Thursday, December 26, 2013

961. In The White Sky - William Stafford

Many things in the world have
already happened. You can
go back and tell about them.
They are part of what we
own as we speed along
through the white sky.

But many things in the world
haven’t yet happened. You help
them by thinking and writing and acting.
Where they begin, you greet them
or stop them. You come along
and sustain the new things.

Once, in the white sky there was
a beginning, and I happened to notice
and almost glimpsed what to do,
But now I have come far
to here, and it is away back there.
Some days, I think about it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

960. Yes! No! - Mary Oliver

How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

959. The Other Tiger - Jorge Luis Borges

 Translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid     
   "And the craft createth a semblance."
            —Morris, Sigurd the Volsung (1876)

I think of a tiger. The fading light enhances
the vast complexities of the Library
and seems to set the bookshelves at a distance;
powerful, innocent, bloodstained, and new-made,
it will prowl through its jungle and its morning
and leave its footprint on the muddy edge
of a river with a name unknown to it
(in its world, there are no names, nor past, nor future,
only the sureness of the present moment)
and it will cross the wilderness of distance
and sniff out in the woven labyrinth
of smells the smell peculiar to morning
and the scent on the air of deer, delectable.
Behind the lattice of bamboo, I notice
its stripes, and I sense its skeleton
under the magnificence of the quivering skin.
In vain the convex oceans and the deserts
spread themselves across the earth between us;
from this one house in a far-off seaport
in South America, I dream you, follow you,
oh tiger on the fringes of the Ganges.

Evening spreads in my spirit and I keep thinking
that the tiger I am calling up in my poem
is a tiger made of symbols and of shadows,
a set of literary images,
scraps remembered from encyclopedias,
and not the deadly tiger, the fateful jewel
that in the sun or the deceptive moonlight
follows its paths, in Bengal or Sumatra,
of love, of indolence, of dying.
Against the tiger of symbols I have set
the real one, the hot-blooded one
that savages a herd of buffalo,
and today the third of August, ’59,
its patient shadow moves across the plain,
but yet, the act of naming it, of guessing
what is its nature and its circumstance
creates a fiction, not a living creature,
not one of those that prowl on the earth.

Let us look for a third tiger. This one
will be a form in my dream like all the others,
a system, an arrangement of human language
and not the flesh-and-bone tiger
that, out of reach of all mythologies,
paces the earth. I know all this; yet something
drives me to this ancient, perverse adventure,
foolish and vague, yet still I keep on looking
throughout the evening for the other tiger,
the other tiger, the one not in this poem.

Monday, December 09, 2013

958. Lying in wait for happiness - Yehuda Amichai

On the broad steps leading down to the Western Wall
A beautiful woman came up to me: You don't remember me,
I'm Shoshana in Hebrew. Something else in other languages
All is vanity.

Thus she spoke at twilight standing between the destroyed
And the built, between the light and the dark.
Black birds and white birds changed places
With the great rhythm of breathing.
The flash of tourists' cameras lit my memory too:
What are you doing here between the promised and the forgotten,
Between the hoped for and the imagined?
What are you doing here lying in wait for happiness
With your lovely face a tourist advertisement from God
And your soul rent and torn like mine?

She answered me: My soul is rent and torn like yours
But it is beautiful because of that
Like fine lace.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

957. The Makers - Howard Nemerov

. Who can remember back to the first poets, The greatest ones, greater even than Orpheus? No one has remembered that far back Or now considers, among the artifacts And bones and cantilevered inference The past is made of, those first and greatest poets, So lofty and disdainful of renown They left us not a name to know them by. They were the ones that in whatever tongue Worded the world, that were the first to say Star, water, stone, that said the visible And made it bring invisibles to view In wind and time and change, and in the mind Itself that minded the hitherto idiot world And spoke the speechless world and sang the towers Of the city into the astonished sky. They were the first great listeners, attuned To interval, relationship, and scale, The first to say above, beneath, beyond, Conjurors with love, death, sleep, with bread and wine, Who having uttered vanished from the world Leaving no memory but the marvelous Magical elements, the breathing shapes And stops of breath we build our Babels of.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

956. Words In A Certain Appropriate Mode - Hayden Carruth

It is not music, though one has tried music.

It is not nature, though one has tried

The rose, the bluebird, and the bear.

It is not death, though one has often died.

None of these things is there.

