
understanding is a joy.
There can be no sadness,
said the rainy road
when I looked out after three drinks
at the three way tavern.

--Ko Un
(translated by Clare You and Richard Silberg)


"The Last Day"

The day was cloudy. No one could come to a decision;
a light wind was blowing. 'Not a north-easter, the sirocco,' someone said.
A few slender cypresses nailed to the slope, and, byond, the sea
grey with shining pools.
The soldiers presented arms as it began to drizzle.
'Not a north-easter, the sirocco,' was the only decision heard.
And yet we knew that by the following dawn
nothing would be left to us, neither the woman drinking sleep at our side
nor the memory that we were once men,
nothing at all by the following dawn.

'This wind reminds me of spring,' said my friend
as she walked beside me gazing into the distance, 'the spring
that came suddenly in winter by the closed-in sea.
So unexpected. So many years have gone. How are we going to die?'

A funeral march meandered through the thin rain.

How does a man die? Strange no one's thought about it.
And for those who thought about it, it was like a recollection from old chronicles
from the time of the Crusades or the battle of Salamis.
Yet death is something that happens: how does a man die?
Yet each of us earns his death, his own death, which belongs to no one else
and this game is life.

The light was fading from the clouded day, no one decided anything.
The following dawn nothing would be left to us, everything surrendered, even our hands,
and our women slaves at the jspringheads and our children in the quarries.
My firend, walking beside me, was singing a disjointed song:
'In spring, in summer, slaves . . . '
One recalled old teachers who'd left us orphans.
A couple passed, talking:
'Im sick of the dusk, let's go home,
let's go home and turn on the light.'

--George Seferis
(translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)



Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of the rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

--Raymond Carver


"Walking Down Westgate in the Fall"

The weather's changes are the private rites
And secret celebrations of the soul
So widely now believed not to exist.
The first clear autumn day, the summer rain,
The sudden fall of winter and the dark
When Daylight Saving goes, the sunny melt
Of several February days, to these
Changes the soul with changes of its own
And overtones responds in resonance.

Down Westgate, in the Fall, the housewives set
Chrysanthemums in bronze or marble bowls
Forth on their stoops, defying ice and snow
With their lion's mane, sun's face ruddy glow of gold.

Things like that marry weather with the soul,
Which would have its seasons if it did exist,
And sing its songs among the falling leaves
Under the autumn rain, and celebrate
Its mass with hymns and litanies of change,
Walking down Westgate past chrysanthemums,
Consenting with the winter soon to come,
Hearing the acorns bang on the roofs of cars
And bounce and roll along the rainy street.

--Howard Nemerov



Just rain for days and everywhere it goes it fits,
like a desire become too accurate
to be of use, the water
a skirt the world
is lifting and

like a debt ceiling.
And everywhere you go you are the land between the lakes,
the stroke of luck which has the world
it splits in two
for wings.
Our ponds

are almost joined. How much more than what we wished for
must we get? How much more than plenty? Too much
of a good thing,
too much,
the head becoming
crown . . .

And how this cinderella land is in full dress, ballooning,
overriding all
ramifications, her gown
lifting and lifting
from marsh
to pond

to the lap of the lawn.
Oh the long-legged guest!
And where she comes from
I can't say, although I think it's from the peaks of new
desires to these
our living-

rooms where love
is turning out the lights when others do, a curfew we
would take
for sails. What is it
must be given back
before it

The land between the lakes
is growing thin.
Turn out the lights, I think, or water will.

--Jorie Graham


"The Prediction"

That night the moon drifted over the pond,
turning the water to milk, and under
the boughs of the trees, the blue trees,
a young woman walked, and for an instant

the future came to her:
rain falling on her husband's grave, rain falling
on the lawns of her children, her own mouth
filling with cold air, strangers moving into her house,

a man in her room writing a poem, the moon drifting into it,
a woman strolling under its trees, thinking of death,
thinking of him thinking of her, and the wind rising
and taking the moon and leaving the paper dark.

