Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest
by Gary Snyder

I slept under rhododendron All night blossoms fell Shivering on a sheet of cardboard Feet stuck in my pack Hands deep in my pockets Barely able to sleep. I remembered when we were in school Sleeping together in a big warm bed We were the youngest lovers When we broke up we were still nineteen Now our friends are married You teach school back east I dont mind living this way Green hills the long blue beach But sometimes sleeping in the open I think back when I had you.

A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji by Gary Snyder Eight years ago this May We walked under cherry blossoms At night in an orchard in Oregon. All that I wanted then Is forgotten now, but you. Here in the night In a garden of the old capital I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao I remember your cool body Naked under a summer cotton dress.

An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji by Gary Snyder Last night watching the Pleiades, Breath smoking in the moonlight, Bitter memory like vomit Choked my throat. I unrolled a sleeping bag On mats on the porch Under thick autumn stars. In dream you appeared (Three times in nine years) Wild, cold, and accusing. I woke shamed and angry: The pointless wars of the heart. Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter. The first time I have Ever seen them close.

December at Yase by Gary Snyder You said, that October, In the tall dry grass by the orchard When you chose to be free, "Again someday, maybe ten years." After college I saw you One time. You were strange. And I was obsessed with a plan. Now ten years and more have Gone by: I've always known where you were-- I might have gone to you Hoping to win your love back. You still are single. I didn't. I thought I must make it alone. I Have done that. Only in dream, like this dawn, Does the grave, awed intensity Of our young love Return to my mind, to my flesh. We had what the others All crave and seek for; We left it behind at nineteen. I feel ancient, as though I had Lived many lives. And may never now know If I am a fool Or have done what my karma demands.

Langston Hughes

Sometimes a crumb falls from the tables of joy
Sometimes a bone is flung.
To some people love is given,
To others, only heaven.

as much as you can by cavafy

And if you cannot make your life as you want it
at least try this
as much as you can: do not disgrace it
in the crowding contact with the world,
in the many movements and all the talk.

Do not disgrade it by taking it,
dragging it around often and exposing it
to the daily foil
of relationships and associations,
till it becomes like an alien burdensome life.

Che fece .... il gran rifiuto by cafavy

To certain people there comes a day
when they must say the great Yes or the great No.
He who has the Yes ready within him
immediately reveals himself, and saying it he goes

against his honor and his own conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Should he be asked again,
he would say no again. And yet that no --
the right no -- crushes him for the rest of his life.

So much happens in a day
By Pablo Neruda tr: Alastair Reid

In the course of a day we shall meet one another.

But, in one day, things spring to life--
they sell grapes in the street,
tomatoes change their skin,
the young girl you wanted
never came back to the office.

They changed the postman suddenly.
The letters now are not the same.
A few golden leaves and it's different:
this tree is now well off.

Who would have said that the earth
with its ancient skin would change so much?
It has more volcanoes than yesterday,
the sky has brand-new clouds,
the rivers are flowing differently.
Besides, so much has come into being!
I have inaugurated hundreds
of highways and buildings,
delicate clean bridges,
like ships or violins.

And so, when I greet you
and kiss your flowering mouth,
our kisses are other kisses,
our mouths are other mouths.

Joy, my love, joy in all things,
in what falls and what flourishes.

Joy in today and yesterday,
the day before and tomorrow.

Joy in bread and stone,
joy in fire and rain.

In what changes, is born, grows,
consumes itself, and becomes a kiss again.

Joy in the air we have,
and in what we have of earth.

When our life dries up,
only the roots remain to us,
and the wind is cold like hate.

Then let us change our skin,
our nails, our blood, our gazing;
and you kiss me and I go out
to sell light on the roads.

Joy in the night and the day,
and the four stations of the soul.

Dover Beach
Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

To Tu Fu from Shantung
Li Po

You ask how I spend my time--
I nestle against a treetrunk
and listen to autumn winds
in the pines all night and day.

Shantung wine can't get me drunk.
The local poets bore me.
My thoughts remain with you,
like the Wen River, endlessly flowing.

