Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bernardo Atxaga - Death and the Zebras

We were 157 zebras
galloping down the parched plain,
I ran behind zebra 24,
25, and 26,
ahead of 61 and 62
and suddenly we were overtaken with a jump
by 118 and 119,
both of them shouting river, river,
and 25, very happy, repeated river, river,
and suddenly 130 reached us
running, shouting, very happy, river, river,
and 25 took a left turn
ahead of 24 and 26
and suddenly I saw the sun on the river
sparkling full of sparkly splashes
and 8 and 9 passed me
running in the opposite direction
with their mouths full of water
and wet legs and white chests
very happy, shouting go,go,go
and I stumbled suddenly with 5 and 7
who were also running in the opposite directions
but shouting crocodiles, crocodiles,
and then 6 and 30 and 14 ran past us
very frightened, shouting crocodiles, crocodiles, go, go, go
and I drank water, I drank sparkling water
full of sparky splashes and sun;
crocodile, crocodile, shouted 25, very frightened,
crocodile, I repeated, rearing back
and running very frightened in the opposite direction
I suddenly collided with 149
and 150 and 151,
running, shouting very happy river,river,
crocodiles, crocodiles,
I shouted back, very frightened
with my mouth full of water
and wet legs and wet chest
I kept galloping down the parched plain
behind 24 and 26
ahead of 61 and 62 and 63
and suddenly I saw, I saw a gap
between 24 and 26, a gap
and I kept galloping down the parched plain
and I saw the gap again, the gap again,
between 24 and 26
and I jumped and filled the gap.

We were 149 zebras
galloping down the parched plain,
and head of me were 12, 13
and 14, and behind me
43 and 44.



Friday, May 14, 2010

Arthur Rimbaud - Delirum II

Alchemy of the Word


My turn now. The story of one of my insanities.

For a long time I boasted that I was master of all possible landscapes and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.

What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints; old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children's books, old operas, silly old songs, the nave rhythms of country rimes.

I dreamed of Crusades, voyages of discovery that nobody had heard of, republics without histories, religious wars stamped out, revolutions in morals, movements of races and continents: I used to believe in every kind of magic.

I invented colors for the vowels! - A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. - I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator.

I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.


Far from flocks, from birds and country girls,
What did I drink within that leafy screen
Surrounded by tender hazlenut trees
In the warm green mist of afternoon?

What could I drink from this young Oise
- Toungeless trees, flowerless grass, dark skies! -
Drink from these yellow gourds, far from the hut
I loved? Some golden draught that made me sweat.

I would have made a doubtful sign for an inn.
- Later, toward evening, the sky filled with clouds...
Water from the woods runs out on virgin sands,
And heavenly winds cast ice thick on the ponds;

Then I saw gold, and wept, but could not drink.


At four in the morning, in summertime,
Love's drowsiness still lasts...
The bushes blow away the odor
Of the night's feast.

Beyond the bright Hesperides,
Within the western workshop of the Sun,
Carpenters scramble - in shirtsleeves -
Work is begun.

And in desolate, moss-grown isles
They raise their precious panels
Where the city
Will paint a hollow sky

For these charming dabblers in the arts
Who labor for a King in Babylon,
Venus! Leave for a moment
Lovers' haloed hearts.

O Queen of Shepherds!
Carry the purest eau-de-vie
To these workmen while they rest
And take their bath at noonday, in the sea


The worn-out ideas of old-fashioned poetry played an important part in my alchemy of the word.

I got used to elementary hallucination: I could very precisely see a mosque instead of a factory, a drum corps of angels, horse carts on the highways of the sky, a drawing room at the bottom of a lake; monsters and mysteries; a vaudeville's title filled me with awe.

And so I explained my magical sophistries by turning words into visions!

At last, I began to consider my mind's disorder a sacred thing. I lay about idle, consumed by an oppressive fever: I envied the bliss of animals - caterpillars, who portray the innocence of a second childhood, moles, the slumber of virginity!

My mind turned sour. I said farewell to the world in poems something like ballads:

A Song from the highest Tower

Let it come, let it come,
The season we can love

I have waited so long
That at length I forget;
And leave unto heaven
My fear and regret.
A sick thirst
Darkens my veins.

Let it come, let it come,
The season we can love

So the green field
To oblivion falls,
Overgrown, flowering,
With incense and weeds
And the cruel noise
Of dirty flies.

Let it come, let it come,
The season we can love

I loved the desert, burnt orchards, tired old shops, warm drinks. I dragged myself through stinking alleys, and with my eyes closed I offered myself to the sun, the god of fire.

"General, if on your ruined ramparts one cannon still remains, shell us with clods of dried-up earth. Shatter the mirrors of expensive shops! And the drawing rooms! Make the city swallow its dust. Turn gargoyles to rust. Stuff boudoirs with rubies' fiery powder..."

Oh! the little fly drunk at the urinal of a country inn, in love with rotting weeds, a ray of light dissolves him!


I only find within my bones
A taste for eating earth and stones.
When I feed, I feed on air,
Rocks and coals and iron ore.

