Monday, April 30, 2012

Memorial Day

Behind the banyan trees, the mansions. Behind the mansions, the
            lagoon—.
In the lagoon, a mooring of sailboats.
Wind in the rigging.
Hull-slap and groan.
                                                                Where is everybody?
The sound of people playing in their pools—well ..., there
Isn’t any; the streets
Are empty—, the moon, like a moon
Jelly, beating its slow float in the not-
Quite-dark. In the gardens of the Moorings Country Club,
The lights have come on, rice paper lanterns on which are
Printed cherry blossoms. O—this un-
Starred sky. And the smell of the star
Jasmine, the fleshy, resplendent scent
Of the gardenia. Is this where I say, I
Miss you? Where I say, Father, isn’t there anything
In this evening’s long cortege of bloom, as beautiful
                                                                      As it used to be?
Like the sound of a ghost ship drifting
Through fog—like a sweet-despicable
Imitation of mourning—a piteousness of doves is cooing in the
             banyan trees.

--Jay Hopler

Saturday, April 28, 2012

    And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
    Myself I stood in the storm of the bird-cherry tree.
    It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self-shattering power,
    And it was all aimed at me.

    What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
    What is being? What is truth?

    Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
    All hover and hammer,
    Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
    It is now. It is not.                                               
    (4 May 1937)

 --Osip Mandelstam, trans. Christian Wiman

Friday, April 27, 2012

From Paradise Lost Book 3

Hail, holy Light, offspring of Heaven firstborn,
Or of the Eternal coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam'd? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear"st thou rather pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell? before the sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing,
Escap'd the Stygian pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes than to the Orphean lyre
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to re-ascend,
Though hard and rare: Thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander, where the Muses haunt,
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor sometimes forget
So were I equall'd with them in renown,
Thy sovran command, that Man should find grace;
Blind Thamyris, and blind Maeonides,
And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old:
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works to me expung'd and ras'd,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

--John Milton 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

 
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et Humanitas,
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.
Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor:
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.
O memoriale mortis Domini!
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini!
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen
 
 
--Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Garden Homage  
Three windows are at work here, sophisticated
spaces against the day, against the light.
The sky looks as if it has been added later
to a glimpsed world as nobody saw it.

Small gaps of awkwardness between overlapping leaves
bring their time to us, as we our time
to them. The hand alone is amazing,
the skull and the owner’s hand holding it,

together on a page for fifty years,
with the earliest smile. A rope vase
of flowers returns the angels
to the ground, that still beautiful brown.
 
--Medbh McGuckian 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I don't think I've posted this one yet.

From Eleven Addresses to the Lord

3

Sole watchman of the flying stars, guard me
against my flicker of impulse lust: teach me
to see them as sisters & daughters. Sustain
my grand endeavours: husbandship & crafting.

Forsake me not when my wild hours come;
grant me sleep nightly, grace soften my dreams;
achieve in me patience till the thing be done,
a careful view of my achievement come.

Make me from time to time the gift of the shoulder.
When all hurt nerves whine shut away the whiskey.
Empty my heart toward Thee.
Let me pace without fear the common path of death.

Cross am I sometimes with my little daughter:
fill her eyes with tears. Forgive me, Lord.
Unite my various soul,
sole watchman of the wide & single stars.


--John Berryman

Monday, April 23, 2012

To Heaven

Good and great God, can I not think of thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,
And judge me after; if I dare pretend
To ought but grace or aim at other end.
As thou art all, so be thou all to me,
First, midst, and last, converted one, and three;
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state
My judge, my witness, and my advocate.
Where have I been this while exil'd from thee?
And whither rap'd, now thou but stoop'st to me?
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere,
How can I doubt to find thee ever here?
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn,
Conceiv'd in sin, and unto labour borne,
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,
And destin'd unto judgment, after all.
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground
Upon my flesh t' inflict another wound.
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
Of discontent; or that these prayers be
For weariness of life, not love of thee. 
 
--Ben Jonson

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To Ares

Ares—exceedingly puissant, oppressor of chariots, golden
Helmeted, savior of garrisons, powerful-spirited, strong-armed
Shield-bearer clad in bronze armor, unwearied Olympian bulwark,
Strength of the javelin, father of Victory, happy in battle,
Ally of Justic and tyrant of enemies, leader of just men,
Sceptered commander of masculine virtue, revolving your fire-bright
Orb through the midst of the sevenfold path of the planets in aether
Where, incandescent, your coursers maintain you above the third orbit—
Listen, defender of humans and giver of flourishing youth, let
Shine a propitious ray from above on the course of our lifetime,
Grant us your martial strength, to the end that I may be enabled
Once and for all to remove wretched cowardice far from my person,
Also to conquer within me the treacherous urge of my spirit;
Help me as well to control the sharp passionate temper provoking
Me to embark upon blood-chilling mayhem, and give me the courage,
Blest, to remain in the comfortable legal prescriptions of peacetime,
Thereby avoiding the conflict of foes and a violent ending.


