A Breeze from the Land of Peace

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 95th birthday.

09-21 Moshiri
Fereydoon Moshiri
Persian
1926 – 2000

 

Indeed, if someday, someone asks me,
“During your time on Earth, what did you do?”
I’ll open my book of verse before him,
I’ll hold my head up, laughing and crying,
I’ll say that this seed is “newly sown,”
It needs time to come to fruition and bloom.

Under this vast cerulean sky,
With all my might, in very song,
I evoked the revered name of love.
Perhaps, by this weary voice,
An oblivious someone was awakened,
Somewhere in the four corners of this world.

I praised kindness,
I battled against wickedness.

I suffered the “wilting of a single stem of flower,”
I grieved the “death of a caged canary,”
And, for people’s sorrows,
I died a hundred times a night.

I’m not ashamed if at times,
When one ought to have screamed from deep within,
With Jesus-like patience,
I kept my silence.

If I were to arm myself with a sword,
To fight against the ignorant,
Blame me not for taking the road to love.
A sword in hand implies,
A man may meet his demise.

We were passing through a bleak road,
Where the darkness of ignorance was devastating!
My belief in humanity was my torch!
The sword was in devil’s hand!
Words were my only weapon on this battlefield!

Even if my poetry could not kindle a fire in anyone’s mind,
My heart, like firewood, burned from both sides.
Read a page from my book of verse, and you may say:
Can anyone burn worse than him?!

Many endless nights, I did not sleep,
To retell humanity’s message from man to man,
In the thorny land of animosity,
My words were a breeze from the land of peace.
But, perhaps, they should’ve been a mighty windstorm,
To uproot all this wickedness.

Our elders had advised us in the past:
“It is too late… too late…
The soul of the Earth is so dark,
Our strength, multiplied by hundred,
Is no more than a lonely cry in a desert so vast!”

“Another Noah, there must be,
Another great storm, too.”

“The world must be built anew,
New humans within it, too”

Yet, this patient, solitary man,
Carrying his backpack full of fervor,
Still strides along,
To draw a glimmer of light from the heart of this darkness,
He places the candle of a poem here and there,
He still hopes for the miracle that is man.

The Last Day

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

09-20 Seferis
Giorgos Seferis
Greek
1900 – 1971

 

The day was cloudy. No one could come to a decision;
a light wind was blowing. ‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ someone said.
A few slender cypresses nailed to the slope, and, beyond, the sea
grey with shining pools.
The soldiers presented arms as it began to drizzle.
‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ was the only decision heard.
And yet we knew that by the following dawn
nothing would be left to us, neither the woman drinking sleep at our side
nor the memory that we were once men,
nothing at all by the following dawn.

‘This wind reminds me of spring,’ said my friend
as she walked beside me gazing into the distance, ‘the spring
that came suddenly in the winter by the closed-in sea.
So unexpected. So many years have gone. How are we going to die?’

A funeral march meandered through the thin rain.

How does a man die? Strange no one’s thought about it.
And for those who thought about it, it was like a recollection from old chronicles
from the time of the Crusades or the battle of Salamis.
Yet death is something that happens: how does a man die?
Yet each of us earns his death, his own death, which belongs to no one else
and this game is life.

The light was fading from the clouded day, no one decided anything.
The following dawn nothing would be left to us, everything surrendered, even our hands,
and our women slaves at the springheads and our children in the quarries.
My friend, walking beside me, was singing a disjointed song:
‘In spring, in summer, slaves . . .’
One recalled old teachers who’d left us orphans.
A couple passed, talking:
‘I’m sick of the dusk, let’s go home,
let’s go home and turn on the light.’

Iron Wine

09-15 Ridge
Lola Ridge
Irish
1873 – 1941

 

The ore in the crucible is pungent, smelling like acrid wine,
It is dusky red, like the ebb of poppies,
And purple, like the blood of elderberries.
Surely it is a strong wine – juice distilled of the fierce iron.
I am drunk of its fumes.
I feel its fiery flux
Diffusing, permeating,
Working some strange alchemy…
So that I turn aside from the goodly board,
So that I look askance upon the common cup,

And from the mouths of crucibles
Suck forth the acrid sap.

