Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005

Robert Creeley
After Frost

He comes here
by whatever way he can,   
not too late,
not too soon.

He sits, waiting.
He doesn’t know   
why he should
have such a patience.

He sits at a table   
on a chair.
He is comfortable   
sitting there.

No one else
in this room,
no others, no expectations,   
no sounds.

Had he walked   
another way,
would he be here,   
like they say.

-- Robert Creeley

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

Fame is a bee. 

Fame is a bee.
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing.

-Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

Monday, December 2, 2019

Pablo Neruda, 1904 - 1973

Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market

among the market vegetables,
this torpedo
from the ocean 
a missile 
that swam,
lying in front of me

by the earth's green froth 
—these lettuces,
bunches of carrots—
only you 
lived through
the sea's truth, survived
the unknown, the
darkness, the depths 
of the sea,
the great 
le grand abîme,
only you: 
to that deepest night.

Only you:
dark bullet
from the depths,
one wound,
but resurgent,
always renewed,
locked into the current,
fins fletched
like wings
in the torrent,
in the coursing
like a grieving arrow,
sea-javelin, a nerveless 
oiled harpoon.

in front of me,
catafalqued king
of my own ocean;
sappy as a sprung fir
in the green turmoil,
once seed
to sea-quake,
tidal wave, now
dead remains;
in the whole market
was the only shape left
with purpose or direction
in this 
jumbled ruin
of nature;
you are 
a solitary man of war
among these frail vegetables,
your flanks and prow
and slippery
as if you were still
a well-oiled ship of the wind,
the only
of the sea: unflawed,
navigating now
the waters of death.

-Pablo Neruda

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Franz Wright, 1953 - 2015

Wheeling Motel

The vast waters flow past its back-yard.

You can purchase a six-pack in bars!
Tammy Wynette's on the marquee

a block down. It's twenty-five years ago:

you went to death, I to life, and
which was luckier God only knows.

There's this line in an unpublished poem of yours.

The river is like that,
a blind familiar.

The wind will die down when I say so;

the leaden and lessening light on
the current.

Then the moon will rise

like the word reconciliation,
like Walt Whitman examining the tear on a dead face.

-Franz Wright 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Kabir, 1440 - 1518

My Swan, Let Us Fly

My swan, let us fly to that land
Where your Beloved lives forever.

That land has an up-ended well
Whose mouth, narrow as a thread,
The married soul draws water from
Without a rope or pitcher.

My swan, let us fly to that land
Where your Beloved lives forever.

Clouds never cluster there,
Yet it goes on and on raining.
Don’t keep squatting outside in the yard –
Come in! Get drenched without a body!

My swan, let us fly to that land
Where your Beloved lives forever.

That land is always soaked in moonlight;
Darkness can never come near it.
It is flooded always with the dazzle
Of not one, but a million suns.

My swan, let us fly to that land
Where your Beloved lives forever.

- Kabir

Note: Not all scholars agree with the years given for Kabir's birth and death.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Agha Shahid Ali, 1949 - 2001

Agha Shahid Ali


    Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar
                         —Laurence Hope

Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?

Those “Fabrics of Cashmere—” “to make Me beautiful—”
“Trinket”—to gem—“Me to adorn—How tell”—tonight?

I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

God’s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar—
All the archangels—their wings frozen—fell tonight.

Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken;
Only we can convert the infidel tonight.

Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexities
multiply me at once under your spell tonight.

He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.
He’s left open—for God—the doors of Hell tonight.

In the heart’s veined temple, all statues have been smashed.
No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.

God, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day—
I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.

Executioners near the woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.

The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayer
fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.

My rivals for your love—you’ve invited them all?
This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.

And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee—
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

-Agha Shahid Ali

“Tonight" from Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals by Agha Shahid Ali.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Kenneth Patchen, 1911 - 1972

Kenneth Patchen, 1957

The Deer and the Snake

The deer is humble, lovely as God made her
I watch her eyes and think of wonder owned

These strange priests enter the cathedral of woods
And seven Marys clean their hands to woo her

Foot lifted, dagger-sharp—her ears
Poised to their points like a leaf’s head

But the snake strikes, in a velvet arc
Of murderous speed—assassin beautiful

As mountain water at which a fawn drank
Stand there, forever, while poison works
While I stand counting the arms of your Cross
Thinking that many Christs could hang there, crying.

Kenneth Patchen

by Kenneth Patchen

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

W.S. Merwin, 1927 - 2019

Rain Travel

I wake in the dark and remember
it is the morning when I must start
by myself on the journey
I lie listening to the black hour
before dawn and you are
still asleep beside me while
around us the trees full of night lean
hushed in their dream that bears
us up asleep and awake then I hear
drops falling one by one into
the sightless leaves and I
do not know when they began but
all at once there is no sound but rain
and the stream below us roaring
away into the rushing darkness

W.S. Merwin

Monday, July 22, 2019

Yang Jian, 1967 - present

Yang Jian

Night Deep

At night, I’m far from being born.
Outside, the empty stillness
in frog cries is my real body.
Dew on palm leaves
drops one by one.
Bare-footed girl,
and the moon,
are like newly-awakened desires
that lure me to be born.
I fall into the accurate and endless emptiness of               the universe,
and can no longer oblige night mother’s
wish of giving birth to me.

Yang Jian

Born in Anhui Province in 1967, Yang Jian worked as a factory laborer for thirteen years. A practising Buddhist and scholar of Chinese traditional culture, he began writing poetry during the mid-’80s. Laureate of the first Yiu Li’an Poetry Award (1995), the ninth Rougang Poetry Award (2000), the first Yulong Poetry Award (2006), and the prestigious Chinese Media Literature Award (2008), his books of poetry include Dusk (2003), which was rated as one of the ten best books of the year, Old Bridge (2007), and Remorse (2009). Yang Jian also paints with ink and brush. He now lives in Ma’anshan, Anhui.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mary Oliver, 1935 - 2019

Mary Oliver

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

-- Mary Oliver

Monday, July 1, 2019

Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207 - 1273

Only breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Jalal al-Din Rumi 

Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005

Robert Creeley After Frost He comes here by whatever way he can,    not too late, not too soon. He sits, waiting. He doesn’t kno...