You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Poetry’ category.

 

I can’t help my self… she blows me away.

“My mother always closes her bedroom drapes tight

before going to bed at night.


I open mine as wide as possible.

I like to see everything, I say.

What’s there to see?

Moon. Air. Sunrise.

All that light on your face in the morning. Wakes you up.

I like to wake up.”

Anne Carson

Advertisements

I recently started reading “Birds Without Wings” by Louis de Bernières after a stint of fantasy novels which I’m embarrassed to even mention, but do so anyway just for the contrast, so that you understand how good it feels to come back to such exquisite writing. After this fantasy stint I was feeling desperate to read poetic prose to pull me back into my little sentimental world that books like “Written on the Body” and “Unbearable Lightness of Being” have created. I found “Birds Without Wings” because I loved “Corelli’s Mandolin,” which was written by the same author and was the perfect combination of history and fiction, poetry and prose. I picked up this book and immediately fell in love, so I include some of my favorite passages so far, and recommend this book to you if you agree with my taste in the writings that I’ve posted in this blog.

“But it was more than a question of hair and skin and eyes, because what one saw was more than just her beauty. You see, my father, drunkard though he was, was right when he said that she reminded you of death. When you looked at Philothei, you were reminded of a terrible truth, which is that everything decays away and is lost. Beauty is precious, you see, and the more beautiful something is, the more precious it is; and the more precious something is, the more it hurts us that it will fade away; and the more we are hurt by beauty, the more we love the world; and the more we love it, the more we are saddened that it is like finely powdered salt that runs away through the fingers, or is puffed away by the wind, or is washed away by the rain. You see, I am ugly. I have always been ugly. If I had died in my youth no one would have said, “Look how much poorer is the world,” but to be entranced by Philothei was to receive a lesson in fate.”

also there’s this:

“I am an old woman now. I am old and useless. I’ve pondered these things all my life. My flesh is not what it was, and neither are my bones. When I was young my soul seemed to be the same thing as my body. There didn’t seem to be any difference, I remember that. When I needed to climb some steps, my legs just climbed, and that was all there was to it. My mind and my muscles were all one. Now when I want to climb some steps I look down at my feet and I say, “Move, in the names of St. Gerasimos, move!” and slowly they move, and then I stop to draw breath, and my lungs feel hard and dry, and I feel my heart fluttering in vain like the last poor starving butterfly, and this is how I have come to know in my own way that there is a soul who is not the body, but lives inside it. “

Build A Fire
By J. Bradley

I was a master of bad timing.
I put this on my resume along with
“Rice Krispie Treat counterfeiter”
and “sloppy kisser.”

When I’m around you, my body
is not fluent. I muzzle my hands
with pockets and teeth.

Once, I lost a fight against
a green plastic chair. Failure
is my chief export.

Loving me can be an accidental
contact sport.

These are not a draft of my vows,
warning signs. I’m making contacts
out of these facts for you.

I sit here, an arch-villain of romance,
thinking about you. Gee, I’m sorry
I made you unhappy, but there was nothing
I could do about it because I have to be free.
Perhaps everything would have been different
if you had stayed at the table or asked me
to go out with you to look at the moon,
instead of getting up and leaving me alone with
her.

Richard Brautigan

Poem by Jack Gilbert:

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights
that anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe that Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Poem by Marge Piercy

Full in the hand, heavy
with ripeness, perfume spreading
its fan: moments now resemble
sweet russet pear glowing
on the bough, peaches warm
from the afternoon sun, amber
and juicy, flesh that can
make you drunk.

There is a turn in things
that makes the heart catch.
We are ripening, all the hard
green grasping, the stony will
swelling to sweetness, the acid
and sugar in balance, the sun
stored as energy that is pleasure
and pleasure that is energy.

Whatever happens, whatever,
we say, and hold hard and let
go and go on. In the perfect
moment the future coils,
a tree inside a pit. Take,
eat, we are each other’s
perfection, the wine of our
mouths is sweet and heavy.

Soon enough comes the vinegar.
The fruit is ripe for the taking
and we take. There is
no other wisdom.

The following is a selection from Fernando Pessoa’s “Keeper of Sheep.”