--Homeric Hymns, trans. Daryl Hine

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Picture of little T.C.
in a Prospect of Flowers



    i
See with what simplicity
This Nimph begins her golden daies!
In the green Grass she loves to lie,
And there with her fair Aspect tames
The Wilder flow'rs, and gives them names:
But only with the Roses playes;
                  And them does tell
What Colour best becomes them, and what Smell.

    ii
Who can foretel for what high cause
This Darling of the Gods was born!
Yet this is She whose chaster Laws
The wanton Love shall one day fear,
And, under her command severe,
See his Bow broke and Ensigns torn.
                  Happy, who can
Appease this virtuous Enemy of Man!

    iii
O then let me in time compound,
And parly with those conquering Eyes;
Ere they have try'd their force to wound,
Ere, with their glancing wheels, they drive
In Triumph over Hearts that strive,
And them that yield but more despise.
                  Let me be laid,
Where I may see thy Glories from some Shade.

    iv
Mean time, whilst every verdant thing
It self does at thy Beauty charm,
Reform the errours of the Spring;
Make that the Tulips may have share
Of sweetness, seeing they are fair;
And Roses of their thorns disarm:
                  But most procure
That Violets may a longer Age endure.

    v
But O young beauty of the Woods,
Whom Nature courts with fruits and flow'rs,
Gather the Flow'rs, but spare the Buds;
Lest Flora angry at thy crime,
To kill her Infants in their prime,
Do quickly make th' Example Yours;
                  And, ere we see,
Nip in the blossome all our hopes and Thee.

--Andrew Marvell

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Burning Bush

Lizard’s shade turned torch, what thorns I bore
Nomadic shepherds clipped. Still,
I’ve stood, a soldier listening for the word,
Attack, a prophet praying any ember be spoken
Through me in this desert full of fugitives.
Now, I have a voice. Entered, I am lit.
Remember me for this sprouting fire,
For the lash of flaming tongues that lick
But do not swallow my leaves, my flimsy
Branches. No ash behind, I burn to bloom.
I am not consumed. I am not consumed.

 --Jericho Brown

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eve


If the angels came there would be no kindness they are

after all also without mercy pity they are warriors soldiers

of wing beak and sword griffins of the lord endlessly taking

sides come unto all of this world to do his bidding he has

no interest in rescue how obvious that has become he has

no interest in the seed its vanishing its chance random choice

of fate either ground cradled or ground down in the bird’s

churning belly seed is food is blood is muscle is waiting

to become flesh its own or someone else’s seed is always

fuel in the metabolic fire the apple a womb encounters

her teeth she taught herself to eat god taught her to bleed


--Leslie Harrison

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

from My Life

As for we who "love to be astonished"

You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon. My father had filled an old apothecary jar with what he called "sea glass," bits of old bottles rounded and textured by the sea, so abundant on beaches. There is no solitude. It buries itself in veracity. It is as if one splashed in the water lost by one's tears. My mother had climbed into the garbage can in order to stamp down the accumulated trash, but the can was knocked off balance, and when she fell she broke her arm. She could only give a little shrug. The family had little money but plenty of food. At the circus only the elephants were greater than anything I could have imagined. The egg of Columbus, landscape and grammar. She wanted one where the playground was dirt, with grass, shaded by a tree, from which would hang a rubber tire as a swing, and when she found it she sent me. These creatures are compound and nothing they do should surprise us. I don't mind, or I won't mind, where the verb "to care" might multiply. The pilot of the little airplane had forgotten to notify the airport of his approach, so that when the lights of the plane in the night were first spotted, the air raid sirens went off, and the entire city on that coast went dark. He was taking a drink of water and the light was growing dim. My mother stood at the window watching the only lights that were visible, circling over the darkened city in search of the hidden airport. Unhappily, time seems more normative than place. Whether breathing or holding the breath, it was the same thing, driving through the tunnel from one sun to the next under a hot brown hill. She sunned the baby for sixty seconds, leaving him naked except for a blue cotton sunbonnet. At night, to close off the windows from view of the street, my grandmother pulled down the window shades, never loosening the curtains, a gauze starched too stiff to hang properly down. I sat on the windowsill singing sunny lunny teena, ding-dang-dong. Out there is an aging magician who needs a tray of ice in order to turn his bristling breath into steam. He broke the radio silence. Why would anyone find astrology interesting when it is possible to learn about astronomy. What one passes in the Plymouth. It is the wind slamming the doors. All that is nearly incommunicable to my friends. Velocity and throat verisimilitude. Were we seeing a pattern or merely an appearance of small white sailboats on the bay, floating at such a distance from the hill that they appeared to be making no progress. And for once to a country that did not speak another language. To follow the progress of ideas, or that particular line of reasoning, so full of surprises and unexpected correlations, was somehow to take a vacation. Still, you had to wonder where they had gone, since you could speak of reappearance. A blue room is always dark. Everything on the boardwalk was shooting toward the sky. It was not specific to any year, but very early. A German goldsmith covered a bit of metal with cloth in the 14th century and gave mankind its first button. It was hard to know this as politics, because it plays like the work of one person, but nothing is isolated in history--certain humans are situations. Are your fingers in the margin. Their random procedures make monuments to fate. There is something still surprising when the green emerges. The blue fox has ducked its head. The front rhyme of harmless with harmony. Where is my honey running. You cannot linger "on the lamb." You cannot determine the nature of progress until you assemble all of the relatives.

