Alexander Pushkin |
Children running into izba,
Calling father, dripping sweat:
"Daddy, daddy! come -- there is a
Deadman caught inside our net.
"Fancy, fancy fabrication.
Grumbled off their weary Pa,
"Have these imps imagination!
Deadman, really! ya-ha-ha.
the court may come to bother -
What'll I say before the judge?
Hey you brats, go have your mother
Bring my coat; I better trudge.
Show me, where?" -- "Right there, Dad, farther!"
On the sand where netting ropes
Lay spread out, the peasant father
Saw the veritable corpse.
Badly mangled, ugly, frightening,
Blue and swollen on each side.
Has he fished in storm and lightning,
Or committed suicide?
Could this be a careless drunkard,
Or a mermaid-seeking monk,
Or a merchandizer, conquered
By some bandits, robbed and sunk?
To the peasant, what's it matter!
Quick: he grabs the dead man's hair,
Drags his body to the water,
Looks around: nobody's there:
relieved of the concern he
Shoves his paddle at a loss,
While the stiff resumes his journey
Down the stream for grave and cross.
Long the dead man as one living
Rocked on waves amid the foam.
Surly as he watched him leaving,
Soon our peasant headed home.
"Come you pups! let's go, don't scatter.
Each of you will get his bun.
But remember: just you chatter --
And I'll whip you, every one.
Dark and stormy it was turning.
High the river ran in gloom.
Now the torch has finished burning
In the peasant's smoky room.
Kids asleep, the wife aslumber,
He lies listening to the rain.
Bang! he hears a sudden comer
Knocking on the window-pane.
" -- "Let me in there, master!"
"Damn, you found the time to roam!
Well, what is it, your disaster?
Let you in? It's dark at home,
Dark and crowded.
What a pest you are!
Where'd I put you in my cot.
Slowly, with a lazy gesture,
He lifts up the pane and - what?
Through the clouds, the moon was showing.
Well? the naked man was there,
Down his hair the water flowing,
Wide his eyes, unmoved the stare;
Numb the dreadful-looking body,
Arms were hanging feeble, thin;
Crabs and cancers, black and bloody,
Sucked into the swollen skin.
As the peasant slammed the shutter
(Recognized his visitant)
Horror-struck he could but mutter
"Blast you!" and began to pant.
He was shuddering, awful chaos
All night through stirred in his brain,
While the knocking shook the house
By the gates and at the pane.
People tell a dreadful rumor:
Every year the peasant, say,
Waiting in the worst of humor
For his visitor that day;
As the rainstorm is increasing,
Nightfall brings a hurricane -
And the drowned man knocks, unceasing,
By the gates and at the pane.
Translated by: Genia Gurarie, 11/95
Copyright retained by Genia Gurarie.
For permission to reproduce, write personally to the translator.
Marianne Moore |
perhaps one should say enterprise
out of respect for which
one says one need not change one's mind
about a thing one has believed in,
requiring public promises
of one's intention
to fulfill a private obligation:
I wonder what Adam and Eve
think of it by this time,
this firegilt steel
alive with goldenness;
how bright it shows --
"of circular traditions and impostures,
committing many spoils,"
requiring all one's criminal ingenuity
Psychology which explains everything
and we are still in doubt.
Eve: beautiful woman --
I have seen her
when she was so handsome
she gave me a start,
able to write simultaneously
in three languages --
English, German and French
and talk in the meantime;
equally positive in demanding a commotion
and in stipulating quiet:
"I should like to be alone;"
to which the visitor replies,
"I should like to be alone;
why not be alone together?"
Below the incandescent stars
below the incandescent fruit,
the strange experience of beauty;
its existence is too much;
it tears one to pieces
and each fresh wave of consciousness
"See her, see her in this common world,"
the central flaw
in that first crystal-fine experiment,
this amalgamation which can never be more
than an interesting possibility,
as "that strange paradise
unlike flesh, gold, or stately buildings,
the choicest piece of my life:
the heart rising
in its estate of peace
as a boat rises
with the rising of the water;"
constrained in speaking of the serpent --
that shed snakeskin in the history of politeness
not to be returned to again --
that invaluable accident
And he has beauty also;
it's distressing -- the O thou
to whom, from whom,
without whom nothing -- Adam;
something colubrine" -- how true!
a crouching mythological monster
in that Persian miniature of emerald mines,
raw silk -- ivory white, snow white,
oyster white and six others --
that paddock full of leopards and giraffes --
long lemonyellow bodies
sown with trapezoids of blue.
