Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poem, by Sue Sinclair

Johannes Brahms - Intermezzo in E Flat Major Op. 117-1
with Julius Katchen

The poem wants to be an extra bone
in the body. Lonely,
it wants the day to come back for it:
a jacket left at the coat check,
the dance floor deserted.

There is no wisdom in the poem,
but it repeats its small life as many times
as we ask. The poem is everybody's
mother, remembering what can't be found,
remembering who you are, remembering
what hasn't even happened yet.

Mortal Arguments (Brick Books, 2003)
thank you vv for this post

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gulls, by Helen Bascand

George Enescu - Romanian Rhapsody

I can't forget
how I told you they were there
outside your window -

two of them
because your soul seemed heavy
tied to your hospital bed -

I was drifting
looking away from your face
and I mentioned

how blue was this sky. I told you
the gulls were white and bewitching

and they made flying look

from Into the Vanishing Point (Steele Roberts, 2007)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Your Mother and My Mother, by Hafiz

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne Op.9 No.2

Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions,

For your mother and my mother
Were friends.

I know the Innkeeper
In this part of the universe.
Get some rest tonight,
Come to my verse again tomorrow.
We'll go speak to the Friend together.

I should not make any promises right now,
But I know if you
Somewhere in this world -
Something good will happen.

God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.

Your soul and my soul
Once sat together in the Beloved's womb
Playing footsie.

Your heart and my heart
Are very, very old

transl. by Daniel Ladinsky
from The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master

Friday, July 24, 2009

Brilliant Sky, by Jean Joubert

Antonio Vivaldi - Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Gloria (Rv 589)

Never between the branches has the sky
burned with such brilliance, as if
it were offering all of its light to me,
to say – what? what urgent mystery
strains at that transparent mouth?
No leaf, no rustle . . . It's in winter,
in cold emptiness and silence, that the air
suddenly arches itself like this into infinity,
and glitters.

This evening, far from here,
a friend is entering his death,
he knows it, he walks
under bare trees alone,
perhaps for the last time. So much love,
so much struggle, spent and worn thin.
But when he looks up, suddenly the sky
is arrayed in this same vertiginous clarity.

Trans. by Denise Levertov, In
The Gift of Tongues, ed. by Sam Hamill

From Panhala yahoo group

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A woman dead in her forties, by Adrienne Rich

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No. 1, III with Artur Rubinstein

Your breasts/ ---sliced-off ---The scars
dimmed ---as they would have to be
years later

All the women I grew up with are sitting
half-naked on rocks ---in sun
we look at each other and
are not ashamed

and you too have taken off your blouse
but this was not what you wanted:

to show your scarred, deleted torso

I barely glance at you
as if my look could scald you
though I'm the one who loved you

I want to touch my fingers
to where your breasts had been
but we never did such things

You hadn't thought everyone
would look so perfect

you pull on
your blouse again: ---stern statement:

There are things I will not share
with everyone

You send me back to share
my own scars ---first of all
with myself

What did I hide from her
what have I denied her
what losses suffered

how in this ignorant body
did she hide

waiting for her release
till uncontrollable light began to pour

from every wound and suture
and all the sacred openings

Wartime. ---We sit on warm
weathered, softening grey boards

the ladder glimmers where you told me
the leeches swim

I smell the flame
of kerosene ---the pine

boards where we sleep side by side
in narrow cots

the night-meadow exhaling
its darkness ---calling

child into woman
child into woman

Most of our love from the age of nine
took the form of jokes and mute

loyalty: ---you fought a girl
who said she'd knock me down

we did each other's homework
wrote letters ---kept in touch, untouching

lied about our lives: ---I wearing
the face of the proper marriage

you the face of the independent woman
We cleaved to each other across that space

fingering webs
of love and estrangement ---till the day

the gynecologist touched your breast
and found a palpable hardness

You played heroic, necessary
games with death

since in your neo-protestant tribe the void
was supposed not to exist

except as a fashionable concept
you had no traffic with

I wish you were here tonight ---I want
to yell at you

Don't accept
Don't give in

But would I be meaning your brave
irreproachable life, you dean of women, or

your unfair, unfashionable, unforgivable
woman's death?

You are every woman I ever loved
and disavowed

a bloody incandescent chord strung out
across years, tracts of space

How can I reconcile this passion
with our modesty

your calvinist heritage
my girlhood frozen into forms

how can I go on this mission
without you

you, who might have told me
everything you feel is true?

Time after time in dreams you rise

once from a wheelchair pushed by your father
across a lethal expressway

Of all my dead it's you
who come to me unfinished

You left me amber beads
strung with turquoise from an Egyptian grave

I wear them wondering
How am I true to you?

I'm half-afraid to write poetry
for you ---who never read it much

and I'm left laboring
with the secrets and the silence

In plain language: ---I never told you how I loved you
we never talked at your deathbed of your death

One autumn evening in a train
catching the diamond-flash of sunset

in puddles along the Hudson
I thought: ---I understand

life and death now, the choices
I didn't know your choice

or how by then you had no choice
how the body tells the truth in its rush of cells

Most of our love took the form
of mute loyalty

we never spoke at your deathbed of your death

but from here on
I want more crazy mourning, more howl, more keening

We stayed mute and disloyal
because we were afraid

I would have touched my fingers
to where your breasts had been
but we never did such things


from The Dream of a Common Language, Poems 1974-1977 (W. W. Norton, 1993)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joshua Bell to his violin, by Jennifer Grotz

Robert Schumann - Träumerei, with Joshua Bell

This is what I hear when you begin to dip
and quiver: I have one hundred lit candles
to blow out. Then my throat goes sore,
tightens while oxygen passes through it,

and the candles throb like manic petals
jealous of the music my arm releases from you.

I am so young my bones have made a place
for you, my wrist bends, my neck crooks to hold
your shallow body like a teenager balances a phone.
Stradivarius, sometimes I enact a sonorous trembling,

bangs convulsing around my face, the audience
coughing, you with your misery and me to get it out.

I do not know where it comes from,
that wind. You were shaped to help
its arrival, an emblem of grief, not the grief itself.
The sound leaves before we can change it.

This time a woman has caught the sound and holds it
in her throat. I confess it is only a way to understand

the music's loss, but no one is ever merely
vessel, violin, your smooth wood stained
the color of dried blood and my chin locking you
against my neck. I cradle you.

Toppling beauty: the candles require air and you
give them wind until they flicker and smoke.

from Cusp: Poems (Mariner Original, 2003)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fugue, by Daniel Halpern

Giuseppe Verdi - Prelude to Act I, La Traviata

A child asks endlessly about dying,
not death, but some fixed point,
not the state and estate of death.

It's about the invisible net
of infinity cast over
so small a frame of reference.

For the rest of us the net fills gradually in,
like an image coming up coyly but decisively
in a darkroom tray of chemicals.

We took a trip to the House of Reptiles
where I looked into the humorless eyes
of the albino reticulated python

set in their cold skull like precious, unpolished stones--
eyes like the precipice that invites
the wary to leap, pulled over by reverse phobia.

For three dollars we were allowed the chance
to face death eye to eye, inches
and a thickness of glass away,

the reptile simultaneously metaphor
and pathway out of this life,
coiled, patient, solemnly inquisitive.

Not the act of dying,
but the estate of limbo--
the days run out, no longer oneself.

from Something Shining: Poems (Knopf, 1999)