Friday, April 17, 2009


Twelve Poems with Stars In Them

"Sonnet LXIV"

My life was tinted purple by so much love,
and I veered helter-skelter like a blinded bird
till I reached your window, my friend:
you heard the murmur of a broken heart.

There from the shadows I rose to your breast:
without being or knowing, I flew up the towers of wheat,
I surged to life in your hands,
I rose from the sea to your joy.

No one can reckon what I owe you, Love,
what I owe you is lucid, it is like a root
from Arauco, what I owe you, Love.

Clearly, it is like a star, all that i owe you,
what I owe you is like a well in a wilderness
where time watches over the wandering lightning.

-- Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by Stephen Tapscott

* * *

"The Orchards of Syon:  XLVII"

In Terra Pax packed with low-level shots
of the reduced city, laid-waste battery cells,
unroofed dead wasp-combs, gutted termite towers,
monumental shards, trays coagulant
with half-fused lead.  In the Orchards of Syon,
also, there are temples and labyrinths
not for the defeated; but how to make them
answerable to such ends:  it is this
that confounds me.  Come down from your high
thrones of question, good doctors of wisdom.
Now I am at ground level and must grope,
whereas the blinded archangel stands clear
on his chance tottering ledge.  say then,
enormity has to be got right:
tracking survival instincts of trapped rats
through to the final Syon in her throes.
You thought I had abandoned the dream-sewers?
Well, so I had; I had been blown apart
by universal pity trumpeting
con sord. to triple forte.  Krenek
or Kurtag I'll scatter around this,
anything from HUNGARATON;  In Terra Pax
dark in itself but sighted, as dead stars
that overlook us with a splittering light.

-- Geoffrey Hill

* * *


It dies.  and a gazillion years in the future
the sight of its dying reaches Earth.
-- Computed in dinosaur years, that's three days
from the brain's death to its being recognized as dead
in the far frontiers of the tail.


Night.  a party.  "Come out here for a minute."
Dina told me:  she'd miscarried.  But
her body hadn't registered that yet, it kept
preparing for a birth.  And so we sat on the porch
in silence for a while, in the light of that star.

-- Albert Goldbarth

* * *

"Dream, What Is It?"

Dream, what is it?
What is it this nothing  this
time's passerby,
this splendid as a star in the beginning of love,
delicious as a woman's image
massaging her breast in the sun? /
What is it?  I can barely see it before
it disappears in yesterday /
It is neither a reality that I might live its gravity and its levity
nor the opposite that I might fly free
in the space of speculation /
What is it, what is it this nothing, this frail
this endless, the feeble, the internal
visitor, the volatile, the scattered,
the renewing and numerously shapeless?
What is it?  Neither palpable nor touchable /
Nor does it extend a hand to the confused and yearning
so what is it this secretive,
this perplexed, cautious, and perplexing? /
When I await its visit self-assured
it breaks me and exists as a pearl
rolling its light,
and says to me:  don't wait for me
if you want me to visit
don't wait for me!

-- Mahmoud Darwish
translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

* * *

"Three Deaths"
Itzehecaian, Tlalocan, Ilhuicac

Through the chipped air and black blades of the wind
to the nine lands.  No mountain image or sunlight
or starlight or bright rain,

the blood-cage and the blood
homogenizing into
one dampness:  the death by disease.

The veined green, the garden submerged in the gunmetal
twilight over Orizaba's icecap, the unmapped
air abouve the last black moss:

death in open water, death by the loose stone,
by lightning, by hunger, by darkness,
never by weakness, but alone.

The star's core, the taut marrow of light,
the white severing:  death by turning
the back on nothing and spinning,

facing out always at them all.

-- Robert Bringhurst

* * *

"From a Window"

Once, through the cloudless glass, you noticed
a row of stars drifting west,

and reported that illusion to me --
how they seemed to unhinge themselves

from their archaic stations
and travel against all reason.

You thought your eyesight was giving way at last.
You thought, for a minute, it was the invasion

we've all been waiting for.
You passed one hand over y our eyes.

And when you glanced back you saw
the stars fixed finally in their hemisphere,

offering their variable light,
and a single satellite, that had seemed

the only quiet, stationary star,
marking its way in the everlasting sky.

-- Ann Townsend

* * *

"Preludes for Memnon:  VI"

This is not you?  These phrases are not you?
That pomegranate of verses was not you?
The green bright leaf not you, nor the gold fruit
Burning amongst the leaves, hot fruit of gold,
Nor bird, nor bough, nor bole, nor heaven's blue?
Alas, dear woman, I have sung in vain.

Let me dishevel then once more the leaves
Of Cupid's bright thesaurus, and there find
The word of words, the crimson seed of seeds,
The aureate sound of sounds; and out of this
Conceive once more your beauty, and in terms
Your feminine keen eye will not disdain.

For this is you:  on april page it is,
Again on June, and once more in December:
On August page I find it twice, and March
Chronicles it in footnote, and July
Asserts it roundly; thus, from page to page,
I find you many times, in many terms.

It is a snowflake, which is like a star,
And melts upon the hand; it is a cobweb
Shot with silver that from the golden lip
Of April's dandelion hangs to the grass;
It is a raindrop, of tremendous worth,
Which slides the whole length of a lilac leaf.

