Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Evening

Winter Evening

Ah, how the snow has snowed!
My window is a garden of frost.
Ah, how the snow has snowed!
The brief spasm of life is lost
In the sorrow that I know, that I know!

Here lie the tarns all frozen,
My soul is dark: Where to go? Where stay?
Here lie its hopes all frozen;
I have become a new Norway
And all my pale skies are fallen.

Weep, you birds of deep winter,
The mortal cold hardens and grows.
Weep, you birds of deep winter,
Weep for my tears, weep for my rose,
From the branches of the juniper.

Ah, how the snow has snowed!
My window is a garden of frost.
Ah, how the snow has snowed!
The brief spasm of life is lost
In the void hours that I know, that I know!

Emile Nelligan
(my translation)

I've never quite known what to make of Emile Nelligan -- he is such a mournful Verlaine manqué (not even Rimbaud, depite his youth, which might be an improvement, but Verlaine) that I'm not sure whether to take him seriously. So I would like to thank and acknowledge Clarissa Aykroyd at The Stone and the Star who recently posted her own sensitive version of Nelligan's Soir d'Hiver (here)-- and hers is, I think, in many ways a better poem than my own, more ploddingly literal attempt ... "but there is no competition," as Eliot writes in East Coker: "There is only the fight to recover what has been lost / And found and lost again and again.... But perhaps neither gain nor loss. / For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

You can also hear Soir d'Hiver sung by Claude Léveillée here.


Sunday, December 15, 2013


Anna and Ben
Jefferson National Forest, 2009


Knowing this turgid bumbler’s teary bafflement will cease,
this sloppy, warm knot of blood and failure and shit
will slack and unravel in cooling ash or the cold pit,
this absurd creature will end, is comfort and release,
but that these two -- here twelve and eight, mugging at ease
for the camera as if their miraculous bodies will not forget
our few days of leveraged grace, our summer cabin sunlit
and shaded like the only emblem of my only peace --
knowing they will die, or, worse, tremble in fear of death,
as they will do, and soon, I would beat to shards the stone
that frames this fucking world or trade for their one more breath
this yet strong body and all the years still to weigh it down,
would damn any god for their pain and rip the sky down,
would howl in dark hell, where my father has gone before me down.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

She had become my Sabbath

All Last Night

All last night I had quiet
In a fragrant dream and warm:
She had become my Sabbath,
And round my neck, her arm.

I knew the warmth in my dreaming;
The fragrance, I suppose,
Was her hair about me,
Or else she wore a rose.

Her hair I think, for likest
Woodruffe 'twas, when Spring
Loitering down the wet woodways
Treads it sauntering.

No light, nor any speaking;
Fragrant only and warm.
Enough to know my lodging,
The white Sabbath of her arm.

Lascelles Abercrombie

Monday, November 4, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

some other year

I told you: look, it is snowing!

It was beginning 
just then, outside 

in the winter sunlight,
first flakes erratic and 

quick, from a cloud-
swept wilderness.

You were three years old.
I loved you, and

the same snow was falling 
in some other year

when I was lonely.

for Maggie, Anna, and Ben

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

(the dark language of autumn rain heard through the open window as i post this)

I cannot be grasped in the here and now. For I reside just as much with the dead as with the unborn.
Somewhat closer to the heart of creation than usual.
But not nearly close enough.

--Paul Klee

Saturday, October 12, 2013

It is not possible for the moon

This mangled, smutted semi-world hacked out

Of dirt . . . It is not possible for the moon
To blot this with its dove-winged blendings.

She must come now. The grass is in seed and high.
Come now. Those to be born have need

Of the bride, love being a birth, have need to see
And to touch her . . . .

Come now, pearled and pasted, bloomy-leafed,
While the domes resound with chant involving chant.

Wallace Stevens
from "Ghosts as Cocoons"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My whole mortality trembling to take thy body

from "The Eternal Wedding"

She:  What hast thou done to me! -- I would have soul,
Before I knew thee, Love, a captive held 
By flesh. Now, inly delighted with desire, 
My body knows itself to be nought else 
But thy heart’s worship of me; and my soul 
Therein is sunlight held by warm gold air. 
Nay, all my body is become a song 
Upon the breath of spirit, a love-song. 

He:  And mine is all like one rapt faculty,
As it were listening to the love in thee, 
My whole mortality trembling to take 
Thy body like heard singing of thy spirit. 

