Samuel Greenberg (1893 - 1917)
I've been ill amongst my fellow kind
And yet have borne with me joys
That few sought its indulgence Bind
As dreams that press meditation's
Wanton coys, o'er desired revelation
Religeon's chariot halted for my thought
Art bowed, showed its infinite tongues
Of charm, science hailed its width
Of semetry, doubting conscience
Concentration, and behave, The beam
Of Fire from the sun cast mine own
To slumBer in imagination of spheres
Under the heavens of moon like shapes
Mine eyelids shut, I fell into unfelt realms
The More Loving One
W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
On the Wing (2)
Octavio Paz (1914 - 1998)
Trans. Eliot Wineberger
IN DEFENSE OF PYRRHO
for Julian (Palatine Anthology VII, 576)
Julian, you've cured
my fears, but not my doubts.
Against Pyrrho you said:
The sceptic didn't know
if he was alive or dead.
But death knew.
And you — how do you know?
EPITAPH FOR A DANDY
In a cemetery of neckties
a portrait aflame.
THE CONSTELLATION OF VIRGO
Hypatia, if I look at the pure lights
there up above, the Virgin's mansion,
I spell out, not words, but stars:
your discourse is clauses of fire.
(Palladas, Palatine Anthology IX, 400)
High sun. The plain sleeps.
Between the rocks, Echo spies.
Mud in a still puddle:
dancing in the streets.
[What horror to awake at night]
Lorine Niedecker (1903 - 1970)
What horror to awake at night
and in the dimness see the light.
Time is white
I’ve spent my life on nothing.
The thought that stings. How are you, Nothing,
sitting around with Something’s wife.
Buzz and burn
is all I learn
I’ve spent my life on nothing.
I’m pillowed and padded, pale and puffing
lifting household stuffing—
I’ve spent my life on nothing.
Stare at the Sea
Preambles and Other Poems
Stare at the sea, the sea is blind.
The sea gives back your theme —
The sea that is not like, that cannot lack
— you have heard this sea intoned
To every shock of chaos and of calm,
As though soul's torn two intellects
Would marry in that hollow heave
The harm they cannot fatalize, the thing
A stonier dumb charm would weave
Out of its own locked raging tides:
The sea holds nothing it can hide.
Teach the sea to sing, the soul
To drink its own imagining.
Three Elementary Prophecies
Alvin Feinman (1929 - 2008)
Preambles and Other Poems (1964)
1. For Departure
You will not want what gives this going speech
Only as loss the stay of it
Not the rhythm drained into its sense
Like a world surviving
Only as absence, as a silence touched
A thing out of the body gone, desire
Or a blood-accustomed dread
Nor seek a knowledge of this breach
A name of it, as love
The flawless metamorphosis of dying
Stilled to its idea
Or membered like presentiment or choice
To your days' held mine
A sentence, or the letter of a truth
Only this presence destined
As weather from its source
Toward broad or violent unleashings
Fables of the suffered and the joined
The rest unnumbered and devoid
A wind that will not move or pass
Rain tangled to a ruin, to
A season's felled forgotten root.
2. For Passage
Think then the ruin of your thoughts, and where
The persistent blood beats still under them,
Of birds you cannot follow with your eye.
Think the dark and breeding thickets
Where lowly animals die, and over the gloom
Bright birds passing in the light:
"What is your life if not the flashed stroke
Of your meaning, of water
Hurled once or blindly against rock,
Your living laid to the pillow of its sleep
As windows close to the street's tumult,
To love's long minute and the lips..."
Nail your will to the yellow fallings
Of your days, as tragedies slip
Their herald warnings through their acts.
Own land and sky, all seeing suffering things,
Water riding water, wing and roof,
The rip and baggage of all your ways.
3. For Return
Far, the farthest exile, and the steed
You ride must paw the ground, riderless,
Death's resignation come to matter
To mercies walked from the same blue fulcrum
Where your powers impel you
Unobscured by necessary pities,
Come like numbered birds in the common air
And needs before they improvise their names
There love will touch where your energies begin
Where your hand asks you light from primary colors,
Assembles a mystery detained by sorrows
Like roofs the color of particular houses
And the logic of unexpected trees, love
Like sons will be far in the night
Close, as horses in the night, and welcome.
Death By Wind
Gerald Stern (1925- )
As for those who face their death by wind
and call it by the weird name of forgiveness
they alone have the right to marry birds,
and those who stopped themselves from falling down
by holding the wall up or the sink in place
they can go without much shame for they
have lived enough and they can go click, click
if they want to, they can go tok, tok
and they can marry anything, even hummingbirds.
Dark Pines Under Water
Gwendolyn MacEwan (1949 - 1987)
The Shadow-Maker (1969)
This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.
Explorer, you tell yourself this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.
But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.
from Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly before daybreak,
Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word death,
And again death, death, death, death
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor like my arous'd child's heart,
But edging near as privately for me rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears and laving me softly all over,
Death, death, death, death, death.
