30 March 2014


            by Lucie Brock-Broido


You were a seed still in Darwin's left breast pocket,
Not imagined yet, almost invisible in the felt
                               There just above his heart,
The bluey nubbin sleeping in a child's
                                                 Unmarred arms.
Things vanish in the morning when we wake
Like loam that only grows on buttermilk, at night.
In April, a tiny feline on the ledges of a billow cloud,
Or like the finch let loose in the mossery, you were ended

              Unexpectedly; what is only left of you is only me.


Stay, little ounce, here in
                                          Fleece and leaf with me, in the evermore

Where swans trembled in the lake around our bed of hay and morning
Came each morning like a felt cloak billowing

Across the most pale day. It was the color of a steeple disappearing
In an old Venetian sky. Or of a saint tamping the grenadine

Of his heavy robes before the Blessing of the Animals.
I've heard tell of men who brought Great Pyrenees, a borzoi, or

Some pocket mice, baskets of mourning doves beneath their wicker lids,
A chameleon on a leash from the Prussian circuses,

And from the farthest Caucasus, some tundra wolves in pairs.

                                                                              In a meadow I had fallen

As deep in sleep as a trilobite in the red clay of the centuries.
Even now, just down our winding road, I can hear the children blanketing

Themselves to sleep in leaves from maple trees.
                                          No bad dreams will come to them I know

Because once, in the gone-ago, I was a lynx as well, safe as a tiger-iris
In its silt on the banks of the Euphrates, as you were. Would they take

You now from me, like Leonardo's sleeve disappearing in
                                        The air. And when I woke I could not wake

You, little, sphinx. I could not keep you here with me.
Anywhere, I could not bear to let you go. Stay here

In our clouded bed of wind and timothy with me.

                                         Lie here with me in snow.

From Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion (2013).

23 March 2014

Flags in a tiny hot country


               by Kim Moore

Last weekend I feel in love with the bathroom,
its clean white tiles, the towels hanging like flags
in a tiny hot country, this place that caught you,
that stopped you from falling from the earth.

Blank-faced, it tells no tales, won't give up
the secret of how you went from standing
to stretched across the floor, your feet
at its northern border, your head to the south,

your eyes rolling, wild as a horse, your body
an empty house abandoned to the wind and rain.
When I life your head, there's no resistance.
It moves like water at the bottom of a tilted bowl

Was it my shouting that made you surface?
Slowly, slowly you returned, the bath (faithful
creature) in the same position as when you left,
the sounds you made so far from words,

you brought another language back with you,
the hotel quiet as a church, you didn't know
the body you were in was yours, blood leaked
from your mouth and gathered on your chin,

the sink and toilet impassive and standing guard
and you remembered nothing of your journey,
minutes of your life deleted, and only this room
to witness this passing, and I can only guess

which loving object tried to catch you, which voice
pulled me from my sleep. I kick the bath -- it answers
in a low familiar tone. I stamp -- the floor bellows
its reply -- the room beneath echoes like a drum.

TLS 2/28/2014

16 March 2014

It takes talent to live at night



         by Frank Bidart

You know that it is there, lair
where the bear ceases
for a time even to exist.

Crawl in. You have at last killed
enough and eaten enough to be fat
enough to cease for a time to exist.

Crawl in. It takes talent to live at night, and scorning
others you had that talent, but now you sniff
the season when you must cease to exist.

Crawl in. Whatever for good or ill
grows within you needs
you for a time to cease to exist.

It is not raining inside
tonight. You know that it is there. Crawl in.

            by Frank Bidart

don't worry           I know you're dead
but tonight

Turn your face again
toward me

when I hear your voice there is now
no direction in which to turn

I sleep and wake and sleep and wake and sleep and wake and

but tonight
turn your face again

toward me

see     upon my shoulders is the yoke
that is not a yoke

don't worry            I know you're dead
but tonight

turn your face again  

09 March 2014

Fleas, Flies, and Friars

Walter of Bibbesworth, 1240s

When a woman's time is near
That her infant will appear,
Let her find a midwife, wise
To assist her and advise.
When the child is born at last,
Tie it up with swathings fast,
In a cradle lay it softly
With a nurse to rock it oftly.

Babies first may only crawl
For they cannot walk at all
And they dribble quite a bit,
Making messes on their kit,
So the nurs, the clothes to spar,
Should provide a bib to wear.

