17 July 2016

If I were a bull penguin right now

                                              by Tony Hoagland

Romantic Moment

After the nature documentary we walk down,
into the plaza of art galleries and high end clothing stores
where the mock orange is fragrant in the summer night
and the smooth adobe walls glow fleshlike in the dark.
It is just our second date, and we sit down on a rock,
holding hands, not looking at each other,
and if I were a bull penguin right now I would lean over
and vomit softly into the mouth of my beloved
and if I were a peacock I’d flex my gluteal muscles to
erect and spread the quills of my cinemax tail.
If she were a female walkingstick bug she might
insert her hypodermic proboscis delicately into my neck
and inject me with a rich hormonal sedative
before attaching her egg sac to my thoracic undercarriage,
and if I were a young chimpanzee I would break off a nearby tree limb
and smash all the windows in the plaza jewelry stores.
And if she was a Brazilian leopard frog she would wrap her impressive
tongue three times around my right thigh and
pummel me lightly against the surface of our pond
and I would know her feelings were sincere.
Instead we sit awhile in silence, until
she remarks that in the relative context of tortoises and iguanas,
human males seem to be actually rather expressive.
And I say that female crocodiles really don’t receive
enough credit for their gentleness.
Then she suggests that it is time for us to go
to get some ice cream cones and eat them.

10 July 2016

A letter in panic

                                          by Tomas Tranströmer

Answers to Letters

In the bottom drawer of my desk I come across a letter that first arrived twenty-six years ago. A letter in panic, and it’s still breathing when it arrives the second time.

A house has five windows: through four of them the day shines clear and still. The fifth faces a black sky, thunder and storm. I stand at the fifth window. The letter.

Sometimes an abyss opens between Tuesday and Wednesday but twenty-six years may be passed in a moment. Time is not a straight line, it’s more of a labyrinth, and if you press close to the wall at the right place you can hear the hurrying steps and voices, you can hear yourself walking past there on the other side.

Was the letter ever answered? I don’t remember, it was long ago. The countless thresholds of the sea went on migrating. The heart went on leaping from second to second like the toad in the wet grass of an August night.

The unanswered letters pile high up, like cirro-stratus clouds presaging bad weather. They make the sunbeams lustreless. One day I will answer. One day when I am dead and can at last concentrate. Or at least so far away from here that I can find myself again. When I’m walking, newly arrived, in the big city, on 125th Street, in the wind on the street of dancing garbage. I who love to stray off and vanish in the crowd, a capital T in the mass of the endless text.

Translated by Robin Fulton.

03 July 2016

The waves whisper like bureaucrats

                                             by Margaret Atwood

War Movie II

At last we believe in something:
this is the source of our pain.
We no longer drink gin
and sleep in,
we no longer bargain.

We clamber over stony Greece,
we slink through Polish forests,
it is winter, our toes freeze,
we gnaw on stolen turnips,
we retreat from Moscow
burning everything.

I hide the food and rifles
under my filthy shawl;
I wear a skirt,
I’m less likely to be suspected;
you are a spy, you are the commander,
your name is Sir,
everyone does what you say
because it is the only way.

The others are honed and clean,
their heads are signals,
we stab them without mercy,
we switch clothes with their steel torsos.

The sun bestows rewards:
we are allowed to cry,
we are given background music
where there was none, we are finally emblems,
we are finally credible,
we are finally single-minded.

Near the end there is a huge
explosion, a gun
shaped like an enemy, shaped like a dungeon
topples into the sea.

In the backwash, the waves
whisper like bureaucrats;
they are planning the peace,
the peace we fight for,
deciding which of us
to kill, who to sell.