Bring me the sunset in a cup,Reckon the morning’s flagons upAnd say how many Dew,Tell me how far the morning leaps —Tell me what time the weaver sleepsWho spun the breadth of blue!Write me how many notes there beIn the new Robin’s ecstasyAmong astonished boughs —How many trips the Tortoise makes —How many cups the Bee partakes,The Debauchee of Dews!Also, who laid the Rainbow’s piers,Also, who leads the docile spheresBy withes of supple blue?Whose fingers string the stalactite —Who counts the wampum of the nightTo see that none is due?Who built this little Alban HouseAnd shut the windows down so closeMy spirit cannot see?Who’ll let me out some gala dayWith implements to fly away,Passing Pomposity?--Emily Dickinson, No. 140 (1860)
Cocoon above! Cocoon below!Stealthy Cocoon, why hide you soWhat all the world suspect?An hour, and gay on every treeYour secret, perched in ecstasyDefies imprisonment!An hour in Chrysalis to pass,Then gay above receding grassA Butterfly to go!A moment to interrogate,Then wiser than a “Surrogate,”The Universe to know!--Emily Dickinson, No. 142 (1860)
As if some little Arctic flowerUpon the polar hem —Went wandering down the LatitudesUntil it puzzled cameTo continents of summer —To firmaments of sun —To strange, bright crowds of flowers —And birds, of foreign tongue!I say, As if this little flowerTo Eden, wandered in —What then? Why nothing,Only, your inference therefrom!
--Emily Dickinson, No. 177 (1860)
Haiku- Spring 2021
morning songbird songs
a thousand miles wide
day in day out, yet
the unknown calligraphy
from dirty dog paws
slow rain alley music softening rust
clouds pass a little
rainy somewhat sunny-
just wasting time
red light green light,
the dog barks and morning sun
unfolds the tulips
no apologies required
from this floating world
OpenAn observant pace in the afternoon'sscribbled thoughts from adequatematerial welling up the horizon,rhythmic spring, that energeticpulse more bluntly, humbling lightunfurling the sallow to yellowaccents kindled with pigment, aloudover some darkened roots revealednow again through temperate airwithout consensus, shifting hoursbrought through each daily limb newlysung in daybreak's widening chorus,angelic as well as why not, hecklingchuckles, such thoughts abandonedon winds over a yearly settlementthat went astray, of what was neveranymore what can be beforehand,or anything other than just now,fuchsia deep, embedded, stemmed,for other possibilities always knownfrom those forgotten tastes in fullbloom, which is aromatic sensespindled with rain falling downin cadence of our hellos, goodbyes,as it can never be truly as wished,closed, but beside dreamed in sunlight,forgivably piqued while left undone.
--John BrehmEven though I have not seen it,I know how it could be,how when the skylark fleesfrom a falcon's quick pursuitit will turn sometimes and beginto sing, as if to say, "Beingeaten by a falcon is the last thingin the world I'm worried about.You cannot catch me, Tra, la, la.I've got breath enough to wasteon a song like this, which youmay as well enjoy before I vanishinto air." And the raptor knowsit's true, knows that anyonefoolish enough to sing in sucha circumstance is quite beyondever being caught, and that for allhis hunger he'll be given justa song, tumbling through the air,as the body he desires disappears.
--John BrehmDo nothing and everything will be done,that's what Mr. Lao Tzu said, who walkedaround talking 2,500 years ago andnow his books practically grow on treesthey're so popular and if he werealive today beautiful women wouldrush up to him like waves lappingat the shores of his wisdom.That's the way it is, I guess: humbling.But if I could just unclench my fists,empty out my eyes, turn my mind intoa prayer flag for the wind to play with,we could be brothers, him the older onewho's seen and not done it all and mestill unlearning, both of us slung lowin our hammocks, our hats tippedforwards, hands folded neatly,like bamboo huts, above our hearts.
--John BrehmThere's something to be saidfor having nothing to say,though I don't know whatthat is, or isn't, just asthere's something to beknown about not-knowing,which I would tell youif I could. There must besomething to be gainedby losing, a seed of victoryburied in every failure,else I would not be here.Clearly, there's somethingto be desired about beingbeyond desire, as the sagesnever tire of telling us,and nothing more fulfillingthan emptying yourself out—no ground beneath your feet,nothing to hold onto, no handrail,no belief, only this bright self-sustaining air, and a fallingthat feels like floating.
