We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.
My soul dances today, winged, looking to alight on a branch of light, to hear, see, say whatever can be heard, seen, said. It’s good to know, and know well, that the thing you are was hatched out of darkness.
Ye Children of Man! whose life is a span, Protracted with sorrow from day to day, Naked and featherless, feeble and querulous, Sickly calamitous creatures of clay! Attend to the words of the Sovereign Birds, (Immortal, illustrious, lords of the air), Who survey from on high, with a merciful eye, Your struggles of misery, labor, and care. Whence you may learn and clearly discern Such truths as attract your inquisitive turn; Which is busied of late with a mighty debate, A profound speculation about the creation, And organical life, and chaotical strife, With various notions of heavenly motions, And rivers and oceans, and valleys and mountains, And sources of fountains, and meteors on high, And stars in the sky… We propose by and by, (If you’ll listen and hear,) to make it all clear. And Prodicus henceforth shall pass for a dunce, When his doubts are explained and expounded at once.
Our antiquity proved, it remains to be shown That Love is our author and master alone; Like him we can ramble, and gambol and fly O’er ocean and earth, and aloft to the sky; And all the world over, we’re friends to the lover, And when other means fail, we are found to prevail, When a Peacock or Pheasant is sent as a present. All lessons of primary daily concern You have learnt from the Birds, and continue to learn, Your best benefactors and early instructors; We give you the warning of seasons returning. When the Cranes are arranged, and muster afloat In the middle air, with a creaking note, Steering away to the Libyan sands, Then careful farmers sow their lands; The crazy vessel is hauled ashore, The sail, the ropes, the rudder and oar Are all unshipped and housed in store. The shepherd is warned, by the Kite reappearing, To muster his flock, and be ready for shearing. You quit your old cloak at the Swallow’s behest, In assurance of summer, and purchase a vest. For Delphi, for Ammon, Dodona, in fine For every oracular temple and shrine, The Birds are a substitute equal and fair, For on us you depend, and to us you repair For counsel and aid when a marriage is made, A purchase, a bargain, a venture in trade: Unlucky or lucky, whatever has struck ye, An ox or an ass that may happen to pass, A voice in the street, or a slave that you meet, A name or a word by chance overheard, If you deem it an omen, you call it a Bird; And if birds are your omens, it clearly will follow That birds are a proper prophetic Apollo.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.
Freely beside me the vineyards are running and unbridled Remains the sky. Wildfires trade pinecones and one Donkey bolts uphill for a little cloud St. Heracleitos’s day and something’s up That even noses can’t diagnose: Tricks of a shoeless wind snagging the hem Of Fate’s nightgown and leaving Us in the open air of capricorns exposed
Secretly I go with all the loot in my mind For a life unbowed from the beginning. No candles no chandeliers Only a gold anemone’s engagement for a diamond Feeling its way to where? Asking what? Our moon’s half- shadow needs You to console even the graves Homoethnic or not. The crux is that the scent of earth Lost even to bloodhounds With its weeds onions and creeks
Must be restored to its idiom
So what! A word contains you peasant of night’s green Efessos! Forefather sulphur phosphorus your fourteenth generation Inside the orange groves gold words Sharing the scalpel’s chisel Tents as yet unpitched others midair Lost poles suddenly grinding. Sermons Rise from the seafloor of the facing coves Twin scythes for theater or temple Fresh valley springs and other curly streams Of thus and so. If ever wisdom Planned circles of clover and dog grass Another world might live just as before your fingerprint
Letters will exist. People will read and grab History’s tail once more. Just let the vineyards gallop and the sky remain Unbridled as children want it With roosters and pinecones and blue kites flags On Saint Heracleitos’s day child’s is the kingdom.
Apart from my sisters, estranged from my mother, I am a woman alone in a house of men who secretly call themselves princes, alone with me usually, under cover of dark. I am the one allowed in
to the royal chambers, whose small foot conveniently fills the slipper of glass. The woman writer, the lady umpire, the madam chairman, anyone’s wife. I know what I know. And I once was glad
of the chance to use it, even alone in a strange castle doing overtime on my own, cracking the royal code. The princes spoke in their father’s language, were eager to praise me my nimble tongue. I am a woman in a state of siege, alone
as one piece of laundry, strung on a windy clothesline a mile long. A woman co-opted by promises: the lure of a job, the ruse of a choice, a woman forced to bear witness, falsely against my own kind, as each other sister was judge inadequate, bitchy, incompetent, jealous, too thin, too fat. I know what I know. What sweet bread I make
for myself in this prosperous house is dirty, what good soup I boil turns in my mouth to mud. Give me my ashes. A cold stove, a cinder-block pillow, wet canvas shoes in my sisters’, my sisters’ hut. Or I swear
I’ll die young like those favored before me, hand-picked each one For her joyful heart.
We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.
The day was cloudy. No one could come to a decision; a light wind was blowing. ‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ someone said. A few slender cypresses nailed to the slope, and, beyond, the sea grey with shining pools. The soldiers presented arms as it began to drizzle. ‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ was the only decision heard. And yet we knew that by the following dawn nothing would be left to us, neither the woman drinking sleep at our side nor the memory that we were once men, nothing at all by the following dawn.
‘This wind reminds me of spring,’ said my friend as she walked beside me gazing into the distance, ‘the spring that came suddenly in the winter by the closed-in sea. So unexpected. So many years have gone. How are we going to die?’
A funeral march meandered through the thin rain.
