Saturday, 30 June 2012


The human species has given me
the right to be mortal
the duty to be civilised
a conscience
2 eyes that don't always function very well
a nose in the middle of my face
2 feet 2 hands

the human species has given me
my father and mother
some brothers maybe who knows
a whole mess of cousins
and some great-grandfathers
the human species has given me
its 3 faculties
feeling intellect and will
each in moderation
32 teeth 10 fingers a liver
a heart and some other viscera
the human species has given me
what I'm supposed to be satisfied with

Raymond Queneau

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


My hair is happy
and my skin is happy.
My skin quivers with happiness.

I breathe happiness instead of air,
slowly and deeply,
as a man who avoided a mortal danger.

Tears roll down my face,
I do not know it.
I forget I still have a face.
My skin is singing,
I shiver.

I feel time's duration
as it felt in the hour of death.
As if my sense of time alone were grasping the world,
as if existence were time only.
Immersed in terrifying
I feel every second of happiness, as it arrives,
fills up, bursts into flower
according to its own natural way,
unhurried as a fruit,
astounding as a deity.

I begin to scream.
I am screaming. I leave my body.
I do not now whether I am human anymore,
how could anyone know that, screaming with happiness.
Yet one dies from such screaming,
thus I am dying from happiness.
On my face there are probably no more tears,
my skin probably does not sing by now.
I don't know whether I still have a skin,
from me to my skin
is too far to know.

Soon I will go.
I do not shiver any longer,
I do not breathe any longer.
I don't know whether I still have
something to breathe with.

I feel time's duration,
how perfectly I feel time's duration.

I sink
I sink into time.

Anna Swir (Swirszcynska)

Monday, 18 June 2012


On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry,  
the boys making up games requiring them to tear off  the girls’ clothes  
and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer
and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones  
leaping off  the high rocks — bodies crowding the water.

The nights were humid, still. The stone was cool and wet,
marble for  graveyards, for buildings that we never saw,  
buildings in cities far away.

On cloudy nights, you were blind. Those nights the rocks were dangerous,  
but in another way it was all dangerous, that was what we were after.  
The summer started. Then the boys and girls began to pair off  
but always there were a few left at the end — sometimes they’d keep watch,
sometimes they’d pretend to go off  with each other like the rest,
but what could they do there, in the woods? No one wanted to be them.  
But they’d show up anyway, as though some night their luck would change,  
fate would be a different fate.

At the beginning and at the end, though, we were all together.
After the evening chores, after the smaller children were in bed,  
then we were free. Nobody said anything, but we knew the nights we’d meet  
and the nights we wouldn’t. Once or twice, at the end of summer,  
we could see a baby was going to come out of all that kissing.

And for those two, it was terrible, as terrible as being alone.  
The game was over. We’d sit on the rocks smoking cigarettes,  
worrying about the ones who weren’t there.

And then finally walk home through the fields,  
because there was always work the next day.  
And the next day, we were kids again, sitting on the front steps in the morning,  
eating a peach.  Just that, but it seemed an honor to have a mouth.  
And then going to work, which meant helping out in the fields.  
One boy worked for an old lady, building shelves.  
The house was very old, maybe built when the mountain was built.

And then the day faded. We were dreaming, waiting for night.  
Standing at the front door at twilight, watching the shadows lengthen.  
And a voice in the kitchen was always complaining about the heat,
wanting the heat to break.

Then the heat broke, the night was clear.  
And you thought of  the boy or girl you’d be meeting later.  
And you thought of  walking into the woods and lying down,  
practicing all those things you were learning in the water.  
And though sometimes you couldn’t see the person you were with,
there was no substitute for that person.

The summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting.
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending messages:  
You will leave the village where you were born  
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something you left behind, even though  
you can’t say what it was,
and eventually you will return to seek it.

Louise Glück

Friday, 15 June 2012


The stars were foolish, they were not worth waiting for.
The moon was shrouded, fragmentary.
Twilight like silt covered the hills.
The great drama of human life was nowhere evident—
but for that, you don’t go to nature.

The terrible harrowing story of a human life,
the wild triumph of love: they don’t belong
to the summer night, panorama of hills and stars.

