The Frog

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Hilaire Belloc
French
1870 – 1953

 

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’
Or likewise ‘Ugly James,’
Or ‘Gap-a-grin,’ or ‘Toad-gone-wrong,’
Or ‘Bill Bandy-knees’:
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

To Her Father With Some Verses

We present this work in honor of Parents’ Day.

Anne Bradstreet
English
1612 – 1672

 

Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.

Spring 1946

We present this work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Elisabeth Langgässer
German
1899 – 1950

 

(for Cordelia)

So you return
My sweet Anemone –
All brilliant stamen, calyx, crown –
Making it worth the devastation,
Like Nausicaa?

Windblown and bowing –
Wave and spray and light –
What whirling joy at last
Has lifted up this weight
From shoulders bent with dust?

Now I arise
Out of the toad’s domain –
Pluto’s reddish glare still under my eyelids –
And the hideous pipe of the guide to the dead
Still in my ears.

I have seen the iron gleam
In the Gorgon’s eye.
I have heard the hiss, the whisper,
The rumor that she would kill me:
It was a lie.

Anemone, my daughter,
Let me kiss your face: it is
Unmirrored by the waters
Of Lethe or the Styx.
And innocent of no or not.

And see, you are alive
And here – there’s no deception –
And quiet in the way you touch my heart
Yet do not rake its fires –
My child, my Nausicaa!

Of Dying Beauty

Louis Zukofsky
American
1904 – 1978

 

“Spare us of dying beauty,” cries out Youth,
“Of marble gods that moulder into dust—
Wide-eyed and pensive with an ancient truth
That even gods will go as old things must.”

Where fading splendor grays to powdered earth,
And time’s slow movement darkens quiet skies,
Youth weeps the old, yet gives new beauty birth
And molds again, though the old beauty dies.

Time plays an ancient dirge amid old places
Where ruins are a sign of passing strength,
As is the weariness of aged faces
A token of a beauty gone at length.

Yet youth will always come self-willed and gay—
A sun-god in a temple of decay.

Peaceful Garden

In honor of Revolution Day, we present this work by one of Egypt’s great modern poets.

Abbas al-Aqqad
Egyptian
1889 – 1964

 

My garden stretches under death’s shadow,
But life moistens it with dew of golden fallow.
A sieve dissipates clouds of miasmic grit
Protecting trees from its noxious flit.
Birds bearing an air of melancholy
Dream to soar with drunken jolly.
My heart finds itself, in all this abundance
Smelling scents of such soft fragrance.
Like an eye at night, awake it tries to keep
But falls to fatigue, overcome by sleep.
From one state to another, a faraway distraction
grips it, and then awakens renewed attraction.
A dream, through its vision, becomes reality
Caressed by tenderness and much dexterity.
Thus, as a dream, beauty is detected
When at night its gilded veil is ejected.
Heaven’s gift, this land with furrows plowed.
To solitary souls its great bounty allowed.
Fresh and light, winds gentle and restful
Blown from another world seem so peaceful.
Here, ghosts of all stripes meet
Lost souls remorseful in defeat.
Let’s hope the respite that is our fate’s master
Unites at once those here and in the hereafter.
Before the last breath, to what aim
To whine? to worry? An effort so lame.

To the Sun Because it Rose When He Was With a Woman and He Had to Leave Her

Luis de Góngora
Spanish
1561 – 1627

 

Already kissing two crystalline hands,
Already clinging to a white, smooth neck,
Already scattering ‘round it all that hair,
which Love from the gold in its mines had torn;

already breaking on those precious pearls
a thousand sweet words, not deserving it,
already plucking from each lovely lip
crimson roses with no fear of thorns,

was I, oh shimmering and jealous Sun,
when your light, shattering my eyes,
killed my delight and stopped what I’d begun.

If heaven has not yet become too weak,
in order that yours cease to give me pain,
may its rays kill you as they did your son.

The Victoria Falls

Muriel Spark
Scots
1918 – 2006

 

So hushed, so hot, the broad Zambesi lies
Above the Falls, and on her weedy isles
Swing antic monkeys swarm malignant flies,
And seeming-lazy lurk long crocodiles.

But somewhere down the river does the hush
Become a sibilance that hints a sigh,
A murmur, mounting as the currents rush
Faster, and while the murmur is a cry

The cry becomes a shout, the shout a thunder
Until the whole Zambesi waters pour
Into the earth’s side, agitating under
Infinite spray mists, pounding the world’s floor.

Wrapped in this liquid turmoil who can say
Which is the mighty echo, which the spray?

Almost Winter

In honor of the Japanese holiday, Marine Day, we present this work by an author considered the soul of modern Japanese poetry.

Katsue Kitasono
Japanese
1902 – 1978

 

winter rain
shines on
slight moss
like on damask

I put on deer
armor
and sit in a
narrow hallway

with the passing days
thoughts are light
bright
and futile

one bitter drop
contained
as in a Chinese bowl
cold and futile there is nothing

there is nothing
I should know by now
also, no books
and no visitors

Cheetah

Abū Nuwās
Persian
756 – 814

 

I move through black cloud night—
Dark, at war with Dawn,
Quivers with a fine blade’s sheen—
With a vigorous, widejaw cheetah
Thickneck, spine-welded-scapulae
Leanbelly in taut-twist well-rope body
Cheek-folds plump in a scowl,
Sheeny; black teardrops on masseters
Bactrian lungs in saffron ribcage
Heavy paws, bull neck, sudden dart
A lion but for the spotty coat
Alert for shapes that shift.

A long search sights two herds
On ground flat as a man’s brow
He’s off, a slow stalk,
A trap about to explode
Puff adder slither
Through ground high and low
Face to face with his prey now—
Havoc! He scatters them across the desert
Full stretch, full pelt
Greedy fury.

Why hunt with any creature but a cheetah?