Sunday 3 November 2013

desires and sensations - deseos y sensaciones

'I sit in a mood of reverie.
I brought to Art desires and sensations:
things half-glimpsed,
faces or lines, certain indistinct memories
of unfulfilled love affairs. Let me submit to Art:
Art knows how to shape forms of Beauty,
almost imperceptibly completing life,
blending impressions, blending day with day.'

C.P. Cavafy:  I’ve Brought to Art
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992

Me siento y medito.
He dado al Arte deseos, sensaciones, 
ciertos entrevistos
rostros o líneas, la insegura imagen
de amores incompletos. Dejad que a él me entregue.
El Arte sabe dar forma a la Belleza,
con toque imperceptible completando la vida
combinando impresiones, combinando los días.

Versión de José Ángel Valente

Tuesday 29 October 2013

'imagine immensities'

'We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis. Just the possibility of failing turns into a dutiful self-fulfilling prophecy. We begin to believe that these personal restrictions are, in fact, the fixed limitations of the world. We go on to live our lives, all the while wondering what we can change and how we can change it, and we calculate and re-calculate when we will be ready to do the things we want to do. And we dream. If only. If only. One day. Some day.

Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who chooses to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It is really about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities for their life. In short, unlike me, they didn’t determine what was impossible before it was even possible.


If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.'

Millman, Debbie (2009).  Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design

Friday 11 October 2013

To own the Art within the Soul

To own the Art within the Soul
The Soul to entertain
With Silence as a Company
And Festival maintain

Is an unfurnished Circumstance
Possession is to One
As an Estate perpetual
Or a reduceless Mine.

Monday 7 October 2013

Song of the spirits over the waters

Gesang der Geister über den Wassern

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Zur Erde muß es,
Ewig wechselnd.

Strömt von der hohen,
Steilen Felswand
Der reine Strahl,
Dann stäubt er lieblich
In Wolkenwellen
Zum glatten Fels,
Und leicht empfangen
Wallt er verschleiernd,
Zur Tiefe nieder.

Ragen Klippen
Dem Sturz entgegen,
Schäumt er unmutig
Zum Abgrund.

Im flachen Bette
Schleicht er das Wiesental hin,
Und in dem glatten See
Weiden ihr Antlitz
Alle Gestirne.

Wind ist der Welle
Lieblicher Buhler;
Wind mischt vom Grund aus
Schäumende Wogen.

Seele des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wind!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1779)

Song of the spirits over the waters
The soul of man
Is like the water:
It comes from heaven,
It returns to heaven,
And down again
To earth must go,
Ever changing.

When from the high,
Sheer wall of rock
The pure stream gushes,
It sprays its lovely vapor
In billowing clouds
Towards the smooth rock,
And lightly received,
It goes enshrouded,
Softly hissing
Down to the deep.

Cliffs tower,
Opposing its fall.
Annoyed, it foams
Step by step
Into the abyss.

In a flat bed
It slinks down the grassy vale,
And in the waveless lake
All the stars
Feast on their likeness.

Wind is the wave's
Handsome suitor;
Wind stirs up from the depths
Foaming billows.

Soul of man,
How like to the water!
Fate of man,
How like to the wind!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1779)

image: 'Traumfaenger' fountain by Norbert Then, Fuerst Leopold Zeche, Dorsten

Thursday 5 September 2013

a visitor - un visitante

Un Visitante

Alguien abrió con el mayor sigilo
mi puerta, de seguro mal cerrada.
Le vio, sin forma apenas, mi almohada,
el paso muelle y la palabra en vilo.
No, no era nadie que buscara asilo
ni que quisiera demandarme nada.
Con la primera luz de la alborada,
salió en silencio y me dejó intranquilo.
Eso fue todo. ¡Nada más! No espero
saber la causa ni atisbar los fines
de esa visita inesperada. Pero
esta mañana oí sonar violines.
Nada tampoco… ¡Amaneció mi alero
cubierto de hojas rubias y jazmines!

