Saturday, December 15, 2007


Some More Short Poems


After the passing of irresistible
music you must learn to make
do with a dripping faucet,
rain or sleet on the roof,
eventually snow,
a cat's sigh,
the spherical notes that float
down from Aldebaran,
your cells as they part,
craving oxygen.

-- Jim Harrison

* * *

"The Bomb"

Murder in the lithosphere.
Clay burst from the rock,
fire flowed from the clay.

At the base of the crater
a naked, tender, loving
frog's heart
still beats.

-- Mitroslav Holub
(Translated from the Czech by David Young and Dana Habova)

* * *


Early morning corn
shock quick river
edge ice crack duck

Grasses' dry membranous
breaks tick-tack tiny
wind strips

-- Lorine Niedecker

* * *


Nothing has a name it can't
slip out of. The waterfall is solid ice
by late November; the white pines
vanish under snow that's
blue in the morning, pink in the dusk.

Here's a little bouquet -- ice
and evergreen and sun, three moments
arranged for human looking,
though it's only the husks of their names
that I've gathered and paralyzed.

-- Chase Twitchell

* * *


Who said to the trout,
You shall die on Good Friday
To be food for a man
And his pretty lady?

It was I, said God,
Who formed the roses
In the delicate flesh
And the tooth that bruises.

-- R. S. Thomas

* * *

"Old Age"

As my future
grows shorter
the past
when summoned
converted into now
traps me in its nets.

-- Claribel Alegria
(Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden)

* * *


it's night and Tom
comes in and says,
"It's pouring buckets
out," his blond hair
diamond-dusted with
raindrop fragments.

-- James Schuyler

* * *

"sunrise like a radish"

sunrise like a radish
pulled up beneath us

this is the god Ra
the orisons of Osiris

lustrations of iris
living white samite

-- shine upon shine
sheen through sheen

-- Ronald Johnson

* * *

"The Attic"

Her brain is an attic where things
were stored over the years.

From time to time her face appears
in the little windows near the top of the house.

The sad face of someone who has been locked up
and forgotten about.

-- Raymond Carver

* * *

"A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen"
9th Avenue and West 48th street, New York,
October 1998

Above the deli in Hell's Kitchen where the fire erupted,
above the firefighters charging with hoses like great serpents,
above the fingerprints of smoke smearing the night,
above the crowd calling his name with tilted faces,
avove the fire truck and its ladder reaching for him,

a man leaned elbows on the third-floor fire escape,
bronze skin, black hair in a braid, leather jacket,
with a grin for the firefighters
bellowing at the crowds to stand back,
a Mayan astronomer in Hell's Kitchen
watching galaxies spiral in the fingerprints of smoke,
smoking a cigarette.

-- Martin Espada

* * *


Gold stillness of September:
upstairs, in a small room,
the world fades away.
Slant light, bedclothes
in a tangled heap.

Night trails past,
its velvet hem
rustling in the dewy grass.
At your window,
a white face vanishes.

-- Jan Zwicky

* * *

"Not Writing"

A wasp rises to its papery
nest under the eaves
where it daubs

at the gray shape,
but seems unable
to enter its own house.

-- Jane Kenyon

* * *

"The Edge of the World"

I light the lamp and look at my watch.
Four-thirty. Tap out my shoes
because of the scorpions, and go out
into the field. Such a sweet night.
No moon, but urgent stars. Go back inside
and make hot chocolate on my butane burner.
I search around with the radio through
the skirl of the Levant. "Tea for Two"
in German. Finally, Cleveland playing
the Rams in the rain. It makes me feel
acutely here and everybody somewhere else.

-- Jack Gilbert

* * *


Light hosanna'd in the mirrors.
We were double, multiple; but our quadrille
ended when you bowed and faded.

This evening in you walked -- foot-sore, apologetic.
A ministrel, out of tune.
The sun had gone, the room was brown

through the rattan blinds,
and I'm no coy languisher, no Penelope.
I'd done my scribbling in the book of you.

-- Anne Rouse

* * *

"Thundering Beat of Hummingbird Wings"

All around us: migration,
the great pull of catharsis,
the rising of the daffodil
and out, to the sea of disaster,

the crisp purple leaf, the
final dust, a crimping
curl of drought. No doubt,
a rummaging hush to menacing

cold, the sudden season, the thundering
beat of hummingbird wings.

