The Street Fair

Sagawa Chika
Japanese
1911 – 1936

 

A cloud has collapsed on the pavement
Like the horse’s white struggle for air

Night, screaming and shouting into the darkness
Arrives with the intention of murdering time

Wearing a mask plated with light beams
Lining up single-file from the window

People moan in their dreams
And fall from sleep to an even deeper sleep

There, a stem that has gone pale
Like an exhausted despair

Supports the tall sky
An empty city with neither roads nor stars

My thinking is to escape
That pitch-black metal house

Steal away the glimmer of pistons
And smoldering embers of noise

Retreat into a shallow ocean
Collide, get battered to the ground

Anonymous Landscape

Excilia Saldaña
Cuban
1946 – 1999

 

Every afternoon
The woman sits
before an open window
guilty of not being air, water
–or at least a wing that flies-
of being only a woman before an open window.

Every afternoon
the sky hangs itself out to dry
beyond the open window
ashamed of not being man, flesh, body
—or at least earth—
of being only sky beyond an open window,
Secret passion of guilt and shame:
a golden woman of violet sky
every afternoon through an open window.

The Lover

In honor of Ambedkar Jayanti, we present this work by one of contemporary India’s most vibrant women poets.

Arundhathi Subramaniam
Indian
b. 1973

 

The woman doesn’t call herself
a saint,

just a lover
of a saint

who’s been dead four hundred years.

She doesn’t see people
on weekdays

but her master tells her
we’re safe,

so she calls us in to where she sits
her body blazing
in its nakedness

its tummyfold and breastsag
and wild spiraling nipple
reminding us that life
is circles —
crazy, looping, involuting, dazzling
circles.

She tells us
the world calls her a whore.

She told her master about it too
but he only said,

‘The rest of the world serves
many masters —
family, money, lovers, bosses,
children, power, money, money
in endless carousels —

the crazy autopilot
of samsara.

But you, love, think only of me.
Who’s the whore here?’

Outside the window
the sun is a red silk lampshade

over a great soiled bedspread
ricocheting in the wind.

Lines Composed while Feasting Censor He on a Day in Autumn

Xue Susu
Chinese
c. 1564 – c. 1650

 

Inside the city walls of stone in the pleasure quarter
I feel deeply mortified that my talents outshine all the others
The river glitters, the waters clear, and the seagulls swim in pairs
The sky looks hollow, the clouds serene, and the wild geese fly in rows
My embroidered dress partly borrows the hue of hibiscus
The emerald wine shares the scent of lotus
If I did not reciprocate your feelings
Would I dare to feast with you, Master He?

Rain

Claribel Alegria
Nicaraguan
1924 – 2018

 

As the falling rain
trickles among the stones
memories come bubbling out.
It’s as if the rain
had pierced my temples.
Streaming
streaming chaotically
come memories:
the reedy voice
of the servant
telling me tales
of ghosts.
They sat beside me
the ghosts
and the bed creaked
that purple-dark afternoon
when I learned you were leaving forever,
a gleaming pebble
from constant rubbing
becomes a comet.
Rain is falling
falling
and memories keep flooding by
they show me a senseless
world
a voracious
world–abyss
ambush
whirlwind
spur
but I keep loving it

because I do
because of my five senses
because of my amazement
because every morning,
because forever, I have loved it
without knowing why.

The Soundless Girl

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Eriko Kishida
Japanese
1929 – 2011

 

There was a clever boy. When he’d leave off whistling, he would examine the far distance with a pair of binoculars. When he grew tired of the binoculars, he would play with a tape-recorder. Or at times he would examine a girl with his binoculars and record the sounds she made on the tape-recorder, as he whistled the tune “I Love Your Eyes.” Her mind was more tender than he’d expected, and seemed to ripple. Her lips were unopened buds, so nothing ask! And her ears—ah, there was no sound. The clever boy took notes.

One day there was a strange girl there. Let me explain in what way she was strange. Her footsteps were the road’s footsteps, the sound of her running was the sound of the wind running. So when the girl ate an apricot, there was the sound of the apricot eating her. When the girl swam, the sea came for a swim. The boy wondered, then, which was real? Which sound he should tape-record? What if the girl should like me? The boy was suddenly afraid. The boy by then already liked the girl. I think you know what comes next. The boy stopped taking notes. He put his ear to the girl’s ear. And—ah, there was a sound. This ear—ah, it’s my sound! the boy said.

The Last Butterfly

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Rosemonde Gérard
French
1871 – 1953

 

When the cricket no longer sings
And one is faced with the autumn,
One is surprised, on some grey morning,
To see the last butterfly wings.

More gold, azure, or scarlet,
Its colour evenly spread;
The ash found around it
Lost in the earth’s sandy bed.

Whence, and through which door, does it come?
Is this, in the dead leaf of autumn,
The only butterfly living,

Or, dead, midst living snow,
The slight, transparent shadow
Of a butterfly from spring, long ago?

River Travel

We present this work in honor of the Ching Ming Festival.

Yu Xuanji
Chinese
844 – 869

 

The River holds Wuchang in the crook of its arm.
At Parrot Island—look!—the doors of ten thousand homes.
Spring sleep in a pleasure barge isn’t done by morning.
I dream that I’m a butterfly seeking flowers too.

Misty flowers drift now into Cormorant Harbour,
though the painted barge still skirts Parrot Island.
Drunk we sleep, awake we sing, quite aware of nothing,
till morning surprises us at the Han River’s mouth.

Of Encounters and Places

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

Elizabeth Azcona Cranwell
Argentine
1933 – 2004

 

A request from the sun. Its understanding of this difference
the label that speaks among things
lamp or star keeping watch over the area that separates us
and lets us illuminate ourselves with the color of distance.

Again I take from the air the slight awareness
that hides the balance of a flower.
Nevertheless we have watched the same bird
we have seized its import, its situation at night
and the place our hearts dominate is the same.

If I must go down through other times
I will have this embrace tied to my memory
like a stone from the sea or a rupture of algae.
They are the night’s circuits where we have held each other
or the uncertain manners of a morning in flight.

Then distance has already stopped digging into the soul
the astrolabe is intent on encountered water
although the smoke of the forest announces nostalgia
that can devour the heart of a blackbird.

The trees carve on wood the name of the earth
like twin flames we have purchased the air for growing
to save with our laughter another corner of the world.

It may be everything that happens is the food of a distant life
silently teaching the language of water
giving love its place
among the confusion of birds.

I Fear for You

We present this work in honor of the 930th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Wallada bint al-Mustakfi
Arab Andalusian
1001 – 1091

 

I fear for you, my beloved so much, that even my own sight
even the ground you tread
even the hours that pass threaten to snatch you away from me.
Even if I were able to conceal you within the pupils of my eyes
and hide you there until
the Day of Judgment my fear would still not be allayed.