[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
The most common manifestation of hoplophobia
is the idea that [weapons] possess a will of their own.

--Colonel Jeff Cooper

trigger warning: violence, war, guns, murder )
--Jamaal May

"How to Disappear Completely"
You are quarter ghost on your mother's side.
Your heart is a flayed peach in a bone box.
Your hair comes away in clumps like cheap fabric wet.
A reflecting pool gathers around your altar
of plywood sub flooring and split wooden slats.
You are rag doll prone. You are contort,
angle and arc. Here you rot. Here
you are a greening abdomen, slipping skin,
flesh fly, carrion beetles.
This is where bullets take shelter,
where scythes find their function, breath loses
its place on the page. This is where the page is torn
out of every book before chapter's close,
this is slippage, this is a shroud of neglect
pulled over the body, this
is your chance to escape.
     Little wraith,
bend light around your skin until it colors you clear,
disappear like silica in a kiln, become
glass and glass beads, become
the staggered whir of an exhaust fan:
something only noticed
when gone. Become
an origami swan. Fold yourself smaller
than ever before. Become less. More
in some ways but less
in the way a famine is less. They will
forgive you for not being satisfied
with fitting in their hands.

They will forgive you
for dying to be

a bird diminutive enough
to fit in a mouth and not be crushed.

--Jamaal May

"Fire Graffiti"
Throughout those dismal months my life was only sparked
alight when I made love to you.
As the firefly ignites and fades, ignites and fades, we follow the flashes
of its flight in the dark among the olive trees.

Throughout those dismal months, my soul sat slumped and lifeless
but my body walked to yours.
The night sky was lowing.
We milked the cosmos secretly, and survived.
--Tomas Tranströmer, translator unknown

What has happened?
language eludes me
the nice specifying
words of my life fail
when I call

Ah says a friend
dried up no doubt
on the desiccated
twigs in the swamp
of the skull like
a lake where the
water level has been
shifted by highways
a couple of miles off

Another friend says
No no    my dear    perhaps
you are only meant to
speak more plainly

--Grace Paley

"The Abyssal Plain"
Here beneath the last revenant of light
that falls the way a man might fall asleep,
drawn through the part that hallucinates
eel and angel, the strange blue fin that sweeps
a camouflage of dust into the camera,
what good is desire. The lamps of fish
have all gone cold, dark, their exotica
scattered in tiny particles of flesh.
What this world needs is a place to drown
its refuse: old ships, derricks, nuclear waste,
the leviathan of grief. A place like time
which, in truth, heals nothing. It forgets,
taken in like a pill that makes us calm
and dreamless, beneath the silence of the rain.
--Bruce Bond

"Self Portrait"
I did not want my body
Spackled in the world's
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not. Of the things
It wanted. The body of Sunday
Morning, the warm wine and
The blood. The dripping fox

Furs dragged through the black New
York snow--the parked car, the pearls,
To the first pew--the funders,
The trustees, the bloat, the red weight of

The world. Their faces. I wanted not
That. I wanted Saint Francis, the love of
His animals. The wolf, broken and bleeding--
That was me.
--Cynthia Cruz

"Elegy for a Walnut Tree"
Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world.
--W. S. Merwin

"Desires are already memories."
--Italo Calvino, translator unknown

The world has tired of tears.
We weep owls now. They live longer.
They know their way in the dark.
--Natalie Diaz, "Prayers or Oubliettes"

"Awaking in New York"
Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.
--Maya Angelou

"I feel that I am just earth, soil lying helpless to move myself, but thinking. I seem to hear herds of big beasts like horses and cows thundering over me, and rains beating down; and winds sweeping furiously overall acting upon me, but me, well, just soil,
feeling but not able to take part in it all. Then a soft wind like love passes over and warms me, and a summer rain comes down like understanding and softens me, and I push a blade of grass or a flower, or maybe a pine tree--that's the ground thinking. Plants are ground thoughts, because the soil can't move itself."
--Zora Neale Hurston, "John Redding Goes to Sea"

"To write by shreds, by storm clouds, by visions, by violent chapters, in the present as in the archpast, in pre-vision, in the true chaos of verbal tenses, crossing over years and oceans at a god's pace, with the past on my right and the future on my left--this is forbidden in academies, it is permitted in apocalypses. What joy it is."
--Hélène Cixous, Stigmata: Escaping Texts

"Herman Finley"
I didn't tell you that, in the end, he begged
For the end. Death like the bed after
The bedtime story. Death like a widening
Crack of light beneath the door.
He begged them to let him
Go so he could go. Said I want
To die. Then said kill me. Please.

You and I endure that first pain.
We just want to die. People with that
Other ultimately physical agony say
Kill me and know they won't discuss it
In therapy. Kill me. I'm thinking
Of him today because I want to die
And I am ashamed to say it. My thinking

Is red and sticky. Rather than kill me,
I'd like you to listen as I live
In a perpetual whine. Can't I still be
Somebody's baby? Say yes for yourself.
Call me some time. Every day I wish to die,
Remind me how he insisted.
Kill me. And I'll live again.
--Jericho Brown

"I suppose it is submerged memories that give to our dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulfur in the blood is a volcanic inferno."
--W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

"Cocktails with Orpheus"
After dark, the bar full of women part of me loves--the part that stood
naked outside the window of Miss Geneva, recent divorcée who owned
a gun, O Miss Geneva where are you now--Orpheus says she did

not perish, she was not turned to ash in the brutal light, she found
a good job, she made good money, she had her own insurance and
a house, she was a decent wife. I know descent lives in the word

decent. The bar noise makes a kind of silence. When Orpheus hands
me his sunglasses, I see how fire changes everything. In the mind
I am behind a woman whose skirt is hiked above her hips, as bound

as touch permits, saying don't forget me when I become the liquid
out of which names are born, salt-milk, milk-sweet and animal-made.

I want to be a human above the body, uprooted and right, a fold
of pleas released, but I am a black wound, what's left of the deed.
--Terrance Hayes

"The secret of understanding poetry is to hear poetry's words as what they are: the full self's most intimate speech, half waking, half dream. You listen to a poem as you might listen to someone you love who tells you their truest day. Their words might weep, joke, whirl, leap. What's unspoken in the words will still be heard. It's also the way we listen to music: You don't look for extractable meaning, but to be moved."
--Jane Hirshfield

trigger warning: violence, guns, racism, suicide )
--Danez Smith

"My medium is poetry; my tool is American English, a language I adore for its shorthand syntax, its outrageous slop, its mongrel weirdness. I think and dream and feel in this language like the wiry old rose bush that pushes its way out from my front yard to splay its blooms above the cracked sidewalk."
--Cate Marvin

"I Don't Miss It"
But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven't left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It's impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.
--Tracy K. Smith

"Snow at Night"
I prefer it even to love,
alone and without ghost
it falls a hard weather,
a withdrawing room
that revives me to stolen daylight
in which I feel no wish
to brush a gleaming finish
over the sheen-broken glass
I've arranged and rearranged,
an apprentice of mosaics
who will not be taught but asks
to be left alone with the brittle year
so carnivorous of all I'd made.
But the snow I love covers
my beasts and seas,
my ferns and spines
worn through and through.
I will change your life, it says,
to which I say please.
--Katie Ford

"Two Men & a Truck"
Once, I was as large
as any living creature could be.

I could lift the world and carry it
from my breast to its bath.

When I looked down from the sky
you could see the love in my eye:

"Oh, tiny world, if anything
ever happened to you, I would die."

And I said, "No!" to the hand. Snatched
the pebble from the mouth, fished it out

and told the world it would choke!
Warned the world over & over! "Do

you hear me? Do you want to choke?!"

But how was the world to know
what the truth might be? Perhaps

they grant you special powers, these
choking stones. Maybe

they change the child into a god, all-swallowing.

For, clearly, there were other gods.
The world could see

that I, too, was at the mercy of something.
Sure, I could point to the sky

and say its name, but I couldn't make it change.
Some days it was blue, true, but others

were ruined by its gray:
"I'm sorry, little world--

no picnic, no parade, no swimming pool today ... "

And the skinned knee in spite of me.
And why else would there be

such terror in the way she screamed, and the horn honking,
and the squealing wheels, and, afterward, her cold

sweat against my cheek?

Ah, she wants us to live forever.
It's her weakness ... Now I see!

But, once, I was larger
than any other being--

larger, perhaps, than any being
had any right to be.

Because, of course, eventually, the world
grew larger, and larger, until it could lift

me up and put me down anywhere
it pleased. Until, finally, I would need

its help to move the bird bath, the book-
shelf, the filing cabinet. "And

could you put my desk by the window, sweetie?"

A truck, two men, one of them my son, and
everything I ever owned, and they

didn't even want to stop for lunch.

Even the freezer. Even the piano.
("You can have it if you can move it.")

