curated by Adam Fitzgerald

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Hill

In Italy, where this sort of thing can occur,
I had a vision once - though you understand
It was nothing at all like Dante's, or the visions of saints,
And perhaps not a vision at all. I was with some friends,
Picking my way through a warm sunlit piazza
In the early morning. A clear fretwork of shadows
From huge umbrellas littered the pavement and made
A sort of lucent shallows in which was moored
A small navy of carts. Books, coins, old maps,
Cheap landscapes and ugly religious prints
Were all on sale. The colors and noise
Like the flying hands were gestures of exultation,
So that even the bargaining
Rose to the ear like a voluble godliness.
And then, where it happened, the noises suddenly stopped,
And it got darker; pushcarts and people dissolved
And even the great Farnese Palace itself
Was gone, for all its marble; in its place
Was a hill, mole-colored and bare. It was very cold,
Close to freezing, with a promise of snow.
The trees were like old ironwork gathered for scrap
Outside a factory wall. There was no wind,
And the only sound for a while was the little click
Of ice as it broke in the mud under my feet.
I saw a piece of ribbon snagged on a hedge,
But no other sign of life. And then I heard
What seemed the crack of a rifle. A hunter, I guessed;
At least I was not alone. But just after that
Came the soft and papery crash
Of a great branch somewhere unseen falling to earth.

And that was all, except for the cold and silence
That promised to last forever, like the hill.

Then prices came through, and fingers, and I was restored
To the sunlight and my friends. But for more than a week
I was scared by the plain bitterness of what I had seen.
All this happened about ten years ago,
And it hasn't troubled me since, but at last, today,
I remembered that hill; it lies just to the left
Of the road north of Poughkeepsie; and as a boy
I stood before it for hours in wintertime.

by Anthony Hecht (1923 - 2004)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Did you give me the ocean?
Astral bodies were little ping-pong balls,
a totem, a honeycomb, bumps, bumps.
You strengthened the pavement in Sicily.
Watched it from balconies.
The strollers alarmed you.
The same in Naples: to hold back your breath,
to measure, to surrender to the wind,
it was all about your gaze.
About your remembrance of the warm stone.
Who among the strollers, without any reason,
breaks his gaze and lifts it up?
Only love calls,
not wind or shutters clattering.
Do you feel there is no connection?
It bends, it eats its fill, it flows nowhere.
There are no secret corridors to the miracle.
When I kept giving you my hand to lick, like
sugar, were you sated?
Only infinity is always hungry,
not that hunger consumes you.
You discovered a sphere.
You were caught.
You were nailed to the wall, with five others.
You were all my hostages.
Where is the freedom of the other three?
The bracelet was given as a present
on the main square in Cuernavaca.
I measured your dust.

by Tomaž Šalamun (b. 1941)
Trans. by Joshua Beckman & the poet

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sonnet I

His piercing pince-nez. Some dim frieze
Hands point to a dim frieze, in the dark night.
In the book of his music the corners have straightened:
Which owe their presence to our sleeping hands.
The ox-blood from the hands which play
For fire for warmth for hands for growth
Is there room in the room that you room in?
Upon his structured tomb:
Still they mean
something. For the dance
And the architecture.
Weave among incidents
May be portentous to him
We are the sleeping fragments of his sky,
Wind giving presence to fragments.

by Ted Berrigan (1934 - 1983)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Built Shadow

Sure of much that had better
be right sure of less that had a better
chance of more than was expected
Shouted through the taking place
to the place it had taken
when there's nothing to lose you
make do with what was lost

by Ray DiPalma (b. 1943)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Strange Meeting

It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot—wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . ."

by Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Walk

Cut down by the sky.
Between shapes moving toward the serpent
and crystal-craving shapes,
I'll let my hair grow.

With the amputated tree that doesn't sing
and the child with the blank face of an egg.

With the little animals whose skulls are cracked
and the water, dressed in rags but with dry feet.

With all the bone-tired, deaf-and-dumb things
and a butterfly drowned in the inkwell.

Bumping into my own face, different each day.
Cut down by the sky!

by Federico García Lorca
Translated by Greg Simon & Steven F. White

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Meditation On Saviors


When I considered it too closely, when I wore it like an element
         and smelt it like water,
Life is become less lovely, the net nearer than the skin, a
         little troublesome, a little terrible.

I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death
         nor in a walled garden,
In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that
         easily lock the world out of doors.

Here on the rock it is great and beautiful, here on the foam-wet
         granite sea-fang it is easy to praise
Life and water and the shining stones: but whose cattle are the
         herds of the people that one should love them?

If they were yours, then you might take a cattle-breeder's
         delight in the herds of the future. Not yours.
Where the power ends let love, before it sours to jealousy.
         Leave the joys of government to Caesar.

Who is born when the world wanes, when the brave soul of the
         world falls on decay in the flesh increasing
Comes one with a great level mind, sufficient vision, sufficient
         blindness, and clemency for love.

This is the breath of rottenness I smelt; from the world
         waiting, stalled between storms, decaying a little,
Bitterly afraid to be hurt, but knowing it cannot draw the
         savior Caesar but out of the blood-bath.

The apes of Christ lift up their hands to praise love: but
         wisdom without love is the present savior,
Power without hatred, mind like a many-bladed machine subduing
         the world with deep indifference.

The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known;
         words and the little envies will hardly
Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they
         have never dared to confront.


Point Lobos lies over the hollowed water like a humped whale
         swimming to shoal; Point Lobos
Was wounded with that fire; the hills at Point Sur endured it;
         the palace at Thebes; the hill Calvary.

