“Fire of all times slept in the flints
and the beetles drunk with anis
forgot the moss of the villages.”
SLOW MUSIC by Tomas Tranströmer
The building is closed. The sun crowds in through the windowpanes
and warms up the surfaces of desks
that are strong enough to take the load of human fate.
We are outside today, on the long wide slope.
Many have dark clothes, You can stand in the sun with your eyes shut
and feel yourself blown slowly forward.
I come too seldom down to the water. But I am here now,
among large stones with peaceful backs.
Stones which slowly migrated backwards up out of the waves.
(on Virginia Woolf’s birthday)
Jacket worn and shabby like a pack of wolves.
Face like a marble chip.
Sitting in a ring of his letters in the grove that sighs
of mocking and mistakes.
Yes, the heart is blown like paper through inhospitable passages.
Now sunset steals like a fox across this land
setting the grass on fire in a moment.
The sky is filled with horns and hooves, and underneath
the calèche glides shadowy between my father’s
—Tomas Tranströmer, excerpted from “Gogol”
If night is our last address,
This is the place we moved from,
Backs on fire, our futures hard-edged and sure to arrive.
These are the towns our lives abandoned,
Winds in our faces,
The idea of incident like a box beside us on the Trailways seat.
And where were we headed for?
The country of Narrative, that dark territory
Which spells out our stories in sentences, which gives them an end and beginning…
Goddess of Bad Roads and Inclement Weather, take down
Our names, remember us in the drip
And thaw of the wintry mix, remember us when the light cools.
—Charles Wright from “Appalachian Farewell” in Scar Tissue (FSG, 2006)
(To ends and beginnings. Best wishes for 2014, everyone.)
The blue square of light
in the window across the street
never goes dark—
the cathodes, the cordage, the atoms
working the hem of dusk—
traveling past the cranes and the docks
and the soiled oyster beds,
the trees loaded with radium,
colors like guns,
red pock-pock red and yellow up,
the blue hour, the waiting.
—Meghan O’Rourke, from “Halflife”
“And Father, dear Father, ‘your memory causes my heart to fall out,’ to spatter flat on the ground until all is left behind, until the hollow body begins to trace out its shell-like regions: the ribcage, chest, and pelvic girdle grieve until the bones are rearranged, resemble a skeleton, a museum exhibit, a body shell case. In case the glass shatters, document the past with exquisite repose; reconfigure the bones until they order the mind without disrupting the brain, which is constantly at work to put the pieces back in order. Say to the brain: ‘Replenish the images you refuse to keep; refuse stasis. Resign from eating away at the thing; eat the thing.” —Claire Donato, Burial
ANYTHING RATHER THAN AN ANGEL – Zbigniew Herbert
If after our death they want to transform us into a tiny withered flame that walks along the paths of winds—we have to rebel. What good is an eternal leisure on the bosom of air, in the shade of a yellow halo, amid the murmur of two-dimensional choirs?
One should enter rock, wood, water, the cracks of a gate. Better to be the creaking of a floor than shrilly transparent perfection.
FLAMENCO by Dean Young
The sexual gasps coming from the garden shed
of my friends turning twenty, tipsy
droll joke of my friends turning thirty, lost
car keys even with tied-to-them a silly whistle
turning forty, bullshit about September
the most passionate month fifty, bird-watching
nap my friends sixty, turning empty chair
at card-club on my friends turning, turning
while I remain unchanged, a peach pit,
still assisting an ant with a stick,
tapping a peanut to signal a squirrel,
a collection of eternal accidents
while the body, without pity, shrinks,
expands, noises coming from it like
trapped rabbits, sometimes muffled
xylophone, its liquids fermenting,
drunk on itself, dance just foot slams,
painting just spray and spill, brain commanding
its grit to become ruby, won’t, tears amniotic,
incinerated dust then an oblivious nephew
given my watch in a velvet sack,
my ghost eating mulberries in a tree,
still stained, my tyrannosaurus skull still
trying to poke through a mouse hole in the cosmos.
“We passed the abandoned windmill , and Mr. Kaspar went on talking. He told us that a few days ago he dreamed that a grown man and a little boy came knowing at his door with some good news for him. That premonition had put him in an excellent mood, and it came true today. For what finer thing could happen to a fellow in times like these? My father glanced discreetly at his watch; time was sailing by relentlessly, and the last narrow-gauge train was leaving from the next village in an hour.” —Paweł Huelle, “The Table,” Moving House: Stories
(This post was inspired by Kevin Kainulainen’s amazing blog Objects Gross & the Unseen Soul.)