(tr. Hamil)

Kenneth Rexroth

There are sparkles of rain on the bright
Hair over your forehead;
Your eyes are wet and your lips
Wet and cold, your cheek rigid with cold.
Why have you stayed
Away so long, why have you only
Come to me late at night
After walking for hours in wind and rain?
Take off your dress and stockings;
Sit in the deep chair before the fire.
I will warm your feet in my hands;
I will warm your breasts and thighs with kisses.
I wish I could build a fire
In you that would never go out.
I wish I could be sure that deep in you
Was a magnet to draw you always home.

With her
Pablo Neruda

The time is difficult. Wait for me.
We will live it out vividly.
Give me your small hand:
we will rise and suffer,
we will feel, we will rejoice.

We are once more the pair
who lived in bristling places,
in harsh nests in the rock.
The time is difficult. Wait for me
with a basket, with a shovel,
with your shoes and your clothes.

Now we need each other,
not only for the carnations' sake,
not only to look for honey -
we need our hands
to wash with, to make fire.
So let our difficult time
stand up to infinity
with four hands and four eyes.

Every Day You Play
Pablo Neruda

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars
          of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes

The birds go by, feeling.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night
           to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the grey light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.


No Word
Kenneth Rexroth


The trees hang silent
In the heat . . . . .


          Undo your heart
          Tell me your thoughts
          What you were
          And what you are . . . . .


                     Like bells no one
                     Has ever rung.


The Infinite One
Pablo Neruda

Do you see these hands?
They have measured
the earth, they have separated
minerals and cereals,
they have made peace and war,
they have demolished the distances
of all the seas and rivers,
and yet,
when they move over you,
little one,
grain of wheat, swallow,
they cannot encompass you,
they are weary seeking
the twin doves
that rest or fly in your breast,
they travel the distances of your legs,
they coil in the light of your waist.
For me you are a treasure more laden
with immensity than the sea and its branches
and you are white and blue and spacious like
the earth at vintage time.
In that territory,
from your feet to your brow,
walking, walking, walking,
I shall spend my life.

Mindful of You the Sodden Earth in Spring
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring,
And all the flowers that in the springtime grow,
And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow
Rising of the round moon, all throats that sing
The summer through, and each departing wing,
And all the nests that the bared branches show,
And all winds that in any weather blow,
And all the storms that the four seasons bring.

You go no more on your exultant feet
Up paths that only mist and morning knew,
Or watch the wind, or listen to the beat
Of a bird's wings too high in air to view,—
But you were something more than young and sweet
And fair,—and the long year remembers you.

from The Love Poems of Marichiko
Kenneth Rexroth:

(These poems were originally published as if written by a Japanese woman, Marichiko, and translated by Rexroth, but he, in actuality, wrote the poems using this other persona (similar to the heteronyms of Pessoa).)



Making love with you
Is like drinking sea water.
The more I drink
The thirstier I become,
Until nothing can slake my thirst
But to drink the entire sea.




Pablo Neruda

So many days, oh so many days
seeing you so tangible and so close,
how do I pay, with what do I pay?

The bloodthirsty spring
has awakened in the woods.
The foxes start from their earths,
the serpents drink the dew,
and I go with you in the leaves
between the pines and the silence,
asking myself how and when
I will have to pay for my luck.

Of everything I have seen,
it's you I want to go on seeing;
of everything I've touched,
it's your flesh I want to go on touching.
I love your orange laughter.
I am moved by the sight of you sleeping.

What am I to do, love, loved one?
I don't know how others love,
or how people loved in the past.
I live, watching you, loving you.
Being in love is my nature.

You please me more each afternoon.

Where is she? I keep on asking
if your eyes disappear.
How long she's taking! I think, and I'm hurt
I feel poor, foolish, and sad,
and you arrive and you are lighining
glancing off the peach trees.

That's why I love you and yet not why.
There are so many reasons, and yet so few,
for love has to be so,
involving and general,
particular and terrifying,
honored and yet in mourning,
flowering like the stars,
and measureless as a kiss.