--Mark Strand


"White Bee"
( "VIII" from Twenty Love Poems
and a Song of Despair

White bee, you buzz in my soul, drunk with honey,
and your flight winds in slow spirals of smoke.

I am the one without hope, the word without echoes,
he who lost everything and he who had everything.

Last hawser, in you creaks my last longing.
In my barren land you are the final rose.

Ah you who are silent!

Let your deep eyes close. There the night flutters.
Ah your body, a frightened statue, naked.

You have deep eyes in which the night flails.
Cool arms of flowers and a lap of rose.

Your breasts seem like white snails.
A butterfly of shadow has come to sleep on your belly.

Ah you who are silent!

Here is the solitude from which you are absent.
It is raining. The sea wind is hunting stray gulls.

The water walks barefoot in the wet streets.
From that tree the leaves complain as though they were sick.

White bee, even when you are gone you buzz in my soul.
You live again in time, slender and silent.

Ah you who are silent!

--Pablo Neruda
(translated by W. S. Merwin)


The Orchards of Syon
: XX

Two nights' and three days' rain, with the Hodder
well up, over its alder roots; tumblings
of shaly late storm light; the despised
ragwort, luminous, standing out,
stereoscopically, across twenty yards,
on the farther bank. The congregants
of air and water, of swift reflection,
vanish between the brightness and shadow.
Mortal beauty is alienation; or not,
as I see it. The rest passagework,
settled beforehand, variable, to be lived through
as far as one can, with uncertain
tenure. Downstream from this Quaker outcrop
Stonyhurst's ample terraces confer
with the violent, comely
nature of Loyola and English weather;
stone, pelouse, untouched by carbon droppings,
now, from the spent mills. Indescribable,
a word accustomed through its halting
promptness, comes to be inscribed. the old
artifice so immediate, the delight
comprehends our measure: knowledge granted
at the final withholding, the image that is
to die, the creature, the rock of transience.

--Geoffrey Hill


"China Observed Through Greek Rain in Turkish Coffee"

The drizzle
falls into my coffee
until it gets cold
and runs over
until it runs over
and clears
so the picture at the bottom
comes into sight.

The picture of a man
with a long beard
in China
in front of a Chinese pavilion
in rain, heavy rain
that has congealed
in stripes
over the windblown facade
and over the face of the man.

Under the coffee, the sugar and the milk
which is curdling
under the worn glaze
the eyes seem burnt out
or turned inward
toward China, in the porcelain of the cup
slowly emptying of coffee
and running full of rain
clear rain. the spring rain
atomizes against the eaves of the tavern
the facades on the other side of the street
resemble a huge
worn wall of porcelain
whose glow penetrates the wine leaves
the win leaves which are also worn
as if inside a cup. the Chinaman
sees the sun appear through a green leaf
whcih has fallen into the cup

the cup whose contents
are now complete clear.

--Henrik Nordbrandt
(translated by the author and Alexander Taylor)


"A Fall Day"

As gray as that slumped
Figure hands deep in his
Pockets receding on the
Gravelly road lean dogs
From the trailer park on
His ass the whole soulful
Lot of them fading away
Without adieus fading
Because of all the fine sands
Piling up on lunar deserts
Which have a way of sifting
Down this way the late
Autumn light already grainy
Gritty like poor eyesight
Gray bedsheets gray back
of a woman combing her
Graying hair under the dead
Clock on the wall
Because truth's gray
Naked truth looking out
Vacant-eyed on the rain-
Blurred weedchoked outskirts
Of a dying milltown
Where her ancient mother
Keeps giving that last dime
To someone wearing a hood
Of y esterday's newspapers
Outside the urine-streaked
Theater-lobby where on Saturday
Nights they've Live Wrestling
Teeth filed to razor's sharpness
Lion-roars mad-dog-bites
Backbreakers you'd hear in China
But now all of it mute cindery
Grim and earnest
Unlettered and benighted
I believe hieroglyphically

--Charles Simic


"Five Divinities of Rain During Sleep All Night"

Turning once during sleep, I was certain
the rain was present. I might have perceived
a glinting measure of it then, like glimpsing
a gray slant of wing, an arc lost immediately
in all the other flying lines of the forest,
neve comprehending the weights nd graces
of the entire creature itself.

