Because You Loved Me

Maria Polydouri
Greek
1902 – 1930

 

I only sing because you loved me
in the past years.
And in sun, in summer’s prediction
and in rain and snow,
I only sing because you loved me.

Only because you held me in your arms
one night and you kissed my lips,
only for this I’m beautiful as wide open lily
and I still have a shiver in my soul,
only because you held me in your arms.

Only because your eyes looked at me
with the soul in the glance,
proudly I dressed the supreme
crown of my existence,
only because your eyes looked at me.

Only because as I was passing you noticed me
and from your glance I saw to pass
my lissome shadow as a dream
to play, to suffer,
only because as I was passing you noticed me

Because you called me shyly
and you reached after my hand
and you had in your eyes the blurring
– a complete love,
because you called me shyly.

Because, it liked only to you
that’s why my passing remained beautiful.
It was like you were following me where I was
as if you were passing somewhere close to me.
Because it liked only to you.

I was born only because you loved me,
my life was given for this.
In the graceless, unfulfilled life
my life was fulfilled.
I was born only because you loved me.

Only for your unique love
dawn gave to my hands roses.
So that I light your way for a moment
night filled my eyes with stars,
only for your unique love.

Only because you loved me so well
I lived in order to increase
your dreams, beautiful man that you set
and thus sweetly I die
only because you loved me so well.

To See Him Again

Gabriela Mistral
Chilean
1889 – 1957

 

Never, never again?
Not on nights filled with quivering stars,
or during dawn’s maiden brightness
or afternoons of sacrifice?

Or at the edge of a pale path
that encircles the farmlands,
or upon the rim of a trembling fountain,
whitened by a shimmering moon?

Or beneath the forest’s
luxuriant, raveled tresses
where, calling his name,
I was overtaken by the night?
Not in the grotto that returns
the echo of my cry?

Oh no. To see him again —
it would not matter where —
in heaven’s deadwater
or inside the boiling vortex,
under serene moons or in bloodless fright!

To be with him…
every springtime and winter,
united in one anguished knot
around his bloody neck!

Love Is Not All

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

Edna St. Vincent Millay
American
1892 – 1950

 

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Tell Your Story

Lebogang Mashile
South African
b. 1979

 

After they’ve fed off of your memories
Erased dreams from your eyes
Broken the seams of sanity
And glued what’s left together with lies,
After the choices and voices have left you alone
And silence grows solid
Adhering like flesh to your bones

They’ve always known your spirit’s home
Lay in your gentle sway
To light and substance
But jaded mirrors and false prophets have a way
Of removing you from yourself
You who lives with seven names
You who walks with seven faces
None can eliminate your pain

Tell your story
Let it nourish you,
Sustain you
And claim you
Tell your story
Let it feed you,
Heal you
And release you
Tell your story
Let it twist and remix your shattered heart
Tell your story
Until your past stops tearing your present apart

Friends Are Knocking at the Door

Tahirih
Persian
1814 – 1852

 

Gatekeeper! Friends are knocking at the door.
Open the door! Why not open the door?

What is so wrong with letting them come in?
Why must they wait in the dark corridor?

How long do you think they can be patient?
How long should they stay there and pace the floor?

At least, why don’t you raise the window curtain?
Just peak out for once to show your face.

They want nothing from you, except yourself.
The only thing they beg for is your grace.

Outside they got drunk on love — then sober.
They didn’t care. They’re longing for your place.

They dropped their veils, forgot their desires,
gave up this search, and stripped to nudity.

Burn off the clouds now and show us the sun.
Pull off the veil. Let us see your beauty:

So then the wise would be struck dumb,
And the fools will find their wisdom:

The selfish know their true Self then,
the saints will all get drunk with them:

No servant and no Lord will be,
master and slave as one will be.

Proclamation

Alison Cockburn
Scots
1712 – 1794

 

Have you any laws to mend,
Or have you any grievance?
I’m a hero to my trade,
And truly a most leal prince
Would you have war, would you have peace?
Would you be free from taxes?
Come chapping to my father’s door,
You need not doubt of access.

Religion, law, and liberty,
Ye ken are bonnie words, sirs;
They shall be all made sure to you
If ye’ll fight wi’your swords, sirs.
The nation’s debt we soon shall pay,
If you’ll support our right, boys;
No sooner we are brought in play,
Than all things shall be tight, boys.