She:  Surely by this, Beloved, we must know
Our love is perfect here,—that not as holds 
The common dullard thought, we are things lost 
In an amazement that is all unware; 
But wonderfully knowing what we are! 
Lo, now that body is the song whereof 
Spirit is mood, knoweth not our delight? 
Knoweth not beautifully now our love, 
That Life, here to this festival bid come 
Clad in his splendour of worldly day and night, 
Filled and empower’d by heavenly lust, is all 
The glad imagination of the Spirit? 

He:  Were it not so, Love could not be at all:
Nought could be, but a yearning to fullfil 
Desire of beauty, by vain reaching forth 
Of sense to hold and understand the vision 
Made by impassion’d body,—vision of thee! 
But music mixt with music are, in love, 
Bodily senses; and as flame hath light, 
Spirit this nature hath imagined round it, 
No way concealed therein, when love comes near, 
Nor in the perfect wedding of desires 
Suffering any hindrance. 

She:  Ah, but now,
Now am I given love’s eternal secret! 
Yea, thou and I who speak, are but the joy 
Of our for ever mated spirits; but now 
The wisdom of my gladness even through Spirit 
Looks, divinely elate. Who hath for joy 
Our Spirits? Who hath imagined them 
Round him in fashion’d radiance of desire, 
As into light of these exulting bodies 
Flaming Spirit is uttered? 

He:  Yea, here the end
Of love’s astonishment! Now know we Spirit, 
And Who, for ease of joy, contriveth Spirit. 
Now all life’s loveliness and power we have 
Dissolved in this one moment, and our burning 
Carries all shining upward, till in us 
Life is not life, but the desire of God, 
Himself desiring and himself accepting. 
Now what was prophecy in us is made 
Fulfilment: we are the hour and we are the joy, 
We in our marvellousness of single knowledge, 
Of Spirit breaking down the room of fate 
And drawing into his light the greeting fire 
Of God,—God known in ecstasy of love 
Wedding himself to utterance of himself 

Lascelles Abercrombie
Emblems of Love

Sunday, September 22, 2013

to run the mad woods


Mă bucur să-mi umplu părul cu voi, frunze de toamnă,
să fug prin pădurea nebună, căzând şi râzând, şi să-mi zgârii
obrazul, în scoicile voastre scorţoase … Mă bucur să-mplânt
în toamnă roşcată strigătul meu adânc, singuratic,
sub bolţile pline de aer uscat, de foşnet de vânt,
să fug, să cad şi să râd pe pământul împodobit
de galbenul tău sărut cu o mie de buze, toamnă!

Nina Cassian


What joy to adorn my hair with you, autumn leaves,
to run the mad woods, falling and laughing, and abrade 
my tender cheek on your crisp shells….. What joy 
to thrust a whoop deep into the ruddy weather, lonely
under the vaults of dry air and wind-rustle,
to run fall laugh on an earth illuminated,
autumn, by your thousand lips’ yellow kiss!

(my translation)


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

exiled, stubborn Desire

Le Positivisme

Il s’ouvre par-delà toute science humaine
Un vide dont la Foi fut prompte à s’emparer.
De cet abîme obscur elle a fait son domaine ;
En s’y précipitant elle a cru l’éclairer.
Eh bien ! nous t’expulsons de tes divins royaumes,
Dominatrice ardente, et l’instant est venu
Tu ne vas plus savoir où loger tes fantômes ;
Nous fermons l’Inconnu.

Mais ton triomphateur expiera ta défaite.
L’homme déjà se trouble, et, vainqueur éperdu,
Il se sent ruiné par sa propre conquête
En te dépossédant nous avons tout perdu.
Nous restons sans espoir, sans recours, sans asile,
Tandis qu’obstinément le Désir qu’on exile
Revient errer autour du gouffre défendu.

Louise Ackermann


Beyond the radius of all human knowledge
yawns a gulf that Faith claimed as her own.
She made that black abyss her domain
and believed she lighted it by throwing herself in.
But now! We expel you from your divine kingdoms,
ardent imperatrix, and in the new dawn
you will have nowhere to lodge your phantoms.
We slam closed the unknown.

But your vanquisher will suffer your defeat.
Man, this lost conqueror, already senses disquiet
and feels himself ruined by his own conquest.
In despoiling you, we find everything spoiled.
We rest without hope, without recourse, without asylum,
while exiled, stubborn Desire sneaks home
    and strays bewildered around the forbidden void.