My hunger, turn. Hunger, feed,
A field of bran.
Gather as you can the bright
Poison weed.

Eat the rocks a beggar breaks,
The stones of ancient churches' walls;
Pebbles, children of the flood,
Loaves left lying in the mud.


Beneath the bush a wolf will howl
Spitting bright feathers
From his feast of fowl:
Like him, I devour myself.

Waiting to be gathered
Fruits and grasses spend their hours;
The spider spinning in the hedge
Eats only flowers.

Let me sleep! Let me boil
On the altars of Solomon;
Let me soak the rusty soil,
And flow into Kendron.

Finally, O reason, O happiness, I cleared from the sky the blue which is darkness, and I lived as a golden spark of this light Nature. In my delight, I made my face look as comic and as wild as I could:

It is recovered.
What? - Eternity.
In the whirling light
Of the sun in the sea.

O my eternal soul,
Hold fast to desire
In spite of the night
And the day on fire.

You must set yourself free
From the striving of Man
And the applause of the World
You must fly as you can...

- No hope forever
No orietur.
Science and patience,
The torment is sure.

The fire within you,
Soft silken embers,
Is our whole duty
But no one remembers.

It is recovered.
What? Eternity.
In the whirling light
Of the sun in the sea.


I became a fabulous opera: I saw that everyone in the world was doomed to happiness. Action isn't life: it's merely a way of ruining a kind of strength, a means of destroying nerves. Morality is water on the brain.

It seemed to me that everyone should have had several other lives as well. This gentleman doesn't know what he's doing: he's an angel. That family is a litter of puppy dogs. With some men, I often talked out loud with a moment from one of their other lives. - That's how I happened to love a pig.

Not a single one of the brilliant arguments of madness, - the madness that gets locked up, - did I forget: I could go through them all again, I've got the system down by heart.

It affected my health. Terror loomed ahead. I would fall again and again into a heavy sleep, which lasted several days at a time, and when I woke up, my sorrowful dreams continued. I was ripe for fatal harvest, and my weakness led me down dangerous roads to the edge of the world, to the Cimmerian shore, the haven of whirlwinds and darkness.

I had to travel, to dissipate the enchantments that crowded my brain. On the sea, which I loved as if it were to wash away my impurity, I watched the compassionate cross arise. I had been damned by the rainbow. Felicity was my doom, my gnawing remorse, my worm: my life would forever be too large to devote to strength and to beauty.

Felicity! The deadly sweetness of its sting would wake me at cockcrow, - ad matutinum, at the Christus venit, - in the somberest of cities:

O seasons, O chateaus!
Where is the flawless soul?

I learned the magic of
Felicity, it enchants us all.

To Felicity, sing life and praise
Whenever Gaul's cock crows.

Now all desire has gone:
It has made my life its own.

That spell has caught heart and soul
And scattered every trial.

O seasons, O chateaus!

And, oh! the day it disappears
Will be the day I die.

O seasons, O chateaus!


All that is over. Today, I know how to celebrate beauty.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Friedrich Holderlin - Bread and Wine

Bread and Wine

to Heinze


Round about the city rests. The illuminated streets grow
Quiet, and coaches rush along, adorned with torches.
Men go home to rest, filled with the day's pleasures;
Busy minds weigh up profit and loss contentedly
At home. The busy marketplace comes to rest,
Vacant now of flowers and grapes and crafts.
But the music of strings sounds in distant gardens:
Perhaps lovers play there, or a lonely man thinks
About distant friends, and about his own youth.
Rushing fountains flow by fragrant flower beds,
Bells ring softly in the twilight air, and a watchman
Calls out the hour, mindful of the time.
Now a breeze rises and touches the crest of the grove —
Look how the moon, like the shadow of our earth,
Also rises stealthily! Phantastical night comes,
Full of stars, unconcerned probably about us —
Astonishing night shines, a stranger among humans,
Sadly over the mountain tops, in splendor.


The kindness of exalted Night is wonderful, and no one
Knows where she comes from, or what will emerge from her.
Thus she moves the world, and the hopeful minds of humans:
Not even a sage knows what she's up to.
The highest god, who loves you very much, wants it so;
Therefore you prefer reasonable day to the night.
But occasionally a clear eye loves the shadows as well,
And tries to sleep just for pleasure, before it's necessary,
Or a brave person likes to gaze directly into the Night:
Surely it's right to dedicate wreaths and songs to her,
Since she is holy to those who are lost or dead, although
She herself exists totally free in spirit, forever.
But she must grant us oblivion and holy drunkenness,
That in the hesitating interval, in the darkness,
There'll be something for us to hold on to.
She must grant us flowing words, sleepless
As lovers are, and a fuller cup, and bolder life, and
Holy remembrance as well, to stay wakeful at night.


