The Nacreous Oughts

29 April 2008

   "Kubla Khan"

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.

It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,

That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

   "The Stranger Song"

It's true that all the men you knew were dealers
who said they were through with dealing
Every time you gave them shelter
I know that kind of man
It's hard to hold the hand of anyone
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
that is so high and wild
he'll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.

And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
an old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger.

But now another stranger seems
to want you to ignore his dreams
as though they were the burden of some other
O you've seen that man before
his golden arm dispatching cards
but now it's rusted from the elbows to the finger
And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter
Yes he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter.

Ah you hate to see another tired man
lay down his hand
like he was giving up the holy game of poker
And while he talks his dreams to sleep
you notice there's a highway
that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder
It is curling just like smoke above his shoulder.

You tell him to come in sit down
but something makes you turn around
The door is open you can't close your shelter
You try the handle of the road
It opens do not be afraid
It's you my love, you who are the stranger
It's you my love, you who are the stranger.

Well, I've been waiting, I was sure
we'd meet between the trains we're waiting for
I think it's time to board another
Please understand, I never had a secret chart
to get me to the heart of this
or any other matter
When he talks like this
you don't know what he's after
When he speaks like this,
you don't know what he's after.

Let's meet tomorrow if you choose
upon the shore, beneath the bridge
that they are building on some endless river
Then he leaves the platform
for the sleeping car that's warm
You realize, he's only advertising one more shelter
And it comes to you, he never was a stranger
And you say ok the bridge or someplace later.

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind ...

And leaning on your window sill ...

I told you when I came I was a stranger.

--Leonard Cohen

28 April 2008

Speak, you also,
Speak as the last,
Have your say,

But keep yes and no unsplit,
And give your say this meaning:
Give it the shade.

Give it shade enough,
Give it as much
As you know has been dealt out between
Midday and midday and midnight.

Look around:
Look how it all leaps alive--
Where death is! Alive!
He speaks truly who speaks the shade.'

--Paul Celan (tr M Hamburger)

As I watch the moon
Shining on pain's myriad paths,
I know I am not
Alone involved in Autumn.

--Ôe no Chisato (tr Rexroth)

As i see the moon
Tracing all the manifold
Highways & footpaths
Of pain, i know i am not
Alone involved in Autumn.

(my tr.)


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

--Lewis Carroll


Desire what I despise, how? you inquire.
Who knows, but that I do is my despair.

--Gaius Valerius Catullus (my tr.)

27 April 2008

"The City of Toys"

The road divides the city in two:
on this side, in light,
the leather snake
sweats in the showcase,
the crocodile opens and closes its eyes,
the kangaroo cracks walnuts with its navel,
standing opposite a penguin with beads
around its neck.

On the other side, in the wild darkness,
the shadows of people
hang suspended among branches,
then fall: a boar,
a wolf, another one a tiger,
and they drink oil and vinegar in the river,

and iron dolls emerge
onto the shore.

--Martin Camaj (tr Leonard Fox)

26 April 2008


WHEN the white flame in us is gone,
And we that lost the world's delight
Stiffen in darkness, left alone
To crumble in our separate night;

When your swift hair is quiet in death,
And through the lips corruption thrust
Has stilled the labour of my breath—
When we are dust, when we are dust!—

Not dead, not undesirous yet,
Still sentient, still unsatisfied,
We'll ride the air, and shine and flit,
Around the places where we died,

And dance as dust before the sun,
And light of foot, and unconfined,
Hurry from road to road, and run
About the errands of the wind.

And every mote, on earth or air,
Will speed and gleam, down later days,
And like a secret pilgrim fare
By eager and invisible ways,

Nor ever rest, nor ever lie,
Till, beyond thinking, out of view,
One mote of all the dust that's I
Shall meet one atom that was you.

