Morning

Duo Duo
Chinese
b. 1951

 

It’s morning or any time, it’s morning.
You dream of waking up, you’re afraid of waking up
so you say: you’re afraid of ropes, afraid of women with faces of birds, so
you dream of your father
speaking bird words, drinking bird milk.
You dream of your father as a bachelor
who by chance, not in a dream
had you, you dream the dream your father dreamed.
You dream that your father says: this is a dream a dead man dreamed.

You don’t believe but you’re inclined to believe
this is a dream, only a dream, and it’s yours:
it was once the handlebar of a bicycle keeping the shape squeezed by a hand.
Now it droops from your father’s belly.
It was once a son refusing to be born.
Now it’s you
crawling back to that handlebar. You’ve dreamed of all the details
like the teeth your father dropped on the ground, glittering
and laughing at you.
So you are not the death
but merely a case of death: you’ve dreamed your dream’s death.

Profit and Loss

Julio Cortázar
Argentine
1914 – 1984

 

I’m lying again, with grace,
I bow respectfully before the mirror
reflecting my collar and tie.
I believe I am that gentleman who goes out
every morning at nine.
The gods are dead one by one in long lines
of paper and cardboard.
I don’t miss anything, I don’t even
miss you. I feel a little hollow, but it’s just
a drum: skin on either side.
Sometimes you return in the evening, when I’m reading
things that put me to sleep: the news,
the dollar and the pound, United Nations
debates. It feels like
your hand stroking my hair. But I don’t miss you!
It’s just that little things are suddenly missing
and I might like to seek them out: like happiness,
and the smile, that furtive little creature
no longer living between my lips.

Moonlight

Vita Sackville-West
English
1892 – 1962

 

What time the meanest brick and stone
Take on a beauty not their own,
And past the flaw of builded wood
Shines the intention whole and good,
And all the little homes of man
Rise to a dimmer, nobler span;
When colour’s absence gives escape
To the deeper spirit of the shape,

— Then earth’s great architecture swells
Among her mountains and her fells
Under the moon to amplitude
Massive and primitive and rude:

— Then do the clouds like silver flags
Stream out above the tattered crags,
And black and silver all the coast
Marshalls its hunched and rocky host,
And headlands striding sombrely
Buttress the land against the sea,
— The darkened land, the brightening wave —
And moonlight slants through Merlin’s cave.

Home

We present this work in honor of Eid-al-Adha.

Leila Kasra
Persian
1939 – 1989

 

Still, on the boughs of the trees, there are only crows
Ah, The flowers are withered
There is a madman in the garden
My heart is like a goblet of fire
My body is like a stove (burns so bad)
But there is not even a light in the whole world
There is not even a light, there is not even a light

I came from the other side of the world to this place
Don’t tell me the world is beautiful, I don’t see that
Still, there is sorrow in my heart, it is a strong torment
Don’t tell me not to cry
Don’t tell me life is short

Which nocturnal mourn? Which nightly summon?
Which spell and magic? Which romantic prayer?
From this side of the world to that side of the world
Would lead me to my home, would lead me to my beloved
Would lead me to my beloved, would lead me to my beloved

Which way? Which road?
Which tear? Which moan?
Which cloud and which zenith?
Which tide and which moon?
From this side of the world to that side of the world
Would lead me to my home, would lead me to my beloved

Still, caravan of love doesn’t reach its destination
We are drowned and our voice doesn’t reach the shore
Doesn’t reach the shore

Still, there are tears in my eyes
My stare is at the road (waiting for the beloved one)
There is no sun, no moon
How dark is the world! How dark is the world!

Which way? Which road?
Which tear? Which moan?
Which cloud and which zenith?
Which tide and which moon?
From this side of the world to that side of the world
Would lead me to my home, would lead me to my beloved

The Garden

In honor of the Moroccan holiday, Enthronement, we present this work by one of Morocco’s great living poets.

Abdelkarim Tabbal
Moroccan
b. 1931

 

Once this green grass
spoke love to me
whispered to me inside my feet
and so I fell in the lap of greenery
besieged in perfume
drinking the wine of wine
Once it sought to find inside my body
the stem
within my voice
the branches
in my wanderings
the shadows
It grew high in me and I in it
It clung to my mirror
At our reunion it adorned itself
with what is in the water
and in the sun
and in the music
and the dream
Stones summoned life’s passion
Life’s breath was roused. Children.
The voluptuous wind
vents its anger at me
The river nymph and I
sneak away to our secret place
and there she reveals the birth of trees
discloses the secrets of the garden to be
But who of you, travellers
from night to night
tattle-tales
of the sea and its waves
enemies of the flowers
Who of you
trampled the heart
leaving behind only ruins
only the chaff scattering about in forgetfulness?
You can do nothing
The seed is lodged safely in the depths.

