Who Buys My Thoughts

Dennis Osadebay
Nigerian
1911 – 1994

 

Who buys my thoughts
Buys not a cup of honey
That sweetens every taste;
He buys the throb,
Of Young Africa’s soul,
The soul of teeming millions,
Hungry, naked, sick,
Yearning, pleading, waiting.

Buys not false pretence
Of oracles and tin gods;
He buys the thoughts
Projected by the mass
Of restless youths who are born
Into deep and clashing cultures,
Sorting, questioning, watching.

Who buys my thoughts
Buys the spirit of the age,
The unquenching fire that smoulders
And smoulders
In every living heart
That’s true and noble or suffering;
It burns all o’er the earth,
Destroying, chastening, cleansing.

Life is Fleeting

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

Maria Luisa Carnelli
Argentine
1898 – 1987

 

Life is fleeting,
is fleeting and will never return.
Listen to my advice:
if a rich man promises you a good life,
you must accept it.
Life is fleeting, fleeting,
and not even God will stop it.
The best you can do
is to enjoy life and forget your sorrows and pains.
The days and the years elapse
and happiness is elusive.
You must not think
either of suffering or of virtue:
you must fully live your youth.

I Am a Jew

We present this work in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Itzik Feffer
Russian
1900 – 1952

 

The generations-old wine has strengthened
me in my wanderings. The angry sword of
pain and sorrow has not destroyed my
treasure.

My people, my faith and my flowering—it
has not chained my freedom. From under
the sword I’ve cried out: I am a Jew!

The clever twists of Rabbi Akiva, the wis-
dom of Isaiah’s words nourishing my thirst
and my love, and fought against hate.

The zest of the Maccabbean heroes and Bar
Kokhba’s blood boils in mine. From all the
burnings at the stake I’ve cried out: I am a
Jew!

And may my enemies be pierced by spears,
those who are preparing a grave for me. Be-
neath the flag of freedom I’ll yet have no
end of pleasure. I’ll plant my vineyards and
be the architect of my fat. I’ll yet dance on
my enemies graves. I am a Jew!

Native-Born

We present this work in honor of Australia Day.

Eve Langley
Australian
1904 – 1974

 

In a white gully among fungus red
Where serpent logs lay hissing at the air,
I found a kangaroo. Tall dewy,dead,
So like a woman, she lay silent there.
Her ivory hands, black-nailed, crossed on her breast
Her skin of sun and moon hues, fallen cold
her brown eyes lay like rivers come to rest
And death had made her black mouth harsh and old
Beside her in the ashes I sat deep
And mourned for her, but had no native song
To flatter death, while down the ploughlands steep
Dark young Camelli whistled loud and long,
‘Love, liberty and Italy are all.’
Broad golden was his breast against the sun
I saw his wattle whip rise high and fall
Across the slim mare’s flanks, and one by one
She drew the furrows after her as he
Flapped like a gull behind her, climbing high
Chanting his oaths and lashing soundingly,
While from the mare came once a blowing sigh.
The dew upon the kangaroo’s white side
Had melted. Time was whirling high around,
Like the thin woomera, and from heaven wide
He, the bull-roarer, made continuous sound
Incarnate lay my country by my hand:
Her long hot days, bushfires, and speaking rains
Her mornings of opal and the copper band
Of smoke around the sunlight on the plains.
Globed in fire-bodies the meat- ants ran
to taste her flesh and linked us as we lay,
Forever Australian, listening to a man
From careless Italy, swearing at our day.
When golden-lipped, the eagle-hawks came down
Hissing and whistling to eat of lovely her
And the blowflies with their shields of purple brown
Plied hatching to and fro across her fur,
I burnt her with the logs, and stood all day
Among the ashes, pressing home the flame
Till woman, logs and dreams were scorched away
And native with the night, that land from whence they came.

The Last Waltz

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

Alden Nowlan
Canadian
1933 – 1983

 

The orchestra playing
the last waltz
at three o’clock
in the morning
in the Knights of Pythias Hall
in Hartland, New Brunswick,
Canada, North America,
world, solar system,
centre of the universe—

and all of us drunk,
swaying together
to the music of rum

and a sad clarinet:

comrades all,
each with his beloved.

Ship from the Thames

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.

Rex Ingamells
Australian
1913 – 1955

 

Stay, ship from Thames with fettered sails
in Sydney Cove, this ebb of tide;
your gear untangled from the gales,
imprisoned at your anchor ride.

The portly gentleman who are
the pillars of the land come down
and greet the Newcomes voyaged far
to make a name in Sydney town.

The Recoats, too with shouldered arms,
marshal pale wretches from the hold,
who, cramped in tempest and in calms
have learned to do as they are told.

Flash phaetons fill the streets to-day;
inn-tables rock to sailor fists;
the Governor, while the town is gay,
checks over new assignment lists.

Aloof, the slandered and abhorred
behold from of a quarried rise,
the cause of all the stir aboard
a fiercer glitter in their eyes.

Oh sisters, Honor Lies in Independence

Zandokht Shirazi
Persian
1909 – 1953

 

Oh, women of this land!
There is no life, nothing.
This is nothing
but failure and grief.
Death for us is hundred times
Better than such a life.
This life is nothing
But a symbol of slavery.
Beware, women of this land!
Be friends to one another!
Dissolve your links with men!
Why do you take on the name of
Your husband, though you have
A name of your own?

The Old Place

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

Hone Tuwhare
Kiwi
1922 – 2008

 

No one comes
by way of the doughy track
through straggly tea tree bush
and gorse, past the hidden spring
and bitter cress.

Under the chill moon’s light
no one cares to look upon
the drunken fence-posts
and the gate white with moss.

No one except the wind
saw the old place
maker her final curtsy
to the sky and earth:

and in no protesting sense
did iron and barbed wire
ease to the rust’s invasion
nor twang more tautly
to the wind’s slap and scream.

On the cream lorry
or morning paper van
no one comes,
for no one will ever leave
the golden city on the fussy train;
and there will be no more waiting
on the hill beside the quiet tree
where the old place falters
because no one comes anymore
no one.

Birdswing

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

Ivor Cutler
Scots
1923 – 2006

 

Got a letter
from a thrush.
Come and see
me compose.
So I went.
She stuck
her beak
into the ink
and sputtered
on to the manuscript.
Then sang it.
Tra la la
tweet tweet
warble warble
ptui ptui.
When she finished
I was asked
for an opinion.
With a grave look
I opined:
Well
it’s very good.
Regular thrush music
good range
plenty of variety
nice timbre.
Look Cutler
said thrush
do you think
it’s worth
making a demodisc
or a tape
and
going round the agents?
I think
it’s chart material.
Look thrush
I replied
it could only succeed
as a gimmick.
Yea, I suppose,
she tweeted
and flew
into a stump.

Out of Context

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Proclamation of Independence.

Touria Majdouline
Moroccan
b. 1960

 

I gather my confusion and my things
My steps
And the remaining illusions
Of my body
I run beyond time
Beyond the vacant air
And space

Yesterday I drew my open space here
And dreamed a lot
I sowed shade, and fruit, and crops around
And with flames I wrote my poems…
Yesterday
I had plenty of time
To embroider space with words.
But today
I am left with nothing
But my dejection
And the crumbs of yesterdays gone by

Thus I gather my things
I wrap myself up in my own confusion
And I run
I run beyond time
I propagate into the distance
With neither shade
Nor sun.

Translation by Abdellah Benlamine and Norddine Zouitni