Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Some Poems With One-Word Titles


The double truth of all the senses --

a convoy of images passes the eye
they are like a vision under water
and between the black and white
filters the uncertainty of colors
it wavers slightly in the pure air
our seeing is a mirror or a sieve --
a wavering wisdom of moist eyes
seeps through it drop by drop

under sweetness bitterness dozes
so the deranged tongue cries out

in hearing's shell where an ocean
is like a ball of yarn where a white
shadow's silence attracts a stone
just a muddle of stars and leaves

from earth's center a tangled smell
a world between smell and surprise

and touch in tis certainty comes
to return to things their stillness
over the ear's lie the eye's chaos
there grows a dam of ten fingers
a hard and faithless mistrust lays
its fingers in the world's wound
to divide thing from appearance

O you must true you alone
can give utterance to love
you alone offer consolation
we are both blind and deaf

-- touch grows on the edge of truth

-- Zbigniew Herbert
(translated by Alissa Valles)

* * *


A man I used to know
Has become my child
One day his mouth grew hard and small
Trying not to let me catch him smiling

From caress of finger
From breathy sticky kiss
He got nothing but a command
To sleep and sleep over
From day to day

Pips in an apple rattle
Like the hurt seeds of his mind
Under his low tread
The fruit breaks and opens
And shells out from sharp capsule
Its small brown stones

Bring me an old plate
And set it under the tree
I want to arrange the crabseeds
So as to resemble
Some kind of disorder

-- Anne Szumigalski

* * *


When I was little, I thought the word loin
and the word lion were the same thing.

I thought celibate was a kind of fish.
My parents wanted me to be well-rounded,

so they threw dinner plates at each other,
until I curled up into a little ball.

I've had the wind knocked out of me
but never the hurricane. I've seen two

hundred and sixty-three rats in the past year,
but never more than one at a time.

It could be the same rat, with a very high
profile. I know what it's like to wear

my liver on my sleeve. I walk in
department stores, looking suspicious,

approach the security guard, say What?
I didn't take anything. Go ahead, frisk me,

Big Boy!
I go to funerals and tell
the grieving family The soul of the decesaed

is trapped inside my rib cage and trying
to reach you.
Once I thought I found love,

but then I realized I was just out
of cigarettes. Some people are boring

because their parents had boring sex
the night they were conceived. In the year

thirteen hundred thirteen, a little boy died
who had the exact same scars as me.

-- Jeffrey McDaniel

* * *


The sheer grip and the push of it -- growth gets
a footledge in the loosest stems, it takes
the litterings of weeds and clocks them round;
your eyeballs bud and alter and you can't
step twice in the same foot -- I know a road,
the curve throws it one way and another;
somebody slipped the gears and bucketed slowly
into the hawthorns and his car took root
and in its bonnet now, amazing flowers
appear and fade and quiddify the month;
and us on bicycles -- it was so fast
wheeling and turning we were lifted falling,
our blue-sky jackets filling up like vowels . . .
and now we float in the fair blow of springtime,
kingfishers, each astonishing the other
to be a feathered nerve, to take the crack
between the river's excess and the sun's.

-- Alice Oswald

* * *


we've been struck by a landslide
of rocks stones pebbles

you could say that the poets
have stoned poetry to death
with words

only the stuttering
Demosthenes made good
use of pebbles
turning them
in his mouth
till be bled
he became one of the greatest
in the world

I too stumbled on a stone
at the very start of my journey

-- Tadeusz Rozewicz
(translated by Bill Johnston)

* * *


A deep pink face webbed in canary yellow netting,
swaddled in infant finery, flesh soft to the eye.
This is how we first met; you, unblinking,
a week old, and the order of my life shifted.
I was four and you seemed outside of me,
outside of meaning. The nine months before
were blank, no recollection of waiting
for what must have been our mother's
marvelously round alien body. For it to turn
to this.
At four, I stared at the full-length

mirror, then sprinted to the back of it
to find my revenant. My first inexplicable
equation: the hide and seek of my image.
How easily it slipped away. At four,
all was accommodation of mysteries: a new baby,
the advent of snails after rain, the wide
valley of guinea-pig grass -- a green, fluent sea
on which our cement and glass house sailed;
the magic appearance and disappearance
of this man, Neville, our father, who grinned
while bearing y ou as he did gifts
from exotic ports; smiling proudly
with that familiar gap-tooth and those
mischievous eyes grey as a blind man's
marble eye; bearng you, his lump of pink flesh,
eyes tightly shut, fingers curled.
Now the world had changed as worlds must.
Your coming was yellow like the blooming
of those poisonous bulbs flaming in the yard.

