Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hellish Night

By Arthur Rimbaud

I've swallowed a terrific mouthful of poison.—Blessings three times over on the impulse that came to me!—My guts are on fire. The poison's violence twists my limbs, deforms me, knocks me down. I'm dyng of thirst, I'm choking, I can't scream. It's hell, endless pain! Look how the fire flashes up! I'm burning nicely. Go on, demon!

I'd caught a glimpse of conversion to goodness and happiness, salvation. Can I describe the vision? Hell's atmosphere won't suffer hymns! There were millions of charming people, a sweet spiritual concert, strength and peace, noble ambitions, who knows?

Noble ambitions!

And this is still life!— What if damnation's everlasting! A man who wants to mutilate himself is pretty well damned, right? I think I'm in hell, therefore I am. It's the catechism come true. I'm the slave of my baptism. Parents, you've created my tortures and yours.—Poor nitwit! Hell can't wield power over pagans.— This is still life! Later on, the delights of damnation will be much deeper. A crime, quick, so I can plunge into nothingness in accordance with human law.

Shut up, will you shut up. .. ! There's disgrace and reproaches here—Satan who says the fire's contemptible, who says my temper's desperately silly.— Enough. .. ! Errors they're whispering to me, magic, misleading perfumes, childish music.—And to think I'm dealing in truth, I'm looking at justice: my reasoning powers are sane and sound, I'm ready for perfection. .. Pride.—My scalp is drying up. Help! Lord, I'm scared. I'm thirsty, so thirsty! O childhood, the grass, the rain, the lake water on stones, the moonlight when the hell struck twelve. . . . The devil's in the tower right now. Mary! Holy Virgin. . . !— Loathing for my blunder.

Out there, aren't those virtuous souls who are wishing me well. . . ? Come.. .. I've got a pillow over my mouth, they won't hear me, they're ghosts. Besides, no one ever thinks of others. Don't come near me. I smell of heresy, that's for sure.

No end to these hallucinations. It's exactly what I've always known: no more faith in history, principles forgotten. I'll keep quiet: poets and visionaries would be jealous. I'm a thousand times richer, let's be miserly like the sea.

Well now! the clock of life stopped a few minutes ago. I'm not in the world any more.— Theology's a serious thing, hell is certainly way down—and heaven's above.—Ecstasy, nightmare, sleep in a nest of flames.

How malicious one's outlook in the country. . . Satan—Old Scratch——goes running around with the wild grain. . . Jesus is walking on the blackberry bushes without bending them. .. Jesus used to walk on troubled waters. The lantern revealed him to us, standing, pale with long brownish hair, on the crest of an emerald wave. . . .

I'm going to unveil all the mysteries: religious mysteries or natural, death, birth, future, past, cosmogony, nothingness. I'm a master of hal— lucinations.

Listen...!

I've got all the talents!— There's no one here and there's someone: I wouldn't want to waste my treasure.—Do you want nigger songs, houri dances? Do you want me to disappear, to dive down for the ring? Do you want that? I'm going to make gold. . . remedies.

Then have faith in me, faith is soothing, it guides, it cures. Come, all of you—even the little children—and I'll comfort you, I'll spill out my heart for you,—the marvelous heart!—Poor men, workers! I don't ask for your prayers. With your trust alone, I'll be happy.

—And what about me? All of this doesn't make me miss the world much. I'm lucky not to suffer more. My life was nothing but lovely mistakes, it's too bad.

Bah! let's make every possible ugly face.

We're out of the world, for sure. Not even a sound. My touch has disappeared. Ah, my castle, my Saxony, my willow woods. Evenings, mornings, nights, days. . . I'm worn out!

I should have my hell for anger, my hell for conceit—and the hell of caresses: a concert of hells.

I'm dying of tiredness. It's the grave, horror of horrors, I'm going to the worms! Satan, you joker, you want to melt me down with your charms. I demand it, I demand it! a poke of the pitchfork, a drop of fire. Ah, to come back to life again! To feast my eyes on our deformities.

And that poison, that kiss a thousand times damned! My weakness, the world's cruelty! My God, mercy, hide me, I always misbehave!—I'm hidden and then again I'm not.

