Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poem share!


by Adam Zagajewski
translated by Clare Cavanagh

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport's labryinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day's sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

Today's poem is from Eternal Enemies, just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Reprinted with permission (well the Academy did anyway). All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

poem to share

Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh
XXI Dynasty

by Thomas James

My body holds its shape. The genius is intact.
Will I return to Thebes? In that lost country
The eucalyptus trees have turned to stone.
Once, branches nudged me, dropping swollen blossoms,
And passionflowers lit my father's garden.
Is it still there, that place of mottled shadow,
The scarlet flowers breathing in the darkness?

I remember how I died. It was so simple!
One morning the garden faded. My face blacked out.
On my left side they made the first incision.
They washed my heart and liver in palm wine—
My lungs were two dark fruit they stuffed with spices.
They smeared my innards with a sticky unguent
And sealed them in a crock of alabaster.

My brain was next. A pointed instrument
Hooked it through my nostrils, strand by strand.
A voice swayed over me. I paid no notice.
For weeks my body swam in sweet perfume.
I came out Scoured. I was skin and bone.
Thy lifted me into the sun again
And packed my empty skull with cinnamon.

They slit my toes; a razor gashed my fingertips.
Stitched shut at last, my limbs were chaste and valuable,
Stuffed with a paste of cloves and wild honey.
My eyes were empty, so they filled them up,
Inserting little nuggets of obsidian.
A basalt scarab wedged between my breasts
Replaced the tinny music of my heart.

Hands touched my sutures. I was so important!
They oiled my pores, rubbing a fragrance in.
An amber gum oozed down to soothe my temples.
I wanted to sit up. My skin was luminous,
Frail as the shadow of an emerald.
Before I learned to love myself too much,
My body wound itself in spools of linen.

Shut in my painted box, I am a precious object.
I wear a wooden mask. These are my eyelids,
Two flakes of bronze, and here is my new mouth,
Chiseled with care, guarding its ruby facets.
I will last forever. I am not impatient —
My skin will wait to greet its old complexions.
I'll lie here till the world swims back again.

When I come home the garden will be budding,
White petals breaking open, clusters of night flowers,
The far-off music of a tambourine.
A boy will pace among the passionflowers,
His eyes no longer two bruised surfaces.
I'll know the mouth of my young groom, I'll touch
His hands. Why do people lie to one another?

From Letters to a Stranger by Thomas James. Copyright © 2008 by Thomas James. Published by Graywolf Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Elizabeth, this reminded me of you. Any new developments on the Amazon front?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let's not be this:

Miss Snooks, Poetess
by Stevie Smith

Miss Snooks was really awfully nice
And never wrote a poem
That was not really awfully nice
And fitted to a woman,

She therefore made no enemies
And gave no sad surprises
But went on being awfully nice
And took a lot of prizes.

Sorry I haven't been reading posts or even writing lately. I have, however, just quit my annoying day job in preparation for starting grad school (in Book Publishing). I'm feeling more creative already.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And then the well-meaning parts of the day show their face

The metro empties us up and out
into the square where one can be assured
a stray ball or bicycle wheel will find its way.

It is then I think of you stringing together
your own same-self acts, turning over the moments
and marking your satisfaction or the hole you find there.
There was a broken line of sunlight this afternoon.

On the train it was a sequence of beaded points,
A fleshy man all in black, thick plastic glasses
puffed around his sober face, but there pinched in a fist
a bright reel of glowing daffodils.

He must have been smiling somewhere.
Another stranger held a large wooden frame carved
with animals, leafs, blossoms in relief,
but empty only leaning on the blank wall
surrounded by us who make the myriad.

Each one of these selves moving has a day
and a universe, keeps an eye on the grey sky like I do perhaps,
waits resignedly for the rain that will pierce this peach
of a hard spring not yet ripened.

I imagine you quietly with your book as is fitting,
or slicing thin blades of garlic which also suits you.
It is enormous; you do not see these seconds of day
that are here, mine.

This is the space in which I have chosen
to construct. It is pliable. I wait for the moments
to make something as they pile up.