dressed in time

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 55th birthday.

Yeşim Ağaoğlu
Turkish
b. 1966

 

she took off every thing that was on her
stark naked her body
save for the watch on her arm
jet-black wrist watch
so she donned that wrist watch, dressed herself up in time
like putting on a black cloak
the year was the space quarter, the season winter
the day tuesday
life lived on the spur of the moment as always
the watch works ticking on
her body works ticking on, forever alert
time, ever so abstract
now melted, dripping
as in dali’s painting
and where the hands of the watch meet
ıs her most punctual spot now.

Butterfly Laughter

Katherine Mansfield
Kiwi
1888 – 1923

 

In the middle of our porridge plates
There was a blue butterfly painted
And each morning we tried who should reach the butterfly first.
Then the Grandmother said: “Do not eat the poor butterfly.”
That made us laugh.
Always she said it and always it started us laughing.
It seemed such a sweet little joke.
I was certain that one fine morning
The butterfly would fly out of our plates,
Laughing the teeniest laugh in the world,
And perch on the Grandmother’s lap.

Silence

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.

Robin Hyde
Kiwi
1906 – 1939

 

I am tired of all voices. Friend and fool
Have come too nearly with me to the shrine
That is the secret kept by wind and pine.
Now, when the shadowy hands of dusk are cool
About my eyes, shall silence like a god
Drive them with whips of starlight from his stairs.
Only the small grass striving in its clod,
Only the stream, that fragile moonlight bears
Like blossoms on its breast, move in this place,

All earth lies still as some beloved face
Whose dreaming mouth and deep-curved eyelids make
Bridges to God that lightest sound would break,
Towers where one word would seem iconoclast. . . .
Yet if through darkening trees you came at last,
Wearing the dew of meadows on your shoon,
And in your eyes the blessing of the moon,
I think it would be well. I think our greeting
Would be as quiet as two rivers meeting,
Which, drawn together, sparkling up in foam,
Slide into one bright seeking; and our home
Should be the furthest longing of pale seas,
Beyond the purple caverns of the trees.

The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Rudyard Kipling
English
1865 – 1936

 

That night, when through the mooring-chains
The wide-eyed corpse rolled free,
To blunder down by Garden Reach
And rot at Kedgeree,
The tale the Hughli told the shoal
The lean shoal told to me.

‘Twas Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house,
Where sailor-men reside,
And there were men of all the ports
From Mississip to Clyde,
And regally they spat and smoked,
And fearsomely they lied.

They lied about the purple Sea
That gave them scanty bread,
They lied about the Earth beneath,
The Heavens overhead,
For they had looked too often on
Black rum when that was red.

They told their tales of wreck and wrong,
Of shame and lust and fraud,
They backed their toughest statements with
The Brimstone of the Lord,
And crackling oaths went to and fro
Across the fist-banged board.

And there was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
Who carried on his hairy chest
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

And there was Jake Without-the-Ears,
And Pamba the Malay,
And Carboy Gin the Guinea cook,
And Luz from Vigo Bay,
And Honest Jack who sold them slops
And harvested their pay.

And there was Salem Hardieker,
A lean Bostonian he—
Russ, German, English, Halfbreed, Finn,
Yank, Dane, and Portuguee,
At Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
The rested from the sea.

Now Anne of Austria shared their drinks,
Collinga knew her fame,
From Tarnau in Galicia
To Jaun Bazaar she came,
To eat the bread of infamy
And take the wage of shame.

She held a dozen men to heel—
Rich spoil of war was hers,
In hose and gown and ring and chain,
From twenty mariners,
And, by Port Law, that week, men called
Her Salem Hardieker’s.

But seamen learnt—what landsmen know—
That neither gifts nor gain
Can hold a winking Light o’ Love
Or Fancy’s flight restrain,
When Anne of Austria rolled her eyes
On Hans the blue-eyed Dane.

Since Life is strife, and strife means knife,
From Howrah to the Bay,
And he may die before the dawn
Who liquored out the day,
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
We woo while yet we may.

But cold was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
And laughter shook the chest beneath
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

“You speak to Salem Hardieker;
“You was his girl, I know.
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, see,
“Und round the Skaw we go,
“South, down the Cattegat, by Hjelm,
“To Besser in Saro.”

When love rejected turns to hate,
All ill betide the man.
“You speak to Salem Hardieker”—
She spoke as woman can.
A scream—a sob—“He called me—names!”
And then the fray began.

An oath from Salem Hardieker,
A shriek upon the stairs,
A dance of shadows on the wall,
A knife-thrust unawares—
And Hans came down, as cattle drop,
Across the broken chairs.

…In Anne of Austria’s trembling hands
The weary head fell low:—
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, straight
“For Besser in Saro;
“Und there Ultruda comes to me
“At Easter, und I go

“South, down the Cattegat—What’s here?
“There—are—no—lights—to guide!”
The mutter ceased, the spirit passed,
And Anne of Austria cried
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
When Hans the mighty died.