But, once, I swear, I was ... And now
this trunk in the attic to prove it:

These shoes in the palm of my hand?
You used to wear them on your feet.

This blanket the size of a hand towel?
I used to wrap it around you sleeping

in my arms like this. See? This
is how small the world used to be when

everything else in the world was me.
--Laura Kasischke

"A Reason"
That is why I am here
not among the ibises. Why
the permanent city parasol
covers even me.

             It was the rains
in the occult season. It was the snows
on the lower slopes. It was water
and cold in my mouth.

            A lack of shoes
on what appeared to be cobbles
which were still antique

           Well wild wild whatever
in wild more silent blue
           the vase grips the stems
petals fall    the chrysanthemum darkens

           Sometimes this mustard feeling
clutches me also. My sleep is reckoned
in straws

            Yet I wake up
and am followed into the street.

--Barbara Guest

"Tender Arrivals"
Where ever something breathes
Heart beating the rise and fall
Of mountains, the waves upon the sky
Of seas, the terror is our ignorance, that's
Why it is named after our home, earth
Where art is locked between
Gone and Destination
The destiny of some other where and feeling
The ape knew this, when his old lady pulled him up
Off the ground. Was he grateful, ask him he's still sitting up there
Watching the sky's adventures, leaving two holes for his own. Oh sing
Gigantic burp past the insects, swifter than the ugly Stanleys on the ground
Catching monkey meat for Hyenagators, absolute boss of what does not
Arrive in time to say anything. We hear that eating, that doo dooing, that
Burping, we had a nigro mayor used to burp like poison zapalote
Waddled into the cave of his lust. We got a Spring Jasper now, if
you don't like that
woid, what about courtesan, dreamed out his own replacement sprawled
Across the velvet cash register of belching and farting, his knick names when they
let him be played with. Some call him Puck, was love, we thought, now a rubber
Flat blackie banged across the ice, to get past our Goli, the Africannibus of memory.
Here. We have so many wedged between death and passivity. Like eyes that collide
With reality and cannot see anything but the inner abstraction of flatus, a
biography, a car, a walk to the guillotine, James the First, Giuliani the Second
When he tries to go national, senators will stab him, Ides of March or Not. Maybe
Both will die, James 1 and Caesar 2, as they did in the past, where we can read about
The justness of their assassinations
As we swig a little brew and laugh at the perseverance
Of disease at higher and higher levels of its elimination.
We could see anything we wanted to. Be anything we knew how to be. Build
anything we needed. Arrive anywhere we should have to go. But time is as stubborn
as space, and they compose us with definition, time place and 
The howlees the yowlees the yankees the super left streamlined post racial ideational
chauvinists creeep at the mouth of the venal cava. They are protesting 
fire and
Looking askance at the giblets we have learned to eat. "It's nobody's heart," they
say, and we agree. It's the rest of some thing's insides. Along with the flowers, the
grass, the tubers, the river, pieces of the sky, earth, our seasoning, baked
throughout. What do you call that the anarchist of comfort asks,
Food, we say, making it up as we chew. Yesterday we explained language.
--Amiri Baraka

"Register of Eliminated Villages"
trigger warning: war )
--Tarfia Faizullah
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I'm a person far out at sea, and the poem is a raft made of whatever floats past in the water. Those almost accidental rescuing pieces are words, rhythms, musics, ideas, the memory that is mine and the memory that is all of ours and the memory that is held in language itself."
--Jane Hirshfield

"The Weeds"
The weeds aren't troubled
by the whirlwind's temper: It's good
to be close to the ground.
--Willie James King

"You have had many sadnesses, large ones, which passed. And you say that even this passing was difficult and upsetting for you. But please, ask yourself whether these large sadnesses haven't rather gone right through you. Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad. The only sadnesses that are dangerous and unhealthy are the ones that we carry around in public in order to drown them out with the noise; like diseases that are treated superficially and foolishly, they just withdraw and after a short interval break out again all the more terribly; and gather inside us and are life, are life that is unlived, rejected, lost, life that we can die of. If only it were possible for us to see farther than our knowledge reaches, and even a little beyond the outworks of our presentiment, perhaps we would bear our sadnesses with greater trust than we have in our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, everything in us withdraws, a silence arises, and the new experience, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.

"It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there,--is already in our bloodstream. And we don't know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can't say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.

"Do you remember how that life yearned out of childhood toward the 'great thing'? I see that it is now yearning forth beyond the great thing toward the greater one. That is why it does not cease to be difficult, but that is why it will not cease to grow."
--Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

"The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen...Perhaps it can't be done without the poet, but it certainly can't be done without the people. The poet and the people get on generally very badly, and yet they need each other. The poet knows it sooner than the people do. The people usually know it after the poet is dead; but that's all right. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world."
--James Baldwin

"Rituals before the Poem"
Before the poem comes like a word from a brazen sky
the poet must lie on his side for a year
eating only dry bread and measured bowls of water.

The poet must pour sand over grass and build
the walls of his city. The poet must surround
the walls with the offence of guns; and for days
upon days starve the city of all its music.

The poet's tongue will grow heavy and his
limbs will be bound with cords so he cannot
move. He will quarrel with God about
the meaning of poetry. The poet will beg for mercy,
lying on his other side for a hundred and ninety days,
his body scarred with the wounds he inflicts on his family.

All this a poet does before a poem so that
when he walks out in mid-winter, his face
will be smooth, his eyes will have the quiet resignation
we call peace and his satchel will be full
of whimsical lyrics about the color green
and the sounds a whore makes in her dreams.
--Kwame Dawes

"They became part of that unreal but penetrating and exciting universe which is the world seen through the eyes of love. The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them. And, what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mrs. Ramsay sitting with James in the window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach."
--Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

"But into what sanctuary had one penetrated? Lily Briscoe had looked up at last, and there was Mrs. Ramsay, unwitting entirely what had caused her laughter, still presiding, but now with every trace of wilfulness abolished, and in its stead, something clear as the space which the clouds at last uncover--the little space of sky which sleeps beside the moon.

"Was it wisdom? Was it knowledge? Was it, once more, the deceptiveness of beauty, so that all of one's perceptions, half way to truth, were tangled in a golden mesh? or did she lock up within her some secret which certainly Lily Briscoe believed people must have for the world to go on at all? Every one could not be as helter skelter, hand to mouth as she was. But if they knew, could they tell one what they knew? Sitting on the floor with her arms round Mrs Ramsay's knees, close as she could get, smiling to think that Mrs Ramsay would never know the reason of that pressure, she imagined how in the chambers of the mind and heart of the woman who was, physically, touching her, were stood, like the treasures in the tombs of kings, tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out, would teach one everything, but they would never be offered openly, never made public. What art was there, known to love or cunning, by which one pressed through into those secret chambers? What device for becoming, like waters poured into one jar, inextricably the same, one with the object one adored? Could the body achieve, or the mind, subtly mingling in the intricate passages of the brain? or the heart? Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs. Ramsay one? for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs. Ramsay's knee."
--Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

"She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of--to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless. And to everybody there was always this sense of unlimited resources, she supposed; one after another, she, Lily, Augustus Carmichael, must feel, our apparitions, the things you know us by, are simply childish. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless. There were all the places she had not seen; the Indian plains; she felt herself pushing aside the thick leather curtain of a church in Rome. This core of darkness could go anywhere, for no one saw it. They could not stop it, she thought, exulting. There was freedom, there was peace, there was, most welcome of all, a summoning together, a resting on a platform of stability. Not as oneself did one find rest ever, in her experience (she accomplished here something dexterous with her needles) but as a wedge of darkness. Losing personality, one lost the fret, the hurry, the stir; and there rose to her lips always some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace, this rest, this eternity; and pausing there she looked out to meet that stroke of the Lighthouse, the long steady stroke, the last of the three, which was her stroke, for watching them in this mood always at this hour one could not help attaching oneself to one thing especially of the things one saw; and this thing, the long steady stroke, was her stroke. Often she found herself sitting and looking, sitting and looking, with her work in her hands until she became the thing she looked at--that light, for example."
--Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

"Everything about him had that meagre fixity, that bare unloveliness. But nevertheless, the fact remained, it was almost impossible to dislike any one if one looked at them. She liked his eyes; they were blue, deep set, frightening."
--Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

"Then why did she mind what he said? Women can't write, women can't paint--what did that matter coming from him, since clearly it was not true to him but for some reason helpful to him, and that was why he said it? Why did her whole being bow, like corn under a wind, and erect itself again from this abasement only with a great and rather painful effort? She must make it once more. There's the sprig on the table-cloth; there's my painting; I must move the tree to the middle; that matters--nothing else. Could she not hold fast to that, she asked herself, and not lose her temper, and not argue; and if she wanted revenge take it by laughing at him?"
--Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"This Side"
There is light. We neither see nor touch it.
In its empty clarities rests
what we touch and see.
I see with my fingertips
what my eyes touch:
shadows, the world.
With shadows I draw worlds,
I scatter worlds with shadows.
I hear the light beat on the other side.
--Octavio Paz

"Courage is fear holding on a minute longer."
--George S. Patton

"I think I am probably in love with silence, that other world. And that I write, in some way, to negotiate seriously with it.... Because there is, of course, always the desire, the hope, that they are not two separate worlds, sound and silence, but that they become each other, that only our hearing fails."
--Jorie Graham, "Some Notes on Silence"

"I am outraged at the peculiar repulsiveness of those who dabble their fingers self-approvingly in the stuff of others' souls. I might only scratch the surface of what I overall feel but--I feel like more and more I come to loathe any dominion of one over another; any leadership, any imposition of the will."
--Virginia Woolf

"Poe: an Essay (I)"
In "The Gold Bug," the overt finding of the treasure
is tossed out mid-tale like a bone to a waiting dog.
His stories were not intended for the canine heart that howls inside us,
though he fed it the tidbits it needed to stay near.