Alive with words,
vibrating like a cymbal
touched before it has been struck,
he has prophesied correctly --
the industrious waterfall,
"the speedy stream
which violently bears all before it,
at one time silent as the air
and now as powerful as the wind.
on the uncertain footing of a spear,"
forgetting that there is in woman
a quality of mind
which is an instinctive manifestation
he goes on speaking
in a formal, customary strain
of "past states," the present state,
the evil one suffered,
the good one enjoys,
to promote one's joy.
There is in him a state of mind
by force of which,
perceiving what it was not
intended that he should,
"he experiences a solemn joy
in seeing that he has become an idol.
Plagued by the nightingale
in the new leaves,
with its silence --
not its silence but its silences,
he says of it:
"It clothes me with a shirt of fire.
"He dares not clap his hands
to make it go on
lest it should fly off;
if he does nothing, it will sleep;
if he cries out, it will not understand.
Unnerved by the nightingale
and dazzled by the apple,
impelled by "the illusion of a fire
effectual to extinguish fire,"
compared with which
the shining of the earth
is but deformity -- a fire
"as high as deep as bright as broad
as long as life itself,"
he stumbles over marriage,
"a very trivial object indeed"
to have destroyed the attitude
in which he stood --
the ease of the philosopher
unfathered by a woman.
"a kind of overgrown cupid"
reduced to insignificance
by the mechanical advertising
parading as involuntary comment,
by that experiment of Adam's
with ways out but no way in --
the ritual of marriage,
augmenting all its lavishness;
its fiddle-head ferns,
lotus flowers, opuntias, white dromedaries,
its hippopotamus --
nose and mouth combined
in one magnificent hopper,
"the crested screamer --
that huge bird almost a lizard,"
its snake and the potent apple.
He tells us
that "for love
that will gaze an eagle blind,
that is like a Hercules
climbing the trees
in the garden of the Hesperides,
from forty-five to seventy
is the best age,"
as a fine art, as an experiment,
a duty or as merely recreation.
One must not call him ruffian
nor friction a calamity --
the fight to be affectionate:
"no truth can be fully known
until it has been tried
by the tooth of disputation.
The blue panther with black eyes,
the basalt panther with blue eyes,
entirely graceful --
one must give them the path --
the black obsidian Diana
who "darkeneth her countenance
as a bear doth,
causing her husband to sigh,"
the spiked hand
that has an affection for one
and proves it to the bone,
impatient to assure you
that impatience is the mark of independence
not of bondage.
"Married people often look that way" --
"seldom and cold, up and down,
mixed and malarial
with a good day and bad.
"When do we feed?"
We occidentals are so unemotional,
we quarrel as we feed;
one's self is quite lost,
the irony preserved
in "the Ahasuerus t?te ? t?te banquet"
with its "good monster, lead the way,"
with little laughter
and munificence of humor
in that quixotic atmosphere of frankness
in which "Four o'clock does not exist
but at five o'clock
the ladies in their imperious humility
are ready to receive you";
in which experience attests
that men have power
and sometimes one is made to feel it.
He says, "what monarch would not blush
to have a wife
with hair like a shaving-brush?
The fact of woman
is not `the sound of the flute
but every poison.
She says, "`Men are monopolists
of stars, garters, buttons
and other shining baubles' --
unfit to be the guardians
of another person's happiness.
He says, "These mummies
must be handled carefully --
`the crumbs from a lion's meal,
a couple of shins and the bit of an ear';
turn to the letter M
and you will find
that `a wife is a coffin,'
that severe object
with the pleasing geometry
stipulating space and not people,
refusing to be buried
and uniquely disappointing,
revengefully wrought in the attitude
of an adoring child
to a distinguished parent.
She says, "This butterfly,
this waterfly, this nomad
that has `proposed
to settle on my hand for life.
What can one do with it?
There must have been more time
in Shakespeare's day
to sit and watch a play.
You know so many artists are fools.
He says, "You know so many fools
who are not artists.
The fact forgot
that "some have merely rights
while some have obligations,"
he loves himself so much,
he can permit himself
no rival in that love.
She loves herself so much,
she cannot see herself enough --
a statuette of ivory on ivory,
the logical last touch
to an expansive splendor
earned as wages for work done:
one is not rich but poor
when one can always seem so right.
