The Flower and the Hummingbird

Esthela Calderón
Nicaraguan
b. 1970

 

“I have a hummingbird!”
said the flower.

He wraps me in his fine beak
and his wounding tongue.

Shakes me with the tireless beating of his wings.
I pulse in his rushing heart.
Sleep on the heights
of his forest.

As a flower,
I rest
on the blinding brightness
of his plumage.

My hummingbird
hurls himself against the bell tower of my body.
Rips petals from my flesh.
Invents a song
with the music of his unblinking eyes
and the fierceness of his flight.

He flies through the garden.

Comes and goes
among the flowered paths,
searching for the abyss
of bitter honey.

He dies and is reborn
where frost falls, covering the world
of my pollen.

Even If You are Not With Me

We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Mahmoud Mohammed Shaker
Egyptian
1909 – 1997

 

Even if you are not with me, the memories of you are with me.
My heart sees you, even if you are made vanished from my vision.
The eye sees who it loves but will end up losing the sight of them.
But the one who sees with their heart, will never lose the sight
(of the people they love).

Al-Sab’iniyya

In honor of Tisha B’Av, we present this work by one of the great Jewish poets of the early Renaissance.

Musa Ibn Tubi
Arab Andalusian
c. 1363

 

He who desires perfect happiness, must devote himself to study, by which means, if he prospers in his labours, he will obtain eternal life.

This is the reward of the good, and there is happiness to be gained, therefore waste not thy time, but strive to advance ere death overtakes thee.

Be thou even the greatest of men, yet keep aloof from those delighting only in vain pursuits.

Man is absorbed in worldly pleasures, his heart full of desires, but the gates of true happiness are closed for him, he stumbles blindly along a straight path.

He whose mind’s eye is opened, sees the contemptibility of this world; the sojourn in it is of short duration, miserable and evil.

Many spend their life in vanities, none of which can be retained either by him possessed of abundance, or by the indolent, or by the foolish.

They exchange their imperishable treasure for a phantom, they lack firmness, because they judge rashly.

It has been shown that intellect and ability are the highest parts of man; would that he appreciated those gifts!

If a man be wise and act judiciously, he perfects himself, and brings himself nearer to the Sublime Intellect.

A powerful combination was formed of two elements, divine and human, to which was given an upright form.

He who turns from wickedness will be inspired by the light of reason; but who is more unworthy, than he in whom evil preponderates?

Base desires pollute the soul; purify and return it to God.

Intoxicated with the poison of your passion, O people, ye are sunk in slumber, but soon ye must depart, either this day or the next.

What thinks the arrogant one? Does he not reflect that this world is but a bridge which all men alike must cross?

Awake from thy slumber and seek seclusion and peace; the exercise of man’s free will is followed by repentance, when his wickedness is of no avail.

Let not perishable things be pleasing to you, either fine raiment or grand dwellings; foolish it is thus to delay eternal prosperity.

Seek the mantle of wisdom through study and upright acts; your endeavours will thus be idealized, and you will attain the desired aim.

This is what is termed the Favour of God, by which you may hope to find Him. He who displeases God, sins greatly.

Leave vain ornaments and earthly matters, which turn you astray from truth, and strive after virtue.

A scholar cares not for worldly pleasures, nor does he find happiness in such desires, the spirit of knowledge is more powerful than earthly lusts.

Nothing is nobler than a lofty soul, and no pleasure is greater than that of learning; its delight is spiritual, all else is transitory.

He who has tasted of knowledge shall not conceal his learning, the ignorant man is of little account in this world, what shall he be in the next?

They who acquire wisdom escape the doom of annihilation; learning is a step on the ladder leading to heavenly realms.

Thou sayest: To understand this study, its essence should be first explained; what subjects dost thou counsel me to pursue?

Learn the science of Religion which is the root of human belief, then the science of Healing which restores a strong constitution to the body.

To understand what relates to the Primary Cause, Physics must be studied, after which Metaphysics form the most important subject and therefore should be studied afterwards.