Ye ken that by a Union law,
Your ancient knigdom’s undone;
That all your ladies, lords, and lairds,
Gang up and live in London.
Nae longer that we will allow,
For crack—it goes asunder,
What took sic time and pains to do,
And let the world wonder

And for your mair encouragement,
Ye shall be pardoned byganes:
Nor mair fight on the Continent,
And leave behind your dry banes.
Then come away, and dinna stay,—
What gars ye look sae loundert?
I’d have ye run, and not delay,
To join my father’s standard.

Beauty’s a Flower

Moira O’Neill
Irish
1864 – 1955

 

Youth’s for an hour,
Beauty’s a flower,
But love is the jewel that wins the world.

Youth’s for an hour, an’ the taste o’ life is sweet,
Ailes was a girl that stepped on two bare feet;
In all my days I never seen the one as fair as she,
I’d have lost my life for Ailes, an’ she never cared for me.

Beauty’s a flower, an’ the days o’ life are long,
There’s little knowin’ who may live to sing another song;
For Ailes was the fairest, but another is my wife,
An’ Mary—God be good to her!—is all I love in life.

Youth’s for an hour,
Beauty’s a flower,
But love is the jewel that wins the world.

The Brooch

Mririda n’Ait Attik
Moroccan
c. 1900 – c. 1940’s

 

Grandmother, grandmother,
Since he left I think only of him
And I see him everywhere
He gave me a fine silver brooch
And when I adjust my haїk on my shoulders,
When I hook its flap over my breasts,
When I take it off at night to sleep,
It’s not the brooch I see, but him!

My granddaughter, throw away the brooch.
You will forget him and your suffering will be over.

Grandmother, it’s over a month since I threw it away,
But it cut deeply into my hand.
I can’t take my eyes off the red scar:
When I wash, when I spin, when I drink—
And my thoughts still are of him!

My granddaughter, may Allah heal your pain!
The scar is not on your hand, but in your heart.

The Fair Agnete

We present this work in honor of German Unity Day.

Agnes Miegel
German
1879 – 1964

 

When Sir Ulrich’s widow in church knelt to pray,
From the church yard toward her floated a lay.
The organ on high did cease to sound,
The priests and the boys all stood spellbound;
The congregation hearkened, old man, child and bride
To singing like a nightingale’s so fair, outside:
“Dear mother, in the church where the sexton’s bell rings,
Dear mother, hark outside how your daughter sings!
For I cannot come to you in the church—ah, nay,
Before the shrine of Mary I cannot kneel to pray,
For I have lost salvation in everlasting time,
For I wedded the waterman with all his black, black slime.
My children—they play in the lake with fishes fleet,
They have fins on their hands and fins on their feet,
Their little pearly frocks no sunlight ever dries,
Not death nor yet a dream can close my children’s eyes.—
Dear mother, oh, I beg of thee,
Lovingly, longingly:
Wilt thou and all thy servants pray
For my green-haired water-sprites alway,
Will ye pray to the saints and to our Lady kind,
By every church and every cross that on the fields ye find!
Dearest mother, I beseech thee so—
Every seven years I may hither go—
Unto the good priest tell,
The church door he shall open well—
That I may see the candle-light
And see the golden monstrance bright,
That my little children may be told
How the gleam of the Cup is like sunlight gold!”

The organ pealed when the voice sang no more,
And then they opened wide the door—
And while they all inside high mass were keeping,
A wave all white, so white, outside was leaping.

A Bonus

Elizabeth Smart
Canadian
1913 – 1986

 

That day i finished
A small piece
For an obscure magazine
I popped it in the box

And such a starry elation
Came over me
That I got whistled at in the street
For the first time in a long time.

I was dirty and roughly dressed
And had circles under my eyes
And far far from flirtation
But so full of completion
Of a deed duly done
An act of consummation
That the freedom and force it engendered
Shone and spun
Out of my old raincoat.

It must have looked like love
Or a fabulous free holiday
To the young men sauntering
Down Berwick Street.
I still think this is most mysterious
For while I was writing it
It was gritty it felt like self-abuse
Constipation, desperately unsocial.
But done done done
Everything in the world
Flowed back
Like a huge bonus.