What can one do for them --
condemned to disaffect
all those who are not visionaries
alert to undertake the silly task
of making people noble?
This model of petrine fidelity
who "leaves her peaceful husband
only because she has seen enough of him" --
that orator reminding you,
"I am yours to command.
"Everything to do with love is mystery;
it is more than a day's work
to investigate this science.
One sees that it is rare --
that striking grasp of opposites
opposed each to the other, not to unity,
which in cycloid inclusiveness
has dwarfed the demonstration
of Columbus with the egg --
a triumph of simplicity --
that charitive Euroclydon
of frightening disinterestedness
which the world hates,
"I am such a cow,
if I had a sorrow,
I should feel it a long time;
I am not one of those
who have a great sorrow
in the morning
and a great joy at noon;"
which says: "I have encountered it
among those unpretentious
proteg?s of wisdom,
where seeming to parade
as the debater and the Roman,
of an archaic Daniel Webster
persists to their simplicity of temper
as the essence of the matter:
`Liberty and union
now and forever;'
the book on the writing-table;
the hand in the breast-pocket.
Allen Ginsberg |
When I die
I don't care what happens to my body
throw ashes in the air, scatter 'em in East River
bury an urn in Elizabeth New Jersey, B'nai Israel Cemetery
But l want a big funeral
Patrick's Cathedral, St.
Mark's Church, the largest synagogue in
First, there's family, brother, nephews, spry aged Edith stepmother
96, Aunt Honey from old Newark,
Doctor Joel, cousin Mindy, brother Gene one eyed one ear'd, sister-
in-law blonde Connie, five nephews, stepbrothers & sisters
companion Peter Orlovsky, caretakers Rosenthal & Hale, Bill Morgan--
Next, teacher Trungpa Vajracharya's ghost mind, Gelek Rinpoche,
there Sakyong Mipham, Dalai Lama alert, chance visiting
America, Satchitananda Swami
Shivananda, Dehorahava Baba, Karmapa XVI, Dudjom Rinpoche,
Katagiri & Suzuki Roshi's phantoms
Baker, Whalen, Daido Loorie, Qwong, Frail White-haired Kapleau
Roshis, Lama Tarchen --
Then, most important, lovers over half-century
Dozens, a hundred, more, older fellows bald & rich
young boys met naked recently in bed, crowds surprised to see each
other, innumerable, intimate, exchanging memories
"He taught me to meditate, now I'm an old veteran of the thousand
day retreat --"
"I played music on subway platforms, I'm straight but loved him he
"I felt more love from him at 19 than ever from anyone"
"We'd lie under covers gossip, read my poetry, hug & kiss belly to belly
arms round each other"
"I'd always get into his bed with underwear on & by morning my
skivvies would be on the floor"
"Japanese, always wanted take it up my bum with a master"
"We'd talk all night about Kerouac & Cassady sit Buddhalike then
sleep in his captain's bed.
"He seemed to need so much affection, a shame not to make him happy"
"I was lonely never in bed nude with anyone before, he was so gentle my
shuddered when he traced his finger along my abdomen nipple to hips-- "
"All I did was lay back eyes closed, he'd bring me to come with mouth
& fingers along my waist"
"He gave great head"
So there be gossip from loves of 1948, ghost of Neal Cassady commin-
gling with flesh and youthful blood of 1997
and surprise -- "You too? But I thought you were straight!"
"I am but Ginsberg an exception, for some reason he pleased me.
"I forgot whether I was straight gay queer or funny, was myself, tender
and affectionate to be kissed on the top of my head,
my forehead throat heart & solar plexus, mid-belly.
on my prick,
tickled with his tongue my behind"
"I loved the way he'd recite 'But at my back allways hear/ time's winged
chariot hurrying near,' heads together, eye to eye, on a
Among lovers one handsome youth straggling the rear
"I studied his poetry class, 17 year-old kid, ran some errands to his
seduced me didn't want to, made me come, went home, never saw him
again never wanted to.
"He couldn't get it up but loved me," "A clean old man.
