In November

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 160th birthday.

11-17 Lampman
Archibald Lampman
Canadian
1861 – 1899

 

The leafless forests slowly yield
To the thick-driving snow. A little while
And night shall darken down. In shouting file
The woodmen’s carts go by me homeward-wheeled,
Past the thin fading stubbles, half concealed,
Now golden-gray, sowed softly through with snow,
Where the last ploughman follows still his row,
Turning black furrows through the whitening field.
Far off the village lamps begin to gleam,
Fast drives the snow, and no man comes this way;
The hills grow wintry white, and bleak winds moan
About the naked uplands. I alone
Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor gray,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.

Earth

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 140th birthday.

11-16 O'Ferrall
Ernest O’Ferrall
Australian
1881 – 1925

 

The patient Earth spins on among the stars
Like an old lady in the Halls of Space,
Whose candles – set on Heaven’s window bars –
Wonder and wink at her excessive pace.

She mends Time’s garments with her age-long thread,
And patches Knowledge with forgotten lore
Dropped on the threshold by the ones who’ve fled
Out of this life through the grave’s narrow door.

On, on she spins with dignity and grace,
Crushing relentlessly our faintest hopes,
Whilst grave astronomers examine Space
For explanations, with long telescopes.

The Wind at intervals on air will croon
For her to spin to, but she goes on still,
When all is silent and the clown-faced Moon
Gazes and gapes above a sleeping hill.

I’ve often wondered why she never tires,
And why her candles – high on Heaven’s bars –
Don’t go right out like ordinary fires,
Or cheap gas-stoves – or threepenny cigars.

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!

Invocation

11-14 Obeso
Candelario Obeso
Colombian
1849 – 1884

 

Oh God of mercy! Enlighten my mind a moment
Of the vast universe, you are life, you are glory, you are sun;
To each planet from your invisible Being descends
an impalpable ray – goodness, greatness, love.

Eternal that ray is the focus of mysterious light,
The fruitful fount of what always is said to emanate.
Happy the one that walks lit by God in the world,
not whipped by the terrible, searing storm.

This is what I want to sing. Between the applauses, the century’s genius
curses your name. And another tower of Babel begins.
Oh! Never in the heavens will it touch the proud head;
It leaves not doubt, rather a sad, barren pain.

What haughty and ignorant pride with sage smoke
that insults your glory and the nothing here below stand-offish?
Denied, he toils; but only to know the reach always
that the effort is in vain that attempts to sweep you up in his action.

The so fertile field to offered science returns
without you in a desert. Only the man never progressed;

In vain he shouts and endeavors in his sterile pride
Breaking your altars and erasing your name among farces.

Oh God of mercy! Enlighten my mind a moment
Of the vast universe, you are life, you are glory, you are sun;
Give to the world the prestigious sight of your ineffable Being,
And achieve, under your protection, thrust your nascent splendor.

Your divine breath dissipates the ominous storm;
Do not leave this century to its blindness and terrible ambition.
Progress, hopes… everything! Ay! All of the new in the nothingness,
If you do not avoid, it will return to bury us! What horror!

My lyre divulges that the triumphs that some receive;
Their ancient greatness false and the lie of illusion;
Here they vegetate. More what they reach for? Only shadows;
Never managing to lift themselves up from the dust.

It is an inviolable law. Those that you, in your wisdom chose,
If at the weight they succumb to your noble and excelling mission,
They will be like the lost ship in the tempestuous sea,
It is a birth that falles in the waves from the winging north.
Happy he that is pious and obedient to your law as shown
And the fool does not affir,
That the gas and the phosphorus brighten more than your eternal blaze…

Elegy for Alto

11-13 Okigbo
Christopher Okigbo
Nigerian
1932 – 1967

 

And the horn may now paw the air howling goodbye…
For the Eagles are now in sight:
Shadows in the horizon—
The robbers are here in black sudden steps of showers, of caterpillars—
The eagles have come again,
The eagles rain down on us—
Politicians are back in giant hidden steps of howitzers, of detonators—
The eagles descend on us,
Bayonets and cannons—
The robbers descend on us to strip us of our laughter, of our thunder—
The eagles have chosen their game,
Taken our concubines—
Politicians are here in this iron dance of mortars, of generators—