And once after midnight, asleep,
I know I assumed the resonance
of rain particled amog the poplar
leaves. I took in that quiet percussion
under my quilt, under my gown,
into my breastbone, into the smallest,
bone-sliver of audibility I possessed.
It rang there, many sided, hanging
with the same faltering cadence
found at the edges of star clusters
where neither rain nor tree nor
breastbone are evern found.

I turned over. This is the way the rain
is sometimes during sleep: a shroud
the body knows is descending, shredded
and surfeiting and slow, so slow
in settling, never quite arriving
to cover and stop completely the mouth
and nose and eyes with a pressure
the body comes to wish for, a smothering
motion that sleep, even without a will,
longs to imitate.

All night I became the rain, multiple,rolling over and over easily
off the roof edge, burning silver
and crooked on the glass outside,
wavering down through thunder, through
a theory of sky, down from the black
clouds, having possessed, before falling,
the moon in its shearing clarity high
above the other side of the same clouds.

I almost remember having the rain
in my arms in bed last night, knowing
its real name finally, calling its real name
with its own tongue, pulling it down
and down, saying god once, sinking
with it piece by piece into the earth,
just the way we both always wanted.

--Pattiann Rogers


"Tired of London"

When you came to town,
Warm bubbling rains came, the teething leaves,
Steaming spring earth, and the tough, small-footed birds;

Reckless colors sifted the closed, dense sky
As we went hand in hand through our larky maze
In the cultivated stubble of Hampstead Heath:

Monkshood, Foxglove, Canterbury Bells
Composed themselves to drink the bovril air
Thinned by the watery sun.

You, with no sense of giving,
Brought all the dangers I no longer dared;
Netted the wind that roared through my rented bed,

And, poised like Eros over Picadilly,
Were always there.
I cannot find the words to leave you with.

This way love's conversation, the body and mind of it, goes
On after love: we shall come to call this love,
And this roar in our ears which before very long
We become, we shall call our song.

--Jean Valentine


"The Wordless Woman," 1

The wordless woman contemplates the rain
Beyond her lowered blinds. Leaves
Choke up the railings, obstruct her throat
A while ago, a passage opened up
Amidst the raindrops' hurried murmur, like
A beast striding in spirals of the ear
Words at this moment beat a retreat
Furl up their corollas. The sky's silk
Tears into a puzzle broken up in pools

She must begin everything over in the first day's light
Gather those shards frozen on the asphalt
Warm in her arms the broken god
Osiris or Orpheus

--Claire Malroux
(translated by Marilyn Hacker)


"More Rain"
--an elegy

Indolent and watery, the nightcrawlers sprawl
four or five a stride, all the way
to the mailbox. The robin on top's a bleary orb,
a rumpled bird ball fat with reprobation,
burdened out of flight by the realm's false coin.

Nothing but wet fliers from the better life,
nothing but bills, advertisements lurid with bait.
Here's a card from my sister, where the water's not
fit to drink; here's a catalog featuring
a million dollar bra. Licking the pages

will quench a thirst. And the robin, so fat
he cannot rise when I approach,
coasts down to the mud of the road.
There the worm meat's strung for miles,
and nearby the sated cat, having neither conscience
nor appetite, maintains its vigilant wait.

The trick, they say, is in loving the rain,
the ghastly abundance of open-mouthed flowers.
Some of the worms shine and swell -- pink
seductive curls. They want it,
slurs the bird, and the ground fog whispers, So do I.
Now the red flag has fallen, now the thin door has closed.

As for the cat, it was all sometimes too much for him:
a mate's scent and everywhere a clatter of drops,
the supple and too silent transits green weeds provide for vermin.
He sniffs a worm and looks up perplexed, a tuffet
of down in his whiskers, having mistaken something else entirely
for the sound of rain on the road.