We, masters and apprentices both, hide our hearts
In vain, and repress our enthusiasm for no reason.
For who could stop it, or forbid us our pleasure?
The fire of the gods drives us to set forth by day
And by night. So come, let us look at what is apparent,
And seek what is ours, as distant as it may be!
One thing is certain: a standard always exists, at noon
Or at midnight, common to all of us. But also
To each of us something personal is granted;
Everyone goes and comes where he can.
Thus playful madness may mock mockery itself,
Seizing singers suddenly in the holy night.
Then let's be off to the Isthmus! There, where
The open sea roars at Parnassus, and the snow
Shines around the Delphian cliffs,
There in the land of Olympus, on Cithaeron's peak,
Under the pines, amid vineyards, from which
Thebes and Ismenos roar in the land of Cadmus.
The approaching god comes from there, and points back.


Holy Greece! Home of all the gods — so it's true,
What once we heard when we were young?
A festival hall, whose floor is the ocean, whose tables
Are the mountains — anciently built for a single purpose.
But where are the thrones? Where the temples, the songs,
The vases full of nectar for the pleasure of the gods?
Where are the oracles that shine for miles and miles?
Delphi sleeps, and where does great Fate resound?
Where does Fate suddenly break forth, full of omnipresent
Joy, thundering out of clear air over our eyes?
Father Aether! It called and flew from tongue to tongue
A thousand times, and nobody had to endure life alone.
Shared, such fortune is a joy; exchanged with strangers,
It becomes jubilant. Sleeping, the power of the word grows:
Father! Joyful! The ancient sign resounds, as far it reaches,
Inherited from the elders, striking, creating.
Thus the gods enter; thus the season of the gods falls
From the shadows down to men, shaking the depths.


At first the gods come unperceived. Children try to get
Near them. But their glory dazzles and blinds and
Awakens fear. A demi-god scarcely knows the people
By name, who now approach him with gifts. But their
Courage is great. Their joy fills his heart, and he hardly
Knows what to do with the offerings. He busies himself
And becomes wasteful, and unholy things almost become holy,
Which he touches with a blessing hand, foolishly and kindly.
The gods tolerate it as long as they can, and then in truth
They appear themselves. And people become accustomed
To this fortune, to the daytime, and to the sight of the manifest
Ones, the faces of those formerly called the "One and All,"
Deeply making every silent breast content, and first and alone
Filling every desire. It's the way people are. When something
Good appears, and even when it's a god that provides them
With gifts, they don't see or recognize it. First they have
To get used to it; then they call it their closest possession.
And only then will words of praise arise, like flowers.


And now they prepare in earnest to honor the holy gods.
Everything must really and truly proclaim their praise.
Nothing displeasing to the high ones may come to light.
Idle endeavors aren't proper for the Aether.
Therefore, to stand worthily in the presence of the gods,
Nations rise in splendid order and beautiful
Temples and cities are built, strong and noble, which rise
Above the banks of the waters —but where are they?
Where are the famous, flourishing cities, crowning the festival?
Thebes and Athens are fading. Don't the weapons clash
At Olympus, or golden chariots at the games? Are there
No longer wreaths to decorate the ships of Corinth?
Why are the ancient holy theaters silent?
What happened to the joyful ceremonial dancing?
Why doesn't a god place his sign on a human forehead,
Leaving his mark on the person he has struck?
Or, as gods used to, come comfortingly, and assume human
Shape, then complete and close the festival of the gods?


But friend, we come too late. It's true that the gods live,
But up over our heads, up in a different world.
They function endlessly up there, and seem to care little
If we live or die, so much do they avoid us.
A weak vessel cannot hold them forever; humans can
Endure the fullness of the gods only at times. Therefore
Life itself becomes a dream about them. But perplexity
And sleep assist us: distress and night-time strengthen,
Until enough heroes have grown in the bronze cradle,
With hearts as strong as the gods', as it used to be.
Thundering they arise. Meanwhile I often think it is
Better to stay asleep, than to exist without companions,
Just waiting it out, not knowing what to do or say
In the meantime. What use are poets in times of need?
But you'll say they're like holy priests of the wine god,
Moving from land to land in the holy night.


Some time ago — to us it seems like a long time —
All those who made our lives happy climbed upwards.
The Father turned his face away from people,
And sorrow came rightly upon the earth.
Finally a quiet genius appeared, comforting in a god-like
Way, who announced the end of the day, and disappeared.
The choir of gods left some gifts behind, as a sign
Of their presence and eventual return, which we
May appreciate in our human fashion, as we used to.
That which is superior had grown too great for pleasure
With spirit among men. And to this day no one's strong enough
For the highest joys, although some gratitude survives quietly.
Bread is the fruit of the earth, yet it's blessed also by light.
The pleasure of wine comes from the thundering god.
We remember the gods thereby, those who were once
With us, and who'll return when the time is right.
Thus poets sing of the wine god in earnest, and their
Ringing praises of the old one aren't devised in vain.


