Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Index to "The Jackdaw's Nest"
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Twenty Poems with Numbers in Them
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid
* * *
"Bones in Their Wings: 38"
Is anything more beautiful, more
useful than a wooden clothespin?
Night turns its wrists to smell
the winter jasmine.
The honey of the root, its dark harvest.
the parsnip's sweeter than the apple.
You say you've done with chopping wood.
Our fire will come from somewhere else.
Twenty-three years, the love of one good man:
The Green Sea of Heaven.
Prayed for rain. Got a dry rain instead.
Didn't know I had to ask for wet.
The changing and the changed --
the line, our bodies, your sweet tongue.
-- Lorna Crozier
* * *
"A Visit to the Clockmaker"
I crossed the street
to enter a secret shop
where hundreds of hands grind time.
Charted small faces leave aside their arguments
about missing moments & start
ticking reproachfully, peep
out of three walls with shelves. Two alarm clocks
ponderously hurdle the minutes.
A grandfather clock with a pendulum necktie
shows me the way.
inscribes on the counter
its own vision of accuracy.
Down there, the clockmaker
is tinkering with the open intestines
of a disbatteried body.
His door rang its bell.
"A new timepiece?"
I dislike giving false hope
so I said "A new chain, please."
Then thought, One who will manage to slice
time into amazingly think straps
and thus make good use of his life
will be the happiest of us all.
The clockmaker raised his gaze
& would not agree.
-- Kristin Dimitrova
translated from the Bulgarian by Gregory O'Donoghue
* * *
"all the fish left the coast when napoleon fell"
when the water pulls away from shore, & the moon
gets a new expression. gravity takes. & a breath
is good for luck.
blow, baby, blow. catching sails for gamblers
in Destry Rides Again.
that all women were unlucky but for one,
the charming marlene dietrich. the myths of superstition,
never sail on a friday or start a show.
the number thirteen pre-dating judas (to old balder)
or unspeakable words on a sailing ship -- drowning, minister, church, chapel,
-- rob mclennan
* * *
Dawn in New York has
four columns of mire
and a hurricane of black pigeons
splashing in the putrid waters.
Dawn in New York groans
on enormous fire escapes
searching between the angles
for spikenards of drafted anguish.
Dawn arrives and no one receives it in his mouth
because tomorrow and hope are impossible there:
sometimes the furious swarming coins
penetrate like drills and devour abandoned children.
Those who go out early know in their bones
there will be no paradise or loves that bloom and die:
they know they will be mired in numbers and laws,
in mindless games, in fruitless labors.
The light is buried under chains and noises
in the impudent challenge of rootless science.
And crowds stagger sleeplessly through the boroughs
as if they had just escaped a shipwreck of blood.
-- Federico Garcia Lorca
translated from the Spanish by Greg Simon and Stephen F. White
* * *
skin nutmeg brown & smooth
she smelled of
baby-powder & onions
she always allowed me to crawl in her lap
would kiss me loudly
on both cheeks
she hands gentle
when she plaited my hair
and spoon-fed me
porridge every morning
later she would cry about not having
enough to give us
yet always gave us something
whenever we visited her
she knew how to measure out love
so it was never in short supply
everyone called her nannie
including my father
her voice wispy
yet when she was mad
her lips pointed like the base of a v
mostly she loved to laugh
slapping her thighs
when the joke was sweet
tears streaming down her face
she continues at ninety-eight
will not go out without her necklaces
--Opal Palmer Adisa
* * *
"On The Stairs"
As I went down the sordid stairs,
you were coming through the door, and for an instant
I saw your unfamiliar face and you saw mine.
Then I hid myself so you would not see me again, and you
passed by me quickly, hiding your face,
and slipped into the sordid house,
where you could not have found pleasure, just as I didn't.
And yet the passion you wanted, I possessed to give you;
the pleasure I wanted -- your tired and suspicious
eyes told me -- you possessed to give me.
