Nazim Hikmet |
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don't have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won't give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I'm not allowed
to see the sky overhead.
How many others are in this place?
I don't know.
I'm alone far from them,
they're all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
-- with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose --
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn't make me blush
that right now
I'm this weak,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it's
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.
It's five o'clock, my dear.
with its dryness,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
-- I mean, it's enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief --
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.
Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We'll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
the man inside,
once more I'll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror.
It's spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It's spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles.
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete.
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it's night outside,
a cloudless spring night.
And inside this is spring's darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring.
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me.
I am happy.
Vachel Lindsay |
AN ARGUMENT FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF PEACE AND GOODWILL WITH THE JAPANESE PEOPLE
Glossary for the uninstructed and the hasty: Jimmu Tenno, ancestor of all the Japanese Emperors; Nikko, Japan's loveliest shrine; Iyeyasu, her greatest statesman; Bushido, her code of knighthood; The Forty-seven Ronins, her classic heroes; Nogi, her latest hero; Fuji, her most beautiful mountain.
"Now do you know of Avalon
That sailors call Japan?
She holds as rare a chivalry
As ever bled for man.
King Arthur sleeps at Nikko hill
Where Iyeyasu lies,
And there the broad Pendragon flag
In deathless splendor flies.
"Nay, minstrel, but the great ships come
From out the sunset sea.
We cannot greet the souls they bring
With welcome high and free.
How can the Nippon nondescripts
That weird and dreadful band
Be aught but what we find them here:—
The blasters of the land?"
"First race, first men from anywhere
To face you, eye to eye.
For that do you curse Avalon
And raise a hue and cry?
These toilers cannot kiss your hand,
Or fawn with hearts bowed down:
Be glad for them, and Avalon,
And Arthur's ghostly crown.
"No doubt your guests, with sage debate
In grave things gentlemen
Will let your trade and farms alone
And turn them back again.
But why should brawling braggarts rise
With hasty words of shame
To drive them back like dogs and swine
Who in due honor came?"
"We cannot give them honor, sir.
We give them scorn for scorn.
And Rumor steals around the world
All white-skinned men to warn
Against this sleek silk-merchant here
And viler coolie-man
And wrath within the courts of war
Brews on against Japan!"
"Must Avalon, with hope forlorn,
Her back against the wall,
Have lived her brilliant life in vain
While ruder tribes take all?
Must Arthur stand with Asian Celts,
A ghost with spear and crown,
Behind the great Pendragon flag
And be again cut down?
"Tho Europe's self shall move against
High Jimmu Tenno's throne
The Forty-seven Ronin Men
Will not be found alone.
For Percival and Bedivere
And Nogi side by side
Will stand,—with mourning Merlin there,
Tho all go down in pride.
"But has the world the envious dream—
Ah, such things cannot be,—
To tear their fairy-land like silk
And toss it in the sea?
Must venom rob the future day
The ultimate world-man
Of rare Bushido, code of codes,
The fair heart of Japan?
"Go, be the guest of Avalon.
Believe me, it lies there
Behind the mighty gray sea-wall
Where heathen bend in prayer:
Where peasants lift adoring eyes
To Fuji's crown of snow.
King Arthur's knights will be your hosts,
So cleanse your heart, and go.
"And you will find but gardens sweet
Prepared beyond the seas,
And you will find but gentlefolk
Beneath the cherry-trees.
So walk you worthy of your Christ
Tho church bells do not sound,
And weave the bands of brotherhood
On Jimmu Tenno's ground.