What could simply be seen, named, described was not his interest.
Half-close your eyes, he advised, to double the world.
The process of a discovery accomplished was his interest,
its after-savoring his appetite and his pleasure.

While he wrote, the peppered moths
of industrial London were growing darker with an internalized protective soot.

While he wrote, the last illegal slave ships were still coming in.

In his 150-year-old prose there is only one word you might recognize as archaic.

Omission his characteristic gesture;
stepping into the thought that thought cannot enter
his characteristic desire.

While he wrote, the ongoing, quiet famine of laborers paid below costs of housing and food.

While he wrote, the ongoing, unquiet emptying of the Plains.

These things happened under the culture's floorboards and behind its walls.
These things happened beneath the lids of half-closed eyes.

It is not precisely true that they are absent, though it is true they do not appear.

Whether they were for him
embraced or subsumed in his offered terrors cannot be known.

While he wrote, Turgenev, Goethe,
and this lithe-legged haiku of Issa from the other side of the world:

do not worry.
I keep house casually.

In Poe the worry is like the long-cooled lead in Baltimore house-glass, settled and clear.
--Jane Hirshfield

"As the dark descended, the words of the others seemed to curl up and vanish as the ashes of burnt paper, and left them sitting perfectly silent at the bottom of the world."
--Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

"The eyes of philosophers see through the opaqueness of the world, eliminate the flesh of it, reduce the variety of existing things to a spider's web of relationships between general ideas, and fix the rules according to which a finite number of pawns moving on a chessboard exhaust a number of combinations that may even be infinite. Along come the writers and replace the abstract chessmen with kings and queens, knights and castles, all with a name, a particular shape, and a series of attributes royal, equine, or ecclesiastical; instead of a chessboard they roll out great dusty battlefields or stormy seas. So at this point the rules of the game are turned topsy-turvy, revealing an order of things quite different from that of the philosophers. Or, rather, the people who discover these new rules of the game are once again the philosophers, who dash back to demonstrate that this operation wrought by the writers can be reduced to the terms of one of their own operations, and that the particular castles and bishops were nothing but general ideas in disguise.

"And so the wrangle goes on, with each side confident of having taken a step ahead in the conquest of truth, or at least of a truth, and at the same time perfectly well aware that the raw material of its own constructions is the same as that of the opposition: words. But words, like crystals, have facets and axes of rotation with different properties, and light is refracted differently according to how these word crystals are placed, and how the polarizing surfaces are cut and superimposed. The clash between philosophy and literature does not need to be resolved. On the contrary, only if we think of it as permanent but ever new does it guarantee that the sclerosis of words will not close over us like a sheet of ice."
--Italo Calvino, "Philosophy and Literature"

"The Trees"
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
--Philip Larkin

"You should not take old people who are already dead seriously. It does them injustice. We immortals do not like things to be taken seriously. We like joking. Seriousness, young man, is an accident of time. It consists, I don't mind telling you in confidence, in putting too high a value on time. I, too, once put too high a value on time. For that reason I wished to be a hundred years old. In eternity, however, there is no time, you see. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke."
--Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

"Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another."
--Carl Sagan

"I went traveling to a wreck of a place. There were three gates standing ajar and a fence that broke off. It was not the wreck of anything else in particular. A place came there and crashed. After that it remained the wreck of a place. Light fell on it."
--Anne Carson, "Short Talk on Where to Travel"

"Her reputation of reading a great deal hung about her like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic."
--Henry James, Portrait of a Lady

"Deal with the past on the level of the present. The more attention you give to the past, the more you energize it, and the more likely you are to make a 'self' out of it. Don't misunderstand: Attention is essential, but not to the past as past. Give attention to the present; give attention to your behavior, to your reactions, moods, thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires as they occur in the present. There's the past in you. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically but nonjudgementally, then you are dealing with the past and dissolving it through the power of your presence. You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present."
--Eckhart Tolle

"What is more important in a library than anything else--than everything else--is the fact that it exists."
--Archibald MacLeish
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"A Night in Brooklyn"
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city--
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for dawn
and we closed our eyes
and counted to ourselves
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.
--D. Nurkse

"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."
--Albert Einstein

"Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society."
--James Baldwin

"Small gestures
are like smoke, a slight breeze causes a drifting
and we are bare again...uneternal."
--Michael McClure

"The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us."
--Audre Lorde

"Where words come from, into consciousness, baffles me. Speaking or writing, the words bounce instantaneously into their context, and I am victimized by them, rather than controlling them. They do not wait for my selection; they volunteer."
--William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation

"Report from a Far Place"
Making these word things to
step on across the world, I
could call them snowshoes.

They creak, sag, bend, but
hold, over the great deep cold,
and they turn up at the toes.

In war or city or camp
they could save your life;
you can muse them by the fire.

Be careful, though: they
burn, or don't burn, in their own
strange way, when you say them.
--William Stafford

"The Promise"
Stay, I said
to the cut flowers.
They bowed
their heads lower.

Stay, I said to the spider,
who fled.

Stay, leaf.
It reddened,
embarrassed for me and itself.

Stay, I said to my body.
It sat as a dog does,
obedient for a moment,
soon starting to tremble.

Stay, to the earth
of riverine valley meadows,
of fossiled escarpments,
of limestone and sandstone.
It looked back
with a changing expression, in silence.

Stay, I said to my loves.
Each answered,
--Jane Hirshfield

"I thought at the time that I couldn't be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that's a common conceit, that you've already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe."
--Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk about Kevin

"The Mermaid"
A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
--W. B. Yeats

" 'A bad investment,' the Jew tells him, 'is like a spoiled puppy that requires even more attention than a baby. You learn to love it all the more.' "
--Charles Bernstein, "The Jew"

"A tear graces Jesus's cheeks as he suffers on the cross. 'The tear is not for his own pain,' says the Jew, 'but his pity for those who condemn any man to death, regardless of what he has done.' "
--Charles Bernstein, "The Jew"

"That Everything's Inevitable"
That everything's inevitable.
That fate is whatever has already happened.
The brain, which is as elemental, as sane, as the rest of the processing universe is.
In this world, I am the surest thing.
Scrunched-up arms, folded legs, lovely destitute eyes.
Please insert your spare coins.
I am filling them up.
Please insert your spare vision, your vigor, your vim.
But yet, I am a vatic one.
As vatic as the Vatican.
In the temper and the tantrum, in the well-kept arboretum
I am waiting, like an animal,
For poetry.
--Katy Lederer

Low clouds hang on the mountain.
The forest is filled with fog.
A short distance away the
Giant trees recede and grow
Dim. Two hundred paces and
They are invisible. All
Day the fog curdles and drifts.
The cries of the birds are loud.
They sound frightened and cold. Hour
By hour it grows colder.
Just before sunset the clouds
Drop down the mountainside. Long
Shreds and tatters of fog flow
Swiftly away between the
Trees. Now the valley below
Is filled with clouds like clotted
Cream and over them the sun
Sets, yellow in a sky full
Of purple feathers. After dark
A wind rises and breaks branches
From the trees and howls in the
Treetops and then suddenly
Is still. Late at night I wake
And look out of the tent. The
Clouds are rushing across the
Sky and through them is tumbling
The thin waning moon. Later
All is quiet except for
A faint whispering. I look
Out. Great flakes of wet snow are
Falling. Snowflakes are falling
Into the dark flames of the
Dying fire. In the morning the
Pine boughs are sagging with snow,
And the dogwood blossoms are
Frozen, and the tender young
Purple and citron oak leaves.
--Kenneth Rexroth

4. Our Sister of Perfect Solitude
In the Cathedral of Oaxaca, the usual women: three or four black shawls worn
To the iridescence of flies, the quaint agony of their prayers resembling
The buzzing of flies, &, on the sills, flies, & the emptiness of the flies,

And the empty name rising upward in those prayers. Earlier,

At a cafe table, I saw a woman I once knew. She was wearing the same white silk
Skirt slit up the side, & was beginning to get drunk while her companion,
A boy of fourteen, the son of a weaver, was kissing her, & then, after a while,

Caressing her until soon a frank & unembarrassed tint of rose flushed her cheeks,
And a waiter glared at them both, then turned away, the white towel perfectly
Adjusted on his arm, before he spat, just once, into the street.

