Sunday, December 19, 2010

Still, by A. R. Ammons

Georg Friedrich Händel - Oratorio - Messiah, HWV 56, Hallelujah Chorus
performed by The English Concert & Choir

I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I'll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!

from Selected Poems (2006)
thank you Roxana for the poem

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Great Grief Has Made the Empress Mute, by June Jordan

Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck - Mélodie, from Orfeo ed Euridice
with Ginette Neveu, violin

dedicated to the Empress Michiko and to Janice Mirikitani

Because it was raining outside the palace
Because there was no rain in her vicinity

Because people kept asking her questions
Because nobody ever asked her anything

Because marriage robbed her of her mother
Because she lost her daughters to the same tradition

Because her son laughed when she opened her mouth
Because he never delighted in anything she said

Because romance carried the rose inside a fist
Because she hungered for the fragrance of the rose

Because the jewels of her life did not belong to her
Because the glow of gold and silk disguised her soul
Because nothing she could say could change the melted
              music of her space
Because the privilege of her misery was something she could
              not disgrace
Because no one could imagine reasons for her grief
Because her grief required no imagination
Because it was raining outside the palace
Because there was no rain in her vicinity

poem from

Friday, October 22, 2010

Imagining you’d come to say goodbye..., by Jennifer Reeser

Johann Sebastian Bach - Cello Suite No. 2 Sarabande
with Pablo Casals

Imagining you’d come to say goodbye,
I made a doll of raffia and string.
I gave her thatch hair, and a broomstick skirt
of patchwork satin rags. Around each eye
I stitched thick lashes. Such a touching thing
she was! That even you could not debate –
impassive, undemanding and inert.
Yes, surely she’d cause you yourself to sigh.
Around her breast, I sewed a loden ring
to guard her cotton heart from being hurt,
then sat down in the fabric scraps to wait,
between the rafters and the furnace grate,
needle in hand, and never so aware
no craft on earth is master to despair.

poem from

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sympathetic Vibration, by Moya Cannon

Pyotr Iliych Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, III
with David Oistrakh

for Kathleen
'You never strike a note,
you always take the note.'

Did it take her many
of her eighty quiet passionate years
to earn that knowledge,
or was it given?

Music, the dark tender secret of it,
is locked into the wood of every tree.
Yearly it betrays its presence
in minute fistfuls of uncrumpling green.

No stroke or blade can release the music
which is salve to ease the world's wounds,
which tells and, modulating, retells
the story of our own groping roots,
of the deep sky from which they retreat
and, in retreating, reach -
the tree's great symphony of leaf.

No stroke or blade can bring us that release
but sometimes, where wildness has not been stilled,
hands, informed by years of patient love,
can come to know the hidden rhythms of the wood,
can touch bow to gut
and take the note,
as the heart yields and yields
and sings.

from Carrying the Songs (Carcanet, 2007)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Sadness, by Susan Goyette

Pyotr Iliych Tchaikovsky - Pezzo Capriccioso
with Mstislav Rostropovich

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
and tire my useless sadness.
                                        - Anna Akhmatova
If I could change this sadness,
learn the touch of a potter,
I'd coax it into a thing of beauty,
something serviceable.

I imagine throwing it, wrapped in burlap,
into the harbour. Some unwanted cat
that will haunt me, one of its lives
as my grandmother, with fingers like pine roots
dropping dead needles into my eyes,
in another as my father with his hair on fire
and his steel-wool tongue.

