In Difficult Times

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

01-20 Padilla
Heberto Padilla
Cuban
1932 – 2000

They asked that man if they could
take his time and join it to history.
They asked for his hands,
because in difficult times
there is nothing better than a good pair of hands.
They asked for his eyes
that once had tears
so he could ponder the bright side
(especially the bright side of life)
because for horror one terrified eye is enough.
They asked for his lips,
dry and cracked, to affirm,
to erect, with each affirmation, a dream
(the high dream);
they asked for his legs,
hard and gnarled,
(his old high-stepping legs)
because in difficult times
is there anything better than a pair of legs
for building or trench-digging?
They asked him for the forest that nourished him as a child
with its obedient tree.
They asked for his chest, his heart, his shoulders.
They told him
that it was strictly necessary.
Later they explained
that all this giving would be pointless
unless he gave up his tongue,
because in difficult times
there is nothing so useful for stopping hatred or lies.
And finally they begged him
please, to begin to walk
because in difficult times
that is without a doubt the decisive test.

Far Away

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 155th birthday.

01-18 Dario
Rubén Darío
Nicaraguan
1867 – 1916

Ox that I saw in my childhood, as you steamed
in the burning gold on the Nicaraguan sun,
there on the rich plantation filled with tropical
harmonies; woodland dove, of the woods that sang
with the sound of the wind, of axes, of birds and wild bulls:
I salute you both, because you are both my life.

You, heavy ox, evoke the gentle dawn
that signaled it was time to milk the cow,
when my existence was all white and rose;
and you, sweet mountain dove, cooing and calling,
you signify all that my own springtime, now
so far away, possessed of the Divine Springtime.

Madagascar

In honor of Tu B’Shavat, we present this whimsical Jewish pastoral.

01-17 Broderzon
Moishe Broderzon
Russian
1890 – 1956

1
I take my feet under my arm,
I go, I walk, stride on,
to east and west and north and south,
I look for Birobidjan.
people give this advice – it’s a habit,
take a pack on your back,
and go forth like a rabbit!

To Madagascar, the land of grass and rabbits
and when the wind will blow,
to Madagascar. No meat there,
I know that from Genesis.
that’s where Adam the first man
started to mix in,
where Mother Eve can,
be curious too,
Ay Madagascar, may as well be there
that’s the thing to do.

2
The sun there bakes on pagodas
Winter hot snow falls
come in to all’s ready
don’t need to make a living
for people eat each other
So poof and you’re not there.

To Madagascar, the land of grass and rabbits
and when the wind will blow,
to Madagascar. No meat there,
I know that from Genesis.
that’s where Adam the first man
started to mix in,
where Mother Eve can,
be curious too,
Ay Madagascar, may as well be there
that’s the thing to do.

65th Poem from Daasarathii Satakam

We present this work in honor of Uzhavar Tirunal.

01-16 Ramadasu
Bhadrachala Ramadasu
Indian
1620 – 1680

Wonder was it when a rock touched by your foot became a youthful woman,
Wonder was it when a multitude of boulders floated on water in steadiness,
But, what wonder it is when a man by constant thinking of you obtains salvation? on
This earth, pleasant one to the daughter of earth, Daasarathii, ocean of kindness!

from Tartuffe

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 400th birthday.

01-15 Moliere
Moliere
French
1622 – 1673

 

