Love and the Gentle Heart

Dante Alighieri
Italian
1265 – 1321

 

Love and the gentle heart are one thing,
just as the poet says in his verse,
each from the other one as well divorced
as reason from the mind’s reasoning.

Nature craves love, and then creates love king,
and makes the heart a palace where he’ll stay,
perhaps a shorter or a longer day,
breathing quietly, gently slumbering.

Then beauty in a virtuous woman’s face
makes the eyes yearn, and strikes the heart,
so that the eyes’ desire’s reborn again,
and often, rooting there with longing, stays,

Till love, at last, out of its dreaming starts.
Woman’s moved likewise by a virtuous man.

Eternity Comes Down on the Side of Love

We present this work in honor of Morocco’s Proclamation of Independence.

Abdelmajid Benjelloun
Moroccan
b. 1944

 

I don’t love myself although I am my closest neighbor.

The image of a man leaping on the Moon is no more extraordinary than the immobile stone.

This man is ill. His illness is social. His illness is called hate. He lives, but takes care of himself by hating others.

This comic copies someone who doesn’t exist.

It’s the barque shows the waves in the sea.

Peace is not for export, war is.

There are curtesies rendered for lack for nobleness.

She brings me a glass of thirst. She drinks it with me.

My hands complete, O wonder, the stone in her breasts!

Rock drawings await me at a young girl’s. I must copy them onto my life. Whether she knows it or not.

Steps, sparks on the journey.

Silence, a side effect of the infinite.

Funny: the raindrop fallen on a tree keeps clinging to the branch before dropping to the ground.

A certain poet withdraws into the world.

What I love in this Flemish painter: he paints the inaudible.

A stone: feet planted in silence, head in immobility.

Inert, the stone can face the absolute.

Inertness rises from the stone like the very first dream.

For the stone, immobility is work.

I Have a Rendezvous with Life

We present this work in honor of the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Countee Cullen
American
1903 – 1946

 

I have a rendezvous with Life,
In days I hope will come,
Ere youth has sped, and strength of mind,
Ere voices sweet grow dumb.
I have a rendezvous with Life,
When Spring’s first heralds hum.
Sure some would cry it’s better far
To crown their days with sleep
Than face the road, the wind and rain,
To heed the calling deep.
Though wet nor blow nor space I fear,
Yet fear I deeply, too,
Lest Death should meet and claim me ere
I keep Life’s rendezvous.

In Muted Tone

We present this work in honor of the 125th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Paul Verlaine
French
1844 – 1896

 

Gently, let us steep our love
In the silence deep, as thus,
Branches arching high above
Twine their shadows over us.

Let us blend our souls as one,
Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies,
Evergreen, in unison
With the pines’ vague lethargies.

Dim your eyes and, heart at rest,
Freed from all futile endeavor,
Arms crossed on your slumbering breast,
Banish vain desire forever.

Let us yield then, you and I,
To the waftings, calm and sweet,
As their breeze-blown lullaby
Sways the gold grass at your feet.

And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

I’m the Girl Banned from Attending Christian Religion Classes

We present this work in honor of Coptic Christmas Day.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh
Egyptian
1984 – 2015

 

I’m the girl banned from attending Christian religion classes, and Sunday mass
Although I am a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus
In Train Station Square at the height of the morning
Even then, all the windows were open and the blood was racing the cars on the asphalt
The eyes of the girls were running in Heaven, catching the forbidden rocking chair.

I am the girl banned from love in the squares
I stood in the middle of the street and gathered in my hand the stars of the sky, individually,
And the sweat of the street vendors
The voices of beggars
And the people who love God as they damn this moment that the creatures of God approved
To crucifying Jesus naked in the crowded square on the clock arms as it declared one at noon
I, the girl banned from saying no, will never miss the dawn

The Three Kings

We present this work in honor of Three Kings Day.

Edith Nesbit
English
1858 – 1924

 

When the star in the East was lit to shine
The three kings journeyed to Palestine;

They came from the uttermost parts of earth
With long trains laden with gifts of worth.

The first king rode on a camel’s back,
He came from the land where the kings are black,

Bringing treasures desired of kings,
Rubies and ivory and precious things.

An elephant carried the second king,
He came from the land of the sun-rising,

And gems and gold and spices he bare
With broidered raiment for kings to wear.

The third king came without steed or train
From the misty land where the white kings reign.

He bore no gifts save the myrrh in his hand,
For he came on foot from a far-off land.

