“God is Departed from Me, and Answereth Me No More”

11-27 Hamilton
Janet Hamilton
Scots
1795 – 1873

 

A King has sought at midnight hour
The sorceress in her cell,
And bids invoke the Prophet’s shade,
His coming doom to tell.
He bows before the spectral form,
He speaks in anguish sore—
“God is departed from me,
And answereth me no more.”

Dark words—how pregnant with despair!
How fraught with hopeless woe!
Stern spake the spirit-seer—”What hope
When God He is thy foe?
And wherefore seek to know thy doom,
For this thou knew’st before?
“ ‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more!’

“The word which God hath spoke by me
He hath confirmed and done—
He rends the kingdom from thy hand;
His own anointed one,
Even David, he shall fill thy throne;
Thy reign, thy life is o’er—
‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more!’

“Since thou obey’dst not God, nor didst
His high behest fulfil,
He gives thy host, thy sons, thy life,
Up to the enemies’ will.
Thy soul, ere midnight glooms again,
Shall wing th’ eternal shore.
‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more.’“

He faints, he falls, on earth he lies,
That stately, peerless form,
Which oft had tower’d in Israel’s van
And ruled in battles’ storm.
Oh kingly oak! the thunder fires
Have scathed thine inmost core.
“God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more.”

Who runs may read this awful truth,
In lines of lightning traced,
The spoken, written Word of God,
Though trampled, scorn’d, defaced
By men of sin and pride, the earth
Shall burn, the heavens decay,
Ere Word of God, to man reveal’d,
Shall fail or pass away.

Cliffs

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

11-18 Rankin
Jennifer Rankin
Australian
1941 – 1979

 

Where the cliff cleaves up
clean into the sky
I see my day cut through

and again another cliff

and again

cleaving up.

Then it is the faulting
the falling in folds
the going back into the sea.

And this day and again this day
and again days.

Birds fly in formation.
They jettison space
while at the cliff line
a twigged bush thinly etches away
the hard edge.

Cliffs heave in blue air

heaving and faulting
rising and falling
bird flight, twig etching,

cleaving up and folding back.

I Write for the Day

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 145th birthday.

11-15 Noailles
Anna de Noailles
French
1876 – 1933

 

I write for the day when I will no longer be here
To share how pleasure wept for joy – was air!
For carried into the future’s throng, my book
Should show how I loved life with a natural look.

Attentive to all toil, in dwellings as in pastures,
Every day I’ve traced a season’s changing contours:
Water, earth and a flaming torch uplifts
No corner quite so much as through my spirit’s gifts.

I’ve shown what I have seen, and what I’ve sensed,
With a heart for which the truth is no extravagance,
And now I have this yearning, as if for an affair,
To be, beyond death, loved, more loved than heretofore.

And that a young man, say, deep into what I’ve written,
Feels through me his heart: moved, astonished, smitten;
One who just erases all his commonplace amours,
Takes me to his breast, and tells me, I am yours!

Late Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

11-09 Kay
Jackie Kay
Scots
b. 1961

 

How they strut about, people in love,
How tall they grow, pleased with themselves,
Their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don’t remember who they have been.

How filmic they are just for this time.
How important they’ve become – secret, above
The order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.
How dull the lot that are not in love.
Their clothes shabby, their skin lustreless;
How clueless they are, hair a mess; how they trudge
Up and down the streets in the rain,

remembering one kiss in a dark alley,
A touch in a changing room, if lucky, a lovely wait
For the phone to ring, maybe, baby.
The past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush
Already miles away, dimming now, in the late day.

On Death

In honor of Guy Fawkes Night, we present this work by one of 17th century England’s most contemplative poets.

11-05 Killigrew
Anne Killigrew
English
1660 – 1685

 

Tell me thou safest End of all our Woe,
Why wreched Mortals do avoid thee so:
Thou gentle drier o’th’ afflicteds Tears,
Thou noble ender of the Cowards Fears;
Thou sweet Repose to Lovers sad dispaire,
Thou Calm t’Ambitions rough Tempestuous Care.
If in regard of Bliss thou wert a Curse,
And then the Joys of Paradise art worse;
Yet after Man from his first Station fell,
And God from Eden Adam did expel,
Thou wert no more an Evil, but Relief;
The Balm and Cure to ev’ry Humane Grief:
Through thee (what Man had forfeited before)
He now enjoys, and ne’r can loose it more.

