31 July 2014

The Wake

[NOTE: The author has devised a type of Old English for his narrative. Most difficulties in reading come from the fact that he uses no letters not used in Old English, but the reader catches on quickly to the adjustments necessary, such as C for K, G for Y, and F for V in heofon.]


                       by Paul Kingsnorth

the night was clere though i slept i seen it. though i slept i
seen the calm hierde naht only the still. when I gan down to
sleep all was clere in the land and my dreams was full of
stillness but my dreams did not cepe me still
      when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night
had gan and all woulde be blaec after and for all time. a great 
wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc.
none had thought a wind lic this cold cum for all was blithe
lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman
when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heafon if it
brings him regn who locs in the mere when there seems
no end to its deopness
      none will loc but the wind will com. the wind cares not for
the hopes of men
      the times after will be for them who seen them cuman

      the times after will be for the waecend

                                                       * * * * * * * *

and i seen them i seen them cuman then and always will
this stay with me until i is in the ground under a beorg or
in a great beornan scip lic all anglisc ealdors sceolde be.
ofer the fenn from the place where the hus of the eald 
gods lay over the secg ofer the heofon i seen the eald
hunters. i colde not tell all of the riders who was mofan
with them there was so many and they mofd in a way
that coulde not be loccd at for micel time by men. all was
deop blaec and there was no sound to be hierde.
      at the head of the hunt was eald woden who I had seen
at the deorc ea that night his kenep long and hwit his one
eage locan at me specan to the blaec hunds what ran
before him in the heofon their eages great and scinan and
with the hunds was the great hwit wulf I had seen by the
ea the wulf what had loccd at me. great woden rode a
great blaec hors but many of the hunters was on goats
with eages of fyr and was blowan horns though no sound
was macd by them. sum loccd lic eald cyngs with helms
and sweords but others was ealdor than cyngs ealdor
even than angland they did not loc lic men they was lic
eald wihts lic the treows them selfs blaec and carfan into
scaps not of this world. they had cum up from the treows
bum up from the mere cum up into the heofon they had
cum baec for angland lic my grand father had telt me.
they had cum for me cum for me and i cnawan now that
it was time and i cnawan what I moste do
      i gan down to my cneos then in the secg and i felt
them go ofer me and i felt great weland locan ofer as he
gaf them sige and i cnawan again who i was what i was
what i had cum here for
     i is buccmaster of holland and the eald gods has ridden
for me. 

27 July 2014

In the land of the wolf Verdi was playing

A She-Goat and Seven Kids

                            by Rachel Shihor

Dear children, said the she-goat to her seven kids before she went out; there now, I am leaving you, but I shall return soon and I shall bring back something tasty. Now you lot, don't get bored, don't quarrel, and don't open the door to anyone. Now I shall lock the door behind me and that is how I want to find it upon my return.
    She-goat skipped numbly in the roop, leaping over two chairs and a half-full pail of water that she'd prepared in order to wash the floors before she took the slightly brash decision to venture out on a quick shopping spree, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. And so, the she-goat leapt over the two chairs and the pail, charging the room's music system with electricity, and leaving the kids with Verdi's Requiem.
It's a long piece of music, she said to them, but by the time it is over, I shall be back. The she-goat grabbed a basket in one of her front hoofs and off she went. The kids were all alone. The eldest said: If the wolf shows up we shall not open the door, but if Uri comes over, we shall open the door and play with him. All the while, Verdi's music did not cease, and from within it, loud voices could be heard. The wolf knocked on the door, but the kids couldn't hear the knock, since it mingled with the calls of 'Requiem! Requiem!' The wolf decided to return later. When he did, the music was still playing but now it was the Lacrimosa, and the kids peeked through the keyhole and saw the wolf. ―Open up, dealing kids, I am your mother and I have brought you tasty foods from the market; the wolf had changed his voice making it sound like that of a she-goat. The kids really wanted to give in to the temptation because the wolf's voice was very pleasant to t hem. They were also getting a bit hungry. However, they had seen the wolf through the keyhole and they recalled their mother's warning.
    Retracing his steps, the wolf returned for the third time. This time he had dipped his front paws in some flour, which he had at home and which he had set aside for occasions such as these. ―Look at my hoofs, darling kids, the wolf said, have you ever seen a wolf with white hoofs? I am not a wolf, but your mother, the she-goat. The kids were gradually being won over, since the eyes can occasionally be misled - that much they had already learned at school, and, the oldest kid, said, given that, beyond doubt, the senses occasionally deceive, it is prudent never to trust them completely. The eldest kid decided that the door should be opened even if it did incur a slight risk, and he announced his decision to his siblings. None objected. Meanwhile, mother-goat had decided to stay out a little longer because she thought of buying another pair of shoes, white this time, for her front two hoofs. At that moment, in the land of the wolf, Verdi was playing his Agnus Dei, and the eldest kid heard within it his mother's voice entreating him to look after the children.

From Rachel Shihor, Stalin is Dead.  London: Sylph Editions, 2013.  Translated from the Hebrew by Ornam Roten.