Then in some garden hushed from wind,
Warm in a sunset's afterglow,
The lovers in the flowers will find
A sweet and strange unquiet grow

Upon the peace; and, past desiring,
So high a beauty in the air,
And such a light, and such a quiring,
And such a radiant ecstasy there,

They'll know not if it's fire, or dew,
Or out of earth, or in the height,
Singing, or flame, or scent, or hue,
Or two that pass, in light, to light,

Out of the garden higher, higher...
But in that instant they shall learn
The shattering fury of our fire,
And the weak passionless hearts will burn

And faint in that amazing glow,
Until the darkness close above;
And they will know—poor fools, they'll know!—
One moment, what it is to love.

--Rupert Brooke

25 April 2008

     "Golgotha Is a Mountain

Golgotha is a mountain, a purple mound
Almost out of sight.
One night they hanged two thieves there,
And another man.
Some women wept heavily that night;
Their tears are flowing still. They have made a river;
Once it covered me.
Then the people went away and left Golgotha
Oh, I've seen many mountains:
Pale purple mountains melting in the evening mists and blurring on the borders of the sky.
I climbed old Shasta and chilled my hands in its summer snows.
I rested in the shadow of Popocatepetl and it whispered to me of daring prowess.
I looked upon the Pyrenees and felt the zest of warm exotic nights.
I slept at the foot of Fujiyama and dreamed of legend and of death.
And I've seen other mountains rising from the wistful moors like the breasts of a slender maiden.
Who knows the mystery of mountains!
Some of them are awful, others are just lonely.

* * *

Italy has its Rome and California has San Francisco,
All covered with mountains.
Some think these mountains grew
Like ant hills
Or sand dunes.
That might be so--
I wonder what started them all!
Babylon is a mountain
And so is Nineveh,
With grass growing on them;
Palaces and hanging gardens started them.
I wonder what is under the hills
In Mexico
And Japan!
There are mountains in Africa, too.
Treasure is buried there:
Gold and precious stones
And moulded glory.
Lush grass is growing there
Sinking before the wind.
Black men are bowing
Naked in that grass
Digging with their fingers.
I am one of them:
Those mountains should be ours.
It would be great
To touch the pieces of glory with our hands.

These mute unhappy hills,
Bowed down with broken backs,
Speak often one to another:
"A day is as a year," they cry,
"And a thousand years as one day."
We watched the caravan
That bore our queen to the courts of Solomon;
And when the first slave traders came
We bowed our heads.
"Oh, Brothers, it is not long!
Dust shall yet devour the stones
But we shall be here when they are one."
Mountains are rising all around me.
Some are so small they are not seen;
Others are large.
All of them get big in time and people forget
What started them at first.
Oh the world is covered with mountains!
Beneath each one there is something buried:
Some pile of wreckage that started it there.
Mountains are lonely and some are awful.

* * *

One day I will crumble.
They'll cover my heap with dirt and that will make a mountain.
I think it will be Golgotha."

--Arna Bontemps

    "True Name"

Desert I shall name this castle that you were,
This voice, Night, your face, Absence,
And when you fall in the sterile earth
I shall name nothingness the flash which bore you.

Dying is a land you used to love. I come
But eternally by your somber ways.
I destroy your desire, your form, your memory,
I am your enemy who has no pity.

I shall name you War and I shall take
Upon you the liberties of war and I shall have
In my hands your face dark and travelled,
In my heart this land that the storm illumines.

--Yves Bonnefoy (my tr)

21 April 2008

All I ever tried to keep, these
last starved years have swiped, except
one tale, one blazing zigzag streak
hung in the nightly star-array.

The rest's scattered ash, become
a resumé...still I must dream:
a box, its precious contents sealed
crosswise with a burgundy ribbon.

--Aleksandr Blok (my tr.)

The Angel that presided o'er my birth
Said, "Little creature, form'd of Joy & Mirth,
Go love without the help of any Thing on Earth."

--William Blake

Sonnet 65

Once when they found me, some refrain Quoi faire?
Striking my hands, they say repeatedly
I muttered; although I could hear and see
I knew no one. --I am silent in my chair,
And stronger and more cold is my despair
At last, for I have come into a country
Whose vivid Queen upon no melody
Admits me. Manchmal glaub' ich, ich kann nicht mehr.
Song follows song, the chatterer to the fire
Would follow soon... Deep in Ur's royal pits
Sit still the courtly bodies, a little bowl
By each, attired to voluntary blitz...
In Shub-ad's grave the fingers of a girl
Were touching still, when they found her, the strings of her lyre.

