Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Twenty More Poems with 3-Line Stanzas
Here's the earlier thread of 3-line stanza poems.
"Transits of Venus"
Vancouver airport. I have crossed this space before,
leaving lovers -- a small planet moving slowly
over a vast and polished floor, circled by strangers.
Beyond the lounge window, gray skies, gray tarmac.
Straight white painted lines plane off across
the wide-winged delta and intersect the arc
of the horizon. I watch a train of luggage carts
cut a tangent towards me, towed through a bubble
of silence -- sound severed from me by glass --
and think of moon buggies, vehicles designed
to cross the surface of a satellite, exploring flat
gray plains, Mare Oscularum, Mare Incognita.
I am exploring the thought of leaving you --
you, the men who stayed there on the Island,
you, the men who left on flights back east.
Transits of Venus occur perhaps too often
in my life. the inner planets, small separate
circles, cross the blazing surface of the sun
and then separate, depart to shine alone,
the wandering ones together only for a time,
contained by the bright circumference of love.
-- Alice Major
* * *
Moonstone woman combs her hair;
blind since before birth
she is in her own inner light
From somewhere the sound of a great jar cracking
water comes flowing down a long staircase
o the bottom of this dark violet hole
When she illuminates her loneliness
at the four corners of earth
crouching dogs loom
One day she will pass beyond the pagoda
and on through corridors of clouds
guided by fish with lidless eyes
But for now with sour fruit in her mouth
she sits combing moonlight
being consumed by shadow
-- Tada Chimako
translated from the Japanese by Robert Brady & Odagawa Kazuko
* * *
"Landscape with Teeth"
Cattle dusk-sculpted on a plinth of skyline.
Breast of chaffinch a watered strawberry.
Inishturk a whale-shape on the glazed sea.
Bog, clod, soggy, sod, plod. Nimbus
of light over boggy pasture; couchgrass
in flattened mats; blunt push of mushrooms
through loamy hush. Nests, passage graves,
crosses. Steam-clouds out of the cows'
rosy mouths. Soft furnaces of their body-bulk.
Three girls moving through rainmist
under a huge blue umbrella, waiting for Monet
to paint them as they are on the headland:
grey swell of sea, horizon a pale lapis, sky
chequered with cloud; a pointillist silvering
shiver of rain. Their poppy-coloured laugh.
Indoors, a window-ledge of books, that umber
Italian vase of meadowsweet and loosestrife,
a spray of fuchsia against the verdigris
and plumblue bulges of Tully Mountain.
In the foreground one rusted sickle, a single
blip of sunlight igniting its bent tip.
But where do the real dreams come from
in their primary colours -- with their small teeth
sharpened and their warm wet tongue?
-- Eamon Grennan
* * *
Their old skin has the marks of the sea in it.
The patterns of waves. Traces of sand crabs in the patterns.
Wind traces. Splinters of seashells. Markings of kelpfronds.
Their voices are loud against the waves coming in.
They shout out into the wind that blows back into
Their mouths the words they are trying to shout out into
The wind that blows against them. What they possess
They possess with a fierceness that comes from a deafness that isn't
Deaf, but it hears the waves say take them, take them.
But they cry out against the waves in voices
Violent and weak I won't give in to them.
They're in a room full of people almost without
Any furniture only some metal chairs,
So the walls resound and Cerberus barks a lot.
It is a nightmare of the high school lunchroom.
-- David Ferry
* * *
In Grenada for the first time, my woman
island, without her, at my writer-friend place
in Morne Jaloux, verandah view
out to bush bush bush
then the Carenage,
we were liming in the kitchen
talking good talk bout books
and freshness over oil-down
cook up by her boxer-boyfriend
when, just so, a bat fly in the place,
flapping wild, nearly buck up
the walls. Everybody duck,
scream with a kind of delight.
It fly fly fly like a madness,
like moth on fire.
The radar off, my friend say.
The damn thing couldn't find
the door it fly in from.
Is a fruit bat, right?, I laugh,
I laugh a tremble-laugh.
This creature just come
and mash up all the vibes,
all blind, hairy, all clamour of wings.
Even love, I learn, could be just so,
not meant for this house,
these small, yellow rooms,
a notion, a thing-thing,
old suckblood idea;
who say it could fly in,
dance up in the air and thing;
not a window open again
to chase the thing back out.
Come in like it want stay
come cause commotion
in I heart.
-- Christian Campbell
* * *
Tradition suggests that certain of the Gaelic
women poets were buried face down
So they buried her, and turned home,
a drab psalm
hanging about them like haar,
not knowing the liquid
trickling from her lips
would seek its way down,
and that caught in her slowly
unraveling plait of grey hair
were summer seeds:
meadowsweet, bastard balm,
tokens of honesty, already
beginning their crawl
toward light, so showing her,
when the time came,
how to dig herself out --
to surface and greet them,
mouth young, and full again
of dirt, and spit, and poetry.
