Saturday, June 25, 2016

Philip Whalen

La Condition Humaine

makes Friedrich Schiller, his personal
Oeconomy almost overrun by tubercle bacilli
Proclaim joy out of Elysium
Joy and brotherhood also drive Schopenhauer,
And Nietzsche, to suicide
Sparks Wagner's megalomaniac theatricals
With humanity as "given"
Expect nothing but trouble: No omelet from rotten eggs
4:31 A.M. war, murder, misery,
But somebody recently arranged eggs without cholesterol
("O King, live forever!")
To take care of your plugged-up veins
Gibbon says, " . . . the wisdom and authority of the
Legislator are seldom victorious in a contest
With the vigilant dexterity of private interest."

San Francisco

fr. Enough Said: Poems 1974-1979
[San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1980]

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Philip Garrison . . .

The Stories


A small rain
a thin cold rain

clicks on the shake roof &
on miles & miles of valley.

        They came to the pine forest hills:
        "What a wonderful tree!
        "Look, it has eyes & hair!
        "Look, here is a quiver and a bow"
        & he followed them home.

We sit by the living room woodstove
& tell stories, dry
& warm in the high dark
Columbia Plateau winter.

And step outside only
to throw in more wood
the rough bark, tight grain
clattering into flame.


The people'd been hungry weeks
& a mangy old bull wandered by:
"Ah, don't kill him.
"Rub his back with firewood."

Next day a few buffalo
walked right into the traps:
"For a little while we are saved.
"We have a little meat."

Those people were Blackfeet
400 miles east, over
the Columbia River cliffs
                                     --the plains

snowed-in tonight
the buffalo killed off
& people gone into cities.

That is the story
we were telling.


Back outside
no moon.
I pick up the kindling.
Hooves scrape nearby
through snow, on wide
stiff frozen grassland.

A shape lurches into the firelight.
A weight falls from my hands.
The fire turns & tosses.

--Philip Garrison

fr. Monks Pond No. 4, Winter 1968
in Monks Pond: Thomas Merton's Little Magazine
[Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1989]

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Miroslav Holub . . .


Li Po was glass.
Kant was glass.

We observe ourselves like transparent
sea anemones.
We see the dark purple heart
we see the grey lungs, wings
rising and falling,
we see the oligochaetic
worms of thought
gnawing under the cap.

Linnaeus was glass.
Mozart was glass.
Franz Josef was glass.

In the transparent belly
we see the tubular moon,
and behind the crystalline mouth
the swallowed words.

A prisoner is glass,
a policeman is glass,
sixty glass robots
reside in the castle.

Behind the swallowed words
we see the glass-wool
of incessant melody.

Only the dead
draw the curtain 
from within.

-- trans. David Young & Dana Hábová

fr. Miroslav Holub, Intensive Care [Oberlin College Press, 1996]

Monday, April 11, 2016

Gunnar Ekelöf . . .

Even Absentmindedness Is a Magnificent Landscape

Even absentmindedness is a magnificent landscape:
Fields where they plow with oxen, a dog who barks at 
a straw-thatched farmhouse whose well-sweep can be seen
blue hillsides with single pines and cypresses
a background to some absent Madonna
with an absent John and a child Jesus
who grasps at the breast in a gesture of emptiness--
Because not one of them is seen, except
in evening's own transparency--, which might be their
eyes seeing out over fields lying untouched and quiet
when all the visible birds already have left
and only the invisible ones are heard migrating, still,
               in flights by night.

--Gunnar Ekelöf

tr. Muriel Rukeyser and Leif Sjöberg

fr. Selected Poems of Gunnar Ekelöf
[New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967]

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ernesto Cardenal . . .


                       That top secret flight at night.
We might have been shot down. The night calm and clear.
The sky teeming, swarming with stars. The Milky Way
so bright behind the thick pane of the window,
     a sparkling white mass in the dark night
with its millions of evolutionary and revolutionary changes.
We were going over the water to avoid Somoza's air force,
                    but close to the coast.
The small plane flying low, and flying slowly.
First the lights of Rivas, taken and retaken by Sandanists,
            now almost in Sandanist hands.
Then other lights: Granada, in the hands of the Guard
                                                (it would be attacked that night).
Masaya, completely liberated. So many fell there.
Farther out a bright glow: Managua. Site of so many battles.
(The Bunker.) Still the stronghold of the Guard.
Diriamba, liberated. Jinotepe, fighting it out. So much heroism
glitters in those lights. Montelimar--the pilot shows us--:
the tyrant's estate near the sea. Puerto Somoza, next to it.
The Milky Way above, and the lights of Nicaragua's revolution.
Out there, in the north, I think I see Sandino's campfire.
            ("That light is Sandino.")
The stars above us, and the smallness of this land
but also its importance, these
tiny lights of men. I think:  everything is light.
The planet comes from the sun.
                       "Let there be light."
There is also darkness.
There are strange reflections--I don't know where they come
      from--on the clear surface of the windows.
A red glow: the tail lights of the plane.
And reflections on the calm sea: they must be stars.
I look at the light from my cigarette--it also comes from the sun,
         from a star.
And the outline of a great ship. The U.S. aircraft carrier
sent to patrol the Pacific coast?
A big light on our right startles us. A jet attacking?
No. The moon coming out, a half-moon, so peaceful, lit by the sun.
      The danger of flying on such a clear night.
And suddenly the radio. Jumbled words filling the small plane.
The Guard? The pilot says: "It's our side."
                     They're on our wavelengths.
Now we're close to León, the territory liberated.
A burning reddish-orange light, like the red-hot tip of a cigar:
the powerful lights of the docks flickering on the sea.
And now at last the beach at Poneloya, and the plane is coming in 
           to land,
the stream of foam along the coast gleaming in the moonlight.
     The plane coming down. A smell of insecticide.
And Sergio tells me: "The smell of Nicaragua!"
It's the most dangerous moment, enemy aircraft
                     may be waiting for us over this airport.
And the airport lights at last.
We've landed. From out of the dark come olive-green-clad comrades
to greet us with hugs.
We feel their warm bodies, that also come from the sun,
that also are light.
                     This revolution is fighting the darkness.
It is daybreak on July 18th. And the beginning
          of all that was about to come.


trans. Jonathan Cohen

fr. Zero Hour and Other Documentary Poems
[New York: New Directions, 1980]