We sat on our terraces, our screened porches,
as though we expected to gather, even now,
fresh information or sympathy. The stars
glittered a bit above the landscape, the hills
suffused still with a faint retroactive light.
Darkness. Luminous earth. We stared out, starved for knowledge,
and we felt, in its place, a substitute:
indifference that appeared benign.

Solace of the natural world. Panorama
of the eternal. The stars
were foolish, but somehow soothing. The moon
presented itself as a curved line.
And we continued to project onto the glowing hills
qualities we needed: fortitude, the potential
for spiritual advancement.

Immunity to time, to change. Sensation
of perfect safety, the sense of being
protected from what we loved—

And our intense need was absorbed by the night
and returned as sustenance.

Louise Glück

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


The weather's turned, and the old neighbors creep out
from their crammed rooms to blink in the sun, as if
surprised to find they've lived through another winter.
Though steam heat's left them pale and shrunken
like old root vegetables,
Mr. and Mrs. Tozzi are already
hard at work on their front-yard mini-Sicily:
a Virgin Mary birdbath, a thicket of roses,
and the only outdoor aloes in Manhattan.
It's the old immigrant story,
the beautiful babies
grown up into foreigners. Nothing's
turned out the way they planned
as sweethearts in the sinks of Palermo. Still,
each waves a dirt-caked hand
in geriatric fellowship with Stanley,
the former tattoo king of the Merchant Marine,
turning the corner with his shaggy collie,
who's hardly three but trots
arthritically in sympathy. It's only
the young who ask if life's worth living,
not Mrs. Sansanowitz, who for the last hour
has been inching her way down the sidewalk,
lifting and placing
her new aluminum walker as carefully
as a spider testing its web. On days like these,
I stand for a long time
under the wild gnarled root of the ancient wisteria,
dry twigs that in a week
will manage a feeble shower of purple blossom,
and I believe it: this is all there is,
all history's brought us here to our only life
to find, if anywhere,
our hanging gardens and our street of gold:
cracked stoops, geraniums, fire escapes, these old
stragglers basking in their bit of sun.

Katha Pollitt

Saturday, 9 June 2012

AMARYLLIS - after Rilke

You've seen a cat consume a hummingbird, 
scoop its beating body from the pyracantha bush 
and break its wings with tufted paws 
before marshaling it, whole, into its bone-tough throat; 
seen a boy, heart racing with cocaine, climb 
from a car window in a tumble on the ground, 
his search for pleasure ending in skinned palms; 
heard a woman's shouts as she is pushed into the police cruiser, 
large hand pressing her head into the door, 
red lights spinning their tornado in the street.

But of all that will fade; on the table is the amaryllis,
pushing its monstrous body in the air,
requiring no soil to do so, having wound
two seasons' rot into a white and papered bulb,
exacting nutrition from the winter light,
culling from complex chemistry the tints
and fragments that tissue and pause and build
again the pigment and filament.
The flower crescendos toward the light,
though better to say despite it,
gores through gorse and pebble
to form a throat, so breakable, open
with its tender pistils, damp with rosin,
simple in its simple sex, to burn and siphon
itself in air. Tongue of fire, tongue
of earth, the amaryllis is the rudiment
of form itself, forming its meretricious petals
to trumpet and exclaim.

How you admire it. It vibrates
in the draft, a complex wheel
bitten with cogs, swelling and sexual,
though nothing will touch it. You forced it
to spread itself, to cleave and grasp,
remorseless, open to your assignments—
this is availability, this is tenderness,
this red plane is given to the world.
Sometimes the heart breaks. Sometimes
it is not held hostage. The red world
where cells prepare for the unexpected
splays open at the window's ledge.
Be not human you inhuman thing.
No anxious, no foible, no hesitating hand.
Pry with fiber your course through sand,
point your whole body toward the unknown,
away from the dead.
Be water and light and land,
no contrivance, no gasp, no dream
where there is no head.

Mark Wunderlich

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Many are making love.  Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers.  They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does.  Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in the dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate.  They hate it.  They shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising.  The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour or so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realised
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that his life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions.  He runs beside her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old, invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels. 

Robert Hass