28 December 2014

Amorgos, Parts 2 & 3

They say the mountains tremble and the pines rage
when night bites off the pins of the roof tiles so the kalikantzari
        can get in
when the underworld sucks in the frothing scum of the torrents
or when the hairline on the pepper tree is hammered by the north wind

Only, the bullocks of the Achaians in the lush meadows of Thessaly
pasture lustily, with the incessant sun glaring down
eat green grass poplar leaves wild celery, drink clear water
       from the channels
smell of the sweat of the earth and afterwards fall deep asleep
      in the shade of the willows.

throw out your dead, said Heraclitus and he saw the sky turn pale
he saw in the mud two small cyclamen kissing
and he fell down to kiss his own dead body in the welcoming earth
just as the wolf comes down out of the oaks to see the dead dog
      and to howl

What does it matter, the drop that shines on your forehead?
I know the thunder wrote its name on your lips
I know an eagle built its eyrie in your eyes
but here on this marshy bank there is one road only
only one treacherous road and you must cross it
you must soak in blood before time catches up with you
and you must cross to the other side to see your companions again
flowers birds deer
to find another sea another kindness
to grasp Achilles' horses by their reins
instead of sitting mutely blaming the river
like Kitsos' mother when she stoned the river
because you will have become lost and your beauty grown old.
In the branches of a willow I see drying a shirt you wore as a child

take the flag of life to shroud death
let your heart not give way
let not your tear be lost on the unyielding earth
as the tear of the penguin was lost in the icy wastes
Lamentation is worthless
Life everywhere will be the same with the flute of snakes in the land
        of phantoms
with the song of thieves in the spice trees
with the knife of desire in the face of hope
with the sadness of spring in the leafy heart of an owl
It is enough if a plow is found, a keen sickle in a cheerful hand
it is enough if a only little wheat ripens
a little wheat for the holiday a little wine for remembrance a little water
        for the dust . . .

In the yard of the embittered the sun does not rise
only worms come up to taunt the stars
only horses sprout on ant hills
and the bats eat birds and piss seed

In the yard of the embittered the night does not fade
only the leaves throw up a river of tears
when the devil slips in to ride the dogs
and the black birds swim in a well of blood

In the yard of the embittered the eye has run dry
the brain has frozen and the heart has turned to stone
the flesh of frogs hangs in the spider's teeth
the unfed locusts scream at the vampire's feed

In the yard of the embittered the grass grows dark
only one evening in May a wind breaks in
a light step like the skipping of the field
a kiss from the white crests of the sea.

If you are thirsty for water we will wring out a cloud
and if you are hungry for bread we will butcher a nightingale
only the bitter herb waits a moment to open
the dark sky to lighten the mullein to flower

Yet it was a wind that fled a lark that was lost
it was the face of May the pale face of the moon
a light step like skipping in a the field
a kiss from the white crests of the sea. 

Trans, DGW.

For the complete Amorgos with the Greek: http://www.nauplion.net/Gatsos-AMORGOS.pdf

21 December 2014

O body become Bot

                                               By Heidi Lynn Staples

                                                O Anti O Antiphons

O man-made machine who fakes man as Thing and Foresaker, the rope
              shipped around our neck of the woods, Come to enslave us to
              our owned hours, O body become Bot

O Smart Phone, who flames from the mount if a screen, waiting in the
              pockets, lights in the mall's smallest darkness, Come, recognize
              our vices.

O keyboard O Facebook, and Social Media, and WWW, whose ever-
             widening “Buyer!” has been let loose and pawned the words:
             Come and bring forth “Friend,” let us bow together before your

O keyboard and clicker of the Digital Age, who can recognize my face
             from among the masses and hunt me down and destroy me from
             any remote location: Come, come and watch over us.

O biotech implant, over become lover, O biotech Virus of Neural
             Plaquing, how skull no longer offers isolation.

O Predator Drone, O Hummingbird Drone, O bee Drone Swarm how
             hovers: Come, and let us watch a man-made machine unmake a
             man unto forsaken thing, Come into the classrooms of our youth
             and hear how we laugh.

O robotic nurse, who can sing, who can dance, who stands ready with
             outstretched metal rubber-encased arms and movement-tracking
             tearless eyes before our bodily suffering she shall not waver:
             Come and deliver into their beds our soft bodies, pliable babies,
             into your arms, into your arms, into your arms, forever more

             and more . . .  

From The American Poetry Review, November-December 2014.

14 December 2014

Music that stains the silence remains

                                                   by Lawrence Durrell


Nothing is lost, sweet self,
Nothing is ever lost.
The unspoken word
Is not exhausted but can be heard.
Music that stains
The silence remains
O echo is everywhere, the unbeckonable bird!


