Song of the Beautiful Trust

Clementina Arderiu
Spanish
1889 – 1976

 

I’ve given my lover
all my keys,
and I have got his
and we are at peace.
But there’s one room left
in the deepest lair,
and not for one second
can we enter there.
So many a heavy thought
and secret power
flees into it every
passing hour!
It isn’t worth it
to pry at the lock:
the uproar would blast you
harder than rock.
The echoes and shadows
will do just fine.
Let him keep his accounts
and I’ll keep mine.

The Return of Sarasvati

We present this work in honor of Vikram Samvat New Year.

Sumitranandan Pant
Indian
1900 – 1977

 

Youth’s splendor is on her limbs,
on her face the sweat of toil
and the sun’s red burning;
a basket of golden grain upon her head,
she comes and goes along the boundary dikes:
her waist supple
and thighs that shimmer—
eternal child of rain and heat and frost,
this agile-footed
dark-skinned girl,
with a sprig of wheat between her lips.
Heigh ho, two days—
That’s all her youth!—
dream of a moment
not long remembered.
Ground down with sorrow,
worn out by troubled times,
her body withers,
its wealth of youth untimely spent;
a blad of grass adrift from shore,
that laughed and played a few brief moments with the waves.

Illusion and Reality

We present this work in honor of Diwali.

Kabir
Indian
c. 1398 – c. 1518

 

What is seen is not the Truth
What is cannot be said
Trust comes not without seeing
Nor understanding without words
The wise comprehends with knowledge
To the ignorant it is but a wonder
Some worship the formless God
Some worship His various forms
In what way He is beyond these attributes
Only the Knower knows
That music cannot be written
How can then be the notes
Says Kabir, awareness alone will overcome illusion

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver
American
1935 – 2019

 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

It Is Night

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Nima Yooshij
Persian
1895 – 1960

 

A night of deep darkness.
On a branch of the old fig tree
A frog croaks without cease,
Predicting a storm, a deluge,
and I am drowned in fear.

It is night,

And with night the world seems
like a corpse in the grave;
And in fear I say to myself:
‘What if torrential rain falls everywhere?’
‘What if the rain does not stop
until the earth sinks into the water
like a small boat?’

In this night of awful darkness

Who can say in what state we will be
when dawn breaks?
Will the morning light make
the frightening face of the storm
disappear?

Last Day of Leave

We present this work in honor of Veterans’ Day.

Robert Graves
English
1895 – 1985

 

We five looked out over the moor
At rough hills blurred with haze, and a still sea:
Our tragic day, bountiful from the first.

We would spend it by the lily lake
(High in a fold beyond the farthest ridge),
Following the cart-track till it faded out.

The time of berries and bell-heather;
Yet all that morning nobody went by
But shepherds and one old man carting turfs.

We were in love: he with her, she with him,
And I, the youngest one, the odd man out,
As deep in love with a yet nameless muse.

No cloud; larks and heath-butterflies,
And herons undisturbed fishing the streams;
A slow cool breeze that hardly stirred the grass.

When we hurried down the rocky slope,
A flock of ewes galloping off in terror,
There shone the waterlilies, yellow and white.

Deep water and a shelving bank.
Off went our clothes and in we went, all five,
Diving like trout between the lily groves.

The basket had been nobly filled:
Wine and fresh rolls, chicken and pineapple—
Our braggadocio under threat of war.

The fire on which we boiled our kettle
We fed with ling and rotten blackthorn root;
And the coffee tasted memorably of peat.

Two of us might stray off together
But never less than three kept by the fire,
Focus of our uncertain destinies.

We spoke little, our minds in tune—
A sigh or laugh would settle any theme;
The sun so hot it made the rocks quiver.

But when it rolled down level with us,
Four pairs of eyes sought mine as if appealing
For a blind-fate-aversive afterword:—

‘Do you remember the lily lake?
We were all there, all five of us in love,
Not one yet killed, widowed or broken-hearted.’

Peepholes

Caridad Atencio
Cuban
b. 1963

 

Over the brief crossing of two silhouettes
the calmness of the one who shall die first.

Depths in the fruit’s skin.

A tacit movement at the shadow.

Courage as a punishment,
obligation turned into desire.

I’m not afraid of hollowness.

It’s a pile of air

The fire you watched…

Only the weight of time creates a deaf heartbeat in my brain.

Beach Burial

Kenneth Slessor
Australian
1901 – 1971

 

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin –

‘Unknown seaman’ – the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men’s lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

Was That Layla’s Flame

Ibn Al-Farid
Egyptian
1181 – 1234

 

Was that Layla’s flame that shone through the veils of night on Dhū-Salam?
Or lightning’s flash throughout the vales round Zawra and Al-Alam?
Have you but a sigh of dawn for me, O winds about Na’man?
Have you but a sip to offer me, O waters of Wajra?
O driver of laden camels rolling up the wayless sands
like a scroll of mighty writ beside the Sagebrush of Idam
Turn aside at the guarded safeground -God be your shepherd!- and seek the path
To yonder Lotus thicket, to the myrtle and laurel bay.
Then halt at Mount Sal, and ask at the curling vale of Raqmatayn:
Have the tamarisks grown and touched at last in the livening weep of the rain?
If you’ve crossed the waters of Aqīq in the mornlight, I implore you
By God, be unabashed and offer them my heart-felt Hail!
Tell everybody this: I have left behind a heart-felled man
Alive as a deadman, adding plague to plague through your domains.
From my heart like a burning bush there spreads a flame of more than fire.
From my eyes the pouring tears are like a ceaseless season of rains.
For such is lovers’ law: not one limb of the mortal body
When bound in love with a gazelle can ever be free of pain.
You ignoramus! You who defame and shame me for my love!
Desist and learn. You would not blame me, had your love been the same.
I swear by the sacred union, by the age-old love and by
Our covenant’s communion and all the things of bygone ages:
No consolation, no replacement turned me away from loving
For it is not who I am to move with the whims of solace and change.
Return the slumber to my eyes, and then perhaps I will see you
Visit my bed in the recklessness of dream as a revenant shade.
Alas for our days at Khayf! Had they but lasted each tenfold!
Alas for me, alas, how the last day couldn’t last or stay.
If only my grief could cure me, oh if only the “oh” of my woe
And my remorse could ever recover aught that is passed away,
Gazelles of the winding dell! Be kind and turn away from me
For I, to look on no one but my love, have bound my gaze
In deference to a Judge who has decreed a wondrous fatwa
That my blood be shed in every month, both sacred and profane.
Deaf, he did not hear my plea. Dumb, he could not reply.
He is stricken blind to the plight of one whom love has struck insane.

Being a Human Being

Tom Leonard
Scots
1944 – 2018

 

for Mordechai Vanunu

not to be complicit
not to accept everyone else is silent it must be alright

not to keep one’s mouth shut to hold onto one’s job
not to accept public language as cover and decoy

not to put friends and family before the rest of the world
not to say I am wrong when you know the government is wrong

not to be just a bought behaviour pattern
to accept the moment and fact of choice

I am a human being
and I exist

a human being
and a citizen of the world

responsible to that world
—and responsible for that world