Now when they had travelled a-many days
Through tangled forests and desert ways,

By angry seas and by paths thorn-set
On Christmas Vigil the three kings met.

And over their meeting a shrouded sky
Made dark the star they had travelled by.

Then the first king spake and he frowned and said:
‘By some ill spell have our feet been led,

‘Now I see in the darkness the fools we are
To follow the light of a lying star.

‘Let us fool no more, but like kings and men
Each get him home to his land again!’

Then the second king with the weary face,
Gold-tinct as the sun of his reigning place,

Lifted sad eyes to the clouds and said,
‘It was but a dream and the dream is sped.

‘We dreamed of a star that rose new and fair,
But it sets in the night of the old despair.

‘Yet night is faithful though stars betray,
It will lead to our kingdoms far away.’

Then spake the king who had fared alone
From the far-off kingdom, the white-hung throne:

‘O brothers, brothers, so very far
Ye have followed the light of the radiant star,

‘And because for a while ye see it not
Shall its faithful shining be all forgot?

‘On the spirit’s pathway the light still lies
Though the star be hid from our longing eyes.

‘To-morrow our star will be bright once more
The little pin-hole in heaven’s floor–

‘The Angels pricked it to let it bring
Our feet to the throne of the new-born King!’

And the first king heard and the second heard
And their hearts grew humble before the third.

And they laid them down beside bale and beast
and their sleeping eyes saw light in the East.

For the Angels fanned them with starry wings
And the waft of visions of unseen things.

And the next gold day waned trembling and white
And the star was born of the waxing night.

And the three kings came where the Great King lay,
A little baby among the hay,

The ox and the ass were standing near
And Mary Mother beside her Dear.

Then low in the litter the kings bowed down,
They gave Him gold for a kingly crown,

And frankincense for a great God’s breath
and Myrrh to sweeten the day of death.

The Maiden Mother she stood and smiled
And she took from the manger her little child.

On the dark king’s head she laid His hand
And anger died at that dear command.

She laid His hand on the gold king’s head
And despair itself was comforted.

But when the pale king knelt in the stall
She heard on the straw his tears down fall.

And she stooped where he knelt beside her feet
And laid on his bosom her baby sweet.

And the king in the holy stable-place
Felt the little lips through the tears on his face.

Christ! lay Thy hand on the angry king
Who reigns in my breast to my undoing,

And lay thy hands on the king who lays
The spell of sadness on all my days,

And give the white king my soul, Thy soul,
Of these other kings the high control.

That soul and spirit and sense may meet
In adoration before Thy feet!

Now Glory to God the Father Most High,
And the Star, the Spirit, He leads us by.

And to God’s dear Son, the Babe who was born
And laid in the manger on Christmas morn!

La Felicidad

Agripina Samper Agudelo
Colombian
1833 – 1892

 

I have children and a husband… I have more;
I have a loving and affectionate mother,
Brothers who love me and whom I love,
And instead of the false glitter of wealth
I have a modest and tranquil home

In another time my fervent heart
Dreamed restlessly, and I lived on the dream,
Fantastic chimeras night and day,
Delusions crowded in… I dreamed anyway
But then the horizon cleared,
The dark cloud turned to dawn,
Calm returned to my heart, and now
The present ensures my future

Alone at another time, like an errant bird
That crosses desert sands,
And after long mortal years of anxiety,
Arrived at the oasis it had faithfully sought;
Feeling myself finally free of fatigue,
And if I cast a look to the past,
It is only to bring it from burdensome effusion
To rest it on my present love.

Against This Death

We present this work in honor of the 15th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Irving Layton
Canadian
1912 – 2006

 

I have seen respectable
death
served up like bread and wine
in stores and offices,
in club and hostel,
and from the streetcorner
church
that faces
two ways
I have seen death
served up
like ice.

Against this death,
slow, certain:
the body,
this burly sun,
the exhalations
of your breath,
your cheeks
rose and lovely,
and the secret
life
of the imagination
scheming freedom
from labour
and stone.

Love

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Eva Stritmatter
German
1930 – 2011

 

How terrible was the flame
In which together we once burned
In the end an ember remains
And the usual happens, even to us.
That’s not ash, that last trace of fire
Shows our daily work. And how precious
this tiny bit of warmth, I learned
in this worst year
of all my years.
Should another winter like this come
and another such snow fall upon me
Only this warmth can save me
from death. What else
should hold me? What remains of our Love:
We had each other. No grass
will grow over us, no stone
so long as this ember glows.

So long as there’s an ember
there might be fire…