Pablo Neruda

There is no space wider than that of grief
There is no universe like that which bleeds

Spanish version:

No hay espacio más ancho que el dolor
No hay universo como aquel que sangra

Love is not all
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

Time is an inclusive series said McTaggart
Kenneth Rexroth

In just a minute we will say goodbye
I will drive away and see you
Cross the boulevard in the rear view mirror
Maybe you will make out the back of my head
Disappearing in the traffic
And then we will never see one another ever again
It will happen in just another minute now

Beatrix is three
Adrian Mitchell

At the top of the stairs
I ask for her hand. O.K.
She gives it to me.
How her fist fits my palm,
A bunch of consolation.
We take our time
Down the steep carpetway
As I wish silently
That the stairs were endless.

The Bare Arms of Trees
John Tagliabue

Sometimes when I see the bare arms of trees in the evening
I think of men who have died without love,
Of desolation and space between branch and branch,
I think of immovable whiteness and lean coldness and fear
And the terrible longing between people stretched apart as these
And the cold space between.
I think of the vastness and the courage between this step and that step
Of the yearning and the fear of the meeting, of the terrible desire
           held apart.
I think of the ocean of longing that moves between land and land
And between people, the space and ocean.
The bare arms of the trees are immovable, without the play of
           leaves, without the sound of wind;
I think of the unseen love and the unknown thoughts that exist
           between tree and tree,
As I pass these things in the evening, as I walk.

When I too long have looked upon your face
Edna St. Vincent Millay

When I too long have looked upon your face,
Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
Save by the mists of brightness has its place,
And terrible beauty not to be endured,
I turn away reluctant from your light,
And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
A silly, dazzled thing deprived of a sight
From having looked too long upon the sun.
Then is my daily life a narrow room
In which a little while, uncertainly,
Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
Among familiar things grown strange to me
Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
Till I become accustomed to the dark.

The Layers
Stanley Kunitz, 10th Poet Laureate of the US

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.

Pablo Neruda

I copy out mountains, rivers, clouds.
I take my pen from pocket. I note down
a bird in its rising
or a spider in its little silkworks.
Nothing else crosses my mind. I am air,
clear air, where the wheat is waving,
where a bird's flight moves me, the uncertain
fall of a leaf, the globular
eye of a fish unmoving in the lake,
the statues sailing in the clouds,
the intricate variations of the rain.

Nothing else crosses my mind except
the transparency of summer. I sing only of the wind,
and history passes in its carriage,
collecting its shrouds and medals,
and passes, and all I feel is rivers.
I stay alone with the spring.

Shepherd, shepherd, don't you know
they are all waiting for you?

I know, I know, but here beside the water
while the locusts chitter and sparkle,
although they are waiting, I want to wait for myself.
I too want to watch myself.
I want to discover at last my own feelings.
And when I reach the place where I am waiting,
I expect to fall asleep, dying of laughter.

Be near me
Faiz Ahmed Faiz

You who demolish me, you whom I love,
be near me. Remain near me when evening,
drunk on the blood of the skies,
becomes night, in its one hand
a perfumed balm, in the other
a sword sheathed in the diamond of stars.

Be near me when night laments or sings,
or when it begins to dance,
its steel-blue anklets ringing with grief.

Be here when longings, long submerged
in the heart's waters, resurface
and when everyone begins to look:
Where is the assassin? In whose sleeve
is hidden the redeeming knife?

And when wine, as it is poured, is the sobbing
of children whom nothing will console -
when nothing holds,
when nothing is:
at that dark hour when night mourns,
be near me, my destroyer, my lover,
be near me.

