Monday, March 30, 2009

Of Rain and Air, by Wayne Dodd

Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major, II (Martha Argerich, 1990)

All day I have been closed up
inside rooms, speaking of trivial
matters. Now at last I have come out
into the night, myself a center

of darkness.
Beneath the clouds the low sky glows
with scattered lights. I can hardly think
this is happening. Here in this bright absence

of day, I feel myself opening out
with contentment.
All around me the soft rain is whispering
of thousands of feet of air

invisible above us.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Death Foretold, by Ingrid de Kok

Umberto Giordano - "La Mamma Morta", Andrea Chénier
with Maria Callas (1955)

Here to see you
say goodbye
rest my cheek
upon your hair.

Leaving you
I cross the road alone
holding my own hand.

Lights in three colours
send me forward, caution me
stop me in my tracks

as worlds wheel by
inside cars
where other mothers
turn their shining heads

towards some other
breathing child.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black Oaks, by Mary Oliver

Gabriel Urbain Fauré - "Pie Jesu", Requiem Op.48 with Lucia Popp

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,
or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I'm pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can't keep me from the woods, from the tonnage
of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another -- why don't you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don't want to sell my life for money,
I don't even want to come in out of the rain.

from Blue Iris: Poems and Essays

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the lesson of the moth, by Don Marquis

Ludwig van Beethoven - Ode to Joy, 9th Symphony, with Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Love, by George Herbert

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Requiem - Dies irae (Day of Wrath)
with English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir
Barcelona Dec. 1991

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
...........Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
...........From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
...........If I lack'd any thing.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
...........Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
...........I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
...........Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
...........Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, Sayes Love, who bore the blame?
...........My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit downe, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
...........So I did sit and eat.

(The Temple, 1633)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Night, by Anna Margolin

Arrigo Boito - "L'altra notte in fondo al mare", Mefistofele with Maria Callas

(translated by Shirley Kumove)

I battle enemies in the darkness,
not seeing a single face.

Every night, whistling and banging,
and the tramp of disappearing steps.
I stand bloodied and dead weary
but will not, will not fall.
Every night thereafter, the broad, enveloping silence
as from many pipe organs and restless lights,
and above me, smiling, hovering,
an immense, shadowy face.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ideas, by Kathryn Starbuck

Giacomo Puccini - "Nessun dorma," Turandot with Mario del Monaco

I was the lonely one in whom
they swarmed in the millions.
I was their creature and I
was grateful. I could sleep
when I wanted.

I lived a divided
existence in sleepdreams
that lit up a silence as dreadful
as that of the moon. I have
an overly-precise recall of

those solitary years before
I opened the curtain and drew
upon a universe of want that made
me so strong I could crack
spines of books with one hand.

From Poetry (Poetry Foundation), March 2009, Volume cxciii, Number 6, page 517

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Hill, by Anthony Hecht

Franz Schubert D.956 String Quintet Adagio

In Italy, where this sort of thing can occur,
I had a vision once - though you understand
It was nothing at all like Dante's, or the visions of saints,
And perhaps not a vision at all. I was with some friends,
Picking my way through a warm sunlit piazza
In the early morning. A clear fretwork of shadows
From huge umbrellas littered the pavement and made
A sort of lucent shallows in which was moored
A small navy of carts. Books, coins, old maps,
Cheap landscapes and ugly religious prints
Were all on sale. The colors and noise
Like the flying hands were gestures of exultation,
So that even the bargaining
Rose to the ear like a voluble godliness.
And then, where it happened, the noises suddenly stopped,
And it got darker; pushcarts and people dissolved
And even the great Farnese Palace itself
Was gone, for all its marble; in its place
Was a hill, mole-colored and bare. It was very cold,
Close to freezing, with a promise of snow.
The trees were like old ironwork gathered for scrap
Outside a factory wall. There was no wind,
And the only sound for a while was the little click
Of ice as it broke in the mud under my feet.
I saw a piece of ribbon snagged on a hedge,
But no other sign of life. And then I heard
What seemed the crack of a rifle. A hunter, I guessed;
At least I was not alone. But just after that
Came the soft and papery crash
Of a great branch somewhere unseen falling to earth.

And that was all, except for the cold and silence
That promised to last forever, like the hill.

Then prices came through, and fingers, and I was restored
To the sunlight and my friends. But for more than a week
I was scared by the plain bitterness of what I had seen.
All this happened about ten years ago,
And it hasn't troubled me since, but at last, today,
I remembered that hill; it lies just to the left
Of the road north of Poughkeepsie; and as a boy
I stood before it for hours in wintertime.