But it's an alluring sadness
that calls with the wordless song of a child
and fills these nights with all the names
I can give to it.

from The True Names of Birds (Brick Books, 2000)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Music, by Joy Harjo

Dmitri Shostakovich - Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107, II. Moderato
with Mstislav Rostropovich (1959)

...  ...I would have loved you then, in
the hot, moist tropics of your young womanhood.
...  ...the stars were out and fat every night.
They remembered your name
.............................................and called to you
as you bent down in the doorway of the whiteman's houses.
You savored each story they told you,
and remembered
...........................the way the stars entered your blood birth.
Maybe it was the Christians' language
.........................................................that captured you,
or the bones that cracked in your heart each time
you missed the aboriginal music that you were.
But then, were the survivor of the births
of your two sons. The oldest one hates you, and the other
wants to marry you. Now they live in another language
in Los Angeles
......................with their wives.
And you,
..............the stars return every night to call you back.
They have followed your escape
.....................from the southern hemisphere
.................................................................into the north.
Their voices echo out from your blood and you drink
the Christians' brandy and fall back into
.........doorways in an odd moonlight.
................................................You sweat in the winter in the north,
and you are afraid,
...........................  sweetheart.

M'Girl at Rhizome Cafe, Vancouver BC Coast Salish Territory, June 20 2009

poem from She Had Some Horses (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Changing What We Mean, by Eloise Klein Healy

Richard Wagner - Walkürenritt, from Die Walküre, Act III
Conducted by Leopold Stokowski

Turning your back, you button your blouse. That’s new.
You redirect the conversation. A man
has entered it. Your therapist has given you
permission to discuss this with me, the word
you’ve been looking for in desire.
You can now say “heterosexual” with me. We mean

different things when we say it. I mean
the life I left behind forever. For you, it’s a new
beginning, a stab at being normal again, a desire
to enter the world with a man
instead of a woman, and of course, there’s the word
you won’t claim for yourself anymore, you

who have children to think of, you
who have put me in line behind them and mean
to keep the order clear. It’s really my word
against yours anymore in this new
language, in this battle over how a man
is about to enter this closed room of desire

we’ve gingerly exchanged keys to, but desire
isn’t what’s at issue anyway, you
say to me. Instead I learn a man
can protect you in a way a woman only means
to but never can, and my world is too new
when there’s real life out there, word

after word for how normal looks, each word
cutting like scissors a profile of desire—
a man facing a woman, nothing particularly new
or interesting to me. I’ve wanted only to face you
and the world simultaneously, say what I mean
with my body, my choice to not be a man,

to be a woman with you, forget the man’s
part or how his body is the word
for what touch can contain, what love means.
If this were only about desire,
you say, I’d still desire you.
But it isn’t passion we’re defining, new

consequences emerge when a man and desire
are part of the words we hurl, you
changing how you mean loving—this terrible final news.

poem from Poetry Foundation

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonata in E major Op. 109, III with Lívia Rév

if it wasn't for               your              fin - gers

whis - per - ing              the lost voice

i               wouldn't know              i               am trapped

between a me              i               forgot

and               one               living in the world

              without                             voice

Sunday, June 20, 2010

When I Am Among the Trees, by Mary Oliver

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, II

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

in Thirst, 2007

Monday, May 31, 2010

Afterwards, by Thomas Hardy

Johann Sebastian Bach - Sonata for Violin solo No 1, G minor, BWV 1001, I. Adagio
with Yehudi Menuhin, violin (recorded 1935)

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"?

If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight."

If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone."

If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?

And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things"?

from BBC Poetry

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feeling Sorry for Myself, by Charles Harper Webb

from Le Corsaire, with Rudolf Nureyev

I start with a groan, swelling to a moan,
rising to a keen, ascending
to a shriek that tapers off in a thin wail.
I hug myself and, whimpering,
rock back and forth on my heels.
No one has ever known such sadness.
No one can grasp how I feel.

I smash an egg over each eye.
I smear my face with coal and pepper.
I wear a paper bag soaked through
with spoiled watermelon and pork grease.
I shred my happy past - my books,
pictures, and poems, published or not.
I'll never fly fish again.

I'll never make love again.
I'll never sit outside and watch night
stretch its starry tent over the sky.
There will be no more metaphors.
I am more sorrowful than a sorrowing man.
Life has no more meaning to me
than a life without meaning.