If you look at anything long enough, it turns into style.


One of my pastimes then was savoring the casual emptiness of names, any name,
Even the name of that stranger I said over & over in bed until her name
Slipped itself from all moorings, & her body became like wind stirring itself,

Until, free finally of its name, it would do anything.
And the next time I called her by another name, deliberately, just to see...
And repeated the name over & over until her body belonged to no one, to neither
One of us. It came to the same thing: without a name, the body could be anyone's.

Open to any suggestion.

This was the petty blasphemy I flirted with, the wind gusting over the empty tables.
I was learning how Guilt, feeding on the Body of Its Host, grows finally wise.
Which is another way of saying it grows terrified of anything as unscrupulous

As Itself, & then is simply mute, the shore of a lake clouding over.

Then it is best to go home.


But home is the form of the dream, & not the dream.

When you knock, the sill of tiny flowers trembles; no one's there; the woods
Around the cottage seem immense, as if they had grown in your absence, or were
A larger form of it, taking your place, their shade fallen forever, & colder. So,

To travel alone, to pick up & leave a town, to cling, for a moment, like dust; to
Collect as dust collects; is to move in the frank style of what passes.
But what remains, indwelling like a name not yours nor another's, persists

In the recurring dream of an animal, which loves you, which you cannot name.
Is it something that had a name before it could be given one?
Was the task of saying it a task assigned in childhood, its window sunlit & empty?

But the dream ends; the animal vanishes.

And the father, free finally of all fatherhood, stares out at an empty field
And wonders: is it dust, or ice? And is the spider its emissary, striding over
The freckled skin of an apple, & pausing there, harmless & brown & still,

A moment too long? And the apple itself? Is it dust or ice inside?

And the dream, with the work it cannot say?

And the sunlight's pressure on the empty window?


To go home is to take back a name. And to take a name back you must descend,
Even though you believe in no one; & even though the descent is into a woman, into
The empty hull of her myth, her body's vacancy after death, her perfect solitude--

Which is, & is not, this Church, the blood on the statue of Christ applied with
A bright red nail polish; & hands together, as, with luck, they will be in the end;
Or without luck they might be also, involuntarily, as in a prayer said backward,

To no one, to the crowd in the fitful shell game of all names, to the empty hush
Of the sun--cuffed & passing beneath it--painful when you move,

Painful when you do not move.


But what I did then was kneel & pray, &, after a while, lost track of the words
Or who it was for because somewhere in its sonorous repetitions I began hearing
The sound of trapped flies buzzing on the sill beneath stained glass...

And remembered a harness gall, some gnats hovering over it, on the withers

Of a horse, all its ribs showing as it hauled firewood on a towpath of lingering snowmelt.
In the summer its owner shot it through a graying left temple with a .22, for glue &
Tallow. And how it fell! Straight, fast, into a dry ditch

And onto the white, spreading sail of a canvas in which they wrapped & hoisted it,
Sail-like, the opaque, unreflecting yellow marble of its hooves hooked & tied--&
A last, faint odor, like a dignity, still clinging to its coat, a light wind riffling it just once.

And as the winch took hold & lifted it, the head loosened abruptly from its one dream; a glassy,
Piebald eye stared out at me, as if that stare could catch a world & put an end
To it, or set it afire. Dust & ice & a confetti of ashes. As if a horse could care! But then

The flies, swarming familiarly over its muzzle, nostrils, & eyes, might as well
Have closed that eyelid, closed that eye as large as truth--which isn't all that
Large, or even truthful, & like that eye is often blue-gray, parti-colored or partly

Cloudy, & not necessarily human.

5. "Coney Island Baby"
But there is a place that will not change, a place that is rooted in dream;
It rots & rejoices; it flowers from nothing; it turns a deaf ear to millionaires:
You are seven, & the smell of raisins drying on a wicker tray is indescribable, & though the word home

Has a bomb ticking inside it, in its dream all objects slide back beneath their names again: shoe,
Hammer, rain, tea, delicate collarbones, paper, freckles, swan eyes, good-bye;
And later the last whirr & hush of a child's skate beneath the stars, & also

The moment after, cooling, which sounds like starlight. A street as simple as
A moon, & clothed in moonlight. Nude as moonlight. American styles. Dark leaf;
Light leaf; a girl in the loveliness of her name, the screen door banging once
Behind her as she runs out, & a stranger's impeccable wrists floating over a keyboard:


What does it mean, American?

It means, mostly, to go unnoticed, to watch the streets filling with crowds, & then
To step into the crowd, to be it suddenly, to type behind a desk all day where no one
Sees you. To conceal all that you are. To perform your whole life in a silence

As deep as any girlhood is; to brim over like a black pond in summer, & say nothing about it.
Sometimes it is too much & so you drift into unfamiliar streets, drift as hair drifts along
A cheekbone, accentuating loss, a look of defeat in the eyes as you finger a dress

On a rack, but you have no money. Your lips purse. It is 1931; it is 1931 again.

And suddenly this isn't about style anymore; this is something final like beauty.

Friends, I'm going to stop right here because it is 1931 in her apartment & no one's
Home. No one is coming home, either. After a while, I stop making inquiries.

After all, beauty has only three possible endings, & only one of them is bearable.

The unthawed snow along the street is 1931; the screen door, banging, is 1931.


What does it mean but you? A wisp of hair below your ear, a little of 1931
In 1970, lost & unemployed. It means you just heard, from the open window
Of an apartment overhead, twelve bars, "Autumn Leaves," as played by someone noble,

Untiring, explosive, & extinct. And suddenly the raw light above the arms of snow
Outstretched upon the street is bearable, you think, & will be bearable. For
Another two hours it might be bearable to walk beside it, as if beside a companion

Who's always there, who's always disappearing into light, which is to say,
Into Himself. Who leaves you the afternoon & the tavern's darkness where you hope
To find work. The funny sayings along the wall are not so funny, once you

Think about them, & up at one end, a tiny stage, & always the two or three
Regular drinkers with their silence as if their silence were a rare & precious thing,
Inviolate & white despite its bruises, as if, at night a thing inside themselves

Had beaten them past all recognition, as if, above the cold pews of a church,
Above that body which sails yet holds quite still, each one had seen, set deep
Into the hacked, carved, crucified wooden face, too large & too obscene to match

The half-closed other, a piebald horse's eye. And each had turned away.


And this? This is the most unscrupulous thing of all. These scratchings all night,
These inquiries because you are not there, have become, simply, you, white paper
Desiring the darkening effects of ink until, late at night, it is black trees,

White snow. A winter landscape, & the hush when I come back to it as bitter & serene
As coffee, solitude, the first snow grazing the streets. It is pure, the way cruelty is pure.

I swear I'd give the whole thing up for you.
--Larry Levis, from "The Perfection of Solitude: A Sequence"
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Here I am trying to live, or rather, I am trying to teach the death within me how to live."
--Jean Cocteau

"I have suspected many a time that meaning is really something added to verse. I know for a fact that we feel the beauty of a poem before we even begin to think of a meaning."
--Jorge Luis Borges

"Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape."
--William S. Burroughs

"George Orwell got it backward.

"Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted.

"He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix. He's making sure your attention is always filled.

"And this being fed is worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

"He thinks I suffer from depression. But I'm just quiet. Solitude and depression are like swimming and drowning. In school many years ago, I learned that flowers sometimes unfold inside themselves."
--Simon Van Booy

"There were so many different moods and impressions that he wished to express in verse. He felt them within him. He tried to weigh his soul to see if it was a poet's soul. Melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament, he thought, but it was a melancholy tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy."
--James Joyce, "A Little Cloud"

"You Were My Death"
You were my death:
you I could hold
when all fell away from me.
--Paul Celan

"More Than Halfway"
I've turned on lights all over the house,
but nothing can save me from this darkness.

I've stepped onto the front porch to see
the stars perforating the milky black clouds

and the moon staring coldly through the trees,
but this negative I'm carrying inside me.

Where is the boy who memorized constellations?
What is the textbook that so consoled him?

I'm now more than halfway to the grave,
but I'm not half the man I meant to become.

To what fractured deity can I pray?
I'm willing to pay the night with interest,

though the night wants nothing but itself.
What did I mean to say to darkness?