VIII

One midday in late spring
I had a dream that was like a photograph.
I saw Jesus Christ come down to earth.

He came down a hillside
As a child again,
Running and tumbling through the grass,
Pulling up flowers to throw them back down,
And laughing loud enough to be heard far away.

He had run away from heaven.
He was too much like us to fake
Being the second person of the Trinity.
In heaven everything was false and in disagreement
With flowers and trees and stones.
In heaven he always had to be serious
And now and then had to become man again
And get up on the cross, and be forever dying
With a crown full of thorns on his head,
A huge nail piercing his feet,
And even a rag around his waist
Like on black Africans in illustrated books.

He wasn’t even allowed a mother and father
Like other children.
His father was two different people—
An old man named
Joseph who was a carpenter
And who wasn’t his father,
And an idiotic dove:
The only ugly dove in the world,
Because it wasn’t of the world and wasn’t a dove.
And his mother gave birth to him without ever having loved.
She wasn’t a woman: she was a suitcase
In which he was sent from heaven.
And they wanted him, born only of a mother
And with no father he could love and honor,
To preach goodness and justice!

One day when God was sleeping
And the Holy Spirit was flying about,
He went to the chest of miracles and stole three.
He used the first to make everyone blind to his escape.
He used the second to make himself eternally human and a child.
He used the third to make an eternally crucified Christ
Whom he left nailed to the cross that’s in heaven
And serves as the model for all the others.
Then he fled to the sun
And descended on the first ray he could catch.

Today he lives with me in my village.
He’s a simple child with a pretty laugh.
He wipes his nose with his right arm,
Splashes about in puddles,
Plucks flowers and loves them and forgets them.
He throws stones at the donkeys,
Steals fruit from the orchards,
And runs away crying and screaming from the dogs.
And because he knows that they don’t like it
And that everyone thinks it’s funny,
He runs after the girls
Who walk in groups along the roads
Carrying jugs on their heads,
And he lifts up their skirts.

He taught me all I know.
He taught me to look at things.
He shows me all the things there are in flowers.
He shows me how curious stones are
When we hold them in our hand
And look at them slowly.

He speaks very badly of God.
He says God is a sick and stupid old man
Who’s always swearing
And spitting on the floor.
The Virgin Mary spends the afternoons of eternity knitting.
And the Holy Spirit scratches himself with his beak
And perches on the chairs, getting them dirty.
Everything in heaven is stupid, just like the Catholic Church.
He says God understands nothing
About the things he created.
“If he created them, which I doubt,” he says.
“God claims, for instance, that all beings sing his glory,
But beings don’t sing anything.
If they sang, they’d be singers.
Beings exist, that’s all,
Which is why they’re called beings.”

And then, tired of speaking badly about God,
The little boy Jesus falls asleep in my lap
And I carry him home in my arms.

He lives with me in my house, halfway up the hill.
He’s the Eternal Child, the god who was missing.
He’s completely natural in his humanity.
He smiles and plays in his divinity.
And that’s how I know beyond all doubt
That he’s truly the little boy Jesus.

And this child who’s so human he’s divine
Is my daily life as a poet.
It’s because he’s always with me that I’m always a poet
And that my briefest glance
Fills me with feeling,
And the faintest sound, whatever it is,
Seems to be speaking to me.

The New Child who lives where I live
Gives one hand to me
And the other to everything that exists,
And so the three of us go along whatever road we find,
Leaping and singing and laughing
And enjoying our shared secret
Of knowing that in all the world
There is no mystery
And that everything is worthwhile.

The Eternal Child is always at my side.
The direction of my gaze is his pointing finger.
My happy listening to each and every sound
Is him playfully tickling my ears.

We get along so well with each other
In the company of everything
That we never even think of each other,
But the two of us live together,
Intimately connected
Like the right hand and the left.

At day’s end we play jacks
On the doorstep of the house,
With the solemnity befitting a god and a poet
And as if each jack
Were an entire universe,
Such that it would be a great peril
To let one fall to the ground.

