07/02/14 Poetry

February 7, 2014

In A Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
– EZRA POUND (1885 – 1972)
Ezra Pound, famous for inspiring some of the most well-known poets, such as Yeats and T.S. Eliot.
Ezra Pound, famous for inspiring some of the most well-known poets, such as Yeats and T.S. Eliot.

February 6, 2014

Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
– MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822 – 1888)

February 5, 2014

A Dead Tree Full of Live Birds

I

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.

II

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

III

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,

is needed.

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

ageless answers.

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.

IV

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.

V

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

Choices

if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

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
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

NIKKI GIOVANNI (1943-    )

Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath

January 3, 2014

Daddy, 1962

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)

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