-- Lorna Dee Cervantes

* * *


It is December and no birds sing.
Empty nests hang like ornaments in the trees.
My dog moves along the winding path,
stopping occasionally to test his nose
on a naked branch, and when I call to him,
fearing he has strayed too far,
I watch the name I gave him years ago
sing through his bones and for a moment
he hesitates, the animal in him
wanting to go further into these woods
where names, words, won't reach.

--Chris Banks

* * *

"Ghetto Funeral"

Followed by his lodge, shabby men stumbling over the cobblestones,
and his children, faces red and ugly with tears, eyes and eyelids red,
in the black coffin in the black hearse the old man.

No longer secretly grieving
that his children are not strong enough to go the way he wanted to go
and was not strong enough.

-- Charles Reznikoff

* * *

"In March"

The snow melts,
exposing what was
buried there all winter:
tricycles and
fire engines and
all sizes of children
waiting in boots and
yellow mackintoshes
for the mud.

-- Anne Stevenson

* * *

"In the House"

Sometimes it is quiet throughout the night
And you learn in the morning that
The man in the next room
Died in his sleep.

But there is no shortage of applicants
For the room.

-- Ted Berrigan

* * *

"The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead"

The dead do not want us dead;
such petty errors are left for the living.
Nor do they want our mourning.
No gift to them -- not rage, not weeping.
Return one of them, any one of them, to the earth,
and look: such foolish skipping,
such telling of bad jokes, such feasting!
Even a cucumber, even a single anise seed; feasting.

September 15, 2001

--Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Some Poems Translated from Other Languages

"Rehearsals for the Wreck"

Other than the purple dreams of bougainvillea
and that crazy kitchen
I'd painted orange and electric blue
-- colors I'd thought might please
the husband whose memory of me was already fading --
no joy at all was left behind
in that little house on 66th Street.

I left behind
like rehearsals for the wreck
the nights of held-back rage
and, amid cigarette butts and bottles,
the mornings of fragile sanity.

I took away with me
family photos,
my son and all his smiles,
little cans of oregano, saffron and basil,
and the boxes of salt and oats
I'd inherited from
so many of the friends and companions
who'd passed through my life:

the essence that nourishes this poem
as it drifts toward the sidewalk in an autumn
full of springtime.

-- Lucha Corpi
Translated from the Spanish by Catherine Rodrigues-Nieto

* * *

"The Arrow"

Wounded, he'd have
been lost in the forest,
had he not followed the arrow.

More than half
of it
protruded from his chest
and showed him the way.

the arrow
had struck him in the back
and pierced his body.
Its bloodied tip
was a signpost.

What a blessing
to have it point
a path
between the trees!

Now he knew
he'd hever again
go wrong

and he
wasn't far
from the mark.

-- Marin Sorescu
Translated from the Romanian by John Hartley Williams & Hilde Ottschofski

* * *

"To the Last Stop"

Each time I wake the scenery has changed
in which direction is time flowing
Ahead and behind, rails of mercury gleam
-- Where will you get off
-- I'm going to the last stop
Weeds growing thick and wild I fall asleep
Coiled up in soft sunbeams of sunlight
tail of dream in mouth
(Perhaps after all the head is not the beginning
nor the tail the end)
It seems as though I haven't yet been born
and the world is the light beyond the egg shell
An alarm clock is ringing far off
Whose morning is that
Eggs hatching all at once
grammar school games between joyous teams
As the starting fun is fired
a hearse is waiting at the school gate
Carried away in sleep
Each time I wake the scenery has changed
The air is filled with butterflies
Tumbling over they become dead leaves
scatter away leaving emptiness behind
A roaring tunnel of hollowness
-- Where is the last stop
-- Don't you know either

-- Tada Chimako
Translated from the Japanese by Robert Brady and Kerstin Vidaeus

* * *

"The Owl's Night"

There is, here, a present not embraced by the past.
Whe we reached the last of the trees, we knew we were unable to pay attention.
And when we returned to the ships, we saw absence piling up its chosen objects
and pitching its eternal tent around us.

There is, here, a present not embraced by the past.
A silken thread is drawn out of mulberry trees
froming letters on the page of night.
Only the butterflies cast light upon our boldness
in plunging into the pit of strange words.
Was that condemned man my father?
Perhaps I can handle my life here.
Perhaps I can now give birth to myself
and choose different letters for my name.

There is, here, a present, sitting in an empty kitchen
gazing at the tracks of those crossing the river on reeds.
A present polishing the flutes with its wind.
Perhaps speech could become transparent, so we could
see open windows in it, and perhaps time could hurry along with us,
carrying our tomorrow in its luggage.