Before however commencing these you must zealously pursue the science of Logic, the theories of which lead the way to the speculative sciences.

Through Astronomy you will acquire a knowledge of Geometry and the movements of the constellations of the heavenly bodies.

Endeavour to learn all these thoroughly, as through them man attains perfection. The study of other branches here omitted is not compulsory.

These seven classes of sciences are further subdivided, and having acquired them, happiness is in store for thee.

Let thy chief endeavour be to ascertain how to meet thy Creator. Show thyself humble, then will He find pleasure in thee, seeing the purity of thy character.

Think not that knowledge is exhaustible, or that there is any part of it which can give content; yet strive to illuminate by study the darkness of thy mind.

Hast thou reached this limit then isolate thyself, meditate and sharpen thy intellect while thy thoughts are pure.

Learning in combination with a devout life is the truest approach to God and the truest worship of Him. The love of this world shows but an ignoble spirit.

Thou demandest: “How can I master all these subects?” Begin, bestir thyself and withdraw from mankind.

Endeavour gradually to raise thyself, and abandon ignorance and shame, in avoiding these thou reachest the incomparable standard.

Thy good or ill fortune will depend on thy approximation to God. Listen to the advice of thy friend, if thou wilt derive benefit from his friendship.

When thou hast attained this standard, God will open for thee the gate which leads to the Creating Intellect. He will bestow gifts on thee, but the choicest treasure will be thy connection with Him.

This is the opinion of philosophers and theologians of different sects, and none will be found to oppose this view.

Follow the common advice of these and be guided by it, hear and be obedient. Entreat God himself to explain to thee what is hidden,

That He may inspire those who delight in study and devote themselves to it. This well planned order is His work and the result of His All powerful wisdom.

Every wise man is anxious to learn and to gain accomplishments, but when the fool hears them spoken of, he considers them full of deceit.

Children must not partake of rich food, and honey is disliked by the sick. He who has a malady of the eye, shuns the glaring light of the sun.

All this is said allegorically, and I will not speak in plain language; my intention being that it should come to you in a strange guise, not correct in form and as a sort of jest.

My style is enigmatic, and my words are but hints to students. He who understands them must be distinguished by philosophical learning.

Thou shouldst know how to reply to him who questions thee concerning the author of the Principles the simple substance and the other elements.

The sky is a simple body, Substance is likewise a unity; the natural consequence is that God is also a unity.

He who would acknowledge this, must understand what is meant by Unity, but he who misinterprets it, denies the existence of God.

The abstraction from a multitude is one; and what cannot be otherwise described; what can be divided cannot be a unity but is a quantity.

One is what cannot be counted, but is absolute simplicity; this is the Primary Cause in the chain of evolutions.

He represents the limit of all forms, and is the finality of all that is final. His power is infinite and eternal over all things.

All that moves has a moving power which is again set in motion by another; this continues till an immovable motor is encountered.

He is the author of all origin, all that exists commences with him and progresses with unbroken continuity.

There are two general principles for all existing things which are to be found not only in the essence, but also in the matter.

The local movements are three on account of three starting points; three is the most perfect number and the first complete one.

The trinity must be denied to him who is above the three. A triplet of judges was instituted lest an error should arise in judgment.

The Beginning further comprises four, from the division and addition of which all things are formed. All that exists partakes of them, and the dissolution of them means death.

Upon careful consideration I find five beginnings, my fulcrum is proved by logical demonstration.

Every thing that moves can turn in six directions, every side has an opposite one, but the best movement is that above.

Every living thing can move itself in six different manners, but inanimate objects cannot move themselves. A plant has two movements and heavenly beings have six.

When thou hast reached seven, then thou findest seven planets in their seven spheres with forward and backward movements.

Also seven climates and seven metals; the limits of the principles with respect to physical matters are thus seven.

The influence of the moon on every seventh day is universally known, through natural and astronomical researches.

The crisis of illnesses takes place on the seventh day, and no physician can prevent it; in short seven has the upper hand in all things.