--John Berryman

20 April 2008

Many such goblets · had gone to the earth-house,
legacies left · by a lordly people.
In an earlier age · someone unknown
had cleverly covered · these costly treasures.
That throne held the hoard · for the lifetime allowed him,
but gold could not gladden · a man in mourning.
Newly-built · near the breaking waves,
a barrow stood · at the base of a bluff,
its entrance sculpted · by secret arts.
Earthward the warrior · bore the hoard-worthy
portion of plate, · the golden craftwork.
The ringkeeper spoke · these words as he went:

"Hold now, Earth, · what men may not,
the hoard of the heroes, · earth-gotten wealth
when it first was won. · War-death has felled them,
an evil befalling · each of my people.
The household is mirthless · when men are lifeless.
I have none to wear sword, · none to bear wine
or polish the precious · vessels and plates.
Gone are the brethren · who braved many battles.
From the hard helmet · the hand-wrought gilding
drops in the dust. · Asleep are the smiths
who knew how to burnish · the war-chief's mask
or mend the mail-shirts · mangled in battle.
Shields and mail-shirts · molder with warriors
and follow no foes · to faraway fields.
No harp rejoices · to herald the heroes,
no hand-fed hawk · swoos through the hall,
no stallion stamps · in the stronghold's courtyard.
Death has undone · many kindreds of men."

--Beowulf (tr Sullivan & Murphy)

17 April 2008

    A Crocodile

Hard by the lilied Nile I saw
A duskish river-dragon stretched along,
The brown habergeon of his limbs enamelled
With sanguine almandines and rainy pearl:
And on his back there lay a young one sleeping,
No bigger than a mouse; with eyes like beads,
And a small fragment of its speckled egg
Remaining on its harmless, pulpy snout;
A thing to laugh at, as it gaped to catch
The baulking, merry flies. In the iron jaws
Of the great devil-beast, like a pale soul
Fluttering in rocky hell, lightsomely flew
A snowy troculus, with roseate beak
Tearing the hairy leeches from his throat.

--Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849)


In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey
butane in my veins so i'm out to cut the junkie
with the plastic eyeballs
spray paint the vegetables
dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose
kill the headlights and put it in neutral
stock car flamin' with a loser and the cruise control
baby's in Reno with the vitamin D
got a couple of couches sleep on the love seat
someone keeps sayin' I'm insane to complain about
a shotgun wedding and a stain on my shirt
don't believe everything that you breathe
you get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve
so shave your face with some mace in the dark
savin' all your food stamps and burnin' down the trailer park
(yo cut it)
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
(double-barrel buckshot)
Soy un perdedor i'm a loser baby,so why don't you kill me?
Forces of evil in a bozo nightmare
banned all the music with a phony gas chamber
'cuz one's got a weasel and the other's got a flag
one's got on the pole shove the other in a bag
with the rerun shows and the cocaine nose job
the daytime crap with the folksinger slop
he hung himself with a guitar string
slap the turkey neck and it's hangin' on a pigeon wing
you can't write if you can't relate
trade the cash for the beef for the body for the hate
and my time is a piece of wax
fallin' on a termite who's chokin' on the splinters
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
(get crazy with the cheeze whiz)
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
(drive-by body pierce)
(yo bring it on down)
(I'm a driver I'm a winner things are gonna change I can feel it)
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
(I can't believe you)
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
(Sprechen sie Deutches, baby)
Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?
(Know what I'm sayin'?)


   "Ballad of Lazarus"

It fell upon a winter day
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
Mary and Martha went to pray,
Send Thy peace upon us.

And with them borne upon a bier
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
Was Lazarus their brother dear.
Send Thy peace upon us.

When he three days did buried lie
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
Jesus Christ came walking by,
Send Thy peace upon us.