           Song from a Play

The Pleiades are sinking cool as paint,
And earth's huge camber follows out,
Turning in sleep, the oceanic curve:

Defined in concave like a human eye
Or cheek pressed warm on the dark's cheek,
Like dancers to a music they deserve.

This balcony, a moon-anointed shelf
Above a silent garden holds my bed.
I slept. But the dispiriting autumn moon,

In her slow expurgation of the sky
Needs company: is brooding on the dead,
And so am I now, so am I.


Love on a leave-of-absence came,
Unmoored the silence like a barge,
Set free to float on lagging webs
The swan-black wise unhindered night.

(Bitter and pathless were the ways
Of sleep to which such beauty led.)


A song in the valley of Nemea:
Sing quiet, quite quiet here.

Song for the brides of Argos
Combing the swarms of golden hair:
Quite quiet, quiet there.

Under the rolling comb of grass,
The sword outrusts the golden helm.

Agamemnon under tumulus serene
Outsmiles the jury of skeletons:
Cool under cumulus the lion queen:

Only the drum can celebrate,
Only the adjective outlive them.

A song in the valley of Nemea:
Sing quiet, quiet, quiet here.

Tone of the frog in the empty well,
Drone of the bald bee on the cold skull.

Quiet, Quiet, Quiet.

From Lawrence Durrell, Selected Poems, 1956.

07 December 2014

The presence of some small god

                                             by Mary Oliver


The slippery green frog
that went to his death
in the heron's pink throat
was my small brother,

and the heron
with the white plumes
like a crown on his head
who is washing now his great sword-beak
in the shining pond
is my tall thin brother.

My heart dresses in black
and dances.


I don't want eventual,
I want soon.
It's 5 a.m. It's noon.
It's dusk falling to dark.
I listen to music.
I eat up a few wild poems
while time creeps along
as though it's got all day.
This is what I have.
The dull hangover of waiting,
the blush of my heart on the damp grass,
the flower-faced moon.
A gull broods on the shore
where a moment ago there were two.
Softly my right hand fondles my left hand
as though it were you.


Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.
It's what I sense in the mud and the roots of the
trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with
its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and
makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some
spirit, some small god, who abides there.

If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing
I'm not, though I pause wherever I feel this
holiness, which is why I' often so late coming
back from wherever I went.

Forgive me.

From Mary Oliver, Blue Horses, 2014.

30 November 2014

I lie in the box of my making

                                              by Mark Strand

Sadness, of course, and confusion.
The relatives gathered at the graveside,
talking about the waste, and the weather mounting,
the rain moving in vague pillars offshore.

This is Prince Edward Island.
I came back to my birthplace to announce my death.
I said I would ride full gallop into the sea
and not look back. People were furious.

I told them about attempts I had made in the past,
how I starved in order to be the size of Lucille,
whom I loved, to inhabit the cold space
her body had taken. They were shocked.

I went on about the time
I dove in a perfect arc that filled
with the sunshine of farewell and I fell
head over shoulders into the river’s thigh.

And about the time
I stood naked in the snow, pointing a pistol
between my eyes, and how when I fired my head bloomed
into health. Soon I was alone.

Now I lie in the box
of my making while the weather
builds and the mourners shake their heads as if
to write or to die, I did not have to do either.

From The New York Review of Books, October 24, 1968.

23 November 2014

The dancers are all gone under the hill

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.


What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of the spring
And creatures of the summer heat,
And snowdrops writhing under feet
And hollyhocks that aim too high
Red into grey and tumble down
Late roses filled with early snow?
Thunder rolled bythe rulling stars
Simulates triumphal cars
Deployed in constellated wars
Scorpion fights against the Sun
Until the Sun and Moon go down
Comets weep and Leonids fly
Hunt the heavens and the plains
Whirled in a vortex that shall bring
The world to that destructive fire
Which burns before the ice-cap reigns.

That was a way of putting it – not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the in tolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where there is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

The houses are all gone under the sea.

The dancers are all gone under the hill.

From T. S. Eliot, “East Coker,” Four Quartets, 1943.      

16 November 2014


It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance – for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light. That is what I said in the Pentecost sermon. I have reflected on that sermon, and there is some truth in it. But the Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems ot imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can chine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?

I'll just ask your mother to have those old sermons of mine burned. The deacons could arrange it. There are enough to make a good fire. I'm thinking here of hot dogs and marshmallows, something to celebrate the first snow. Of course she can set by any of them she might want to keep, but I don't want her to waste much effort on them. They mattered or they didn't and that's the end of it.

There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together.  One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world's mortal insufficiency to us.  Augustine says the Lord loves each of us as an only child, and that has to be true.  "He will wipe the tears from all faces." It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it.  I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave -- that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing  to honor them is to do great harm.  And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful.  It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.  But that is the pulpit speaking.  What have I to leave you but the ruins of old courage, and the lore of old gallantry and hope?  Well, as I have said, it is all an ember now, and the good Lord will surely someday breathe it into flame again.

