25 August 2016

Voices full as goblets

                                                     by Anne Sexton

Faustus and I

I went to the opera and God was not there.
I was, at the time, in my apprenticeship.
The voices were as full as goblets; in mid-air
I caught them and threw them back. A form of worship.
In those vacant moments when our Lord sleeps
I have the voices. A cry that is mine for keeps.

I went to the galleries and God was not there,
only Mother Roulin and her baby, an old man infant,
his face lined in black and with a strange stare
in his black, black eyes. They seemed to hunt
me down. At the gallery van Gogh was violent
as the crows in the wheat field began their last ascent.

Three roads led to that death. All of them blind.
The sky had the presence of a thousand blue eyes
and the wheat beat itself. The wheat was not kind.
The crows go up immediately like an old man’s lies.
The crimes, my Dutchman, that wait within us all
crawled out of that sea long before the fall.

I went to the bookstore and God was not there.
Doctor Faustus was baby blue with a Knopf dog
on his spine. He was frayed and threadbare
with needing. The arch-deceiver and I had a dialogue.
The Debble and I, the Father of Lies himself,
communed, as it were, from the bookshelf.

I have made a pact and a half in my day
and stolen Godes Boke during a love affair,
the Gideon itself for all devout salesman who pray.
The Song of Solomon was underlined by some earlier pair.
The rest of the words turned to wood in my hands.
I am not immortal. Faustus and I are the also-ran. 

From the Times Literary Supplement, 8/23/2016.

14 August 2016

Just as an olive seedling

                                           Jan Kochanowski

from Laments (no.5)

Just as an olive seedling, when it tries
To grow up like the big trees towards the skies
And sprouts out of the ground, a single stalk,
A slender, leafless, twigless, living stick;
And which, if lopped by the swift sickle’s blade
Weeding out thorns and nettles, starts to fade
And, sapped of natural strength, cut off, forlorn,
Drops by the tree from whose seed it was born –
Growing before her parents’ caring eyes,
She’d barely risen above ground when Death
Felled the dear child with his infectious breath
At our very feet. Hard-eyed Persephone,
Were all those tears of no avail to me?

Trans., Stanislaw Baranczak and Seamus Heaney (1995)