There is, here, a timeless present, and here no one can find anyone.
No one remembers how we went out the door like a gust of wind,
and at what hour we fell from yesterday, and then
yesterday shattered on the tiles
in shards for others to reassemble into mirrors
reflecting their images over ours.

There is, here, a placeless present.
Perhaps I can handle my life and cry out in the owl's night:
Was this condemned man my father who burdens me with his history?
Perhaps I will be transformed within my name, and will choose
my mother's words and way of life, exactly as they should be.
Thus, she could cajole me each time salt touched my blood,
and give me food each time a nightinglae bit me in the mouth.

There is, here, a transient present.
Here, strangers hand their rifles on the olive's branches,
to prepare their dinner in haste out of tin cans
and rush huddiedly to their trucks.

-- Mahmoud Darwish
Translated from the Arabic by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forché, with Sinan Antoon and Amira El-Zein

* * *

from "Eighteen Poems"

As a woman might
give or not give herself,

incalculation, in love;
a maple leaf have long begun
its fall, or have not quite
let go its branch;

the drops of water on my lips
how mindful of their river still,
its flow -- but no longer of
the sea of clouds, so self-enlacing
in their billows, so self-effacing.

-- Hans Faverey
Translated from the Dutch by Francis R. Jones

* * *

"Potato Thief"

The year was as long and dark as a bed,
I slept between two winds;
the bush was filling with black berries.

I went round two museums,
the first for turn-of-the-century middle-class interiors,
the second for state-purchased paintings
suitable for turn-of-the-century middle-class interiors.
The year was long and dark
the forest was pushing through the museums.

In summer the bush bloomed,
I very nearly bought a car
but then I stole a middle-class person's potatoes
and taught them how to behave themselves. Horrible summer!
Autumn gave us the moist glad eye from afar
and I was excluded from all restaurants.

I read some cardboard cut-out poets
with speech coming out of their mouths like writing;
the poets were sitting on wooden stools
in two forests and listening to the moon.

I slept without a pillow in a long and dark bed,
the police set off after me
and the potatoes thumbed their noses at the police.
The suns were small as black berries.
I hopped on a bike and fled from the world.
I pedaled us a hill and a girl was holding a basket,
a girl in a blue skirt, she sat on the bicycle rack.
At the top of the hill I took the girl's skirt off,
the girl opened her basket and tiny lions leapt straight out
and scrambled under the snow to hibernate.

The police were after me.
I leaped off the bicycle saddle through the moon into the sky.
I yelled, "Last one through's a rotten egg."

-- Pentti Saarikoski
Translated from the Finnish by Herbert Lomas

* * *

"African Poem"

There on the horizon
the fire
and the dark silhouettes of the imbondeiro trees
with their arms raised
in the air the green smell of burnt palm trees

On the road
the line of Bailundo porters
groaning under their loads of crueira*

in the room
the sweet sweet-eyed mulatress
retouching her face with rouge and rice-powder
the woman under her many clothes moving her hips
on the bed
the sleepless man thinking
of buying knives and forks to eat with at a table

On the sky the reflections
of the fire
and the silhouette of the blacks as the drums
with their arms raised
in the air the warm tune of marimbas

On the road the porters
in the room the mulatress
on the bed the sleepless man

The burning colas consuming
consuming with fire
the warm country of the horizons.

(*crueira = maize flower)

-- Antonio Agostinho Neto
Translated from the Portuguese by W. S. Merwin

* * *

"A Jungle Night"

A jungle night -- it rains and rains, roofs leak.
Shivering with cold, we hug our knees, trade stares.
The pale blue dot of fire on an oil lamp.
The can for piss, the can for shit.
The bed with stinging bugs.
A prisoner's New Year's Eve, in Sixty-one.

-- Nguyen Chi Thien
Translated from the Vietnamese by Huynh Sanh Thong

* * *

"Ode to the Lizard"

On the sand
with a sandy tail.
a leaf,
a leaflike

From what planet,
from what
cold green ember
did you fall?
From the moon?
From frozen space?
Or from
the emerald
did your color
climb the vine?

On a rotting
tree trunk
you are
a living
of its foliage.
On a stone
you are a stone
with two small, ancient
eyes --
eyes of the stone.
By the
you are
silent, slippery
a fly
you are the dart
of an annihilating dragon.