I love the prairie!  So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word "good" so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing.   There may have been a more wonderful first moment "when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy," but for all I know to the contrary, they still do sing and shout, and they certainly might well.  Here on the prairie there is nothing to distract attention from the evening and the morning, nothing on the horizon to abbreviate or to delay.  Mountains would seem an impertinence from that point of view.

To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded.  I can't help imagining  that you will leave sooner or later, and it's fine if you have done that, or you mean to do it.  This whole town does look like whatever hope becomes after it begins to weary a little, then weary a little more.  But hope deferred is still hope.  I love this town.  I think sometimes of going into the ground here as a last wild gesture of live -- I too will smolder away the time until the great and general incandescence.

I'll pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country.  I will pray you find a way to be useful.

I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.

Concluding pages of Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, 2004.

09 November 2014

Grain pattern on drying concrete

                         by Peter Waldor

New Parents, Bluegrass Festival

The number of powered
sugar granules spilling
off a funnel cake exceeds
the three hundred sextillion
stars of the universe
Some powder sticks to the dough
and some powder falls,
as one bleary-eyed parent
passes the cake over
their newborn baby,
to the other bleary-eyed parent.
A streak of powder lands
on the infant's head.
Both parents are large
How perfect that they both are
the way they are . . .
One shades the child
as they, beginners,
concentrate on a diaper change.

The Last of the Original Forms

After disaster,
when the demolition crew
took down the old
concrete column, they found
on its inside,
a wood form the builder
forgot to remove.
A man with a chisel and small sledge
freed the plank before
they turned the column
into rubble and wire.
He took it home,
washed, sanded, and placed it
in a child's room as a shelf.
Five pings of the small sledge
to free the form, the last
of the original forms.
Who knows where
the others ended up,
each plank leaving its own
grain pattern, where it braced
the drying concrete.

From The American Poetry Review, September/October 2014.

02 November 2014

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me

                                   by Josephine Miles

The Lions of Fire Shall Have their Hunting”

The lions of fire
Shall have their hunting in this black land

Their teeth shall tear at your soft throats
Their claws kill

O the lions of fire shall awake
And the valleys steam with their fury

Because you are sick with the dirt of your money
Because you are pigs rooting in the swill of your war
Because you are mean and sly and full of the pus of your pious murder
Because you have turned your faces from God
Because you have spread your filth everywhere

Oh the lions of fire
Wait in the crawling shadows of your world
And their terrible eyes are watching you.

Midnight Special

There were no antelope on the balcony
And Thomas had not yet appeared
At the barred window above the precipice

A little snow had fallen since the afternoon
But it was warm in the thought
Of distant forests and I said: “God
Will not suffer if I run my hands
Out over these deeps and shy groves
Until I touch my own undertaking”

But Thomas was busy at his gruel
And when the antelope did come
The management had rigged up a loudspeaker
On the balcony and I was asked to say
A few words to the present George 6th
So I said: “Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me.
O let the Midnight Special shine its everlovin' light on me.”

O My Love the Pretty Towns”

O my love
The pretty towns
All the blue tents of our nights together
And the lilies and the birds glad in our joy
The road through the forest
Where the surly wolf lived
And the snow at the top of the mountain
And the little
Rain falling on the roofs of the village
O my love my dear lady
The world is not very big
There is only room for our wonder
And the light leaning winds of heaven
Are not more sweet or pure
Than your mouth on my throat
O my love there are larks in our morning
And the finding flame of your hands
And the moss on the bank of the river
And the butterflies
And the whirling-mad

From The Voice That is Great Within Us (1971).

26 October 2014

We rose from rapture


                     by Edna St. Vincent Millet


Since of no creature living the last breath
Is twice required, or twice the ultimate pain,
Seeing how to quit your arms is very death,
'Tis likely that I shall not die again;
And likely “tis that Time whose gross decree
Sends now the dawn to clamour at our door,
Thus having done his evil worst to me,
Will thrust me by, will harry me no more.
When you are corn and roses and at rest
I shall endure, a dense and sanguine ghost,
To haunt the scene where I was happiest,
To bend above the thing I loved the most;
And rise, and wring my hands, and steal away
As I do now, before the advancing day.


When we are old and these rejoicing veins
Are frosty channels to a muted stream,
And out of all our burning there remains
No feeblest spark to fire us, even in dream,
This be our solace: that it was not said
When we were young and warm and in our prime,
Umpon our couch we lay as lie the dead,
Sleeping away the unreturning time.
O sweet, O heavy-lidded, O my love,
When morning strikes her spear upon the land,
And we must rise and arm us and reprove
The insolent daylight with a steady hand,
Be not discountenanced if the knowing know
We rose from rapture but an hour ago.

From The Voice That is Great Within Us (1971).