The Nacreous Oughts

29 May 2008

    "Photo After Pogrom"

Arrangement by rage
of human rubble

the false-eternal statues of the slain
until they putrify.

Tossed on a pile of dead,
one woman,
her body hacked to utter beauty
oddly by murder,

attains the absolute smile
of dispossession:

the marble pause before the extinct haven
Death's drear
erasure of fear,

the unassumed

the purposeless peace
sealing the faces
of corpses--

Corpses are virgin.

--Mina Loy

    "Death of a Oaxaqueñian"

So huge is God’s despair
In the wild cactus plain
I heard Him weeping there

That I might venture where
The peon had been slain
So huge is God’s despair

On the polluted air
Twixt noonday and the rain
I heard Him weeping there

And felt His anguish tear
For refuge in my brain
So huge is God’s despair

That it could find a lair
In one so small and vain
I heard Him weeping there

Oh vaster than our share
Than deserts of new Spain
So huge is God’s despair
I heard Him weeping there....

--Malcolm Lowry

    "I honour you in dread"

Since your voice like a soft vapour laps me
and my eyes, offered to the eternal scythe,
dare for you to contemplate the coffin;
since to me your red sanctuary affords
a joy half chill, half cardinalate, before
the posthumous avalanche weeps upon the vane;
since the bold cervix of the ardent skeleton,
predestined to the brand of the funeral
walnut, has hurled for you defiance to Death;
I honour you in dread of a lost alcove,
necromantic, with your rigid face
ecstatic, on a shin, as on a pillow;
and since you are my blood's harmonious chosen,
Amada, and life's convulsions seem a bridge
above an abyss, on which we tread together,
my kisses scour you devoutly serried
over a sacrilegious cloak of skulls
as over an erotic domino.

--Ramón López Velarde (tr.Octavio Paz?)

28 May 2008

    "The Narrows"

If you're planning on vanishing, you telegraph,
holding my fist, leave hard.
Leave hypersonic.
I'm brim weary of your spooked
But I'm too fat and fraudulent
for that. For last night
and my plea,
once again unmet,
for your husbandly thighs, their sandstone
and codex. And for this too pearl morning,
our daughter
with a swallowtail's antenna that shudders, bend-breaks
as she slides
her matchbox closed. Silent witchery. Such casual
harm. I want to be fished
from this airstream
by a picturesque giant, his slingshot aquiver,
and then buttered
with petals. A close second: I snuff crumpled butterfly
with ether, a merciful slaughter.
To ensure observation's
remote kiss. Our child
strokes wings' lemon powder, rubs
dull iridescence on my cheeks,
lips. The nourishment of decadence,
its comfort just before
an end.

--Corinne Lee

26 May 2008

    "Bavarian Gentians"

Not every man has gentians in his house
in soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s gloom,
ribbed and torchlike, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness.
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness was awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendor of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on the lost bride and groom.

--D H Lawrence

    "The Raven Days"

Our hearths are gone out and our hearts are broken,
And but the ghosts of homes to us remain,
And ghastly eyes and hollow sighs give token
From friend to friend of an unspoken pain.

O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,
Bring to us in your whetted ivory beaks
Some sign out of the far land of To-morrow,
Some strip of sea-green dawn, some orange streaks.

Ye float in dusky files, forever croaking.
Ye chill our manhood with your dreary shade.
Dumb in the dark, not even God invoking,
We lie in chains, too weak to be afraid.

O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,
Will ever any warm light come again?
Will ever the lit mountains of To-morrow
Begin to gleam athwart the mournful plain?

Sidney Lanier

Time's fingers bend us slowly
With dubious craftsmanship,
That at last spoils all it forms.

--Krates (tr Rexroth)


Oh come.
Thou vault of amethyst, enormous night.
Oh come.
Thou gold-embroidered cloth on fragrant bread.
Oh come.
Thou granary of stars with sifting seeds of light.
Oh come.
Thou serpent, copper dark, who spray's life's venom in the dead.

Oh come.
Ecstatic melody that soars above the everyday.
Oh come.
I want to seize you with my lips before I die.
Oh come.
My red-brown rose so rare and far away.
Oh come.
Thou velvet mouth of dew so filled with spices sweet and dry.

Oh come.
Gray, monumental tower that fled into the barren night.
Oh come.
I crouch with barn-owls on a broken window's sill.
Oh come.
Thou stony law that crumbling sank from sight.
Oh come.
And I will raise the shattered tablet on some somber hill.

