Monday, April 7, 2014

Scraps of moon, by Denise Levertov


Gabriel Fauré - Cantique de Jean Racine

Scraps of moon
bobbing discarded on broken water
 but sky-moon
complete, transcending
all violation
Here she seems to be talking to herself about
the shape of a life:
Only Once

All which, because it was
flame and song and granted us
joy, we thought we'd do, be, revisit,
turns out to have been what it was
that once, only; every invitation
did not begin
a series, a build-up: the marvelous
did not happen in our lives, our stories
are not drab with its absence: but don't
expect to return for more. Whatever more
there will be will be
unique as those were unique. Try
to acknowledge the next
song in its body-halo of flames as utterly
present, as now or never.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I want to write something so simply, by Mary Oliver


Pablo de Sarasate - Zigeunerweisen
with Sergey Krylov, violin

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself
out of your own heart
had been saying.


from Evidence: Poems (Beacon Press, 2009)
thank you Parker J. Palmer for the inspiration

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Say not the struggle naught availeth, by Arthur Hugh Clough


Franz Liszt - Waldesrauschen (Forest Murmurs), Two Concert Études 
with Eileen Joyce, piano 

Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

 If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rhapsody on a windy night, by T. S. Eliot


Béla Bartók - Out of Doors, Sz.81 Pt1 
with Maurizio Pollini, piano

Twelve o'clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

Half-past one,
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, "Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin."

The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.

Half-past two,
The street lamp said,
"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter."
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child's eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.

Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.

The lamp hummed:
"Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smoothes the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain."
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars."

The lamp said,
"Four o'clock,
Here is the number on the door.
Memory!
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
Mount.
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."

The last twist of the knife.


poem from PoetryArchive

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Betrayal, by William Hathaway


Maurice Ravel - Ma mère l'oye (Mother Goose)
with Martha Argerich and Lang Lan

It’s now all about money
about which poetry rarely reaches
transcendence. But love must still fester
even under that. Everyone I know
frets if poetry can still matter,
but what about love? It’s all become
too much for them, and they’re all
on the soma. It makes sense
with these pills when the someone
they thought they loved for years
by never thinking about it says,
“I don’t love you anymore,
but let’s stay friends in that mellow
woebegone way poetry now
sings without singing.” Of course,
they’re always asking “What is poetry?”
and then answering by saying
it’s what Boethius was thinking about
when they squished his head
until his eyes popped out,
or anything barbaric enough to get
everyone to stop eating for a bit
and reach for a moment past
a chatty moment. Sort of a solution
to awkward goodbyes. How money
becomes a sort of welcome
relief that defuses the poetry
charging tense moments. “Interesting,”
someone remarks between bites,
“to be right here in the moment
yet also out there watching
some once-in-a-lifetime sublimity
unfold, as if living as if already
dead.” As if standing in a dream far up
in the stars somewhere with Scipio
and seeing how little love matters,
or poetry for that matter,
considering how glory endures
only in glittering plunder. But best
of all, all of it stays just sort of
as if.


poem from Poetry (October 2009)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

No worst, there is none, by Gerard Manley Hopkins


Giacomo Puccini - Vissi d'arte, from Tosca 
with Angela Gheorghiu

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief’.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.


poem from here

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not the loss alone, by Gregory Orr


Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)
Part II. Largo

Not the loss alone,
But what comes after.
If it ended completely
At loss, the rest
Wouldn't matter.

But you go on.
And the world also.

And words, words
In a poem or song:
Aren't they a stream
On which your feelings float?

Aren't they also
The banks of that stream
And you yourself the flowing?


poem from Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved
Copper Canyon Press, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I love the dark hours, by Ranier Maria Rilke

 
Franz Schubert - "An den Mond", op. 57 No.3, D 193 
with Rita Streich, voice and Erik Werba, piano 

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots embrace:

a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.


from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God 
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

These Poems, She Said, by Robert Bringhurst


Maurice Ravel - Bolero 

These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man
who would leave his wife and child because
they made noise in his study. These are the poems
of a man who would murder his mother to claim
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket’s
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant
as elm leaves, which if they love love only
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,
and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.
These poems, she said....
                                               You are, he said,
beautiful.
                    That is not love, she said rightly.


poem from The Beauty of the Weapons: Selected Poems 1972-1982 (Copper Canyon Press, 1982)
as posted at poetryfoundation.org

post inspired by this blog 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Intermitent rain, by Roo Borson


Claude Debussy - Arabesque n°1
with Alberto Neuman 

Rain hitting the shovel
leaned against the house,
rain eating the edges
of the metal in tiny bites,
bloating the handle,
cracking it.
The rain quits and starts again.

There are people who go into that room in the house
where the piano is and close the door.
They play to get at that thing
on the tip of the tongue,
the thing they think of first and never say.
They would leave it out in the rain if they could.

The heart is a shovel leaning against a house somewhere
among the other forgotten tools.
The heart, it's always digging up old ground,
always wanting to give things a decent burial.

But so much stays fugitive,
inside,
where it can't be reached.

the piano is a way of practising
speech when you have no mouth.
When the heart is a shovel that would bury itself.
Still we can go up casually to a piano
and sit down and start playing
the way the rain felt in someone else's bones
a hundred years ago,
before we were born,
before we were even one cell,
when the world was clean,
when there were no hearts or people,
the way it sounded
a billion years ago, pattering
into unknown ground. Rain

hitting the shovel leaned against the house,
eating the edges of the metal.
It quits,
                 and starts again.



from Sudden Miracles: Eight Women Poets
edited by Rhea Tregebov (Second Story Press, 1991)