In the everywhere that is nowhere

Neither the inside nor the outside

Neither east nor west nor down nor up

Where the loving smile vanishes, vanishes

In the evanescence from a coffee cup

Where the song crumbles in monotone

Neither harmonious nor inharmonious

Where one is neither alone

Nor not alone, where cognition seeps

Jactatively away like the falling tide

If there were a tide, and what is left

Is nothing, or is the everything that keeps

Its undifferentiated unreality, all

Being neither given nor bereft

Where there is neither breath nor air

The place without locality, the locality

With neither extension nor intention

But there in the weightless fall

Between all opposites to the ground

That is not a ground, surrounding

All unities, without grief, without care

Without leaf or star or water or stone

Without light, without sound

anywhere, anywhere. . .

Thursday, November 21, 2013

955. Going To Horse Flats (excerpt) - Robinson Jeffers

Amazingly active a toothless old man
Hobbled beside me up the canyon, going to Horse Flats, he said,
To see to some hives of bees. It was clear that he lived alone
    and craved companionship, yet he talked little
Until we came to a place where the gorge widened, and
    deer-hunters had camped on a slip of sand
Beside the stream. They had left the usual rectangle of fired
    stones and ashes, also some crumpled
Sheets of a recent newspaper with loud headlines. The old man
    rushed at them
And spread them flat, held them his arm's length, squinting
    through narrowed eyelids—poor trick old eyes learn, to make
Lids act for lens. He read "Spain Battle. Rebels kill captives
    City bombed Reds kill hostages. Prepare
For war Stalin warns troops." He trembled and said, "Please
    read me the little printing I hardly ever
Get to hear news." He wrung his withered hands while I read;
    It was strange in that nearly inhuman wilderness
To see and old hollow-checked hermit dancing to the world's
    echoes. After I had read he said "That's enough.
They were proud and oppressed the poor and are punished
    for it; but those that punish them are full of envy and hatred
And are punished for it; and again the others; and again the
    others. It is so forever, there is no way out."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

954. The Fix-Up - Judith Viorst

I have this friend Muriel who is attractive and intelligent and
    terribly understanding and loyal and
My husband has this friend Ralph who is handsome and witty and
Since they weren't engaged or even tacitly commented
The least we could do, I said, is fix them up.
So I cooked this very nice boned chicken breasts with lemon-cream
    sauce and
Put on a little Herb Alpert in the background and
Before Muriel came I told Ralph how she was attractive and intelligent
    and terribly understanding and loyal and
After Muriel came I drew out Ralph to show how he was witty and
    very sincere and
When dinner was over my husband and I did the dishes
Leaving Ralph and Muriel to get acquainted
With a little Petula Clark in the background and
We listened while they discovered that they both loved Mel Brooks
    and hated Los Angeles and agreed that the Supremes had lost
    their touch and
He insisted on taking her home even through she loved in the opposite
    direction and
The next day he phoned to ask is that what I call attractive, after which
She phoned to ask is that what I call sincere
And from now on
I cook lemon-cream sauce
For young marrieds.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

953. Theatre Impressions (2) - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

For me the tragedy's most important act is the sixth:
the raising of the dead from the stage's battlegrounds,
the straightening of wigs and fancy gown,
removing knives from stricken breasts,
taking nooses from lifeless necks,
lining up among the living
to face the audience.

The bows, both solo and ensemble––
the pale hand on the wounded heart,
the curtsies of the hapless suicide,
the bobbing of the chopped-off head.

The bows in pairs––
rage extends its arm to meekness,
the victim's eyes smile at the torturer,
the rebel indulgently walks beside the tyrant.

Eternity trampled by the golden slipper's toe.
Redeeming values swept aside with the swish of a wide-brimmed hat
The unrepentant urge to start all over tomorrow.

Now enter, single file, the hosts who died early on,
in Acts 3 and 4, or between scenes.
The miraculous return of all those lost without a trace.

The thought that they've been waiting patiently offstage
without taking off their makeup
or their costumes
moves me more than all the tragedy's tirades.

But the curtain's fall is the most uplifting part,
the things you see before it hits the floor:
here one hand quickly reaches for a flower,

there another hand picks up a fallen sword.
Only then, one last, unseen, hand
does its duty
and grabs me by the throat.

Translated from the Polish by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire

For me a tragedy's most important act is the sixth:
the resurrecting from the stage's battlegrounds,
the adjusting of wigs, of robes,
the wrenching of knife from the breast,
the removing of noose from neck,
the lining up among the living
to face the audience.

Bow's solo and ensemble:
the white hand on the heart's wound,
the curtsey of the lady suicide,
the nodding of the lopped-off head.

Bows in pairs:
fury extends an arm to meekness,
the victim looks blissfully into the hangman's eyes,
the rebel hears no grudge as he walks beside the tyrant.