Death is a zero hollowed out of my chest.
God is an absence whispering in the leaves.
--Edward Hirsch

"Meadow Turf"
Goldenrod, strawberry leaf, small
bristling aster, all,
Loosestrife, knife-bladed grasses,
lacing their roots, lacing
The life of the meadow into a deep embrace
Far underground, and all their shoots,
wet at the base
With shining dew, dry-crested with sun,
Springing out of a mould years old;
Leaves, living and dead, whose stealing
Odors on the cold bright air shed healing--
Oh, heart, here is your healing, here among
The fragrant living and dead.
--Janet Lewis

"Poem with Two Endings"
Say "death" and the whole room freezes--
even the couches stop moving,
even the lamps.
Like a squirrel suddenly aware it is being looked at.

Say the word continuously,
and things begin to go forward.
Your life takes on
the jerky texture of an old film strip.

Continue saying it, hold it moment after moment inside the mouth,
it becomes another syllable.
A shopping mall swirls around the corpse of a beetle.

Death is voracious, it swallows all the living.
Life is voracious, it swallows all the dead.
neither is ever satisfied, neither is ever filled,
each swallows and swallows the world.

The grip of life is as strong as the grip of death.

(but the vanished, the vanished beloved, o where?)
--Jane Hirshfield

"In Sixth Grade Mrs. Walker"
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I've forgotten.
Naked: I've forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn't eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents' cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He's so happy that I've come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.
--Li-Young Lee

"Things My Son Should Know after I've Died"
I was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.
I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.
I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.
I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.
Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.
My left and right hands were rivals.
After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents' house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.
Your grandfather isn't
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.
I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings
--Brian Trimboli

We carry the dead in our hands.
There is no other way.

The dead are not carried in our memories. They died
in another age, long before this moment.
We shape them from the wounds
they left on the inanimate,
ourselves, as falling water
will turn stone into a bowl.

There is no room in our hearts
for the dead, though we often imagine that there is,
or wish it to be so,
to preserve them in our warmth,
our sweet darkness, where their fists
might beat at the soft contours of our love.
And though we might like to think
that they would call out to us, they could never do so,
being there. They would never dare to speak,
lest their mouths, our names, fill
quietly with blood.

We carry the dead in our hands
as we might carry water--with a careful,
reverential tread.
There is no other way.

How easily, how easily their faces spill.
--John Glenday

"Autumn Perspective"
Now, moving in, cartons on the floor,
the radio playing to bare walls,
picture hooks left stranded
in the unsoiled squares where paintings were,
and something reminding us
this is like all other moving days;
finding the dirty ends of someone else’s life,
hair fallen in the sink, a peach pit,
and burned-out matches in the corner;
things not preserved, yet never swept away
like fragments of disturbing dreams
we stumble on all day...
in ordering our lives, we will discard them,
scrub clean the floorboards of this our home
lest refuse from the lives we did not lead
become, in some strange, frightening way, our own.

And we have plans that will not tolerate
our fears--a year laid out like rooms
in a new house–the dusty wine glasses
rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves
sagging with heavy winter books.
Seeing the room always as it will be,
we are content to dust and wait.
We will return here from the dark and silent
streets, arms full of books and food,
anxious as we always are in winter,
and looking for the Good Life we have made.

I see myself then: tense, solemn,
in high-heeled shoes that pinch,
not basking in the light of goals fulfilled,
but looking back to now and seeing
a lazy, sunburned, sandaled girl
in a bare room, full of promise
and feeling envious.

Now we plan, postponing, pushing our lives forward
into the future--as if, when the room
contains us and all our treasured junk
we will have filled whatever gap it is
that makes us wander, discontented
from ourselves.

The room will not change:
a rug, or armchair, or new coat of paint
won’t make much difference;
our eyes are fickle
but we remain the same beneath our suntans,
pale, frightened,
dreaming ourselves backward and forward in time,
dreaming our dreaming selves.

I look forward and see myself looking back.
--Erica Jong

"Death Is Only an Old Door"
Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall.
On gentle hinges it gives, at dusk,
When the thrushes call.
Along the lintel are green leaves,
Beyond the light lies still;
Very willing and weary feet
Go over that sill.
There is nothing to trouble any heart;
Nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only a quiet door
In an old wall.
--Nancy Byrd Turner

Weaker and weaker, the sunlight falls
In the afternoon. The proud and the strong
Have departed.

Those that are left are the unaccomplished,
The finally human,
Natives of a dwindled sphere.

Their indigence is an indigence
That is an indigence of the light,
A stellar pallor that hangs on the threads.

Little by little, the poverty
Of autumnal space becomes
A look, a few words spoken.

Each person completely touches us
With what he is and as he is,
In the stale grandeur of annihilation.
--Wallace Stevens

trigger warning: september 11th )

"The Lightkeeper"
A night without ships. Foghorns called into walled cloud, and you
still alive, drawn to the light as if it were a fire kept by monks,
darkness once crusted with stars, but now death-dark as you sail inward.
Through wild gorse and sea wrack, through heather and torn wool
you ran, pulling me by the hand, so I might see this for once in my life:
the spin and spin of light, the whirring of it, light in search of the lost,
there since the era of fire, era of candles and hollow-wick lamps,
whale oil and solid wick, colza and lard, kerosene and carbide,
the signal fires lighted on this perilous coast in the Tower of Hook.
You say to me stay awake, be like the lensmaker who died with his
lungs full of glass, be the yew in blossom when bees swarm, be
their amber cathedral and even the ghosts of Cistercians will be kind to you.
In a certain light as after rain, in pearled clouds or the water beyond,
seen or sensed water, sea or lake, you would stop still and gaze out
for a long time. Also when fireflies opened and closed in the pines,
and a star appeared, our only heaven. You taught me to live like this.
That after death it would be as it was before we were born. Nothing
to be afraid. Nothing but happiness as unbearable as the dread
from which it comes. Go toward the light always, be without ships.
--Carolyn Forché

"somewhere i have never traveled"
somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
--e. e. cummings

"Where I Live"
Up the street,
past the house with the
Persian-tiled driveway,
the private dental practice,
the heavy brambled roses,
the hairdresser is falling in love
with the day's final customer.
The chip seller is all aching feet.
The greengrocer is daydreaming
of summer: eggplant and avocado,
his wife's cool, slender hands.

Turn right at the corner
with the scaffolding,
and count four windows
on your left. Here,
by the hydrangeas still unsure
what shade of purple
to turn, is my front door.
The lock is fairly old.
The trick is to push the key
to the uppermost corner
of the lock cylinder,
until the grooves align.
There you go.

My flat's the one on the right
on the first floor corridor.
Some afternoons, sunlight
lets itself into the kitchen
when I'm not looking:
splashes all over
the clean white bowls
on the drying rack,
slides into every
last crevice,
almost convinces me
I'm home.
--Camilla Chen

In Josef Koudelka's photograph, untitled & with no date
Given to help us with history, a man wearing
Dark clothes is squatting, his right hand raised slightly,
As if in explanation, & because he is talking,
Seriously now, to a horse that would be white except
For its markings--the darkness around its eyes, muzzle
Legs & tail, by which it is, technically, a gray, or a dapple gray,
With a streak of pure white like heavy cream on its rump.
There is a wall behind them both, which, like most walls, has
No ideas, & nothing to make us feel comfortable...
After a while, because I know so little, &
Because the muted sunlight on the wall will not change,
I begin to believe that the man's wife and children
Were shot & thrown into a ditch a week before this picture
Was taken, that this is still Czechoslovakia, & that there is
The beginning of spring in the air. That is why
The man is talking, & as clearly as he can, to a horse.
He is trying to explain these things,
While the horse, gray as those days at the end
Of winter, when days seem lost in thought, is, after all,
Only a horse. No doubt the man knows people he could talk to:
The bars are open by now, but he has chosen
To confide in this gelding, as he once did to his own small
Children, who could not, finally, understand him any better.
This afternoon, in the middle of his life & in the middle
Of this war, a man is trying to stay sane.
To stay sane he must keep talking to a horse, its blinders
On & a rough snaffle bit still in its mouth, wearing

Away the corners of its mouth, with one ear cocked forward to listen,
While the other ear tilts backward slightly, inattentive,
As if suddenly catching a music behind it. Of course,
I have to admit I have made all of this up, & that
It could be wrong to make up anything. Perhaps the man is perfectly
Happy. Perhaps Koudelka arranged all of this
And then took the picture as a way of saying
Good-bye to everyone who saw it, & perhaps Josef Koudelka was
Only two years old when the Nazis invaded Prague.
I do not wish to interfere, Reader, with your solitude--
So different from my own. In fact, I would take back everything
I've said here, if that would make you feel any better,
Unless even that retraction would amount to a milder way
Of interfering; & a way by which you might suspect me
Of some subtlety. Or mistake me for someone else, someone
Not disinterested enough in what you might think
Of this. Of the photograph. Of me.
Once, I was in love with a woman, & when I looked at her
My face altered & took on the shape of her face,
Made thin by alcohol, sorrowing, brave. And though
There was a kind of pain in her face, I felt no pain
When this happened to mine, when the bones
Of my own face seemed to change. But even this
Did not do us any good, &, one day,
She went mad, waking in tears she mistook for blood,
And feeling little else except for this concern about bleeding

Without pain. I drove her to the hospital, & then,
After a few days, she told me she had another lover...So,
Walking up the street where it had been raining earlier,
Past the darkening glass of each shop window to the hotel,
I felt a sensation of peace flood my body, as if to cleanse it,
And thought it was because I had been told the truth...But, you see,
Even that happiness became a lie, & even that was taken
From me, finally, as all lies are...Later,
I realized that maybe I felt strong that night only
Because she was sick, for other reasons, & in that place.
And so began my long convalescence, & simple adulthood.
I never felt that way again, when I looked at anyone else;
I never felt my face change into any other face.
It is a difficult thing to do, & so maybe
It is just as well. That man, for instance. He was a saboteur.
He ended up talking to a horse, & hearing, on the street
Outside that alley, the Nazis celebrating, singing, even.
If he went mad beside that wall, I think his last question
Was whether they shot his wife and children before they threw him
Into the ditch, or after. For some reason, it mattered once,
If only to him. And before he turned into paper.
--Larry Levis

"Twenty-Pound Stone"
It nests in the hollow of my pelvis, I carry it with both hands, as if
offering my stomach, as if it were pulling me forward.