(my translation)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

limitless, limitless

Méditation grisâtre

Sous le ciel pluvieux noyé de brumes sales,
Devant l'Océan blême, assis sur un îlot,
Seul, loin de tout, je songe au clapotis du flot,
Dans le concert hurlant des mourantes rafales.

Crinière échevelée ainsi que des cavales,
Les vagues se tordant arrivent au galop
Et croulent à mes pieds avec de longs sanglots
Qu'emporte la tourmente aux haleines brutales.

Partout le grand ciel gris, le brouillard et la mer,
Rien que l'affolement des vents balayant l'air.
Plus d'heures, plus d'humains, et solitaire, morne,

Je reste là, perdu dans l'horizon lointain,
Et songe que l'Espace est sans borne, sans borne,
Et que le Temps n'aura jamais ... jamais de fin.

Jules Laforgue

Meditation in Gray

Under a rainy sky drowned in dirty mists,
Facing the pallid ocean from a small island,
Alone, far from all, I muse on waves lapping sand,
The howling concert of spiteful, dying gusts.

Manes tangled like routed cavalry mounts,
Waves twist themselves ashore at a gallop
And collapse with the sobbing free of hope
That brutal breath learns from long torments.

All is fog and water, a vast sky‘s matte glare,
Nothing else but the panic of wind sweeping air.
Sick of the hours, sick of people -- I think on loss

And languish and sit alone, the distances blind,
And dread that Space is limitless, limitless,
And that Time will never… never have an end.

(my translation)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Animaeque corporis colloquium

Corpus: The cormorant seems almost not there,
but intensely not,
a dense, muscled absence precipitated from the air.
I understand this
because I have been dying
for fifty years.

Anima:  Ah ...

Monday, September 9, 2013

the good afterlife

Your husband thinks of you from an autumn day in the good afterlife

He could fix his gaze
on the algae-slicked sides of stumps
waterlogged black among weeds

or notice how the dull gloss of the day lingers
on detail, pad and claw of a small animal’s
sharp prints across wet sand

ending where wind-driven ripples
ruffle up and slack down, retreat
and erase the farthest pair of tracks,

but the pale ribs and thighs of birch
gleam among tamarack on the other shore
and call him across the fifty-yard

reach of unstill, iron-gray water.
He wants to stand and walk to the trees,
glance back and see this shore dwindle,

a small, lighted room
glimpsed through a distant door
whose life he could cover with a raised palm,

and for a few beats he is back in those years,
and if he starts to sink, he will pull water
cold into his chest like nightfall and will sink.

But instead he remembers the last breath
before meeting you, the steps barefoot
across carpet to your knock,

the last step and pause at the door
where you waited on the other side,
that final moment of the old life

when the two of you stood face
to face like lovers -- not touching yet,
though the only barrier left to solve

was two inches of blank wood and a lock.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

I shall be reborn

a poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez
translated by Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres

I shall be reborn as a stone,
and woman I shall still love you.

I shall be reborn as the wind,
and woman I shall still love you.

I shall be reborn as a wave,
and woman I shall still love you.

I shall be reborn as fire,
and woman I shall still love you.

I shall be reborn as a man,
and woman I shall still love you.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

things founded clean on their own shapes

The Peninsula

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks so you will not arrive

But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable,
And you’re in the dark again. Now recall

The glazed foreshore and the silhouetted log,
The rock where breakers shredded into rags,
The leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog,

And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.

Seamus Heaney
Door into the Dark

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

every garden is like a vast hospital

What is certain and no laughing matter is that existence is an evil for all the parts which make up the universe ... Not only individual men, but the whole human race was and always will be necessarily unhappy. Not only the human race but the whole animal world. Not only animals but all other beings in their way. Not only individuals, but species, genera, realms, spheres, systems, worlds.

Go into a garden of plants, grass, flowers. No matter how lovely it seems. Even in the mildest season of the year. You will not be able to look anywhere and not find suffering. That whole family of vegetation is in a state of souffrance, each in its own way. Here a rose is attacked by the sun, which has given it life; it withers, languishes, wilts. There a lily is sucked cruelly by a bee, in its most sensitive, most life-giving parts. Sweet honey is not produced by industrious, patient, good, virtuous bees without unspeakable torment for those most delicate fibers, without the pitiless massacre of flowerets. That tree is infested by an ant colony, that other one by caterpillars, flies, snails, mosquitoes ... The spectacle of such abundance of life when you first go into this garden lifts your spirits, and that is why you think it is a joyful place. But in truth this life is wretched and unhappy, every garden is like a vast hospital (a place much more deplorable than a cemetery), and if these beings feel, or rather, were to feel, surely not being would be better for them than being.