--Vinod Kumar ShuklaLeaving the earth,mounting the air,does the bird knowthat it’s the earth it is leaving?To fly above it,you really have to go high.And when they returnto settle on treesdo birds knowthat it’s the earth they’ve returned to?I don’t have wings.There’s a small yellow butterflyflying above the earth.
--Kirun Kapurmy bones are made of whales,and when whales die, their songs.My eyes are pitsof mangos, scraped clean of sweet.From my feet plunge fifty streams—the rush, the coldexposes underworlds of fear.Four stomachs cannot explain my hungers.I have devoured myself. I tread upon my loves.I have been strung with a necklaceof hummingbirds, my hairin braids, my braids are tongues.Atop my head, a crown of fortylanguages, spoken all at once.My breastplates gleam and thrum,two armies, marching on. You,who extracts the marrow and the light.You, who sucks the sun and leavesthe bone eroded colder—Demon, disease,dear fated one. Do you hear? I will cometo you on the back of a tiger.
Years ago, I saw a tiger in a game preserve in India. I’d been driving down a jungle road, when, suddenly, there she was, lying in tall grass, sunning herself on a bluff. Her size, her suddenness, the lush gloss of her coat, the way she radiated well-being and power have never left me. Sometimes, when I’m falling asleep at night, I see her again, just for a second. In Hindu mythology, the goddess Durga is often pictured with a tiger. As a child, my aunt would sometimes take me to the temple on Friday, Durga’s day, to say a prayer. I was awed by both lady and beast. This poem began with that mix of myth, memory and dream. I wrote it at a time when I found myself in circumstances I couldn’t avoid or control–it’s an effort to summon an interior ferocity and majesty. I suppose I wanted to imagine a way to ride right down the throat of fear.
--Vivek NarayananI want to be sweet and clear and free, as half a lineof Auden, or an episode of the Powerpuff Girls;I want to be dew, and honest with mine,like Bob Marley, or Boesman the Boer.I want to swing and get it rightat the speed of Pollock’s light,I want to be deep like Zulu,tight like Tamil,and trust my sense of Sanskrit truewith little shame for its will.I want to dabble in the fieldsignorant of what I was doing,rub myself on the ruinswith a self-induced diseaseand gleefully lapsethe hope to be heard. I want to fixmy favourite English wordsinto the forty-fifth century—haw, for instance, or luminary—hiding them in a snatch of prose…passed over in silencelike Wittgenstein, no evidencefor myself or Laura Riding,like Bharathiyar going mad composing,I want to dissolve into our languageprinting too little for my age;I want to be obscure but not leaden,flippant if I feel like it, thenI don’t mind being called poetically shittyin a note from Manohar Shetty,writing into the time we’ve borrowed,singing from our utter boredom;I want to hold in me the heat of my combustionand leave this sweat-smear as a resurrection:I want to be sweet and clear and free,insouciant, insufferable, just like me.
--Wisława Szymborska (trans.S Baranczak and C. Cavanagh)Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan.I'm drowning in debts up to my ears.I'll have to pay for myselfwith my self,give up my life for my life.Here's how it's arranged:The heart can be repossessed,the liver, too,and each single finger and toe.Too late to tear up the terms,my debts will be repaid,and I'll be fleeced,or, more precisely, flayed.I move about the planetin a crush of other debtors.some are saddled with the burdenof paying off their wings.Others must, willy-nilly,account for every leaf.Every tissue in us lieson the debit side.Not a tenacle or tendrilis for keeps.The inventory, infinitely detailed,implies we'll be leftnot just empty-handedbut handless too.I can't rememberwhere, when, and whyI let someone openthis account in my name.We call the protest against thisthe soul.And it's the only itemnot included on the list.
--Wisława Szymborska (trans. Stanisław Barańczak)I’m a tranquilizer.I’m effective at home.I work in the office.I can take examson the witness stand.I mend broken cups with care.All you have to do is take me,let me melt beneath your tongue,just gulp mewith a glass of water.I know how to handle misfortune,how to take bad news.I can minimize injustice,lighten up God’s absence,or pick the widow’s veil that suits your face.What are you waiting for—have faith in my chemical compassion.You’re still a young man/woman.It’s not too late to learn how to unwind.Who saidyou have to take it on the chin?Let me have your abyss.I’ll cushion it with sleep.You’ll thank me for giving youfour paws to fall on.Sell me your soul.There are no other takers.There is no other devil anymore.
--Wislawa Szymborska (trans. by S Baranczak/C Cavanagh)
It has come to this: I'm sitting under a tree
beside a river
on a sunny morning.
It's an insignificant event
and won't go down in history.
