W.S. Merwin, “Dry Ground”

July 29th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Summer deepens and a root reaches for receding
water with a sense of waking long afterward
long after the main event whatever it was
has faded out like the sounds of a procession
like April like the age of dew like the beginning
now the dry grass dying keeps making the sounds of rain
to hollow air while the wheat whitens in the cracked fields
and they keep taking the cows farther up into the woods
to dwindling pools under the oaks and even there
the brown leaves are closing their thin hands and falling
and out on the naked barrens where the light shakes
in a fever without a surface and the parched shriek
of the cicadas climbs with the sun the bats
cling to themselves in crevices out of the light
and under stone roofs those who live watching the grapes
like foxes stare out over the plowed white stones
and see in all the hueless blaze of the day nothing
but rows of withered arms holding up the green grapes

* * *

From The Vixen.

Rod McKuen, Part Twenty-Seven of “Listen to the Warm”

July 18th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

The fireflies gone now
the trees low bending
with the weight of winter rain
I listen for the sound of winters past.
The years I walked the rainy streets
and filtered through the parks
in search of music people.
Creeping home to bed alone
to be with imaginary lovers
and hear the sound of Eden
singing in my young ears.

I could go back to San Francisco
if I still had muscled thighs.
The trouble is
I run a little faster now.

* * *

Ah, hello Mr. McKuen! I knew we’d make it to you eventually. This is from his book of the same name, Listen to the Warm. I like picking this book up from time to time because his poetry is so unaffected. He just writes. Writes beautiful, sorrowful, erotic, melancholic poems. He doesn’t hide things behind too much metaphor, imagery, or other poetic tricks. I really like that sometimes, that unadulterated take on poetry. Which isn’t to say that it’s boring. He can turn a phrase too. Like “hear the sound of Eden / singing in my young ears” or that enigmatic ending. I also like this book because my good friend Jared gave it to me, inscribed and everything, and I like to remember the people who give me books when I’m reading them. It adds that secondary layer of thought and attention to your reading.

Federico Garcia Lorca, “Your Childhood in Menton”

May 14th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

(I am so sorry for taking so long to post this translation. The old WordPress was acting up something ridiculous. Had to delete and reinstall the database and well, here it is. Enjoy.)

~ ~ ~

Yes your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
– Jorge Guillén

Yes, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
The train and the woman who fills the sky.
Your shy loneliness in hotels
and your pure mask of another sign.
The sea’s childhood and your silence
where the crystals of wisdom shattered.
Your rigid ignorance where
my torso was circumscribed with fire.
What I gave you, Apollonian man, was the standard of love,
fits of tears with an estranged nightingale.
But ruin fed upon you, you whittle yourself to nothing
for the sake of fleeting, aimless dreams.
Thoughts before you, yesterday’s light,
traces and signs of what might be…
Your waist of restless sand
follows only trails that do not climb.
But in every corner I must look for your warm soul
that is without you and doesn’t understand you,
with the sorrow of Apollo stopped in his tracks,
the sorrow with which I shattered your mask.
It’s there, lion, there, sky’s fury,
where I’ll let you graze on my cheeks;
there, blue horse of my insanity,
pulse of the nebula and hand that counts the minutes.
There I’ll look for the scorpions’ stones
and the clothes of the girl who was your mother,
midnight tears and torn cloth
that wiped moonlight from the temples of the dead man.
Yes, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
Strange soul, tiny and adrift, ripped
from the emptied space of my veins – I must look until I find you.
The same love as ever, but never the same!
Yes, I do love! Love! Leave me alone, all of you.
And don’t try to cover my mouth, you who seek
the wheat of Saturn in snowfields,
or castrate animals on behalf of a sky,
anatomy’s clinic and jungle.
Love, love, love. The sea’s childhood.
Your warm soul that is without you and doesn’t understand you.
Love, love, the flight of the doe
through the endless breast of whiteness.
And your childhood, love, your childhood.
The train and the woman who fills the sky.
Not you, not me, not the air, not the leaves.
Yes, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.

~ ~ ~

If that doesn’t hit hard and sink down to your bones, well, then there’s nothing more I can do for you. You are honestly lost. I don’t think you should expect to be able to pierce the web of Lorca’s imagery, because it is strong and fierce and well-protected, a type of surrealism that can only be conjured by a Spaniard, a type of surrealism that is at once imagistic and deeply personal, yet open, expressive, emotive, and free to all. To me the language here is simply astounding. And the poem is not totally impenehjgtrable: it is very clearly about love. Love, love, love, he says. “The sea’s childhood.” Love, and it’s disappearance, and Lorca’s attempt to cope with its fleeting nature. It is about his male lover, the “Apollonian man,” and of course this matters, very much so – his forwardness about his sexuality shows incredible bravery for his time and his place, under the thumb of fascism, but in the end too it is just as much about the idea of Love, and how it may cause pain as well as joy. At least this is what I take from it. Like I said, the imagery is hard to untangle, and yet you understand it, even if you think you don’t. I don’t know if reading the Spanish first without translation did anything for you. This translation is not by me, but by the translators of his Poet in New York, Greg Simon and Steven F. White.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Lorca portion of our Poetry ABC’s. It’s been a while for me since I have visited his poetry, so it has been a joy to reread it and share it all with you.