It's the fire flaring up again with its damned!


Translated by Bertrand Mathieu

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Things, Say The Wise Ones

By Mary Oliver

Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say,
You live your life your way and leave me alone.

I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they
are afraid of being behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!
and they have said, Thank you, we are hurrying.

About cows, and starfish, and roses there is no
argument. They die, after all.

But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming

generosity, how can they write you out?

As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside
the harbor. I am holding in my hand
small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.
Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You, Darkness

By Rainier Maria Rilke

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Short-order Cook

By Jim Daniels

An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.

I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He pays.
He ain't no average joe.

The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop spit spit . . .
pss . . .

The counter girls laugh.
I concentrate.
It is the crucial point—
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fries done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
"Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries!"
They look at me funny.
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success,
thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

wishes for sons

By Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
I wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World

By Sherman Alexie

The morning air is all awash with angels . . .
- Richard Wilbur


The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.

I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?

Who is most among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because

He's astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. "Hey, Ma,

I say, "Can I talk to Poppa?" She gasps,
And then I remember that my father

Has been dead for nearly a year. "Shit, Mom,"
I say. "I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—

How did I forget?" "It’s okay," she says.
"I made him a cup of instant coffee

This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—

And I didn't realize my mistake
Until this afternoon." My mother laughs

At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days

And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Second Generation

By Yael Globerman

I
The man who almost wasn't sits down at the table.
The woman who barely made it serves him plum cake.
This is my home: It is good here. Safe.
Mother leans on Father. Father leans on shadow.
At night they tiptoe into my room in beekeepers' clothing,
rubbing my temples with wax.
We are a very warm family.
The floor burns under our feet.

We believe in walls. Believe less in a roof.
It has to be built every morning anew. We build.
There is ammunition in the medicine cabinet
and a bribe in the bank for the guard
who lets us steal across the border every night.
Silence is the pitch that stops up openings, seals the floors.
I hear something deep roaring and swelling:
There's a sea underneath the foundations of home.

II
This house is filled with love. Father is strong
And mother good-looking.
Gershwin could have written our lullaby.
What good will this sorrow do
Where will I lead this sorrow
Where will I sit it down when it gets here
What will I give it to eat

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Passing through Peshawar

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi


I know each poplar and willow of this town,
how telephone wires sag with the weight of belligerent crows,
the Tonga-horses wait at red lights.
I know afternoon shadows on slate verandahs,
the squeaking of a rusted see-saw,

the breaking open of a walnut in a door-hinge;
its embossed shell, a secret cracking;

the winter sun warming the mosque’s marble,
plums sold in crates on the road-side,
corn with salt and lime,
the radio at the tandoor playing
filmi songs, the whiff of Lux soap.

I almost say to you,
Look out the window,
look, look, look!
My library with beetle-eaten furniture,
my raw silk bazaar, my ancient fort!
And look, the bakery that sells pink coconut rolls!
And look, there I used to get my hair cut.


One turn and my town will once again
socket into its timeless hollow
what I remember, what I know.
The bus will pass
all these things
before you click pause on your video game.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Niggerlips

By Martín Espada

Niggerlips was the high school name
for me.
So called by Douglas
the car mechanic, with green tattoos
on each forearm,
and the choir of round pink faces
that grinned deliciously
from the back row of classrooms,
droned over by teachers
checking attendance too slowly.

Douglas would brag
about cruising his car
near sidewalks of black children
to point an unloaded gun,
to scare niggers
like crows off a tree,
he'd say.

My great-grandfather Luis
was un negrito too,
a shoemaker in the coffee hills
of Puerto Rico, 1900.
The family called him a secret
and kept no photograph.
My father remembers
the childhood white powder
that failed to bleach
his stubborn copper skin,
and the family says
he is still a fly in milk.

So Niggerlips has the mouth
of his great-grandfather,
the song he must have sung
as he pounded the leather and nails,
the heat that courses through copper,
the stubbornness of a fly in milk,
and all you have, Douglas,
is that unloaded gun.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Late September

By Charles Simic

The mail truck goes down the coast
Carrying a single letter.
At the end of a long pier
The bored seagull lifts a leg now and then
And forgets to put it down.
There is a menace in the air
Of tragedies in the making.

