February 7, 2014
In A Station of the Metro
February 6, 2014
February 5, 2014
A Dead Tree Full of Live Birds
A dead tree full of live birds.
Why should I set this down?
On a young man’s palm, a spiky clump
that could be a dried dog-turd
seen through my spectacles becomes
a cluster of baby snails, bodies clear as glass
but horned, shelled, complete,
one climbing toward a finger.
Who wants my news of tiny slow new life,
or flickering life amid stiff, brittle twigs?
The impulse to celebrate is paralysed after a moment’s thought.
It is not merely that another youth
his bunched up fist aloft, declaimed:
“I am Azania…I have no time for liberals…”
while at the same concert for the Art Centre’s friends
child-mimes with the vivid grace of mice
enacted angry pupils and their wicked teacher
whom in righteous triumph they lynch with stones and fire.
Not just that responsible thinkers announce
demands of History, revolution, sociological times.
Not alone the dumbing of a girl’s desperate death,
its charge of griefs and guilts that my words won’t bear,
by which I’ve lost a line of meaning
Also in this mortal mood I am appalled
beneath the weight of books. The shelves are laden,
the shelves in my room are laden with books –
and of even the most urgently treasured through decades
of fishmoth and dust, I shall have left many unread.
While beyond, defying the spans of all who care,
are vast collected libraries
expanding to a cosmos of the unexplored.
Not another page, another line,
Job and Arjuna already asked my questions.
The “Ode in Dejection” wrestled with my paralysis.
Over such baffling, tragic tides as ours
“Dover Beach” and “Lapis Lazuli” have given
Whatever I may find to say perhaps was said
before I breathed.
But even if my news were news,
useful, bearing on the predicament,
there is enough already greatly given
waiting to be unforgotten.
The smell of mint this morning
invading the bathroom when the window was opened
will aid no struggle, rescue nobody,
save no one from despair,
nor even yield a Zen illumination
no matter what I may connect into the moment.
Yet I am naming it –
as though the shaping line that hold
my animal or vegetable moment out of time
could grant me, my own reader, life
before and after.
And those immensities, the libraries,
inhabit only us, our intimate space.
Read and unread, my shelves of books
are my urgent life, and I,
their possible reader, am possibly theirs.
It is the ‘dead’ past now that we live out
with no redundancy, no repetition,
live out, becoming its continuing tale.
Defection into silence would annul
the inner galaxy.
– LIONEL ABRAHAMS (1928 – 2004)
February 4, 2014
if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
if i can’t have
what i want . . . then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want
since i can’t go
where i need
to go . . . then i must . . . go
where the signs point
through always understanding
when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry
– NIKKI GIOVANNI (1943- )
January 3, 2014
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you. Ach, du.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of
Vienna Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You—
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two—
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
– SILVIA PLATH (1932-1963)