Thus slew they Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
But Anne of Austria looted first
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

Those Like Me

Alda Merini
Italian
1931 – 2009

 

Those like me hand out dreams, even at the cost of being left dreamless…
Those like me give away their soul, because a soul is like a drop of water in the desert.
Those like me stretch out a hand and help you get up,
while running the risk of falling in turn.
Those like me look ahead,
even if their heart is some steps behind
Those like me search for a meaning to existence and, on finding it,
try to impart it to the ones who just survive.
Those like me, when in love, love forever.
and if they stop, it’s only because small fragments of being
lie powerless in the hands of life.
Those like me pursue the dream
of being loved for what they are
and not for what they are expected to be.
Those like me travel the world striving for values that
human souls have long forgotten
Those like me would really like to change,
but this would mean to be born again.
Those like me scream in silence,
so that their voice is not confused with tears.
Those like me are women whose hearts you are definitely going to break
because you know they’ll let you go, without a question.
Those like me love too much, even knowing that, in return,
they’ll receive nothing but crumbs.
Those like me feed on little and sadly build their existence on it
Those like me go unnoticed,
but they are the only women that will really love you
Those like me are the ones that, in the autumn of your life,
you will regret for what they might have given you
and you didn’t accept…

The Bells of Limerick

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 205th birthday.

Frances Browne
Irish
1816 – 1879

 

Oh! bright on the silvery Shannon lies
The light of the setting sun,
And stately the city’s spires arise,
Where the isle’s last field was won!
But now, no stain of the battle’s blood
Remains, to sully that peaceful flood,—
Nor sound in the summer-evening swells,
Save that of St. Mary’s vesper bells.

There came a late and a lonely boat,
O’er the shining river’s breast;
And it bore, from a land far, far remote,
A sad and a stranger guest:—
A darker tint had tinged his brow
Than the skies that bent above him, now,
Could give their sons—and a brighter beam
Had shone on his youth, by Tiber’s stream.

His was the peerless land of song,
By the Muses blest, of yore;
But his steps had wandered, far and long,
From the bright Hesperian shore:
And his early home was a darkened spot,—
For the love, that brightened his hearth, was not;
And heavy and chill the clouds of age
Fell on his lonely pilgrimage.

But still, in his memory’s echo, swelled
A sweet and a solemn chime,—
That oft, through the golden twilight pealed,
In his own far southern clime:—
Oh! many a city and many a shore
Had the weary pilgrim wandered o’er,—
But they never sent to his aged ear
The sounds he had loved—and pined to hear!

Yet why doth the stranger start,—and turn
From his lonely musings, now?
And why doth such glowing gladness burn
In his aged eye and brow?
‘Tis only the vesper bells, again,
That ring from St. Mary’s sacred fane,—
But oh! to the wanderer’s heart they tell
Of scenes and voices remembered well!

His arm was strong, and his hope was bright,
When he tuned to melody
Those vesper bells, in the cloudless light
Of his own Italian sky;—
And now, on a distant northern shore,
That music breathed on his heart once more—
Though the strength and hope of his years were past—
As sweet as when he heard it last!

For the light of many a twilight hour,
And the breath of many a strain,
From cottage porch, and from myrtle bower,
With that sound returned again:—
And the wanderer listened, like one whose soul
Had found the path to its early goal,—
But his eyes were fixed, and his very breath
Seemed hush in the changeless hush of death!

Fainter and fainter the last low note
On the waters died away;
And the rowers paused,—for the lonely boat
By the stately city lay.
But the wanderer moved not—spoke not—still,
Though the dews of night fell fast and chill,
And strangers lifted his drooping head,—
But they found that the weary soul had fled!

Oh! strange were the yearning thoughts and fond
Round that lone heart’s ruined shrine,—
As the Hebrew’s thirst for the fount beyond
Philistia’s leaguering line!
But the sounds, that in life he loved the best,
May peal, unheeded, above his rest,—
For still, through the summer twilight, swells
The sound of St. Mary’s vesper bells!

Reading the Night

We present this work in honor of Thiruvalluvar Day.

Ashitha
Indian
1956 – 2019

 

So clandestinely does
the night sketch the night,
like the fingers of darkness
entwining those of the shadows
caressing so intimately that
one becomes the other.
some stealthy lines
drawn on the inner paths
forking in separation
touching or un-touching.
some specks of light
perceived or un-perceived.
some dark forebodings
of a fall or of death.
mining the secrets of the dark
should be a meditative act
like all robes unravelled
from the body which then
weaves itself on its nude self.
night should be made love to
so intensely as a couple
raining by themselves
kissing again and again
the drops of sweat
dripping from the bodies
seized by ecstasy.
night is a poem
written by a woman
with her head bowed
while black serpents

slither along her tresses
to be read only by those homes
that have turned insomniac.

The Horseshoe Shrine

We present this work in honor of Pongal.

Arun Kolatkar
Indian
1932 – 2004

 

That nick in the rock
is really a kick in the side of the hill.
It’s where a hoof
struck

like a thunderbolt
when Khandoba
with the bride sidesaddle behind him on the blue
horse

jumped across the valley
and the three
went on from there like one
spark

fleeing from flint.
To a home that waited
on the other side of the hill like a hay
stack.

All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters

We present this work in honor of the 80th anniversary of the poet’s death.

James Joyce
Irish
1882 – 1941

 

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water’s
Monotone.

The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters
Far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.