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2013-01-12 12:25 am
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For the Stay-At-Home Wife - Eleanor Lerman

For the Stay-At-Home Wife - Eleanor Lerman

While I am dressing, dream. While I collect my papers
and my courage, stay behind the bright tide of the dawn
and watch the stars wash up like shells upon the shore
Be safe. Be fearless in the silence. Protect the space
where I should be

And then in green fields, golden fields ribboned with
flowers, go through the open gate. There will be no
wind; the warmth alone will heal you. Ribbons of
light, ribbons of clouds: all this is for you. Stay close
to home. Stay within the loving circle. Far away,
I will write your name between the sun and shadow
on each page I sign

And when the twilight creeps into the house
with its sad eyes, turn on the lamp. Sit in the chair.
The key is in my pocket and I am coming home
with the news that everything you’ve lost
remembers you. In time, messages will turn up
in literature and science; in the way the moon
thinks of you when it lingers in the morning, wanting
to wait just one more hour before it is compelled
to climb back into the dark
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2013-01-12 12:21 am
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Them and [uz] - Tony Harrison

Them and [uz] - Tony Harrison

for Professors Richard Hoggart & Leon Cortez

ai, ai, ay, ay ... stutterer Demosthenes
gob full of pebbles outshouting seas-

4 words only of mi 'art aches and ... 'Mine's broken,
you barbarian, T.W.!' He was nicely spoken.
'Can't have our glorious heritage done to death!'

I played the Drunken Porter in Macbeth.

'Poetry's the speech of kings. You're one of those
Shakespeare gives the comic bits to: prose!
All poetry (even Cockney Keats?) you see
's been dubbed by [Ls] into RP,
Received Pronunciation, please believe (Ls)
your speech is in the hands of the Receivers.'

We say ‘(Ls) not [uz], T.W.!’ That shut my trap.
I doffed my flat a's (as in ‘Flat cap’)
my mouth all stuffed with glottals, great
lumps to hawk up and spit out ... E-nun-ci-ate!

- Tony Harrison
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2013-01-12 12:02 am
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Waiting for the Barbarians - CP Cavafy

Waiting for the Barbarians - CP Cavafy


What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.


Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.


Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.


Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.


Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.


Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.


And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.


Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
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2013-01-11 11:45 pm
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The Poet Goes About Her Business - Linda Gregg

The Poet Goes About Her Business
BY LINDA GREGG
for Michele (1966-1972)

Michele has become another dead little girl. An easy poem.
Instant Praxitelean. Instant seventy-five year old photograph
of my grandmother when she was a young woman with shadows
I imagine were blue around her eyes. The beauty of it.
Such guarded sweetness. What a greed of bruised gardenias.
Oh Christ, whose name rips silk, I have seen raw cypresses
so dark the mind comes to them without color.
Dark on the Greek hillside. Dark, volcanic, dry and stone.
Where the oldest women of the world are standing dressed in black
up in the branches of fig trees in the gorge
knocking with as much quickness as their weakness will allow.
Weakness which my heart must not confuse with tenderness.
And on the other side of the island a woman
walks up the path with a burden of leaves on her head,
guiding the goats with sounds she makes up,
and then makes up again. The other darkness is easy:
the men in the dreams who come in together to me with knives.
There are so many traps, and many look courageous.
The body goes into such raptures of obedience.
But the huge stones on the desert resemble
nobody’s mother. I remember the snake.
After its skin had been cut away, and it was dropped
it started to move across the clearing.
Making its beautiful waving motion.
It was all meat and bone. Pretty soon it was covered with dust.
It seemed to know exactly where it wanted to go.
Toward any dark trees.
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2013-01-11 10:29 pm
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Wild Rock - Ted Hughes

Tamed rock.
Millstone-grit - a soul-grinding sandstone.

Roof-of-the-world-ridge wind
And rain, and rain.

Heaven - the face of a quarry.
Oak-leaves of hammered copper, as in Cranach.

Grass growing on acid.

Wind. Cold. A permanent weight
To be braced under. And rain.

A people fixed
Staring at fleeces, blown like blown flames.

