Lying is an Occupation

10-18 Pilkington
Laetitia Pilkington
Irish
1712 – 1750

 

Lying is an occupation,
Used by all who mean to rise;
Politicians owe their station,
But to well concerted lies.

These to lovers give assistance,
To ensnare the fair-one’s heart;
And the virgin’s best resistance
Yields to this commanding art.

Study this superior science,
Would you rise in Church or State;
Bid to Truth a bold defiance,
‘Tis the practice of the great.

Head Over Heels with Life

10-17 Carranza
María Mercedes Carranza
Colombian
1945 – 2003

 

I will die mortal,
that is to say having passed
through this world
without breaking or staining it.
I didn’t invent a single vice,
but I tasted all the virtues:
I leased my soul
to hypocrisy: I have trafficked
with words,
with signs, with silence;
I surrendered to the lie:
I have hoped for hope,
I have loved love,
and one day I even pronounced
the words My Country;
I accepted the hoax:
I have been mother, citizen,
daughter, friend,
companion, lover;
I believed in the truth:
two and two are four,
María Mercedes ought to be born,
ought to grow, reproduce herself and die
and that’s what I’m doing.
I am the sampler of the 20th century.
And when fear arrives
I go to watch television
to have a dialogue with my lies.

What Did You Leave Behind

z 10-16-21
Solmaz Sharif
Persian
b. 1986

 

A pool
lined
with evergreens,

needles falling
into the water,
floor

painted a milky
jade. A car
in the driveway.

A mother.

Another mother.

A cockatiel
in the hallway
squawking

next to the plastic
slippers.
Glass

after beveled glass.
Secret
after beveled secret.

Letters from a
first crush
now dead.

Killed.
We wanted
to be asked

of these things.
We spent
much of our lives
imagining.

To tell of them
was to live
again.

We rathered
and rathered,

scraping the soft
moss
off

the gravestones
of our early
dead—

Because

We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.

10-15 McAuley
James McAuley
Australian
1917 – 1976

 

My father and my mother never quarrelled.
They were united in a kind of love
As daily as the Sydney Morning Herald,
Rather than like the eagle or the dove.

I never saw them casually touch,
Or show a moment’s joy in one another.
Why should this matter to me now so much?
I think it bore more hardly on my mother,

Who had more generous feelings to express.
My father had dammed up his Irish blood
Against all drinking praying fecklessness,
And stiffened into stone and creaking wood.

His lips would make a switching sound, as though
Spontaneous impulse must be kept at bay.
That it was mainly weakness I see now,
But then my feelings curled back in dismay.

To the Flower of Gnido

We present this work in honor of the 485th anniversary of the poet’s death.

10-14 De La Vega
Garcilaso de la Vega
Spanish
1501 – 1536

 

I
Had I the sweet resounding lyre
Whose voice could in a moment chain
The howling wind’s ungoverned ire,
And movement of the raging main;
On savage hills the leopard rein,

II
The lion’s fiery soul entrance,
And lead along with golden tones
The fascinated trees and stones
In voluntary dance,
Think not, think not, fair Flower of Gnide,

III
It e’er should celebrate the scars,
Dust raised, bloodshed, or laurels dyed
Beneath the gonfalon of Mars;
Or borne sublime on festal cars,
The chiefs who to submission sank

IV
The rebel German’s soul of soul,
And forged the chains that now control
The frenzy of the Frank.
No, no! its harmonies should ring
In vaunt of glories all thine own,

V
A discord sometimes from the string
Struck forth to make thy harshness known;
The fingered chords should speak alone
Of Beauty’s triumphs, Love’s alarms,
And one who, made by thy disdain

VI
Pale as a lily dipt in twain,
Bewails thy fatal charms.
Of that poor captive, too, contemned,
I speak, his doom you might deploreIn
Venus’ galliot-shell condemned

VII
To strain for life the heavy oar.
Through thee no longer as of yore
He tames the unmanageable steed,
With curb of gold his pride restrains,
Or with pressed spurs and shaken reins

VIII
Torments him into speed.
Not now he wields for thy sweet sake
The sword in his accomplished hand,
Nor grapples like a poisonous snake,
The wrestler on the yellow sand;

IX
The old heroic harp his hand
Consults not now, it can but kiss
The amorous lute’s dissolving strings,
Which murmur forth a thousand things
Of banishment from bliss.

X
Through thee, my dearest friend and best
Grows harsh, importunate, and grave;
Myself have been his port of rest
From shipwreck and the yawning wave;
Yet now so high his passions rave

XI
Above lost reason ‘s conquered laws,
That not the traveller ere he slays
The asp, its sting, as he my face
So dreads, or so abhors.
In snows on rocks, sweet Flower of Gnide,

XII
Thou wert not cradled, wert not born,
She who has no fault beside
Should ne’er be signalized for scorn;
Else, tremble at the fate forlorn
Of Anaxarete, who spurned

XIII
The weeping Iphis from her gate,
Who, scoffing long, relenting late,
Was to a statue turned.
Whilst yet soft pity she repelled,
Whilst yet she steeled her heart in pride,

XIV
From her friezed window she beheld
Aghast, the lifeless suicide;
Around his lily neck was tied
What freed his spirit from her chains,
And purchased with a few short sighs

XV
For her immortal agonies,
Imperishable pains.
Then first she felt her bosom bleed
With love and pity; vain distress!
Oh what deep rigors must succeed

XVI
This first sole touch of tenderness!
Her eyes grow glazed and motionless,
Nailed on his wavering corse, each bone
Hardening in growth, invades her flesh,
Which, late so rosy, warm, and fresh,

XVII
Now stagnates into stone.
From limb to limb the frost aspire,
Her vitals curdle with the cold;
The blood forgets its crimson fire,
The veins that e’er its motion rolled;

XVIII
Till now the virgin’s glorious mould
Was wholly into marble changed,
On which the Salaminians gazed,
Less at the prodigy amazed,
Than of the crime avenged.

XIX
Then tempt not thou Fate’s angry arms,
By cruel frown or icy taunt;
But let thy perfect deeds and charms
To poets’ harps, Divinest, grant
Themes worthy their immortal vaunt;

XX
Else must our weeping strings presume
To celebrate in strains of woe,
The justice of some signal blow
That strikes thee to the tomb.

The Old Playhouse

In honor of Durga Puja, we present this work by one of modern India’s most evocative poets.

z 10-13-21
Kamala Surayya
Indian
1934 – 2009

 

You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every
Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow
Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured

Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall. I remember the rudder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves. Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always

Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is
No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man’s technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For, love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted

By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.

My Young Days Were Oppressed with Cares

We present this work in honor of the 230th anniversary of the poet’s death.

10-12 Karsch
Anna Louisa Karsch
German
1722 – 1791

 

My young days were oppressed with cares,
On summer mornings I sat there,
Sighing my poor stammered song.
Not for a young man was my melody,
No! for God who the crowds of men does see
As if they were an anthill’s throng.
Without emotions, as I’ve often said,
Without affection, I was wed,
Became a mother, as in times of war
A young girl would not trust love’s bliss,

On whom a soldier forced his kiss,
Whose army reigned as conqueror.

Mrs. Tilscher’s Class

We present this work in honor of the International Day of the Girl.

10-11 Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy
Scots
b. 1955

 

You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.
Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswân.
That for an hour, then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.

This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweet shop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she’d left a good gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone’s nonsense heard from another form.

Over the Easter term, the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce,
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back home.

That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled,
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown,
as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.