Wishes

We present this work in honor of the 95th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Patrocinio de Biedma y la Moneda
Spanish
1848 – 1927

 

I would like to be the ray of the dawn
that lights up your forehead in the morning;
to be a flower that you admired for its gallantry
and give you an intoxicating essence.
I would like to be the echo that disgraces her
distant music reaches you:
the fugitive and vain sweet shadow
that you caress in your dreamy soul.
But alas! that the sun the aurora fades,
the flower dies and is lost in the wind
the soft echo that vibrated in calm:
I don’t want to be an illusion that disappears…
It’s better to occupy your thoughts
and be, like today, the soul of your soul.

The Romance of Patrolman Casey

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Ellis Parker Butler
American
1869 – 1937

 

There was a young patrolman who
Had large but tender feet;
They always hurt him badly when
He walked upon his beat.
(He always took them with him when
He walked upon his beat.)

His name was Patrick Casey and
A sweetheart fair had he;
Her face was full of freckles but
Her name was Kate McGee.
(It was in spite of freckles that
Her name was Kate McGee.)

‘Oh, Pat!’ she said, ‘I’ll wed you when
Promotion comes to you!’
‘I’m much-obliged,’ he answered, and
‘I’ll see what I can do.’
(I may remark he said it thus?
‘Oi’ll say phwat Oi kin do.’)

So then he bought some new shoes which
Allowed his feet more ease?
They may have been large twelves. Perhaps
Eighteens, or twenty-threes.
(That’s rather large for shoes, I think?
Eighteens or twenty-threes!)

What last they were I don’t know, but
Somehow it seems to me
I’ve heard somewhere they either were
A, B, C, D, or E.
(More likely they were five lasts wide?
A, B plus C, D, E.)

They were the stoutest cowhide that
Could be peeled off a cow.

But he was not promoted

So
Kate wed him anyhow.

(This world is crowded full of Kates
That wed them anyhow.)

Meeting Point

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.

Louis Macneice
Irish
1907 – 1963

 

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise—
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

Lines to a Parrot

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 260th birthday.

Joanna Baillie
Scots
1762 – 1851

 