My heart slows. My blood congeals
to brown, vein-clogging mush.
My stomach goes on strike; my colon
bars its door. People assume
I'm terminal. They imagine what
would make them feel the way I look,
and project their paltry problems onto me.

As if they could fathom my misery
by waterwinging over its abyss!
My pain is too heavy to lift,
too vast to measure, too ineffable to name,
and incalculably too precious to share.
I dig my grave in a landfill, and topple in.
I rub dirt and dog droppings in my hair.

I've sunk so low its funny; so I start to giggle.
Then to chortle. Then to roar. Mothers
clutch their bleating kids, and rush away.
Gangbangers dash to the far side of the street.
I crawl out of my grave, strip, and shower
with a gunk-filled water hose.
I shake and shiver, grinning, in the filthy air.

from Tulip farms and leper colonies: poems
as posted on

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The victorious soldier

Giuseppe Verdi - "Celeste Aida," from Aida
with Placido Domingo

I wish I could bead bracelets
to adorn the wrists of parents
who never sent their sons to war,
who think wars fall outside of
the realms of last resort,
those who put indomitable
wedges of compassion
into the violent monolith -
I wish my self was bowing
to them instead of throwing up
this permanently closed fist
of bare, bloody victory.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Terra Incognita: Poems, by Heinz Piontek

Claude Debussy - "Reflets dans l'eau" in D-flat major from Images Book 1
with Arturo Michelangeli

still a blank patch
and I, the native.

are printed letters
my footprints.

deleted words
I lurk.

me with your gaze
into the inhabited world.

from Selected Poems
translated from German by Ewald Osers

thank you vv for the music

Sunday, February 28, 2010

i am a little church(no great cathedral), by e.e. cummings

Pyotr Iliych Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major Op.44
with Tatiana Nikolayeva

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Night walk, by Franz Wright

Frederic Chopin - Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1
with Arthur Rubistein

The all-night convenience store's empty
and no one is behind the counter.
You open and shut the glass door a few times
causing a bell to go off,
but no one appears. You only came
to but a pack of cigarettes, maybe
a copy of yesterday's newspaper --
finally you take one and leave
thirty-five cents in its place.
It is freezing, but it is a good thing
to step outside again:
you can feel less alone in the night,
with lights on here and there
between the dark buildings and trees.
Your own among them, somewhere.
There must be thousands of people
in this city who are dying
to welcome you into their small bolted rooms,
to sit you down and tell you
what has happened to their lives.
And the night smells like snow.
Walking home for a moment
you almost believe you could start again.
And an intense love rushes to your heart,
and hope. It's unendurable, unendurable.

from God's Silence: Poems

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.6 in B minor Op. 74
IV. Finale (Adagio lamentoso - Andante)
Leningrad Philharmonic, with Evgeny Mravinsky, 1960

The lungs hold grief hostage
behind bone bars, hold the grief
though its torch keeps singeing
bat memories on jagged flights.

The heart knows where the key
is that will cleave a door, a door
or many for the bats to break
down and steal fire, and the light.

The heart holds the key hostage,
wants to blunt it, hide it, kill it
for what would be left behind
the blood flood, a different death.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A poem from my diary, by Avrom Sutzkever

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - String Quartet No.1, Op. 11 in D major, 1871
II. Andante cantabile, with Borodin Quartet

Who will remain, what will remain? A wind will stay,
the blindness of the blind man who has gone away,
a string of foam, the sign of the sea,
a little cloud entangled in a tree.

Who will remain, what will remain?
A primeval seed will sprout again
A fiddle-rose honoring herself will live.
Seven blades of grass will know what's hers to give.

Of all the stars due north of here,
the one that landed in a tear will stay.
There will always be a drop of wine left over in its jug.
Who will stay? God will stay. Isn't that enough?

translated from the Yiddish by Myra Mniewski

thank you VV for this post

Sunday, January 3, 2010

At the End of the Year, by John O'Donohue

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Waltz of the Flowers, The Nutcracker Suite Op. 71a

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline's longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.