Which I do not forget.
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok's gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs at random,
My own songs awaked from that hour,
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song and all songs,
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
(Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet
garments, bending aside,)
The sea whisper'd me.
47. ‘My own heart let me have more have pity on; let’
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)
MY own heart let me have more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst ’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.
Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
’s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.
A Ritual To Read To Each Other
William Stafford (1914-1993)
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
Hart Crane (1899-1933)
White Buildings (1926)
As silent as a mirror is believed
Realities plunge in silence by . . .
I am not ready for repentance;
Nor to match regrets. For the moth
Bends no more than the still
Imploring flame. And tremorous
In the white falling flakes
The only worth all granting.
It is to be learned--
This cleaving and this burning,
But only by the one who
Spends out himself again.
Twice and twice
(Again the smoking souvenir,
Bleeding eidolon!) and yet again.
Until the bright logic is won
Unwhispering as a mirror
Then, drop by caustic drop, a perfect cry
Shall string some constant harmony,--
Relentless caper for all those who step
The legend of their youth into the noon.
The Map of Places
Laura Riding (1901 - 1991)
The map of places.
The reality of paper tears.
Land and water where they are
Are only where they were
When words read here and here
Before ships happened there.
Now on naked names feet stand,
No geographies in the hand,
And paper reads anciently,
And ships at sea
Turn round and round.
All is known, all is found.
Death meets itself everywhere.
Holes in maps look through to nowhere.
A Brief for the Defense
Jack Gilbert (1925-)
Refusing Heaven (2005)
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
from Liquid Mercury
Gu Cheng (1959-1993)
Liquid Mercury (1988)
Trans. Joseph R. Allen
like worms finding their way through pinecones
chess pieces moved one by one
sometimes for naught
Chewing on a word, contemplating its meaning
it tastes bad
threaded through with mildew
so we chew on another
We can't get there on time by driving
into the pines
seeds fallen to the ground
pinecones spread everywhere
Pigeons at Dawn
Charles Simic (1938-)
My Noiseless Entourage (2005)
Extraordinary efforts are being made
To hide things from us, my friend.
Some stay up into the wee hours
To search their souls.
Others undress each other in darkened rooms.
The creaky old elevator
Took us down to the icy cellar first
To show us a mop and a bucket
Before it deigned to ascend again
With a sigh of exasperation.
Under the vast, early-dawn sky
The city lay silent before us.
Everything on hold:
Rooftops and water towers,
Clouds and wisps of white smoke.
We must be patient, we told ourselves,
See if the pigeons will coo now
For the one who comes to her window
To feed them angel cake,
All but invisible, but for her slender arm.
A. R. Ammons
Selected Poems 1951-1971
when November stripped
in revealed space was
in essential limbs
how harmless truth
in cold weather
to an empty nest
summer turned light
and inside the shadeful
itself to life
icicles and waterpanes:
at the bottom, knowledges
speech comes out,
a bleached form,
after the events of silence
the flying away
the nest is held
out of the ground
erect on a
brittle walk of bones:
empty of separations
in the Nov
wonder where the birds are now that were here:
wonder if the hawks missed them:
leaves— out of so many
a nestful missed the ground
I am a bush
I am a nest
I am a bird
I am a wind
I am a negg
I is a bush, nest, bird, wind, negg
I is a leaf
if I fall what falls:
the leaves fell and the birds flew away and winter came and
singing those home
, two again
so what if
closed and open infinities:
so what if
all that, if
thunderstorms spill the eggs,
loosen the nest, strew it across
galaxies of grass and weeds:
who cares what remains when
only the interior
mattered, matters, immaterial, unremaining
there is some relationship between
to the earth and permanence:
a shrub puts itself into and out of
the earth at once
earth and air united by a stem’s
polar meshes of roots and branches:
the bird is somewhere south, unoriented
to these roots:
though they may not have wandered so far
goodbye, nest, if wind lifts you loose
goodbye, shrub, if ice breaks you down
the shrub is nothing
except part of my song
the bird I never saw is part of my song and
(the leaves are a great many little notes I lost
when I was trying to make the song
that became my silence)
the cockbird longs for the henbird
which longs for the nest
which longs for the shrub which
longs for the earth
which longs for the sun which longs for
inside there the woodmeat is saying
let me put on my leaves
let me let the sap go
but the zero bark is saying
the time is not right
it’s not the right time
the woodmeat is always right
but bark is knowing
Ogun Kills on the Right
Ogun kills on the right and destroys on the right.
Ogun kills on the left and destroys on the left.
Ogun kills suddenly in the house and suddenly in the field.
Ogun kills the child with the iron with which it plays.
Ogun kills in silence.
Ogun kills the thief and the owner of stolen goods.
Ogun kills the owner of the house and paints the hearth with his blood.
Ogun is the forest god.
He gives all his clothes to the beggars.
He gives one to the woodock--who dyes it in indigo.
He gives one to the coucal--who dyes it in camwood.