Yes, they say rightly that he reconciles day with night,
And leads the stars of heaven up and down forever —
Joyful always, like the boughs of evergreen pine
That he loves, and the wreath he chose of ivy,
Since it endures, and brings a trace of the fugitive gods
Down to the darkness of those who must live in their absence.
What the sons of the ancients foretold of God's children:
Look, it's us, the fruit of Hesperia!
Through humans it is wonderfully and exactly fulfilled;
Let those believe who've examined the matter. But so much
Goes on, yet nothing succeeds: we are like heartless shadows
Until our Father Aether recognizes us and belongs to us all.
Meanwhile the Son, the Syrian, comes down among
The shadows, as torchbearer of the Highest.
Holy sages observe it; a smile shines out from
The imprisoned soul; their eyes thaw in the light.
Titans dream more softly, asleep in the arms of the earth—
Even jealous Cerberus drinks and falls asleep.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lorine Niedecker

Swept snow, Li Po,
by dawn’s 40-watt moon
to the road that hies to office
away from home.
Tended my brown little stove
as one would a cow –she gives heat.
Spring –marsh frog-clatter peace
breaks out.

(from I: My Friend Tree)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Arthur Rimbaud- My Bohemia: A Fantasy

I ran off, fists in my ragged seams:
Even my overcoat was becoming Ideal:
I went under the sky, Muse! I was yours:
Oh! What miraculous loves I dreamed!

My only pair of pants was a big hole.
– Tom Thumb the dreamer, sowing the roads there
With rhymes. My inn the Sign of the Great Bear.
– My stars in the sky rustling to and fro.

I heard them, squatting by the wayside,
In September twilights, there I felt the dew
Drip on my forehead, like a fierce coarse wine.

Where, rhyming into the fantastic dark,
I plucked, like lyre strings, the elastics
Of my tattered shoes, a foot pressed to my heart.

Monday, April 5, 2010

HAI ZI (Zha Haisheng) - Facing the sea, flowers in spring

From tomorrow on, be a happy man
Raise horses, chop wood, see the world.
From tomorrow on, care about food and vegetables
I will have a house, facing the sea, and flowers in spring.

From tomorrow on, write to all my family
Tell them of my happiness
This spark of joy, its message
I will let everyone know

Give every river, every mountain, a warm name

You too, stranger, I wish you the best
Wish you a brilliant future
Wish you everlasting love
Wish you happiness in this world

Me, I just want to face the sea, and have flowers in spring.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Young Poets-- Nicanor Parra

Write as you will
In whatever style you like
Too much blood has run under the bridge
To go on believing
That only one road is right.

In poetry everything is permitted.

With only this condition of course,
You have to improve the blank page.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Du Fu - Jiang Village (3 Poems)

Red evening clouds are mountainous in the west
and the sun's feet disappear under the horizon.
Sparrows noisy over the brushwood door.
I am a traveler home after a thousand miles.
My wife and children are startled to see me alive.
The surprise ends but they can't stop wiping tears.
In the chaotic world I was tossed about;
I've found my way home, alive by accident.
Neighbors crowd over our garden walls.
They are moved, sighing and even weeping.
In deep night we hold candles,
facing each other as if in dream.

I live my late years as if I've stolen my life.
Very few joys after I returned home.
My little son never lets go of my knees,
afraid I will go away again.
I remember I liked to chase cool shade,
so I walk under trees by the pond.
Whistling, the north wind is strong,
I finger past events and a hundred worries fry in my mind.
However, the crops are harvested,
wine spurts from the mouth of the flask
and I have enough to fill my cups
and console me in my dusk.

A group of chickens make chaos
and fight each other as guests arrive.
I drive them up bushes and trees,
before I hear knocking on my brushwood gate:
four or five village elders greet me
and ask about my long absence.
Each of them brings a gift in hand.
Their wines pour out, some clear, some muddy.
They apologize for their wine, so watery,
as there was no one to grow millet.
Weapons and horses can't rest yet;
the young men are gone on the expedition east.
I offer a song for my old village folks,
feeling deep gratitude.
After singing, I sigh and throw back my head
and tears meander down our faces.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Miguel Piñero - A Lower Eastside Poem

Just once before I die
I want to climb up on a
tenement sky
to dream my lungs out till
I cry
then scatter my ashes thru
the Lower East Side.

So let me sing my song tonight
let me feel out of sight
and let all eyes be dry
when they scatter my ashes thru
the Lower East Side.

From Houston to 14th Street
from Second Avenue to the mighty D
here the hustlers & suckers meet
the faggots & freaks will all get
on the ashes that have been scattered
thru the Lower East Side.

There's no other place for me to be
there's no other place that I can see
there's no other town around that
brings you up or keeps you down
no food little heat sweeps by
fancy cars & pimps' bars & juke saloons
& greasy spoons make my spirits fly
with my ashes scattered thru the
Lower East Side . . .

A thief, a junkie I've been
committed every known sin
Jews and Gentiles . . . Bums and Men
of style . . . run away child
police shooting wild . . .
mother's futile wails . . . pushers

making sales . . . dope wheelers
& cocaine dealers . . . smoking pot
streets are hot & feed off those who bleed to death . . .

all that's true
all that's true
all that is true
but this ain't no lie
when I ask that my ashes be scattered thru
the Lower East Side.

So here I am, look at me
I stand proud as you can see
pleased to be from the Lower East
a street fighting man
a problem of this land
I am the Philosopher of the Criminal Mind
a dweller of prison time
a cancer of Rockefeller's ghettocide
this concrete tomb is my home
to belong to survive you gotta be strong
you can't be shy less without request
someone will scatter your ashes thru
the Lower East Side.

