Poem      
to James Schuyler
 
There I could never be a boy,
though I rode like a god when the horse reared.
At a cry from mother I fell to my knees!
there I fell, clumsy and sick and good,
though I bloomed on the back of a frightened black mare
who had leaped windily at the start of a leaf
and she never threw me.
   
I had a quick heart
and my thighs clutched her back.
I loved her fright, which was against me
into the air! and the diamond white of her forelock
which seemed to smart with thoughts as my heart smarted with life!
and she'd toss her head with the pain
and paw the air and champ the bit, as if I were Endymion
and she, moon-like, hated to love me.
 
All things are tragic
when a mother watches! and she wishes upon herself
the random fears of a scarlet soul, as it breathes in and out
and nothing chokes, or breaks from triumph to triumph!
 
I knew her but I could not be a boy,
for in the billowing air I was fleet and green
riding blackly through the ethereal night
towards men's words which I gracefully understood,
 
and it was given to me
as the soul is given the hands
to hold the ribbons of life!
as miles streak by beneath the moon's sharp hooves
and I have mastered the speed and strength which is the armor of the world.
            Frank O'Hara
Ecclesiastes
   
The trick is that you’re willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you’re doing them a favor.
   
The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.
   
The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.
   
The trick is that you’re providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.
   
The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.
   
The rule is to make them feel they’ve come too late.
The trick is that you’re willing to make exceptions.
   
The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.
   
And when they say “too much,"
give them a plan.
   
And when they say “anger” or “rage” or “love,"
say “give me an example.”
   
The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.
   
The rule is you don’t care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.
    Khaled Mattawa, b. 1964

Sunday Morning

Teal blue and grey, and
several shades of orange -
a history of ties.
Half Windsor or full?
The fingers will know.



Earlier they stepped
through several keys - tunes
by Lowell Mason.
A quick text to Zorn:
We'll have a descant,



so bring your horn today.


'Twas just this time, last year, I died.
I know I heard the Corn,
When I was carried by the Farms —
It had the Tassels on —

I thought how yellow it would look —
When Richard went to mill —
And then, I wanted to get out,
But something held my will.

I thought just how Red — Apples wedged
The Stubble's joints between —
And the Carts stooping round the fields
To take the Pumpkins in —

I wondered which would miss me, least,
And when Thanksgiving, came,
If Father'd multiply the plates —
To make an even Sum —

And would it blur the Christmas glee
My Stocking hang too high
For any Santa Claus to reach
The Altitude of me —

But this sort, grieved myself,
And so, I thought the other way,
How just this time, some perfect year —
Themself, should come to me —

            Emily Dickinson


One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

                                Walace Stevens

Puisque tout passe, faisonsSince everything must pass
la mélodie passagère;Let us sing a passing song;
celle qui nous désaltère,the one that's sastisfying
aura de nous raison.will be so because of us.
 
Chantons ce qui nous quitte Let us sing about whatever
avec amour et art;leaves with love and art;
soyons plus vitelet us be faster still
que le rapide départ.than the rapid departure.
 
            Rainer Maria Rilke
            (A. Poulin Jr.)
They gave me counsel and words to the wise Gaben mir Rat und gute Lehren,
And eulogies more than enough, Überschütteten mich mit Ehren,
Told me to just be patient a while, Sagten, daß ich nur warten sollt,
They'd intercede in my behalf. Haben mich protegieren gewollt.
 
But for all their patronages Aber bei all ihrem Protegieren
I could have perished under bridges Hätte ich können vor Hunger krepieren,
Had there not come a man of heart Wär nicht gekommen ein braver Mann,
To look after me and take my part. Wacker nahm er sich meiner an.
 
Oh worthy man! He keeps me in food! Braver Mann! Er schafft mir zu essen!
I'll never forget his solicitude! Will es ihm nie und nimmer vergessen!
Ah, what shame I can't embrace him! Schade, daß ich ihn nicht küssen kann!
It's in my looking glass I face him. Denn ich bin selbst dieser brave Mann.
 