As one listens to the rain
Octavio Paz

Listen to me as one listens to the rain,
not attentive, not distracted,
light footsteps, thin drizzle,
water that is air, air that is time,
the day is still leaving,
the night has yet to arrive,
figurations of mist
at the turn of the corner,
figurations of time
at the bend in this pause,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
without listening, hear what I say
with eyes open inward, asleep
with all five senses awake,
it's raining, light footsteps, a murmur of syllables,
air and water, words with no weight:
what we are and are,
the days and years, this moment,
weightless time and heavy sorrow,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
wet asphalt is shining,
steam rises and walks away,
night unfolds and looks at me,
you are you and your body of steam,
you and your face of night,
you and your hair, unhurried lightning,
you cross the street and enter my forehead,
footsteps of water across my eyes,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the asphalt's shining, you cross the street,
it is the mist, wandering in the night,
it is the night, asleep in your bed,
it is the surge of waves in your breath,
your fingers of water dampen my forehead,
your fingers of flame burn my eyes,
your fingers of air open eyelids of time,
a spring of visions and resurrections,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the years go by, the moments return,
do you hear the footsteps in the next room?
not here, not there: you hear them
in another time that is now,
listen to the footsteps of time,
inventor of places with no weight, nowhere,
listen to the rain running over the terrace,
the night is now more night in the grove,
lightning has nestled among the leaves,
a restless garden adrift-go in,
your shadow covers this page.

The sadness of the moon
Charles Baudelaire

The Moon more indolently dreams tonight
Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,
Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,
Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.

Upon her silken avalanche of down,
Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;
And watches the white visions past her flown,
Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.

And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,
Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,
Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,

Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow
Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,
And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart.


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

A Note
Wislawa Szymborska

Life is the only way
to get covered with leaves
Catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it's not;

to squeeze inside events
dawdle in views
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with a lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another
mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

The Garden
Rabindranath Tagore

Tell me if this be all true, my lover, tell me if this be true.
When these eyes flash their lightning the dark clouds in your
breast make stormy answer.
Is it true that my lips are sweet like the opening bud of the
first conscious love?
Do the memories of vanished months of May linger in my limbs?
Does the earth, like a harp, shiver into songs with the touch of
my feet?
Is it then true that the dewdrops fall from the eyes of night
when I am seen, and the morning light is glad when it wraps my
body round?
Is it true, is it true, that your love travelled alone through
ages and worlds in search of me?
That when you found me at last, your age-long desire found utter
peace in my gentle speech and my eyes and lips and flowing
Is it then true that the mystery of the Infinite is written on
this little forehead of mine?
Tell me, my lover, if all this be true.

To the one upstairs
Charles Simic

Boss of all bosses of the universe.
Mr. know-it-all, wheeler-dealer, wire-puller,
And whatever else you're good at.
Go ahead, shuffle your zeros tonight.
Dip in ink the comets' tails.
Staple the night with starlight.

You'd be better off reading coffee dregs,
Thumbing the pages of the Farmer's Almanac.
But no! You love to put on airs,
And cultivate your famous serenity
While you sit behind your big desk
With zilch in your in-tray, zilch
In your out-tray,
And all of eternity spread around you.

Doesn't it give you the creeps
To hear them begging you on their knees,
Sputtering endearments,
As if you were an inflatable, life-size doll?
Tell them to button up and go to bed.
Stop pretending you're too busy to take notice.

Your hands are empty and so are your eyes.
There's nothing to put your signature to,
Even if you knew your own name,
Or believed the ones I keep inventing,
As I scribble this note to you in the dark.

Margaret Atwood

Love is not a profession
genteel or otherwise

sex is not dentistry
the slick filling of aches and cavities

you are not my doctor
you are not my cure,

nobody has that
power, you are merely a fellow traveller

Give up this medical concern,
buttoned, attentive,

permit yourself anger
and permit me mine

which needs neither
your approval nor your surprise

which does not need to be made legal
which is not against a disease

but against you,
which does not need to be understood

or washed or cauterized,
which needs instead

to be said and said.
Permit me the present tense.

Pablo Neruda

I am one of those who live
in the middle of the sea and close to the twilight,
a little beyond those stones.

When I came
and saw what was happening
I decided on the spot.

The day had spread itself
and everything was light
and the sea was beating
like a salty lion,
many handed.

All that deserted space was singing
and I, lost and awed,
looked toward the silence,
opened my mouth and said:
"Mother of the foam,
expansive solitude,
here I will begin my own rejoicing,
my particular poetry."