Raúl Contreras

Monday 19 August 2013

walls or wings - muros o alas

'Where the wind of change is blowing some build walls and others windmills.'
Chinese proverb

'Cuando el viento de cambio sopla unos construyen muros y otros molinos de viento.'
Proverbio chino 
'Wo der Wind des Wandels weht, bauen die einen Mauern und die anderen Windmühlen.'
Chinesische Redensart

Thursday 8 August 2013

mis alas inexistentes - my nonexistant wings

'Una planicie suspendida en el aire, segundo cielo tal
vez. En este lugar, el futuro y el pasado no existen,
nada altera el destino y todo lo altera (porque el
destino es un circulo), cada pensamiento es todas las
existencias, cualquier pregunta es inútil. En una
pequeña choza está Gabriel. Por su cuerpo
extraviado, su delgadez prodigiosa, su abandono
paciente, descubro que ha envejecido. Yo lo cuido,
una forma de dejarme cuidar. Afuera, acogidas al
mismo deseo, múltiples figuras con los ojos cerrados,
haciendo un elipse. Almas movedizas del cosmos,
esferas dormidas. Visten túnicas pálidas. Imposible
discernir en sus rostros la felicidad o la desgracia: tal
la intensidad de lo que sienten. Y la luna quieta,
traicionera. Y algunas luciérnagas. Y su canto de oeste
a este, de un mundo a otro. Antes de abandonar la
choza y partir, hay que ver con que gracia me
acomodo las alas inexistentes.'

Maria Negroni: Gabriel
 in Night Journey, Princeton University Press 2002, p. 15

'A plane suspended in air, perhaps second heaven. In
this place, past and future do not exist, nothing and
everything will alter fate (because fate is a circle),
each thought is every thing that is, all questions
futile. In a small hut, Gabriel. His spellbound body,
its eerie tapering, patient abandon, tell me that he
has aged. I tend to him to place myself under his
protection. Outside, communicants in one desire,
many figures, eyes shut, forming an ellipse. Traveling
souls of the cosmos, sleeping spheres. In pale tunics.
Indiscernible their sentiment, neither joy nor sorrow,
pure intensity. And the silent traitorous moon. And a
few fireflies. And their song from west to east, from
one world to another. Before I leave the hut, you
should see how gracefully I adjust my (nonexistent)

Maria Negroni: Gabriel, in Night Journey
 translated from the Spanish by Anne Twitty
Princeton University Press 2002, p. 15


Sunday 4 August 2013

hombres, llorando - weeping men

'Después que la casta Persefonea hubo dispersado acá y acullá las almas de las mujeres, presentóse muy angustiada la de Agamemnón Atrida; a cuyo alrededor se congregaban las de cuantos en la mansión de Egisto perecieron con el héroe cumpliendo su destino. Reconocióme así que bebió la negra sangre y al punto comenzó a llorar ruidosamente: derramaba copiosas lágrimas y me tendía las manos con el deseo de abrazarme; mas yo no disfrutaba del firme vigor, ni de la fortaleza que antes tenía en los flexibles miembros.
Al verlo lloré, y, compadeciéndole en mi corazón, le dije estas aladas palabras 
¡Atrida gloriosísimo, rey de hombres Agamemnón! ¿Cuál hado de la aterradora muerte te quitó la vida? ¿Acaso Poseidón te mató en tus naves, desencadenando el fuerte soplo de terribles vientos o unos hombres enemigos acabaron contigo en la tierra firme, porque te llevabas sus bueyes y sus hermosos rebaños de ovejas o porque combatías por apoderarte de su ciudad y de sus mujeres?'

Homero, Odisea, Canto XI: Descenso a los infiernos.

'When Persephone had dismissed the female ghosts in all directions, the ghost of Agamemnon son of Atreus came sadly up to me, surrounded by those who had perished with him in the house of Aigisthos. As soon as he had tasted the blood he knew me, and weeping bitterly stretched out his arms towards me to embrace me; but he had no strength nor substance any more, and I too wept and pitied him as I beheld him. ‘How did you come by your death,’ said I, ‘King Agamemnon? Did Poseidon raise his winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did your enemies make an end of you on the mainland when you were cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or while they were fighting in defense of their wives and city?’

Homer, The Odyssey, 11.9
Samuel Butler, Based on public domain edition, revised by Timothy Power and Gregory Nagy., Ed.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Arte poética - the art of poetry

Mirar el río hecho de tiempo y agua
y recordar que el tiempo es otro río,
saber que nos perdemos como el río
y que los rostros pasan como el agua.

Sentir que la vigilia es otro sueño
que sueña no soñar y que la muerte
que teme nuestra carne es esa muerte
de cada noche, que se llama sueño.