            Heinrich Heine
            (Walter W. Arndt)

                    Punishment

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adultress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain's exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles' webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

                              Seamus Heaney
          
 
        CHRISTMAS BALLAD
            For Evgeny Rein, with love
 
There floats in an abiding gloom,
among immensities of brick,
a little boat of night: it seems
to sail through Alexander Park.
It's just a lonely streetlamp, though,
a yellow rose against the night,
for lovers strolling down below
       the busy street.
 
There floats in an abiding gloom
a drone of bees: men drunk, asleep.
In the dark capital a lone
tourist takes another snap.
Now out onto Ordynka turns
a taxicab, with sickly faces;
dead men lean into the arms
       of the low houses.
 
There floats in an abiding gloom
a poet in sorrow; over here
a round-faced man sells kerosene,
the sad custodian of his store.
Along a dull deserted street
an old Lothario hurries. Soon
the midnight-riding newlyweds
       sail through the gloom.
 
There floats in outer Moscow one
who swims at random to his loss,
and Jewish accents wander down
a dismal yellow flight of stairs.
From love toward unhappiness,
to New Year's Eve, to Sunday, floats
a good-time girl: she can't express
       what's lost inside.
 
Cold evening floats within your eyes
and snow is fluttering on the panes
of carriages; the wind is ice
and pale, it seals your reddened palms.
Evening lights like honey seep;
the scent of halvah's everywhere,
as Christmas Eve lifts up its sweet
       meats in the air.
 
Now drifting on a dark-blue wave
across the city's gloomy sea,
there floating by, your New Year's Eve--
as if life could restart, could be
a thing of light with each day lived
successfully, and food to eat,
--as if, life having rolled to left,
       it could roll right.
 
 
            Joseph Brodsky
            (translated by Glyn Maxwell)

 
        РОЖДЕСТВЕНСКИЙ РОМАНС
            Евгению Рейну, с любовью
 
Плывет в тоске необъяснимой
среди кирпичного надсада
ночной кораблик негасимый
из Александровского сада,
ночной фонарик нелюдимый,
на розу желтую похожий,
над головой своих любимых,
у ног прохожих.
 
Плывет в тоске необьяснимой
пчелиный ход сомнамбул, пьяниц.
В ночной столице фотоснимок
печально сделал иностранец,
и выезжает на Ордынку
такси с больными седоками,
и мертвецы стоят в обнимку
с особняками.
 
Плывет в тоске необьяснимой
певец печальный по столице,
стоит у лавки керосинной
печальный дворник круглолицый,
спешит по улице невзрачной
любовник старый и красивый.
Полночный поезд новобрачный
плывет в тоске необьяснимой.
 
Плывет во мгле замоскворецкой,
плывет в несчастие случайный,
блуждает выговор еврейский
на желтой лестнице печальной,
и от любви до невеселья
под Новый год, под воскресенье,
плывет красотка записная,
своей тоски не обьясняя.
 
Плывет в глазах холодный вечер,
дрожат снежинки на вагоне,
морозный ветер, бледный ветер
обтянет красные ладони,
и льется мед огней вечерних
и пахнет сладкою халвою,
ночной пирог несет сочельник
над головою.
 
Твой Новый год по темно-синей
волне средь моря городского
плывет в тоске необьяснимой,
как будто жизнь начнется снова,
как будто будет свет и слава,
удачный день и вдоволь хлеба,
как будто жизнь качнется вправо,
качнувшись влево.
 
 
            Ио́сиф Бро́дский
            



a few notes )
I thought I would try my hand at it.

 
             San Angelo

I loved you.
The same as the night.
Like poetry itself.
The harder you made it,
the more I tried.
Even now, after all these years,
the space between us still burns.
You, the architect of every fantasy.

That night (the last one), I had you again.
I brought handcuffs, poppers, the works.
I buried my face in your chest,
without regret,
like the last meal on Earth.
When I roughed you a bit,
you only tensed your lips.
Hard, defiant.
It turned me on even more.


