Friday 26 April 2013

'What You Said about the Moon'

'All the little lies follow the big lie
while the big lie is pared away.
Fading face, old friend
of my left hand waning,
of my right hand waxing:
gibbous mirror womb for womb.
Throbbing pulse and dangling watch,
globing, shrinking, hinged
where night
unhinges night.
Cause of eloquence
ending in derangement.
There could be such a thing as too much feeling.
I had meant to harvest, not to hunt.
Turn your money over,
blow ashes,
whisper “I saw you before you saw me.”'
Susan Stewart (2003), Columbarium. London & Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p.58

Tuesday 23 April 2013


'Escaped Housewife Prefers the Term Cosmetologist

Quasi-scientific? Maybe.
But think of beautician,
a word that assumes loveliness
is brought off by technology.

She prefers cosmetologist—
how it seems to have something
to do with the stars. She believes
she can see the future
when she stares face-down
at the globe of a stranger's scalp
and adjusts the tilt of his head.

At the Academy, she is learning
about the tendencies of things
to remain where they fall.
She knows some tricks—
spritz and gel, the so-called
permanent wave. She wonders
where they come from,
this galaxy of dowdy customers.

Some days her precision cuts
hang like torn drapes
on a dirty window.
I see you've tried
an asymmetrical look,
her instructor might say,
snipping corrections.
At the Academy, asymmetrical
is spelled with a D.

She came here to verify
what she always suspected:
that straight hair must be curled,
curly hair straightened,
long hair cut, short hair extended.
That what comes to us by fate
is wrong.'

Karen Craigo
(Poetry Magazine, March 2002)

Monday 22 April 2013


'Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.' 
Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

Sunday 21 April 2013


Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Friday 19 April 2013

'more and more'



'More and more frequently the edges
of me dissolve and I become
a wish to assimilate the world, including
you, if possible through the skin
like a cool plant's tricks with oxygen
and live by a harmless green burning.

I would not consume
you or ever
finish, you would still be there
surrounding me, complete
as the air.

Unfortunately I don't have leaves.
Instead I have eyes
and teeth and other non-green
things which rule out osmosis.

So be careful, I mean it,
I give you fair warning:

This kind of hunger draws
everything into its own
space; nor can we
talk it all over, have a calm
rational discussion.

There is no reason for this, only
a starved dog's logic about bones.'

Thursday 18 April 2013



Reif sind, in Feuer getaucht, gekochet
Die Frücht und auf der Erde geprüfet und ein Gesetz ist,
Daß alles hineingeht, Schlangen gleich,
Prophetisch, träumend auf
Den Hügeln des Himmels. Und vieles
Wie auf den Schultern eine
Last von Scheitern ist
Zu behalten. Aber bös sind
Die Pfade. Nämlich unrecht
Wie Rosse, gehn die gefangenen
Element und alten
Gesetze der Erd. Und immer
Ins Ungebundene gehet eine Sehnsucht. Vieles aber ist
Zu behalten. Und not die Treue.
Vorwärts aber und rückwärts wollen wir
Nicht sehn. Uns wiegen lassen, wie
Auf schwankem Kahne der See.

Wie aber Liebes? Sonnenschein
Am Boden sehen wir und trockenen Staub
Und heimatlich die Schatten der Wälder und es blühet
An Dächern der Rauch, bei alter Krone
Der Türme, friedsam; gut sind nämlich,
Hat gegenredend die Seele
Ein Himmlisches verwundet, die Tageszeichen.
Denn Schnee, wie Maienblumen
Das Edelmütige, wo
Es seie, bedeutend, glänzend auf
Der grünen Wiese
Der Alpen, hälftig, da, vom Kreuze redend, das
Gesetzt ist unterwegs einmal
Gestorbenen, auf hoher Straß
Ein Wandersmann geht zornig,
Fern ahnend mit
Dem andern, aber was ist dies?

