Monday, September 22, 2008
12 More Poems I've Liked
"What Water Left Behind"
A watercolour by Van Hoogdalem
the moment you see this you know
why the painter made this
it had to be this way
an interior with a few things
one can see that he loved this scene
not for its so-called beauty
but for its contingencies
the window, the wall, the table, the chairs
the floor -- they don't have the desire
to belong together
but what unites them for a moment is
slanting light streaming through the window
flooding everything with every shade of red
you can see how he saturated the paper
with water -- water now evaporated
leaving things behind as they were,
there in that light
-- Rutger Kopland
translated from the Dutch by Willem Groenewegen
* * *
I have been here too many times before
you & now it's time to go
crazy again will that make you like me? I think so
often about you & all those bon aperitifs we had
wanted to have but didn't in Paris where we
never got to did we No we didn't although now
Here I am & everyone loves me so
where are you? & why don't they go
away? I didn't ask for this I asked for you
love but you said No, you didn't say
May I? true & crazy here I am
again unkempt in my passion at that May I?
-- Ted Berrigan
* * *
When she was fourteen, she says,
she ran away from home, at sixteen
she bought a big bike and hit the road,
moving from town to town, looking for
something she can't explain.
Later, with her fluffy blonde hair
tucked under a cap, she worked at
fixing computers for a living.
It's just one weird thing after another;
an odd life, she says, for a farmer's daughter.
Now, briefly, she's alighted
behind the counter of the aquarium shop
to wait out the winter. We sit and talk
while the fish gape and kiss the glass
in a bother of colourless bubbles.
He blue eyes are wide awake and dreaming:
she's inside a huge television set
under the sea, surrounded by a movie
of a coral reef where a million
coloured fish flicker like confetti.
She shows me the book she's reading:
see, she says, when a butterfly
breaks out of the cocoon, it is already
delicate and pretty.
She lights another cigarette, stares out
through the rainy window at the street
full of showers and the heavy traffic
stalled on the hill,
thinking of the open road,
sunshine, and the next flower.
-- John Tranter
* * *
"She Teaches Herself to Chop Wood by Reading Poetry"
Aim for the point that everything circles.
There will be space to let you in.
At a certain moment a decision is irreversible, the weight
-ed blade dropping itself to impact.
You know people who've cut themselves
with their own axes.
Admire the pieces, how you can't put them together
to make a tree.
-- Alison Calder
* * *
After bedtime the child climbed on her dresser
and peeled phosporescent stars off the sloped
gable-wall, dimming the night-vault of her ceiling
like a haze, or the interferring glow
of a great city, small hands anticipating
eons as they raided the playful patterns
her father had mapped for her -- black holes now
where the raised thumb-stubs and ears of the Bat
had been, the feet of the Turtle, wakeful
eyes of the Mourning Dove. She stuck those paper
stars on herself. One on each foot, the backs
of her hands, navel, tip of nose and so on,
then turned on the lamp by her bed and stood close
like a child chilled after a winter bath
pressed up to an air duct or a radiator
until those paper stars absorbed more light
than they could hold. then turned off the lamp,
walked out into the dark hallway and called.
Her father came up. He heard her breathing
as he clomped upstairs preoccupied, wrenched
out of a rented film just now taking grip
on him and the child's mother, his day-end
bottle of beer set carefully on the stairs,
marking the trail back down into that evening
adult world -- he could hear her breathing (or
really, more an anxious, breathy giggle) but
couldn't see her, then in the hallway stopped,
mind spinning to sort the apparaition
of fireflies hovering ahead, till he sensed
his daughter and heard in her breathing
the pent, grave concentration of her pose,
mapped onto the star chart of the darkness,
arms stretched high, head back, one foot slightly raised --
the Dancer, he supposed, and all his love
spun to centre with crushing force, to find her
momentarily fixed, as unchanging
as he and her mother must seem to her,
and the way the stars are; as if the stars are.
* * *
On time's lap sat simmering
burnt on lost hearths' desires,
tasks fulfilled not fulfilled
through joys dying,
pain reborn in hearts
that felt they have forgotten
but not forgotten forever
sleeping ever last of all
with the down sloping of hopes lost
reborn every day in the anguish of
long known long shores
stretching though childhood memories.
Birds and hunting at grandfather's farm far away
and squirrels hide in time's harvest.
-- Kofi Awoonor
* * *
"My Father's House Has Many Mansions"
Who could have said we belonged together,
my father and my self, out walking, our hands held
behind our backs in the way Goethe recommended?
Our heavy glances tipped us forward -- the future,
a wedge of pavement with our shoes in it . . .
In your case, beige, stacked, echoing clogs;
and mine, the internationally scruffy tennis shoes --
seen but not heard -- of the protest movement.
My mother shook her head at us from the window.
I was taller and faster but more considerate:
tense, overgrown, there on sufferance, I slowed down
and stooped for you.
I wanted to share your life.
Live with you in your half-house in Ljubljana,
your second address: talk and read books;
meet your girlfriends, short-haired, dark, oral;
go shopping with cheap red money in the supermarket;
share the ants in the kitchen, the unfurnished rooms,
the fallible winter plumbing. Family was abasement
and obligation . . . The three steps to your door
were three steps to heaven. But there were only visits.
At a party for your students -- my initiation! --
I ceremoniously down a leather glass of slivovica.
But then nothing. I wanted your mixture of resentment
and pride in me expanded to the offer of equality.
Is the destination of paternity only advice . . . ?