                --after Baudelaire


Calling to see you is like visiting a cemetery:
silence, wind in the grass, withered flowers.
Flask of vinegar, bitter cynic, you have
a sneer for every fashion, and an insult
for each of your friends. No one's good enough;
you even put me down, but that's fine;
I can handle worse shit than that. Where
do you get that high-and-mighty confidence?

You're hardly a star or a model of beauty,
and you're not so hot in bed. But lust
drives me to make a pass, to feast on your
bony body like a maggot on a carcass.
There's something about you naked on the carpet:
your cold disdain is a bracing aphrodisiac.


                --John Tranter, after Baudelaire


...from the Paris Review. It was a little challenge to identify which fleur du mal this was. I think it must be Je t'adore à l'égal de la voûte nocturne.





First saw him
on the street in front, in the
bar's garbage, identifying
unfinished beers and swigging
off what was left of them,
shameless and exuberant,
remarking in friendly fashion
"It's a doggy dog world."
Charming error. He
had little idea of his looks
caught on a brief sill
between youthful lean times
and blowziness to come,
and too unfocused to try
hustling more than beer
and a night out of the rain.
Later, circling vaguely
the bar's deep dark inside,
"Hitched up from New Orleans,"
he said, "Here, wanna feel it?"
It was already out
pushed soft into my hand. It was
a lovely gift to offer an old
stranger
             without conditions,
a present from New Orleans
in a doggy dog world.

                          --Thom Gunn


 
                      An Ever-Fixed Mark
  
Years ago, at a private school
Run on traditional lines,
One fellow used to perform
Prodigious feats in the dorm;
His quite undevious designs
Found many a willing tool.
  
On the rugger field, in the gym,
Buck marked down at his leisure
The likeliest bits of stuff;
The notion, familiar enough,
Of 'using somebody for pleasure'
Seemed handy and harmless to him.
  
But another chap was above
The diversions of such a lout;
Seven years in the place
And he never got to first base
With the kid he followed about:
What interested Ralph was love.
  
He did the whole thing in style--
Letters three times a week,
Sonnet-sequences, Sunday walks;
Then, during one of their talks,
The youngster caressed his cheek,
And that made it all worth-while.
  
These days, for a quid pro quo,
Ralph's chum is all for romance;
Buck's playmates, family men,
Eye a Boy Scout now and then.
Sex stops when you pull up your pants,
Love never lets you go.
  
                              --Kingsley Amis
mlr: (lookup)
What is usual is not what is always.
As sometimes, in old age, hearing comes back.
 
Footsteps resume their clipped edges,
birds quiet for decades migrate back to the ear.
 
Where were they? By what route did they return?
 
A woman mute for years
forms one perfect sentence before she dies.
 
The bitter young man tires;
the aged one sitting now in his body is tender,
his face carries no regret for his choices.
 
What is usual is not what is always, the day says again.
It is all it can offer.
 
Not ungraspable hope, not the consolation of stories.
Only the reminder that there is exception.
 
                              Jane Hirshfield
Religious frenzy drives a man to cut off his own balls....and then -- the morning after.
I think this is the best English translation of
Catullus 63. It is slightly long.
But if you have 5 minutes, try it, you might find it worth your time...