Our bodies felt and sought each other;
our blood and skin understood.
But shaken we two hid ourselves.
-- C. P. Cavafy
translated from the Greek by Aliki Barnstone
* * *
I thought you were somewhere inside your bones. The moon would rise there,
all the shadows would be white, and music would put on the shape
of birds that surge against the bare grass without sound. There was
no sea more infinite than that sea that lay against our feet
lapping us with its infinity. What is flesh that lies
upon our bones, unable to conduct us into ourself
where we have been the rising of the moon? Our anatomy
is not of bones nor passing birds, but something of their burden that
suffuses our flesh, and when the bodies that we bear are one,
the music that arises in our finitude unseen to place
the stars in obbligatos in our hands no larger than they seem
to be within the sky at night is music of apocalypse,
our flesh thrown open, our mortality a little song that we
compose, the notes ascending lightly from our bared bones, released.
-- E. D. Blodgett
* * *
"Sixty-four now . . ."
Sixty-four now. Summer. No use acting
]as if this were what I was quite expecting.
Still there's a thaw, a soft appeasement,
a gentle waking up and easement,
this summer of my sixty-fourth commencing.
-- Agnes Nemes Nagy
translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes
* * *
"My Pirate Came Back from Bogata with Powder Burns on His Leg"
and a .38 in his briefcase
and a pocketful of lead.
Afterward we drank orange juice
and talked about emeralds
there was a moon, I remember,
a cold slit in the sky,
and a war going on in Ecuador
and another in Guatemala.
Later, tired of talking,
we made love. I think it was
on thj roof of the Hotel
Conquistador, I think it was
all we had left to do
given the night and the
thin moon which, when fatter,
lacks the same power.
You pressed yourself into me,
tired of living alone.
There comes a time when you tire of a life together,
but that comes later still.
I remember I was thinking
how longing becomes regret
when you pressed yourself so hard
that a bullet bore into me.
It left an impression on the
inside of my thigh, as below me
in the doorway a blond girl
kissed a black man goodbye.
She had her face turned
upward to the sky where her
eyes burned like my triggerhand
to pull and unload the
murderer in the heart.
You held on to me as if you thought
love could last forever.
The blond girl left with her poodle in a cab.
* * *
"Why They Stripped the Last Trees
from the Banks of the Creek"
They stripped the last trees
from the banks of this creek
twenty years ago. the old man
couldn't stand the thought
of pare paddocks with a creek
covered by trees slap bang
in the middle of them.
A kind fo guilt, I guess.
Anyway, he was old
and we humoured him --
chains, rabbit rippers,
chainsaws. We cleared
those banks until the water
ran a stale sort of red.
Until the salt crept into
the surrounding soaks.
Furious he was -- the salt
left lines on the bath,
the soap wouldn't lather.
* * *
"Eschatology of Spring"
Death, Judgement, Heaven, Hell,
and Spring. The Five Last Things,
the least of which I am, being in
the azaleas and dog-toothed violets
of the South of Canada. Do not tell me
this is a cold country. I am also in
the camelias and camas of early, of
We are shooting up for the bloody
judgement of the six o'clock news.
Quick, cut us out from the deadlines
of rotting newspapers, quick, for the
tiny skeletons and bulbs will tell you
how death grows and grows in Chile and
Chad. Quick, for the small bones pinch
me and insects divulge occult excrement
in the service of my hyacinth, my trailing
begonia. and if you catch me resting
beside the stream, sighing against
the headlines of this pastoral, take
up your gun, the flowers blossoming
from its barrel, and join this grief, this
grief: that there are lambs, elegant black-
footed lambs in this island's eschatology.
-- Phyllis Webb
* * *
"Septet to the Great Bear"
Night's trailing its blue tongue,
the lakewater's cracking its ice roof
with a vocal pulse
and, fallen fro their path, a couple of clouds
are drifting the shores with snow.