This is not you?  these symbols are not you?
Not snowflake, cobweb, raindrop?  . . .  Woman, woman
You are too literal, too strict with me.
What would you have?  Some simple copper coin --
I love you, you are lovely, I adore you?
Or, better still, dumb silence and a look?

No, no, this will not do; I am not one
For whom these silences are sovereign;
The pauses in the music are not music,
Although they make the music what it is.
Therefore I thumb once more the god's thesaurus,
For phrase and praise, and find it all for you.

It is a star which might be thought a snowflake,
Lost in a twinkling; it is a dandelion
Shrouded with silver brightness; it is a leaf
Which lets the raindrop go, but keeps its light.
It is the purple veining, in the white,
That makes the pure throat of the iris pure . . .

Yet you would have me say your hair is Helen's, --
Your gait angelic; while I turn from these
To the vast pages of that manuscript
On which the stars are stars, the world a world;
And there I find you written down, between
Arcturus and a primrose and the sea.

-- Conrad Aiken

* * *


Standing here in the night
we are turned to a great tree,
every leaf a star,
its root eternity.

So deeply goes its root
into the world's womb,
so high rises its stem,
it leaves for death no room.

We are turned to a great tree
hung with heavy fruit,
torn by the winds of time
and the worm at the root.

Come back to the kind flesh,
to love and simple sight.
Let us forget awhile
that we create the night.

Out of this dark of time,
alive and human, come.
Brief is the warm day
wherein we have our home.

-- Judith Wright

* * *

"Halley's Comet"

I saw nothing at that moment,
nothing but strangers' backs,
heads under their hats craning.
The street was crowded.

I'd have liked to scramble up that blank wall
by my fingernails,
the way addicts of ether try to do,
but just then my hand was seized
by a woman's hand,
I took a few steps
and before me opened those depths
we call the heavens.

The spires of the Cathedral down on the horizon
looked as if cut out
from matte silver foil,
but high above them the stars were drowning.

There it is!  See it now?
Yes, I see it!
In trails of sparks which would not die out
the star was vanishing without return.

It was a spring night, sweet and mild,
after mid-May,
the balmy air was laden with perfumes
and I inhaled it
together with the stardust.

Once when in summer I had tried to smell
-- and only furtively --
the scent of some tall lilies
-- they used to sell them in our market-place
in kitchen jugs --
people would laugh at me.
For on my face was golden pollen.

-- Jaroslav Seifert
translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers

* * *

"Manhattan Dawn (1945)"

There is a smoke of memories
That curls about these chimneys
And then uncurls; that lifts,
Diaphanous, from sleep

To lead us down some alleyway
Still vaguely riverward;
And so at length disperses
Into the wisps and tatters

That garland fire escapes.
-- And we have found ourselves again
Watching, beside a misty platform,
The first trucks idling to unload

(New England's frost still
Unstippling down their sides).
Or turned
Tp catch blue truant eyes upon us

Through steam that rose up suddenly from a grate . . .
Grinning --
And the grin slid off across the storefronts.
Dawn always seemed to overtake us, though.

Down Hudson somewhere, or Horatio.
-- And we have seen it bend
The long stripes of the awnings down
Toward gutters where discarded flowers

Lay washing in the night's small rain --
Hints, glimmerings of a world
Not ours.
And office towers
Coast among lost stars.

-- Donald Justice

* * *

"The Self"

It is small and no more visible than a cricket
in August.  It likes to dress up, to masquerade,
as all dwarfs do.  It lodges between
granite blocks, between serviceable
truths.  It even fits under
a bandage, under adhesive.  Neither customs officers
nor their beautiful dogs will find it.  Between
hymns, between alliances, it hides itself.
It camps in the Rocky Mountains of the skull.
An eternal refugee.  It is I and I,
with the fearful hope that I have found at last
a friend, am it.  But the self
is so lonely, so distrustful, it does not
accept anyone, even me.
It clings to historical events
no less tightly than water to a glass.
It could fill a Neolithic jar.
It is insatiable, it wants to flow
in aqueducts, it thirsts for newer and newer vessels.
It wants to taste space without walls,
diffuse itself, diffuse itself.  then it faces away
like desire, and in the silence of an 
night you hear only crickets patiently
conversing with the stars.

-- Adam Zagajewski
translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski

* * *

"Mirror Full of Stars"

A can of shaving cream inflates
A ping-pong ball of lather,
Thick, hot, smaller than an atom,soon,
The size of the world.

This does take time to happen.
Back at the start
Again, a pinprick swells so violently
It shoots out

Hallways to other worlds,
But keeps expending
Till it is all
There is.  The universe is all there is.

Don't play with matches.
The candle flame follows her
With its eyes.  The night sky is a mirror
On a wall.

what she stands in front of are the roaring afterburners
Of the distant stars a foot away
Leaving for another world.  they have been summoned
To leave her

For another girl
In another world who stands there looking
In a mirror full of stars
At herself in her room.

The room is not really,
But it might be.  If there is
something else as beautiful
As this snow falling outside, say.

The universe begins
With a hot ball of lather expanding
In a hand
That should be in her bed asleep.

-- Frederick Seidel

* * *
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