In these our days of sentiment
When youthful poets all lament
Some dear lost joy, some cruel maid;
Old friendship changed and faith betrayed;
The world’s cold frown and every ill
That tender hearts with anguish fill;
Loathing this world and all its folly,
In lays most musical and melancholy,–
Touching a low and homely string,
May poet of a Parrot sing
With dignity uninjured? say!–
No; but a simple rhymester may.
Well then, I see thee calm and sage,
Perched on the summit of thy cage,
With broad, hooked beak and plumage green,
Changing to azure in the light,
Gay pinions tipped with scarlet bright,
And, strong for mischief, use or play,
Thick talons, crisped with silver grey,–
A gallant bird, I ween!
What courtly dame, for ball-room drest–
What gartered lord in silken vest–
On wedding morn what country bride
With groom bedizened by her side–
What youngsters in their fair-day geer,
Did ever half so fine appear?
Alas! at ball, or, church, or fair,
Were ne’er assembled visions rare
Of moving creatures all so gay
As in thy native woods, where day
In blazing torrid brightness played
Through checkered boughs and gently made
A ceaseless morris-dance of sheen and shade!
In those blest woods, removed from man,
Thy early being first began,
‘Mid gay compeers, who, blest as thou,
Hopped busily from bough to bough,
Robbing each loaded branch at pleasure
Of berries, buds and kerneled treasure;
Then rose aloft with outspread wing,
Then stooped on flexile twig to swing,
Then coursed and circled through the air,
Mate chasing mate, full many a pair.
It would have set one’s heart a dancing
To ‘ve seen their varied feathers glancing,
And thought how many happy things
Creative Goodness into being brings.
But now how changed! it is thy doom
Within a walled and windowed room
To hold thy home, and (all forgot
The traces of thy former lot),
Clutching the wires with progress slow,
Still round and round thy cage to go.
Or cross the carpet:–altered case!
This now is all thy daily travel’s space.
Yet here thou art a cherished droll,
Known by the name of Pretty Poll;
Oft fed by lady’s gentle hand
With sops and sugar at command,
And sometimes too a nut or cherry,
Which in thy claws to beak and eye
Thou seemest to raise right daintily,
Turning it oft, as if thou still
Wert scanning it with cautious skill,
Provoking urchins near to laughter loud and merry.
See, gathered round, a rosy band,
With eager upcast eyes they stand,
Marking thy motions and withal
Delighting on thy name to call;
And hear, like human speech, reply
Come from thy beak most curiously.
They shout, they mowe, they grin, they giggle,
Clap hands, hoist arms, and shoulders wriggle;
O here, well may we say or sing,
That learning is a charming thing!
For thou, beneath thy wire-wove dome,
A learned creature hast become;
And hast, by dint of oft repeating,
Got words by rote, the vulgar cheating
Which, once in ten times well applied,
Are to the skies with praises cried.
So lettered dunces oft impose
On simple fools their studied prose.
Aye; o’er thy round though unwigged head,
Full many a circling year has sped,
Since thou kept terms within thy college,
From many tutors, short and tall,
In braid or bonnet, cap or caul,
Imbibing wonderous stores of seeming knowledge.
And rarely Bachelor of Arts
Or Master (dare we say it?) imparts
To others such undoubted pleasure
From all his stores of classic treasure:
And ladies sage, whose learned saws
To cognoscenti friends give laws,
Rarely, I trow, can so excite
A listening circle with delight.
And rarely their acquirements shine
Through such a lengthened course as thine.
The grannums of this group so gay,
Who round thee now their homage pay,
Belike have in such youthful glee,
With admiration gazed on thee;
And yet no wrinkled line betrays
The long course of thy lengthened days,
Thy bark of life has kept afloat
As on a shoreless sea, where not
Or change or progress may be traced;
Time hath with thee been leaden-paced.
But ah! proud beauty, on whose head
Some three-score years no blight hath shed,
Untoward days will come at length,
When thou, of spirit reft and strength,
Wilt mope and pine, year after year,
Which all one moulting-time appear,
And this bright plumage, dull and rusty,
Will seem neglected shrunk and dusty,
And scarce a feather’s rugged stump
Be left to grace thy fretted rump.
Mewed in a corner of thy home,
Having but little heart to roam,
Thou’lt wink and peer–a wayward elf,
And croon and clutter to thyself,
Screaming at visitors with spite,
And opening wide thy beak to bite.
Yet in old age still wilt thou find
Some constant friend thy wants to mind,
Whose voice thou’lt know, whose hand thou’lt seek,
Turning to it thy feathered cheek;
Grateful to her though cross and froward
To all beside, and it will go hard
But she will love thee, even when life’s last goal
Thou’st reached, and call thee still her Pretty Poll.
Now from these lines, young friends, I know
A lesson might be drawn to shew
How, like our bird, on life’s vain stage,
Pass human childhood, prime and age:
But conned comparisons, I doubt,
Might put your patience to the rout,
And all my pains small thanks receive,
So this to wiser folks leave.

Gracefully She Approached

Simin Behbahani
Persian
1927 – 2014

 

Gracefully she approached,
in a dress of bright blue silk;
With an olive branch in her hand,
and many tales of sorrows in her eyes.
Running to her, I greeted her,
and took her hand in mine:
Pulses could still be felt in her veins;
warm was still her body with life.

“But you are dead, mother”, I said;
“Oh, many years ago you died!”
Neither of embalmment she smelled,
Nor in a shroud was she wrapped.

I gave a glance at the olive branch;
she held it out to me,
And said with a smile,
“It is the sign of peace; take it.”

I took it from her and said,
“Yes, it is the sign of…”, when
My voice and peace were broken
by the violent arrival of a horseman.
He carried a dagger under his tunic
with which he shaped the olive branch
Into a rod and looking at it
he said to himself:
“Not too bad a cane
for punishing the sinners!”
A real image of a hellish pain!
Then, to hide the rod,
He opened his saddlebag.
in there, O God!
I saw a dead dove, with a string tied
round its broken neck.