From then on I was never
let down by a single wave.
I always found the flavor of the sky
in the water, in the earth,
and the wood and the sea burned together
through the lonely winters.

I am grateful to the earth
for having waited
for me
when sky and sea came together
like two lips touching;
for that's no small thing, no? --
to have lived
through one solitude to arrive at another,
to feel oneself many things and recover wholeness.

I love all the things there are,
and of all the fires
love is the only inexhaustible one;
and that's why I go from life to life,
from guitar to guitar,
and I have no fear
of light or of shade,
and being almost earth myself,
I spoon away at infinity.

So no one can ever fail
to find my doorless numberless house --
there between dark stones,
facing the flash
of the violent salt,
there we live, my woman and I,
there we take root.
Grant us help then.
Help us to be more of the earth each day!
Help us to be
more the sacred foam,
more the swish of the wave!


O, hurry, where by water, among the trees,
The delicate-stepping stag and his lady sigh,
When they have looked upon their images
Would none had ever loved but you and I!
Or have you heard that sliding silver-shoed
Pale silver-proud queen-woman of the sky,
When the sun looked out of his golden hood?
O, that none ever loved but you and I!

O hurry to the ragged wood, for there
I will drive all those lovers out and cry
O, my share of the world, O, yellow hair!
No one has ever loved but you and I.

Wake Up. Day Calls You.

Pedro Salinas

Wake up. Day calls you
to your life: your duty.
And to live, nothing more.
Root it out of the glum
night and the darkness
that covered your body
for which light waited a
on tiptoe in the dawn.

Stand up, affirm the straight
simple will to be
a pure slender virgin.
Test your body's metal.
cold, heat? Your blood
will tell against the snow,
or behind the window.
The colour
in your cheeks will tell.
And look at people. Rest
doing no more than adding
your perfection to another
day. Your task
is to carry your life high,
and play with it, hurl it
like a voice to the clouds
so it may retrieve the light
already gone from us.
That is your fate: to live
Do nothing.
Your work is you, nothing more.

Pedro Salinas 1891-1951

Don't Save Yourself

Mario Benedetti

Don't Save yourself,
Don't be immobile
On the edge of the road,
Don't freeze the joy,
Don't love with reluctance,
Don't save yourself now
or ever,
Don't save yourself,
Don't fill with calm,
Don't reserve of the world
Just a calm place,
Don't let fall your lids
Heavy as trials,
Don't speak without lips,
Don't fall asleep without sleepiness,
Don't think of you without blood,
Don't judge yourself without time.

But if in spite of everything
You cannot avoid it
And you freeze the joy,
And you love with reluctance,
And you save yourself now,
And you fill with calm,
And you reserve of the world
Just a calm place,
And you let fall your lids
Heavy as trials,
And you speak without lips,
And you fall asleep without sleepiness,
And you think yourself without blood,
And you judge yourself without time,
And you are immobile
On the edge of the road,
And you save yourself,
Don't stay with me.

I Confess That I Have Lived My Life

Fadhil Al-Azzawi

I confess that I have lived my life.
I tasted so many things and forgot thousands more.
I loved women. I forgot to count how many cried over me.
I found friends for good times and friends for bad ones.
I lived among forgotten victims
and learned with my skin the whips of executioners in prison cells.
I stood before unjust courts, accused of blind love.
I wandered from desert to desert and set up my tent in fairyland.
I let my horse drink from the waters of Al-Kawthar*
I slept among thieves on the shores of the Tigris
and sometimes lived in the castles of kings.
I traveled to cities swimming in darkness.
I sat in the sun and walked through snow,
changed one land with another,
one pair of shoes with another.
I burned so many bridges behind me
and sailed on seas that could never be crossed.
In a time of drought, I sowed seeds in the valley of friends.
In darkness, I lit thousands of candles.
Under the waking moon, I sighed like an old man in love
and wandered between continents.
How many times have I built paper palaces in my dreams?
How many times have I swapped reality for illusion?
I have told the truth and I have also lied.
I have doubted a little and I have believed a little.
I have smoked all brands of cigarettes,
drank in bars the best vintage wines
and written the poems of my life.
I have laughed so much in this world.
I have cried so much in this world.
I have passed by like a light flashing in the night.
I have been here and I have seen.
I have stayed and I have left.
I confess that I have lived my life.