--Lyn Hejinian

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ambulances

Closed like confessionals, they thread
Loud noons of cities, giving back
None of the glances they absorb.
Light glossy grey, arms on a plaque,
They come to rest at any kerb:
All streets in time are visited.

Then children strewn on steps or road,
Or women coming from the shops
Past smells of different dinners, see
A wild white face that overtops
Red stretcher-blankets momently
As it is carried in and stowed,

And sense the solving emptiness
That lies just under all we do,
And for a second get it whole,
So permanent and blank and true.
The fastened doors recede. Poor soul,
They whisper at their own distress;

For borne away in deadened air
May go the sudden shut of loss
Round something nearly at an end,
And what cohered in it across
The years, the unique random blend
Of families and fashions, there

At last begin to loosen. Far
From the exchange of love to lie
Unreachable inside a room
The traffic parts to let go by
Brings closer what is left to come,
And dulls to distance all we are.

--Philip Larkin

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Never Night

You'd like it here where
it's never night, where the sun
circles, rather, until it ends
up where it started from,
east or west, rises, sinks
but doesn't ever set,
where in the summer
you never need to sleep
and all day and all night
the sky is a series of blues
you've seen only once before,
blues van Gogh painted
at the end. Where all the traffic
is fox and moose and bear,
where aspen and birch
bud and leaf all in one day,
and your sleep, when sleep
finally comes, is innocent,
spring wind through a window
left open now that spring
is passing fast and summer
won't stay here long before
the snow sweeps any green
away again and then it's always
night. You'd like that too, when
endless night falls and the moon
comes up, reads your book over
your shoulder, learns which dead
poet moves you tonight,
when any heat at all rises,
and becomes a visible thing.

--Derick Burleson

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Soul's Expression

With stammering lips and insufficient sound
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling interwound
And only answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height
Which step out grandly to the infinite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground.
This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it,—as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Congratulations

Paying Attention


Outside the window, rain. Well, the sound
of rain. Why would I start this way?
Because my God prefers a preamble:
Spool of lightning, Fist of night-blooming jasmine.

My God can slice me clean open from head
to the arches of my feet, does so easily
with a swipe of His index fingernail, a clean
slice to show you the back half of me

seen from the front. He sometimes puts me
back together again. But with my front half
gone, He licks the back wall of my throat,
His tongue like sweetened gasoline.

The sound of rain against my window
is louder than expected, is my God
reminding me to pay attention. And my God
despises inattention and punishes me often

for it. He strips me of my clothes and lashes
my back with his cat-o-nine-tails. I am
quick to cry, so quick to promise humility. I am
a liar. I am weak and a liar. And I am punished.

What more can I tell you? What can I say
to explain my God? He has little tolerance
for hatred. He expects undying love
and affection. He leaves the large red

imprints of his fist against my back,
sometimes flowering on my face. He showers
me with expectations. He lifts me up
to remind of my foolish fear of heights.