The eagles are suddenly there,
New stars of iron dawn;
So let the horn paw the air howling goodbye…
O mother mother Earth, unbind me; let this be my last testament; let this be
The ram’s hidden wish to the sword the sword’s secret prayer to the scabbard—

The robbers are back in black hidden steps of detonators—
For beyond the blare of sirened afternoons, beyond the motorcades;
Beyond the voices and days, the echoing highways; beyond the latescence
Of our dissonant airs; through our curtained eyeballs, through our shuttered sleep,
Onto our forgotten selves, onto our broken images; beyond the barricades
Commandments and edicts, beyond the iron tables, beyond the elephant’s
Legendary patience, beyond his inviolable bronze bust; beyond our crumbling towers—
Beyond the iron path careering along the same beaten track—
The glimpse of a dream lies smouldering in a cave, together with the mortally wounded birds.
Earth, unbind me; let me be the prodigal; let this be the ram’s ultimate prayer to the tether…

An old star departs, leaves us here on the shore
Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching;
The new star appears, foreshadows its going
Before a going and coming that goes on forever…

A Woman to Her Lover

11-12 Kshevtrayya
Kshetrayya
Indian
1600 – 1680

 

“Your body is my body,”
you used to say,
and it has come true,
Muvva Gopala.

Though I was with you
all these days,
I wasn’t sure.

Some woman has scratched
nail marks on your chest,
but I’m the one who feels the hurt.

You go sleepless all night,
but it’s my eyes
that turn red.
“Your body is my body,” you used to say

Ever since you fell for that woman,
it’s my mind
that’s in distress.

When I look at those charming love bites
she has left on your lips,
it’s my lip that shakes.
“Your body is my body,” you used to say

Maybe you made love
to another woman,
for, O lord who rules me,
my desire is sated.

Forgive me, Gopala,
but when you come back here,
I’m the one who feels small
with shame.
“Your body is my body,” you used to say

Facing It

We present this work in honor of Veterans’ Day.

11-11 Komunkyakaa
Yusef Komunyakaa
American
b. 1947

 

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

Royalty

We present this work in honor of the 130th anniversary of the poet’s death.

11-10 Rimbaud
Arthur Rimbaud
French
1854 – 1891

 

One fine morning, in the country of a very gentle people, a magnificent man and woman were shouting in the public square. “My friends, I want her to be queen!” “I want to be queen!” She was laughing and trembling. He spoke to their friends of revelation, of trials completed. They swooned against each other.

In fact they were regents for a whole morning as crimson hangings were raised against the houses, and for the whole afternoon, as they moved toward groves of palm trees.

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.

to al-Baghdadi, the pasha of Fez

11-08 Assaraj
Mohammed Ben Brahim Assarraj
Moroccan
1897 – 1955

 

To extinguish the coals smoldering in his heart
He makes a river spring through his eyelids, flooding his torso.
In fact, there are tears that in their very abundance ease the heart.
Let ours thus flow:
Better than anyone we do appreciate the scope of our misery.
To face such misfortune I turned toward patience,
But patience, itself impatient, abandoned me.
What is there more unbelievable than to see
Shepherds set themselves up as overlords and legislate?

Here’s a “weird one” who’s never had anything but rope as a belt,
An idiot who has ever only led sheep into the mountains,
And now he’s become the master of Fez!
He mistreats and tortures the city’s youthful elite:
In such extremities it is to God alone that one addresses one’s complaint,
From Him alone can deliverance come.
The echo of these calamities has crossed the borders:
Young people who are being sequestered, tortured, humiliated
Though they have committed no crime.
Let this coarse man be told that his whip
Makes ten million Moroccans groan:
There are those among them who keep silent, not knowing how to express their pain;
Others, to the contrary, who’ve had enough and who cry out—
They all suffer the pain that eats them up.
Can you imagine a sick person ignoring his pain?
They have not been subjected… while being subject.
Let’s suppose they’re at fault: their due then is a just
Judgment, one that doesn’t err because of blunders or excess.