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).

19 October 2014



                                   by Cees Nooteboom

Ancient poet, touched by the Muses themselves,
so you claimed at least,
with a branch of laurel,
or was that just boasting?

I stare at the fifteenth of your fragments of unknown position:
"with the pitiless smoke of pitch
and cedarwood",
an uprooted line without a poem.

Kapnos, smoke, fumes, steam,nèleès (poet.), without pity, merciless.
I sit with your written orphan on the table
while my neighbour burns off
brambles. I see the smoke
over the dry field, pitch black and menacing,
and smell that cedar,

a smell that's three thousand years old.
Was it a fire or a sacrifice,
or were you just watching your neighbour?
Hesiod, marble poet,
when will you finally
finish that

 From The Guardian, 10 May 2014. From Light Everywhere, translated by David Colmer.

12 October 2014

The kitten goes and returns masked with small dirt

                             By Genevieve Taggard

American Farm, 1934

Space is too full. Did nothing happen here?
Skin of poor life cast off. These pods and shards
Rattle in the old house, rock with the old rocker,
Tick with the old clock, clutter the mantel.
Waste of disregarded trifles crooked as old crochet
On tabourets of wicker. Mute boredom of hoarding
Poor objects. These outlive water sluicing in cracks to join
The destroying river, the large Mississippi; or the tornado
Twisting dishes and beds and bird-cages into droppings of cloud.
The hard odd thing surviving precariously, once of some value
Brought home bright from the store in manila paper,
Now under the foot of the cow, caught in a crevice.
One old she, feminine, rotted with damp, one worn tire,
Crop of tin cans, torn harness, nails, links of a chain, –
Edge of a dress, wrappings of contraceptives, trinkets,
Fans spread, sick pink, and a skillet full of mould,
Bottles in cobwebs, butter-nuts – and the copperheads,
Night-feeders who run their evil bellies in and out
Weaving a fabric of limbo for the devil of limbo;
Droppings of swallows, baked mud of wasps, confetti
Of the mouse nest, ancient cow-dung frozen,
Jumble of items, lost from se, with rusty tools,
Calendars, apple-cores, white sick grasses, gear from the stables,
Sull of a cow in the mud, with the stem of dead cabbage,
Part of the spine and the ribs, in the rot of swill mud. This
Array of limbo, once a part of swart labor, rusted now,
In every house, in every attic piled. Oh palsied people!
Under the weeds of the outhouse something one never
Picks up or burns; flung away. Let it lie, let it bleach.
Ironic and sinister junk filling a corner. If men vacate,
Prized or unprized, it jests with neglect.
Under the porch the kitten goes and returns,
Masked with small dirt. Odd objects in sheds and shelves,
And the stale air of bed-rooms, stink of stained bureaus,
Flies buzzing in bottles; vocal tone of no meaning.
No wonder our farms are dark and our dreams take these shapes.
Thistles mock all, rowing out of rubbish
In a heap of broken glass with last year's soot.
Implacable divine rubbish prevails. Possessors of things
Look at the junk heap for an hour. Gnarled idle hands
Find ticks in the pelt of the dog, turn over a plank.
This parasite clutter invades sense and seems to breed
A like in our minds. Wind, water, sun; – it survives.
The whole sad place scales to the thistle and petty litter.
Neglect laughs in the fallen barns and the shutters broken
Hanging on a wailing hinge. Generations of wind
Owe you obeisance. You win. No man will war with you.
He has you in him; his hand trembles; he rights
The front acre while the wife tidies the parlour.Economy, economy! Who'll till this land?

From The Voice That Is Great Within Us: American Poetry of the Twentieth Century.  1970

05 October 2014

The sound of the water leaving

                                           By W. S. Merwin

Drinking Tea in the Small Hours

An unlabeled green from Korea
second pick from the foothills of summer
taste of distance and slight rustling of leaves
on old trees with names hard to remember
as I listen after heavy rain in the night
the taste is a hush from far away
at the very moment when I sip it
trying to make it last in the knowledge
that I will forget it in the next breath
that it will be lost when I hear the cock crow
any time now across the dark valley

Water Music

As one returned day of a week the white
canoe is here again around and under me
buoying me up in the evening sky
on the blue water of a story
in which I am part of the telling
the lake is part of it just under my hand
in this canoe that does not belong to me
but is lent to me for part of a season
never long enough and the evening light
is not mine and never long enough
the rill of waters slips past my fingertips
I listen and only I hear it going
I listen to the promises it makes
with the sound of its going from close to me
within reach now by the side of the borrowed
white canoe that is taking me
on the evening sky with the story
never long enough and the promises
made of the sound of the water leaving


Loss was my brother
is my brother
but I have no image of him

his name which was never used
was Hanson
it had been the name
of my mother's father
who had died as a young man

her child had been taken away
from my mother before
she ever saw him

to be bathed I suppose

they came and told her
that he was perfect in every way
and said they had never
seen such a beautiful child
and then they told her that he was dead

she sustained herself by believing
that he must have been dropped
somewhere just out of her signt
and out of her reach
and had fallen out of his empty name

all my life he has been near me
but I cannot tell you anything
about him

except in his own words

From The American Poetry Review July/August 2014.