A love of heavenly beauty does not preclude
A proper love for earthly pulchritude;
Our senses are quite rightly captivated
By perfect works our Maker has created.
Some glory clings to all that Heaven has made;
In you, all Heaven’s marvels are displayed.
On that fair face such beauties are displayed.
On that fair face such beauties have been lavished,
The eyes are dazzled and the heart is ravished;
How could I look on you, O flawless creature,
And not adore the Author of all Nature,
Feeling a love both passionate and pure
For you, his triumph of self-portraiture?
At first, I trembled lest that love should be
A subtle snare that Hell had laid for me;
I vowed to flee the sight of you, eschewing
A rapture that might prove my soul’s undoing;
But soon, fair being, I became aware
That my deep passion could be made to square
With rectitude, and with my bounden duty.
I thereupon surrendered to your beauty.
It is, I know, presumptuous on my part
To bring you this poor offering of my heart,
And it is not my merit, heaven knows,
But your compassion on which my hopes repose.
You are my peace, my solace, my salvation;
On you depends my bliss—or desolation;
I bide your judgment and, as you think best,
I shall be either miserable or blest.
I may be pious, but I’m human too:
With your celestial charms before his eyes,
A man has not the power to be wise.
I know such words sound strangely, coming from me,
But I’m no angel, nor was meant to be,
And if you blame my passion, you must needs
Reproach as well the charms on which it feeds.
Your loveliness I had no sooner seen
Than you became my soul’s unrivalled queen;
Before your seraph glance, divinely sweet,
My heart’s defenses crumbled in defeat,
And nothing fasting, prayer, or tears might do
Could stay my spirit from adoring you.
My eyes, my sighs have told you in the past
What now my lips make bold to say at last,
And if, in your great goodness, you will deign
To look upon your slave, and ease his pain—
If, in compassion for my soul’s distress,
You’ll stoop to comfort my unworthiness,
I’ll raise to you, in thanks for that sweet manna,
An endless hymn, an infinite hosanna.
With me, of course, there need be no anxiety,
No fear of scandal or of notoriety.
These young court gallants, whom all the ladies fancy,
Are vain in speech, in action rash and chancy;
When they succeed in love, the world soon knows it;
No favor’s granted them but they disclose it
And by the looseness of their tongues profane
The very altar where their hearts have lain.
Men of my sort, however, love discreetly,
And one may trust our reticence completely.
My keen concern for my good name insures
The absolute security of yours;
In short, I offer you, my dear Elmire,
Love without scandal, pleasure without fear.

from The Virsimhdevcarit

We present this work in honor of Pongal.

01-14 Keshavdas
Keshavdas
Indian
1555 – 1617

When Generosity and Greed set out to see Jahangirpur
They saw a huge array of forts, towns and villages –
How could I possibly recount all their names?
They saw lakes and rivers that made them glad.
Then they approached the ‘Bir lake.’ Seeing the magnificent Bir lake
They sought the appropriate terms for describing it.
It gives such pleasure on earth, this body of water!
It is marvelous, clear, vast, and profound in its depths.
It is home to blossoming flowers, bright like a star-lit sky.
It is a place of great coolness, where the heat of summer is forbidden entry:
Abode of scents, a place of beauty, effacer of the world’s cares
Like the goddess Candika in its dark hue.
The tall waves are a cluster of clouds releasing their spray in the wind
At sunset the water takes on a red quality,
Waves shimmering like lightning, removing the sorrow of men’s hearts.
Night and day peacocks dance in all directions to the spray of the lake
The lotuses bloom, their white luster like moonlight…

Rose of Roses, and Flower of Flowers

01-13 Alfonso
Alfonso X, El Sabio, of Castile
Spanish
1221 – 1284

1.

Rose of beauty and fine appearance
And flower of happiness and pleasure,
lady of most merciful bearing,
And Lord for relieving all woes and cares;
Rose of roses and flower of flowers,
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

2.

Such a Mistress everybody should love,
For she can ward away any evil
And she can pardon any sinner
To create a better savor in this world.
Rose of roses and flower of flowers,
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

3.

We should love and serve her loyally,
For she can guard us from falling;
She makes us repent the errors
That we have committed as sinners:
Rose of roses and flower of flowers
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

4.

This lady whom I acknowledge as my Master
And whose troubadour I’d gladly be,
If I could in any way possess her love,
I’d give up all my other lovers.
Rose of roses and flower of flowers,
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

Striking the Tent

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

z 01-11-21
Ibn al-Khabbaza
Moroccan
? – 1239


The pretender yields the crown;
See, his red tent tumbles down
When it sees red Mudar’s hosts
Standing nigh, to prick his boasts.

Tell me, if you can descry:
Who has better right to high
Sovereignty—foreign churls,
Or their lawful Arab earls?

Nay, he was too negligent
Of his duty; so his tent
Wonderfully bit the dust,
And foretold the way he must.

Shine, Perishing Republic

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

01-10 Jeffers
Robinson Jeffers
American
1887 – 1962

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught-they say-God, when he walked on earth.

Touch Me Now

We present this work in honor of the 15th anniversary of the poet’s death.

01-09 Sepamla
Sipho Sepamla
South African
1932 – 2007

Touch my heart
here where the beat pounds
is it faint
is it louder

Touch my face
here on the cheeks
is the tear drying on its own
is it flowing salted warmly

Touch my hands
here where a stone is enfolded in one
is it a hard rock
is it hot with waiting

Touch my brow
here where it meets its own madness
are the folds hardening
are they sweating out the anger

There’s nowhere you can touch me
without the realization that
I am not the person of yesterday
The fangs are bared for action