Oh come.
Thou magic ring, round-woven with mysterious signs.
Oh come.
And close my head in quietness, my brow in sleep.
Oh come.
Blue-rushing spring that breaks an iris out of every vine.
Oh come.
Thou weeping rainbow, fringed with grass and flowing deep.

Oh come.
My child. Oh come, oh come, my child.
Oh come.
My hollow drumbeat deadens me no more.
Oh come.
And if you will not come, then take me in a tempest blowing wild.
Oh come.
And cast my dust upon a distant shore.

--Gertrud Kolmar (tr Henry A Smith)


I first loved you
second to
your gentleness

like the blind who
divide their lives into
dark and dark I
have you and your gentleness

as a detail in a painting frames that painting
in the often
memory, your face
is surrounded by your eyes
of the grays of gentleness

but better than your gentleness
I love your harshness

the harshness
when you talk about that prison capitalism
when you vow never to stop fighting


until each woman and man is free
until each woman and man is in the custody

of their gentleness

--Bill Knott

    "Epitaphs of the War: the Coward"

I could not look on death, which being known,
Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.

--Rudyard Kipling

   from The Rubaiyat, LXVIII-LXXIV

We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help--for It
As impotently moves as you or I.

Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

--Omar Khayyam (tr Edward FitzGerald)

      "The Mad Old Man"

   "Stars," He said, "are the entrances to hell,
better known as the created universe,
rings of fire through which falling angels fall
into the matter trap." I called my horse
with my mindwhistle, frightened by the fierce
look on His face, by His flaring, flaming eyes,
and flew back to my golden tower of verse
somewhere on the other side of Paradise.
I drew a cloak of dreams about my thoughts
but fiery moths came, hungry and insane,
and made a ragged mockery of my nights.
I sought the mad old Man but He was gone
and I suspect that He has fallen through
the holes in His head and that I may too,

--Walter H Kerr

And these places that I know you
are not you
and these circumstances (which are our only dances,
we who are poor)
            that tend around you
do not bind you
            nor are they the circle
of which you seem to be the hub
                and at evening on
this first spring day
shattering sunlight crosses bedded shale
minding serpents out of rock cleft
winding a scallop of pure green, young celandine,
under rock shelf
            and the stream is loud
beneath me
          cataracts we are

are not you, none of this is you.

--Robert Kelly

25 May 2008

    "Variations on a Theme by Joyce"

The war is in words and the wood is the world
That turns beneath our rootless feet;
The vines that reach, alive and snarled,
Across the path where the sand is swirled,
Twist in the night. The light lies flat.
The war is in words and the wood is the world.

The rain is ruin and our ruin rides
The swiftest winds; the wood is whorled
And turned and smoothed by the turning tides.
--There is rain in the woods, slow rain that breeds
The war in the words. The wood is the world.
This rain is ruin and our ruin rides.

The war is in words and the wood is the world,
Sourceless and seized and forever filled
With green vines twisting on wood more gnarled
Than dead men's hands. The vines are curled
Around these branches, crushed and killed.
The war is in words and the wood is the world.

--Weldon Kees

    "Ode on Melancholy"

No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty -- Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips;
Ay, in the very temple of delight
Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

--John Keats

    "Hymn to Diana"

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close:
Bless us then with wishèd sight,
Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever;
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.

-- Ben Jonson

    "The Church of a Dream"

Sadly the dead leaves rustle in the whistling wind,
Around the weather-worn, gray church, low down the vale:
The Saints in golden vesture shake before the gale;
The glorious windows shake, where still they dwell enshrined;

Old Saints by long dead, shrivelled hands, long since designed;
There still, although the world autumnal be, and pale,
Still in their golden vesture the old saints prevail;
Alone with Christ, desolate else, left by mankind.

Only one ancient Priest offers the Sacrifice,
Murmuring holy Latin immemorial:
Swaying with tremulous hands the old censer full of spice,
In gray, sweet incense clouds; blue, sweet clouds mystical:
To him, in place of men, for he is old, suffice
Melancholy remembrances and vesperal.

--Lionel Johnson

24 May 2008

    "I Am Not I"

I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
the one who remains silent while I talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when I die.

--Juan Ramón Jiménez (Bly tr)


The ebb slips from the rock, the sunken
Tide-rocks lift streaming shoulders
Out of the slack, the slow west
Sombering its torch; a ship's light
Shows faintly, far out,
Over the weight of the prone ocean
On the low cloud.

