Because You Loved Me

Maria Polydouri
Greek
1902 – 1930

 

I only sing because you loved me
in the past years.
And in sun, in summer’s prediction
and in rain and snow,
I only sing because you loved me.

Only because you held me in your arms
one night and you kissed my lips,
only for this I’m beautiful as wide open lily
and I still have a shiver in my soul,
only because you held me in your arms.

Only because your eyes looked at me
with the soul in the glance,
proudly I dressed the supreme
crown of my existence,
only because your eyes looked at me.

Only because as I was passing you noticed me
and from your glance I saw to pass
my lissome shadow as a dream
to play, to suffer,
only because as I was passing you noticed me

Because you called me shyly
and you reached after my hand
and you had in your eyes the blurring
– a complete love,
because you called me shyly.

Because, it liked only to you
that’s why my passing remained beautiful.
It was like you were following me where I was
as if you were passing somewhere close to me.
Because it liked only to you.

I was born only because you loved me,
my life was given for this.
In the graceless, unfulfilled life
my life was fulfilled.
I was born only because you loved me.

Only for your unique love
dawn gave to my hands roses.
So that I light your way for a moment
night filled my eyes with stars,
only for your unique love.

Only because you loved me so well
I lived in order to increase
your dreams, beautiful man that you set
and thus sweetly I die
only because you loved me so well.

To See Him Again

Gabriela Mistral
Chilean
1889 – 1957

 

Never, never again?
Not on nights filled with quivering stars,
or during dawn’s maiden brightness
or afternoons of sacrifice?

Or at the edge of a pale path
that encircles the farmlands,
or upon the rim of a trembling fountain,
whitened by a shimmering moon?

Or beneath the forest’s
luxuriant, raveled tresses
where, calling his name,
I was overtaken by the night?
Not in the grotto that returns
the echo of my cry?

Oh no. To see him again —
it would not matter where —
in heaven’s deadwater
or inside the boiling vortex,
under serene moons or in bloodless fright!

To be with him…
every springtime and winter,
united in one anguished knot
around his bloody neck!

Love Is Not All

We present this work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
American
1892 – 1950

 

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Burn the Bridges

Lionel Fogarty
Australian
b. 1958

 

You are vulnerable as glass are fall to peaces
When toiled of the stripping of our prides

You are restless in life
When we’ve born another to fight

All the bridges of your music will burn as soon
As you walk to the centre of our problems

You might have moved to our sacred rights
But your price is high in

Interest rates and then you prowl around
Unrespectful to all black familys homes

You are the dat watch protect and
Laugh as the blackfellas rise

The waiting for the sunrise is like waiting for a past
Of people to come and proclaim the land

But sitting here blocking out the unjustifiable sins
Sins are what you are doing

You Are Indispensable

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

Attilâ İlhan
Turkish
1925 – 2005

 

You are indispensable; how can you not know
that you’re like nails riveting my brain?
I see your eyes as ever-expanding dimensions.
You are indispensable; how can you not know
that I burn within, at the thought of you?

Trees prepare themselves for autumn;
can this city be our lost Istanbul?
Now clouds disintegrate in the darkness
as the street lights flicker
and the streets reek with rain.
You are indispensable, and yet you are absent …

Love sometimes seems akin to terror:
a man tires suddenly at nightfall,
of living enslaved to the razor at his neck.
Sometimes he wrings his hands,
expunging other lives from his existence.
Sometimes whichever door he knocks
echoes back only heartache.

A screechy phonograph is playing in Fatih …
a song about some Friday long ago.
I stop to listen from a vacant corner,
longing to bring you an untouched sky,
but time disintegrates in my hands.
Whatever I do, wherever I go,
you are indispensable, and yet you are absent …

Are you the blue child of June?
Ah, no one knows you—no one knows!
Your deserted eyes are like distant freighters …
perhaps you are boarding in Yesilköy?
Are you drenched there, shivering with the rain
that leaves you blind, beset, broken,
with wind-disheveled hair?

Whenever I think of life
seated at the wolves’ table,
shameless, yet without soiling our hands …
Yes, whenever I think of life,
I begin with your name, defying the silence,
and your secret tides surge within me
making this voyage inevitable.
You are indispensable; how can you not know?

The Brooch

Mririda n’Ait Attik
Moroccan
c. 1900 – c. 1940’s

 

Grandmother, grandmother,
Since he left I think only of him
And I see him everywhere
He gave me a fine silver brooch
And when I adjust my haїk on my shoulders,
When I hook its flap over my breasts,
When I take it off at night to sleep,
It’s not the brooch I see, but him!

My granddaughter, throw away the brooch.
You will forget him and your suffering will be over.

Grandmother, it’s over a month since I threw it away,
But it cut deeply into my hand.
I can’t take my eyes off the red scar:
When I wash, when I spin, when I drink—
And my thoughts still are of him!

My granddaughter, may Allah heal your pain!
The scar is not on your hand, but in your heart.

