Poems

Poetry-East-Cover-36-1024x8438 POEMS AND 8 TRANSLATIONS

Eyesight

by A.R. Ammons

It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes
I’ve

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don’t worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring; but
said the mountain

it’s not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone.

 

A Little Stone in the Middle of the Road, in Florida

by Muriel Rukeyser

My son as a child saying
God
Is anything, even a little stone in the middle of the road, in
Florida.
Yesterday
Nancy, my friend, after long illness:
You know what can lift me up, take me right out of despair?
No, what?
Anything.

 

The Landscape Inside of Me

by Thomas McGrath

Here I go riding through my morning self
Between West Elbow and Little East Elbow,
Between Hotspur Heart and the Islands of Langerhans,
On the Rock Island Line of my central nervous system.

And I note the landscape which inhabits me—
How excellent in the morning to be populated by trees!
And all the hydrants are manned by dogs
And every dog is a landscape full of fleas.

And every flea is an index to the mountains!
I am well pleased with myself that I’ve kept the mountains.
What I can’t understand is why I’ve kept the smog.
But since it inhabits me, why should I deny it?

Especially, why deny it on a morning like this
When I’ve a large unidentified star in my left
Elbow and in my head a windy palette of birds,
And a lively line-storm crossing my pancreas?

 

The New Fish Store

by Sally Fisher

Can the neighborhood sustain
the pride of the new fish store?
In the window
on a bed of crushed ice they make
still lives of dead fish.
The walls are new linoleum tile,
the plastic flowers are fresh.
Under a picture of Jaws the shark it says
Get even, eat a fish.
There are calendars of Greece,
there are fly-casting paintings
with trout flying in loops
there are plastic lobsters
there are nets and corks, all clean.
One person waits on you
another cleans the fish
a third takes your money
so the hand that touches the money
will never touch your fish.
On New Year’s Eve, on the ice, is spelled
HAPPY NEW YEAR in silver smelts.

 

Variation on a Theme by Rilke
(The Book of Hours, Bk. I, 1)

by Denise Levertov

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me—a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

 

The Bluebird

by Charles Bukowski

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

 

Politics

by Shirley Kaufman

She: She says nothing she does
is right; you always
find fault with her.

He: I don’t always find fault
with her. Why do you always
say that I find fault with her?

She: I don’t always. Why do you say
always? You think nothing
I do is right either.

He: What do you care what I
think if you don’t think
I do anything right?

She: Don’t tell me what I think.
I only said you always
find fault with everyone.

He: Not everyone.

She: Did I say everyone?

 

The Absences

by David Ray

A man is rich in proportion
to the number of things he can let alone.
—Thoreau

This morning I’m not writing you.
Last night I did not reach out for her.
The file is closed, and will remain so.
Forgive me, for I care, but must let go.
I know it’s what they all say,
but this time it’s me, and surely
in the grand silence you will understand
I did not undertake it lightly,
the doing nothing, reaching nowhere,
letting go the very thought.
And I’ll accept if you do the same


 

TRANSLATIONS

Say More, Speak Like Rain

by Arne Ruste

Am I perhaps
the only believer now?
I believe in words

I believe in the carrying capacity
of words in the power of their
relativity

I believe in
the parable, the paradox, the poem
and in the stories

of old men
told over fences, and I
believe in the soft

things of this world, in wood and
clay, that they will outlive
steel and concrete

human things are what I
believe in, the penetrating
power of gentleness

and I believe in things
that take a long time to make,
like trees and books

but I no longer believe
in the good deeds
of this world

I no longer believe in
heroism, I believe
in good-naturedness

and in words spoken by simple people,
simple words woven together
like baskets for carrying

I put my stock
in stamp collectors
and the owners

of small shops and
country inns, carpenters
and flower-women

There are no big
words in this world, only
loudmouths and demagogues

The collapse of words is a conceited fiction
Words hold everything together
Words connect everything.