20 July 2014

The white keys that have no song of their own


                                 by W. S. Merwin

O Silent Hands

Hands born of silence hands of silence
hands born of darkness hands of darkness
left hand of silence right hand of silence
hands of darkness in clear daylight
fingers of fire without sound or brightness
silent hands that bring music to pass
and it goes on echoing day and night
silent fingers' touch on the strings
or on the white keys that have no song of their own
finger ends commanding the dark openings in the flute
and it takes up its song of distance
the music touches the waiting darness of the heart
touches it once and without recognizing it
and the silent heart welcomes the song home

The Laughing Child

When she looked down from the kitchen window
into the back yard and the brown wicker
baby carriage in which she had tucked me
three months old to lie out in the fresh air
of my first January the carriage
was shaking she said and went on shaking
and she saw I was lying there and laughing
she told me about it later it was
something that reassured her in a life
in which she had lost everyone she loved
before I was born and she had begun
to believe that she might be able to
keep me as I lay there in the winter
laughing it was what she was thinking of
later when she told me that I had been
a happy child and she must have kept that
through the gray cloud of all her days and now
out of the horn of dreams of my own life
I wake again into the laughing child.

The Mapmaker

Vermeer's geographer goes on looking
out of the window at a world that he
alone sees while in the room around him
the light has not moved as the centuries
have revolved in silence behind their clouds
beyond the leaves the seasons the numbers
he has not seen them out of that window
the world he sees is there as we see him
looking out at the light beyond the window

Under the Tree of Idleness

This is where I was going the whole time
when they thought I was lost and were looking
for me everywhere I was right here
but as look as they were looking for me
they walked past and never laid eyes on me
it was only when one stumbled on me
by accident that I seemed to have been
found for a moment before I was gone
again following shadows on the leaves
of the oldest limb where they might never
have been noticed but I watched them as though
I was remembering after a long
time without seeing them although that had been
no time in the life of the tree where I
had heard far away a voice calling to
someone and asking what are you doing

until I answered to call it nothing

From "Nine Poems," The American Poetry Review July/August 2014.

13 July 2014

The dwarf hippopotamus, the golden toad

                     by Lucia Perillo

The Great Wave
              Life on this earth has often been distubed by dreadful events.
             -- George Cuvier, 1812

Now that we've entered the sixth great wave of extinction
let's sing while we still can.
before we all go where the dinosaurs went,
dropping our bones down into the shale.

And the floor of the sea becomes the top
of the mountain, the top
of the mountain the trough of the ditch.

climb onto my back and cry wreck it wreck it
like a frog in the grip of exctatic amplexus

. . . before the UVB exceeds the threshold
or the chytrid fungus destroys our skin
or trematodes further encyst in our limb buds
or the meteor hits and the Earth is once
more wrapped in a cloak of dust.

Please accept my regret
for the frogs that I've eaten
but grant me the gig
with which I impaled them

and the words gig and impale
and especially the splashing through
the lake edge at night
searching for eyes!

There was too much to love about their deaths,
using the gig like a picador

stabbing the hump on the neck of the bull
so the darkness roared and threw down its roses!

At least, I felt its velvet petals on my cheeks.

This year's Christmas trees are tainted
with Pacific chorus frogs
we're not supposed to let hop
out the door. But there's and easy solution:

all you need is a jar.
And the will to stick the jar in the freezer

then flush.
It's simple, it's clean.
No one's talking about a whale here
dead in the dooryard.

Or an auroch or a quagga.

4. Too late for the golden toads, who vanished
as soon as the scientists came to map out
their plots. Until it dawned on the scientists: they
were the vector. As in:

Look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly now who I am or what I mean,
But I shall filter and fiber your blood.

But in the village you can still buy
figurines, for luck -- golden toads
on cell phones and toads on mopeds and toads

who will serenade you with their mandolins.

I don't have the ending: ask the Vegas Valley leopard frog.
The dwarf hippopotamus or the giant swan.
Stag-moose, shrub ox, passenger pigeon.
The golden coqui or the short-faced bear.

When we are gone, may some survivor
like Mr. Industrious Roach
evolve the brains to hawk our likenesses
for didn't we cherish commerce and
view fortune as a wheel? 

From The American Poetry Review, July/August 2014.

06 July 2014

Pardon my heart it's a pretty bad dancer

                           by Marcus Jackson

Pardon My Heart

Pardon my heart if it ruins your party.
It's a large, American heart and has had

a good deal to drink. It's a pretty bad
dancer -- too much feeling, too little technique.

It may sing some godless hymns, about ousting
armies of loneliness, about marching

victorious to wives and towns beneath
a heart-colored dusk. Pardon my heart

if it closes its eyes for yours,
whispering rapture over and over.

Pardon my heart if it laughs too loudly,
or if it tells many of its stories

too ardently. Pardon my heart if it rests
an arm across you or your friends' shoulders --

touch allows my heart to trust that it's not
imagining your company's loveliness.

Pardon my heart if you have to kick it out.
After you've muzzled the music and brightened

the lights to tidy, my heart will ignore
and keep doing its little two-step, aglow

in the middle of the room, never
happier to have nowhere else to go.

From The American Poetry Review, July/August 2014.