Nero

Khalil Mutran
Egyptian
1872 – 1949

 

That people which bestowed victory upon Nero
is more deserving of shame than he.
What was that Nero whom they worshipped?
He was coarse and ignorant,
A dwarf whom they raised on hight.
They crawled before him and he grew in arrogance.
They glorified him and extended his shadow
untill it filled the earth with crime.
They gave him of their power, so he
became a tyrant over them, and worse.
The ruler oppresses only when he has no fear
of the ruled revolting.
Some denounce Nero, But I, the nation;
had it defied him, retreat would have been his lot.
every nation creates its own Nero,
be he called “Caesar” or “Chosroes”.

The Fair Agnete

We present this work in honor of German Unity Day.

Agnes Miegel
German
1879 – 1964

 

When Sir Ulrich’s widow in church knelt to pray,
From the church yard toward her floated a lay.
The organ on high did cease to sound,
The priests and the boys all stood spellbound;
The congregation hearkened, old man, child and bride
To singing like a nightingale’s so fair, outside:
“Dear mother, in the church where the sexton’s bell rings,
Dear mother, hark outside how your daughter sings!
For I cannot come to you in the church—ah, nay,
Before the shrine of Mary I cannot kneel to pray,
For I have lost salvation in everlasting time,
For I wedded the waterman with all his black, black slime.
My children—they play in the lake with fishes fleet,
They have fins on their hands and fins on their feet,
Their little pearly frocks no sunlight ever dries,
Not death nor yet a dream can close my children’s eyes.—
Dear mother, oh, I beg of thee,
Lovingly, longingly:
Wilt thou and all thy servants pray
For my green-haired water-sprites alway,
Will ye pray to the saints and to our Lady kind,
By every church and every cross that on the fields ye find!
Dearest mother, I beseech thee so—
Every seven years I may hither go—
Unto the good priest tell,
The church door he shall open well—
That I may see the candle-light
And see the golden monstrance bright,
That my little children may be told
How the gleam of the Cup is like sunlight gold!”

The organ pealed when the voice sang no more,
And then they opened wide the door—
And while they all inside high mass were keeping,
A wave all white, so white, outside was leaping.

A Bonus

Elizabeth Smart
Canadian
1913 – 1986

 

That day i finished
A small piece
For an obscure magazine
I popped it in the box

And such a starry elation
Came over me
That I got whistled at in the street
For the first time in a long time.

I was dirty and roughly dressed
And had circles under my eyes
And far far from flirtation
But so full of completion
Of a deed duly done
An act of consummation
That the freedom and force it engendered
Shone and spun
Out of my old raincoat.

It must have looked like love
Or a fabulous free holiday
To the young men sauntering
Down Berwick Street.
I still think this is most mysterious
For while I was writing it
It was gritty it felt like self-abuse
Constipation, desperately unsocial.
But done done done
Everything in the world
Flowed back
Like a huge bonus.

Monologue of a Foreign Woman

Rosario Castellanos
Mexican
1925 – 1974

 

I came from far away. I’ve forgotten my own country
and I no longer understand the language they
use there for trade or work.
I’ve reached the mineral muteness of a statue.
Sloth, scorn and something
I can’t distinguish have defended me
from this language, that heavy jewel-studded
velvet that people where I live
use to cover their rags.

This land, like that other one of my childhood,
still bears on her face
a slave’s brand,
burned in by fire, injustice, and murder.
As a girl I slept to the hoarse crooning
of a black dove: a conquered race.
I hid beneath the blankets
because a huge animal
crouched out there in the dark, hungry
but patient as a stone.
Compared to him, what’s an ocean, a catastrophe,
or the bolt of love
or joy that annihilates us?

I mean
that I had to grow up fast
(before terror devoured me),
go away, keep a firm hand
on things and run my life.

I was still very young
when I spit on places the mob held sacred.
In crowds I was like a dog
that offends with its mange and copulation,
its startling bark in the midst
of a ritual or major ceremony.

So you,
although serious, was not entirely fatal.
I recovered, healed, and learned to gauge
the pulse of success, prestige,
honor, wealth, with a clever hand.
I possessed what the mediocre envy, the victors
dispute, but only one carries off.
It was mine but it was like eating foam
or passing my hand across the back of the wind.

Supreme pride is supreme renunciation.
I refused to become
a dead star
that takes on borrowed light to come alive.
Without a name or memories
I spin in spectral nakedness
in a brief domestic orbit.

But I still simmer
in the turbid imagination of others.
My presence has brought
a salty gust of adventure
to even this sleepy inland city.

When men look at me they remember that fate
is the great hurricane that splits branches,
uproots tall trees,
imposing merciless cosmic law
— above and beyond the meanness of humankind —
throughout its empire.

The women pick up my scent from afar, dreaming,
like draft animals when they smell
the brutal bolt of the storm.
for the elders
I fulfill that passive role
of the generator of legends.

At midnight I open wide the windows so anyone
keeping watch at night, meditating on death,
suffering the pangs of guilt,
or even the adolescent
(a burning pillow under his brow)
can question darkness through my being.

Enough. I’ve kept quiet more than I’ve told.
High mountain sun has tanned my hand
and on my fourth finger, “that points to the heart,”
as they say here,
I wear a golden ring with a carved seal.

A ring used
to identify corpses.