-- Kwame Dawes

* * *


The pine pierces the hills' whiteness
and the Piave icy muscle
stirs in its snares, in the woods.
See the marvelous design
the bright steady providence
the fluency that expresses
and re-knots and unravels
echoes gems currents.
Between you changing forms and valleys scarcely
solicited by the klaxon's breath,
murmured by the dawn,
my worth the leaf that rests
with the live thistle the cocoon the gold,
my worth the tiny wave
that was your thirst one day, squirrel,
my worth beyond doubt beyond winter
that lingers blue on your balconies
my worth more than your own self
fainting with snow
which the motor, fleeing
behind the sun, abandons forever.

-- Andrea Zanzotto
(translated by Ruth Feldmand and Brian Swann)

* * *


Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
weere the best of all my days

-- Frank O'Hara

* * *


Large on purpose, my mother's purse hangs by her side
like a colostomy bag. She is a suffering woman,
and her organs know it.

Streets have the nerve to exist when she walks upon them,
clouds have the hubris to puff, the caju trees know
how to bleed such sonorous juice that her ears
burn in discomfort.

Flowers turn like pinwheels inside her mind.
Her children scurry like mice.
If she zips open her purse, be advised:
Her memories are having seizures.

The whole thing might spill out.
Then she'd really be a target for the pickpockets.

-- Priscilla Uppal

* * *


A wagtail darts into the shed at all angles
from trusses and supports, hovering in corners,
twitching with what seems to be semi-confidence
on boxes of books, its insect search more intense
than fear of my presence; but fear is reaction
and reading it tells you nothing of the causes
beyond the obvious, the precedents that build
histories of caution and sensitivity:
this flight within the building, dizzying flight plan,
short passages strung together, accumulation
of the random and the planned. The wagtail has done
this before, knowing the location of objects,
that shed corners are likely insect hotspots -- gnats,
mosquitoes, flies, and a paper wasp weathering
the first days of winter, sluggish and extremely
vulnerable, and spiders playing the advocate's
role, also waiting both ways, this internal flight.
Outside, single-engine Cessnas and Pilatus
Porters -- ex-military -- lumber through gauze cloud,
encircling the mountain, then unloading over
the drop zone, jumpers descending seeds infesting
paddocks surrounding their targets, the wind stirring
then denying its presence. Every few minutes
the crone comes 'round, as last crops are set to boggy
ground, those who waited just too long, the quality
and yield of grain a game of chance, intuition,
experience. The wagtail jinks out into light.
Flu weatherk air pockets shifting, overlaying . . .
the bird's thin legs have you thinking fragility
like tenterhooks, or tenuous point-taking, or
pivoting on a detail of theology,
the operator of machinery no more
socially minded than enigmatic, that's flight
or a variety of palaver within
the germinal, unfurling across the furrows,
the boggy soil, integrated into the ups
and downs of walking, even gentle traversing.
The telegraph is down to zero, sidetracking
railway line and freight trains in the hours before
dawn. And some birds even then, night birds' cryptic song . . .
countering the morning birds of the Cambridge fens.
For safety on lonely roads his partner carries
a mobile telephone -- reception tentative.
Weight for weight, the body has that dizzy feeling,
intense giddiness of seemingly proper speech,
as if words should be ordered; skittish eye and ear,
such tiny claws, species without social conscience?
Polyrhythmic, auxiliary, scattered clauses
pied and dissolute nations of dexterity:
target, flight-path, fly-catch, out before we know it!

-- John Kinsella

* * *


Nothing, of course, comes entirely by itself.
You too must search in order to find. In the morning
the sun comes in from the window to the east and discolors
the two crimson armchairs; it stays a while, then withdraws,
leaving behind it but an idea of mildness -- that
quiet effacement.
And the carpet flowers,

previously stepped on, have their justifications, have
their ear glued to the floor, listening
to the rhythmical galloping of underground horses. Then
the unspeaking woman enters; and you see
how she takes care not to step on the flowers.