In theirk ecxtasy of growth, the bushes along the drive
scratch your bodywork, dislocate your wing-mirror.
Every year, the heraldic plum-tree in your garden
surprises you with its small, rotten, fruit.
-- Michael Hofmann
* * *
Today I whacked you, fly, who was making more fuss than
a ratty Volkswagen ascending a mountain:
I crushed you with the catechism of Augustine
(the German edition by Gustav Kruger,
which I"ll wager
few have read, or will ever . . . ):
thus De Catechizandis Rudibus
has pressed out your worried buzz, brought you
to a thimble-fountain of maggot pus.
And had I sent you off to Paradise, odd fly out of Hadrumetum,
had you been, say, a disciple of Chrysostom,
or a little optimist following Origen, rather than
a broom-chasing peregrine, I might have let you go.
But there you were
just back from bugging mules, Gaul-blown,
smaller than the small books of Hippo.
What a life you must have had,
swirled in the breath of running dogs,
your eyes domed and numerous
as the basilicas of Carthage.
-- Gabriel Gudding
* * *
"Cooking Supper While My Sister Dies"
She takes her last meal of sugar water and oblivion ,
the needle keen as a knife, a double-edge bridge
she must cross into the Unsayable. Wait, I say, wait --
but she will not, nor can I o with her, delay
in each grain of rice, exile in the onions I chop so fine
I am word blind, my face wet with the rain
that was her grief, and mine, that we did not love
each other long enough. Black olives, then zucchini
diced, swept into a pan from the wooden board,
a heave offering to the wind-dark sea.
And I must . . . I can only . . . I am left with . . .
this tomato, sun-ripened and taut, tinged green
as the pock where it let go of the vine. Into hinged
wedges I cut it slowly. Slowly. Wanting
her to be like a flower that opens into a summer night
of stars, breath by breath.
Wondering, Is it here? Is it yet? Is it now?
-- Margaret Gibson
* * *
"Poem in Orange Tones"
Curtains hung closed, sealing off the window,
and the silver waste of a snail glistened
on the sidewalk outside, minutely rotting,
where night had taken its fluttering light away
and a rumbling in the world's belly
signaled the rising red of a day. Dew trembled
to keep its balance on a spear of grass.
Dirt lamented in the cemeteries. The fir
grieved not to be as hard as oak or olive.
Everything in the world regretted something --
the ash not to be fire, blue not to be red,
a radish not to have the smell of an onion.
Thus, with the whole world resisting waking up,
men and women, also, woke
slowly, reluctantly, with eyelashes melted together
and frozen brows
and would have tossed all day long in bed
like fallen leaves
if certain trees had not produced a sound like laughter,
if particular birds had not sung in orange tones,
or if the air had not wrecked itself
on the lower lip of the horizon. A white journey
was beginning, rosy in the distance,
a drone was starting to sound just under the surface
of the land, in the woods where it had been too wet
to echo and in the water, now that the moon
had stopped pulling
orphaned questions out of private prayers,
and it was time. The doors opened.
The curtains spread. What if there was to be rage
in the middle of metal, rebellion in some motor
somewhere, or wrath in the weather?
Whatever can happen will, and rakes will clatter
to clear the consequence of time,
and saws will sing to fell even the olive tree,
and the strength of the onion falter,
but still we live the days
as if in a crystal
in which the smell of fruit is increased
day by day by the sun.
And the color yellow regret it was never green,
and the east and the west long to trade places,
and the shadow would like just once
to come out on top.
-- Marvin Bell
* * *
"A Quick Poem"
I was listening to Gregorian chants
in a speeding car
on a highway in France.
The trees rushed past. Monks' voices
sang praises to an unseen God
(at dawn, in a chapel trembling with cold).
Domine, exaudi orationem meam,
males voices pleaded calmly
as if salvation were just growing in the garden.
Where was I going? Where was the sun hiding?
My life lay tattered
on both sides of the road, brittle as a paper map.
With the sweet monks
I made my way towards the clouds, deep blue,
toward the future, the abyss,
gulping hard tears of hail.
Far from dawn. Far from home.
In place of walls -- sheet metal.
Instead of a vigil -- a flight.
Travel instead of remembrance.
A quick poem instead of a hymn.
A small, tired star raced
and the highway's asphalt shone,
showing where the earth was,
where the horizon's razor lay in wait,
and the black spider of evening
and night, widow of so many dreams.
-- Adam Zagajewski
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
* * *
And what have I done, after all?
For years I didn't do a thing.
I only looked out the window.
Raindrops soaked into the lawn,
year after year.
Later, tiny flowers blossomed,
a chain of flowers,
probably in spring.
Then tulips, daffodils,
As for me, I did nothing.
Winter and summer tumbled
between the blades of grass.
I slept as much as I could.
It was a big enough window.
Whatever a person needs
I saw in that window.
-- Dahlia Ravikovitch
translated from the Hebrew by Chana Block & Ariel Bloch
* * *
Oh, Heighton's wonderful; and, this piece proves it. Love that kick-in-the-head closer. Thanks, Hedgie; and, to repay you, I have been meaning to point out an interesting (I hope) 'site you might wish to cyber-view:
Glad you both enjoyed them; I'm especially partial to "Constellations" myself. And thanks for the link, Judith; interesting stuff there.
oh dear, your comments on One Minute Writer cause me to chortle and guffaw.Post a Comment
Please keep it up. what a treat your writings be.
Please keep it up. what a treat your writings be.