My mother walked away with anger and sorrow;
my eyes followed her;
Like the mourners she wore
a dress of black silk.

Translation by Mahmud Kianush

Heat

Archibald Lampman
Canadian
1861 – 1899

 

From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.
By his cart’s side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease,
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffiing to his knees.
This wagon on the height above,
From sky to sky on either hand,
Is the sole thing that seems to move
In all the heat-held land.

Beyond me in the fields the sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.
On the brook yonder not a breath
Disturbs the spider or the midge.
The water-bugs draw close beneath
The cool gloom of the bridge.

Where the far elm-tree shadows flood
Dark patches in the burning grass,
The cows, each with her peaceful cud,
Lie waiting for the heat to pass.
From somewhere on the slope near by
Into the pale depth of the noon
A wandering thrush slides leisurely
His thin revolving tune.

In intervals of dreams I hear
The cricket from the droughty ground;
The grasshoppers spin into mine ear
A small innumerable sound.
I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze:
The burning sky-line blinds my sight:
The woods far off are blue with haze:
The hills are drenched in light.

And yet to me not this or that
Is always sharp or always sweet;
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest, and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some blessèd power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.

Hail to Thee, Nicaragua!

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

Salomón Ibarra Mayorga
Nicaraguan
1887 – 1985

 

Hail to thee, Nicaragua! On thy land
roareth the voice of the cannon no more,
nor doeth the blood of brothers now stain
thy glorious bicolor banner.

Let peace shine beautifully in thy sky,
and nothing dimmeth thine immortal glory,
for labor is thy well-earned laurel
and honor is thy triumphal emblem,
is thy triumphal emblem!

The Call of the River Nun

Gabriel Okara
Nigerian
1921 – 2019

 

I hear your call!
I hear it far away;
I hear it break the circle of these crouching hills.

I want to view your face again and feel your cold embrace;
or at your brim to set myself and inhale your breath;
or like the trees, to watch my mirrored self unfold and span my days with song from the lips of dawn.
I hear your lapping call!
I hear it coming through; invoking the ghost of a child listening, where river birds hail your silver-surfaced flow.

My river’s calling too!
Its ceaseless flow impels my found’ring canoe down its inevitable course.
And each dying year brings near the sea-bird call, the final call that stills the crested waves and breaks in two the curtain of silence of my upturned canoe.
O incomprehensible God!
Shall my pilot be my inborn stars to that final call to Thee.
O my river’s complex course?

The Town

Karen Gershon
German
1923 – 1993

 

I did not want to feel at home
of what importance was the town
my family were driven from
how could I still have thought it mine
I have four children why should I
expend my love on stones and trees
of what significance were these
to have such power over me

As stones and trees absorb the weather
so these had stored my childhood days
and from a million surfaces
gave back my father and my mother
my presence there was dialogue
how could I have refused to answer
when my own crippled childhood broke
from streets and hillsides like a dancer

Work

We present this work in honor of Labor Day.

Eliza Cook
English
1818 – 1889

 

Work, work, my boy, be not afraid;
Look labor boldly in the face;
Take up the hammer or the spade,
And blush not for your humble place.

There’s glory in the shuttle’s song;
There’s triumph in the anvil’s stroke;
There’s merit in the brave and strong
Who dig the mine or fell the oak.

The wind disturbs the sleeping lake,
And bids it ripple pure and fresh;
It moves the green boughs till they make
Grand music in their leafy mesh.

And so the active breath of life
Should stir our dull and sluggard wills;
For are we not created rife
With health, that stagnant torpor kills?

I doubt if he who lolls his head
Where idleness and plenty meet,
Enjoys his pillow or his bread
As those who earn the meals they eat.

And man is never half so blest
As when the busy day is spent
So as to make his evening rest
A holiday of glad content.