Kindness on the Field

11-19 Pope
Robert J. Pope
Kiwi
1865 – 1949

 

Be kind to the hooker, or else in the scrum
Thy poor tender shins he will hack;
Or take the first chance that is offered to him
Of planting his foot in your back.
Be kind to the hooker, he’s hidden from view,
And can work his revenge in the dark,
So if you insult him, as sure as you’re born,
He’ll deprive you of some of your bark.

Be kind to the half-back, he’s nippy and sly,
And will grab you when rounding the scrum,
Or will collar you low, your heels up he’ll throw,
And bang on the ground you will come.
Be kind to the half-back, that watchful young man,
If you hurt him he’ll likely feel wild;
And if he should meet you again in the field,
You’d probably know why he smiled.

Be kind to the winger, or you he may prod
In the home of your afternoon tea;
He’s fond of a scrap, and won’t mind a rap
If your eye comes to grief on his knee.
Be kind to the winger, he’s out for a go,
And promptly pays all that he owes;
So be careful to give him no more than his due,
Or he’ll give you the change on your nose.

Be kind to three-quarters, they’re heady and strong,
And can run like their master, Old Nick;
So if you tread hard on their corns beg their pardon,
Or limp off the field with a rick.
Be kind to three-quarters again let me say,
For their hatred of roughness is such
That, if you should fend them, or neatly upend them,
You’ll travel henceforth on a crutch.

Be kind to the full-back or, when in his grip,
He’ll handle you roughly for sure.
He’s a virtuous fellow, and hates fast young men,
So take care that your language is pure.
Be kind to the full-back, ’tis kindness well spent,
Don’t approach this stern player with vim;
If to score you must try, put your collar-bone by –
A collarbone’s nothing to him.

Cliffs

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

11-18 Rankin
Jennifer Rankin
Australian
1941 – 1979

 

Where the cliff cleaves up
clean into the sky
I see my day cut through

and again another cliff

and again

cleaving up.

Then it is the faulting
the falling in folds
the going back into the sea.

And this day and again this day
and again days.

Birds fly in formation.
They jettison space
while at the cliff line
a twigged bush thinly etches away
the hard edge.

Cliffs heave in blue air

heaving and faulting
rising and falling
bird flight, twig etching,

cleaving up and folding back.

Earth

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 140th birthday.

11-16 O'Ferrall
Ernest O’Ferrall
Australian
1881 – 1925

 

The patient Earth spins on among the stars
Like an old lady in the Halls of Space,
Whose candles – set on Heaven’s window bars –
Wonder and wink at her excessive pace.

She mends Time’s garments with her age-long thread,
And patches Knowledge with forgotten lore
Dropped on the threshold by the ones who’ve fled
Out of this life through the grave’s narrow door.

On, on she spins with dignity and grace,
Crushing relentlessly our faintest hopes,
Whilst grave astronomers examine Space
For explanations, with long telescopes.

The Wind at intervals on air will croon
For her to spin to, but she goes on still,
When all is silent and the clown-faced Moon
Gazes and gapes above a sleeping hill.

I’ve often wondered why she never tires,
And why her candles – high on Heaven’s bars –
Don’t go right out like ordinary fires,
Or cheap gas-stoves – or threepenny cigars.

I Write for the Day

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 145th birthday.

11-15 Noailles
Anna de Noailles
French
1876 – 1933

 

I write for the day when I will no longer be here
To share how pleasure wept for joy – was air!
For carried into the future’s throng, my book
Should show how I loved life with a natural look.

Attentive to all toil, in dwellings as in pastures,
Every day I’ve traced a season’s changing contours:
Water, earth and a flaming torch uplifts
No corner quite so much as through my spirit’s gifts.

I’ve shown what I have seen, and what I’ve sensed,
With a heart for which the truth is no extravagance,
And now I have this yearning, as if for an affair,
To be, beyond death, loved, more loved than heretofore.

And that a young man, say, deep into what I’ve written,
Feels through me his heart: moved, astonished, smitten;
One who just erases all his commonplace amours,
Takes me to his breast, and tells me, I am yours!

