We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.
Old gods and goddesses who have lived so long Through time and never found eternity, Fettered by wasting wood and hollowing hill, You should have fled our ever-dying song, The mound, the well, and the green trysting tree. They have forgotten, yet you linger still, Goddess of caverned breast and channeled brow, And cheeks slow hollowed by millennial tears, Forests of autumns fading in your eyes, Eternity marvels at your counted years And kingdoms lost in time, and wonders how There could be thoughts so bountiful and wise As yours beneath the ever-breaking bough, And vast compassion curving like the skies.
Welcome to this house your home, here you breathe the bitter cold of that absent breath. Welcome to this house of anger and tears, indeed you can sit where your footsteps run out where your skin dries. The house has changed a bit —you’ll forgive me— but I’ve avoided painting it so that the cracks of time will give it a little bit of that familiar tinge.
It is the same house, don’t be afraid, that same one that we built some time ago, waiting to be alone enough to live in it.
Time was, long before I met her, but longer still, since we parted, The east wind is powerless, for it has come and a hundred flowers are gone, And the silk-worms of spring will spin until they die And every night candles will weep their wicks away. In the morning mirror she sees her temple hair changing the color of clouds Chanting poems in the chill of moonlight. Oh, it is not so very far to Penglai O blue-birds listen, bring me what she says.
We present this work in honor of the 30th anniversary of the poet’s death.
When you reach that other world, don’t become a cloud, don’t become a cloud, and the bitter star of dawn, so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door. Take a wand of willow, a root of rosemary, a root of rosemary, and be a moonlit coolness falling in the midnight in your thirsting courtyard. I gave you rosewater to drink, you gave me poison, eaglet of the frost, hawk of the desert.
We present this work in honor of the 20th anniversary of the poet’s death.
Heavy are my verses— Stones uphill. I will carry them up to the crag, The resting place. I will fall face down in the weeds, Tears will not do. I will rend my strophe— The verse will burst out crying. Pain cuts into my palm— Nettles! The day’s bitter taste turns All to words.
There was a month I called May. When I buried it in papers, passion streaming down, flooding the tiles of the rooms. Herds of gazelles searching for mercy lap it up…and I wander about in search of a knife to sharpen against my cheekbones, as I turn the pages of these moments. You are a stranger to me, and your eyes are the foam of distances running like rivers between us. Don’t ask me about my evaporating grief; perhaps it has become salt with which to doctor wounds, or maybe seeds I can scatter across the floor, to absorb the words that creep there in search of a story. Perhaps my sorrow was a bedsheet that couldn’t cover its old bed. Its only pretext was to gaze at the sky and snatch up stars. Thus, with no trace of treason. We were sitting on the couch casting glances into the horizon, arrows of light years. Waiting, we dified the hours. Our revolt…ashamed to wear a mask, its savage visage. Our feet stalked insects to crush them, while they flaunted themselves like naked words Determined to gasp their last breaths in our sight. Between us there are also silken buds, fluttering spring butterflies. Their clusters are like the sun’s bashfulness when it gathers the girl’s milk teeth, causing the seasons, and among them you, cunning Spring. Is what’s between us the empire of Ahmad Taha? Or those gleaming golden circles, panting behind steely eyes? I wish I were a leaf, with cells in rows. My splendor, seasons borne by sailboats. My ending the winter, when geckos hide away to dream of new plants growing. From your bandaged wounds, in salt and fog, soaring across riverbanks the morning of erupting promises, running from shore to quay like a short story collapsing breathless on the streets, Does anyone forbid fabrication?
Or might those cities that swallow fog conjure the word away too? The same palm outstretched to God, the same bare feet. The same eyes, sparkling with poetry’s delight. Is this why you tremble, dreading the city’s pages? Is this why you left the streets, to seek refuge in the nightmares of years? Will you take comfort in the disgrace of seasons, and the vagrancy of lone words on the sidewalks of meaninglessness?
Your love was like moonlight turning harsh things to beauty, so that little wry souls reflecting each other obliquely as in cracked mirrors… beheld in your luminous spirit their own reflection, transfigured as in a shining stream, and loved you for what they are not.
You are less an image in my mind than a luster I see you in gleams pale as star-light on a gray wall… evanescent as the reflection of a white swan shimmering in broken water.
To be a Jew in the twentieth century Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse, Wishing to be invisible, you choose Death of the spirit, the stone insanity
Accepting, take full life. Full agonies: Your evening deep in labyrinthine blood Of those who resist, fail, and resist; and God Reduced to a hostage among hostages.
The gift is torment. Not alone the still Torture, isolation; or torture of the flesh. That may come also. But the accepting wish, The whole and fertile spirit as guarantee For every human freedom, suffering to be free, Daring to live for the impossible.