Spring 1946

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

Elisabeth Langgässer
German
1899 – 1950

 

(for Cordelia)

So you return
My sweet Anemone –
All brilliant stamen, calyx, crown –
Making it worth the devastation,
Like Nausicaa?

Windblown and bowing –
Wave and spray and light –
What whirling joy at last
Has lifted up this weight
From shoulders bent with dust?

Now I arise
Out of the toad’s domain –
Pluto’s reddish glare still under my eyelids –
And the hideous pipe of the guide to the dead
Still in my ears.

I have seen the iron gleam
In the Gorgon’s eye.
I have heard the hiss, the whisper,
The rumor that she would kill me:
It was a lie.

Anemone, my daughter,
Let me kiss your face: it is
Unmirrored by the waters
Of Lethe or the Styx.
And innocent of no or not.

And see, you are alive
And here – there’s no deception –
And quiet in the way you touch my heart
Yet do not rake its fires –
My child, my Nausicaa!

Of Dying Beauty

Louis Zukofsky
American
1904 – 1978

 

“Spare us of dying beauty,” cries out Youth,
“Of marble gods that moulder into dust—
Wide-eyed and pensive with an ancient truth
That even gods will go as old things must.”

Where fading splendor grays to powdered earth,
And time’s slow movement darkens quiet skies,
Youth weeps the old, yet gives new beauty birth
And molds again, though the old beauty dies.

Time plays an ancient dirge amid old places
Where ruins are a sign of passing strength,
As is the weariness of aged faces
A token of a beauty gone at length.

Yet youth will always come self-willed and gay—
A sun-god in a temple of decay.

Peaceful Garden

In honor of Revolution Day, we present this work by one of Egypt’s great modern poets.

Abbas al-Aqqad
Egyptian
1889 – 1964

 

My garden stretches under death’s shadow,
But life moistens it with dew of golden fallow.
A sieve dissipates clouds of miasmic grit
Protecting trees from its noxious flit.
Birds bearing an air of melancholy
Dream to soar with drunken jolly.
My heart finds itself, in all this abundance
Smelling scents of such soft fragrance.
Like an eye at night, awake it tries to keep
But falls to fatigue, overcome by sleep.
From one state to another, a faraway distraction
grips it, and then awakens renewed attraction.
A dream, through its vision, becomes reality
Caressed by tenderness and much dexterity.
Thus, as a dream, beauty is detected
When at night its gilded veil is ejected.
Heaven’s gift, this land with furrows plowed.
To solitary souls its great bounty allowed.
Fresh and light, winds gentle and restful
Blown from another world seem so peaceful.
Here, ghosts of all stripes meet
Lost souls remorseful in defeat.
Let’s hope the respite that is our fate’s master
Unites at once those here and in the hereafter.
Before the last breath, to what aim
To whine? to worry? An effort so lame.

The Victoria Falls

Muriel Spark
Scots
1918 – 2006

 

So hushed, so hot, the broad Zambesi lies
Above the Falls, and on her weedy isles
Swing antic monkeys swarm malignant flies,
And seeming-lazy lurk long crocodiles.

But somewhere down the river does the hush
Become a sibilance that hints a sigh,
A murmur, mounting as the currents rush
Faster, and while the murmur is a cry

The cry becomes a shout, the shout a thunder
Until the whole Zambesi waters pour
Into the earth’s side, agitating under
Infinite spray mists, pounding the world’s floor.

Wrapped in this liquid turmoil who can say
Which is the mighty echo, which the spray?

Almost Winter

In honor of the Japanese holiday, Marine Day, we present this work by an author considered the soul of modern Japanese poetry.

Katsue Kitasono
Japanese
1902 – 1978

 

winter rain
shines on
slight moss
like on damask

I put on deer
armor
and sit in a
narrow hallway

with the passing days
thoughts are light
bright
and futile

one bitter drop
contained
as in a Chinese bowl
cold and futile there is nothing

there is nothing
I should know by now
also, no books
and no visitors