 Over deep seas Attis, carried on a rapid catámaran,
 eagerly with hurrying footsteps sought that forest in Phrygia,
 penetrated the tree-thick coverts, the goddess' shadowy habitat,
 and there, by furious madness driven, wits adrift in insanity,
5seized a keen flint, slashed away the weight of his groin's double complement;
 and when she felt the members left her shorn of all their virility
 dropping still a spatter of fresh-shed • blood on the ground as she sped along,
 quickly with snow white hand she seized the lightweight rat-a-tat tympanum—
 yours the tympanum, a Cybébé, yours, great Mother, the mysteries—
10and on the hollow drum-skin beat a • táttoo with delicate fingertips,
 making this passionate invocation, body convulsed, to her followers:
 "On together with me, you Gallae, seek the high forests of Cybelé,
 on together, you roving herd of the Dindyménian Dómina,
 who like exiles in pursuit of new and alien territory,
15following me as leader, comrades to my orders obedient
 bore the salt sea's tidal swiftness, its rough oceanic truculence,
 and now have all unmanned your bodies • from too great hatred of venery—
 by your impetuous wanderings let your • mistress' heart be exhilarate!
 Purge your spirits of slow reluctance, and all together now follow me
20to the Phrygian home of great Cybébé, the goddess' Phrygian forest groves,
 where the sound of cymbals echoes, and the sharp rattle of kettledrums,
 where the Phrygian player's déep notes boom from the curve of his basset-horn,
 where the maenads, ivy-garlanded, toss their heads in mad ecstasy,
 where with shrilling ululations they act out their ritual ceremonies,
25where the goddess's roving troupers long have flitted perégrinant—
 there is where we now must hasten with our impetuous sarabands!"
    
 As soon as Attis, woman no woman, had uttered these words to her followers
 an instant cry went up from the quivering • tongues of the ululant revellers,
 echoing cymbals clashed, there thudded the light tattoo of the tambourines,
30as headlong to leafy Ida hastened with scurrying footfall her company.
 Leading them, breathless, pressing onward, gasping her heart and spirit up,
 threading thick woodlands Attis wandered, the drumbeat still her accompaniment,
 like some heifer, as yet unbroken, fleeing the collar's grim discipline,
 while the Gallae crowded hotly after their swift-footed pacesetter.
35So when they reached Cybébé's precinct, swooning-exhausted, woman-faint,
 shot with huge effort, breadless, empty, soon they collapsed into somnolence.
 Tides of slumber, slow and languorous, closed their eyes, rippled over them:
 in soft repose there ebbed to nothing all their minds' rabid delirium.
 But when the Sun with his golden orb and eyes of sharp-dazzling radiance
40lightened the pale white empyrean, harsh earth, the sea's liquid riotousness,
 chasing away Night's gloomy shadows, his fresh steeds' hooves briskly clattering,
 then Sleep arose from Attis wakened, fled away swiftly, precipitate,
 sought comfort in the trembling bosom • óf the goddess Pasíthea.
 So after slumber, now abandoned by her frenzied paroxysm,
41Attis reflected on the deed that she herself had initiated,
 saw where she was, what things she'd lost, mind purged to diaphanous clarity.
 Back to the shore she forced her footsteps, heart full of simmering bitterness,
 and there, as she gazed with tear-filled eyes at the ocean's lonely immensity,
 thus she addressed her distant homeland, in saddest accents and piteously:
    
50"Ah, dear country that shaped my being, country that bore and delivered me,
 which to my misery I abandoned-like some runaway minion
 fleeing his master—and pressed on hotfoot to Ida's wildwooded forestry,
 passed the snowline, made my way to the wild beasts' frost-riven ádyta,
 reaching as far, in my mad frenzy, as their remotest covert—ah where,
55where, in which quarter, O my country, must I now look for your territory?
 My eyes, unbidden, long to turn their • gaze upon you, motherlandwards,
 while, for this too-brief space, my mind stays • free of its savage insanity.
 Ah, am I doomed to these alien forests, far from what's home, what's familiar—
 absent from country, from my possessions, from friends and those who engendered me
60absent from forum and from palaestra, from race-course and from gymnasium?
 Ah wretch, ah wretch, whose life henceforward is nothing but wailing and misery!
 What variation of human figure exists that I haven't appropriated?
 This I, now woman, was I the ephebe, the child; this I the young teenager,
 this I the gymnasium's finest flower, the glory of oil-smooth athleticism.
65For me all thresholds were warm, for me all hallways were crowded with visitors,
 for me the house was a riot of posies, of flowers all looping and garlanded,
 when the sun came up and the time was on me to rise and abandon my bedchamber.
 Am I now to be known as the gods' own handmaid, the serving girl of great Cybelé?
 Shall I be a maenad, I but a part of me, I unmanned to sterility?
70Am I to dwell on verdant Ida's chill and snow-clad escarpments? Shall
 I waste my remaining lifespan under • the lofty columns of Phrygia,
 there with the hind that roams the forest, there with the boar in his timberland?
 Now, ah now, what I've done appalls me; now, ah now, I repent of it!"
    