-- Kathleen Jamie
* * *
"Eclipse with Object"
There is a spectacle and something is added to history.
It has as its object an indiscretion: old age, a
gun, the prevention of sleep.
I am placed in its stead
and the requisite shadow is yours.
It casts across me, a violent coat.
It seems I fit into its sleeve.
So the body wanders.
Sometime it goes where light does not reach.
You recall how they moved in the moon dust? Hop, hop.
What they said to us from that distance was stupid.
They did not say I love you for example.
The spectacle has been placed in my room.
Can you hear its episode trailing,
pretending to be a thing with variegated wings?
Do you know the name of this thing?
It is a rubbing from an image.
The subject of the image is that which trespasses.
\You are invited to watch. the body
in complete dark casting nothing back.
The thing turns and flicks and opens.
-- Ann Lauterback
* * *
"I am like the leaf that knows its limits"
I am like the leaf that knows its limits
And doesn't want to extend beyond them,
Not to blend with nature, not to flow into the big world.
I am so quiet now that
I can't imagine
I ever shouted, even as a baby in pain.
And my face, what is left
After they hewed it for love,
Like a quarry. Now abandoned.
translated from the Hebrew by Benjamin & Barbara Harshav
* * *
"In a White Town"
She never looked like other boys' mums.
No one ever looked without looking again
at the pink kameez and balloon'd bottoms,
mustard-oiled trail of hair, brocaded pink
sandals and the smell of curry. That's why
I'd bin the letters about Parents' Evenings,
why I'd police the noise of her holy songs,
check the net curtains were hugging the edges,
lavender-spray the hallway when someone knocked,
pluck all the gold-top milk from its crate
in case the mickey-takers would later disclose it,
never confessing my parents' weird names
or the code of our address when I was licked
by Skinheads (by a toilet seat)
desperate to flush out the enemy within.
I would have felt more at home had she hidden
that illiterate body, bumping noisily into women
at the market, bulging into its drama'd gossip,
for homework -- in the public library with my mates,
she'd call, scratching on the windows. Scratching again
until later, her red face would be in my red face,
two of us alone, she'd duck at my stuttered Punjabi,
laughing, say I was a gora, I'd only be freed
by a bride from India who would double as her saathi.
Nowadays, when I visit, when she hovers upward,
hobbling towards me to kiss my forehead
as once she used to, I wish I could fall forward.
-- Daljit Nagra
* * *
"Cleaning St. Anne"
St. Anne holds Mary on her ample impastoed lap,
they're both grown but Anne's got knees
the size of ham bones and Mary's light as a conscience.
They say Leonardo painted with his fingertips,
dragged the paint across the surface, blending one tone
into another, precious pigment into sealer.
Everyone's barefoot and plump, reclining
on high rocks somewhere higher than Montana.
Jesus is squeezing a lamb. Mary reaches out placidly.
I love St. Anne this way, butch and nurturing.
How will her restorers decide what's actual varnish
and what's original pigment? That's the question.
I moved into St. Anne's parish in 1958.
I hadn't been tweaked or rulered yet, no one'd
threatened me with sadism or molested my little brother.
Now her head is cracking badly, she needs
analysis and restoration, the paint above her eyes thin
as mother's milk, her daughter's robes greasy as makeup.
I say: It's women who keep the church alive.
There we are, week after week, filling the pews,
handing men the reins. What do we expect?
Still, there is little left between modesty and acrimony,
little that the cruciform does not polarize
like a magnet in iron filings -- you here, you here.
Transcendence comes late, well after seven, that
age of reason when you're finally able, after games
of catechism, to figure out equations for salvation.
Honey, you need a good cleaning. Your face
is covered with a dark green veil and your eyes
have lost their watery sheen. Mona Lisa's next, and look
at Ginevra de'Benci, cross-eyed as the day she was born,
now pearly as a baby's behind. the tints of her face
appear not to be colors at all -- but living breathing flesh.
-- Maureen Seaton
* * *
I love watching the water
ooze through the crack in the fern pot,
it's a small thing
that slows time
and gives me ideas of becoming
having nothing to do
with ambition or even reaching,
it isn't necessary at such times
to describe this,
it's no image for mean keeping,
it's no thing that small
Other men look at the ocean,
and I do too,
though it is too many
presences for any
It's this other,
a little water, used, appearing
slowly around the sounds
of oxygen and small frictions,
that gives the self
the notion of the self
one is always losing
until these tiny embodiments
small enough to contain it.
-- Marvin Bell
* * *
"The Alfa Romeo"
I admired the Parthenon
in its every column
I found the golden mean
but today if I may say so
I find the good and beautiful
in a sports Alfa Romeo
Summer and winter let there be
all around me olive groves
behind me centuries
When the road before me takes off
and leads me into temptation
I step on it and floor the gas
With the power of a lion
and a background of birds
I reach a hundred miles per hour
Good-bye seas and mountains
good-bye and full speed ahead
for the Kore of Lightning.