'Hadst thou come when we did call thee'
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
'Our brother yet alive would be.'
Send Thy peace upon us.

'Hearken, woman, do not weep'
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
'For thy brother does but sleep.'
Send Thy peace upon us.

Then he knelt upon the earth
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
And cried out: 'Lazarus, come forth.'
Send Thy peace upon us.

Lazarus came from his grave mound
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
About his head a napkin bound.
Send Thy peace upon us.

'O Lord, why didst thou bid me rise?'
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
'This hour I was in paradise.'
Send Thy peace upon us.

'Not for thyself I bade thee come'
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
'From paradise and from the tomb.'
Send Thy peace upon us.

'But for the sake of men to see'
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
'My heavenly father dwells in me.'
Send Thy peace upon us.

A crown of thorns our Lord did take
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
When He was slain for Adam sake.
Send Thy peace upon us.

The briar rose of the green wood
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
Sprung at Golgotha from his blood.
Send Thy peace upon us.

The nettle grows the graves among
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
All for the serpent's lying tongue.
Send Thy peace upon us.

So when you hear the passing bell
--Thorn, briar, nettle grow--
Then pray God save our souls from Hell.
Send Thy peace upon us.

--James K. Baxter

14 April 2008

"To the Reader"

Delusion, indulgence, greed and pettiness
Engross our minds and mortify our bodies,
And we keep overfed our fond pet pity
As winos host their vermin--with their own flesh.

Our faults are fierce, our resolutions craven:
We pray and bray and play we're gonna change
All the jolly way to the old sty-haven
As if the wish would wash away our stains.

On our daydreams' pillow squats Nick Trismegist
Who continually lulls a blurry rapt attention...
And the ore of our potential for intention
Is all dissolved by that cool alchemist.

He's the mover in our puppetdom!
Our choicest toys are those by which we're trapped;
Each day towards the Pit we take a step
Smiling still, through vapors dark and noisome.

Just like a congressman who sucks and smacks
A hooker's misappropriated nipples,
We snatch in passing some illegal thrills
Like dumpster oranges we must squeeze to the max.

Jammed, like a city of maggots at rush hour,
A million mad impulses honk in our brains;
From everything we touch, inhale, or consume,
Ineffable cancer seeps, in spite of our powers.

If switchblade, bomb, gun, Tylenol or rape
Has copped no Nielsen share of our obsessions
It's that, inside our cage of cheap possessions,
As yet we haven't wanted to escape.

With these familiar jackals, panthers, fleas,
Vultures, scorpions, cobras and baboons
All yowling, howling, growling, around the room
Where our waste loves remain, that's never cleaned,

One of them's most dirty, dour and cruel!
Though he doesn't scream too much, nor flails about,
He'd turn the earth into a parking lot
Or just as casually call the missiles kill.

--BOREDOM. Through the tears of unblinking eyes
He looks out for his suicide, and chain-smokes.
You recognize this connoisseur of jokes,
Eh? Like me, you'll swallow no more lies...?

--Charles Baudelaire (my tr.)

That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush
We waited for the flash
Of morning's levelled gun.

But morning let us pass
And day by day relief
Outgrows his nervous laugh
Grows credulous of peace.

As mile by mile is seen
No trespasser's reproach
And love's best glasses reach
No fields but are his own.

--W H Auden

12 April 2008

    Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

--Matthew Arnold

11 April 2008


Eyes shining without mystery,
Footprints eager for the past
Through the vague snow of many clay pipes,
And what is in store?

Footprints eager for the past
The usual obtuse blanket.
And what is in store
For those dearest to the king?

The usual obtuse blanket.
Of legless regrets and amplifications
For those dearest to the king.
Yes, sirs, connoisseurs of oblivion,

The usual obtuse blanket.
Of legless regrets and amplifications
For those dearest to the king.
Yes, sirs, connoisseurs of oblivion,

Of legless regrets and amplifications,
That is why a watchdog is shy.
Yes, sirs, connoisseurs of oblivion,
These days are short, brittle; there is only one night.

That is why a watchdog is shy,
Why the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying.
These days are short, brittle; there is only one night
And that soon gotten over.