Out of incestuous love power and then ruin. A man forcing the
         imaginations of men,
Possessing with love and power the people: a man defiling his
         own household with impious desire.

King Oedipus reeling blinded from the palace doorway, red tears
         pouring from the torn pits
Under the forehead; and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill
         in the earthquake, against the eclipse

Frightfully uplifted for having turned inward to love the
         people: —that root was so sweet O dreadful agonist? -
I saw the same pierced feet, that walked in the same crime to
         its expiation; I heard the same cry.

A bad mountain to build your world on. Am I another keeper of
         the people, that on my own shore,
On the gray rock, by the grooved mass of the ocean, the
         sicknesses I left behind me concern me?

Here where the surf has come incredible ways out of the splendid
         west, over the deeps
Light nor life sounds forever; here where enormous sundowns
         flower and burn through color to quietness;

Then the ecstasy of the stars is present? As for the people, I
         have found my rock, let them find theirs.
Let them lie down at Caesar's feet and be saved; and he in his
         time reap their daggers of gratitude.


Yet I am the one made pledges against the refuge contempt, that
         easily locks the world out of doors.
This people as much as the sea-granite is part of the God from
         whom I desire not to be fugitive.

I see them: they are always crying. The shored Pacific makes
         perpetual music, and the stone mountains
Their music of silence, the stars blow long pipings of light:
         the people are always crying in their hearts.

One need not pity; certainly one must not love. But who has seen
         peace, if he should tell them where peace
Lives in the world... they would be powerless to understand; and
         he is not willing to be reinvolved.


How should one caught in the stone of his own person dare tell
         the people anything but relative to that?
But if a man could hold in his mind all the conditions at once,
         of man and woman, of civilized

And barbarous, of sick and well, of happy and under torture, of
         living and dead, of human and not
Human, and dimly all the human future: —what should persuade him
         to speak? And what could his words change?

The mountain ahead of the world is not forming but fixed. But
         the man's words would be fixed also,
Part of that mountain, under equal compulsion; under the same
         present compulsion in the iron consistency.

And nobody sees good or evil but out of a brain a hundred
         centuries quieted, some desert
Prophet's, a man humped like a camel, gone mad between the mud-
         walled village and the mountain sepulchres.


Broad wagons before sunrise bring food into the city from the
         open farms, and the people are fed.
They import and they consume reality. Before sunrise a hawk in
         the desert made them their thoughts.


Here is an anxious people, rank with suppressed
         bloodthirstiness. Among the mild and unwarlike
Gautama needed but live greatly and be heard, Confucius needed
         but live greatly and be heard:

This people has not outgrown blood-sacrifice, one must writhe on
         the high cross to catch at their memories;
The price is known. I have quieted love; for love of the people
         I would not do it. For power I would do it.

—But that stands against reason: what is power to a dead man,
         dead under torture? —What is power to a man
Living, after the flesh is content? Reason is never a root,
         neither of act nor desire.

For power living I would never do it; they'are not delightful to
         touch, one wants to be separate. For power
After the nerves are put away underground, to lighten the
         abstract unborn children toward peace...

A man might have paid anguish indeed. Except he had found the
         standing sea-rock that even this last
Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace
         that quiets the desire even of praising it.


Yet look: are they not pitiable? No: if they lived forever they
         would be pitiable:
But a huge gift reserved quite overwhelms them at the end; they
         are able then to be still and not cry.

And having touched a little of the beauty and seen a little of
         the beauty of things, magically grow
Across the funeral fire or the hidden stench of burial
         themselves into the beauty they admired,

Themselves into the God, themselves into the sacred steep
         unconsciousness they used to mimic
Asleep between lamp's death and dawn, while the last drunkard
         stumbled homeward down the dark street.

They are not to be pitied but very fortunate; they need no
         savior, salvation comes and takes them by force,
It gathers them into the great kingdoms of dust and stone, the
         blown storms, the stream's-end ocean.

With this advantage over their granite grave-marks, of having
         realized the petulant human consciousness
Before, and then the greatness, the peace: drunk from both
         pitchers: these to be pitied? These not fortunate

But while he lives let each man make his health in his mind, to
         love the coast opposite humanity
And so be freed of love, laying it like bread on the waters; it
         is worst turned inward, it is best shot farthest.

Love, the mad wine of good and evil, the saint's and murderer's,
         the mote in the eye that makes its object
Shine the sun black; the trap in which it is better to catch the
         inhuman God than the hunter's own image.

by Robinson Jeffers (1887 - 1962)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Clock of Secret Weddings

On the side of evil:

Why must I always fall asleep
Why must the night devour me

I am unable to go without a halo
It hurts to be without a crown

But when I sleep soft chimes sound
My indolence hangs on their rope

I dream of the heart of my dead youth.


Then time gives birth to a new order
Order of fall with twisted foliage

I am born I die I open and close the door
I am at the heart of what dies from blooming

I do not know how to leave from where I start off
Nor how to see any part of my sad future

I decorate my sheets with my twisted scowl.

On the side of good:

Over the delicate sky enormous clouds
Broke the flow of monotonous dreams

And when the flaming storm made a face
I was breathing darkness I was taking form

I conceived the earth that I worship
I was like everything that I name

I fortified the forgiving earth.


A thousand songs of grapes and apples
Bedecked all words with fruit

A thousand voyages of animals and men
Sought out the day on the earth without limits

Night kissed the lips of dawn
The flowers were opening under the frantic light

I was radiance I was weakness and strength.

by Paul Éluard (1895 – 1952)
Translated from the French by Lisa Lubasch