Life is Fleeting

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Maria Luisa Carnelli
Argentine
1898 – 1987

 

Life is fleeting,
is fleeting and will never return.
Listen to my advice:
if a rich man promises you a good life,
you must accept it.
Life is fleeting, fleeting,
and not even God will stop it.
The best you can do
is to enjoy life and forget your sorrows and pains.
The days and the years elapse
and happiness is elusive.
You must not think
either of suffering or of virtue:
you must fully live your youth.

Native-Born

We present this work in honor of Australia Day.

Eve Langley
Australian
1904 – 1974

 

In a white gully among fungus red
Where serpent logs lay hissing at the air,
I found a kangaroo. Tall dewy,dead,
So like a woman, she lay silent there.
Her ivory hands, black-nailed, crossed on her breast
Her skin of sun and moon hues, fallen cold
her brown eyes lay like rivers come to rest
And death had made her black mouth harsh and old
Beside her in the ashes I sat deep
And mourned for her, but had no native song
To flatter death, while down the ploughlands steep
Dark young Camelli whistled loud and long,
‘Love, liberty and Italy are all.’
Broad golden was his breast against the sun
I saw his wattle whip rise high and fall
Across the slim mare’s flanks, and one by one
She drew the furrows after her as he
Flapped like a gull behind her, climbing high
Chanting his oaths and lashing soundingly,
While from the mare came once a blowing sigh.
The dew upon the kangaroo’s white side
Had melted. Time was whirling high around,
Like the thin woomera, and from heaven wide
He, the bull-roarer, made continuous sound
Incarnate lay my country by my hand:
Her long hot days, bushfires, and speaking rains
Her mornings of opal and the copper band
Of smoke around the sunlight on the plains.
Globed in fire-bodies the meat- ants ran
to taste her flesh and linked us as we lay,
Forever Australian, listening to a man
From careless Italy, swearing at our day.
When golden-lipped, the eagle-hawks came down
Hissing and whistling to eat of lovely her
And the blowflies with their shields of purple brown
Plied hatching to and fro across her fur,
I burnt her with the logs, and stood all day
Among the ashes, pressing home the flame
Till woman, logs and dreams were scorched away
And native with the night, that land from whence they came.

Menopause

Gioconda Belli
Nicaraguan
b. 1948

 

So far,
all over the world,
women have survived it.
Perhaps it was that our grandmothers were stoic
or, that back then, they weren’t entitled to complain,
still they reached old age
wilting bodies
but strong souls.
Now, instead,
dissertations are written on the subject.
As early as thirty agony sets in,
Foretelling the catastrophe.

A body is much more than the sum of its hormones.
Menopausal or not
a woman remains a woman,
beyond the production of secretions or eggs.
To miss a period does not imply the loss of syntax
or coherence;
it shouldn’t lead to hiding
as a snail in a shell,
nor provoke endless brooding.
If depression sets in
it won’t be a new occurrence,
each menstrual cycle has come to us with tears
and its load of irrational anger.
There is no reason, then,
to feel devalued:
Get rid of tampons
and sanitary napkins!
Use them to light a bonfire in your garden!
Be naked
Dance the ritual of aging
And survive
Like so many
Before you.

Translation by Charles Castaldi

Song of a Dweller in a High-Rise Block

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

Gülten Akin
Turkish
1933 – 2015

 

They piled the houses high,
in front long balconies.
Far below was water
far below were trees

They piled the houses high,
a thousand stairs to climb.
The outlook a far cry
and friendships further still.

They piled the houses high
in glass and concrete drowned.
In our wisdom we forgot
the earth that was remote
and those who stayed earthbound.

Translation by Ruth Christie

the anatomy of a poem

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 40th birthday.

Toni Stuart
South African
b. 1983

 

I

we share the same teacher, she and I.
he, who considers each poem
a breathing, pulsing thing

brain, muscle, skeleton, breath
all essential for it to thrive
on its own, without its creator

and how these boundaries overlap
breath floods brain
rhythm drives intention home

meeting in the space where silence
lives in the body on the page –
the in-between.

II

next week, when deadlines haranguing
her head have passed, she will go in search
of the in-between

and write those poems
waiting within her
a selfless, selfish act

of reaching within
to reach without

Oh sisters, Honor Lies in Independence

Zandokht Shirazi
Persian
1909 – 1953

 

Oh, women of this land!
There is no life, nothing.
This is nothing
but failure and grief.
Death for us is hundred times
Better than such a life.
This life is nothing
But a symbol of slavery.
Beware, women of this land!
Be friends to one another!
Dissolve your links with men!
Why do you take on the name of
Your husband, though you have
A name of your own?

Bergerette

Marguerite de Navarre
French
1492 – 1549

 

O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.
True love is life’s true end,
My heart can comprehend,
And therefore I intend
My love unceasingly to give.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love lends me confidence,
Grants conscience calmer sense,
Builds patient competence,
Forms faith and hope restorative;
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love is my victory,
Honor, gleaming glory;
Fashions me his story
Of pleasure’s daily narrative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love has such lovely grace
That when I see his face
I find a tranquil place
For fervent years contemplative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love offers deep content:
With his care provident
And arm omnipotent,
I need no aid alternative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love draws me lovingly,
Attracts with gloom, then glee,
Charms me with misery.
Alas! His changes I misgive.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love spreads his wings to fly,
Calls me to gratify
Him by pursuit; I sigh,
And hurry toward the fugitive.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love, to secure my heart,
Falls in my arms by art,
And then away will dart
In dalliance provocative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

My joy without a peer
Inspires such songful cheer,
I cry to every ear,
“Love love, or lapse insensitive!”
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Shepherdesses gracious,
For Love be amorous,
Thereby more rapturous
Than queens of high prerogative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Translation by Margaret Coats

After the death of the Emperor Tenmu

We present this work in honor of the 1,320th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Empress Jitō
Japanese
645 – 703

 

Oh, the autumn foliage
Of the hill of Kamioka!
My good Lord and Sovereign
Would see it in the evening
And ask of it in the morning.
On that very hill from afar
I gaze, wondering
If he sees it today,
Or asks of it tomorrow.
Sadness I feel at eve,
And heart-rending grief at morn –
The sleeves of my coarse-cloth robe
Are never for a moment dry.

Out of Context

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Proclamation of Independence.

Touria Majdouline
Moroccan
b. 1960

 

I gather my confusion and my things
My steps
And the remaining illusions
Of my body
I run beyond time
Beyond the vacant air
And space

Yesterday I drew my open space here
And dreamed a lot
I sowed shade, and fruit, and crops around
And with flames I wrote my poems…
Yesterday
I had plenty of time
To embroider space with words.
But today
I am left with nothing
But my dejection
And the crumbs of yesterdays gone by

Thus I gather my things
I wrap myself up in my own confusion
And I run
I run beyond time
I propagate into the distance
With neither shade
Nor sun.

Translation by Abdellah Benlamine and Norddine Zouitni