24 February 2013

Ring of bright water

                         by  Kathleen Raine

The Marriage of Psyche

He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water
Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,
He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter
Broadcast on the swift river.
He has married me with the sun's circle
Too dazzling to see, traced in summer sky.
He has crowned me with the wreath of white cloud
That gathers on the snowy summit of the mountain,
Ringed me round with the world-circling wind,
Bound me to the whirlwind's centre.
He has married me with the orbit of the moon
And with the boundless circle of stars,
With the orbits that measure years, months, days, and nights,
Set the tides flowing,
Command the winds to travel or be at rest.

At the ring's centre,
Spirit, or angel troubling the pool,
Causality not in nature,
Finger's touch that summons at a point, a moment
Stars and planets, life and light
Or gathers cloud about an apex of gold,
Transcendent touch of love summons my world into being.

The Rocks Remain

Because I see these mountains they are brought low,
Because I drink these waters they are bitter,
Because I tread these black rocks they are barren,
Because I have found these islands they are lost;
Upon seal and seabird dreaming their innocent world.
My shadow has fallen. 


17 February 2013

But what word was it

by Anne Carson

IX. But what word was it

Word that overnight
showed up on all the walls of my live inscribed simpliciter no explanation.
What is the power of the unexplained.
There he was one day (new town) in a hayfield outside my school standing
under a black umbrella
in a raw picking wind.
I never asked
how he got there a distance of maybe three hundred miles.
To ask

would break some rule.
Have you ever read 'The Homeric Hymn to Demeter'?
Remember how Hades rides out of the daylight
on his immortal horses swathed in pandemonium.
Takes the girl down to a cold room below
while her mother walks the world and damages every living thing.
Homer tells it
as a story of the crime against the mother.
For a daughter's crime is to accept Hades' rules

which she knows she can never explain
and so breezing in she says
to Demeter:
'Surely mother here is the whold story.
For slyly he placed in my hands a pomegranate seed sweet as honey.
Then by force and against my will he made me eat.
I tell you this truth though it grieves me.'
Made her eat how? I know a man

who had rules
against showing pain,
against asking why, against wanting to know when I'd see him again.
From my mother
emanated a fragrance, fear.
And from me
(I knew by her face at the table)
smell of sweet seed.
Roses in your room'd he send you those?

What's the occasion?
No occasion.
What's going on with the colour.
Ten white one red what's that mean.
Guess they ran out of white.

To abolish seduction is a mother's goal.
She will replace it with what is real: products.
Demeter's victory
over Hades
does not consist in her daughter's arrival from down below,
it's the world in bloom -
cabbages lures lambs broom sex milk money!
These kill death.

I still have that one red rose dried to powder now.
It did not mean hymen as she thought.

London Review of Books, 13 April 2000.
from The Beauty of the Husband

10 February 2013

This is a joke

                             by Alan Dugan

On Looking for Models

The trees in time
have something else to do
besides their treeing. What is it.
I'm a starving to death
man myself, and thirsty, thirsty
by their fountains but I cannot drink
their mud and sunlight to be whole.
I do not understand these presences
that drink for months
in the dirt, eat light,
and then fast dry in the cold.
They stand it out somehow,
and how, the Botanists will tell me.
It is the "something else" that bothers
me, so I often go back to the forests.

How We Heard the Name

The river brought down
dead horses, dead men
and military debris,
indicative of war
or official acts upstream,
but it went by, it all
goes by, that is the thing
about the river. Then
a soldier on a log
went by. He seemed drunk
and we asked him Why
had he and this junk
come down to us so
from the past upstream.
''Friends,'' he said, ''the great
Battle of Granicus
has just been won
by all of the Greeks except
the Lacedaemonians and
myself: this is a joke
between me and a man
named Alexander, whom
all of you ba-bas
will hear of as a god.'' 


03 February 2013

Chickens, Haydn, Fear

                              Tomas Tranströmer


After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.

The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.

The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.

I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.

I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
"We do not surrender. But want peace."

The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.

The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.


Sometimes my life opened its eyes in the dark.
A feeling as if crowds drew through the streets
in blindness and anxiety on the way towards a miracle,
while I invisibly remain standing.

As the child falls asleep in terror
listening to the heart's heavy tread.
Slowly, slowly until morning puts its rays in the locks
and the doors of darkness open.

Standing Up

In a split second of hard though, I managed to catch her.  I stopped, holding the hen in my hands.  Strange, she didn't really feel living: rigid, dry, an old white plume-ridden lady's hat that shrieked out the truths of 1912.  Thunder in the air.  An odor rose from the fence-boards, as when you open a photo album that has got so old that no one can identify the people any longer.
      I carried her back inside the chicken netting and let her go.  All of a sudden she came back to life, she knew who she was, and ran off according to the rules.  Hen yards are thick with taboos.  But the earth all around is full of affection and tenacity.  A low stone wall half overgrown with leaves.  When dusk begins to fall the stones are faintly luminous with the hundred-year-old warmth from the hands that built it.
      It's been a hard winter, but summer is here and the fields want us to walk upright.  Every man unimpeded, but careful, as when you stand up in a small boat.  I remember a day in Africa: on the banks of the Chari, there were many boats, an atmosphere positively friendly, the men almost blue-black in color with three parallel scars on each cheek (meaning the Sara tribe).  I am welcomed on a boat -- it's a canoe hollowed from a dark tree.  The canoe is incredibly wobbly, even when you sit on your heels.  A balancing act.  If you have the heart on the left side you have to lean a bit to the right, nothing in the pockets, no big arm movements, please, all rhetoric has to be left behind.  Precisely: rhetoric is impossible here.  The canoe glides out over the water.

 Tomas Tranströmer, Selected Poems: 1954-1986. 1987.  Translators: Robert Bly, Robert Fulton, Robert Bly.