I don't wanna be buried in Puerto Rico
I don't wanna rest in long island cemetery
I wanna be near the stabbing shooting
gambling fighting & unnatural dying
& new birth crying
so please when I die . . .
don't take me far away
keep me near by
take my ashes and scatter them thru out
the Lower East Side . . .
- George

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rainer Maria Rilke - Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.

That was the strange mine of souls.
As secret ores of silver they passed
like veins through its darkness. Between the roots
blood welled, flowing onwards to Mankind,
and it looked as hard as Porphyry in the darkness.
Otherwise nothing was red.

There were cliffs
and straggling woods. Bridges over voids,
and that great grey blind lake,
that hung above its distant floor
like a rain-filled sky above a landscape.
And between meadows, soft and full of patience,
one path, a pale strip, appeared,
passing by like a long bleached thing.

And down this path they came.

In front the slim man in the blue mantle,
mute and impatient, gazing before him.
His steps ate up the path in huge bites
without chewing: his hands hung,
clumsy and tight, from the falling folds,
and no longer aware of the weightless lyre,
grown into his left side,
like a rose-graft on an olive branch.
And his senses were as if divided:
while his sight ran ahead like a dog,
turned back, came and went again and again,
and waited at the next turn, positioned there –
his hearing was left behind like a scent.
Sometimes it seemed to him as if it reached
as far as the going of those other two,
who ought to be following this complete ascent.

Then once more it was only the repeated sound of his climb
and the breeze in his mantle behind him.
But he told himself that they were still coming:
said it aloud and heard it die away.
They were still coming, but they were two
fearfully light in their passage. If only he might
turn once more ( if looking back
were not the ruin of all his work,
that first had to be accomplished), then he must see them,
the quiet pair, mutely following him:

the god of errands and far messages,
the travelling-hood above his shining eyes,
the slender wand held out before his body,
the beating wings at his ankle joints;
and on his left hand, as entrusted: her.

The so-beloved, that out of one lyre
more grief came than from all grieving women:
so that a world of grief arose, in which
all things were there once more: forest and valley,
and road and village, field and stream and creature:
and that around this grief-world, just as
around the other earth, a sun
and a silent star-filled heaven turned,
a grief-heaven with distorted stars –
she was so-loved.

But she went at that god’s left hand,
her steps confined by the long grave-cloths,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.
She was in herself, like a woman near term,
and did not think of the man, going on ahead,
or the path, climbing upwards towards life.
She was in herself. And her being-dead
filled her with abundance.
As a fruit with sweetness and darkness,
so she was full with her vast death,
that was so new, she comprehended nothing.

She was in a new virginity
and untouchable: her sex was closed
like a young flower at twilight,
and her hands had been weaned so far
from marriage that even the slight god’s
endlessly gentle touch, as he led,
hurt her like too great an intimacy.

She was no longer that blonde woman,
sometimes touched on in the poet’s songs,
no longer the wide bed’s scent and island,
and that man’s possession no longer.

She was already loosened like long hair,
given out like fallen rain,
shared out like a hundredfold supply.

She was already root.

And when suddenly
the god stopped her and, with anguish in his cry,
uttered the words: ‘He has turned round’ –
she comprehended nothing and said softly: ‘Who?’
But far off, darkly before the bright exit,
stood someone or other, whose features
were unrecognisable. Who stood and saw
how on the strip of path between meadows,
with mournful look, the god of messages
turned, silently, to follow the figure
already walking back by that same path,
her steps confined by the long grave-cloths,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Outnumbered at 0- Mary Jo Bang

The silent south, the workers quiet.
Listen. The pictured environment: An anchor tattoo
In amber, and a cold face like an equally icy chandelier at the top

Of the cage. It's April again. It's October. That's what I said.
It's over, like a ghost in the going to go, Okay, here's the door. See
The trim around the rectangle. Let's walk around,

Get closer to the center. Come over here, sister. Line up
For the photo. It's August. You have on sunglasses. It's February.
It's snowing. I know it keeps changing. You're wearing a jacket.

You're going, Okay, here's the door. See the trim
Around the rectangle. Walking around getting closer to the center.
No rain and yet you're dead center of an eddy.

Listen: We interfere with our own wrath
From the completely unknown inside of a cardboard horse.
I.e., Objectivity is overestimated.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Rain- Robert Creeley

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent--
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Rainer Maria Rilke - Requiem for a Friend

The magnanimity, the weight of his mind and
the importance of memory,
recounted like explosions within the soul.
Their bursts let him relive, with
maddening clarity, the moment
every beating of his heart invoked strings
within the blood;
to quiver and to pull, to loosen and to reach;
to lament the death of every passing thought,
(thoughts that lighted reality with a gentle rose-tinged glint,
like the return of light after every blink)
and the death of every following silence.
How else could the
lost heart-sing?

Requiem for a Friend

(Paula Modersohn-Becker 1876-1907)

I have dead ones, and I have let them go,
and was astonished to see them so peaceful,
so quickly at home in being dead, so just,
so other than their reputation. Only you, you turn
back: you brush against me, and go by, you try
to knock against something, so that it resounds
and betrays you. O don’t take from me what I
am slowly learning. I’m sure you err
when you deign to be homesick at all
for any Thing. We change them round:
they are not present, we reflect them here
out of our being, as soon as we see them.