--Robert Wrigley


"Rain at Night"

This is what I have heard

at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred 'ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

but the trees have risen one more time
and the night wind makes them sound
like the sea that is yet unknown
the black clouds race over the moon
the rain is falling on the last place

--W. S. Merwin



In this rain that keeps us inside,
the frog,
wisest of creatures,
to whom all things come,
is happy, rasping out of himself
the tuneless anthem of Frog.
Further off and more like ourselves
the cows are raising a huddling protest,
a ragtag crowd, that can't get its chanting in time.
Now the crickets,
seeming to welcome the early-come twilight,
come in -- of all orchestras, the most plaintive.
Still, in this rain soft as fog
that can only be known to be rain by the windows' streaming,
surely all Being at bottom is happy:
soaked to the bone, sopped at the root,
fenny, seeped through, yielding as coffee grounds
yield to their percolation, blushing, completely seduced,
assenting as they give in to the downrushing water,
the murmur of falling, the fluvial, purling wash
of all the ways matter loves matter,
riding its gravity down, into the body,
rising through cell-strands of xylem, leaflet and lung-flower,
back into air.

--Jane Hirshfield


"Rainy Night"

While the shattered night in the flooded ditch
was rocking a new leaf
as if rocking its child to sleep
while the lamplight threaded raindrops
studded your shoulders
gleaming and rolling down
you said no
in such a resolute tone
but a smile revealed your heart's secret

With moist palms the low black clouds
kneaded your hair
kneading in the fragrance of flowers and my burning breath
our shadows lengthened in the street lights
connected each crossing each dream
catching the riddle of our happiness in their net
tears from earlier torments
soaked your handerchief
forgotten in a pitchblack doorway

Even if tomorrow morning
the muzzle and the bleeding sun
make me surrender freedom youth and pen
I will never surrender this evening
I will never surrender you
let walls stop up my mouth
let iron bars divide my sky
as long as my heart keeps pounding the blood will ebb and flow
and your smile be imprinted on the crimson moon
rising each night outside my small window
recalling memories

--Bei Dao
(translated by Bonnie S. McDougall))


"Out of Eden"

Under the May rain over the dug grave
my mother is given canticles and I who believe
in everything watch flowers stiffen to new bloom.

Behind us the rented car fabricates a cave.
My mother nods: Is he? He is. But, is? Nods.
angels shoo witches from this american tomb.

The nod reaches me. It is something I can save.
He left days ago. We, so that we too may leave,
install his old belongings in a bizarre new room.
I want to kneel indignantly anywhere and rave.

Well, God help us, now my father's will is God's.
At games and naming he beat Adam. He loved his Eve.
I knew him and his wicked tongue. What he had, he gave.

I do not know where to go to do it, but I grieve.

--Marie Ponsot


"Slow, May Rain"

It's raining, raining, just to rain.
For two hours my roof has been pattering.
The slender acacia clusters
huddle together high above like girls
drenched to the skin at first communion.
The beautiful cache of their chastity can be seen.

Now and again a lightning flash hisses.
Madly, it runs to death.
My fits of jealousy zigzagged
through me like this, when
in my youth and stupidity I feared
to lose the world in every love.

Today I don't fear for anything
and I'm not afraid of anything. I've had
too many wars in my life, too many
sleepless years and fragment-loves.
The trees of Budapest were wilting around me,
but I was breathing with the forest's lungs.

When I think of my past, how many rains like this
keep falling! How many tiny chainlinks
from the fingers of God! And they're not
just pattering on my roof, but also on my bones.
On the bright foreheads of my dead which,
like stopped clocks, watch and call me to account.

t's raining, raining, just to rain.
For two hours my roof has been pattering.
The slender acacia clusters
huddle together high above like girls
drenched to the skin at first communion.
The beautiful cache of their chastity can be seen.

--Sandor Csoori
(translated by Len Roberts)


"Rain Falls on the Ravine"

Rain falls on the ravine, the world.
Hoopoes alighting on our barn
Crown wandering columns of smoke.
Dawn, consent to us once more today.

I hear the first wasp
Already rousing in the warmth
Of the fog that seals this path
Where a few puddles shine.