Ver en el día o en el año un símbolo
de los días del hombre y de sus años,
convertir el ultraje de los años
en una música, un rumor y un símbolo,

ver en la muerte el sueño, en el ocaso
un triste oro, tal es la poesía
que es inmortal y pobre. La poesía
vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.

A veces en las tardes una cara
nos mira desde el fondo de un espejo;
el arte debe ser como ese espejo
que nos revela nuestra propia cara.

Cuentan que Ulises, harto de prodigios,
lloró de amor al divisar su Itaca
verde y humilde. El arte es esa Itaca
de verde eternidad, no de prodigios.

También es como el río interminable
que pasa y queda y es cristal de un mismo
Heráclito inconstante, que es el mismo
y es otro, como el río interminable.

Jorge Luis Borges

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness--such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there's a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.
Jorge Luis Borges
translated by Anthony Kerrigan

Thursday 11 July 2013

the strength of necessity

'But I must bear my destiny as best I can, knowing well that there is no resisting the strength of necessity.

Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.),  Prometheus Bound, l. 103.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

love (variations)

Variations on the Word Love

This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It's the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn't what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there's the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

Margaret Atwood

Thursday 4 July 2013

The Dream Keeper

The Dream Keeper

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Wednesday 3 July 2013


 Why We Tell Stories

For Linda Foster

Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and
Lisel Mueller

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Art, life & alienation

'I also make you witness to a process which has changed my lens on the world. But this process of change has only just begun, and I feel keenly the tension between the artistic forms within which we have agreed to abide and the living material, borne to me by my senses, my psychic apparatus, and my thought, which has resisted these forms. If I may formulate a poetological problem so soon, let it be this: There is and there can be no poetics which prevents the living experience of countless perceiving subjects from being killed and buried in art objects. So, does that mean that art objects ("works") are products of the alienation of our culture, whose other finished products are produced for self-annihilation?'

Wolf, Christa, 1984. Conditions of a narrative. In: Wolf, Christa, 1984. Cassandra: a novel and four essays. Translated from German by Jan van Heurck. London: Virago, p.142

Monday 1 July 2013


If I should die to-night,
My friends would look upon my quiet face
Before they laid it in its resting-place,
And deem that death had left it almost fair;
And, laying snow-white flowers against my hair,
Would smooth it down with tearful tenderness,
And fold my hands with lingering caress, --
Poor hands, so empty and so cold to-night!

If I should die to-night,
My friends would call to mind with loving thought
Some kindly deed the icy hands had wrought,
Some gentle word the frozen lips had said,
Errands on which the willing feet had sped;
The memory of my selfishness and pride,
My hasty words would all be put aside,
And so I should be loved and mourned to-night.

If I should die to-night,
Even hearts estranged would turn once more to me,
Recalling other days remorsefully;
The eyes that chill me with averted glance
Would look upon me as of yore, perchance,
And soften in the old familiar way,
For who could war with dumb, unconscious clay?
So I might rest, forgiven of all to-night.

Oh, friends! I pray to-night,
Keep not your kisses for my dead, cold brow:
The way is lonely, let me feel them now.
Think gently of me; I am travelworn;
My faltering feet are pierced with many a thorn.
Forgive, oh, hearts estranged, forgive, I plead!
When dreamless rest is mine I shall not need
The tenderness for which I long to-night.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

what we want

'What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names--
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.'
Linda Pastan

Monday 24 June 2013

'wings for a fallen sky'

A whisper of rain in a pond of silence
A droplet made ripple I am
Circling the wet worn sparkles of a fall
Spreading a bat born flight within the whole
Blind folded eyes enlarging the sphere
Drop mould ties uncircled unleashed
To make the wings for a fallen sky.

Miroslava Odalovic

Saturday 22 June 2013

... one moment of truth

'But when the world breathes its ardent love for you, it's madness to resist.'

  Rhonda Douglas, from 'Eight moments of truth for Cassandra'
in: Douglas (2008), Some days I think I know things: the Cassandra poems.
Winnipeg/Manitoba: Signature Editions, p.65

Thursday 20 June 2013

'Portrait Of A Figure Near Water

'Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
no sound.'