The Dentist and the Crocodile

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

09-13 Dahl
Roald Dahl
Welsh
1916 – 1990

 

The crocodile, with cunning smile, sat in the dentist’s chair.
He said, “Right here and everywhere my teeth require repair.”
The dentist’s face was turning white. He quivered, quaked and shook.
He muttered, “I suppose I’m going to have to take a look.”
“I want you”, Crocodile declared, “to do the back ones first.
The molars at the very back are easily the worst.”
He opened wide his massive jaws. It was a fearsome sight—
At least three hundred pointed teeth, all sharp and shining white.
The dentist kept himself well clear. He stood two yards away.
He chose the longest probe he had to search out the decay.
“I said to do the back ones first!” the Crocodile called out.
“You’re much too far away, dear sir, to see what you’re about.
To do the back ones properly you’ve got to put your head
Deep down inside my great big mouth,” the grinning Crocky said.
The poor old dentist wrung his hands and, weeping in despair,
He cried, “No no! I see them all extremely well from here!”
Just then, in burst a lady, in her hands a golden chain.
She cried, “Oh Croc, you naughty boy, you’re playing tricks again!”
“Watch out!” the dentist shrieked and started climbing up the wall.
“He’s after me! He’s after you! He’s going to eat us all!”
“Don’t be a twit,” the lady said, and flashed a gorgeous smile.
“He’s harmless. He’s my little pet, my lovely crocodile.”

The Young Nation

09-12 Machado
Antonio Machado
Spanish
1875 – 1939

 

It was a time of infamy and lies.
The nation itself was dressed up
like a squalid clown to draw
attention away from our wound.

That was then. We were young:
bad weather, worse omens,
we had nightmares in our hair
as the sea swelled with wrecks.

We swore we would abandon ship.
We said that we would sail away on
a silver galleon, eschewing the shore,
rudder and sail charging to the sea.

Even in the loss of that dream—
the debt from a century of failure—
we still sought the light as sacred
ideals drowned in this confusion.

Led by our anxious convictions,
we flexed, we preened, we abandoned
armor as clean as a mirror. We said,
“It’s bad, but tomorrow will be mine.”

Today is that tomorrow. The nation
is dancing in faux gold, faux fur,
twisted as an oak and drunk
on wine like blood from a sore.

Listen. If the will to change comes,
chase it. When the fire comes,
wake up, wake and let it fill you up
the way light burns inside a diamond.

What Work Is

We present this work in honor of Labor Day.

09-06 Levine
Philip Levine
American
1928 – 2015

 

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

A Breakfast for Barbarians

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

09-01 MacEwan
Gwendolyn MacEwen
Canadian
1941 – 1987

 

my friends, my sweet barbarians,
there is that hunger which is not for food —
but an eye at the navel turns the appetite
round
with visions of some fabulous sandwich,
the brain’s golden breakfast
eaten with beasts
with books on plates

let us make an anthology of recipes,
let us edit for breakfast
our most unspeakable appetites —
let us pool spoons, knives
and all cutlery in a cosmic cuisine,
let us answer hunger
with boiled chimera
and apocalyptic tea,
an arcane salad of spiced bibles,
tossed dictionaries —
(O my barbarians
we will consume our mysteries)

and can we, can we slake the gaping eye of our desires?
we will sit around our hewn wood table
until our hair is long and our eyes are feeble,
eating, my people, O my insatiates,
eating until we are no more able
to jack up the jaws any longer —

to no more complain of the soul’s vulgar cavities,
to gaze at each other over the rust-heap of cutlery,
drinking a coffee that takes an eternity —
till, bursting, bleary,
we laugh, barbarians, and rock the universe —
and exclaim to each other over the table
over the table of bones and scrap metal
over the gigantic junk-heaped table:

by God that was a meal

The Rebel

We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.

08-29 Islam
Kazi Nazrul Islam
Indian
1899 – 1976

 

Say, Valiant,
Say: High is my head!

Looking at my head
Is cast down the great Himalayan peak!
Say, Valiant,
Say: Ripping apart the wide sky of the universe,
Leaving behind the moon, the sun, the planets
and the stars
Piercing the earth and the heavens,
Pushing through Almighty’s sacred seat
Have I risen,
I, the perennial wonder of mother-earth!
The angry God shines on my forehead
Like some royal victory’s gorgeous emblem.
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!

I am irresponsible, cruel and arrogant,
I an the king of the great upheaval,
I am cyclone, I am destruction,
I am the great fear, the curse of the universe.
I have no mercy,
I grind all to pieces.
I am disorderly and lawless,
I trample under my feet all rules and discipline!
I am Durjati, I am the sudden tempest of ultimate summer,
I am the rebel, the rebel-son of mother-earth!
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!

I am the hurricane, I am the cyclone
I destroy all that I found in the path!
I am the dance-intoxicated rhythm,
I dance at my own pleasure,
I am the unfettered joy of life!
I am Hambeer, I am Chhayanata, I am Hindole,
I am ever restless,
I caper and dance as I move!
I do whatever appeals to me, whenever I like,
I embrace the enemy and wrestle with death,
I am mad. I am the tornado!
I am pestilence, the great fear,
I am the death of all reigns of terror,
I am full of a warm restlessness for ever!
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!