No subtile Serpents in the Grave betray,
Worms on the Body there, not Soul do prey;
No Vice there Tempts, no Terrors there afright,
No Coz’ning Sin affords a false delight:
No vain Contentions do that Peace annoy,
No feirce Alarms break the lasting Joy.

Ah since from thee so many Blessings flow,
Such real Good as Life can never know;
Come when thou wilt, in thy afrighting’st Dress,
Thy Shape shall never make thy Welcome less.
Thou mayst to Joy, but ne’er to Fear give Birth,
Thou Best, as well as Certain’st thing on Earth.
Fly thee? May Travellers then fly their Rest,
And hungry Infants fly the profer’d Brest.
No, those that faint and tremble at thy Name,
Fly from their Good on a mistaken Fame.
Thus Childish fear did Israel of old
From Plenty and the Promis’d Land with-hold;
They fancy’d Giants, and refus’d to go,
When Canaan did with Milk and Honey flow.

Door

In honor of Republic Day, we present this work by one of modern Turkey’s most prominent poets.

10-29 Keskin
Birhan Keskin
Turkish
b. 1963

 

Pass through me, I’ll remain, I’ll wait, pass through me,
but where you pass through me I cannot know.

I was told, there’s a ripe fruit behind the curtain of patience,
the world will teach you both patience, and the ripe fruit’s taste.

They said, you waited like these trees, a vision like these trees,
sorrowful like these trees.

I was opened, I was closed, opened, closed, I saw
those who went as much as those who came,
where is the end of patience, where the grief-stricken ass,
where the audacious fruit,
where is the garden?

If only someone would come… if only someone would see… someone had come… opened… stayed
she stays with me still.

For how long this emptiness rings within me, who
slayed the garden’s merry widow, the mulberry opposite me?
I glanced with it the most, wanted so much
just once for it to speak.

Were it all up to me I’d have kept quiet longer, yet I creaked wearily,
lest the rusted lock of my tongue be undone,
a stray line somewhere be hummed, the worms inside me crawl.

I saw it all, I saw it all, the end of patience!
if someone would come, would see, would see, now,
the wind is swaying me.

The Three Children (Near Clonmel)

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 120th birthday.

10-28 Shanahan
Eileen Shanahan
Irish
1901 – 1979

 

I met three children on the road —
The hawthorn trees were sweet with rain
The hills had drawn their white blinds down —
Three children on the road from town.

Their wealthy eyes in splendour mocked
Their faded rags and bare wet feet,
The King had sent his daughters out
To play at peasants in the street.

I could not see the palace walls;
The avenues were dumb with mist;
Perhaps a queen would watch and weep
For lips that she had borne and kissed —

And lost about the lonely world,
With treasury of hair and eye
The tigers of the world would spring,
The merchants of the world would buy.

And one will sell her eyes for gold,
And one will barter them for bread,
And one will watch their glory fade
Beside the looking-glass unwed.

A hundred years will softly pass,
Yet on the Tipperary hills
The shadows of a king and queen
Will darken on the daffodils.

The Doleful Lay of Clorinda

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 460th birthday.

Mary Sidney,
Countess of Pembroke
English
1561 – 1621

 

Ay me, to whom shall I my case complaine,
That may compassion my impatient griefe!
Or where shall I unfold my inward paine,
That my enriven heart may find reliefe!
Shall I unto the heavenly powres it show?
Or unto earthly men that dwell below?

To heavens? ah they alas the authors were,
And workers of my unremedied wo:
For they foresee what to us happens here,
And they foresaw, yet suffred this be so.
From them comes good, from them comes also il
That which they made, who can them warne to spill.

To men? ah, they alas like wretched bee,
And subject to the heavens ordinance:
Bound to abide what ever they decree,
Their best redresse, is their best sufferance.
How then can they like wretched comfort mee,
The which no lesse, need comforted to bee?

Then to my selfe will I my sorrow mourne,
Sith none alive like sorrowfull remaines:
And to my selfe my plaints shall back retourne,
To pay their usury with doubled paines.
The woods, the hills, the rivers shall resound
The mournfull accent of my sorrowes ground.

Woods, hills and rivers, now are desolate,
Sith he is gone the which them all did grace:
And all the fields do waile their widow state,
Sith death their fairest flowre did late deface.
The fairest flowre in field that ever grew,
Was Astrophel: that was, we all may rew.

What cruell hand of cursed foe unknowne,
Hath cropt the stalke which bore so faire a flowre?
Untimely cropt, before it well were growne,
And cleane defaced in untimely howre.
Great losse to all that ever him did see,
Great losse to all, but greatest losse to mee.

