Drink Delirium

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

06-01 Surur
Naguib Surur
Egyptian
1932 – 1978

 

There will be anger
Followed by the deluge.
We know we will be among the drowned.
But we will take the devil with us down
To the deepest of deeps:
Our end will be his…
But slowly… What will be said
Of us when they look back on it all?
What will be said
Of us after the deluge,
After the coming drowning, after the coming anger,
What will be said of us poets and writers?
Were we men in truth,
Half-men
Or mere shadows?
Fear,
Fear of the sword,
Made of us something unspeakable —
Except in the vulgar tongue.

What will be said?
Will it be said we chose silence
For fear of death?
The letter has an edge like a sword,
Can turn against its speaker.

What will be said?
Will it be said that we chose to speak in symbols,
Whispers, silent gestures,
In all the arts of coded speech?
We said it all — in vino veritas,
But people
Had other concerns:
Their daily bread,
A kilo of meat.

Maqrizi,
You who always come after the deluge:
A plague is a plague —
It always comes on the tail of a famine.
It snatched your daughter, and many other daughters
As the wolf was standing guard.

I hereby solemnly swear, Maqrizi,
Not to leave this world
Without scandal.
I ask no one for justice:
True justice is not to be begged.
Our judges are high priests,
Our high priests are distant
And all are traitors.
Let someone else write poetry,
I am writing the Chronicles of Maqrizi.

I drink, day
And night I drink.
Sinking… I sink into my depths.
There I see him,
In my heart a holy pearl,
Unbreakable,
Even if a giant mountain falls upon it.
When I sober up, I float to the surface, lose my pearl.
Was it lost? No. It was me who was lost—
When I sobered up I floated to the surface.
For sure the pearl is down there in the depths…
No.
It is between two thighs, trampled under feet
Shod in military or civilian boots,
Under the wheels of petro-dollar cars.

Usually I drink from two glasses…
My comrade in the madhouse died.
He used to share my drink
And share my grief.
We had no time for joy:
He used to share my past anger,
And present anger — and that to come.
Usually I drink from two glasses,
The second to toast him.
But tonight I drink from one glass:
It seems my friend, upon his death,
Had given up drinking;
Or maybe it was me who gave up.
Then let me drink to giving up drinking
Until the last of all the Noahs’ arks has left
With all those who will be saved from the coming deluge.

I sink and sink
And see in my glass
Monkey fornicating with rat
Or rat fornicating with wolf
Or wolf with owl.

Maqrizi’s daughter is lost
In the plague
And the plague always comes on the tail of a famine,
When prices are measured against a kilo of meat,
Even the price of writers, novelists, poets,
Artists and scientists,
When the stuff of the dreams of the poor is meat;
And fuul beans,
Fruit for the masters.

I recall a poet’s saying:
I shall sleep not to see
My country being bought and sold.

Then drink from two glasses,
Or, if you wish, drink from one.
If my death cannot be driven away,
Then let me engage with it
With what I have at hand.

 

Translation by Mona Anis and Nur Elmessiri

Lighthouse in the Night

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 130th birthday.

Alfonsina Storni
Argentine
1892 – 1938

 

The sky a black sphere,
the sea a black disk.

The lighthouse opens
its solar fan on the coast.

Spinning endlessly at night,
whom is it searching for

when the mortal heart
looks for me in the chest?

Look at the black rock
where it is nailed down.

A crow digs endlessly
but no longer bleeds.

Bandoneon of the Slum

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

Pascual Contursi
Argentine
1888 – 1932

 

Bandoneon of the slum,
old deflated bellow
I found you like a baby
that a mother abandoned,
at the door of a convent
without plaster on the walls,
under the light of a little lamp
that at night it illuminated you.

Bandoneon,
because you see that I am sad
and I can no longer sing,
you know
that I carry in the soul
branded a pain.

I took you to my room,
I cuddled you against my cold chest,
I was also left abandoned
in my digs.
You have wanted to console me
with your rasping voice
and your painful note
increased my illusion.

 

Translation by Alberto Paz

Widow’s Walk, Somewhere Inland

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

z 05-27-22
Linda Pastan
American
b. 1932

This landlocked house should grace a harbor:
its widow’s walk of grey pickets
surveys an inland sea
of grass; wind
breaks like surf against
its rough shingles.