Over the dark mountain, over the dark pinewood,
Down the long dark valley along the shrunken river,
Returns the splendor without rays, the shining of shadow,
Peace-bringer, the matrix of all shining and quieter of shining.
Where the shore widens on the bay she opens dark wings
And the ocean accepts her glory. O soul worshipper of her
You like the ocean have grave depths where she dwells always,
And the film of waves above that takes the sun takes also
Her, with more love. The sun-lovers have a blond favorite,
A father of lights and noises, wars, weeping and laughter,
Hot labor, lust and delight and the other blemishes. Quietness
Flows from her deeper fountain; and he will die; and she is immortal.

Far off from here the slender
Flocks of the mountain forest
Move among stems like towers
Of the old redwoods to the stream,
No twig crackling; dip shy
Wild muzzles into the mountain water
Among the dark ferns.

O passionately at peace you being secure will pardon
The blasphemies of glowworms, the lamp in my tower, the fretfulness
Of cities, the cressets of the planets, the pride of the stars.
This August night in a rift of cloud Antares reddens,
The great one, the ancient torch, a lord amongst lost children,
The earth's orbit doubled would not girdle his greatness, one fire
Globed, out of grasp of the mind enormous; but to you O Night
What? Not a spark? What flicker of a spark in the faint far glimmer
Of a lost fire dying in the desert, dim coals of a sand-pit the Bedouins
Wandered from at dawn . . . Ah singing prayer to what gulfs tempted
Suddenly are you more lost? To us the near-hand mountain
Be a measure of height, the tide-worn cliff at the sea-gate a measure of continuance.

The tide, moving the night's
Vastness with lonely voices,
Turns, the deep dark-shining
Pacific leans on the land,
Feeling his cold strength
To the outmost margins; you Night will resume
The stars in your time.

O passionately at peace when will that tide draw shoreward?
Truly the spouting fountains of light, Antares, Arcturus,
Tire of their flow, they sing one song but they think silence.
The striding winter giant Orion shines, and dreams darkness.
And life, the flicker of men and moths and the wolf on the hill,
Though furious for continuance, passionately feeding, passionately
Remaking itself upon its mates, remembers deep inward
The calm mother, the quietness of the womb and the egg,
The primal and latter silences: dear Night it is memory
Prophesies, prophecy that remembers, the charm of the dark.
And I and my people, we are willing to love the four-score years
Heartily; but as a sailor loves the sea, when the helm is for harbor.

Have men's minds changed,
Or the rock hidden in the deep of the waters of the soul
Broken the surface? A few centuries
Gone by, was none dared not to people
The darkness beyond the stars with harps and habitations.
But now, dear is the truth. Life is grown sweeter and lonelier,
And death is no evil.

--Robinso Jeffers

I go out of the darkness
onto a road of darkness
lit only by the far off
moon on the edge of the mountains.

--Lady Izumi Shikibu (Rexroth tr)

   Out of the darkness
onto a road of darkness
   i go, illumined
only by the far-off moon
on the edge of the mountains.

(my tr)

    "Crow's Fall"

When Crow was white he decided the sun was too white.
He decided it glared much too whitely.
He decided to attack it and defeat it.

He got his strength up flush and in full glitter.
He clawed and fluffed his rage up.
He aimed his beak direct at the sun's centre.

He laughed himself to the centre of himself

And attacked.

At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,
Shadows flattened.

But the sun brightened—
It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.

He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black.

"Up there," he managed,
"Where white is black and black is white, I won."

--Ted Hughes

    "Stars, I Have Seen Them Fall"

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.

The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

--A E Housman

    "God's grandeur"

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

23 May 2008

    An die Parzen

You powers, just one summer grant me
   and for harvesting songs, one fall
that I by sweet play sated
   may willingly die

The soul if the role it was born for
   is denied, down there rests neither;
but after the poem is completed
   that lies in my hidden heart

--then hello, still of the shadow lands!

I don't mind if my word-work
   doesn't follow me too:
awhile like the gods I lived
   and need no more.

--Friedrich Hölderlin (my tr; 1982)

19 May 2008

"Autumn Comes"

For base and noble the same end
When every ambition's won or lost.
Galloping waves urge on the endless night,
Falling dew hurries the brief dawn.
--From Song of the Underworld (Tai k'ao-li hsing) by Pao Chao (414-66)

The wind in the wu-t'ung startles the heart, a lusty man despairs;
Spinners in the fading lamplight cry chill silk.
Who will study a bamboo book still green
And forbid the grubs to bore their powdery holes?
This night's thoughts will surely stretch my guts straight:
Cold in the rain a sweet phantom comes to console the writer.
By the autumn tombs a ghost chants the poem of Pao Chao.
My angry blood for a thousand years will be emeralds under the earth!