The trampling of eternity with the tip of a golden slipper.
The sweeping of morals away with the brim of a hat.
The incorrigible readiness to start afresh tomorrow.

The entry in single file of those who died much earlier,
in the third, the fourth, or between the acts.
The miraculous return of those lost without trace.
The thought that they've been waiting patiently backstage,
not taking off costumes,
not washing off makeup,
moves me more than the tragedy's tirades.

But truly elevating is the lowering of the curtain,
and that which can still be glimpsed beneath it:
here one hand hastily reaches for a flower,
there a second snatches up a dropped sword.
Only then does a third, invisible,
perform its duty:
it clutches at my throat.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

952. Shadows - Linda Hussa

The winter solstice is passed.
The new year will find its way
on dreams we have not yet dreamed.

In spring's papery dawns
the living sky will return
with Sandhill cranes passing northward.
Their staggered lines

swoop down onto these meadows
graceful as shadows
that lie out behind the thing they love.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

951. I Remember Galileo - Gerald Stern

I remember Galileo describing mind
as a piece of paper blown around by the wind,
and I loved the sight of it sticking to a tree
or jumping into the back seat of a car,
and for years I watched paper leap through my cities;
but yesterday I saw the mind was a squirrel caught crossing
Route 80 between the wheels of a giant truck,
dancing back and forth like a thin leaf,
or a frightened string, for only two seconds living
on the white concrete before he got away,
his life shortened by all that terror, his head
jerking, his yellow teeth gowned down to dust.

It was the speed of the squirrel and his lowness to the ground,
his great purpose and the alertness of his dancing,
that showed me the difference between him and paper.
Paper will do in theory, when there is time
to sit back in a metal chair and study shadows;
but for this life I need a squirrel,
his clawed feet spread, his whole soul quivering,
the hot wind rushing through his hair,
the loud noise shaking him from head to tail
    O philosophic mind, O mind of paper, I need a squirrel
finishing his wild dash across the highway,
rushing up his green ungoverned hillside.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

950. Saint Francis and the Sow - Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in works and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and
    blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

949. Poem Of The One World - Mary Oliver

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite, beautiful, myself.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

948 - For the Sleepwalkers - Edward Hirsch

Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

And always they wake up as themselves again.
That's why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

Friday, September 20, 2013

947. California - Hayden Carruth

For Adrienne Rich

To come again into the place of revolutionary
thought after years in the wilderness
of complacency and hard-eyed greed
and brutality
is extraordinary. A.'s kitchen
in Santa Cruz
isn't greatly different from her kitchen in
West Barnet in the old days,
small interesting ornaments here and there,
many good things to eat —
and how ideas flew from stove to table,
from corner to corner. In Santa Cruz
after twenty-odd years it was the same. Tolstoi said
the purpose of poetry is to provoke
feeling in the reader, to "infect" the reader,
he said, — and so to induce a change,
a change of conscience
that may lead to a change in the world, that will
lead to a change in the world!
How can poetry be written by people who want no change?

To be reconciled after so long,
in sunshine, among Latino voices. A. Showed me
where earthquake two years ago had changed Santa Cruz
and how the people were rebuilding, making it better. Had she
been frightened? Of course. Would she move away?
Never. Here earth itself gives us the paradigm.
And the great ocean hurling its might always thunderously against
the land at Half Moon Bay is our measure
of flux and courage
and eternity.
We drove among hills, redwood and eucalyptus,
dense growth, the richness and ramifying intricacy
of the world's loveliness and asked
what would be left
for our grandchildren, already born, when they are
as old as we? No longer do we
need an insane president to end us
by pushing a button. People
need only go on living as they are, without change,
the complacent and hard-eyed
everywhere. At the airport
after dark
among hard lights
with the massive proportions of human energy
surrounding them, two old people
embraced in love of the injured and poor, of poetry,
of the world in its still remaining remote possibilities,
which were themselves.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

946. Second Fall in the Afterlife - Dean Young

First I go out into the yard
to see what survived the night.
The broken birdbath still holds
a few handfuls of water,
good enough for the grackles
to keep their capes immaculate
and the mounds of the fire ants
between some paving stones
look bigger, proof of the progress
of their underground pyramids.
Back inside, my cat has cornered
something invisible and struts about
in triumph. Swallowing my morning dose,
I can almost hear the ocean
made of falling chandeliers
my wife's listening to on headphones
reading about the care of blind lion cubs
on the internet. Maybe this month
the jasmine will finally pull the house
down. Who wouldn't rather dissolve
in the mouths of flowers than be trampled
by the stampede charging into the sky?