I thought you were much further on. It disturbs me
that you especially err and return, who have
changed more than any other woman.
That we were frightened when you died, no, that
your harsh death broke in on us darkly,
tearing the until-then from the since-that:
it concerns us: that it become a unique order
is the task we must always be about.
But that even you were frightened, and now too
are in terror, where terror is no longer valid:
that you lose a little of your eternity, my friend,
and that you appear here, where nothing
yet is: that you, scattered for the first time,
scattered and split in the universe,
that you did not grasp the rise of events,
as here you grasped every Thing:
that from the cycle that has already received you
the silent gravity of some unrest
pulls you down to measured time –
this often wakes me at night like a thief breaking in.
And if only I might say that you deign to come
out of magnanimity, out of over-fullness,
because so certain, so within yourself,
that you wander about like a child, not anxious
in the face of anything one might do –
but no: you are asking. This enters so
into my bones, and cuts like a saw.
A reproach, which you might offer me, as a ghost,
impose on me, when I withdraw at night,
into my lungs, into the innards,
into the last poor chamber of my heart –
such a reproach would not be as cruel
as this asking is. What do you ask?

Say, shall I travel? Have you left some Thing
behind somewhere, that torments itself
and yearns for you? Shall I enter a land
you never saw, though it was close to you
like the other side of your senses?

I will travel its rivers: go ashore
and ask about its ancient customs:
speak to women in their doorways
and watch when they call their children.
I’ll note how they wrap the landscape
round them, going about their ancient work
in meadow and field: I’ll demand
to be led before their king, and I’ll
win their priests with bribes to place me
in front of their most powerful statues,
and leave, and close the temple gates.
Only then when I know enough, will I
simply look at creatures, so that something
of their manner will glide over my limbs:
and I will possess a limited being
in their eyes, which hold me and slowly
release me, calmly, without judgment.
I’ll let the gardeners recite many flowers
to me, so that I might bring back
in the fragments of their lovely names
a remnant of their hundred perfumes.
And I’ll buy fruits, fruits in which that land
exists once more, as far as the heavens.

That is what you understood: the ripe fruits.
You placed them in bowls there in front of you
and weighed out their heaviness with pigments.
And so you saw women as fruits too,
and saw the children likewise, driven
from inside into the forms of their being.
And you saw yourself in the end as a fruit,
removed yourself from your clothes, brought
yourself in front of the mirror, allowed yourself
within, as far as your gaze that stayed huge outside
and did not say: ‘I am that’: no, rather: ‘this is.’
So your gaze was finally free of curiosity
and so un-possessive, of such real poverty,
it no longer desired self: was sacred.

So I’ll remember you, as you placed yourself
within the mirror, deep within and far
from all. Why do you appear otherwise?
What do you countermand in yourself? Why
do you want me to believe that in the amber beads
at your throat there was still some heaviness
of that heaviness that never exists in the other-side
calm of paintings: why do you show me
an evil presentiment in your stance:
what do the contours of your body mean,
laid out like the lines on a hand,
so that I no longer see them except as fate?

Come here, to the candlelight. I’m not afraid
to look on the dead. When they come
they too have the right to hold themselves out
to our gaze, like other Things.

Come here: we’ll be still for a while.
See this rose, close by on my desk:
isn’t the light around it precisely as hesitant
as that over you: it too shouldn’t be here.
Outside in the garden, unmixed with me,
it should have remained or passed –
now it lives, so: what is my consciousness to it?

Don’t be afraid if I understand now, ah,
it climbs in me: I can do no other,
I must understand, even if I die of it.
Understand, that you are here. I understand.
Just as a blind man understands a Thing,
I feel your fate and do not know its name
Let us grieve together that someone drew you
out of your mirror. Can you still weep?
You cannot. You turned the force and pressure
of your tears into your ripe gaze,
and every juice in you besides
you added into a heavy reality,
that climbed and spun in balance blindly.
Then chance tore at you, a final chance
tore you back from your furthest advance,
back into a world where juices have will.
Not tearing you wholly: tore only a piece at first,
but when around this piece, day after day
reality grew, so that it became heavy,
you needed your whole self: you went
and broke yourself, in pieces, out of its control,
painfully, out, because you needed yourself. Then
you lifted yourself out, and dug the still green seeds
out of the night-warmed earth of your heart,
from which your death would rise: yours,
your own death for your own life.
And ate them, the kernels of your death,
like all the others, ate the kernels,
and found an aftertaste of sweetness
you did not expect, found sweetness on the lips,
you: who were already sweet within your senses.