Am Feigenbaum ist mein
Achilles mir gestorben,
Und Ajax liegt
An den Grotten der See,
An Bächen, benachbart dem Skamandros.
An Schläfen Sausen einst, nach
Der unbewegten Salamis steter
Gewohnheit, in der Fremd, ist groß
Ajax gestorben,
Patroklos aber in des Königes Harnisch. Und es starben
Noch andere viel. Am Kithäron aber lag
Elevtherä, der Mnemosyne Stadt. Der auch, als
Ablegte den Mantel Gott, das Abendliche nachher löste
Die Locken. Himmlische nämlich sind
Unwillig, wenn einer nicht die Seele schonend sich
Zusammengenommen, aber er muß doch; dem
Gleich fehlet die Trauer.


Friedrich Hölderlin (1803)

The fruits are ripe, dipped in fire,
Cooked and sampled on earth. And there's a law,

That things crawl off in the manner of snakes,
Prophetically, dreaming on the hills of heaven.
And there is much that needs to be retained,
Like a load of wood on the shoulders.
But the pathways are dangerous.
The captured elements and ancient laws of earth
Run astray like horses. There is a constant yearning
For all that is unconfined. But much needs
To be retained. And loyalty is required.
Yet we mustn't look forwards or backwards.
We should let ourselves be cradled
As if on a boat rocking on a lake.

But what about things that we love?
We see sun shining on the ground, and the dry dust,
And at home the forests deep with shadows,
And smoke flowering from the rooftops,
Peacefully, near the ancient crowning towers.
These signs of daily life are good,
Even when by contrast something divine
Has injured the soul.
For snow sparkles on an alpine meadow,
Half-covered with green, signifying generosity
Of spirit in all situations, like flowers in May —
A wanderer walks up above on a high trail
And speaks irritably to a friend about a cross
He sees in the distance, set for someone
Who died on the path... what does it mean?

My Achilles
Died near a fig tree,
And Ajax lies in the caves of the sea
Near the streams of Skamandros —
Great Ajax died abroad
Following Salamis' inflexible customs,
A rushing sound at his temples —
But Patroclus died in the King's armor.
Many others died as well.
But Eleutherai, the city
Of Mnemosyne, once stood upon
Mount Kithaeron. Evening
Loosened her hair, after the god
Had removed his coat.
For the gods are displeased
If a person doesn't compose
And spare himself. 
But one has to do it, 
And grief is soon gone.        

Tuesday 16 April 2013


And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

Monday 15 April 2013

torch song

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they'd say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I've a choice
of how, and I'll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it's all in the timing.
I sell men back their worst suspicions:
that everything's for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can't. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape's been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there's only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it's the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretense
that I can't hear them.
And I can't, because I'm after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don't let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I'll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That's what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look - my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.

Sunday 14 April 2013


'In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.'

Saturday 13 April 2013

a warning

'Imagining Cassandra'


'She simply arrives
one day unannounced
and makes herself at home, laughs
at my life, asks impertinent questions:
              (do you always lie to yourself like this?)

A young man at the bar tells me
violence is a feminist construct. Next
to him Cassandra laughs, looks at him
with longing: he is so young.

Attempts to lock her out meet her quiet
resistance, and she tells me to go
ahead and try, she has lived through
worse. Crosses her legs, waits to see
what happens. She is a poor guest, leaves
wet towels on the floor, drinks
all the soy milk - she is intolerant.

I'm telling you this so you can be prepared.
When she knocks on your door at 3 a.m.,
asks in her clear small voice if you can talk,
I'm just saying you might
want to think about it
before you open the door.'

Rhonda Douglas (2008), Some days I think I know things: the Cassandra poems.
Winnipeg/Manitoba: Signature Editions, p.9

Monday 8 April 2013


Go with muddy feet

When you hear dirty story wash your ears.
When you see ugly stuff wash your eyes.
When you get bad thoughts wash your mind.
and Keep your feet muddy.

Nanao Sakaki(1987)

cited in: Coleman Barks et al, 2002. Rumi, the book of love: poems of ecstacy and longing. HarperCollins e-books, p. 2.

Friday 5 April 2013


'But isn't the word the very thing that has taken control over our inner life? The fact that I lack words here: doesn't this mean that I am loosing myself? A curious notion: If a Cassandra were to appear now - and from the looks of things she must exist among the women here - I would not recognize her, because I would not understand her speech.'

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.161

Tuesday 2 April 2013


‘With myth everything becomes possible.’  

 Claude Levi-Strauss (1963)