Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Morning Reading: "we wonder how it will be without them"

Galway Kinnell, 1989. (photograph by Barbara Hall.)


September 1961

by Denise Levertov

This is the year the old ones,
the old great ones
leave us alone on the road.

The road leads to the sea.
We have the words in our pockets,
obscure directions. The old ones

have taken away the light of their presence,
we see it moving away over a hill
off to one side.

...


The darkness

twists itself in the wind, the stars
are small, the horizon
ringed with confused urban light-haze.

They have told us
the road leads to the sea,
and given

the language into our hands.
We hear
our footsteps each time a truck

has dazzled past us and gone
leaving us new silence.
One can't reach

the sea on this endless
road to the sea unless
one turns aside at the end, it seems,

follows
the owl that silently glides above it
aslant, back and forth,

and away into deep woods.

But for us the road
unfurls itself, we count the
words in our pockets, we wonder

how it will be without them, we don't
stop walking, we know
there is far to go, sometimes

we think the night wind carries
a smell of the sea...

*

Monday, October 27, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Morning Reading: "Give us just a few decades of grace, to encourage the fine art of acquiescence and we might save the race"








Pro Femina
 - Carolyn Kizer

ONE
From Sappho to myself, consider the fate of women.
How unwomanly to discuss it! Like a noose or an albatross necktie
The clinical sobriquet hangs us: codpiece coveters.
Never mind these epithets; I myself have collected some honeys.
Juvenal set us apart in denouncing our vices
Which had grown, in part, from having been set apart:
Women abused their spouses, cuckolded them, even plotted
To poison them. Sensing, behind the violence of his manner—
“Think I'm crazy or drunk?”—his emotional stake in us,
As we forgive Strindberg and Nietzsche, we forgive all those
Who cannot forget us. We are hyenas. Yes, we admit it.

While men have politely debated free will, we have howled for it,
Howl still, pacing the centuries, tragedy heroines.
Some who sat quietly in the corner with their embroidery
Were Defarges, stabbing the wool with the names of their ancient
Oppressors, who ruled by the divine right of the male—
I’m impatient of interruptions! I’m aware there were millions
Of mutes for every Saint Joan or sainted Jane Austen,
Who, vague-eyed and acquiescent, worshiped God as a man.
I’m not concerned with those cabbageheads, not truly feminine
But neutered by labor. I mean real women, like you and like me.

Freed in fact, not in custom, lifted from furrow and scullery,
Not obliged, now, to be the pot for the annual chicken,
Have we begun to arrive in time? With our well-known
Respect for life because it hurts so much to come out with it;
Disdainful of “sovereignty,” “national honor;” and other abstractions;
We can say, like the ancient Chinese to successive waves of invaders,
“Relax, and let us absorb you. You can learn temperance
In a more temperate climate.” Give us just a few decades
Of grace, to encourage the fine art of acquiescence
And we might save the race. Meanwhile, observe our creative chaos,
Flux, efflorescence—whatever you care to call it!






*

Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer-Winning Poet, Dies at 89


*

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Morning Reading: "October arrives"



Ode to a Few Yellow Flowers
- Pablo Neruda

Against the blue shaking its blue,
the sea, and against the sea,
a few yellow flowers.

October arrives.

And although
the developed sea is so important,
its myth, mission, yeast,
the gold
of a single yellow plant
explodes on the sand
and your eyes
are tied
to the ground,
escaping from the magnanimous sea
and its whip,

We are dust, we shall become.

Not air, or fire, or water
but
earth,
we shall be
mere earth
and maybe
a few yellow flowers.


*

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Morning Reading: "The whole wide world pours down"



Assurance
- William Stafford

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names- and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles- you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head-
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.


*

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Morning Reading: "what world is this that makes our lives sufficient even as the horizon’s rope is about to snap"



Khaled Mattawa 's book, Amorisco,
 features a long poem, “East of Carthage: An Idyll.” Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya and has spent much of his adult life living in the United States. Yesterday he was awarded an MacArthur genius grant.

Here's the opening.

EAST OF CARTHAGE: AN IDYLL


1.
Look here, Marcus Aurelius, we’ve come to see
your temple, deluded the guards, crawled through a hole
in the fence. Why your descendent, my guide and friend
has opted for secrecy, I don’t know. But I do know
what to call the Africans, passport-less, yellow-eyed
who will ride the boat before me for Naples, they hope.
Here the sea curls its granite lip at them and flings a winter
storm like a cough, or the seadog drops them at Hannibal’s
shores, where they’ll stand stupefied like his elephants.
What dimension of time will they cross as the Hours loop
tight plastic ropes round their ankles and wrists?
What siren song will the trucks shipping them back
to Ouagadougou drone into their ears? I look at them
loitering, waiting for the second act of their darkness
to fall. I look at the sky shake her dicey fists.
One can be thankful, I suppose, for not being one of them,
and wrap the fabric of that thought around oneself
to keep the cold wind at bay. But what world is this
that makes our lives sufficient even as the horizon’s rope
is about to snap, while the sea and sky ache to become
a moment to peel itself like skin off fruit, and let us in
on its sweetness as we wait, smoking or fondling provisions,
listening to the engine’s invocational purr. In an hour
that will dawn and dusk at once, one that will stretch
into days strung like beads on the horizon’s throat,
they will ride their tormented ship as the dog star
begins to float on the water, so bright and still,
you’d want to scoop it out in the palm of your hand.

*

U-M Arabic poetry translator wins 'genius' grant

This poem - and this poet - were brought first to my attention by Forest Gander in his essay post, "Libya: Don't Look Away." Photo of Medusa Head by Forrest Gander.

*

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Morning Reading: "The dead will think the living are worth it"

1969.


When the War Is Over
- W.S. Merwin


When the war is over

We will be proud of course the air will be

Good for breathing at last

The waters will have been improved the salmon

And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly

The dead will think the living are worth it we will know

Who we are

And we will all enlist again


*

Check out Matthew Zapruder's essay on Merwin at the LA Review of Books:
 When the War Is Over: On Merwin and the Language of War
 
 
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