Elegy for Alto

11-13 Okigbo
Christopher Okigbo
Nigerian
1932 – 1967

 

And the horn may now paw the air howling goodbye…
For the Eagles are now in sight:
Shadows in the horizon—
The robbers are here in black sudden steps of showers, of caterpillars—
The eagles have come again,
The eagles rain down on us—
Politicians are back in giant hidden steps of howitzers, of detonators—
The eagles descend on us,
Bayonets and cannons—
The robbers descend on us to strip us of our laughter, of our thunder—
The eagles have chosen their game,
Taken our concubines—
Politicians are here in this iron dance of mortars, of generators—

The eagles are suddenly there,
New stars of iron dawn;
So let the horn paw the air howling goodbye…
O mother mother Earth, unbind me; let this be my last testament; let this be
The ram’s hidden wish to the sword the sword’s secret prayer to the scabbard—

The robbers are back in black hidden steps of detonators—
For beyond the blare of sirened afternoons, beyond the motorcades;
Beyond the voices and days, the echoing highways; beyond the latescence
Of our dissonant airs; through our curtained eyeballs, through our shuttered sleep,
Onto our forgotten selves, onto our broken images; beyond the barricades
Commandments and edicts, beyond the iron tables, beyond the elephant’s
Legendary patience, beyond his inviolable bronze bust; beyond our crumbling towers—
Beyond the iron path careering along the same beaten track—
The glimpse of a dream lies smouldering in a cave, together with the mortally wounded birds.
Earth, unbind me; let me be the prodigal; let this be the ram’s ultimate prayer to the tether…

An old star departs, leaves us here on the shore
Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching;
The new star appears, foreshadows its going
Before a going and coming that goes on forever…

Facing It

We present this work in honor of Veterans’ Day.

11-11 Komunkyakaa
Yusef Komunyakaa
American
b. 1947

 

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

to al-Baghdadi, the pasha of Fez

11-08 Assaraj
Mohammed Ben Brahim Assarraj
Moroccan
1897 – 1955

 

To extinguish the coals smoldering in his heart
He makes a river spring through his eyelids, flooding his torso.
In fact, there are tears that in their very abundance ease the heart.
Let ours thus flow:
Better than anyone we do appreciate the scope of our misery.
To face such misfortune I turned toward patience,
But patience, itself impatient, abandoned me.
What is there more unbelievable than to see
Shepherds set themselves up as overlords and legislate?

Here’s a “weird one” who’s never had anything but rope as a belt,
An idiot who has ever only led sheep into the mountains,
And now he’s become the master of Fez!
He mistreats and tortures the city’s youthful elite:
In such extremities it is to God alone that one addresses one’s complaint,
From Him alone can deliverance come.
The echo of these calamities has crossed the borders:
Young people who are being sequestered, tortured, humiliated
Though they have committed no crime.
Let this coarse man be told that his whip
Makes ten million Moroccans groan:
There are those among them who keep silent, not knowing how to express their pain;
Others, to the contrary, who’ve had enough and who cry out—
They all suffer the pain that eats them up.
Can you imagine a sick person ignoring his pain?
They have not been subjected… while being subject.
Let’s suppose they’re at fault: their due then is a just
Judgment, one that doesn’t err because of blunders or excess.

For Efessos

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

11-02 Elytis
Oddyseas Elytis
Greek
1911 – 1996

 

Freely beside me the vineyards are running and unbridled
Remains the sky. Wildfires trade pinecones and one
Donkey bolts uphill
for a little cloud
St. Heracleitos’s day and something’s up
That even noses can’t diagnose:
Tricks of a shoeless wind snagging the hem
Of Fate’s nightgown and leaving
Us in the open air of capricorns exposed

Secretly I go with all the loot in my mind
For a life unbowed from the beginning. No candles no chandeliers
Only a gold anemone’s engagement for a diamond
Feeling its way to where? Asking what? Our moon’s half-
shadow needs
You to console even the graves
Homoethnic or not. The crux is that the scent of earth
Lost even to bloodhounds
With its weeds onions and creeks

Must be restored to its idiom

So what! A word contains you peasant of night’s green
Efessos! Forefather sulphur phosphorus your fourteenth generation
Inside the orange groves gold words
Sharing the scalpel’s chisel
Tents as yet unpitched
others midair
Lost poles suddenly grinding. Sermons
Rise from the seafloor of the facing coves
Twin scythes for theater or temple
Fresh valley springs and other curly streams
Of thus and so. If ever wisdom
Planned circles of clover and dog grass
Another world might live just as before
your fingerprint

Letters will exist. People will read and grab
History’s tail once more. Just let the vineyards gallop and the sky remain
Unbridled as children want it
With roosters and pinecones and blue kites flags
On Saint Heracleitos’s day
child’s is the kingdom.