Those Winter Sundays

We present this work in honor of Father’s Day.

06-19 Hayden
Robert Hayden
American
1913 – 1980

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

I am With Those

We present this work in honor of the South African holiday, Youth Day.

06-16 Jonker
Ingrid Jonker
South African
1933 – 1965

I am with those
who abuse sex
because the individual doesn’t count
with those who get drunk
against the abyss of the brain
against the illusion that life
once was good or had beauty or sense
against the garden parties of falsehood
against the silence that beats into the temples
with those who poor and old
race against death the atom-bomb of the days
and in shacks count the last
flies on the walls
with those stupefied in institutions
shocked with electric currents
through the cataracts of the senses
with those who have been depraived of their hearts
like the light out of the robot of safety
with those coloured, african dispossessed
with those who murder
because every death confirms anew
the lie of life
And please forget
about justice it doesn’t exist
about brotherhood it’s deceit
about love it has no right

The Banner of Your Body

06-10 Dallas
Gilberte H. Dallas
French
1918 – 1960

 

The banner of your body floats in the Brandenburg wind.
An old woman wants to come in, I
can see her through the door, her red felt hand
pressing in vain on the latch, scraps
of her cries come at me like the barbaric
song of a violin mending the night;
I’m going to slip a rose under the door
a black-blooded rose, maybe she’ll go away?
And I could wallow in the bramble hammock
but her voice hiccups: Ophelia
My name is Ophelia, open the door, O-phe-lia…
—What do I care about her grotesque distortions
What lie will she bring me? Why
doesn’t she extend it to me through the sheets
of sand the way she extends her name… Ophelia
Ophelia, her shadow ricochets in the aura
of my dusk. Ophelia, her voice grates
like a leper’s rattle, philia, figlia…

Immortality

We present this work in honor of the 35th anniversary of the poet’s death.

06-07 Costantini
Humberto Costantini
Argentine
1924 – 1987

It simply happens I have become immortal.
The city buses respect me,
they bow before me,
like lap dogs they lick my shoes.

It simply happens I am no longer dying.
There’s no angina worth anything,
no typhus, cornice, war, or cannon,
cancer, knife, or flood,
no Junín fever, no vigilantes.
I’m on the other side,
Simply, I’m on the other side,
from this side,
fully immortal.

I move among Olympus, gods, ambrosias,
I laugh, or sneeze, or tell a joke
And time expands, expands like a crazy foam.
How marvelous existing
like this, immortal
celebrating birth every five minutes,
being a million birds,
an atrocious leavening.
What a scandal, caramba!
this swarm of life, this plague called by my
name, excessive, increasing,
fully immortal.

I used to suffer, sure, from flus, fears,
budgets,
Idiot bosses, indigestion,
homesickness, solitude,
bad luck…
But that was a century ago,
twenty centuries,
when I was mortal.
When I was
so mortal, so stupid and so mortal,
that I didn’t even love you,
you have to understand.

Pine

06-02 Goldberg
Leah Goldberg
German
1911 – 1970

 

Here I will never hear the cuckoo’s call.
Here trees will never wear the shtreimel-snow.
Yet here in the pine’s shade I can hear all
My childhood, brought to life from long ago.

The needles chiming: Once upon a time
“Home” was the word I gave to snow, not sand,
And the brook-fettering ice- a greenish rime
Of my song’s language in a foreign land.

Perhaps the voyaging birds alone who find
Their own route hanging between the sky and earth,
Know how I pine between two lands of birth.

In you I was transplanted, O my pine.
In you I branched into myself and grew
Where disparate landscapes split one root in two.

 

Translation by A.Z. Foreman

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