I must here also mention the observance of the seventh day, the importance of the seventh month and the release of the slave in the seventh year.

The days of the feast are seven, between them are seven times seven days; the lambs of the feast offerings are seven, how greatly is this number distinguished!

Aristotle says: He who gives the advice to obey nature, gives the best law and regulations.

He made this observation reflecting that the chief law in its practical and philosophical sense is divine.

I do not say that these lines are devoid of proofs, they come from the gate of wisdom.

These are metaphysical problems which I have treated in a number of books; only a few highly cultured ones will understand them, they concern God’s first creating command.

Take seven, and seven times seven, and seven, then add again seven, then thou hast Seventy.

Finished is the Sab’iniyya and praise be to God.

Translation by Hartwig Hirschfeld

One Day, Early in the Morn’

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 95th birthday.

Turgut Uyar
Turkish
1927 – 1985

 

Let’s say I knock on your door early one morning,
And wake you up:
That is, the fog still hasn’t lifted off the Golden Horn
The ferry boats are blowing off their horns
It’s still the wee hours of the dawn
The bridge would still be up.
If I knock on your door one day early in the morn’ …
Let’s say my trip has taken me a while
The train has crossed over iron bridges in the night
Villages on top of the mountains with five or ten houses,
Telegraph poles along the route
They were running to keep up with us.
Let’s say I sang songs out from the window
Let’s say I kept dozing off and waking up again
My ticket was third class,
So much for poverty.
Let’s say I couldn’t afford that meerschaum necklace,
So I bought you an apple from Sapanca.
“Haydarpasa here I come,” is how I arrived
The ferry boat shimmering at the pier,
Somewhat of a chill in the air,
The sea smelling tar and fishes
Let’s say I crossed to the other side with a row boat from the bridge
In a single breath I climbed up our hill…
If I knock on your door in the wee hours of one morn’
“Who is it?” you’d ask sleepily from the other side
Your hair mussed up, still feeling groggy
God knows how beautiful you’d look my love,
If I knock on your door early one morning,
And wake you up from your sleep,
That is, the fog still hasn’t lifted off the Golden Horn
The factory whistles are blowing.

Translation by Ugur Akinci

The Gumsucker’s Dirge

Joseph Furphy
Australian
1843 – 1912

 

Sing the evil days we see, and the worse that are to be,
In such doggerel as dejection will allow,
We are pilgrims, sorrow-led, with no Beulah on ahead,
No elysian Up the Country for us now.

For the settlements extend till they seem to have no end;
Spreading silently, you can’t tell when or how;
And a home-infested land stretches out on every hand,
So there is no Up the Country for us now.

On the six-foot Mountain peak, up and down the dubious creek,
Where the cockatoos alone should make a row,
There the rooster tears his throat, to announce with homely note,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

Where the dingo should be seen, sounds the Army tambourine,
While the hardest case surrenders with a vow;
And the church-bell, going strong, makes us feel we’ve lived too long,
Since there is no Up the Country for us now.

And along the pine-ridge side, where the mallee-hen should hide,
You will see some children driving home a cow;
Whilst, ballooning on a line, female garniture gives sign,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

Here, in place of emu’s eggs, you will find surveyors’ pegs,
And the culvert where there ought to be a slough;
There, a mortise in the ground, shows the digger has been round,
And has left no Up the Country for us now.

And across this fenced-in view, like our friend the well-sung Jew,
Goes the swaggy, with a frown upon his brow,
He is cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d, for the thought is on his mind,
That there is no Up the Country for him now.

And the boy that bolts from home has no decent place to roam,
No region with adventure to endow,
But his ardent spirit cools at the sight of farms and schools,
Hence, there is no Up the Country for him now.

Such a settling, spreading curse must infallibly grow worse,
Till the saltbush disappears before the plough,
But the future, evil-fraught, is forgotten in the thought,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

We must do a steady shift, and devote our minds to thrift,
Till we reach at length the standard of the Chow,
For we’re crumpled side by side in a world no longer wide,
And there is no Up the Country for us now.