 As from those rose red lips there issued with arrowy speed her sharp utterance,
75bringing a new report to the ready ears of the gods, those keen listeners,
 Cybelé then, unyoking the reins that harnessed the lions to her chariot pole,
 goaded the left one, the cattle killer, kindling its wrath with her urgency:
 "Go now, my fierce one, go, pursue him, plague him with savage dementia,
 make the stroke of his frenzy drive him back to the groves of my habitat,
80he who yearns so overfreely to shake off my mastering dominance!
 Flog your back with your tail in fury, lash yourself into rabidity,
 roar till each hidden covert reechoes your fierce and terrifying utterance—
 go, my fierce one, toss the tawny • mane on your neck's muscularity!"
 So spoke Cybébé in rage, with one hand • slipped the yoke pin. The beast took off
85in a feral fury, driven wild by its self-incitement to savagery,
 sprang on roaring, paws in motion sending the brushwood skittering.
 But when it neared the sea-damp shoreline, the bright white stretch of the littoral,
 and there saw delicate Attis standing by the sea's marbled infinity,
 it charged. Demented, she scuttled headlong back to the wild woods, a fugitive,
90there to remain for ever, a lifelong • slave girl, a feminine acolyte.
    
 Goddess, great goddess, O Cybébé, goddess, mistress of Díndymos,
 far from my own house be all your • furies, Lady, and madnesses—
 whip up others into frenzy, goad on others to ecstasy!
    
    
                               Gaius Valerius Catullus
                               translated by Peter Green


                    25.XII.1993

For a miracle, take one shepherd's sheepskin, throw
in a pinch of now, a grain of long ago,
and a handful of tomorrow. Add by eye
a little chunk of space, a piece of sky,

and it will happen. For miracles, gravitating
to earth, know just where people will be waiting,
and eagerly will find the right address
and tenant, even in a wilderness.

Or if you're leaving home, switch on a new
four-pointed star, then, as you say adieu,
to light a vacant world with steady blaze
and follow you forever with its gaze.

                              Joseph Brodsky
                              translated by Richard Wilbur

mlr: (ball  & chain)



i hate and i love. why do that? good question.                
no answer, save 'i do'.    nailed, through either hand.  
    
    
    
    
   
   
  no matter how high your spirit
  however imposing your looks
  you could shoot through seven boards
  and read five lines at a glance
  and have slept on a tiger head pillow
  once sat on an ivory couch
  but without any whatyamacallit
  you'll be just as cold as snow



                             It is difficult
     to get the news from poems
                 yet men die miserably every day
                             for lack
     of what is found there.




W.C. Williams
mlr: (modern)

I have never seen God. When I see temples I think
of Hiranyakashipu the demon king,
and when I see an image worshipped
I think about the daughter of the house
being sold for cash. Offering one faded life to another.
To see blood coughed from the mouths of the bloodless
is the final joke.
Still, when I saw that fellow
in the grimy blue-black tee shirt on the tram,
straight as a cast-iron cannon, I wished he were God!
Then at least I'd have gotten a proper place to hide,
or I could have pushed him
and even if I'd killed him
it would have been love.
Nowadays when I step onto the running board of a bus
I think of God.
--Anuradha Mahapatra, translated from the Bengali



This poem seems to hold much under a rather simple surface. I like the way the first line echoes the New Testament.

...been listening to new CD releases by Rudresh Mahanthappa reviewed in the New Yorker and other places. Of the two (Kinsmen, Apti), I prefer Apti.

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