Jane Kenyon

Tuesday 18 June 2013

the art of losing

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop


Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse—
then Yes, every last page is true, every nuance,
bit, and bite. Wait. I have made them up—all of them—
and when I say I am married, it means I married
all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves.
Can you imagine the number of bouquets, how many
slices of cake? Even now, my husbands plan a great meal
for us—one chops up some parsley, one stirs a bubbling pot
on the stove. One changes the baby, and one sleeps
in a fat chair. One flips through the newspaper, another
whistles while he shaves in the shower, and every single
one of them wonders what time I am coming home.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
 Lucky Fish, 2011, Tupelo Press

Tuesday 4 June 2013

'hope is not for the wise'

Hope is not for the wise, fear is for fools;
Change and the world, we think, are racing to a fall,
Open-eyed and helpless, in every newscast that is the news:
The time's events would seem mere chaos but all
Drift the one deadly direction. But this is only
The August thunder of the age, not the November.
Wise men hope nothing, the wise are naturally lonely
And think November as good as April, the wise remember
That Caesar and even final Augustus had heirs,
And men lived on; rich unplanned life on earth
After the foreign wars and the civil wars, the border wars
And the barbarians: music and religion, honor and mirth
Renewed life's lost enchantments. But if life even
Had perished utterly, Oh perfect loveliness of earth and heaven.
Robinson Jeffers

Monday 3 June 2013

'love is not all'

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

                                                         Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sunday 2 June 2013

'A Few Words on the Soul'

by Wislawa Szymborska
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

'We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.'

Saturday 1 June 2013


                            But knowing is far weaker than necessity.


Friday 31 May 2013

the laughter of women

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

Lisel Mueller

Friday 17 May 2013

'with music, and with banners'

'Speak not of guilt, speak not of responsibility. When the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners; when the senses shiver and shudder, it is only a fool and an irreverent person that will keep his distance, who will not embrace the good cause, marching towards the conquest of pleasures and passions.
      All of morality’s laws – poorly understood and applied – are nil and cannot stand even for a moment, when the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners.
      Do not permit any shadowy virtue to hold you back. Do not believe that any obligation binds you. Your duty is to give in, to always give in to Desires, these most perfect creatures of the perfect gods. Your duty is to enlist as a faithful footman, with simplicity of heart, when the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners.
      Do not confine yourself at home, misleading yourself with theories of justice, with the preconceptions of reward, held by an imperfect society. Do not say, Such is my toil’s worth and such is my due to savor. Just as life is an inheritance, and you did nothing to earn it as a recompense, so should Sensual Pleasure be. Do not shut yourself at home; but keep the windows open, open wide, so as to hear the first sound of the passing of the soldiers, when the Regiment of the Senses arrives, with music, and with banners.
      Do not be deceived by the blasphemers who tell you that the service is dangerous and laborious. The service of sensual pleasure is a constant joy. It does exhaust you, but it exhausts you with inebriations sublime. And finally, when you collapse in the street, even then your fortune is enviable. When your funeral will pass by, the Forms to which your desires gave shape will shower lilacs and white roses upon your coffin, young Olympian Gods will bear you on their shoulders, and you will be buried in the Cemetery of the Ideal, where the mausoleums of poetry gleam conspicuously white.'

C.P. Cavafy, The Regiment of the Senses
translated from the Greek by Manuel Savidis

Thursday 16 May 2013


Circe's Power

'I never turned anyone into a pig.
Some people are pigs; I make them
Look like pigs.

I'm sick of your world
That lets the outside disguise the inside. Your men weren't bad men;
Undisciplined life
Did that to them. As pigs,

Under the care of
Me and my ladies, they
Sweetened right up.

Then I reversed the spell, showing you my goodness
As well as my power. I saw

We could be happy here,
As men and women are
When their needs are simple. In the same breath,

I foresaw your departure,
Your men with my help braving
The crying and pounding sea. You think

A few tears upset me? My friend,
Every sorceress is
A pragmatist at heart; nobody sees essence who can't
Face limitation. If I wanted only to hold you

I could hold you prisoner.'

Louise Gluck

Wednesday 15 May 2013

'our efforts are the efforts of the Trojans'


Our efforts are the efforts of the Trojans.
We prosper in some measure; we believe
in our own power a little; and we begin
to move intrepidly and with fair hopes.

But always something rises and repels us.
Achilles at the trench in front of us
rises, and with far-sounding cry dismays us.