--Li Ho (tr A C Graham)

18 May 2008

In the Autumn mountains
the colored leaves are falling.
If I could hold them back
I could still see her.

Kakinomoto Hitomaro (Rexroth tr)

Here in the mountains
of Autumn the rufous leaves
have started to fall.
If i could only hold them
back--i could see her again.

--my tr.


And, after all, it is to them we return.
Their triumph is to rise and be our hosts:
lords of unquiet or of quiet sojourn,
those muddy-hued and midge-tormented ghosts.

On blustery lilac-bush and terrace-urn
bedaubed with bloom Linnaean pentecosts
put their pronged light; the chilly fountains burn.
Religion of the heart, with trysts and quests

and pangs of consolation, its hawk’s hood
twitched off for sweet carnality, again
rejoices in old hymns of servitude,

haunting the sacred well, the hidden shrine.
It is the ravage of the heron wood;
it is the rood blazing upon the green.

--Geoffrey Hill


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

--W E Henley


In my loamy nook
As I dig my hole
I observe men look
At a stone, and sigh
As they pass it by
To some far goal.

Something it says
To their glancing eyes
That must distress
The frail and lame,
And the strong of frame
Gladden or surprise.

Do signs on its face
Declare how far
Feet have to trace
Before they gain
Some blest champaign
Where no gins are?

--Thomas Hardy

17 May 2008


There sounds a shot of pistol
In the faraway sky; and then
A pistol-shot again,

Two pistol-shots; and my
Detective dressed in glass
Warps in from that clear sky,
Vitrescent but to find
Behind the window pane
He takes such pains to pass
The floorboards cut from crystal.
Between the fingers wind
Ribbons of blood more blue
Than words for blue contain.
And from the glazen dew
That glints like cellophane
On that sad woman's corpse
A chill, chill cricket chirps.

One morning of an early
November, dressed in glass,
The sad detective, surluy
rom sadnesses, came down

And, where the two roads cross
To quatrify the town,
Turned. At his point of turning
An autumn fountain waited.

Already isolated
In knowingness, he only
Can feel the real bereavement,
The long slow wrench concerning
Identity's decay.

Look, on the distant lonely
Acres of marble pavement
The villain, quick as silver,
Glides silverly away.

--Hagiwara Sakutaro(tr. G Wilson)

    ''The Seventh Rose"

The first rose is of granite
The second rose is of red wine
The third rose is of lark's feathers
The fourth rose is of rust
The fifth rose is of yearning
The sixth rose is of tin
But the seventh
The most delicate
The believng rose
The rose of night
The sisterly rose--
Only after your death
Will it grow out of your coffin.

--Yvan Goll (tr Sculte & Bullock)

Of whose gay tracery is the picture
A complainant?
Papery is the dress
Of each figure face in the painting.
Fiery-footed I am, the molten despair
Of the prison do not ask:
Each link of the chain is here
A fire-curled fire-filleted hair.
The dazzle-of-deceit is the prey of the
Peacock's despair;
In the greenness is, of the garden's
Glory of encirclement, the snare.
The joy-of-creation-of-magic-producing-
in the furnace-of-fire is the hoof
Of the prey from the beloved's scimitar.
Ho-digging-oh torment of life, ah, do
Not of loneliness ask!
To pass until morning the eve
Is to dig a milk-canal through rocks.
The brick the prop-of-the-helpless-hand,
And the structure the arms
Of departure; when has ever
Flood filled the wine-cup of a building?
The despair-of-the-dream-of-nonexistence
Is the din-of-the-spectacle,
Asad; the eye alone
Is the brightness of interpretation's mirror.

--Asadullah Khan Ghalib (tr Ahmed Ali)

    Ihr alten bilder schlummert mit den toten

You ancient visions with the dead have vanished,
I lack the strength to conjure you again,
Since from the true dominions I was banished,
I now wil taste the splendor tinged with bane.

By rumors of enchantment I am stricken:
The meadows of an azure vale reveal
How herons white and rosy-colored quicken
The nearby lake that sleeps and shines as steel.

There, as in symmetry of chords she paces,
Her upward pointed finger lifts and takes
The shrouding garment by its silken laces,
That in the night she wove of willow flakes.

O subtle play divined behind these veilings!
My senses wrought the fancy we were paired,
Before through vines that screen with bloomy trailings
Down to the nearby lake she slowly fared.