" "He made
sure I came first"
This the crowd most surprised proud at ceremonial place of honor--
Then poets & musicians -- college boys' grunge bands -- age-old rock
star Beatles, faithful guitar accompanists, gay classical con-
ductors, unknown high Jazz music composers, funky trum-
peters, bowed bass & french horn black geniuses, folksinger
fiddlers with dobro tamborine harmonica mandolin auto-
harp pennywhistles & kazoos
Next, artist Italian romantic realists schooled in mystic 60's India,
Late fauve Tuscan painter-poets, Classic draftsman Massa-
chusets surreal jackanapes with continental wives, poverty
sketchbook gesso oil watercolor masters from American
Then highschool teachers, lonely Irish librarians, delicate biblio-
philes, sex liberation troops nay armies, ladies of either sex
"I met him dozens of times he never remembered my name I loved
him anyway, true artist"
"Nervous breakdown after menopause, his poetry humor saved me
from suicide hospitals"
"Charmant, genius with modest manners, washed sink, dishes my
studio guest a week in Budapest"
Thousands of readers, "Howl changed my life in Libertyville Illinois"
"I saw him read Montclair State Teachers College decided be a poet-- "
"He turned me on, I started with garage rock sang my songs in Kansas
"Kaddish made me weep for myself & father alive in Nevada City"
"Father Death comforted me when my sister died Boston l982"
"I read what he said in a newsmagazine, blew my mind, realized
others like me out there"
Deaf & Dumb bards with hand signing quick brilliant gestures
Then Journalists, editors's secretaries, agents, portraitists & photo-
graphy aficionados, rock critics, cultured laborors, cultural
historians come to witness the historic funeral
Super-fans, poetasters, aging Beatnicks & Deadheads, autograph-
hunters, distinguished paparazzi, intelligent gawkers
Everyone knew they were part of 'History" except the deceased
who never knew exactly what was happening even when I was alive
February 22, 1997
Czeslaw Milosz |
We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.
We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.
We, from the fiery furnaces, from behind barbed wires
On which the winds of endless autumns howled,
We, who remember battles where the wounded air roared in
paroxysms of pain.
We, saved by our own cunning and knowledge.
By sending others to the more exposed positions
Urging them loudly to fight on
Ourselves withdrawing in certainty of the cause lost.
Having the choice of our own death and that of a friend
We chose his, coldly thinking: Let it be done quickly.
We sealed gas chamber doors, stole bread
Knowing the next day would be harder to bear than the day before.
As befits human beings, we explored good and evil.
Our malignant wisdom has no like on this planet.
Accept it as proven that we are better than they,
The gullible, hot-blooded weaklings, careless with their lives.
Treasure your legacy of skills, child of Europe.
Inheritor of Gothic cathedrals, of baroque churches.
Of synagogues filled with the wailing of a wronged people.
Successor of Descartes, Spinoza, inheritor of the word 'honor',
Posthumous child of Leonidas
Treasure the skills acquired in the hour of terror.
You have a clever mind which sees instantly
The good and bad of any situation.
You have an elegant, skeptical mind which enjoys pleasures
Quite unknown to primitive races.
Guided by this mind you cannot fail to see
The soundness of the advice we give you:
Let the sweetness of day fill your lungs
For this we have strict but wise rules.
There can be no question of force triumphant
We live in the age of victorious justice.
Do not mention force, or you will be accused
Of upholding fallen doctrines in secret.
He who has power, has it by historical logic.
Respectfully bow to that logic.
Let your lips, proposing a hypothesis
Not know about the hand faking the experiment.
Let your hand, faking the experiment
No know about the lips proposing a hypothesis.
Learn to predict a fire with unerring precision
Then burn the house down to fulfill the prediction.
Grow your tree of falsehood from a single grain of truth.
Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality.
Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself
So the weary travelers may find repose in the lie.
After the Day of the Lie gather in select circles
Shaking with laughter when our real deeds are mentioned.
Dispensing flattery called: perspicacious thinking.
Dispensing flattery called: a great talent.
We, the last who can still draw joy from cynicism.
We, whose cunning is not unlike despair.
A new, humorless generation is now arising
It takes in deadly earnest all we received with laughter.
Let your words speak not through their meanings
But through them against whom they are used.
Fashion your weapon from ambiguous words.
Consign clear words to lexical limbo.
Judge no words before the clerks have checked
In their card index by whom they were spoken.
The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason.
The passionless cannot change history.
Love no country: countries soon disappear
Love no city: cities are soon rubble.
Throw away keepsakes, or from your desk
A choking, poisonous fume will exude.
Do not love people: people soon perish.
Or they are wronged and call for your help.
Do not gaze into the pools of the past.