And to me,
my childhood,
a lazy
cold, small
and green;
you are a long-ago
beside cool waters,
with books unopened.

The water flows and sings.

The sky, overhead, is a
warm corolla.

-- Pablo Neruda
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden

* * *

"House in the Field"

all very simple: a mouse -- rubbish quivering
and wind round the corner
and there -- a road in the rain at night
and just here -- in the garden -- a table
abandoned: and the talk -- all sidelong and aslant
clinging and rustling
of familiar (like an old jersey) leaves
and homeland-mist -- ever more ever nearer
with the soul-glance -- of long gone long gone
(how can I speak it) mother . . . --

-- here the bell of the Tyrol sings out
itself alone: riv-ver: all wide open
like purest blood . . . . . . . . . --

swallow in hiding and mouse
call out to the heart: you shut the door
and with twilight of soul in the house
feeling your way . . . -- so the world is ended:

closed up -- with a long forgotten whisper

-- Gennady Aygi
Translated from the Russian by Peter France

* * *

"A Dress of Fire"

You know, she said, they made you
a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason's wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.

You've got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress that glows
like an ember, that burns like coals.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don't wear it.
It's not the wind whistling, it's the poison
seeping in.
You're not even a princess, what can you do to Medea?
can't you tell one sound from another, she said,
it's not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I went out into the street.
The smell of shampoo trailed after me like a cloud.
Then I got sick from the wind and the rain.
I didn't know a thing about reading Greek trageides,
but the smell of the perfume spread
and I was very sick.
Now I can see it's an unnatural perfume.

What will happen to you now, she said,
they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said. I know.
so why are you standing there, she said,
you've got to be careful.
You know what a burning dress is, don't you?

I know, I said, but I don't know
how to be careful.
The smell of that perfume confuses me.
I said to her, No one has to agree with me,
I don't believe in Greek tragedies.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted,\
what are y ou saying?
I'm not wearing a dress at all,
what's burning is me.

-- Dahlia Ravisovitch
Translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Ariel Bloch

* * *

from "Motets"

Shears, don't cut away that face
alone in my emptying memory,
don't make her great glistening look
into my everyday haze.

A chill descends . . . The sharp blow strikes.
and by itself the hurt acacia
shakes off the cicada's husk
into the first November wind.

-- Eugenio Montale
Translated from the Italian by Jonathan Galassi

* * *

"When Autumn Came"

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn from its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Oh, God of May, have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.

Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.

-- Faiz Ahmen Faiz
Translated from the Urdu by Naomi Lazard

* * *

"An Umbrella from Piccadilly"

If you're at your wits' end concerning love
try falling in love again --
say, with the Queen of england.
Why not!
Her features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
But if you were to ask her
for a date in Hyde Park
you can bet that
you'd wait in vain.

If you've any sense at all
you'll wisely tell yourself:
Why of course I know:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.

when he was in England
my son bought me in London's Piccadilly
an elegant umbrella.
whenever necessary
I now have above my head
my own small sky
which may be black
but in its tensioned wire spokes
God's mercy may be flowing like
an electric current.

I open my umbrella even when it's not raining,
as a canopy
over the volume of shakespeare's sonnets
I carry with me in my pocket.

But there are moments when I am frightened
even by the sparkling bouquet of the universe.
Outstripping its beauty
it threatens us with its infinity
and that is all too similar
to the sleep of death.
It also threatens us with the void and frostiness
of its thousands of stars
which at night delude us
with their gleam.

The one we have named Venus
is dowright terrifying.
Its rocks are still on the boil
and like gigantic waves
mountains are rising up
and burning sulphur falls.

we always ask where hell is.
It is there!

but what use is a fragile umbrella
against the universe?
Besides, I don't even carry it.
I have enough of a job
to walk along
clinging close to the ground
as a nocturnal moth in daytime
to the coarse bark of a tree.

all my life I have sought the paradise
that used to be here,
whose traces I have found
only on women's lips
and in the curves of their skin
when it is warm with love.

All my life I have longed
for freedom.
At last I've discovered the door
that leads to it.
It is death.

Now that I'm old
some charming woman's face
will sometimes waft between my lshes
and her smile will stir my blood.

Shyly I turn my head
and remember the Queen of england,
whose features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
God save the queen!

Oh, yes, I know quite well:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.