Federico García Lorca, “Tu Infancia en Menton”

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.
– Jorge Guillén

Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.
El tren y la mujer que llena el cielo.
Tu soledad esquiva en los hoteles
y tu máscara pura de otro signo.
Es la niñez del mar y tu silencio
donde los sabios vidrios se quebraban.
Es tu yerta ignorancia donde estuvo
mi torso limitado por el fuego.
Norma de amor te di, hombre de Apolo,
llanto con ruiseñor enajenado,
pero, pasto de ruina, te afilabas
para los breves sueños indecisos.
Pensamiento de enfrente, luz de ayer,
índices y señales del acaso.
Tu cintura de arena sin sosiego
atiende sólo rastros que no escalan.
Pero yo he de buscar por los rincones
tu alma tibia sin ti que no te entiende,
con el dolor de Apolo detenido
con que he roto la máscara que llevas.
Allí, león, allí, furia de cielo,
te dejaré pacer en mis mejillas;
allí, caballo azul de mi locura,
pulso de nebulosa y minutero.
He de buscar las piedras de alacranes
y los vestidos de tu madre niña,
llanto de media noche y paño roto
que quitó luna de la sien del muerto.
Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.
Alma extraña de mi hueco de venas,
te he de buscar pequeña y sin raices.
¡Amor de siempre, amor, amor de nunca!
¡Oh, sí! Yo quiero. ¡Amor, amor! Dejadame.
No me tapen la boca los que buscan
espigas de Saturno por la nieve
o castran animales por un cielo,
clínica y selva de la anatomía.
Amor, amor, amor. Niñez del mar.
Tu alma tibia sin ti que no te entiende.
Amor, amor, un vuelo de la corza
por el pecho sin fin de la blancura.
Y tu niñez, amor, y tu niñez.
El tren y la mujer que llena el cielo.
Ni tú, ni yo, ni el aire, ni las hojas.
Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.

~ ~ ~

This one is from his Poeta en Nueva York. I thought it would be fun to post the poem as a whole, sin traducción, and just sort of let the Spanishness of it wash over us. Whether you understand the words or not there is a certain music to it, and in a way it’s fun to enjoy a poem just for its sounds and music without all that pesky meaning and comprehension get in the way. I’ll post the translation tomorrow and talk some more about the poem.

Galway Kinnell, “Hide-and-Seek 1933″

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.

~ ~ ~

Galway Kinnell is the best. Absolutely the best.


Galway Kinnell, “Sex”

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

On my hands are the odors
of the knockout ether
either of above the sky
where the bluebirds get blued
on their upper surfaces
or of down under the earth
where the immaculate nightcrawlers
take in tubes of red earth
and polish their insides.

Galway Kinnell, “Middle of the Night”

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A telephone rings through the wall.
Nobody answers. Exactly how
the mouth shapes itself inside
saying the word “gold” is what sleep
would be like if one were happy.
So Kenny Hardman and George Sykes
called “Gaw-way-ay!” at the back
of the house. If I didn’t come out
they would call until nightfall,
like summer insects. Or like
the pay phone at the abandoned
filling station, which sometimes
rang, off and on, an entire day.
The final yawn before one sleeps
is the word “yes” said too many times,
too rapidly, to the darkness. On the landing
she turned and looked back. Something
of the sea turtle heavy with eggs,
looking back at the sea. The shocking dark
of her eyes blew alive in me
the affirmative fire. It would have hurt
to walk away, just as it would bewilder
a mouth making the last yawn to say “no.”

* * *

Oh, hi. Yes I took a bit of a vacation from the poem-posting but I decided to get back at it again. Right back where I left off, with Mr. Kinnell – how great is this poem?! Just so – just so – Galway-esque. Sublime and verbose and it hits you in all the right spots.

Ted Kooser, “Barn Owl”

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

High in the chaffy, taffy-colored haze
of the hayloft, up under the starry
nail-hole twinkle of the old tin roof,
there in a nest of straw and bailing twine
I have hidden my valentine for you:
a white heart woven of snowy feathers
in which wide eyes of welcome open
to you as you climb the rickety ladder
into my love. Behind those eyes lies
a boudoir of intimate darkness, darling,
the silks of oblivion. And set like a jewel
dead center in the heart is a golden hook
the size of a finger ring, to hold you
always, plumpest sweetheart mouse of mine.

* * *

From his little book Valentines.

John Keats, “Lines on the Mermaid Tavern”

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine?
Or are fruits of Paradise
Sweeter than those dainty pies
Of venison? O generous food!
Drest as though bold Robin Hood
Would, with his maid Marian,
Sup and bowse from horn and can.

I have heard that on a day
Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
Nobody knew whither, till
An astrologer’s old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story,
Said he saw you in your glory,
Underneath a new old sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac.

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

* * *

Poets, drinking, and divine intervention. All the trappings of a classic poem – by a man who should know a thing or two about classic poems.

Jack Kerouac said…

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A poet is a fellow who
spends his time thinking
about what it is that’s
wrong, and although he
knows he can never quite
find out what this wrong
is, he goes right on
thinking it out
and writing it down.
A poet is a blind optimist.
The world is against him for
many reasons. But the
poet persists. He believes
that he is on the right track,
no matter what any of his
fellow men say. In his
eternal search for truth, the
poet is alone.
He tries to be timeless in a
society built on time.