Their corroded surface will mirror
A face different from the one you expected.
He who invokes history is always secure.
The dead will not rise to witness against him.
You can accuse them of any deeds you like.
Their reply will always be silence.
Their empty faces swim out of the deep dark.
You can fill them with any feature desired.
Proud of dominion over people long vanished,
Change the past into your own, better likeness.
The laughter born of the love of truth
Is now the laughter of the enemies of the people.
Gone is the age of satire.
We no longer need mock.
The sensible monarch with false courtly phrases.
Stern as befits the servants of a cause,
We will permit ourselves sycophantic humor.
Tight-lipped, guided by reasons only
Cautiously let us step into the era of the unchained fire.
Friedrich von Schiller |
I, too, at length discerned great Hercules' energy mighty,--
Saw his shade.
He himself was not, alas, to be seen.
Round him were heard, like the screaming of birds,
the screams of tragedians,
And, with the baying of dogs, barked dramaturgists around.
There stood the giant in all his terrors; his bow was extended,
And the bolt, fixed on the string, steadily aimed at the heart.
"What still hardier action, unhappy one, dost thou now venture,
Thus to descend to the grave of the departed souls here?"--
"'Tis to see Tiresias I come, to ask of the prophet
Where I the buskin of old, that now has vanished, may find?"
"If they believe not in Nature, nor the old Grecian, but vainly
Wilt thou convey up from hence that dramaturgy to them.
"Oh, as for Nature, once more to tread our stage she has ventured,
Ay, and stark-naked beside, so that each rib we count.
"What? Is the buskin of old to be seen in truth on your stage, then,
Which even I came to fetch, out of mid-Tartarus' gloom?"--
"There is now no more of that tragic bustle, for scarcely
Once in a year on the boards moves thy great soul, harness-clad.
"Doubtless 'tis well! Philosophy now has refined your sensations,
And from the humor so bright fly the affections so black.
"Ay, there is nothing that beats a jest that is stolid and barren,
But then e'en sorrow can please, if 'tis sufficiently moist.
"But do ye also exhibit the graceful dance of Thalia,
Joined to the solemn step with which Melpomene moves?"--
"Neither! For naught we love but what is Christian and moral;
And what is popular, too, homely, domestic, and plain.
"What? Does no Caesar, does no Achilles, appear on your stage now,
Not an Andromache e'en, not an Orestes, my friend?"
"No! there is naught to be seen there but parsons,
and syndics of commerce,
Secretaries perchance, ensigns, and majors of horse.
"But, my good friend, pray tell me, what can such people e'er meet with
That can be truly called great?--what that is great can they do?"
"What? Why they form cabals, they lend upon mortgage, they pocket
Silver spoons, and fear not e'en in the stocks to be placed.
"Whence do ye, then, derive the destiny, great and gigantic,
Which raises man up on high, e'en when it grinds him to dust?"--
"All mere nonsense! Ourselves, our worthy acquaintances also,
And our sorrows and wants, seek we, and find we, too, here.
"But all this ye possess at home both apter and better,--
Wherefore, then, fly from yourselves, if 'tis yourselves that ye seek?"
"Be not offended, great hero, for that is a different question;
Ever is destiny blind,--ever is righteous the bard.
"Then one meets on your stage your own contemptible nature,
While 'tis in vain one seeks there nature enduring and great?"
"There the poet is host, and act the fifth is the reckoning;
And, when crime becomes sick, virtue sits down to the feast!"