O let us grieve. Do you know how your blood
hesitated in its unequalled gyre, and reluctantly
returned, when you called it back?
How confused it was to take up once more
the body’s narrow circulation: how full of mistrust
and amazement, entering into the placenta,
and suddenly tired by the long way back.
You drove it on: you pushed it along,
you dragged it to the fireplace, as one
drags a herd-animal to the sacrifice:
and still wished that it would be happy too.
And you finally forced it: it was happy
and ran over to you and gave itself up. You thought
because you’d grown used to other rules,
it was only for a while: but
now you were within Time, and Time is long.
And Time runs on, and Time takes away, and Time
is like a relapse in a lengthy illness.

How short your life was, if you compare it
with those hours where you sat and bent
the varied powers of your varied future
silently into the bud of the child,
that was fate once more. O painful task.
O task beyond all strength. You did it
from day to day, you dragged yourself to it,
and drew the lovely weft through the loom,
and used up all the threads in another way.
And finally you still had courage to celebrate.

When it was done, you wanted to be rewarded,
like a child when it has drunk the bittersweet
tea that might perhaps make it well.
So you rewarded yourself: you were still so far
from other people, even then: no one was able
to think through, what gift would please you.
You knew. You sat up in childbed,
and in front of you stood a mirror, that returned
the whole thing to you. This everything was you,
and wholly before, and within was only illusion,
the sweet illusion of every woman, who gladly
takes up her jewelry, and combs, and alters her hair.

So you died, as women used to die, you died,
in the old-fashioned way, in the warm house,
the death of women who have given birth, who wish
to shut themselves again and no longer can,
because that darkness, that they have borne,
returns once more, and thrusts, and enters.

Still, shouldn’t a wailing of women have been raised?
Where women would have lamented, for gold,
and one could pay for them to howl
through the night, when all becomes silent.
A custom once! We have too few customs.
They all vanish and become disowned.
So you had to come, in death, and, here with me,
retrieve the lament. Can you hear that I lament?
I wish that my voice were a cloth thrown down
over the broken fragments of your death
and pulled about until it were torn to pieces,
and all that I say would have to walk around,
ragged, in that voice, and shiver:
what remains belongs to lament. But now I lament,
not the man who pulled you back out of yourself,
(I don’t discover him: he’s like everyone)
but I lament all in him: mankind.

When, somewhere, from deep within me, a sense
of having been a child rises, which I still don’t understand,
perhaps the pure being-a-child of my childhood:
I don’t wish to understand. I wish to form
an angel from it, without addition,
and wish to hurl him into the front rank
of the screaming angels who remind God.

Because this suffering’s lasted far too long,
and no one can bear it: it’s too heavy for us,
this confused suffering of false love,
that builds on limitation, like a custom,
calls itself right and makes profit out of wrong.
Where is the man who has the right of possession?
Who can possess what cannot hold its own self,
what only from time to time catches itself happily,
and throws itself down again, as a child does a ball.
No more than the captain of the ship can grasp
the Nike jutting outwards from the prow
when the secret lightness of her divinity
lifts her suddenly into the bright ocean-wind:
no more can one of us call back the woman
who walks on, no longer seeing us,
along a small strip of her being
as if by a miracle, without disaster:
unless his desire and trade is in crime.

For this is a crime, if anything’s a crime:
not to increase the freedom of a Love
with all the freedom we can summon in ourselves.
We have, indeed, when we love, only this one thing:
to loose one another: because holding on to ourselves
comes easily to us, and does not first have to be learned.

Are you still there? Are you in some corner? –
You understood all of this so well
and used it so well, as you passed through
open to everything, like the dawn of a day.
Women do suffer: love means being alone,
and artists sometimes suspect in their work
that they must transform where they love.
You began both: both are in that
which now fame disfigures, and takes from you.
Oh you were far beyond any fame. You were
barely apparent: you’d withdrawn your beauty
as a man takes down a flag
on the grey morning of a working day,
and wished for nothing, except the long work –
which is unfinished: and yet is not finished.

If you are still here, if in this darkness
there is still a place where your sensitive spirit
resonates on the shallow waves
of a voice, isolated in the night,
vibrating in the high room’s current:
then hear me: help me. See, we can slip back so
unknowingly, out of our forward stride,
into something we didn’t intend: find
that we’re trapped there as if in dream
and we die there, without waking.
No one is far from it. Anyone who has fired
their blood through work that endures,
may find that they can no longer sustain it
and that it falls according to its weight, worthless.
For somewhere there is an ancient enmity
between life and the great work.
Help me, so that I might see it and know it.

Come no more. If you can bear it so, be
dead among the dead. The dead are occupied.
But help me like this, so you are not scattered,
as the furthest things sometimes help me: within.

- george

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Georg Trakl - Helian

In the spirit’s solitary hours
It is lovely to walk in the sun
Along the yellow walls of summer.
Quietly whisper the steps in the grass; yet always sleeps
The son of Pan in the grey marble.

At eventide on the terrace we got drunk on brown wine
The red peach glows under the foliage.
Tender sonata, joyous laughter.

Lovely is this silence of the night.
On the dark plains
We gather with shepherds and the white stars.

When autumn rises
The grove is a sight of sober clarity.
Along the red walls we loiter at ease
And the round eyes follow the flight of birds.
In the evening pale water gathers in the dregs of burial urns.

Heaven celebrates, sitting in bare branches.
In hallowed hands the yeoman carries bread and wine
And fruit ripens in the peace of a sunny chamber.

