Wednesday, August 22, 2007

And Reason Remains Undaunted

Searching for things sublime I walked up into the muddy windy big hills
behind the town where trees riot according to their own laws and

one may

observe so many methods of moving green—under, over, around, across,
up the back, higher, fanning, condensing, rifled, flat in the eyes, as if
pacing a

cell, like a litter of grand objects, minutely, absorbed, one leaf at a time,
ocean-furious, nettle-streaked, roping along, unmowed, fresh out of pools,

clear as Babel,

such a tower, scattered through the heart, green in the strong sense, dart-
shook, crownly, carrying the secrets of its own heightening on

up, juster than a shot, gloomier than Milton or even his king of terrors,
idol in its dark parts, as a word coined to mean “storm” (of love) or

“waving lines”

(architectural), scorned, clean, with blazing nostrils, not a servant, not
rapid, rapid.

-- Anne Carson

Friday, August 17, 2007

Driving Home

Minister of our coming doom, preaching
On the car radio, how right
Your Hell and damnation sound to me
As I travel these small, bleak roads
Thinking of the mailman’s son
The Army sent back in a sealed coffin.

His house is around the next turn.
A forlorn mutt sits in the yard
Waiting for someone to come home.
I can see the TV is on in the living room,
Canned laughter in the empty house
Like the sound of beer cans tied to a hearse.

-- Charles Simic

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Burden of the Park

Each is truly a unique piece,
you said, or, perhaps, each
is a truly unique piece.
I sniff the difference.
It’s like dust in an old house,
or the water thereof. Then you come
to an exciting part.
The bandit affianced
to the blind man’s daughter. The mangel-wurzels
that come out of every door, salute the traveller
and are gone. Or the more melting pace of strolling players,
each with a collapsed sweetie on his arm, each
tidy as one’s idea of everything under the sun is tidy.
And the wolverines
return, with their coach, and night,
the black bat night, is blacker than any bat.

Just so you know, this is the falling-off place,
for the water, where damsels stroll and uncles
know a good thing when they see one.
The park is all over.
It isn’t a knee injury, or a postage stamp on Mars.
It is all of the above, and some other things too:
a nameless morning in May fielded by taut observers.
An inner tube on a couch.

Then we floated down the Great Array river, each
on our inner tube, each one a different color.
Mine was lime green, yours was pistachio.
And the current murmured to us mind your back
for another day. Are
you so sure we haven’t passed the goal-posts yet? Won’t
you reconsider? Remount me to my source? Egad,
Trixie, the water can speak! Like a boy
it speaks, and I’m not so sure how little all this is,
how much fuss shouldn’t be made about it. When another boy comes
to the edge of the falls, and calls, for it is late,
won’t we be sorry for not having invented this one,
letting him fall by the wayside? Then, sure enough, waves
of heather recuse the bearers of false witness, they fly like ribbons
on the stiff breeze, telling of us: We once made
some mistake, it seems, and now we are to be judged, except
it isn’t so bad, someone tells me you’ll be let off the hook,
we will all be able to go home, sojourn and smile again, be racked
with insidious giggles like guilt. Meantime, jugglers swarm over
the volcano’s
stiff sides. We believe it to be Land’s End, that it’s
six o’clock, and the razor fish have gone home.

Once, on Mannahatta’s bleak shore,
I trolled for spunkfish, but caught naught, nothing save
a rubber plunger or two. It was awful,
at that time. Now everything is cheerful.
I wonder, does it make a difference?
Are the sailors waving
from the deck of their distraught ship? We aren’t
envious, though, life being so full of
so many little commotions, it’s up to
whoever to grab his (or hers). The violin slices life up
into manageable hunks, and the fiddler knows not
who he is moving, or cares why people should be so moved;
his mind is on the end, the extraordinary onus of finishing
what’s set out for him. Do you imagine him better off than you?
My feet were numb, I ask him only, how do you carry this
from here to over there?
Is there a flat barge? How many feet does a centipede have?
(Answer in tomorrow’s edition.) I heard the weeping cranes,
telling how time was running out. It was Belgian,
they thought. Nobody burns the midnight oil for this,
yet I think I shall be a scholar some day, all the same.
The hours suit me. And the rubber corsages the girls wear
in and out of class. Sure, I’ll turn out to be a nerd, and have to sit
in the corner, but that’s part of the exciting adventure. I know things
are different and the same. Now if only I could tell you ...