Our efforts are the efforts of the Trojans.
We think that with decision and with boldness
we may repress the enmity of fortune,
and we abide the conflict in the open.

But when the crisis exigent is come,
our boldness and decision fall away;
the soul is disconcerted, paralysed;
and round about the walls we run apace,
endeavouring in flight to find escape.

And our defeat is certain. Even now,
above us, on the walls, the wail begins.
Memories wail, and affections of our day.
Grievously Priam and Hecuba bewail us. 

C.P. Cavafy

Poems by C. P. Cavafy. Translated, from the Greek, by J. C. Cavafy. Ikaros, 2003

Tuesday 14 May 2013


'A Small Story about the Sky'

'The fire was so fierce,
So red, so gray, so yellow
That, along with the land,
It burned part of the sky
Which stayed black in that corner
For years,
As if it were night there
Even in the daytime,
A piece of the sky burnt
And which then
Could not be counted on
Even by the birds.

It was a regular fire—
Terrible—we forget this
About fire—terrible
And full of pride. 
It intended to be
Big, no regular fire. 
Like so many of us,
It intended to be more
And this time was.
It was not better or worse
Than any other fire
Growing up. 
But this time, it was a fire
At just the right time
And in just the right place—
If you think like a fire—
A place it could do something big.

Its flames reached out
With ten thousand pincers,
As if the fire
Were made of beetles and scorpions
Clawing themselves to get up,
Pinching the air itself
And climbing,
So many sharp animals
On each others' backs
Then into the air itself,
Ten thousand snaps and pinches
At least,
So that if the sky
Was made of something,
It could not get away this time.

Finally the fire
Caught the sky,
Which acted like a slow rabbit
Which had made a miscalculation.
It didn’t believe this could happen
And so it ran left,
Right into the thin toothpicks of flames,
Too fast to pull back,
The sky with all its arms,
Hands, fingers, fingernails,
All of it

The sky stayed black
For several years after.
I wanted to tell you
This small story
About the sky.
It’s a good one
And explains why the sky
Comes so slowly in the morning,
Still unsure of what’s here. 
But the story is not mine.
It was written by fire,
That same small fire
That wanted to come home
With something of its own
To tell,
And it did,
A small piece of blue in its mouth.'

Alberto Rios

Poetry magazine, February 2011

Monday 6 May 2013


Oda a la tristeza

Tristeza, escarabajo
de siete patas rotas,
huevo de telaraña,
rata descalabrada,
esqueleto de perra:
Aquí no entras.
No pasas.
al Sur con tu paraguas,
al Norte con tus dientes de culebra.
Aquí vive un poeta.
La tristeza no puede
entrar por estas puertas.
Por las ventanas
entra el aire del mundo,
las rojas rosas nuevas,
las banderas bordadas
del pueblo y sus victorias.
No puedes.
Aquí no entras.
tus alas de murciélago,
yo pisaré las plumas
que caen de tu manto,
yo barreré los trozos
de tu cadáver hacia
las cuatro puntas del viento,
yo te torceré el cuello,
te coseré los ojos,
cortaré tu mortaja
y enterraré tus huesos roedores
bajo la primavera de un manzano.

Pablo Neruda

Ode to Sadness

Sadness, scarab
with seven crippled feet,
spiderweb egg,
scramble-brained rat,
bitch's skeleton:
No entry here.
Don't come in.
Go away.
Go back
south with your umbrella,
go back
north with your serpent's teeth.
A poet lives here.
No sadness may
cross this threshold.
Through these windows
comes the breath of the world,
fresh red roses,
flags embroidered with
the victories of the people.
No entry.
your bat's wings,
I will trample the feathers
that fall from your mantle,
I will sweep the bits and pieces
of your carcass to
the four corners of the wind,
I will wring your neck,
I will stitch your eyelids shut,
I will sew your shroud,
sadness, and bury your rodent bones
beneath the springtime of an apple tree.
Pablo Neruda

Saturday 4 May 2013

fighting magic with magic

 'Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.'

A.E. Stallings: Fairy-tale Logic

Friday 3 May 2013


The tumult in the heart
keeps asking questions.
And then it stops and undertakes to answer
in the same tone of voice.
No one could tell the difference.

Uninnocent, these conversations start,
and then engage the senses,
only half-meaning to.
And then there is no choice,
and then there is no sense;

until a name
and all its connotation are the same.

Elizabeth Bishop