In summer the two grown sons
tie up here for a while.
The daughter with her mermaid hair
sits on a rock: her legs
will soon be long enough
to carry her away.

Sometimes the woman
lies awake
watching the fireflies bobbing
like ship’s lights, the bats
with their strict radar
patrolling the dark.

The man will leave too,
one way or another,
sufficient as an old snail
carrying his small house
on his back.
She will remain, pacing

the widow’s walk.
At dusk she’ll pick the milky flowers
that grow by the porch stair;
she’ll place them in the window,
each polished petal a star
for someone to steer home by.

Crestfallen My Burning Soul

We present this work in honor of National Missing Children’s Day.

05-25 Gelman
Juan Gelman
Argentine
1930 – 2014

 

crestfallen my burning soul
dips a finger in your name / scrawls
your name on the night’s walls /
it’s no use / it bleeds dangerously /

soul to soul it looks at you / becomes a child /
opens its breast to take you in /
protect you / reunite you / undie you /
your little shoe stepping on the

world’s suffering softening it /
trampled brightness / undone water
this way you speak / crackle / burn / and love /
you give me your nevers just like a child

Juke Box Love Song

We present this work in honor of the 55th anniversary of the poet’s death.

05-22 Hughes
Langston Hughes
American
1902 – 1967

I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
Taxis, subways,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem’s heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day—
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.

Defense Against the Night

We present this work in honor of the Commemoration of Ataturk.

05-19 Daglarca
Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca
Turkish
1931 – 2008

 

This man is dead and gone but
Time did not fall in the ground for long.
To the trees we delivered his life.
To whom does his heart belong?

This man is dead and gone but
We could not leave the dead man’s side.
In the endless sorrow of our nights
Why does this pallor never subside?

This man is dead and gone but
Still the river would not stay,
And like the birds of a glorious fate
It can carry him away.

 

Translation by Talat Sait Halman

Madrid, Prado Museum

We present this work in honor of International Museum Day.

05-18 Joseph
M.K. Joseph
Kiwi
1914 – 1981

Two clergymen, one long, one short,
Stand before Greco’s Trinity:
The tall one twirls a single thought
Round some point in divinity;
The short one mops his heated brows
With a red handkerchief, dimly aspires
To levitate among the clouds
Upborn by incorporeal fires.

The desiccated blond inspects
The pages of her Baedeker,
Hoping that somehow culture and sex
At last will coalesce for her.
She who through Europe has pursued
Delight still missed en troisi me noce,
Beneath some vast exuberant nude
Of Rubens, knows the pain of loss.

Fading with cup and mandolin,
Goya’s country feast turns dark,
But soon the firing-squads begin
By lanternlight their bloody work.
Before that last anger and despair
At human folly, someone stands.
It is oneself that cannot bear
Those anguished eyes and famished hands.

Velazquez turns with easy stance
To the princess and the maids of honour,
Caught in a movement like a dance,
And calms the dwarf’s indignant humour.
Royalty in the looking glass
Fears its heavy image less:
The gift of water in a glass
Forgives the human ugliness.

Equal and intellectual,
Transcending flesh, transcending flame,
This passionless light that hallows all
Shall build us an eternal home.

To the Old Gods

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

05-15 Muir
Edwin Muir
Scots
1887 – 1959

Old gods and goddesses who have lived so long
Through time and never found eternity,
Fettered by wasting wood and hollowing hill,
You should have fled our ever-dying song,
The mound, the well, and the green trysting tree.
They have forgotten, yet you linger still,
Goddess of caverned breast and channeled brow,
And cheeks slow hollowed by millennial tears,
Forests of autumns fading in your eyes,
Eternity marvels at your counted years
And kingdoms lost in time, and wonders how
There could be thoughts so bountiful and wise
As yours beneath the ever-breaking bough,
And vast compassion curving like the skies.

Rosewater

We present this work in honor of the 30th anniversary of the poet’s death.

05-12 Gatsos
Nikos Gatsos
Greek
1911 – 1992

 

When you reach that other world, don’t become a cloud,
don’t become a cloud, and the bitter star of dawn,
so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door.
Take a wand of willow, a root of rosemary,
a root of rosemary, and be a moonlit coolness
falling in the midnight in your thirsting courtyard.
I gave you rosewater to drink, you gave me poison,
eaglet of the frost, hawk of the desert.

 

Translation by Jon Corelis