A people converting their stony ideas
To woollen weave, thick worsteds, dense fustians

Between their bones and the four trembling quarters.
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2013-01-07 07:42 pm
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"Music Is in the Piano Only When It Is Played," by Jack Gilbert

We are not one with this world. We are not
the complexity our body is, nor the summer air
idling in the big maple without purpose.
We are a shape the wind makes in these leaves
as it passes through. We are not the wood
any more than the fire, but the heat which is a marriage
between the two. We are certainly not the lake
nor the fish in it, but the something that is
pleased by them. We are the stillness when
a mighty Mediterranean noon subtracts even the voices
of insects by the broken farmhouse. We are evident
when the orchestra plays, and yet are not part
of the strings or brass. Like the song that exists
only in the singing, and is not the singer.
God does not live among the church bells,
but is briefly resident there. We are occasional
like that. A lifetime of easy happiness mixed
with pain and loss, trying always to name and hold
on to the enterprise under way in our chest.
Reality is not what we marry as a feeling. It is what
walks up the dirt path, through the excessive heat
and giant sky, the sea stretching away.
He continues past the nunnery to the old villa
where he will sit on the terrace with her, their sides
touching. In the quiet that is the music of that place,
which is the difference between silence and windlessness.
bardachd: (Default)
2012-11-27 12:29 am

Tessa Ransford, "August 3rd"

August 3rd

The hill is tossing high, frail wisps of
rosy cloud to glide in steady gale
along a turquoise sky, around, above the
perpendicular and slightly askew columns,
above the triangular gap
between crown and crag.

The moon, full at midnight,
is now high and faded
almost a lazy eyelid:
day’s eye opening
or night’s eye closing.

Birds chase and ride the wind
reeling, wheeling,
aware that in a moment
ordinary flight of day will have to be resumed.

The hawk alone is steady,
keeps position despite the gale
to pinpoint a victim

and far below
grasses tinge in flower:
harebell, yarrow, lady’s yellow bedstraw
Among the rangy thistles and fatted doves.

-Tessa Ransford, "August 3rd"


(Arthur's seat)
bardachd: (Default)
2012-11-27 12:07 am
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Nichita Stanescu: Winter Song

You are so beautiful in winter!
The field stretched on its back, near the horizon,
and the trees stopped running from the winter wind ...
My nostrils tremble
and no scent
and no breeze
only the distant, icy smell
of the suns.
How transparent your hands are in winter!
And no one passes -
only the white suns revolve in quiet worship.
and the thought spreads in circles
ringing the trees
in twos
in fours.

[English translation by Thomas Carlson and Vasile Poenaru.]
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2012-11-27 12:04 am
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Dorothy Parker: To Newcastle

I met a man the other day—
A kindly man, and serious—
Who viewed me in a thoughtful way,
And spoke me so, and spoke me thus:

“Oh, dallying’s a sad mistake;
’Tis craven to survey the morrow!
Go give your heart, and if it break—
A wise companion is Sorrow.

“Oh, live, my child, nor keep your soul
To crowd your coffin when you’re dead….”
I asked his work; he dealt in coal,
And shipped it up the Tyne, he said.
bardachd: (Default)
2012-11-27 12:03 am
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W.H. Auden, "The Fall of Rome"

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
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2012-11-27 12:00 am

The Persian Version - Robert Graves

The Persian Version

Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon.
As for the Greek theatrical tradition
Which represents that summer's expedition
Not as a mere reconnaisance in force
By three brigades of foot and one of horse
(Their left flank covered by some obsolete
Light craft detached from the main Persian fleet)
But as a grandiose, ill-starred attempt
To conquer Greece - they treat it with contempt;
And only incidentally refute
Major Greek claims, by stressing what repute
The Persian monarch and the Persian nation
Won by this salutary demonstration:
Despite a strong defence and adverse weather
All arms combined magnificently together.

-- Robert Graves
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2012-07-23 07:32 pm
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"Maps", Sharlene Teo

This is not a love poem.
Love cannot be so deliberate,
plotting itself into a sky-
scraper, sharp valley, clean
comet. It should have no grid
in the bold and lonely atlas
of everybody's alphabet.

This is not a love poem.
I want to bury you in houses,
bearings, constellations:
concentric paths that
hover about you like
a minor illness, cartoon
phantom. I want to distil
trite silence into a stone-
cold something so needed
and so new, you gulp it down
and it actually warms you.

This is not a love poem.
I'm just trying to chart a
stupid ailment. Symptom:
how my foolscap heart folds
itself into a plane and at
a mere mention, takes off
and will not stop leaving. Stops
or will not. But these are short
flights. Often, the harsh landing
crumples and shocks.
Backbone broken, wind-
tossed, love is somewhere
too far off. It doesn't matter.
What a state. Surely this
is the best kind of lost.
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2012-07-23 06:34 pm
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"I Made a House of Houselessness", Rose O'Neill

I made a house of houselessness,
A garden of your going:
And seven trees of seven wounds
You gave me, all unknowing:
I made a feast of golden grief
That you so lordly left me,
I made a bed of all the smiles
Whereof your lip bereft me:
I made a sun of your delay,
Your daily loss, his setting:
I made a wall of all your words
And a lock of your forgetting.
bardachd: (Default)
2012-05-31 12:49 am
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Ginsberg: A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit
supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles
full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! --- and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and
followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting
artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does
your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel
absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to
shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in
driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you
have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and
stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
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2012-05-31 12:28 am

Curaidhean / Heroes - Somhairle MacGill-eain

Chan fhaca mi Lannes aig Ratasbon
no MacFill-Fhinnein aig Allt Eire
no Gill-Iosa aig Cuil-Lodair,
ach chunnaic mi Sassanach 'san Eiphit.