A thin shriek,
and a diamond writes
an icecrack like a sentence graved on a window
and the black signs on the earth's lines go silent
Maneuvering three machines in a stone cleft
a caretakers's shifting
the autumn leaves
The little one's sleeping.
The eldest of the eider ducks has gone
and come back again.
the littlest is eating her pirridge herself.
Most of it
stays on the spoon.
translated from the Finnish by Herbert Lomas
* * *
The cackle of witch breath erupts from your pillow
like your first tooth breaking through gum. How
many things must you get used to? Fear, you've learned,
can climb into anything. Some nights it's puddled in your ear
playing its bones the way a grasshopper plays its wings.
Another night it's in the chimney beating the bricks
with a serving fork. and after a day of breaking forest
into one, two, three trees, you're tired of learning how to be
four. You sit on my lap, your head pressed to my stomach
and you're homesick. This house, you think, has too many doors.
Your brother falls asleep as if he's kicking
a soccer ball towards the net, ignoring the sidelines.
And you wander behind him, picking buttercups
and clover, mesmerized by the faces of stranger
and the lengthening of his shadow. You fall asleep
with just that fist full of flowers.
* * *
This is the most endearing spot the body's city
for nine months a blind telescope on the world
until at the last minute the fire brigade arrives
a sudden caesura
love's sequel friendship and service to Conrad a cross of dough
a marshal's words on an insignia a city-state everything turns
history's wheel crushes
only it remains faithful
the body's embroidery rooled up in the navel
the navel the end of a braid
-- Zbigniew Herbert
translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles
* * *
Every clear rain drop helps to obscure
the green towers; every grain
of white sand the specks
of bright gold. these are of memory
as nights of love are, inside
our human forest of loss.
It is the same everywhere.
Ants lay waste ants.
Peril lurks ambiguously
as it always does
in the least or most fertile
purposes of the works
of human courage. The swamps
are treacherous. the hustling creeks
of identical water are beautiful
and still, one cry, one however begun
human cry, contains all.
-- Martin Carter
* * *
Covered by purple leaves
I'll leave my roots under water.
You will open the windows, and from a distance
hear the blows from the time when
they killed carp by the vats in winter.
You will immerse yourself in reading, pondering things
so as not to think about yourself.
You will feel good inside those voices
with two sentences left
the first made of my rib,
the second of yours.
-- Katerina Rudcenkova
translated from the Czech by Alexandra Buchler
* * *
"Stilt Jack: XXXVI"
I don't know
Taste of the sea: salt.
The scorch of letters written
from the poem's isolate place.
I feel all the weight:
have I dared the dark centre?
We'll rise as one body.
A wedge of geese.
Time: slow as rivers,
\entering us as the wings of birds.
Soft now. the join deep as bone.
Safe as the unwounded sap.
When you look into my eyes,
The moon stills as a Kestrel.
We'll gather all our lives and deaths
In a lightning harvest.
-- John Thompson
* * *
"Three or Four Cyclamen"
Three or four white cyclamen
and I have one more plant with leaves aplenty
that keeps ascending to the ceiling,
and I have troves of treasure hidden away
and I have a little secret, nothing shocking,
that seeps down into the vein of my palm
and colors my blood a lustrous red.
You're bush now, so many accounts to settle,
you're not thing about me, not talking,
up there in your exalted heights,
like a delicate mist that consorts with the clouds
and bespinkles them with the pearly dust of dawn.
I always knew you would treat me this way.
This is just a trifling story
with no hidden meaning.
But that mountain descending into the sea
straight down to translucent turquoise waters
has forgotten you.
That mountain is mine, all mine,
translated fro the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld
* * *
Humble is the intensity of
It lies there
too small to cast a shadow,
as the invisible is too large, compassing
light and shadow both:
yet there is
a bond that makes them one.
-- Margaret Avison
* * *
* * *