Staceyann Chin |
If only out of vanity
I have wondered what kind of woman I will be
when I am well past the summer of my raging youth
Will I still be raising revolutionary flags
and making impassioned speeches
that stir up anger in the hearts of pseudo-liberals
dressed in navy-blue conservative wear
In those years when I am grateful
I still have a good sturdy bladder
that does not leak undigested prune juice
onto diapers—no longer adorable
will I be more grateful for that
than for any forward movement in any current political cause
and will it have been worth it then
Will it have been worth the long hours
of not sleeping
that produced little more than reams
of badly written verses that catapulted me into literary spasms
but did not even whet the appetite
of the three O’ clock crowd
in the least respected of the New York poetry cafes
Will I wish then that I had taken that job working at the bank
or the one to watch that old lady drool
all over her soft boiled eggs
as she tells me how she was a raving beauty in the sixties
how she could have had any man she wanted
but she chose the one least likely to succeed
and that’s why when the son of a bitch died
she had to move into this place
because it was government subsidized
Will I tell my young attendant
how slender I was then
and paint for her pictures
of the young me more beautiful than I ever was
if only to make her forget the shriveled paper skin
the stained but even dental plates
and the faint smell of urine that tends to linger
in places built especially for revolutionaries
whose causes have been won
Will I still be lesbian then
or will the church or family finally convince me
to marry some man with a smaller dick
than the one my woman uses to afford me
violent and multiple orgasms
Will the staff smile at me
humor my eccentricities to my face
but laugh at me in their private resting rooms
saying she must have been something in her day
Most days I don’t know what I will be like then
but everyday—I know what I want to be now
I want to be that voice that makes Guilani
so scared he hires two (butch) black bodyguards
I want to write the poem
that The New York Times cannot print
because it might start some kind of black or lesbian
or even a white revolution
I want to go to secret meetings and under the guise
of female friendship I want to bed the women
of those young and eager revolutionaries
with too much zeal for their cause
and too little passion for the women
who follow them from city to city
all the while waiting in separate rooms
I want to be forty years old
and weigh three hundred pounds
and ride a motorcycle in the wintertime
with four hell raising children
and a one hundred ten pound female lover
who writes poetry about my life
and my children and loves me
like no one has ever loved me before
I want to be the girl your parents will use
as a bad example of a lady
I want to be the dyke who likes to fuck men
I want to be the politician who never lies
I want to be the girl who never cries
I want to go down in history
in a chapter marked miscellaneous
because the writers could find
no other way to categorize me
In this world where classification is key
I want to erase the straight lines
So I can be me
Edwin Arlington Robinson |
Gawaine, aware again of Lancelot
In the King’s garden, coughed and followed him;
Whereat he turned and stood with folded arms
And weary-waiting eyes, cold and half-closed—
Hard eyes, where doubts at war with memories
Fanned a sad wrath.
“Why frown upon a friend?
Few live that have too many,” Gawaine said,
And wished unsaid, so thinly came the light
Between the narrowing lids at which he gazed.
“And who of us are they that name their friends?”
“They live that have not any.
Why do they live, Gawaine? Ask why, and answer.
Two men of an elected eminence,
They stood for a time silent.
Acknowledging the ghost of what was gone,
Put out his hand: “Rather, I say, why ask?
If I be not the friend of Lancelot,
May I be nailed alive along the ground
And emmets eat me dead.
If I be not
The friend of Lancelot, may I be fried
With other liars in the pans of hell.
What item otherwise of immolation
Your Darkness may invent, be it mine to endure
And yours to gloat on.
For the time between,
Consider this thing you see that is my hand.
If once, it has been yours a thousand times;
Why not again? Gawaine has never lied
To Lancelot; and this, of all wrong days—
This day before the day when you go south
To God knows what accomplishment of exile—
Were surely an ill day for lies to find
An issue or a cause or an occasion.
King Ban your father and King Lot my father,
Were they alive, would shake their heads in sorrow
To see us as we are, and I shake mine
Will you take my hand, or no?
Strong as I am, I do not hold it out
For ever and on air.
You see—my hand.
Lancelot gave his hand there to Gawaine,
Who took it, held it, and then let it go,
Chagrined with its indifference.
I go tomorrow, and I wish you well;
You and your brothers, Gareth, Gaheris,—
And Agravaine; yes, even Agravaine,
Whose tongue has told all Camelot and all Britain
More lies than yet have hatched of Modred’s envy.
You say that you have never lied to me,
And I believe it so.
Let it be so.
For now and always.
Gawaine, I wish you well.
Tomorrow I go south, as Merlin went,
But not for Merlin’s end.
I go, Gawaine,
And leave you to your ways.
There are ways left.
“There are three ways I know, three famous ways,
And all in Holy Writ,” Gawaine said, smiling:
“The snake’s way and the eagle’s way are two,
And then we have a man’s way with a maid—
Or with a woman who is not a maid.
Your late way is to send all women scudding,
To the last flash of the last cramoisy,
While you go south to find the fires of God.
Since we came back again to Camelot
From our immortal Quest—I came back first—
No man has known you for the man you were
Before you saw whatever ’t was you saw,
To make so little of kings and queens and friends
Modred? Agravaine? My brothers?
And what if they be brothers? What are brothers,
If they be not our friends, your friends and mine?