Why the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying
Some blunt pretense to safety we have
And that soon gotten over
For they must have motion.

Some blunt pretense to safety we have
Eyes shining without mystery,
For they must have motion
Through the vague snow of many clay pipes.

--John Ashbery

   "Confession of Golias"

Boiling in my spirit's veins
    With fierce indignation,
From my bitterness of soul
    Springs self-revelation:
Framed am I of flimsy stuff,
    Fit for levitation,
Like a thin leaf which the wind
    Scatters from its station.

While it is the wise man's part
    With deliberation
On a rock to base his heart's
    Permanent foundation,
With a running river I
    Find my just equation,
Which beneath the self-same sky
    Hath no habitation.

Carried am I like a ship
    Left without a sailor,
Like a bird that through the air
    Flies where tempests hale her;
Chains and fetters hold me not,
    Naught avails a jailer;
Still I find my fellows out
    Toper, gamester, railer.

To my mind all gravity
    Is a grave subjection;
Sweeter far than honey are
    Jokes and free affection.
All that Venus bids me do,
    Do I with erection,
For she ne'er in heart of man
    Dwelt with dull dejection.

Down the broad road do I run,
    As the way of youth is;
Snare myself in sin, and ne'er
    Think where faith and truth is;
Eager far for pleasure more
    Than soul's health, the sooth is,
For this flesh of mine I care,
    Seek not ruth where ruth is.

Prelate, most discreet of priests,
    Grant me absolution!
Dear's the death whereof I die,
    Sweet my dissolution;
For my heart is wounded br
    Beauty's soft suffusion;
All the girls I come not nigh,
    Mine are in illusion.

'Tis most arduous to make
    Nature's self surrender;
Seeing girls, to blush and be
    Purity's defender!
We young men our longings ne'er
    Shall to stern law render,
Or preserve our fancies from
    Bodies smooth and tender.

Who, when into fire he falls,
    Keeps himself from burning?
Who within Pavia's walls
    Fame of chaste is earning?
Venus with her finger calls
    Youths at every turning,
Snares them with her eyes, and thralls
    With her amorous yearning.

If you brought Hippolitus
    To Pavia Sunday,
He'd not be Hippolitus
    On the following Monday;
Venus there keeps holiday
    Every day as one day;
'Mid these towers in no tower dwells
    Venus Verecunda. [a modest Venus]

In the second place I own
    To the vice of gaming:
Cold indeed outside I seem,
    Yet my soul is flaming:
But when once the dice-box hath
    Stripped me to mv shaming,
Make I songs and verses fit
    For the world's acclaiming.

In the third place, 1 will speak
    Of the tavern's pleasure;
For I never found nor find
    There the least displeasure;
Nor shall find it till I greet
    Angels without measure,
Singing requiems for the souls
    In eternal leisure.

In the public-house to die
    Is my resolution;
Let wine to my lips be nigh
    At life's dissolution:
That will make the angels cry,
    With glad elocution,
"Grant this toper, God on high,
    Grace and absolution!"

With the cup the soul lights up,
    Inspirations flicker;
Nectar lifts the soul on high
    With its heavenly ichor:
To my lips a sounder taste
    Hath the tavern's liquor
Than the wine a village clerk
    Waters for the vicar.

Nature gives to every man
    Some gift serviceable;
Write I never could nor can
    Hungry at the table;
Fasting, any stripling to
    Vanquish me is able;
Hunger, thirst, I liken to
    Death that ends the fable.

Nature gives to every man
    Gifts as she is willing;
I compose my verses when
    Good wine I am swilling,
Wine the best for jolly guest
    Jolly hosts are filling;
From such wine rare fancies fine
    Flow like dews distilling.

Such my verse is wont to be
    As the wine I swallow;
No ripe thoughts enliven me
    While my stomach's hollow;
Hungry wits on hungry lips
    Like a shadow follow,
But when once I'm in my cups,
    I can beat Apollo.