Fear beag le gruaidhean pluiceach
is gluinean a'bleith a cheile,
aodann guireanach gun tlachd ann-
comhdach an spioraid bu treine.

Cha robh buaidh air''san tigh-osda
'n am nan dorn a bhith 'gan dunadh',
ach leoghann e ri uchd a'chatha,
anns na frasan guineach mugach.

Thainig uair-sin lis na sligean
leis na spealgan-iaruinn bearnach,
anns an toit is anns an lasair,
ann an crith is maoim na h-araich.

Thainig fios dha 'san fhrois pheileir
e bhith gu spreigearra 'na dhiulnach:
is b' e sin fhad 's a mhair e,
ach cha b'fhada fhuair e dh'uine )
bardachd: (Default)
2012-05-31 12:00 am
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torch song for you - daphne gottleib

since you’ve gone, all i can do is sit at home and sing the great
love songs.

i don’t want to set the world on fire.

i just want to start a small


                         conflagration in your apartment that quickly
grows into a five-alarm blaze and you grab the cat and your
laptop and run out the door and i, having crawled down the
fire escape, come strolling down the street and you’re coming
towards me, running panicked and tears streaking through the
soot on your face, you’ve never been so beautiful in your life
as this moment when you run smack into a firefighter who is
assessing the flames coming out the window and the ladder
and the firefighters going inside and you run smack into him
and your eyes lock and the world spins around you and he
kisses you and says he’ll be right back for you after he puts
out that little inferno and he strides up the stairs and you turn
to me and you’re glowing as you say my life has been reduced to
ashes but i feel like i finally found out what’s really important.
my eyes brim with tears. after all the years and all the failed
love, i finally did it. i finally found a way to make you happy.
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2012-05-30 11:57 pm
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Nan Hardwicke Turns Into a Hare - Wendy Pratt

I will tell you how it was. I slipped
into the hare like a nude foot
into a glorious slipper. Pushing her bones
to one side to make room for my shape
so I could settle myself like a child within her.
In the dark I groped for her freedom, gently teasing
it apart across my fingers to web across my palm.
Here is where our separation ends:
I tensed her legs with my arms, pushed my rhythm
down the stepping-stones of spine. An odd feeling this,
to hold another's soul in the mouth like an egg;
the aching jaw around her delicate self. Her mind
was simple, full of open space and weather.
I warmed myself on her frantic pulse and felt the draw
of gorse and grass, the distant slate line
at the edge of the moor. The air span diamonds
our of sea fret to catch across my tawny coat
as I began to fold te earth beneath my feet
and fly across the heath, the heather.
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2012-05-30 11:55 pm
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What the Living Do - Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
bardachd: (Default)
2012-05-30 11:54 pm
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Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine - Neruda

Tie your heart at night to mine, love,
and both will defeat the darkness
like twin drums beating in the forest
against the heavy wall of wet leaves.

Night crossing: black coal of dream
that cuts the thread of earthly orbs
with the punctuality of a headlong train
that pulls cold stone and shadow endlessly.

Love, because of it, tie me to a purer movement,
to the grip on life that beats in your breast,
with the wings of a submerged swan,

So that our dream might reply
to the sky's questioning stars
with one key, one door closed to shadow.
bardachd: (Default)
2012-05-30 11:53 pm
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How One Winter Came in the Lake Region - William Wilfred Campbell

For weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,
Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;
The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will,
And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill,
In those grey, withered days.

Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set,
At night the moon would nestle in a cloud;
The fisherman, a ghost, did cast his net;
The lake its shores forgot to chafe and fret,
And hushed its caverns loud.

Far in the smoky woods the birds were mute,
Save that from blackened tree a jay would scream,
Or far in swamps the lizard's lonesome lute
Would pipe in thirst, or by some gnarlèd root
The tree-toad trilled his dream.

From day to day still hushed the season's mood,
The streams stayed in their runnels shrunk and dry;
Suns rose aghast by wave and shore and wood,
And all the world, with ominous silence, stood
In weird expectancy:

When one strange night the sun like blood went down,
Flooding the heavens in a ruddy hue;
Red grew the lake, the sere fields parched and brown,
Red grew the marshes where the creeks stole down,
But never a wind-breath blew.

That night I felt the winter in my veins,
A joyous tremor of the icy glow;
And woke to hear the north's wild vibrant strains,
While far and wide, by withered woods and plains,
Fast fell the driving snow.