--Stefan George (tr Valhope & Morwitz)

    "Acquainted with the Night"

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

--Robert Frost

(Sequentially, Garcia Villa is next.)


It is written in the skyline of the city (you have seen it, that bold and accurate inscription), where the gray and gold and soot-black roofs project against the rising or the setting sun,
It is written in the ranges of the farthest mountains, and written by the lightning bolt,
Written, too, in the winding rivers of the prairies, and in the strangely familiar effigies of the clouds,

That there will be other days and remoter times, by far, than these, still more prodigious people and still less credible events,
When there will be a haze, as there is today, not quite blue and not quite purple, upon the river, a green mist upon the valley below, as now,

And we will build, upon that day, another hope (because these cities are young and strong),
And we will raise another dream (because these hills and fields are rich and green),

And we will fight for all of this again, and if need be again,
And on that day, and in that place, we will try again, and this time we will win.

--Kenneth Fearing

16 May 2008

Chorus from Alcestis

I have mused on the words of the wise,
Of the mighty in song;
I have lifted mine heart to the skies,
I have searched all truth with mine eyes;
But nought more strong
Than Fate have I found: there is nought
In the tablets of Thrace.
Neither drugs whereof Orpheus taught,
Nor in all that Apollo brought
To Asklepius' race,
When the herbs of healing he severed, and out of their anguish delivered
The pain-distraught.

There is none other Goddess beside,
To the altars of whom
No man draweth near, nor hath cried
To her image, nor victim hath died,
Averting her doom.
O Goddess, more mighty for ill
Come not upon me
Than in days overpast: for his will
Even Zeus may in nowise fulfill
Unholpen of thee.
Steel is molten as water before thee, but never relenting come o'er thee
Who art ruthless still.

----Euripedes tr A S Way)

10 May 2008

from "Sweeney Among the Nightingales":

...The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

And sang within the bloody wood
When Agamemnon cried aloud
And let their liquid siftings fall
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.

--T S Eliot

    "Nocturne in Silver"

Here where the barbed wire struggles in the marsh
And alkali crusts all the weeds like frost,
I have come home, I have come home to hear
The new young frogs that cry along the lost

Wild ditches where at midnight only cows
And fools with eery marsh fire in their brains
Blunder toward midnight. Silvery and clear
Cry the new frogs; the blood runs in my veins

Coldly and clearly. I am mottled, too,
And feel a silver bubble in my throat.
Lock doors, turn keys, or follow in your fear.
My eyes are green, and warily afloat

In the June darkness. I am done with fire.
Water quicksilver-like that slips through stone
Has quenched my madness--if you find me here
My lineage squat and warty will be known.

--Loren Eiseley

09 May 2008

from The Eddas:

I wot that I hung · on the wind-tossed tree
      all of nights nine,
wounded by spear, · bespoken to Óthin,
      bespoken myself to myself,
upon that tree · of which none telleth
      from what roots it doth rise.

Neither horn they upheld · nor handed me bread;
      I looked below me--
      aloud I cried--
caught up the runes, · caught them up wailing,
      thence to the ground fell again.

From the son of Bolthorn, · Bestla's father,
      I mastered mighty songs nine,
and a drink I had · of the dearest mead,
      got from out of Óthrœrir.

Then began I to grow · and gain in insight,
      to wax eke in wisdom:
one verse led on · to another verse,
one poem led on · to the other poem.

Runes wilt thou find · and rightly read,
      of wondrous weight,
      of mighty magic,
which that dyed the dread god,
which that made the holy hosts,
and were etched by Óthin,

Óthin among Æsir, · for alfs, Dáin,
      Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Alsvith among etins, · (but for earth-born men)
      wrought I some myself.

Know'st how to write, · know'st how to read,
know'st how to stain, · how to understand,
know'st how to ask, · know'st how to offer,
know'st how to supplicate, · know'st how to sacrifice?

'Tis better unasked · than offend overmuch:
      for ay doth a gift look for gain;
'tis better unasked · than offered overmuch:
thus did Óthin write · ere the earth began,
when up he rose · in after time.

--(tr Lee M Hollander)

06 May 2008

    "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow"

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

--Robert Duncan

    "When All Is Done"

When all is done, and my last word is said,
And ye who loved me murmur, "He is dead,"
Let no one weep, for fear that I should know,
And sorrow too that ye should sorrow so.