Breake now your gyrlonds, O ye shepheards lasses,
Sith the faire flowre, which them adornd, is gon:
The flowre, which them adornd, is gone to ashes,
Never againe let lasse put gyrlond on:
In stead of gyrlond, weare sad Cypres nowe,
And bitter Elder, broken from the bowe.

Ne ever sing the love-layes which he made,
Who ever made such layes of love as hee?
Ne ever read the riddles, which he sayd
Unto your selves, to make you mery glee.
Your mery glee is now laid all abed,
Your mery maker now alasse is dead.

Death, the devourer of all worlds delight,
Hath robbed you and reft from me my joy:
Both you and me, and all the world he quight
Hath robd of joyance, and left sad annoy.
Joy of the world, and shepheards pride was hee,
Shepheards hope never like againe to see.

Oh death that hast us of such riches reft,
Tell us at least, what hast thou with it done?
What is become of him whose flowre here left
Is but the shadow of his likenesse gone.
Scarse like the shadow of that which he was,
Nought like, but that he like a shade did pas.

But that immortall spirit, which was deckt
With all the dowries of celestiall grace:
By soveraine choyce from th’ hevenly quires select,
And lineally deriv’d from Angels race,
O what is now of it become aread,
Ay me, can so divine a thing be dead?

Ah no: it is not dead, ne can it die,
But lives for aie, in blisfull Paradisse:
Where like a new-borne babe it soft doth lie,
In beds of lillies wrapt in tender wise.
And compast all about with roses sweet,
And daintie violets from head to feet.

There thousand birds all of celestiall brood,
To him do sweetly caroll day and night:
And with straunge notes, of him well understood,
Lull him asleepe in Angel-like delight:
Whilest in sweet dreame to him presented bee
Immortall beauties, which no eye may see.

But he them sees and takes exceeding pleasure
Of their divine aspects, appearing plaine,
And kindling love in him above all measure,
Sweet love still joyous, never feeling paine.
For what so goodly forme he there doth see,
He may enjoy from jealous rancor free.

There liveth he in everlasting blis,
Sweet spirit never fearing more to die:
Ne dreading harme from any foes of his,
Ne fearing salvage beasts more crueltie.
Whilest we here wretches waile his private lack,
And with vain vowes do often call him back.

But live thou there still happie, happie spirit,
And give us leave thee here thus to lament:
Not thee that doest thy heavens joy inherit,
But our owne selves that here in dole are drent.
Thus do we weep and waile, and wear our eies,
Mourning in others, our owne miseries.

Which when she ended had, another swaine
Of gentle wit and daintie sweet device,
Whom Astrophel full deare did entertaine,
Whilest here he liv’d, and held in passing price,
Hight Thestylis, began his mournfull tourne;
And made the Muses in his song to mourne.

And after him full many other moe,
As everie one in order lov’d him best,
Gan dight themselves t’ expresse their inward woe,
With dolefull layes unto the time addrest:
The which I here in order will rehearse,
As fittest flowres to deck his mournfull hearse.

Going Home

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 70th birthday.

10-26 Acholonu
Catherine Obianuju Acholonu
Nigerian
1951 – 2013

 

I

Our hands grope in vain
the springs have dried up
leaving us with
salt water
and we remember
the days
when the hooting of the owl
sanctified our mortality

we stand paralyzed
like skeletons
mounted
on the sandy soil
struggling against
the dry wind
blowing sand into our eyes
which have since ceased to see

footprints of blessed ages past
deeply backed on to the soil
show the way to the horizon
and beyond
but we cannot reach it
you and I

our kisses bite
like grains of sand in the eye
then our bodies touch
like two scaly fish
we stand paralyzed
like two accursed.

II

We plunge ourselves
into the abyss
mindless of the outcome
our blind eyes
surveying the darkness
and in the labyrinths
we grope and sniff
for signs of our
brothers
in the catacombs
at the gate
we present our printed
tickets
decaying lips
toothless gums
cracking laughter

shameless folk
that seek entrance
into the land of their fathers
you cannot partake
of the coummunion
without you ofo
without your chi

and we are back
at the cross-roads
dreading once more
to cross the horizon
having she our outer shell.

III

Contact telegraphic
our sons speak
a foreign language
devoid of feeling
devoid of meaning

what choice have we
but to take refuge
in obganje
passing excrement
into the mouths
of our daughters
our ever mourning mothers

home again and yet
homeless
a dreary failure
for a nameless folk.