You turn away, and my words are no mark
On you affection or your memory?
So be it then, if so it is to be.
God save you, Lancelot; for by Saint Stephen,
You are no more than man to save yourself.
“Gawaine, I do not say that you are wrong,
Or that you are ill-seasoned in your lightness;
You say that all you know is what you saw,
And on your own averment you saw nothing.
Your spoken word, Gawaine, I have not weighed
In those unhappy scales of inference
That have no beam but one made out of hates
And fears, and venomous conjecturings;
Your tongue is not the sword that urges me
Now out of Camelot.
Two other swords
There are that are awake, and in their scabbards
Are parching for the blood of Lancelot.
Yet I go not away for fear of them,
But for a sharper care.
You say the truth,
But not when you contend the fires of God
Are my one fear,—for there is one fear more.
Therefore I go.
Gawaine, I wish you well.
“Well-wishing in a way is well enough;
So, in a way, is caution; so, in a way,
Are leeches, neatherds, and astrologers.
Sit you down and listen:
You talk of swords and fears and banishment.
Two swords, you say; Modred and Agravaine,
Had you meant Gaheris and Gareth,
Or willed an evil on them, I should welcome
And hasten your farewell.
Hears little what I say; his ears are Modred’s.
The King is Modred’s father, and the Queen
A prepossession of Modred’s lunacy.
So much for my two brothers whom you fear,
Not fearing for yourself.
I say to you,
Fear not for anything—and so be wise
And amiable again as heretofore;
Let Modred have his humor, and Agravaine
The two of them have done their worst,
And having done their worst, what have they done?
A whisper now and then, a chirrup or so
In corners,—and what else? Ask what, and answer.
Still with a frown that had no faith in it,
Lancelot, pitying Gawaine’s lost endeavour
To make an evil jest of evidence,
Sat fronting him with a remote forbearance—
Whether for Gawaine blind or Gawaine false,
Or both, or neither, he could not say yet,
If ever; and to himself he said no more
Than he said now aloud: “What else, Gawaine?
What else, am I to say? Then ruin, I say;
Destruction, dissolution, desolation,
I say,—should I compound with jeopardy now.
For there are more than whispers here, Gawaine:
The way that we have gone so long together
Has underneath our feet, without our will,
Become a twofold faring.
Yours, I trust,
May lead you always on, as it has led you,
To praise and to much joy.
Mine, I believe,
Leads off to battles that are not yet fought,
And to the Light that once had blinded me.
When I came back from seeing what I saw,
I saw no place for me in Camelot.
There is no place for me in Camelot.
There is no place for me save where the Light
May lead me; and to that place I shall go.
Meanwhile I lay upon your soul no load
Of counsel or of empty admonition;
Only I ask of you, should strife arise
In Camelot, to remember, if you may,
That you’ve an ardor that outruns your reason,
Also a glamour that outshines your guile;
And you are a strange hater.
I know that;
And I’m in fortune that you hate not me.
Yet while we have our sins to dream about,
Time has done worse for time than in our making;
Albeit there may be sundry falterings
And falls against us in the Book of Man.
“Praise Adam, you are mellowing at last!
I’ve always liked this world, and would so still;
And if it is your new Light leads you on
To such an admirable gait, for God’s sake,
Follow it, follow it, follow it, Lancelot;
Follow it as you never followed glory.
Once I believed that I was on the way
That you call yours, but I came home again
To Camelot—and Camelot was right,
For the world knows its own that knows not you;
You are a thing too vaporous to be sharing
The carnal feast of life.
You mow down men
Like elder-stems, and you leave women sighing
For one more sight of you; but they do wrong.
You are a man of mist, and have no shadow.
God save you, Lancelot.
If I laugh at you,
I laugh in envy and in admiration.
The joyless evanescence of a smile,
Discovered on the face of Lancelot
By Gawaine’s unrelenting vigilance,
Wavered, and with a sullen change went out;
And then there was the music of a woman
Laughing behind them, and a woman spoke:
“Gawaine, you said ‘God save you, Lancelot.
Why should He save him any more to-day
Than on another day? What has he done,
Gawaine, that God should save him?” Guinevere,
With many questions in her dark blue eyes
And one gay jewel in her golden hair,
Had come upon the two of them unseen,
Till now she was a russet apparition
At which the two arose—one with a dash
Of easy leisure in his courtliness,
One with a stately calm that might have pleased
The Queen of a strange land indifferently.