When all is done and in the oozing clay,
Ye lay this cast-off hull of mine away,
Pray not for me, for, after long despair,
The quiet of the grave will be a prayer.

For I have suffered loss and grievous pain,
The hurts of hatred and the world’s disdain,
And wounds so deep that love, well-tried and pure,
Had not the pow’r to ease them or to cure.

When all is done, say not my day is o’er,
And that thro’ night I seek a dimmer shore:
Say rather that my morn has just begun,--
I greet the dawn and not a setting sun,
When all is done.

--Paul Laurence Dunbar

02 May 2008

    "There blooms no bud in May"

There blooms no bud in May
Can for its white compare
With snow at break of day,
On fields forlorn and bare.

For shadow it hath rose,
Azure, and amethyst;
And every air that blows
Dies out in beauteous mist.

It hangs the frozen bough
With flowers on which the night
Wheeling her darkness through
Scatters a starry light.

Fearful of its pale glare
In flocks the starlings rise;
Slide through the frosty air,
And perch with plaintive cries.

Only the inky rook,
Hunched cold in ruffled wings,
Its snowy nest forsook,
Caws of unnumbered Springs.

--Walter de la Mare

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me.
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes --
   Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
   From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.

--Michael Drayton

   "Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae"

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
   Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
   When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
   Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
   Yea, hungry for thelips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee Cynara! in my fashion.

--Ernest Dowson

   from Balder:

And lo! from out the smoke
I saw the grim and clanking skeleton
Of the dead dog, licked bare to the white bones,
Run as alive. With skull revert, and jaws
That may not cease to move, but make no sound,
He flees for ever o'er the startled earth,
A terror and a sign.

--Sydney Dobell


Some things that fly there be--
birds--hours--the bumblebee--
of these no elegy.

Some things that stay there be--
nor this behooveth me.

There are that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the Riddle lies!

--Emily Dickinson

01 May 2008

    from "Testament of a Man Forbid"

The rainbow reaches Asgard now no more;
Olympus stands untenanted; the dead
Have their serene abode in earth itself,
Our womb, our nurture, and our sepulchre.
Expel the sweet imaginings, profound
Humanities and golden legends, forms
Heroic, beauties, tripping shades, embalmed
Through hallowed ages in the fragrant hearts
And generous blood of men; the climbing thoughts
Whose roots ethereal grope among the stars,
Whose passion-flowers perfume eternity,
Weed out and tear, scatter and tread them down;
Dismantle and dilapidate high heaven!
It has been said: Ye must be born again.
I say to you: Men must be that they are.

--John Davidson

Paradisio xxxi. 73-93

Farther than the zone of the voiceless thunder
   fatal to any unprotected wight,
lies from the pit of the Marianas Trench,
   there my gaze from Beatrice was, yet her image
not through all that span came blurred one bit.

"O thou by whom my hope's efficacy grows,
   Lady who, for my transformation, suffered
even in Dallas to plant your cryptic signs;
   in all the things that i've been given to witness
i nevertheless could recognize the grace
   your power worked, your charity's strength allowed.
You've ransomed me from sordid bondage free,
   on every path, in each vicissitude
i understand at last was your dark will.
   Maintain toward me such wonted magnetism,
that when the body of my grief unties
   the spirit you have quickened--to you it goes."
All this in a second. And She, so very far
   as it must seem, She glanced back once and smiled;
then vanished to the sempiternal source.

--Dante Alighieri (my tr; 1985)

  "The Crucifixion"

    And the centurion who stood by said:
    Truly this was a son of God.

Not long ago but everywhere I go
There is a hill and a black windy sky.
Portent of hill, sky, day's eclipse I know;
Hill, sky, the shuddering darkness, these am I.

The dying at His right hand, at His left,
I am -- the thief redeemed and the lost thief;
I am the careless folk; I those bereft,
The Well-Belov'd, the women bowed in grief.

The gathering Presence that in terror cried,
In earth's shock in the Temple's veil rent through,
I; and a watcher, ignorant, curious-eyed,
I the centurion who heard and knew.

--Adelaide Crapsey


Those streets were not his
so he kept them in the dark to himself
knowing age for a solid pent in mind
he turned out volumes of locked domed hills

Penciled purples in the daylit dreams
wore wool humid and apology bright
letters in the doorway, arabic at the edges
the colors of science turned jagged at his cease

He was not Poe, he lived on a hill
dreamed afternoon and woke to write
icecream from ivory, an undersea
crystallized Providence cats broke
out of the past and Fomalhaut speaking

--Clark Coolidge

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