Oh how stern is the face of the beloved who have taken their passage.
Yet the soul is comforted in righteous meditation.

Overwhelming is the desolated garden‘s secrecy,
As the young novice has wreathed his brow with brown leaves,
His breath inhales icy gold.

The hands touch the antiquity of blueish water
Or in a cold night the sisters’ white cheeks.

In quiet and harmony we walk along a suite of hospitable rooms
Into solitude and the rustling of maple trees,
Where, perhaps, the thrush still sings.

Beautiful is man and emerging from the dark
He marvels as he moves his arms and legs,
And his eyes quietly roll in purple cavities.

At suppertime a stranger loses himself in November’s black destitution;
Under brittle branches he follows a wall covered under leprosy.
Once the holy brother went here,
Engrossed in the tender music of his madness.

Oh how lonely settles the evening-wind.
Dying away a man‘s head droops in the dark of the olive tree.

How shattering is the decline of a family.
This is the hour when the seer’s eyes are filled
With gold as he beholds the stars.

The evening’s descend has muffled the belfry‘s knell in silence;
Among black walls in the public place,
A dead soldier calls for a prayer.

Like a pale angel
The son enters his ancestor’s empty house.

The sisters have traveled far to the pale ancients.
At night, returned from their mournful pilgrimage,
He found them asleep under the columns of the hallway.

Oh hair stained with dung and worms
As his silver feet stepped on it
And on those who died in echoing rooms.

Oh you palms under midnight’s burning rain,
When the servants flogged those tender eyes with nettles,
The hollyhock’s early fruit
Beheld your empty grave in wonder.

Fading moons sail quietly
Over the sheets of the feverish lad,
Into the silence of winter.

At the bank of Kidron a great mind is lost in musing,
Under a tree, the tender cedar,
Stretched out under the father’s blue eyebrows,
Where a shepherd drives his flock to pastures at night.

Or there are screams which escape the sleep;
When an iron angel approaches man in the grove,
The holy man’s flesh melts over burning coals.

Purple wine climbs about the mud-cottage,
Sheaves of faded corn sing;
The buzz of bees; the crane’s flight.
In the evening the souls of the resurrected gather on rocky paths.

Lepers behold their image in dark water;
Or they lift the hemp of their dung soiled attire,
And weep to the soothing wind, as it drifts down from the rosy hill.

Slender maidens grope their way through the narrow lanes of night;
They hope for the gracious shepherd.
Tenderly, songs ring out from the huts on weekend.

Let the song pay homage to the boy,
To his madness to his white eyebrows and to his passage,
To the decaying corpse, who opened his blue eyes.
Oh how sad is this reunion.

The stairs of madness in black apartments –
The matriarch’s shadow emerged under the open door
When Helian’s soul beheld his image in a rosy mirror;
And from his brow bled snow and leprosy.

The walls extinguished the stars
And the white effigies of light.

From the carpet rise skeletons, escaping their graves,
Fallen crosses sit silent on the hill,
The night’s purple wind is sweet with frankincense.

Oh ye broken eyes over black gaping jaws,
When the grandson in the solitude
Of his tender madness muses over a darker ending,
The blue eyelids of the silent god sink upon him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bei Dao- A Portrait

wounded by convictions, he came from August
a mother's Perilous love
stolen away by a mirror
he's sideways between the rhinoceros and politics
like a fissure separating epochs

o conspirators, I'm nothing now
but a common wanderer
walking the cavernous museum's chessboard
trading places with strangers

great passion's never outdated
but our visits require secrecy
suddenly I feel the ache of strings
you're tuning, play me a song
somewhere predators haven't yet risen into our history

Translated from Chinese by David Hinton

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gu Cheng- Summer Outside the Pane

the crying lasted long through the night
when the sun rose
the raindrops glittered
before steaming away
I didn't wipe the glass
I knew that the sky was blue
and the trees were out there, comparing their hair
clacking their castanets
pretending to be huge predatory insects

it all is so distant

once we were weak as morning cicadas
with wet wings
the leaves were thick, we were young
knowing nothing, not wanting to know
knowing only that dreams could drift
and lead us to the day
clouds could walk in the wind
lakewater could gather light
into a glinting mirror
we looked at the green green leaves
I still don't want to know
haven't wiped the glass
ink-green waves of summer rise and fall
oars knock
fish split the shining current
a red-swimsuit laughter keeps fading

it all is so distant
that summer still lingers
the crying has stopped

Translated from Chinese by Aaron Crippen.
Published by Archipelago Publishers, Inc.. Volume 7, Issue 1.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone-- Rainer Maria Rilke

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother's face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

Translated from German by Annemarie S. Kidder.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

George Trakl - Songs of the Rosary

Songs of the Rosary
To my Sister

Where you walk it turns autumn and evening,
Beneath trees, blue game that sounds.
Lonely pond at eventide.

Quiet the flight of birds sounds,
Melancholy over your eyebrows.
Your slender smile sounds.

God has distorted your eyelids.
Stars seek at night, Good Friday child,
The sweep of your brow.