Thursday, September 10, 2009


Twelve 12-Line Poems: Round 3

For reasons that entirely elude me, the first and second installments
of "Twelve 12-Line Poems" continue to be the most accessed threads
of The Jackdaw's Nest. So, in response, here is Round 3. Enjoy.

* * *

"Still Life"

Still Life the artist called
these pears and apricots
placed on a blue tablecloth
next to the leather pouch of hares,
tied by their slender ears
like so many vegetables.

But nature morte, the French
would say, articulating "dead"
as if to tell us life is less
than life without a hare in the field,
without the actual taste
of pear on the tongue.

-- Linda Pastan

* * *

"Minus The Sea"

Each day the old man grew smaller and smaller.
Matter had begun to apologize
Politely in him
And moved back more and more --
It had to catch its breath
For another form.

The sea the old man fished in
Shrank day by day
Until in the end it couldn't be seen at all.
It must have moved its waves as well, full of fish,
God knows where.
Under some younger boats . . .

--Marin Sorescu
translated from the Romanian by Gabriela Dragnea,
Stuart Friebert and Adriana Varga

* * *


A poet because his hand
goes first to his heart and then to his head.

The catcher receives the pitch
the way a blotter takes an ink spill.

The hitter makes much show
of wringing out his bat.

On the mound he grins
with all his teeth at once
when the umpire inspects the ball
suddenly dry as alum.

He draws a juicy salary bonus
because when he pitches he waters the lawn.

-- Fred Chappell

* * *

"The Clock"

I tick, I tick, and have no sense of time.
My hands go round. At intervals I chime
To count the hours and minutes that to me
Are meaningless numbers turning endlessly,
Because my world is one without a 'when',
Without a 'late' or 'early', 'now' or 'then',
With no events, with nothing to arrange
Or mark. Your time is movement, growth and change.
I do not change or grow, but for your sake
Inside me wheels revolve until I break.
It's you that move me. If you don't I stick.
You wind me up. I tick, I tick, I tick.

-- Michael Hamburger

* * *

"The Pond at Dusk"

A fly wounds the water but the wound
soon heals. Swallows tilt and twitter
overhead, dropping now and then toward
the outward-radiating evidence of food.

The green haze on the trees changes
into leaves, and what looks like smoke
floating over the neighbor's barn
is only apple blossoms.

But sometimes what looks like disaster
is disaster: the day comes at last,
and the men struggle with the casket
just clearing the pews.

--Jane Kenyon

* * *

"All Thought"

What's all this commotion, as of
king-wings in migration
a strange fluttering in the boughs
in the great night of souls

In the little oak grove
out back the dying
plum is choked out
by the young oak

Above, the vast blue
climbed by a cloud-wall
]suggests all thought's

-- Tom Clark

* * *

"The Hand at Callow Hill Farm"

Silence. the man defined
The quality, ate at his separate table
Silent, not because silence was enjoined
But was his nature. It shut him round
Even at outdoor tasks, his speech
Following upon a pause, as though
A hesitance to comply had checked it --
Yet comply he did, and willingly:
Pause and silence: both
Were essential graces, a reticence
Of the blood, whose calm concealed
The tutelary of that upland field.

-- Charles Tomlinson

* * *


The woods a flock of green sheep flowing down the hills
And the sea below splashed itself itself blue in the sun.
Clouds bloomed in the sky, floating like water lilies
And we were still little girls.

There was one among us with beloved eyes
And all of us envied her till we forgot.
and one was so fair and stood up so straight.
And when they called her in class, she could always reply.

And I'd go out in the sun to the nearby field
And love the clouds, spin stories about them all,
And I had plenty of time to ponder sorrow
From the first gray of autumn till the end of summer gold.

-- Dahlia Ravikovitch
translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

* * *


Tempestuous breaths! we watch a girl
walking in her garden -- no flowers, a wintry shrub
and the cold clouds passing over. To
each dark check a chapped panting mouth is pressed

and through the cloth against her flesh
she feels the flashes of our heat. One breath,
heavier than the rest, is penetrating
the folds where her cool limbs join each other
in careless reception of the celebration.

She is listening to music. And I, I
have joined that torso to that thigh with this,
my breath, soot from a volcano, watching her walk.

-- Frank O'Hara

* * *

"Bogliasco: The Church Square"

A photographer develops film,
the sexton scrutinizes
walls and trees,
boys play ball,
a dry cleaner purges the conscience
of this quiet town,
three elderly ladies discuss the world's end --
but evening brings back
the sea's tumult
and its din
returns the day just past
into oblivion.

--Adam Zagajewski
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

* * *


It is not lost, it is moving forward always,
Shrewd, and huge as thunder, equally dark.
Soft paws kiss its continents, it walks
Between lava avenues, it does not tire.

It is not lost, tell me how can you lose it?
Can you lose the shadow which stalks the sun?
It feeds on mountains, it feeds on seas,
It loves you most when you are most alone.

do not deny it, do not blaspheme it,
do not light matches on the dark of its shores.
It will breathe you out, it will recede from you.
What is here, what is with you now, is yours.

-- Gwendolyn MacEwen

* * *

"On the Steps of the Met"

When the first wasp would not stop flying near me I sat still
and let it stay. All thin legs and yellow, it did not find my skin
but the silvered mouth of the Pepsi can. It crawled inside

and then another joined it there. I let those two
fill themselves while I finished my greasy knish and thought
how I would soon not be here and how painful

not wanting anyone. One wasp staggered out
and flew, and the the other, and in Manhattan
they were two cabs on their way in one direction. Inside,

what I had loved most: the folds of the woman's scarf
in Vermeer's portrait, their depth of shadow,
how the fabric came so close without touching.

-- Stephanie Bolster

* * *
* * *

Spring Cries

Our worst fears are realized.
Then a string of successes, or failures, follows.
She pleads with us to stay: 'Stay,
just for a minute, can't you?'

We are expelled into the dust of our decisions.
Knowing it would be this way hasn't
made any of it easier to understand, or bear.
May is raving. Its recapitulations

exhaust the soil. Across the marsh
some bird misses its mark, walks back, sheepish, cheeping.
The isthmus is gilded white. People are returning
to the bight: adult swimmers, all of them.
--John Ashbery
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