Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vladimír Holan


The snow began to fall at midnight. And it's true
that the best place to sit is in the kitchen,
even if it's the kitchen of insomnia.
It's warm there, you fix some food, drink wine
and look out the window into the familiar eternity.
Why should you worry whether birth and death are only two points,
when life is not a straight line after all.
Why should you torture yourself staring at the calendar
and wondering how much is at stake.
And why should you admit you have no money
to buy Saskia a pair of slippers?
And why should you boast
that you suffer more than others.

Even if there were no silence on earth,
that snow would have dreamed it up.
You're alone. As few gestures as possible. Nothing for show.

tr. C. G. Hanzlicek & Dana Hábová

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ha Jin


My letter warned you not to go
--the war was merciless, the road
to the fleeing court equally difficult.
But bewitched, you set out
and left your wife and children behind.

Heaven knows how they get by--
perhaps starving, at night
trembling under a broken roof.

True, our duty is to serve the country,
but you, what can you do?
Can you wield a sword or lead troops?
Can you wave a banner or blow a bugle?

See, how easily the rebels
caught you and brought you here
to smell burned animals
and taste their barbaric music.


Five months ago we were besieged,
outside the city wall
the rebel army ready to charge in,
inside, our troops mounting defense.

Then the Emperor changed his mind--
the entire court fled toward Szechwan
leaving us civilians to defend Chang An.

How could we fight a quarter million
cavalry and swordsmen!
Just in one day the capital fell--
killing, screaming everywhere,
smoke blocking out daylight.


Now that you are in this trap
you'd better take it easy.
For the time being we are safe
(I gave a singing girl
to a rebel general).

But don't stroll on the streets
with your neck so straight.
Don't wear your official cap--
allegiance to the court is a crime.
Don't chant in the park.
Some barbarians understand your words
and will behead you for that.
Don't try to escape--
if they catch you, you'll be a goner.
Don't cry after drinking.
Many people are more miserable
than you and I.

after hearing you recite your poems
Lu Ben, the herbalist, took to his bed
saying he missed home.
He lost his only child last fall.

The country is broken,
but mountains and rivers remain.
Spring is here again,
cherries and apricots blooming.
Look, under the charred eaves
swallows are rebuilding their nests,
dragonflies flitting with skinny wings.

fr. Wreckage
[Brooklyn, New York: Hanging Loose Press, 2001]

Sunday, February 17, 2013

William Bronk

Aspects of the World Like Coral Reefs

In the spring woods, how good it is to see
again the trees, old company,
how they have withstood the winter, their girth.

By gradual actions, how the gross earth
gathers around us and grows real, is there,
as though it were really there, and is good.

Certain stars, of stupendous size, are said
to be such and such distances away,--
oh, farther than our eyes along would ever see.

Thus magnified, the whole evidence
of our senses is belied. For it is not
possible for miles to add miles to miles

forever, not even if expressed as the speed of light.
The fault lies partly in the idea of miles.
It is absurd to describe the world in sensible terms.

How good that even so, aspects of the world
that are real, or seem to be real, should rise like reefs
whose rough agglomerate smashes the sea.

fr. Origin VI, Summer 1952

in The Gist of Origin ed. Cid Corman
[New York: Grossman Publishers, 1975]

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Kenneth Fearing


1-2-3 was the number he played but today the number came 3-2-1;
   bought his Carbide at 30 and it went to 29; had the favorite at Bowie but the track was slow—

O, executive type, would you like to drive a floating power, knee-action, silk-upholstered six? Wed a Hollywood star? Shoot the course in 58? Draw to the ace, king, jack?
   O, fellow with a will who won't take no, watch out for three cigarettes on the same, single match; O democratic voter born in August under Mars, beware of liquidated rails—

Denouement to denouement, he took a personal pride in the certain, certain way he lived his own, private life,
   but nevertheless, they shut off his gas; nevertheless, the bank foreclosed; nevertheless, the landlord called; nevertheless, the radio broke,

And twelve o'clock arrived just once too often,
   just the same he wore one gray tweed suit, bought one straw hat, drank one straight Scotch, walked one short step, took one long look, drew one deep breath,
   just one too many,

And wow he died as wow he lived,
   going whop to the office and blooie home to sleep and biff got married and bam had children and oof got fired,
   zowie did he live and zowie did he die,

With who the hell are you at the corner of his casket, and where the hell we going on the right-hand silver knob, and who
the hell cares walking second from the end with an American Beauty wreath from why the hell not,

Very much missed by the circulation staff of the New York Evening Post; deeply, deeply mourned by the B.M.T.,

Wham, Mr. Roosevelt; pow, Sears Roebuck; awk, big dipper; bop, summer rain;
   Bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jackson Mac Low

Radio Turnbuckle

Destiny twinned and paid therapeutic counselors
like a human being getting better and doesn't bind people
or make them clean toilets. Very few people are free
and when one of them gets you you can look at it this way
somewhat. His religion is not taken away from him
and he's given financial help until just before
the beginning of the religion. He did know him
and taught him how to drive. They still held their jobs.

And never went back. They wouldn't allow them radios
and precipitated a great to-do, aware of the real
problems. Do you remember that? He'd had a lobotomy
and were worth their weight in gold and three
meals a day, exactly how they were used. Es-
pecially. I was teaching them how to live
and were faced with being sterilized, hopelessly
crippled, a clock hung around your neck. See it.

You were in perpetual humiliation all the time, how he
would ask astute questions. He was never attacked,
benevolent and all that great. His clay feet triumphed
all the time. Regardless of whether your column is syndicated,
exclusively written and very good to talk to
where there's self-interest at work, you have to
look at those things. An interesting thing is happening
and did not survive forced changing and transferring.

Liable for the defendant's costs, amongst the papers,
designed to cost money, and will constantly keep under
threat, he had a very interesting career. You'll have to bear
some of the costs. He was treated with kid gloves. Afraid of
the legend, he went to incorporate, allegedly high-class
and all in capital letters. Who had the snake? He's out of there
now. Did they escape? They still had a large facility. They
considered him a martyr and lost that one. He may well yet.

He's been sent and it really doesn't matter. I'll put it this way
to mobilize all the members against one another. They begin to
ferret out the most effective form of mind control, baring
your soul and its gets very aggressive. They enjoy
intimacy and everybody gets a turn. I managed to slide
and was just in for the darlingness at a weak moment
in a part of the whole process. This is very rough. It's so
hard and all-encompassing. Engineered to a degree, they left.

They had to go on and went through a stage. We do this
and then after that they forget it. You find out shortly
afterward. No, I haven't. I've seen so many people
absorbed and they gave remarkably convincing speeches
to try that first. They tend toward that sort of thing, refilled
with the good stuff and real informed decisions,
very involved with all sorts of symbols. Going through
a ritual again and again, they learned their therapeutics.

He remains permanently and they go there. They are made
dependent. I know someone. I know several people
who fall down a big step forward. It makes participation
more exciting. There's no such thing as an in-between if
it's all involved with poison. Everybody else was quoted. They
were battling Satan. A relation would never go into any
details. You move up first. It's what you know and it
is very hard for them. Your whole life is a problem.

A thrill from Christian Scientists can tell you one experience
if you leave it alone. I just can't. It's really fine. If
you are exactly the same, can I say the one thing
I'll be back to in a little while? I wouldn't be
thinking about it. Where is it coming from? Body
and soul have no foundation and have tumbled
from of old. When you take up the exact wording,
more will be seen. They talked about it and were lonesome

22 June 1982
New York

fr. Bloomsday
[Barrytown, NY: Station Hill, 1984]