Tuesday, December 09, 2014

One Thoughtless Flower

a morning glory

not knowing of our drinking

blooms

--Basho, translated by Stephen Addiss

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One Heavy Cornsack

from Song of Speaks-Fluently 

To have to carry your own corn far—
who likes it?
To follow the black bear through the thicket—
who likes it?
To hunt without profit, to return without anything—
who likes it?

You have to carry your own corn far.
You have to follow the black bear.
You have to hunt without profit.

If not, what will you tell the little ones?

--Osage, version by Mary Ruefle

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One Damaged Atlas

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

--Warsan Shire

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One Strong Spell

Song of a Marriageable Girl

Will a man come for me?
The good spirit of the forest knows.
He could tell little Medje;
But he will not tell.

There are things it is not right to know:
If there will be dew on the grass tomorrow,
If the fish will come to the trap and be caught,
If a spell put on the gazelle
Will let my father kill it.


~Translated from the Pygmy by Willard Trask, after O. De Labrouhe

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Scrubbed Surgeon


When exile took us by surprise,
a surgeon ready-scrubbed
treated us with scalpels
cleansed us of the dream tumors in our organs...

--Fawzi Karim

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

One Amphibious Centaur

Poetry is a centaur. The thinking, word-arranging, clarifying faculty must move and leap with the energizing, sentient, musical faculties. It is precisely the difficulty of this amphibious existence that keeps down the census record of good poets.

 --Ezra Pound

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Civilized Glance

And Dreams Paled 
By Eeva Kilpi

No sooner had I learned to
get along without
than I happened to think:
I will not give up this person,

And the sheets burst into bloom.
This is reality, he said,
and dreams paled.

So that was the kind of force
behind those civilized glances
that for years
we gave each other.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One Proven Death

from alternate names for black boys
By Danez Smith

1. smoke above the burning bush
2. archnemesis of summer night
3. first son of soil
4. coal awaiting spark & wind
5. guilty until proven dead
6. oil heavy starlight
7. monster until proven ghost
8. gone
9. phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling

More

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One Happy Quarry

The So-called Singer of Nab 
By Sarah Lindsay

They have left behind the established cave
with its well-worn floor. Scholarship impels them
in hundreds, but generally one by one,
to find an unknown passage or scrape out their own.
Proto-Semitic linguistic theory,
Hittite stratigraphic anomalies,
microclimatic economics. "What do you see?"
invisible followers ask in their ears,
and they whisper "Wonderful things" as they quarry
a grain of rock at a time, or examine
a fleck of ore, or measure
the acidity of a trickle of water.
See! Behold! Look! Lo!
they cry in season, rapt, in love,
chipping away with their pocketknives,
pencils, rulers, fingernails,
but some have tunneled so narrowly and deep
that those behind see nothing but slivers of light
around an excavator's haunches.


A battered piece of a tablet is all that remains
of the so-called Singer of Nab.
Circa 1200 BCE,
he impressed, or had impressed, some words in clay.
He may have composed a religious hymn,
praise to the king, a poem of love,
an inventory of cattle. (He may have been she,
but this is unlikely.) The lines we have
could be the beginning or the middle;
there may have been ten more, or hundreds.
The word before this gap, in fact, means "hundreds."
Hundreds led in battle, hundreds slain?
A thousand times beloved, nine hundred sheep?
And the standard translation of this word, here,
is either "desire" or "need." But did he write
of a boundless yearning, or mercantile requirements?
Was he a "singer"? The scholars who care disagree.

Look at them, crouched in a long tunnel dug
by means of argument over an antique syntax,
warming their hands at a chunk of brick
baked maybe in the time of the Trojan War,
broken some moment between then and now—
peering at it with penlights, squandering eyesight.
They know they may crawl out hungry, mumbling,
aged and gray, clutching a secret message of small import
or nothing, nothing. They seem lost. They seem happy.

~ Book

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

One Unfaded Yellow

You have yourself remarked that my studies in the studio improve rather than lose their color with time.... This is crucial in my opinion--how to paint so that it hardens well....

 --Vincent van Gogh