The firm incisive languor of her speech,
Heard once, was heard through battles: “Lancelot,
What have you done to-day that God should save you?
What has he done, Gawaine, that God should save him?
I grieve that you two pinks of chivalry
Should be so near me in my desolation,
And I, poor soul alone, know nothing of it.
What has he done, Gawaine?”
With all her poise,
To Gawaine’s undeceived urbanity
She was less queen than woman for the nonce,
And in her eyes there was a flickering
Of a still fear that would not be veiled wholly
With any mask of mannered nonchalance.
“What has he done? Madam, attend your nephew;
And learn from him, in your incertitude,
That this inordinate man Lancelot,
This engine of renown, this hewer down daily
Of potent men by scores in our late warfare,
Has now inside his head a foreign fever
That urges him away to the last edge
Of everything, there to efface himself
In ecstasy, and so be done with us.
Hereafter, peradventure certain birds
Will perch in meditation on his bones,
Quite as if they were some poor sailor’s bones,
Or felon’s jettisoned, or fisherman’s,
Or fowler’s bones, or Mark of Cornwall’s bones.
In fine, this flower of men that was our comrade
Shall be for us no more, from this day on,
Than a much remembered Frenchman far away.
Magnanimously I leave you now to prize
Your final sight of him; and leaving you,
I leave the sun to shine for him alone,
Whiles I grope on to gloom.
And you, contrarious Lancelot, farewell.
Marianne Moore |
Another armored animal--scale
lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
tail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equipped
the night miniature artist engineer is,
yes, Leonardo da Vinci's replica--
impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
Armor seems extra.
But for him,
the closing ear-ridge--
or bare ear lacking even this small
eminence and similarly safe
contracting nose and eye apertures
impenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater,
not cockroach eater, who endures
exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night,
returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight,
on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside
edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the claws
the tree, he draws
away from danger unpugnaciously,
with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping
the fragile grace of the Thomas-
of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or
rolls himself into a ball that has
power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat
head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in-feet.
Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest
of rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thus
Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast
each with a splendor
which man in all his vileness cannot
set aside; each with an excellence!
"Fearfull yet to be feared," the armored
ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but
engulfs what he can, the flattened sword-
edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-plates
quivering violently when it retaliates
and swarms on him.
Compact like the furled fringed frill
on the hat-brim of Gargallo's hollow iron head of a
matador, he will drop and will
then walk away
unhurt, although if unintruded on,
he cautiously works down the tree, helped
by his tail.
tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like
an elephant's trunkwith special skin,
is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurable
artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable
whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done
Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between
dusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-like
form and frictionless creep of a thing
made graceful by adversities, con-
To explain grace requires
a curious hand.
If that which is at all were not forever,
why would those who graced the spires
with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious
low stone seats--a monk and monk and monk--between the thus
ingenious roof supports, have slaved to confuse
grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt,
the cure for sins, a graceful use
of what are yet
approved stone mullions branching out across
the perpendiculars? A sailboat
was the first machine.
for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade,
with certain postures of a man.
Beneath sun and moon, man slaving
to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having,
needing to choose wisely how to use his strength;
a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
like the ant; spidering a length
of web from bluffs
above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
like the pangolin; capsizing in
Bedizened or stark
naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
masters to this world, griffons a dark
"Like does not like like that is abnoxious"; and writes error with four
Among animals, one has sense of humor.
Humor saves a few steps, it saves years.
modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
he has everlasting vigor,
power to grow,
though there are few creatures who can make one
breathe faster and make one erecter.
Not afraid of anything is he,
and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle
at every step.
Consistent with the
formula--warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs--
is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat,
The prey of fear, he, always
curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly
says to the alternating blaze,
"Again the sun!
anew each day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.
Lisel Mueller |
Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard's woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pop
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague.
I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master's bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff.
I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrong-headed angel,
or Mary's friend.
I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah's Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who--but for endless ifs--
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.
Charles Bukowski |
don't feel sorry for me.
I am a competent,
satisfied human being.
be sorry for the others
and it will
beware of them:
one of their
key words is
and beware those who
instructions from their
for they have
failed completely to live their own
don't feel sorry for me
because I am alone
at the most terrible
I am a dog walking
I am a broken
I am a telephone wire
strung up in
I am a man
eating a meal
in the month of
put your sympathy
water held up
you better be