At night the sun leaks from it, it turns cold. I sleep with it
beside my head, I breathe for it.

Sometimes I dream of hammers.

I am hammering it back into the sand, the sand we melt into glass,
the glass we blow into bottles.

This stone is fifteen green bottles with nothing inside.

It never bleeds, it never heals, it is a soup can left on the back shelf,
the label worn off.

It is the corner of a house, the beginning of a wall.

At night it changes shape, it lies on one side, casting jagged shadows.

It brightens where my tongue touches it.

Richard's eyes were this color, a pale fruit, honeydew.

When I swing it over my head I swear it could lift me.

If I jump from a bridge it would drag me down, the current couldn't
carry us, it has no lungs, no pockets of air.

If I could walk it to the center of a frozen pond & leave it,
in the spring it would be gone.
--Nick Flynn

"The poet's job is to develop an ear, not a voice."
--James Hoch
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Love in August"
White moths
against the screen
in August darkness.

Some clamor
in envy.

Some spread large
as two hands
of a thief

who wants to put
back in your cupboard
the long-taken silver.
--Jane Hirshfield

"Silent Dialogue"
You want to be free of so many things,
yourself for one. And the heavy vigas.
You want to be free of the driving wind,
the empty canvas, the wilting strawberry plants.

I don't know how to walk here, among the ruins.
I trip on the rough-edged stones. It's too dry;
I want to water everything without asking.
The wind blows hard, delivering a whisper of father.

A silent, invisible yoke. You dream of morphine.
Another addiction, directing you to another sort of death.
But you say in the dream, I have you and I don't want to die.
Light against stone. The silence of a clenched muscle.

Some days I think I want to get married.
It's a matter of linguistics; I want to say husband.
By the Rio Chiquito, Catanya told me lobsters mate for life.
I thought of how many halves of couples I'd eaten.

I'm sorry; I was hungry. When we woke this morning,
we spoke without words of the wide, green field in the distance.
It was before the alarm went off, after the shrill of coyote.
Quick lightning split Pedernal.

It was more than the curve of your bent elbow, more
than the words we said that kept us together, more
than that particular intersection. We saw the fragile
leaf of the unflowering pansy and felt afraid.

A song is building inside the lining of our throats.
--Renée Gregorio

"History Display"
Think of those generals at the wax museum,
and the women not present, but they're somewhere,
and all the histories those people escaped by being
in the one they were in. For an instant their wars
didn't happen and a heavy sweetness comes in the air,
like flowers without any cemetery, like my sister
holding her doll up to the window before
anyone told us about the rest of the world.

Those great people can stay where they are.
With love I erase our house and bend over our town
till the streets go dim and the courthouse begins
to dissolve quietly into its lilac hedge.
Some things are made out of rock, but some
don't have to be hard. They can hold it all still,
past and future at once, now, here.
--William Stafford

"Grace Abounding"
Air crowds into my cell so considerately
that the jailer forgets this kind of gift
and thinks I'm alone. Such unnoticed largesse
smuggled by day floods over me,
or here comes grass, turns in the road,
a branch or stone significantly strewn
where it wouldn't need to be.

Such times abide for a pilgrim, who all through
a story or a life may live in grace, that blind
benevolent side of even the fiercest world,
and might--even in oppression or neglect--
not care if it's friend or enemy, caught up
in a dance where no one feels need or fear:

I'm saved in this big world by unforeseen
friends, or times when only a glance
from a passenger beside me, or just the tired
branch of a willow inclining toward earth,
may teach me how to join earth and sky.
--William Stafford

After a war come the memorials--
tanks, cutlasses, men with cigars.
If women are there they adore
and are saved, shielding their children.

For a long time people rehearse
just how it happened, and you have to learn
how important all that armament was--
and it really could happen again.

So the women and children can wait, whatever
their importance might have been, and they
come to stand around the memorials
and listen some more and be grateful, and smell the cigars.

Then, if your side has won, they explain
how the system works and if you just let it
go on it will prevail everywhere.
And they establish foundations and give
some of the money back.
--William Stafford

"Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing"
The light along the hills in the morning
comes down slowly, naming the trees
white, then coasting the ground for stones to nominate.

Notice what this poem is not doing.

A house, a house, a barn, the old
quarry, where the river shrugs--
how much of this place is yours?

Notice what this poem is not doing.

Every person gone has taken a stone
to hold, and catch the sun. The carving
says, "Not here, but called away."

Notice what this poem is not doing.

The sun, the earth, the sky, all wait.
The crows and redbirds talk. The light
along the hills has come, has found you.

Notice what this poem has not done.
--William Stafford

"Not Very Loud"
Now is the time of the moths that come
in the evening. They are around, just being
there, at windows and doors. They crowd
the lights, planing in from dark fields
and liking it in town. They accept each other
as they fly or crawl. How do they know
what is coming? Their furred flight,
softer than down, announces a quiet
approach under whatever is loud.

What are moths good for? Maybe they offer
something we need, a fluttering
near the edges of our sight, and they may carry
whatever is needed for us to watch
all through those long nights in our still,
vacant houses, if there is another war.
--William Stafford

"Burning a Book"
Protecting each other, right in the center
a few pages glow a long time.
The cover goes first, then outer leaves
curling away, then spine and a scattering.
Truth, brittle and faint, burns easily,
its fire as hot as the fire lies make--
flame doesn't care. You can usually find
a few charred words in the ashes.

And some books ought to burn, trying for character
but just faking it. More disturbing
than book ashes are whole libraries that no one
got around to writing--desolate
towns, miles of unthought-in cities,
and the terrorized countryside where wild dogs
own anything that moves. If a book
isn't written, no one needs to burn it--
ignorance can dance in the absence of fire.

So I've burned books. And there are many
I haven't even written, and nobody has.
--William Stafford

"Waiting in Line"
You the very old, I have come
to the edge of your country and looked across,
how your eyes warily look into mine
when we pass, how you hesitate when
we approach a door. Sometimes
I understand how steep your hills
are, and your way of seeing the madness
around you, the careless waste of the calendar,
the rush of people on buses. I have
studied how you carry packages,
balancing them better, giving them attention.
I have glimpsed from within the gray-eyed look
at those who push, and occasionally even I
can achieve your beautiful bleak perspective
on the loud, the inattentive, shoving boors
jostling past you toward their doom.

With you, from the pavement I have watched
the nation of the young, like jungle birds
that scream as they pass, or gyrate on playgrounds,
their frenzied bodies jittering with the disease
of youth. Knowledge can cure them. But
not all at once. It will take time.

There have been evenings when the light
has turned everything silver, and like you
I have stopped at a corner and suddenly
staggered with the grace of it all: to have
inherited all this, or even the bereavement
of it and finally being cheated!--the chance
to stand on a corner and tell it goodby!
Every day, every evening, every
abject step or stumble has become heroic:--

You others, we the very old have a country.
A passport costs everything there is.
--William Stafford

"When I Met My Muse"
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.
--William Stafford

"Run before Dawn"
Most mornings I get away, slip out
the door before light, set forth on the dim, gray
road, letting my feet find a cadence
that softly carries me on. Nobody
is up--all alone my journey begins.

Some days it's escape: the city is burning
behind me, cars have stalled in their tracks,
and everybody is fleeing like me but some other direction.
My stride is for life, a far place.

Other days it is hunting: maybe some game will cross
my path and my stride will follow for hours, matching
all turns. My breathing has caught the right beat
for endurance; familiar trancelike scenes glide by.

And sometimes it's a dream of motion, streetlights coming near,
passing, shadows that lean before me, lengthened
then fading, and a sound from a tree: a soul, or an owl.