He gives one to the cattle egret--who leaves it white.
Ogun's laughter is no joke.
His enemies scatter in all directions.
The butterflies do not have to see the leopard...
they scatter in all directions!
Master of iron, chief of robbers,
you have water, but you bathe in blood.
The light shining in your face is not easy to behold.
Ogun, with the bloody cap, let me see the red of your eye.
Ogun is not like pounded yam:
do you think you can knead him in your hand
and eat of him until you are satisfied?
Do you think Ogun is something you can throw into your cap
and walk away with it?
Ogun is a mad god
who will ask questions after seven hundred and eighty years.
Ogun has pity on me:
whether I can reply, or whether I cannot reply:
Ogun don't ask me anything!
The lion never allows anybody to play with his cub.
Ogun will never allow his child to be punished.
Ogun do not reject me!
Does the woman who spins ever reject a spindle?
Does the woman who dyes ever reject a cloth?
Does the eye that sees ever reject a sight?
Ogun, do not reject me.
Section I, part IV of Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
The first idea was not our own. Adam
In Eden was the father of Descartes
And eve made air the mirror of herself,
Of her sons and of her daughters. They found themselves
In heaven as in a glass; a second earth;
And in the earth itself they found a green—
The inhabitants of a very varnished green.
But the first idea was not to shape the clouds
In imitation. The clouds preceded us.
There was a muddy centre before we breathed.
There was a myth before the myth began,
Venerable and articulate and complete.
From this the poem springs: that we live in a place
That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves
And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.
We are the mimics. Clouds are pedagogues.
The air is not a mirror but bare board,
Coulisse bright-dark, tragic chiaroscuro
And comic color of the rose, in which
Abysmal instruments make sounds like pips
Of the sweeping meanings that we add to them.
from The Triumph of Life
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822)
"Let them pass"-
I cried - "The world & its mysterious doom
Is not so much more glorious than it was
That I desire to worship those who drew
New figures on its false & fragile glass
As the old faded." - "Figures ever new
Rise on the bubble, paint them how you may;
We have but thrown, as those before us threw
Our shadows on it as it past away.
Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849)
Let dew the flowers fill;
No need of fell despair,
Though to the grave you bear
One still of soul - but now too still,
One fair - but now too fair.
For, beneath your feet, the mound,
And the waves, that play around,
Have meaning in their grassy, and their watery,
And, with a thousand sunny wiles,
Each says, as he reproves,
Death's arrow oft is Love's.
John Ashbery (1927- )
As We Know (1979)
Something I read once
In some poem reminded me of it:
The dark, wet street
(It gets dark at seven now)
Gleaming, ecstatic, with the thin spear
Of faerie trumpet-calls. A lullaby
That is an exclamation.
It cannot be found
As when the whole sky shifts and stays
Where it is until the next time.
Like a summer job in a department store
It stays on and on,
Breaking up the moments, hiding
Taking whatever is there away from us.
Its temperature is darkness,
Its taste, the silent, bitter welcome
On the edge of the forest
When you were starting to reach home.
Also, too much is written
About it, as though each time
Were starting from zero toward an imaginary
Number. No one sees it's
Just the evening news, mostly,
A translation into the light of day,
or two fiddles scraping along
Out of kindness, you think, but
To whom? In short, any kind of tame
Manifestation against the straw
Of darkness and the darkening trees
Until the aftertaste claimed it.
The City Limits
When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider
that birds' bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest
swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them,
not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider
the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue
bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped
guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no
way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider
that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then
the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the
leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark
work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.
6. Bulin's Entry for the Lullabye Competition
Gu Cheng (1956-1993)
Bulin's File (1981)
Translated from the Chinese by Joseph R. Allen
The blood of grapes fills the glass
and air fills the bronze bell
into the mouths of those who fancy death
are placed tear-gas bombs and a million words
Hey, Little Treasure who no one wants
Don't you cry, look,
there are angels of cream
hiding from the rain, under the arches of the bridge
As long as the torrent of mud holds off a little longer
they can finish their conference
a conference that decides to vacation inside your heart
where the rents are cheaper
The Child and the Cathedral
Gwendolyn MacEwan (1941-1987)
The T.E. Lawrence Poems, 1982
It was in the white light of a dreadful afternoon
that I saw the child. She wore a bright
White dress and was playing with a ball in front
Of the cathedral. I knew
she was animal; in my hatred
Of animals I began to balance her
against the cathedral.
If I had to sacrifice one of them, I asked myself -
which would it be?
I knew it was
The cathedral. I would destroy it to save her.
Another time I swerved at sixty miles an hour
To save some damned little bird that dashed itself out
against my side-car. Why did it have to
Kill itself against me, for God's sake, why me?
Don't they know their existence wounds me, don't
They know I am the victim of such loveliness
I want to die in it and cannot?
DOn't they know the hatred and fear and pity go on and on
And turn into love, horrible love that bashes
its brains out against the light?