The period of my rest is ended.
I shall negotiate the fall, and then go crying
back to you all. In those years peace came and went, our father’s car changed
with the seasons, all around us was fighting and the excitement of spring.
Now, funnily enough, it’s over. I shan’t mind the vacant premise
that vexed me once. I know it’s all too true. And the hooligan
ogles a calla lily: Maybe only the fingertips are exciting,
it thinks, disposing of another bushelful of ripe nostalgia.
Maybe it’s too late,
maybe they came today.

-- John Ashbery

Friday, August 03, 2007

Between Games

Nobody rests

This one constantly shifts his eyes
Hangs them on his head
And whether he wants it or not starts walking
He puts them on the soles of his feet
And whether he wants it or not returns walking
on his head

This one turns into an ear
He hears all that won't let itself be heard
But he grows bored
Yearns to turn again into himself
But without eyes he can't see how

That one bares all his faces
One after the other he throws them over the roof
The last one he throws under his feet
And sinks his head into his hands

This one stretches his sight
Stretches it from thumb to thumb
Walks over it walks
First slow then fast
Then faster and faster

That one plays with his head
Juggles it in the air
Meets it with his index finger
Or doesn't meet it at all

Nobody rests

-- Vasko Popa

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tango II


You know I was married years ago and when he left my husband took my notebooks.
Wirebound notebooks.
You know that cool sly verb write. He liked writing, disliked having to start
each thought himself.
Used my starts to various ends, for example in a pocket I found a letter he'd begun
(to his mistress at that time)
containing a phrase I had copied from Homer: ... is how Homer says
Andromache went
after she parted from Hektor--"often turning to look back"
she went
down from Troy's tower and through stone streets to her loyal husband's
house and there
with her women raised a lament for a living man in his own halls.
Loyal to nothing
my husband. So why did I love him from early girlhood to late middle age
and the divorce decree came in the mail?
Beauty. No great secret. Not ashamed to say I loved him for his beauty.
As I would again
if he came near. Beauty convinces. You know beauty makes sex possible.
Beauty makes sex sex.
You if anyone grasp this--hush, let's pass

to natural situations.
Other species, which are not poisonous, often have colorations and patterns
similar to poisonous species.
This imitation of a poisonous by a nonpoisonous species is called mimicry.
My husband was no mimic.
You will mention of course the war games. I complained to you often enough
when they were here all night
with the boards spread out and rugs and little lamps and cigarettes like Napoleon's
tent I suppose,
who could sleep? All in all my husband was a man who knew more
about the Battle of Borodino
than he did about his own wife's body, much more! Tensions poured up the walls
and along the ceiling,
sometimes they played Friday night till Monday morning straight through, he
and his pale wrathful friends.
They sweated badly. They ate meats of the countries in play.
Jealousy formed no small part of my relationship to the Battle of Borodino.

I hate it.
Do you.
Why play all night.
The time is real.
It's a game.
It's a real game.
Is that a quote.
Come here.
I need to touch you.

That night we made love "the real way" which we had not yet attempted
although married six months.
Big mystery. No one knew where to put their leg and to this day I'm not sure
we got it right.
He seemed happy. You're like Venice he said beautifully.
Early next day
I wrote a short talk ("On Defloration") which he stole and had published
in a small quarterly magazine.
Overall this was a characteristic interaction between us.
Or should I say ideal.
Neither of us had ever seen Venice.

-- Anne Carson


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