It's not battles and pacts,
where motives are scrutinized,
or noteworthy tyrannicides.
And yet I'm sitting by this river, that's a fact.
And since I'm here
I must have come from somewhere,
and before that
I must have turned up in many other places,
exactly like the conquerors of nations
before setting sail.
Even a passing moment has its fertile past,
its Friday before Saturday,
its May before June.
Its horizons are no less real
than those that a marshal's field glasses might scan.
This tree is a poplar that's been rooted here for years.
The river is the Raba; it didn't spring up yesterday.
The path leading through the bushes
wasn't beaten last week.
The wind had to blow the clouds here
before it could blow them away.
And though nothing much is going on nearby,
the world is no poorer in details for that.
It's just as grounded, just as definite
as when migrating races held it captive.
Conspiracies aren't the only things shrouded in silence.
Retinues of reasons don't trail coronations alone.
Anniversaries of revolutions may roll around,
but so do oval pebbles encircling the bay.
The tapestry of circumstance is intricate and dense.
Ants stitching in the grass.
The grass sewn into the ground.
The pattern of a wave being needled by a twig.
So it happens that I am and look.
Above me a white butterfly is fluttering through the air
on wings that are its alone,
and a shadow skims through my hands
that is none other than itself, no one else's but its own.
When I see such things, I'm no longer sure
that what's important
is more important than what's not.
[via the beauty we love]
--Amy GerstlerGardens are also good placesto sulk. You pass beds ofspiky voodoo liliesand trip over the rootsof a sweet gum tree,in search of medievalplants whose leaves,when they drop offturn into birdsif they fall on land,and colored carp if theyplop into water.Suddenly the archetypalhuman desire for peacewith every other specieswells up in you. The lionand the lamb cuddling up.The snake and the snail, kissing.Even the prick of the thistle,queen of the weeds, revivesyour secret beliefin perpetual spring,your faith that for every hurtthere is a leaf to cure it.
Why are the woods so alluring? A forest appears
to a young girl one morning as she combs
the dreams out of her hair. The trees rustle
and whisper, shimmer and hiss. The forest
opens and closes, a door loose on its hinges,
banging in a strong wind. Everything in the dim
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.
She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness ... our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,
blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
the third blurts. Why do I feel like I’m hiding in a giant’s nostril?
the oldest prone pine wants to know. Are we being freed
from matter? the sapling asks. Insects are well-intentioned,
offers the third tree, by way of consolation. Will it grow
impossible to think a thought through to its end? gasps the sapling,
adding in a panicky voice, I’m becoming spongy! The girl
feels her hands attach to some distant body. She rises
to leave, relieved these trees are not talking about her.
--Amy GerstlerI’d given up hope. Hadn’t eaten in threedays. Resigned to being wolf meat ...when, unbelievably, I found myself ina clearing. Two goats with bellsround their necks stared at me:their pupils like coin slotsin piggy banks. I could have gottenthe truth out of those two,if goats spoke. I saw leeksand radishes planted in rows;wash billowing on a clothesline ...and the innocuous-looking cottagein the woods with its lapping tongueof a welcome mat slurped me in.In the kitchen, a woman so old her sexis barely discernible pours a glassof fraudulent milk. I’m so hungrymy hand shakes. But what is this liquid?“Drink up, sweetheart,” she says,and as I wipe the white mustacheoff with the back of my hand:“Atta girl.” Have I stumbledinto the clutches of St. Somebody?Who can tell. “You’ll find I prevail herein my own little kingdom,” she says asshe leads me upstairs—her bony gripon my arm a proclamation of ownership,as though I've always been hers.
What matters is that when you lift the avocado to your mouth
you bend all your senses toward it, yet
allow a sliver of its flavor to escape
your lips—not into the muffled ether
of radio static that deadens the air
around us, but into the nearly real lips
of those who have gone before us, the pale
blue shadow-forms of the ancestors
who no longer have bodies to touch or to taste with,
to sing or to fuck with, but who still recall
what it is to touch or taste or sing or fuck
and who long for it and, in their longing, attach
themselves to the living, incarnated ones,
in the hope of feeling, once more, by a process
that must be mostly imagination, some spark
of sensation, the thinnest, outermost layer
of the experience of hearing the ocean,
of watching the moon rise over a city,
of kissing a woman, of stroking the fur
of a cat as it stretches to meet your palm,
of holding a pen, of smelling the pine-scented
breezes at dusk, of gazing deep into
a fire, a well, the eyes of a lover,
of tasting a teardrop, of tasting avocado.