-- Odysseus Elytis
translated from the Greek by Jeffrey Carson & Nikos Sarris
* * *
has arrived and is bending himself into the room,
refolding his legs. I knuckle his nose,
which reminds me of the arm of a chair.
He is talking low and steady,
rolling back an eye towards his chestnut brain.
Man-words are climbing his long throat.
I show him to the bathroom
and he is embarrassed. Next he is hoofing
through your photo album.
There are more of me than of him.
We are crunching on polo mints together
and remembering the way your body used to move.
-- Jack Underwood
* * *
I would have like to live among the Greeks,
talk with Sophocles' disciples,
learn the rites of secret mysteries,
but when I was born the pockmarked
Georgian still lived and reigned,
with his grim henchmen and theories.
Those were years of memory and grief,
of sober talks and silence;
there was little joy --
although a few birds didn't know this,
a few children and trees.
To wit, the apple tree on our street
blithely opened its white blooms
each April and burst
into ecstatic laughter.
-- Adam Zagajewski
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
* * *
Spectres inverting sunlit
paddocks after late rain
field into quadrature out
of blind-spots, raucous
it's said, like broken glass
in a nature reserve
s no comparison;
cowslip orchids' yellow parameters
curl like tin, or cowslip orchids'
yellow parameters reflect clusters
of white feathers from canopies
of wandoos or sheaths of flight,
down in deep green crops
ready to turn when rains are gone,
beaks turned back towards
but almost certain to appear,
at least as atmosphere.
-- John Kinsella
* * *
My hair, voluminous from sleeping in
six different positions, redolent with your scent,
helps me recall that last night was indeed real,
that it's possible for a bedspread to spawn
a watershed in the membrane that keeps us
shut in our own skins, mute without pleasure,
that I didn't just dream you into being.
You fit like a fig in the thick of my tongue,
give my hands their one true purpose,
find in my shoulder a groove for your head.
In a clinch, you're clenched and I'm pinched,
we're ;spooned, forked, wrenched, lynched
in a chestnut by a mob of our own making,
only to be resurrected to stage several revivals
that arise from slightest touch to thwart
deep sleep with necessities I never knew
I knew until meeting you a few days
or many distant, voluptuous lifetimes ago.
-- Ravi Shankar
* * *
The semitrailer crawls through the fog.
It is the lengthened shadow of a dragonfly larva
crawling over the murky lakebottom.
Headlights cross among dripping branches.
You can't see the other driver's face.
Light overflows through the pines.
We have come, shadows chassis from all directions
in failing light, we go in tandem after each other,
past each other sweep on in a modest roar
into the open where the industries are brooding,
and every year the factory buildings go down another
eighth of an inch -- the earth is gulping them slowly.
Paws no one can identify leave a print
on the glossiest artifacts dreamed up here.
Pollen is determined to live in asphalt.
But the horse-chestnut trees loom up first, melancholy
as if they intended to produce clusters of iron gloves
rather than white flowers, and past them
the reception room -- a fluorescent light out of order
blinks off and on. Some magic door is around here! Open!
and look downward, through the reversed periscope,
down to the great mouths, the huge buried pipes
where algae is growing like the beards on dead men
and the Cleaner swim on in his overcoat of slime
and his strokes weaker and weaker, he will be choked soon.
And no one knows what will happen, we only know
the chain breaks and grows back together all the time.
-- Tomas Transtromer
translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly
* * *
"My Perpendicular Daughter"
My perpendicular daughter grew taller
than they said she would do when I got her;
I wish they hadn't lied to me like that.
I thought a daughter would be light and quiet --
not at all; they hung her upside down inside me
and now she sticks straight out, gets in the way
when I stand close to walls. I tried to take her back
but they said I should be glad a man had known me
and I'd only got what I'd been begging for.
Would I like a booklet? Instead i asked for milk
and tipped its long white screech right down,
it furred my throat and stayed there, curdling
all afternoon. there are no returns on daughters,
they pointed out. I aimed her at them like a gun:
This is how death begins, I told them.
-- Emily Berry
* * *
You think a god is coming his wing
makes a kind of shadow I
you say and you are changed
You were just sleeping but now you can
never stop the shock even
if he hands you hat and whip bit and rein
like lightning he rises with you, memory
blows off you where were you first casually
you stroke the down that is burning you
-- Eva Gerlach
translated from the Dutch by Alissa Valles
* * *
We wear down bars of soap
with our palms, stone
steps with our feet. Light
will rub that drawing,
imperceptibly at first, till
the girl's face vanishes.
Will a field, crossed often
enough, sink? Your clavicle,
where my head rests?
There is a room where light
tracks the day along the wall,
simply, without tenderness.
It leaves no deep impression,
nor do our thrown shadows.
But the earth. It shifts, in time.
* * *
* * *