The Last Waltz

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

Alden Nowlan
Canadian
1933 – 1983

 

The orchestra playing
the last waltz
at three o’clock
in the morning
in the Knights of Pythias Hall
in Hartland, New Brunswick,
Canada, North America,
world, solar system,
centre of the universe—

and all of us drunk,
swaying together
to the music of rum

and a sad clarinet:

comrades all,
each with his beloved.

Menopause

Gioconda Belli
Nicaraguan
b. 1948

 

So far,
all over the world,
women have survived it.
Perhaps it was that our grandmothers were stoic
or, that back then, they weren’t entitled to complain,
still they reached old age
wilting bodies
but strong souls.
Now, instead,
dissertations are written on the subject.
As early as thirty agony sets in,
Foretelling the catastrophe.

A body is much more than the sum of its hormones.
Menopausal or not
a woman remains a woman,
beyond the production of secretions or eggs.
To miss a period does not imply the loss of syntax
or coherence;
it shouldn’t lead to hiding
as a snail in a shell,
nor provoke endless brooding.
If depression sets in
it won’t be a new occurrence,
each menstrual cycle has come to us with tears
and its load of irrational anger.
There is no reason, then,
to feel devalued:
Get rid of tampons
and sanitary napkins!
Use them to light a bonfire in your garden!
Be naked
Dance the ritual of aging
And survive
Like so many
Before you.

Translation by Charles Castaldi

Song of a Dweller in a High-Rise Block

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

Gülten Akin
Turkish
1933 – 2015

 

They piled the houses high,
in front long balconies.
Far below was water
far below were trees

They piled the houses high,
a thousand stairs to climb.
The outlook a far cry
and friendships further still.

They piled the houses high
in glass and concrete drowned.
In our wisdom we forgot
the earth that was remote
and those who stayed earthbound.

Translation by Ruth Christie

She Walks in Beauty

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 235th birthday.

George Gordon, Lord Byron
Scots
1788 – 1824

 

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

the anatomy of a poem

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 40th birthday.

Toni Stuart
South African
b. 1983

 

I

we share the same teacher, she and I.
he, who considers each poem
a breathing, pulsing thing

brain, muscle, skeleton, breath
all essential for it to thrive
on its own, without its creator

and how these boundaries overlap
breath floods brain
rhythm drives intention home

meeting in the space where silence
lives in the body on the page –
the in-between.

II

next week, when deadlines haranguing
her head have passed, she will go in search
of the in-between

and write those poems
waiting within her
a selfless, selfish act

of reaching within
to reach without

from Oberon

We present this work in honor of the 210th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Christoph Martin Wieland
German
1733 – 1813

 

Now through the outward court swift speeds the knight ;
Within the second from his steed descends;
Along the third his pace majestic bends:
Where’er he enters, dazzled by his sight,
The guards make way, — his gait, his dress, his air,
A nuptial guest of highest rank declare.
Now he advances towards an ebon gate,
Where with drawn swords twelve Moors gigantic wait,
And piecemeal hack the wretch who steps unbidden there.
But the bold gesture and imperial mien Of Huon,
as he opes the lofty door, Drive back the swords that crossed his path before,
And at his entrance flamed with lightning sheen.
At once, with rushing noise, the valves unfold:
High throbs the bosom of our hero bold,
When, locked behind him, harsh the portals bray :
Through gardens decked with columns leads the way,
Where towered a gate incased with plates of massy gold.
There a large forecourt held a various race
Of slaves, a hapless race, sad harem slaves,
Who die of thirst ‘mid joy ‘s o’erflowing waves !
And when a man, whom emir honors grace,
Swells in his state before their hollow eye,
Breathless they bend, with looks that seem to die,
Beneath the weight of servitude oppressed ;
Bow down, with folded arms across the breast,
Nor dare look up to mark the pomp that glitters by.

Translation by Robyn Lowrie

Ship from the Thames

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.

Rex Ingamells
Australian
1913 – 1955

 

Stay, ship from Thames with fettered sails
in Sydney Cove, this ebb of tide;
your gear untangled from the gales,
imprisoned at your anchor ride.

The portly gentleman who are
the pillars of the land come down
and greet the Newcomes voyaged far
to make a name in Sydney town.

The Recoats, too with shouldered arms,
marshal pale wretches from the hold,
who, cramped in tempest and in calms
have learned to do as they are told.

Flash phaetons fill the streets to-day;
inn-tables rock to sailor fists;
the Governor, while the town is gay,
checks over new assignment lists.

Aloof, the slandered and abhorred
behold from of a quarried rise,
the cause of all the stir aboard
a fiercer glitter in their eyes.

Oh sisters, Honor Lies in Independence

Zandokht Shirazi
Persian
1909 – 1953

 

Oh, women of this land!
There is no life, nothing.
This is nothing
but failure and grief.
Death for us is hundred times
Better than such a life.
This life is nothing
But a symbol of slavery.
Beware, women of this land!
Be friends to one another!
Dissolve your links with men!
Why do you take on the name of
Your husband, though you have
A name of your own?

Bergerette

Marguerite de Navarre
French
1492 – 1549

 

O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.
True love is life’s true end,
My heart can comprehend,
And therefore I intend
My love unceasingly to give.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love lends me confidence,
Grants conscience calmer sense,
Builds patient competence,
Forms faith and hope restorative;
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love is my victory,
Honor, gleaming glory;
Fashions me his story
Of pleasure’s daily narrative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love has such lovely grace
That when I see his face
I find a tranquil place
For fervent years contemplative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love offers deep content:
With his care provident
And arm omnipotent,
I need no aid alternative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love draws me lovingly,
Attracts with gloom, then glee,
Charms me with misery.
Alas! His changes I misgive.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love spreads his wings to fly,
Calls me to gratify
Him by pursuit; I sigh,
And hurry toward the fugitive.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Love, to secure my heart,
Falls in my arms by art,
And then away will dart
In dalliance provocative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

My joy without a peer
Inspires such songful cheer,
I cry to every ear,
“Love love, or lapse insensitive!”
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Shepherdesses gracious,
For Love be amorous,
Thereby more rapturous
Than queens of high prerogative.
O shepherdess, my friend,
On love alone I live.

Translation by Margaret Coats

The Old Place

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

Hone Tuwhare
Kiwi
1922 – 2008

 

No one comes
by way of the doughy track
through straggly tea tree bush
and gorse, past the hidden spring
and bitter cress.

Under the chill moon’s light
no one cares to look upon
the drunken fence-posts
and the gate white with moss.

No one except the wind
saw the old place
maker her final curtsy
to the sky and earth:

and in no protesting sense
did iron and barbed wire
ease to the rust’s invasion
nor twang more tautly
to the wind’s slap and scream.

On the cream lorry
or morning paper van
no one comes,
for no one will ever leave
the golden city on the fussy train;
and there will be no more waiting
on the hill beside the quiet tree
where the old place falters
because no one comes anymore
no one.