How does a man die? Strange no one’s thought about it. And for those who thought about it, it was like a recollection from old chronicles from the time of the Crusades or the battle of Salamis. Yet death is something that happens: how does a man die? Yet each of us earns his death, his own death, which belongs to no one else and this game is life.
The light was fading from the clouded day, no one decided anything. The following dawn nothing would be left to us, everything surrendered, even our hands, and our women slaves at the springheads and our children in the quarries. My friend, walking beside me, was singing a disjointed song: ‘In spring, in summer, slaves . . .’ One recalled old teachers who’d left us orphans. A couple passed, talking: ‘I’m sick of the dusk, let’s go home, let’s go home and turn on the light.’
I have seen many wonders in my life, countless, But who, noble Clibanus, however many his mouths, could proclaim Your might, when born a worthless mortal? But rather It is right for you to be called a new fiery ocean, Paean and parent, provider of sweet streams. From you the thousandfold swell is born, one here, one there, On this side boiling-hot, on that side in turn icy-cold and tepid. Into fountains four-fold four you pour out your beauty. Indian and Matrona, Repentius, holy Elijah, Antoninus the Good, Dewy Galatia, and Hygieia herself, warm baths both large and small, Pearl, ancient Clibanus, Indian and other Matrona, Strong, Nun, and the Patriarch’s. For those in pain your powerful might is always everlasting. But I will sing of a god, renowned for wisdom For the benefit of speaking mortals.
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.
The situation in Vietnam is worse than the situation in Indonesia which is worse than the situation in Guatemala which is worse than the situation in Haiti which is worse than the situation in South Africa which is worse than the situation in Portugal which is worse than the situation in Spain which is worse than the situation in the Argentine which is worse than the situation in Pakistan which is worse than the situation in Persia (which is not good in any case) and which is worse than the situation in Bolivia which is worse than the situation in Brazil which is worse than the situation in Rhodesia (which is not jolly either) and which is worse than the situation in Costa Rica which is worse than the situation in Honduras which is worse than the situation in Santo Domingo which is worse than the situation in Korea which is worse than the situation in Ecuador which is worse than the situation in Uruguay which is worse than the situation in Peru which is worse than the situation in the Congo which is worse than the situation in Panama which is worse than the situation in Angola which is worse than the situation in Greece which is worse than all these other situations because it happens to me.
…From white horses with madcap bound into the deep wave you leapt: “I catch you,” I shouted, “my friend!” And you, when you were Tortoise, ran leaping through the yard of the great court.
Thus I lament, unhappy Baucis, and make deep moan for you. These traces of you, dear maid, lie still glowing in my heart: all that we once enjoyed, is embers now.
We clung to our dolls in our chambers when we were girls, playing Young Wives, without a care. And towards dawn your Mother, who allotted wool to her attendant workwomen, came and called you to help with the salted meat. Oh, what a trembling the Bogy brought us then, when we were little ones! – On its head were huge ears, and it walked on all fours, and changed from one face to another!
But when you went to a man’s bed, you forgot all that you heard from your Mother, dear Baucis, in babyhood: Aphrodite set oblivion in your heart. So I lament you, yet neglect your obsequies — my feet are not so profane as to leave the house, my eyes may not behold a body dead, nor may I moan with hair unbound, yet a blush of shame distracts me…
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.
Lord what’s still not in store for us.
I’m sitting here and sitting. It’s raining without raining just as when a shadow returns to us a body.
I’m sitting here and sitting. Me here, my heart opposite and still further away my weary relationship with it. So we might seem many whenever emptiness counts us.
Empty room blowing. I hold tight to the way I have of being swept off.
I’ve no news of you. Your photo stationary. You stare as if coming you smile as if not. Dried flowers at one side incessantly repeating for you their unadulterated name semprevives semprevives—eternal, eternal in case you forget what you’re not.
I’m asked by time how I want it to pass exactly how I pronounce myself as edging or ageing. Foolishness. No end is ever articulate.
I’ve no news of you. Your photo stationary. Just as it rains without raining.
Just as a shadow returns to me a body. And just as we’ll meet one day up there. In some lush sparseness with shady unexpectations and evergreen rotations. As interpreter of the intense silence that we’ll feel —developed form of the intense intoxication caused by a meeting down here—will come a void.
And we’ll be enraptured then by a passionate unrecognition —developed form of the embrace employed by a meeting down here. Yes we’ll meet. Breathing fine, concealed form attraction. In a downpour of heavy lack of gravity. Perhaps on one of infinity’s trips to ad infinitum; at the ceremony for loss awards to the known for its great contribution to the unknown; guests at destination’s starlight, at cessation’s galas on behalf of dissolving causes and the skies’ farewell importances once great. Expect that this company of distances will be somewhat downcast, cheerless even if non-existence finds cheer from nothing. Perhaps because the soul of the party will be absent. The flesh.
I call to the ash to disarm me. I call upon the ash by its code name: Everything.
You’ll meet regularly I imagine you and the death of that dream. The last-born dream. Of all I had the best-behaved. Clear-headed, gentle, understanding. Not of course so dreamy but neither worthless or mean, no toady to all and sundry. A very thrifty dream, in intensity and errors. Of the dreams I raised my most loving: so I’d not grow old alone.
You’ll meet regularly I imagine you and its death. Give it my regards, tell it to come too without fail when we meet there, at the loss awards ceremony.
Love me as long as you don’t live. Yes yes the impossible’s enough for me. Once I was loved by that. Love me as long as you don’t live. For I’ve no news of you. And heaven forbid that the absurd should show no signs of life.