Never to my spirit yet
    Flew poetic vision
Until first my belly bad
    Plentiful provision;
Let but Bacchus in the brain
    Take a strong position,
Then comes Phoebus flowing in
    With a fine precision.

There are poets, worthy men,
    Shrink from public places,
And in lurking-hole or den
    Hide their pallid faces;
There they study, sweat, and woo
    Pallas and the Graces,
But bring nothing forth to view
    Worth the girls' embraces.

Fasting, thirsting, toil the bards,
    Swift years flying o'er them;
Shun the strife of open life,
    Tumults of the forum;
They, to sing some deathless thing,
    Lest the world ignore them,
Die the death, expend their breath,
    Drowned in dull decorum.

Lo! mv frailties I've betrayed,
    Shown you every token,
Told you what your servitors
    Have against me spoken;
But of those men each and all
    Leave their sins unspoken,
Though they play, enjoy to-day,
    Scorn their pledges broken.

Now within the audience-room
    Of this blessed prelate,
Sent to hunt out vice, and from
    Hearts of men expel it;
Let him rise, nor spare the bard,
    Cast at him a pellet:
He whose heart knows not crime's smart,
    Show my sin and tell it!

I have uttered openly
    All I knew that shamed me,
And have spued the poison forth
    That so long defamed me;
Of my old ways I repent,
    New life hath reclaimed me;
God beholds the heart-'twas man
    Viewed the face and blamed me.

Goodness now hath won my love,
    I am wroth with vices;
Made a new man in my mind,
    Lo, my soul arises!
Like a babe new milk I drink-
    Milk for me suffices,
Lest my heart should longer be
    Filled with vain devices.

Thou Elect of fair Cologne, [ie Rainald of Dassel]
    Listen to my pleading!
Spurn not thou the penitent;
    See, his heart is bleeding!
Give me penance! what is due
    For my faults exceeding
I will bear with willing cheer,
    All thy precepts heeding.

Lo, the lion, king of beasts,
    Spares the meek and lowly;
Toward submissive creatures he
    Tames his anger wholly.
Do the like, ye powers of earth,
    Temporal and holy!
Bitterness is more than's right
    When 'tis bitter solely.

--the Archpoet (tr J. A. Symonds)

08 April 2008


I know if I find you I will have to leave the earth
and go on out over the sea marshes and the brant in bays
and over the hills of tall hickory
and over the crater lakes and canyons
and on up through the spheres of diminishing air
past the blackset noctilucent clouds where one wants to stop and look
way past all the light diffusions and bombardments
up farther than the loss of sight into the unseasonal undifferentiated empty stark

And I know if I find you I will have to stay with the earth
inspecting with thin tools and ground eyes
trusting the microvilli sporangia and simplest coelenterates
and praying for a nerve cell
with all the soul of my chemical reactions
and going right on down where the eye sees only traces

You are everywhere partial and entire
You are on the inside of everything and on the outside

I walk down the path down the hill where the sweetgum
has begun to ooze spring sap at the cut
and I see how the bark cracks and winds like no other bark
chasmal to my ant-soul running up and down
and if I find you I must go out deep into your far resolutions
and if I find you I must stay here with the separate leaves

--A. R. Ammons

On the Road

A land not our own
and yet eternally memorable,
and in the sea there is tender-iced
and unsalt water.

On the bottom-sand whiter than chalk,
and air as drunk as wine,
and the pink mass of the pines
laid bare in the sunset hour.

The sunset itself in the ethereal waves
is such that I cannot tell
if this is the end of the day or of the world,
or the secret of secrets is within me again.

--Anna Akhmatova (tr R McKane)

03 April 2008

    "Night Piece (Nocturno)

Entangled in the nights of the tarn of your soul
I might litanize a web of silence and crystal
woven by insomnia's great spiders.

Cream of lustral rain in a vase of alabasters,
O mirror of purity you polish the stars
and reflect the abyss of life in a sky...

I am the errant swan of the bloody trail,
I go leaving a stain and raising a churn.

--Delmira Agustini (my tr.)

01 April 2008

Not part of the Anthology, I think.

    Cackling Refuge

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K. S.

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