I believe
in café talk and
in coffee-break talk

I believe in prayers, narrow
strips of words, weightless and golden
burnable, spread to the winds

I believe in
confessions whispered in darkness
and in letters

I believe in ballads and in
curses of a sincere heart
I want words

like deep axe cuts and clinging
mallets. I want
words

like shiny stones in my pocket,
words like thrown arrows
I want words

like the years in a worn down
table. Maybe I am the last
believer now:

I believe in blind man’s
never faltering fumbling over a writing
of flaming points

Translated from the Norwegian by Olav Grinde

 

Playhouses of Leaves and Snow

by Olav H. Hauge

These poems don’t amount
to much, just
some words thrown together
at random.
And still
to me
there’s something good
in making them, it’s
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches I built
as a boy;
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair—
or snowhouses at Christmas,
crawl in and close it after
with a sack,
light a candle, be there
through the long chill evenings.

Translated from the Norwegian by Robert Bly

 

Don’t Come to Me with the Entire Truth

by Olav H. Hauge

Don’t come to me with the entire truth.
If I feel thirsty, don’t bring the ocean,
nor heaven if I need a light,
but just a thought, a drop, a particle,
as birds leaving water carry away only drops,
and the wind a grain of salt.

Translated from the Norwegian by Robert Bly

 

*

by Antonio Machado

Why call
those random paths
roads?
Everyone who walks
walks
like Jesus
on water.

Translated from the Spanish by Richard Jones

 

Incantation

by Czeslaw Milosz

Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
Neither bars nor wire nor book-burning
Nor the verdict of exile can touch it.
It lays down the principles of the language,
And guides our hand, thus we write in capital letters
Truth and Justice, and in small: a lie and a wrong.
An enemy of despair, a friend of hope,
It raises what should be, above what is.
It doesn’t distinguish Jew from Greek, slave from master,
Making us share the management of our world.
From the obscene uproar of tormented words
It saves rigorous and lucid sentences.
It insists all is new under the sun,
And opens the clenches fist of the past.
Philo-Sophia is beautiful and very young,
As poetry is, allied with her in the service of Good.
Nature celebrated their birth just yesterday,
The unicorn and echo brought the news to the mountains.
Their friendship will be famous, their time knows no end.
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.

Translated from the Polish by Grazyna Drabik and Austin Flint

 

Poem

by Nazim Hikmet

There was a waitress
at the Astoria Restaurant in Berlin,
a jewel of a girl.
She’d smile at me over her heavy trays.
She looked like the girls of the country I’d lost.
Sometimes she had dark circles under her eyes—
I don’t know why.
I never got to sit
at one of her tables.

He never once sat at one of my tables.
He was an old man.
And he must have been sick—
he was on a special diet.
He could gaze at my face so sadly,
but he couldn’t speak German.
Three months he came in for three meals a day,
then he disappeared.
Maybe he went back to his country,
maybe he died before he could.

23 July 1959

Translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

 

The Day When Peace Takes Hold

by Gloria Fuertes

The day when peace takes hold, a stubborn
and everlasting snow will fall upon the earth,
everything will be a target in our joyous sight,
the snowflakes will be as large as bedsheets.
In that snow God will unfurl his flags
and for the first time Christ will be happy.

Translated from the Spanish by Philip Levine and Ada Long

 

But We Live

by Ralph Jacobsen

But we live
through the supermarkets and the shelves full of cheese,
and we live
under the con-trails of jets in the golden month of May
and in the smoke-dimmed cities,
and we live with coughing carburetors and slamming car doors.
We live
through the tv-evening in the golden century,
atop the asphalt, behind the weeklies and at the gas stations.
We live
in the statistics and in our registration numbers in election years.
We live with a flower in the window,
in spite of everything we live under
the hydrogen bombs’ nuclear threats of
chemical extermination, sleep-
less we live
side-by-side with the hungry, those who
die by the millions, live
with a weariness in our thoughts, live
still, live
magically inexplicably live
live
upon a star.

Translated from the Norwegian by Roger Greenwald