Better we were cold and still, with our famous Jim and Bill,
Beneath the interdicted wattle-bough,
For the angels made our date five-and-twenty years too late,
And there is no Up the Country for us now.

Culloden Moor (Seen in Autumn Rain)

Alice MacDonell
Scots
1854 – 1938

 

Full of grief, the low winds sweep
O’er the sorrow-haunted ground;
Dark the woods where night rains weep,
Dark the hills that watch around.

Tell me, can the joys of spring
Ever make this sadness flee,
Make the woods with music ring,
And the streamlet laugh for glee?

When the summer moor is lit
With the pale fire of the broom,
And through green the shadows flit,
Still shall mirth give place to gloom?

Sad shall it be, though sun be shed
Golden bright on field and flood;
E’en the heather’s crimson red
Holds the memory of blood.

Here that broken, weary band
Met the ruthless foe’s array,
Where those moss-grown boulders stand,
On that dark and fatal day.

Like a phantom hope had fled,
Love to death was all in vain,
Vain, though heroes’ blood was shed,
And though hearts were broke in twain.

Many a voice has cursed the name
Time has into darkness thrust,
Cruelty his only fame
In forgetfulness and dust.

Noble dead that sleep below,
We your valour ne’er forget;
Soft the heroes’ rest who know
Hearts like theirs are beating yet.

Loyal

We present this work in honor of the Canadian holiday, Civic Day.

Sarah Anne Curzon
Canadian
1833 – 1898

 

O Ye, who with your blood and sweat
Watered the furrows of this land,—
See where upon a nation’s brow
In honour’s front, ye proudly stand!

Who for her pride abased your own,
And gladly on her altar laid
All bounty of the older world,
All memories that your glory made.

And to her service bowed your strength,
Took labour for your shield and crest;
See where upon a nation’s brow
Her diadem, ye proudly test!

Mortally Wounded

Claribel Alegria
Nicaraguan
1924 – 2018

 

When I woke up
this morning
I knew you were
mortally wounded
that I was too
that our days were numbered
our nights
that someone had counted them
without letting us know
that more than ever
I had to love you
you had to love me.
I inhaled your fragrance
I watched you sleeping
I ran the tips of my fingers
over your skin
remembered the friends
whose quota was filled
and are on the other side:
the one who died
a natural death
the one who fell in combat
the one they tortured
in jail
who kicked aside his death.
I brushed your warmth
with my lips:
mortally wounded
my love
perhaps tomorrow
and I loved you more than ever
and you loved me as well.

Translation by Darwin J. Flakoll

The Liberation of Moscow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 265th birthday.

Dmitry Khvostov
Russian
1757 – 1835

 

Inhabitant of hilly Olympus—
Kheraskov! Inspired by Phoebus,
Heralded conversant of the Muses;
The sounds of your immortal lyre
Proclaiming Moscow’s arduous captivity
Yet once again elicit the tears of the Slavs.
They, both loudly and harmoniously,
Depict for us the indomitable spirit
Of our ancestors, dauntless in adversity,
To leaven our recent sorrows’ load.

Moscow! Vicious Napoleon,
Hungrier than Attila, came to embody
For the world an epitome of brutality;
All the hayfields covered with corpses,
Death, fire, looting proceed unimpeded,
A shrine in the woods our only guidance;
Rattled and shaken by Hell’s own breath,
Kremlin itself is severed from the earth
And racing through the expanse of air,
Strikes the appearance of a fiery fortress.

The chronicler will document
The dastardly deeds of these latter days;
Progeny will give no credence to the bard,
Believing his tale a work of imagination.
Both the one and the other will represent
That the Grand Caesar of the white lands,
Having shifted the North after himself,
Routing, trammeled the treacherous enemy,
And the Russian is erasing with his mighty hand
All trace of indecency from the face of the earth.

Translation by Alex Cigale