--C. Dale Young
(who, it was announced this morning, received a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Prayers to the Birds

Mockingbird, tanager, thrush—you liltwings,
you hopscotch-skippers—forgive us our calling,

noun-bound to be proper, to freight
your pinions with what yokes our weight

to gravity, law, numbers, other fables.
Forgive us our starry quills, our parables—

rook, raven, crow, canary, dove—
our willful migration from love

to symbol. Wind-sickles, forgive us the sins
visited on Icarus, his fathers and sons:

our conceit in zeppelin and satellite, the feast
of false hawks, false eagles. Forgive us as priests

in slums and picket lines forgive the church:
in vigilance, mining the breach—

that sky—for something that will not be owned.
Cardinal, finch—forgive us our lone

hiding behind bushes, spying you out
when we should be flying at your side, not

from pride but from humility: that soaring
force that finds its power in adoring.

--Melissa Range

Monday, April 9, 2012

Luna Moth

Pale green and pressed against the window screen,
shot through with field, you watch nighttime's corners
curl with four white eyes, your under-self unfurled
to my one room of word—kettle, counter,

knife block. Having lived one of your life's
six nights, you leave a limp silhouette where you
left off—let me be the creature circling
your sleep. I am the most benign unknown;

I do not touch. With what nights are left, plant
your wing beat in my sleep, be the only
hovering thing. If only you could teach me
survival without sustenance, unworried
love, how to find oneself at a window
one morning and think nothing of what happens next.

--Cecily Parks

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vespers

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the read leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

--Louise Glück

Friday, April 6, 2012

Upon the Ensigns of Christ’s Crucifying: The Sponge

O sweet and bitter monuments of pain,
Bitter to Christ who all the pain endured,
But sweet to me whose death my life procured,
How shall I full express such loss, such gain?
My tongue shall be my pen, mine eyes shall rain
Tears for my ink, the place where I was cured
Shall be my book, where, having all abjured,
And calling heavens to record in that plain,
Thus plainly will I write: no sin like mine.
When I have done, do thou, Jesu divine,
Take up the tart sponge of thy Passion
And blot it forth; then be they spirit the quill,
Thy blood the ink, and with compassion
Write thus upon my soul: thy Jesu still.

--William Alabaster

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Winter, we hardly knew ye.

video

Yeah, it was the winter that wasn't. Hardly any snow, hardly any wintery-ness. Here's my homage, in farewell, and in anticipation of next year.
Filling Station

Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it’s a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.

Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.

Some comic books provide
the only note of color—
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.

Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)

Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
ESSO—SO—SO—SO
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.


--Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

From Bucolics

O boss of ashes boss of dust
you bother with what floats above
my chimney what settles to the ground
you wake the motes from sleep you make
them curtsey in a ray of sun
they hold their tiny breath as if
they're waiting for the little name
of the dance that's coming next then they
will take their places Boss if I
were smaller I would join them O
I'd cut a rug or two I'd slap
my hand against my shoe if that's
the kind of fuss you're raising Boss
you know I never know for sure
I only know you bother me
from time to time you've caught my breath
a time or two you've stirred me up
before which makes me want to tell
you Boss I wouldn't mind it if
you bothered me a little more


--Maurice Manning

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I'm sensing a theme

Here's the deal: IRL I'm editing this anthology thing, which has to be delivered to the publisher early summer. So I figured, why not just mine that hard anthology for this nonce one? That might be, if only for the expediency of time's sake, the method behind this April's madness.



New Coll. Oxford MS 88 (14th century)

Louerd, þou clepedest me
And ich nagt ne ansuarede þe
Bute wordes scloe and sclepie:
‘þole yet! þole a litel!’
Bute ‘yiet’ and ‘yiet’ was endelis
And ‘þole a litel’ a long wey is.


[Modernized version]
Lord, thou called me
And I naught answered thee
But words slow and sleepy:
‘Wait yet! Wait a little!’
But ‘yet’ and ‘yet’ was endless
And ‘wait a little’ a long way is.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Another. In the same vein.

The Pursuit

LORD ! what a busy, restless thing
Hast Thou made man !
Each day and hour he is on wing,
Rests not a span ;
Then having lost the sun and light,
By clouds surpris’d,
He keeps a commerce in the night
With air disguis’d.
Hadst Thou given to this active dust
A state untir’d,
The lost son had not left the husk,
Nor home desir’d.
That was Thy secret, and it is
Thy mercy too ;
For when all fails to bring to bliss,
Then this must do.
Ah, Lord ! and what a purchase will that be,
To take us sick, that sound would not take Thee !


--Henry Vaughan

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cue the fanfare

It's time for RG's annual Poetry Month Spontaneous Anthology. My time is a bit constrained these days, but I'm hoping to post a poem a day for your enjoyment and edification. Happy reading, y'all.

IESU.

IESU is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th’other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where ES, and next where U was graved,
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to the whole is I E S U.



--George Herbert