-- Jaroslav Seifert
--Translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers

* * *

"Eve Oh Eve"

Why won't Eve eat of the fruit?
Didn't Eve have a hand to reach out with,
fingers with which to make a fist;
didn't Eve have a stomach to feel hunger with,
a tongue to feel thirst,
a heart with which to love?

But then why won't Eve eat of the fruit?

Why would Eve mere suppress her wishes,
regulate her steps?
Sudue her thirst?
Why would Eve be so compelled
to keep Adam moving around in the Garden of Eden
all their lives?

Because eve has eaten of the fruit
there are sky and earth,
because she has eaten
there are moon, sun, rivers, and seas.
Because she has eaten, trees, plants and vines,
because Eve has eaten of the fruit
there is joy, because she has eaten there is joy,
joy, joy --
Eating of the fruit, eve made a heave of the earth.

Eve, if you get hold of the fruit
don't ever refrain from eating.

-- Taslima Nasrin
Translated from the Bengali by Carolyne Wright and Mohammad Nurul Huda

* * *


The ship you've boarded
is doomed to go under --
vanish into the breathing sea.

But you still have time to stare at the flag,
or at the dark, unfolding plain,
or at the white birds twittering
over their watery grave.

You still have time to lean on the rail,
puzzled by a sound in the passageway --
though the whole ship is empty,
though every door is ajar --

till cool flames float up
from every cabin.

-- Gu Cheng
Translated from the Chinese by Donald Finkel

* * *


O whitewashed chapel
with icons worn out by kisses!
Your door is shut
only with a spike and a twist of wool
such as one gathers among thistles
and twines around the finger
The oil cruse stands ready
and the greasy lamp, and the plate
for him who has a penny
for him who hs matches
Old and new icons
a gift of mothers
-- occasions have not been wanting --
for him who was left in the pass
for him who was taken as a janissary
for him whose eyesight was emptied
for him who was lost with Markos --
cheap prints under glass
Big as a sheepcote:
Your bells the sheepbells
tinkling somewhere up in the mountains
chapel whose lock is wool.

-- Gunnar Ekelof
Translated from the Swedish by Leonard Nathan and James Larson

* * *

"Flower-Patterned Snake"

A back path, steeped in musk and mint.
A beautiful snake.
Into what monstrous sorrow must you have been born
to bear a form so repulsive.

Like flower-patterned anklets.
Your grandfather's eloquent, eve-beguiling tongue,
voiceless, flickers round your red mouth.
the blue skies -- bite them,
in your resentment bit them

and flee, take your face away!

I follow,
hurling stone upon stone after you

down the scented, grass-choked path,
gasping as if I had swallowed oil,
but not because eve was an ancestor's wife.

How I would like to wear your colors
more lovely than flower-patterned anklets.

the lovely mouth, gleaming red
as if wet with Cleopatra's blood.
sink down, my snake!

Twenty-year-old Sunie's mouth, beautiful
as a cat's . . . sink down, my snake!

-- So Chong-Ju
Translated from the Korean by David R. McCann

* * *


With the years, purely by chance, with nothing in mind, they replaced
the white of marble with the white of whitewash -- a somewhat
more blinding white, of course, more on the outside -- it was needed;
the words and drawings on the walls were too many. Now
one after the other, they whitewash courtyards, flowerpots, stones,
even the trees, up to the middle -- it gives a certain radiance, a cleanness;
it smells of health -- and so, sidewalks and chruches shine
with a new classical simplicity -- something that's ours. In the evening
they put a pot of geraniums on the whitewashed wall
and look out to sea. On the doorstep across the way, dame Pelayia
looks angry -- her black dress spattered
with drops of whitewash, as though blooming with small daisies.

-- Yannis Ritsos
Translated from the Greek by N. C. Germanacos

* * *

"In The Studio"

With a light step
he moves
from spot to spot
from fruit to fruit

the good gardener
props a flower with a stick
a human being with joy
the sun with deep blue

nudges his glasses
puts on a tea kettle
mumbles to himself
strokes the cat

When God built the world
he wrinkled his forehead
calculated and calculated
hence the world is perfect
and impossible to live in

on the other hand
a painter's world
is good
and full of error
the eye strolls
from spot to spot
from fruit to fruit

the eye purrs
the eye smiles
the eye remembers
the eye says you'll last
if you manage to enter
right into that center
where the painter was
he who has no wings
wears floppy slippers
he who has no Virgil
with a cat in a pocket
a genial imagination
an unconscious hand
correcting the world

-- Zbigniew Herbert
Translated from the Polish by Alizza Valles

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