Last night you thought you heard television
In the house next door.
You were sure it was some new
Horror they were reporting,
So you went out to find out.
Barefoot, wearing just shorts.
It was only the sea sounding weary
After so many lifetimes
Of pretending to be rushing off somewhere
And never getting anywhere.

This morning, it felt like Sunday.
The heavens did their part
By casting no shadow along the boardwalk
Or the row of vacant cottages,
Among them a small church
With a dozen gray tombstones huddled close
As if they, too, had the shivers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Something

By Stephen Dunn

A wish for something moral like a wound
pitying the knife
its inability to be pleased or sad.
Or perhaps an afternoon one day a month
when everyone says why they’re ashamed.
Something to end the talk that passes
for talk. Something the lonesome ear,
the starved eye, can take in,
like nourishment from the world
in which, now and then, we’ve lived.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where the Sidewalk Ends

By Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Boston

By Aaron Smith

I’ve been meaning to tell
you how the sky is pink
here sometimes like the roof
of a mouth that’s about to chomp
down on the crooked steel teeth
of the city,

I remember the desperate
things we did
and that I stumble
down sidewalks listening
to the buzz of street lamps
at dusk and the crush
of leaves on the pavement,

Without you here I’m viciously lonely

and I can’t remember
the last time I felt holy,
the last time I offered
myself as sanctuary

*

I watched two men
press hard into
each other, their bodies
caught in the club’s
bass drum swell,
and I couldn’t remember
when I knew I’d never
be beautiful, but it must
have been quick
and subtle, the way
the holy ghost can pass
in and out of a room.
I want so desperately
to be finished with desire,
the rushing wind, the still
small voice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Limited but fertile possibilities are offered by this brochure

By Marge Piercy

We cannot have monogrammed towels
or matches with our names on. We cannot
have children. We cannot share joint
tax returns. We don’t have a past.
Our future is a striped unicorn, fragile,
shy, the first of a new
species born without kind
to hostile kin. We can work together
snarling and giggling and grunting.
Every few years we can have a play
as offspring. We can travel. We can
go away and come back. We can shake
each other rattling honest. We can have long
twining soft voiced phonecalls that leave me
molten and fevered. We can make each other
laugh, cry, groan till our flesh shines
phosphorescent, till heat shimmers in the room,
till we steam with joy and streamers of light
run down the insides of our eyes.
We can love. We can love. We can
love.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Grown Up

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Was it for this I uttered prayers
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Kind of a Person

By Yehuda Amichai

"What kind of a person are you," I heard them say to me.
I'm a person with a complex plumbing of the soul,
Sophisticated instruments of feeling and a system
Of controlled memory at the end of the twentieth century,
But with an old body from ancient times
And with a God even older than my body.
I'm a person for the surface of the earth.
Low places, caves and wells
Frighten me. Mountain peaks
And tall buildings scare me.
I'm not like an inserted fork,
Not a cutting knife, not a stuck spoon.

I'm not flat and sly
Like a spatula creeping up from below.
At most I am a heavy and clumsy pestle
Mashing good and bad together
For a little taste
And a little fragrance.

Arrows do not direct me. I conduct
My business carefully and quietly
Like a long will that began to be written
The moment I was born.

Now I stand at the side of the street
Weary, leaning on a parking meter.
I can stand here for nothing, free.

I'm not a car, I'm a person,
A man-god, a god-man
Whose days are numbered. Hallelujah.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Kind of Love Poem

By Rafael Campo

Unluckily, the day begins: a bomb
has detonated in Mumbai. Again,
we ask ourselves. Is this what we’ve become?
Unluckily, the night has eyes. A train
makes music of the city’s sleeplessness
again; a baby shrieks with hunger or
the need to have its diaper changed. Unless
he finds a job, the man who lives next door
will have to go on unemployment. Bombs
explode in other places, ruining
other lives, scarring other faces. Crumbs
form constellations in my sink. The ring
of doorbells, telephones, and certain phrases:
The night dies. Unlucky Saturn rises.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Quiet World

By Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly a hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.
Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.
When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Search this blog