Perhaps the inconceivable can be endured by two together,
although it never reveals itself to more than one.

-- Yannis Ritsos
(translated by Kimon Friar)

* * *


ONe day I too will be
found, a lightning root
in as sky underground,

marked by whatever the years
will have done -- the fur
my hands have stroked, the greens

that pushed through soil
and passed my lips,
the darkness my bones carried

and yes, something
glittering in the champagne
those nights I thought I would live

forever, petal that I was.
The wind wrapped me in a skein of cries.
I aged closer to the ground

and fell in with the weather as she
changed and changed her mind.
My breasts ached.

Then shrank. My bones
thinned to lace. Was this
a departure? Some

would have it so -- some
who walk the world with one
blind eye and one empty socket.

-- Leslie Ullman

* * *


What is it made of? Guilt. Blame. Sometimes,
as if pain demands I point a finger --
one of the t erminal members of my hand.

This instrument, this fine tune. Listen.
I know which notes will strike a chord.
I use my fingers as a measure.

Like the pointed sheaths of a reaping machine;
the bit the knife comes through to cut corn.
Simply: flesh, blood, marrow, bone?

There is no room for conversation; no other questions
to ask. Nothing to do, but say: that was wrong.
How big was the slave's room?

Have you been to the plantation? Tobacco. sugar.
The quarters -- the temperature of a hot house. Plants.
The placing of plants in a soil so they may grow.

Breeding in the dead heat of a tiny room for the master.
Or him groping you as your man stands by.
And him fingering the money.

And me, a songster, making music, the strange colour
I will play soon in the wooden holes. Plantation.
The skin growing on trees. Listen.

Watch the way my fingers move across your temple.
Answer me. They say it doesn't exist anymore.
This is another century. Take my fingerprint.

-- Jackie Kay

* * *


I had only one prayer, but it spread
like lilies, a single flower duuplicating
itself over and over until it was rampant,

uncountable. At ten I lay dreaming
in its crushed green blades.

How did I come by it, strange notion
that the hard stems of rage could be broken,
that the lilies were made of words,

my words? Each one I picked
laid a wish to rest. I mean killed it.

The difference between prayer
and a wish is that a wish knows it will be
a failure even as it sets out,

whereas a prayer is still innocent.
Wishing wants prayer to find that out.

-- Chase Twichell

* * *



Why is the river laughing?

Why, because the sun is tickling the river.


Why is the river singing?

Because the skylark praised the river's voice.


Why is the river cold?

It remembers being once loved by the snow.


How old is the river?

It's the same age as the forever young springtime.


Why does the river never rest?

Weel, you see it's because the mother sea
is waiting for the river to come home.

-- Shuntaro Tanikawa
(translated by Harold Wright)

* * *


I was watching a robin fly after a finch, the smaller bird
chirping with excitement, the bigger -- its breast blazing -- silent
in lightwinged earnest chase, when out of nowhere

over the chimneys and the shivering front gardens
flashes a sparrowhawk headlong, a light brown burn
scorching the air form which it simply plucks

like a ripe fruit the stopped robin, whose two or three
cheeps of terminal surprise twinkle in the silence
closing over the empty street when the birds have gone

about their own business, and I began to understand
how a poem can happen: you have your eye on a small
elusive detail, pursuing its music, when a terrible truth

strikes and your heart cries out, being carried off.

-- Eamon Grennan

* * *


Make much of something small.
The pouring-out of tea,
a drying flower's shadow on the wall
from last week's sad bouquet.
A fact: it isn't summer any more.

Say that December sun
is pitiless, but crystalline
and strikes like a bell.
Sa it plays colours like a glockenspiel.
It shows the dust as well,

the elemental sediment
your broom has missed,
and lights each grain of sugar spilled
upon the tabletop, beside
pistachio shells, peel of a clementine.

Slippers and morning papers on the floor,
and wafts of iron heat form rumbling rads,
can this be all? No, look -- here come the cat,
with one ear inside out.
Make much of something small.

-- Robyn Sarah..

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