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
Jul 192018
 

A pronoun is a kind of withdrawal from naming.
Because naming is heavy, naming may be slightly shaming.
We live much more lightly than this,
we address ourselves allusively in our minds –
as “I” or “we” or “one” – part of a system
that argues with shadow, like Venetian blinds.
Speaking of Venice, called “the Shakespeare of cities” by a friend of mine,
reminds me of how often the Sonnets misprint their for thine:

beware the fog in Venice.
Beware those footsteps that stop in a hush.
I used to think I would grow up to be a person whose reasoning was deep,
instead I became a kind of brush.
I brush words against words. So do we follow ourselves out of youth,
brushing, brushing, brushing wild grapes onto truth.

 Comments Off on Anne Carson: Reticent Sonnet