*a river in Paradise


Nancy Henry

from Our Lady of Let's All Sing. Sheltering Pines Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission.

When things got hard
I used to drive and keep on driving
once to North Carolina
once to Arizona
I'm through with all that now, I hope.
The last time was years ago.

But oh, how I would drive
and keep on driving!
The universe around me
all well in my control;
anything I wanted on the radio,
the air blasting hot or cold;
sobbing as loudly as I cared to sob,
screaming as loudly as I needed to scream.
I would live on apples and black coffee,
shower at truck stops,
sleep curled up
in the cozy back seat I loved.

The last time, I left at 3 a.m.
By New York state,
I stopped screaming;
by Tulsa
I stopped sobbing;
by the time I pulled into Flagstaff
I was thinking
about the Canyon,
I was so empty.
Thinking about the canyon
I was.

I sat on the rim at dawn,
let all the colors fill me.
It was cold. I saw my breath
like steam from a soup pot.
I saw small fossils in the gravel.
I saw how much world there was

how much darkness
could be swept out
by the sun.

The Satrapy

What a misfortune, although you are made
for fine and great works
this unjust fate of yours always
denies you encouragement and success;
that base customs should block you;
and pettiness and indifference.
And how terrible the day when you yield
(the day when you give up and yield),
and you leave on foot for Susa,
and you go to the monarch Artaxerxes
who favorably places you in his court,
and offers you satrapies and the like.
And you accept them with despair
these things that you do not want.
Your soul seeks other things, weeps for other things;
the praise of the public and the Sophists,
the hard-won and inestimable Well Done;
the Agora, the Theater, and the Laurels.
How can Artaxerxes give you these,
where will you find these in a satrapy;
and what life can you live without these.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1910)

One Heart
by Li-Young Lee

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, friend, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Ven, Siempre Ven
de Vicente Aleixandre

No te acerques. Tu frente, tu ardiente frente, tu encendida frente,
las huellas de unos besos,
ese resplandor que aun de día se siente si te acercas,
ese resplandor contagioso que me queda en las manos,
ese río luminoso en que hundo mis brazos,
en el que casi no me atrevo a beber, por temor después
a ya una dura vida de lucero.

No quiero que vivas en mí como vive la luz,
con ese ya aislamiento de estrella que se une con su luz,
a quien el amor se niega a través del espacio
duro y azul que separa y no une,
donde cada lucero inaccesible
es una soledad que, gemebunda, envía su tristeza.

La soledad destella en el mundo sin amor.
La vida es una vívida corteza,
una rugosa piel inmóvil,
donde el hombre no puede encontrar su descanso,
por más que aplique su sueño contra un astro apagado.

Pero tú no te acerques. Tu frente destellante,
carbón encendido que me arrebata a la propia conciencia,
duelo fulgúreo en que de pronto siento la tentación de morir,
de quemarme los labios con tu roce indeleble,
de sentir mi carne deshacerse contra tu diamante abrasador.

No te acerques, porque tu beso se prolonga
como el choque imposible de las estrellas,
como el espacio que súbitamente se incendia,
éter propagador donde la destrucción de los mundos
es un único corazón que totalmente se abrasa.

Ven, ven, ven como el carbón extinto oscuro
que encierra una muerte;
ven como la noche ciega que me acerca su rostro;
ven como los dos labios marcados por el rojo,
por esa línea larga que funde los metales.

Ven, ven, amor mío; ven, hermética frente, redondez casi rodante
que luces como una órbita que va a morir en mis brazos;
ven como dos ojos o dos profundas soledades,
dos imperiosas llamadas de una hondura que no conozco.

¡Ven, ven, muerte, amor; ven pronto, te destruyo;
ven, que quiero matar o amar o morir o darte todo;
ven, que ruedas como liviana piedra,
confundida como una luna que me pide mis rayos!