The wasp searches
In peace, invisible. I could believe
That I am here, that I listen; but its hum
Deepens only in my mind. The path
Beneath my feet is no longer the path,
Only my dream
Of the wasp, the hoopoes, the fog.

I liked setting out at dawn. Time lay asleep
In the embers, forehead pressed against the ashes.
In the room upstairs the shadows' ebb
Uncovered our bodies, breathing in peace.

Rain of summer mornings, plashing
Unforgettably, like a first chill
On the windowpane of dream.
The sleeper, parting from himself
In this rain that pelted the world,
Asked with naked hands for the other body,
Still asleep, and for its heat,

(Squalls slap the roof tiles,
The room thrusts ahead by fits and starts
In the surging swell of light.
The storm
Has invaded the sky, lightning
Cracks with a loud shout
And the riches of the thunderbolt pour out.)

I get up and see that our boat
Has veered in the night.
The fire has died down.
The chill pushes the sky with a flick of its oar.
The water's surface is light alone.
But underneath? Faded tree-trunks,
Boughs entangled like a dream, stones
With eyes the rapid stream has closed
And that smile in the sand's embrace.

--Yves Bonnefoy
(translated by Hoyt Rogers)


"Meditation in the Spring Rain"

In the april rain I climbed up to drink
of the live water leaping oof the hill,
white over the rocks. Where the mossy root
of a sycamore cups the flow, I drank
and saw the branches feathered with green.
The thickets, I said, send up their praise
at dawn. Was that what I meant -- I meant
my words to have the heft and grace, the flight
and weight of the very hill, its life
rising -- or was it some old exultation
that abides with me? We'll not soon escape
the faith of our fathers -- no more than
crazy old Mrs. Gaines, whom my grandmother
remembers standing balanced eighty years ago
atop a fence in Port Royal, Kentucky,
singing: "One Lord, one Faith, and one
Cornbread." They had a cage built for her
in a room, "nearly as big as the room, not
cramped up," and when she grew wild
they kept her there. But mostly she went free
in the town, and they allowed the children
to go for walks with her. She strayed once
beyond where they thought she went, was lost
to them, "and they had an awful time
finding her." For her, to be free
was only to be lost. What is it about her
that draws me on, so that my mind becomes a child
to follow after her? An old woman
when my grandmother was a girl, she must have seen
the virgin forest standing here, the amplitude
of our beginning, of which no speech
remains. Out of the town's lost history,
buried in minds long buried, she has come,
brought back by a memory near death. I see her
in her dusky clothes, hair uncombed, the children
following. I see her wandering, muttering
to herself as her way was, among these hills
half a century before my birth, in the silence
of such speech as I know. Dawn and twilight
and dawn again trembling in the leaves
over her, she tramped the ravelling verges
of her time. It was a shadowy country
that she knew, holding a darkness that was past
and a darkness to come. The fleeting lights
tattered her churchly speech to mad song.
When her poor wandering head broke the confines
of all any of them knew, they put her in a cage,
not cramped up. and I am glad to know
that other times the town left her free
to be as she was in it, and to go her way.
May it abide a poet with as much grace!
For I too am perhaps a little mad,
standing here wet in the drizzle, listening
to the clashing syllables of the water. surely
there is a great Word being put together here.
I begin to hear it gather in the opening
of the flowers and the leafing-out of the trees,
in the growth of bird nests in the crotches
of the branches, in the settling of the dead
leves into the ground, in the whittling
of beetle and grub, in my thoughts
moving in the hill's flesh.. Coming here,
I crossed a place where a stream flows
underground, and the sounds of the hidden water
and the water come to light braided in my ear.
I think the maker is here, creating his hill
as it will be, out of what it was.
The thickets, I say, send up their praise
at dawn! One Lord, one Faith, and one Cornbread
forever! But hush. Wait. Be as still
as the dead and the unborn in whose silence
that old one walked, muttering and singing,
followed by the children.
For a time there
I turned away from the words I knew, and was lost.
For a time I was lost and free, speechless
in the multitudinous assembling of his Word.
--Wendell Berry

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