Dec 062018

In Ecclesiastes I read,
“That which is far off and exceeding deep,
Who can find it out?”
Who can tell the earth’s tale of wearing down,
building up, erosion, creation,
a swirl of embers breathing amethyst and tourmaline,
a suffering bounded by the four baleful rivers of Hell
and a sun that will one day collapse,
engulfing it in one long dragon breath of dying out?
The ancients said earth was immovable—
that every daffodil and sequoia
was fixed in its own sky-blue mirror.
Now we know this planet is like others,
restless, driven, continually torn apart
and reassembled by a shifting of plates
grinding beneath the surface like nervous molars.
The globe itself a work in progress
with its iced poles wandering
and its fires bubbling below the seas.
Even its path through space
is an egg-shaped, elliptical orbit, hardly circular.
It is here on what used to be called solid ground
that we live—fragile, torn by our need
for love, food and mercy.
Most of us worried there will be too little time
to light the lamps of our fingers
and walk the narrow path in the rain.
But what of the earth? Who can find it out—
embrace its drifting continents,
who can love it as it is—unfinished,
smudged with the dust of rare constellations,
flickering on and off like a rain-drenched fire in the woods?

 Comments Off on J. P. White: In Ecclesiastes I Read
Dec 042018

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day’s work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.


 Comments Off on Charles Reznikoff: Te Deum
Dec 032018

Why should I have returned?
My knowledge would not fit into theirs.
I found untouched the desert of the unknown,
Big enough for my feet. It is my home.
It is always beyond them. The future
Splits the present with the echo of my voice.
Hoarse with fulfillment, I never made promises.

 Comments Off on W. S. Merwin: Noah’s Raven
Nov 112018

Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.

But we have speech, to chill the angry day,
And speech, to dull the rose’s cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night,
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.

There’s a cool web of language winds us in,
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.

But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing off language and its watery clasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children’s day,
Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,
We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.

 Comments Off on Robert Graves: The Cool Web
Aug 132018

Why should I let the toad work 
Squat on my life? 
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork 
And drive the brute off? 

Why should I let the toad work 
Squat on my life? 
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork 
And drive the brute off? 

Six days of the week it soils 
With its sickening poison – 
Just for paying a few bills! 
That’s out of proportion. 

Lots of folk live on their wits: 
Lecturers, lispers, 
Losers, loblolly-men, louts- 
They don’t end as paupers. 

Lots of folk live up lanes 
With fires in a bucket, 
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines. 
They seem to like it. 

Their nippers have got bare feet, 
Their unspeakable wives 
Are skinny as whippets – and yet 
No one actually starves

Ah, were I courageous enough 
To shout, Stuff your pension
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff 
That dreams are made on: 

For something sufficiently toad-like 
Squats in me, too; 
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck, 
And cold as snow, 

And will never allow me to blarney 
My way of getting 
The fame and the girl and the money 
All at one sitting. 

I don’t say, one bodies the other 
One’s spiritual truth; 
But I do say it’s hard to lose either, 
When you have both.


 Comments Off on Philip Larkin: Toads