Then I tell him stories about purely human matters
And he smiles, because it’s all so incredible.
He laughs at kings and those who aren’t kings,
And feels sorry when he hears about wars,
And about commerce, and about ships
That are finally just smoke hovering over the high seas.
For he knows that all of this lacks the truth
Which is in a flower when it flowers
And with the sunlight when it dapples
The hills and valleys
Or makes our eyes smart before whitewashed walls.

Then he falls asleep and I put him to bed.
I carry him in my arms into the house
And lay him down, removing his clothes
Slowly and as if following a very pure
And maternal ritual until he’s naked.

He sleeps inside my soul
And sometimes wakes up in the night
And plays with my dreams.
He flips some of them over in the air,
Piles some on top of others,
And claps his hands all by himself,
Smiling at my slumber.

When I die, my son,
Let me be the child, the little one.
Pick me up in your arms
And carry me into your house.
Undress my tired and human self
And tuck me into your bed.
If I wake up, tell me stories
So that I’ll fall back asleep.
And give me your dreams to play with
Until the dawning of that day
You know will dawn.

This is the story of my little boy Jesus,
And is there any good reason
Why it shouldn’t be truer
Than everything philosophers think
And all that religions teach

(written by Fernando Pessoa and translated by Richard Zenith)

This really just doesn’t get old.

 

 

Hallelujah (Original by Leonard Cohen)

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Violet and Her Violin by Ann Gardner

Schubertiana
(Tomas Tranströmer)
1

In the evening darkness in a place outside New York, an outlook point
where one single glance will encompass the homes of eight
million people.
The giant city over there is a long shimmering drift, a spiral galaxy
seen from the side.
Within the galaxy coffee-cups are pushed across the counter, the
shop-windows beg from passers-by, a flurry of shoes that leave
no prints.
The climbing fire escapes, the lift doors that glide shut, behind doors
with police locks a perpetual seethe of voices.
Slouched bodies doze in subway coaches, the hurtling catacombs.
I know too – without statistics – that right now Schubert is being played
in some room over there and that for someone the notes are
more real than all the rest.

2

The endless expanses of the human brain are crumpled to the size
of a fist.
In April the swallow returns to last year’s nest under the guttering of
this very barn in this very parish.
She flies from Transvaal, passes the equator, flies for six weeks over
two continents, makes for precisely this vanishing dot in the land-mass.
And the man who catches the signals from a whole life in a few ordinary
chords for five strings,
who makes a river flow through the eye of a needle,
is a stout young gentleman from Vienna known to his friends as `The
Mushroom,’ who slept with his glasses on
and stood at his writing desk punctually of a morning.
And then the wonderful centipedes of his manuscript were set in
motion.

3

The string quintet is playing. I walk home through warm forests with
The ground springy under me,
curl up like an embryo, fall asleep, roll weightless into the future,
suddenly feel that the plants have thoughts.

4

So much we have to trust, simply to live through our daily day without
Sinking through the earth!
Trust the piled snow clinging to the mountain slope above the village.
Trust the promises of silence and the smile of understanding, trust
that the accident telegram isn’t for us and that the sudden
axe-blow from within won’t come.
Trust the axles that carry us on the highway in the middle of the three
hundred times life-size bee swarm of steel.
But none of that is really worth our confidence.
The five strings say we can trust something else. And they keep us
company part of the way there.
As when the time-switch clicks off in the stairwell and the fingers –
trustingly – follow the blind handrail that finds its way in the
darkness.

5

We squeeze together at the piano and play with four hands in F minor,
two coachmen on the same coach, it looks a little ridiculous.
The hands seem to be moving resonant weights to and fro, as if we
were tampering with the counterweights
in an effort to disturb the great scale arm’s terrible balance: joy and
suffering weighing exactly the same.
Annie said, `This music is so heroic,’ and she’s right.
But those whose eyes enviously follow men of action, who secretly
despise themselves for not being murderers,
don’t recognize themselves here,
and the many who buy and sell people and believe that everyone can
be bought, don’t recognize themselves here.
Not their music. The long melody that remains itself in all its
transformations, sometimes glittering and pliant, sometimes
rugged and strong, snail-track and steel wire.
The perpetual humming that follows us — now –
up
the depths.

(Tomas Tranströmer is a Swedish poet and the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in literature.)

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden

Musings

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 42 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 68,736 hits
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: