Jewels

01-25 Bernal
Emilia Bernal
Cuban
1884 – 1964

Amber. Marble. Sapphire. The jingling babble
of magic treasure. May my bold desires
make the most of such enchantment. Let me
stir them around with my hand.

Alabaster and azure. Day’s blood.
Stones in a heap. Roses made of milk.
Great laughter of light. My longing grasps
and tumbles the precious jewels.

Sea. Sky. Sun in my arms!
Fire
of bright diamonds playing!
Malachite, topaz. Serpentine ribbons
sparkling in my hands! Caught
in my fingers, wreaths of turquoise,
lapis lazuli, jade, aquamarine!

Spiritual Verses

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 480th birthday.

01-24 De La Cruz
Juan de la Cruz
Spanish
1542 – 1591

I

So I might seize the prey
in this divine venture
I flew ever higher
from sight was forced to stray,
yet love so far did fly
that though in my flight
I faltered in the height
I caught the prey on high.

II

As higher I ascended
so the hardest conquest
came about in darkness,
all my sight was dazzled:
yet since love was my prey
from blind dark a leaper
I flew on ever higher
till I overtook the prey.

III

In this highest game,
the further I ascended
the humbler, more subdued
more abased I became.
‘None attains it’, I did say.
I sank down lower, lower,
yet I rose higher, higher
and so I took the prey.

IV

My one flight in strange manner
surpassed a hundred thousand
for the hope of highest heaven
attains the end it hopes for:
there hope alone did fly
unfaltering in the height:
hope, seeking in its flight,
I caught the prey on high.

First Poem

01-23 Sulpicia
Sulpicia
Italian
c. 40 B.C.

At last. It’s come. Love,
the kind that veiling
will give me reputation more
than showing my soul naked to someone.
I prayed to Aphrodite in Latin, in poems;
she brought him, snuggled him
into my bosom.
Venus has kept her promises:
let her tell the story of my happiness,
in case some woman will be said
not to have had her share.
I would not want to trust
anything to tablets, signed and sealed,
so no one reads me
before my love—
but indiscretion has its charms;
it’s boring
to fit one’s face to reputation.
May I be said to be
a worthy lover for a worthy love.

The Good-Morrow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 450th birthday.

01-22 Donne
John Donne
English
1572 – 1631

 

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ‘twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

Nocturne

01-21 Caceres
Omar Cáceres
Chilean
1904 – 1943

 

The trees are drunk, from nocturnal lights,
and they drag their shadows, nervous and stiff.

Their shadows, strangling the night’s winds,
shelter and rattle me, as if I were a bird.

And my steps echo in their black boughs,
and the weakest hooks fill me with vertigo;

yet when I cast my eye on them from another, simpler pair,
they respond, swaying, that they remained intact;

The leaves, dilating the communal shadows,
return like ruined boats to their tree.

They cannot, oh, attain the solid banks
that the tips of heavenly bodies announce from above,

yet thick with silence they plow, quivering
through deep and frozen ponds of miracle.

And in the nocturnal trees embracing the earth,
I find oblivion and mercy, when in despair,

while the light runs down their boughs,
thin, diaphanous, like water between my hands.

In Difficult Times

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

01-20 Padilla
Heberto Padilla
Cuban
1932 – 2000

They asked that man if they could
take his time and join it to history.
They asked for his hands,
because in difficult times
there is nothing better than a good pair of hands.
They asked for his eyes
that once had tears
so he could ponder the bright side
(especially the bright side of life)
because for horror one terrified eye is enough.
They asked for his lips,
dry and cracked, to affirm,
to erect, with each affirmation, a dream
(the high dream);
they asked for his legs,
hard and gnarled,
(his old high-stepping legs)
because in difficult times
is there anything better than a pair of legs
for building or trench-digging?
They asked him for the forest that nourished him as a child
with its obedient tree.
They asked for his chest, his heart, his shoulders.
They told him
that it was strictly necessary.
Later they explained
that all this giving would be pointless
unless he gave up his tongue,
because in difficult times
there is nothing so useful for stopping hatred or lies.
And finally they begged him
please, to begin to walk
because in difficult times
that is without a doubt the decisive test.

Thoughts of a Little Girl

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

01-19 Camarillo
María Enriqueta Camarillo
Mexican
1872 – 1968

I think flowers can see
and clouds play a game,
that when the wind whispers,
the leaves understand.
They sway and they dance
in the mad-cap breeze.

Sometimes in the morning
to the meadow I go,
where the daisies are playing
in the wind.

First the wind whispers,
then runs, jumps, and tickles their feet.
And the daisies, their heads sweetly nodding,
laugh, sway, and shiver in glee.

Far Away

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 155th birthday.

01-18 Dario
Rubén Darío
Nicaraguan
1867 – 1916

Ox that I saw in my childhood, as you steamed
in the burning gold on the Nicaraguan sun,
there on the rich plantation filled with tropical
harmonies; woodland dove, of the woods that sang
with the sound of the wind, of axes, of birds and wild bulls:
I salute you both, because you are both my life.

You, heavy ox, evoke the gentle dawn
that signaled it was time to milk the cow,
when my existence was all white and rose;
and you, sweet mountain dove, cooing and calling,
you signify all that my own springtime, now
so far away, possessed of the Divine Springtime.

Madagascar

In honor of Tu B’Shavat, we present this whimsical Jewish pastoral.

01-17 Broderzon
Moishe Broderzon
Russian
1890 – 1956

1
I take my feet under my arm,
I go, I walk, stride on,
to east and west and north and south,
I look for Birobidjan.
people give this advice – it’s a habit,
take a pack on your back,
and go forth like a rabbit!

To Madagascar, the land of grass and rabbits
and when the wind will blow,
to Madagascar. No meat there,
I know that from Genesis.
that’s where Adam the first man
started to mix in,
where Mother Eve can,
be curious too,
Ay Madagascar, may as well be there
that’s the thing to do.

2
The sun there bakes on pagodas
Winter hot snow falls
come in to all’s ready
don’t need to make a living
for people eat each other
So poof and you’re not there.

To Madagascar, the land of grass and rabbits
and when the wind will blow,
to Madagascar. No meat there,
I know that from Genesis.
that’s where Adam the first man
started to mix in,
where Mother Eve can,
be curious too,
Ay Madagascar, may as well be there
that’s the thing to do.

65th Poem from Daasarathii Satakam

We present this work in honor of Uzhavar Tirunal.

01-16 Ramadasu
Bhadrachala Ramadasu
Indian
1620 – 1680

Wonder was it when a rock touched by your foot became a youthful woman,
Wonder was it when a multitude of boulders floated on water in steadiness,
But, what wonder it is when a man by constant thinking of you obtains salvation? on
This earth, pleasant one to the daughter of earth, Daasarathii, ocean of kindness!