These journeys are quiet. They mark my days with adventure
too precious for anyone else to share, little gems
of darkness, the world going by, and my breath, and the road.
--William Stafford

"The Way I Write"
In the mornings I lie partly propped up
the way Thomas Jefferson did when he slept
at Monticello. Then I stop and
look away like Emily Dickinson when
she was thinking about the carriage and the fly.

When someone disturbs me I come back
like Pascal from those infinite spaces,
but I don't have his great reassurances
of math following along with me; so somehow
the world around me is even scarier.

Besides, the world on fire of Saint Teresa
surrounds me, and the wild faces Dante
awakened on his descent through those dark
forbidden caverns. But over my roof bends
my own kind sky and the mouse-nibble sound of now.

The sky has waited a long time
for this day. Trees have reached out,
the river has scrambled to get where it is.
And here I bring my little mind
to the edge of the ocean and let it think.

My head lolls to one side as thoughts
pour onto the page, important
additions but immediately obsolete, like waves.
The ocean and I have many pebbles
to find and wash off and roll into shape.

"What happens to all these rocks?" "They
become sand." "And then?" My hand stops.
Thomas Jefferson, Emily Dickinson,
Pascal, Dante--they all pause too.
The sky waits. I lean forward and write.
--William Stafford

"An Afternoon in the Stacks"
Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.
--William Stafford

"The Trouble with Reading"
When a goat likes a book, the whole book is gone,
and the meaning has to go find an author again.
But when we read, it's just print--deciphering,
like frost on a window: we learn the meaning
but lose what the frost is, and all that world
pressed so desperately behind.

So some time let's discover how the ink
feels, to be clutching all that eternity onto
page after page. But maybe it is better not
to know; ignorance, that wide country,
rewards you just to accept it. You plunge;
it holds you. And you have become a rich darkness.
--William Stafford

"The broken part heals even stronger than the rest,"
they say. But that takes awhile.
And, "Hurry up," the whole world says.
They tap their feet. And it still hurts on rainy
afternoons when the same absent sun
gives no sign it will ever come back.

"What difference in a hundred years?"
The barn where Agnes hanged her child
will fall by then, and the scrawled words
erase themselves on the floor where rats' feet
run. Boards curl up. Whole new trees
drink what the river brings. Things die.

"No good thing is easy." They told us that,
while we dug our fingers into the stones
and looked beseechingly into their eyes.
They say the hurt is good for you. It makes
what comes later a gift all the more
precious in your bleeding hands.
--William Stafford

God guided my hand
and it wrote,
"Forget my name."

World, please note--
a life went by, just
a life, no claims,

A stutter in the millions
of stars that pass,
a voice that lulled--

A glance
and a world
and a hand.
--William Stafford

" 'Tell me a story,' the bearded man sitting on my living-room sofa commands. The situation, I must say, is anything but pleasant. I'm someone who writes stories, not someone who tells them. And even that isn't something I do on demand. The last time anyone asked me to tell him a story, it was my son. That was a year ago. I told him something about a fairy and a ferret--I don't even remember what exactly--and within two minutes he was fast asleep. But the situation is fundamentally different. Because my son doesn't have a beard, or a pistol. Because my son asked for the story nicely, and this man is simply trying to rob me of it.

"I try to explain to the bearded man that if he puts his pistol away it will only work in his favor, in our favor. It's hard to think up a story with the barrel of a loaded pistol pointed at your head. But the guy insists. 'In this country,' he explains, 'if you want something, you have to use force.' He just got here from Sweden, and in Sweden it's completely different. Over there, if you want something, you ask politely, and most of the time you get it. But not in the stifling, muggy Middle East. All it takes is one week in this place to figure out how things work--or rather, how things don't work. The Palestinians asked for a state, nicely. Did they get one? The hell they did. So they switched to blowing up kids on buses, and people started listening. The settlers wanted a dialogue. Did anyone pick up on it? No way. So they started getting physical, pouring hot oil on the border patrolmen, and suddenly they had an audience. In this country, might makes right, and it doesn't matter if it's about politics, or economics, or a parking space. Brute force is the only language we understand."
--Etgar Keret, "Suddenly, a Knock on the Door"
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The World Is a Beautiful Place"
The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don't mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don't sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn't half bad
if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
'living it up'
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling

--Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"The Great Migration"
The third question in Spanish class is: De donde eres tu?
She'd come for brand-new words: las flores rojas, el puente
To have words like crema de leche on her tongue at least
for a few weeks before tasting the bitter syllables of their history.

How begin with the young woman next to her asking: Where?
Young enough to be her daughter but--

The place where you were one of five half-naked children
playing in the dirt under a porch. There was a yellow dog.
The place where I was a white girl sitting in a dusty car
with the window rolled down, looking at you. No word
to share. That place. That place.

She says, Del Sur.
The girl replies: We moved up here when I was eight.
Until last year every dream I had happened there.
I take my daughter down to see my aunts. She's four.
Back home she can take her shoes off. The ground's not
strewn with glass, like here. The dirt's clean, at least.
Do you have folks, back home?

From class to home
she tries out her lessons. At the bus stop bench, she sat next to
a man who hated spring, its thunderhead clouds, its green-
leafed rain. At home, he said, there was only sun. In the north
in Chile, rain was somewhere else, not falling everywhere
like sadness here. He'd not been back in twenty years.

There was him, and the man who hated the cold and the brick factory
and the one room with fifteen people he can't remember. He began
to walk back to Guatemala. Police picked him up in Texas.
No soles to the bottom of his shoes. Police stopped him in Mexico.
Three thousand miles in four months. He'd done it before. His compass
was walk south, toward warmth, you come to home before the war.

At home there was a dirt track by the paved road, worn down
through pink sundrops and fox grass, an emphatic sentence
written by people walking north to work.

Books called it
The Great Migration, but people are not birds. They have in common
only flight. Now, in the city night, they dream they're caught
in a cloud of dust and grit, looking down at land being shoved,
furrowed, or burned by huge machines. In the daylight they stand
in line at the post office and buy money orders to send home.

Beatrice is there to collect a package from her mother. This time
she's sent onions grown in sandy soil. She says they are sweeter
than apples, that one will feed a crowd, that they have no bitterness.

At home their neighbor said: I can tell any county I'm in
just by smelling the dirt.

Beatrice puts aside five
onion globes shining yellow as lamplight, like the old kerosene
lamp they set in the kitchen for emergencies. She'll give
them to the woman who sits by her in Spanish class, the one
young as a daughter, the one she'd never have known at home.
--Minnie Bruce Pratt

"Looking at MRI Scans of My Brain"
My husband and I held the films up against the sliding glass door in
Oregon the summer it seemed my sadness might never go away, trying
to make sense of whatever illness swirled there in black and white and
gray, so terrible the river winding through me seemed more real than I
was, somewhere beneath the Douglas fir's shawl of liquid silver, the
grape leaves unfurling their fuzz of green.

Here were thought and memory, feeling and dream. I stared into those
transparent sheets of myself my husband traced with one finger as I'd
seen him trace our route across a ten thousand foot mountain, follow-
int the convoluted folds and cross sections as patiently as he followed
the slow lines of elevation.

And I thought, This is what matters--the transparent mind that lets the
world through like a window, one we can open any time, whenever we
want, the wind in our hair, mysterious, fern-delicate, human. Or is it his
standing beside me that I remember, ready to remind me that what felt
crazy was only a matter of degree, my footing on that mountain easily
recovered by reaching my hand out to his as he balanced, just a few steps
ahead, impossibly steady before me?
--Alison Townsend

"in time of daffodils... (16)"
in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me
--e.e. cummings

"Children's Song"
We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.
--R. S. Thomas

"Signal Hill"
England sent tap tap,
and tap tap tap, and the hill
answered back.

There were cannons
in bunkers, mines in the narrows,
the Will to Power

periscoping up
in the harbour. Those battlements
rust and whistle

there still, but splashes
of spray-paint lighten the gloom,
and will for a while if we let the vandals
roam, confettiing the concrete
with condoms, trading

in pills that alter
their vista through the gun-slits
of history. The vandals

are young, and make
use of the ruins. Stand back.
Thank them for that.
--Ken Babstock

You expect an old woman,
way past her stale date,
dragging her wrinkled
breasts on the sidewalk,
curdling her milk; but I’m
as new as the weeds that
grow through the cracks in
the pavement, the young
loons singing on artificial
lakes; and I will, yes, I do
keep coming back from my
time in the woods. Huuu
uuuuuuuuuu. I come with
the animals chased from the
forest. I come with my hunger,
my thirst for justice. I come
with my old friends, my new-
every-year body painted in
designer colours, Frog spit
on my breast, Susiutl slung
over my shoulders, Star on
my forehead, and always my
blood singing through. Uh-
hooooo. You can't resist my
lips by Revlon, mouth wide
open, ready to swallow side-
walks, streetlamps, hydroponic
children growing tame in the
garden you think you own.
--Linda Rogers

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked awhile at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same,--and War's a bloody game,…
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz,--
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench,--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack,--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads,--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?... Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.
--Siegfried Sassoon

"Sonoma Fire"
Large moon the deep orange of embers.
Also the scent.
The griefs of others--beautiful, at a distance.
--Jane Hirshfield

"Seven Stanzas at Easter"
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.
--John Updike

"They used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness. Greased they'd say. Offed, lit up, zapped while zipping. It wasn't cruelty, just stage presence. They were actors. When someone died, it wasn't quite dying, because in a curious way it seemed scripted, and because they had their lines mostly memorized, irony mixed with tragedy, and because they called it by other names, as if to encyst and destroy the reality of death itself. They kicked corpses. They cut off thumbs. They talked grunt lingo. They told stories about Ted Lavender's supply of tranquilizers, how the poor guy didn't feel a thing, how incredibly tranquil he was.