I am creation, I am destruction,
I am habitation, I am the grave-yard,
I am the end, the end of night!
I am the son of Indrani
With the moon in my head
And the sun on my temple
In one hand of mine is the tender flute
While in the other I hold the war bugle!
I am the Bedouin, I am the Chengis,
I salute none but me!
I am thunder,
I am Brahma’s sound in the sky and on the earth,
I am the mighty roar of Israfil’s bugle,
I am the great trident of Pinakpani,
I am the staff of the king of truth,
I am the Chakra and the great Shanka,
I am the mighty primordial shout!
I am Bishyamitra’s pupil, Durbasha the furious,
I am the fury of the wild fire,
I burn to ashes this universe!
I am the gay laughter of the generous heart,
I am the enemy of creation, the mighty terror!
I am the eclipse of the twelve suns,
I herald the final destruction!
Sometimes I am quiet and serene,
I am in a frenzy at other times,
I am the new youth of dawn,
I crush under my feet the vain glory of the Almighty!

I am the fury of typhoon,
I am the tumultuous roar of the ocean,
I am ever effluent and bright,
I trippingly flow like the gaily warbling brook.
I am the maiden’s dark glassy hair,
I am the spark of fire in her blazing eyes.
I am the tender love that lies
In the sixteen year old’s heart,
I am the happy beyond measure!
I am the pining soul of the lovesick,
I am the bitter tears in the widow’s heart,
i am the piteous sighs of the unlucky!
I am the pain and sorrow of all homeless sufferers,
I am the anguish of the insulted heart,
I am the burning pain and the madness of the jilted lover!

I am the unutterable grief,
I am the trembling first touch of the virgin,
I am the throbbing tenderness of her first stolen kiss.
I am the fleeting glace of the veiled beloved,
I am her constant surreptitious gaze.
I am the gay gripping young girl’s love,
I am the jingling music of her bangles!
I am the eternal-child, the adolescent of all times,
I am the shy village maiden frightened by her own budding youth.
I am the soothing breeze of the south,
I am the pensive gale of the east.
I am the deep solemn song sung by the wondering bard,
I am the soft music played on his lyre!
I am the harsh unquenched mid-day thirst,
I am the fierce blazing sun,
I am the softly trilling desert spring,
I am the cool shadowy greenery!
Maddened with an intense joy I rush onward,
I am insane! I am insane!
Suddenly I have come to know myself,
All the false barriers have crumbled today!
I am the rising, I am the fall,
I am consciousness in the unconscious soul,
I am the flag of triumph at the gate of the world,
I am the glorious sign of man’s victory,
Clapping my hands in exultation I rush like the hurricane,
Traversing the earth and the sky.
The mighty Borrak is the horse I ride.
It neighs impatiently, drunk with delight!
I am the burning volcano in the bosom of the earth,
I am the wild fire of the woods,
I am Hell’s mad terrific sea of wrath!
I ride on the wings of the lightning with joy and profound,
I scatter misery and fear all around,
I bring earth-quakes on this world!

I am Orpheus’s flute,
I bring sleep to the fevered world,
I make the heaving hells temple in fear and die.
I carry the message of revolt to the earth and the sky!
I am the mighty flood,
Sometimes I make the earth rich and fertile,
At another times I cause colossal damage.
I snatch from Bishnu’s bosom the two girls!
I am injustice, I am the shooting star,
I am Saturn, I am the fire of the comet,
I am the poisonous asp!
I am Chandi the headless, I am ruinous Warlord,
Sitting in the burning pit of Hell
I smile as the innocent flower!
I am the cruel axe of Parsurama,
I shall kill warriors
And bring peace and harmony in the universe!
I am the plough on the shoulders of Balarama,
I shall uproot this miserable earth effortlessly and with ease,
And create a new universe of joy and peace.
Weary of struggles, I, the great rebel,
Shall rest in quiet only when I find
The sky and the air free of the piteous groans of the oppressed.
Only when the battle fields are cleared of jingling bloody sabres
Shall I, weary of struggles, rest in quiet,
I the great rebel.

I am the rebel eternal,
I raise my head beyond this world,
High, ever erect and alone!

At the Feast

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

08-26 Gumilyov
Nikolay Gumilyov
Russian
1886 – 1921

 

There’s Prince Diego, falling in a love,
He dozed and he laid his head midst table’s stuff,
He lost his goblet, cast from silver’s milk,
And freed his jacket of a crimson silk.

And he is seeing the transparent stream,
And on the stream — the boat white as steam,
In which the trip, a lot of time ago,
His bride and he had had to undergo.

Space after space immediately springs
And, like two looks, burn two amazing rings;
But now sacred isles are seen in haze,
Where will resound the mysterious phrase,
And where, in wreaths of roses, at last,
They will be married by the Jesus Christ.

But at that time, the king has laid on him
The heavy look, where evil mixed with whim,
And jokers are adjusting to his heart,
The reddish pieces — flowers of blood,
And sexy bride with moderated rage,
Is kissing the impudent, lustful page.