When they start to walk, beware!
Dirts and hurts are everywhere,
So, for safety, please emply
A small servant girl or boy
To attend them and ensure
That they don't fall on the floor.

[School exercise book, 15th C]

      Hey, hey, hey, hey,
      I will have the whetstone if I may.      [prize for the best lie]

I saw a dog cooking sowse,                       [pickled pork]
And an ape thatching a house,
And a pudding eating a mouse:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

I saw an urchin shape and sew,                [hedgehog]
And another bake and brew,
Scour the pots as they were new:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

I saw a codfish corn sow.
And a worm a whistle blow
And a pie treading a crow:                       [magpie]
I will have the whetstone if I may.
. . . . .
I saw a sow her kerchiefs was
The second sow had a hedge to plash,    [plait together]
The third sow went to the barn to thresh:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

I saw an egg eating a pie,
Give me drink, my mouth is dry;
It is not long since I told a lie:
      I will have the whetstone if I may.

[From a handbook on hunting by a woman for her son, 15th C]

Wheresoever you far, by frith or by fell,
My dear child, take heed how Tristram doth you tell
How many beasts of venery there were,
Listen to your dame and then you shal hear.
Four manners of beasts of venery there are:
The first of them is the hart, the second is the hare
The others are the boar,
The wolf and no more.

And where that you come in plain or in place,
I shall tell you which be the beasts of the chase:
One of them is the buck, another is the doe,
The fox and the marten, and the wild roe,
And my dear child, you shall other beasts all
Wheresoever you find them, 'rascal' them call,
In frith or in fell, or in forest as I tell
. . . . . .

And for to speak of the hart, if you will it hear,
You shall call him a calf at the first year,
The second year a brocket, so shall you him call,
The third year a spayad: learn these words all;
The fourth year a stag, call him by any way,
The fifth year a great stag, your dame bidgs you say.
The sixth year, call you him a hart;
Do so, my child, while you be alert.

My child, talk of 'herds' of hart and of hind
And of buck and of doe where you shall them find,
And a 'bevy' of roes, what place they be in,
And call it a 'sounder' of the wild swine.
And a 'rout' of wolves wherever you come in;
These beasts all,
Thus shall you them call.

From Fleas, Flies, and Friars: Children's Poetry from the Middle Ages
Nicholas Orme, Cornell University Press, 2011.

02 March 2014

The splintered islands of wild cherry and of seal

                             by Nikos Gatsos

ELEGY (1946)

God will have smiled at the fire in your eyes
Spring will have closed its heart like a pearl
from an ancient shore
Now, luminous in your sleep
in the frozen fields where the grapevines
become embalmed wings marble doves
dumb children of anticipation –
I wished you would come some evening covered in cloud
mist from stone frost from olive
because on your chaste brow
sometimes I would see
the snow of sheep and of lilies
But you passed from life like a tear of the sea
like summer lights and the last rains of May
though once you were one of its geranium waves
one of its sharp pebbles
one of its small swallows in a pathless wood
without dawn bells without lamps at dusk
with your passionate heart turned toward the unknown
to the shattered tusks of another shore
to the splintered islands of wild cherry and of seal

In memory of Maria Nomikou

God will have smiled at the fire in your eyes
Spring will have closed its heart like a pearl
        from an ancient shore
Now, luminous in your sleep
on the sands of the stars, you are a sharp pebble
in the embrace of Kelaino and Maia
Take your ring
Take the silver of the meadows to tint your face
Come to me to sleep
to sink perpetually into an springtime sea

Some summer night when I turn toward your eyes
lost on the shores of some pale galaxy
come like the sun of April in the window of my dream
with the ribbon round your throat
to greet the cranes that travel toward the unknown
to close up a rose just like doves sing a child to sleep
under the leaves of the grapevines on the banks of the
in the embrace of the platan trees by a cave of the Eurotas
Life was for you like a tear of the sea
like a fire in summer and a scarf in May
just so, you were one of its geranium waves
one of its sharp pebbles
one of its small swallows wandering in the woods
without fire for the dawn without stars for spring
with your hot heart turned toward the unknown
to the shattered tusks of another shore
to the dead children of wild cherry and seal  

* Draft for Elegy published after Gatsos' death in 1992.   

Translation, DW, 2006.