"There's a moral here, said Mitchell Sanders.

"They were waiting for Lavender's chopper, smoking the dead man's dope.

"The moral's pretty obvious, Sanders said, and winked. Stay away from drugs. No joke, they'll ruin your day every time.

"Cute, said Henry Dobbins.

"Mind blower, get it? Talk about wiggy. Nothing left, just blood and brains.

"They made themselves laugh.

"There it is, they'd say. Over and over--there it is, my friend, there it is--as if the repetition itself were an act of poise, a balance between crazy and almost crazy, knowing without going, there it is, which meant be cool, let it ride, because Oh yeah, man, you can't change what can't be changed, there it is, there it absolutely and positively and fucking well is."
--Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

"Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story."
--Tim O'Brien
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."
--Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country

"You say that I have no power? Perhaps you speak truly. But--you say that dreams have no power? Ask yourselves, all of you, what power would Hell have if those imprisoned here could not dream of Heaven?"
--Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes

"Beach Walk"
I found a baby shark on the beach.
Seagulls had eaten his eyes. His throat was bleeding.
Lying on shell and sand, he looked smaller than he was.
The ocean had scraped his insides clean.
When I poked his stomach, darkness rose up in him,
like black water. Later, I saw a boy,
aroused and elated, beckoning from a dune.
Like me, he was alone. Something tumbled between us--
not quite emotion. I could see the pink
interior flesh of his eyes. "I got lost. Where am I?"
he asked, like a debt owed to death.
I was pressing my face to its spear-hafts.
We fall, we fell, we are falling. Nothing mitigates it.
The dark embryo bares its teeth and we move on.
--Henri Cole

"A Poem for Adrienne"
We were filled with the strong wine
of mutual struggle, one joined loud
and sonorous voice. We carried
each other along revolting, chanting,
cursing, crafting, making all new.

First Muriel, then Audre and Flo,
now Adrienne. I feel like a lone
pine remnant of virgin forest
when my peers have met the ax
and I weep ashes.

Yes, young voices are stirring now
the wind is rising, the sea boils
again, yet I feel age sucking
the marrow from my bones,
the loneliness of memory.

Their voices murmur in my inner
ear but never will I hear them
speak new words and no matter
how I cherish what they gave us
I want more, I still want more.
--Marge Piercy

"What Kind of Times Are These"
There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light--
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.
--Adrienne Rich

"Memorial Day for the War Dead"
Memorial day for the war dead. Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you. Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.

Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.

Memorial day. Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.

The flautist's mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.

A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.

A great and royal animal is dying
all through the night under the jasmine
tree with a constant stare at the world.

A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
--Yehuda Amichai

"Not Yet"
Morning of buttered toast;
of coffee, sweetened, with milk.

Out of the window,
snow-spruces step from their cobwebs.
Flurry of chickadees, feeding then gone.
A single cardinal stipples an empty branch –
one maple leaf lifted back.

I turn my blessings like photographs into the light;
over my shoulder the god of Not-Yet looks on:

Not-yet-dead, not-yet-lost, not-yet-taken.
Not-yet-shattered, not-yet-sectioned,

Ample litany, sparing nothing I hate or love,
not-yet-silenced, not-yet-fractured, not-yet-


I move my ear a little closer to that humming figure,
I ask him only to stay.
--Jane Hirshfield

"I Am Learning to Abandon the World"
I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.
--Linda Pastan

"I Know the Truth"
I know the truth--forget all other truths!
No need for anyone on earth to struggle.
Look--it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
--Marina Tsvetaeva

The Dancing Class"
Pretending he keeps
an aviary; looking no higher
than their feet; listening
for their precise fluttering,

And they surround him, flightless
birds in taffeta
plumage, picking up words
gratefully, as though they were crumbs.
--R. S. Thomas

"From an Atlas of the Difficult World"
I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.
--Adrienne Rich

You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language

Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she's a woman of my time


with Love, our subject:
we've trained it like ivy to our walls
baked it like bread in our ovens
worn it like lead on our ankles
watched it through binoculars as if
it were a helicopter
bringing food to our famine
or the satellite
of a hostile power

I begin to see that woman
doing things: stirring rice
ironing a skirt
typing a manuscript till dawn

trying to make a call
from a phonebooth

The phone rings endlessly
in a man's bedroom
she hears him telling someone else
Never mind. She'll get tired.
hears him telling her story to her sister

who becomes her enemy
and will in her own way
light her own way to sorrow

ignorant of the fact this way of grief
is shared, unnecessary
and political
--Adrienne Rich

"The Stranger"
Looking as I've looked before, straight down the heart
of the street to the river
walking the rivers of the avenues
feeling the shudder of the caves beneath the asphalt
watching the lights turn on in the towers
walking as I've walked before
like a man, like a woman, in the city
my visionary anger cleansing my sight
and the detailed perceptions of mercy
flowering from that anger

if I come into a room out of the sharp misty light
and hear them talking a dead language
if they ask me my identity
what can I say but
I am the androgyne
I am the living mind you fail to describe
in your dead language
the lost noun, the verb surviving
only in the infinitive
the letters of my name are written under the lids
of the newborn child
--Adrienne Rich

"Tonight No Poetry Will Serve"
Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing

now diagram the sentence
--Adrienne Rich

"In Those Years"
In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to
But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I
--Adrienne Rich

cut for domestic abuse triggers--not graphic, but could still trigger )

"I hadn't felt such disgust for a boy since the early days, when they'd tease girls on the playground, kicking us and throwing gravel and raising their voices in high screechy mockery. 'They do that because they like you,' all the adults said, grinning like pumpkins. We believed them, back then. Back then we thought it was true, and we were drawn toward all that meanness because it meant we were special, let them kick us, let them like us. We liked them back. But now it was turning out that our first instincts were right. Boys weren't mean because they like you; it was because they were mean."
--Daniel Handler, The Basic Eight

cut for eating disorder triggers )

"Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself."
--Marcel Proust

"Ein Yahav"
A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arabah.
A drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.
There, I met people who grow date palms.
There, I saw great tamarisk trees and great risk trees
There, I saw hope barbed like barbed wire
And I said to myself: It is the truth. Hope must be
Like barbed wire to keep out our despair.
Hope must be a minefield.
--Yehuda Amichai

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

a woman 'in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles'

in her 98 years to discover
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
ribs chilled
in those spaces of the mind

An eye,

'virile, precise and absolutely certain'
from the mad webs of Uranusborg

encountering the NOVA

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

Tycho whispering at last
'Let me not seem to have lived in vain'

What we see, we see
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus

I am bombarded yet I stand

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me And has
taken I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.
--Adrienne Rich

"Gold River Neck Riddle"
What is red and singing on the inside, gray and moaning on the outside?

(The opera house)

What is green, damp, and stuck between the forest's teeth?
(The doctor)

What drags on the floor and catches fire?
What reveals the girl's legs while destroying them?
(The afternoon sun)

What grows tall, blocks the sun, loses everything,
and still darkens the field? (The young man
looking for the idiot boy.)

What spreads out by simplifying further?

What (smoke) was here?
What (government)?

What saves and ruins?
(The museum)

What blooms amongst the rocks?
(A ship)

What opens wide and explains why?
(A burning window)

What is ill-advised in the new world?
(What ends at the treeline.
What split like a lip into two less viable possibilities.)

What shimmers on our bodies when we are warm?
(Our historic burning) What lines both the inside of our coats
and the inside of our mouths?
(Our current burning)
What is the real museum?
What is wet and is yet a wick?
(The tongue, which becomes colorless over time.
Which flakes.)

What is the souvenir we bring home from the flood?
(Our hair)

On what bent and drinking animal are we the pattern?
(The land)
(The river)
(The narrow) The trees
were some stony being's fingers.
We walked easily between them to the wet edge of its face.
--Catie Rosemurgy

"Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live."
--Gustave Flaubert
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Although the wind"
Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.
--Izumi Shikibu, translated from the Japanese by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani


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November 2015



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