Giacomo Leopardi

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

black blade

I saw a redhaired girl walking under sunlit trees 

Years later I knew that
 if I have a heart at all
 it is a black
 blade that God

 whets on a numb stone
 hidden in his own murderous chest,
 a dry, anticipatory

 He tests
 the edge on the fat curve
 of his thumb and

 sucks a drop
 of coppery blood.

Monday, August 19, 2013

the birds of the air

There was a Young Lady in White,
Who looked out at the depths of the Night;
But the birds of the air
Filled her heart with despair,
And oppressed that Young Lady in White.

Edward Lear

Friday, August 16, 2013

this waking amongst men

ben at lake michigan, april 2010

Whatever the difference is, it all began
the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers
and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again,
possessed him, till it would not fall or waver;
and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin
but his own smile, or one I'd rediscovered.
Dear son, I was mezzo del cammin
and the true path was as lost to me as ever
when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.
See how the true gift never leaves the giver:
returned and redelivered, it rolled on
until the smile poured through us like a river.
How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!
I kissed your mouth and pledged myself forever.

Don Paterson,
"Waking with Russell"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

the shore broke from the sea and trailed in your wake

Viaţa mea se iluminează

Părul tău e mai decolorat de soare,
regina mea de negru şi de sare.

Ţărmul s-a rupt de mare şi te-a urmat
ca o umbră, ca un şarpe dezarmat.

Trec fantome ale verii în declin,
corăbiile sufletului meu marin.

Şi viaţa mea se iluminează,
sub ochiul tău verde la amiază,
cenuşiu ca pământul la amurg.
Oho, alerg şi salt şi curg.

Mai lasă-mă un minut,
Mai lasă-mă o secundă,
Mai lasă-mă o frunză, un fir de nisip.
Mai lasă-mă o briză, o undă.

Mai lasă-mă un anotimp, un an, un timp.

Nichita Stanescu

My Life Is Bright

Your hair bleaches in the sun,
my queen, dark and salt-spun.

The shore broke from the sea and trailed in your wake
like a shadow, like a fangless snake.

Ghosts of the ebbing summer tack and roll,
ships of my marine soul.

And my life floods with light
under your eye, green when the sky is bright,
gray as earth under a setting sun.
Oh, I frisk and flow and run.

Allow me a minute more.
Allow me a second more.
Allow me a leaf, a grain of sand.
Allow me a breeze, a wave to the shore.

Allow me this time of year, a year, a time.

(my translation)

Monday, July 29, 2013

accidents of light and shadow (pond, july 28)

A silvery scarce-call-silver gloss
Lighted the watery-plated leaves.

G.M. Hopkins
a fragment of an unwritten poem

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"feels like 39 / 102 degrees"

kilarney provincial park. april, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

solitude weaves its roughcast

Si je criais à m'en rompre les veines
Qu'ajouterais-je au vent
Qui tourne dans la cour

Si je riais à m'en rompre les vitres
Qu'ajouterais-je aux nuits
Qui gardent ma maison

Si je pleurais à m'en rompre les paumes
Qu'ajouterais-je au lit
Où mon corps fait défaut

Une rose trémière enclose dans ma bouche
Réserve son pollen
Pour l'abeille du jour

Insecte mort je suis
Cloué sur un mur lisse
La solitude y tisse son crépi
La solitude y tisse
La solitude

--Jean-Pierre Armand

If I cried out hard enough to burst my veins
What would I add to the wind
That swirls in the courtyard

If I laughed hard enough to shatter my windows
What would I add to the nights
That guard my house

If I wept hard enough to break my palms
What would I add to the bed
Where my body is absent

A rose trémière closed in my mouth
Keeps its pollen
For the bee of day

Dead insect I am
Nailed to a smooth wall
There solitude weaves its roughcast
There solitude weaves
Its solitude

(my translation)

Sunday, June 23, 2013


flowers in my mother's yard

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013



Ce corps? Est-ce moi,
Ou suis-je lui?

Je regarde ma main
presque transparente
sous la lumière crue
de la lampe.
- Ces doigts inégaux et obtus!
Je regarde ma main;
Elle me demeure étrangère.

Ce visage dans ce miroir,
- Ce front trop haut
Ces yeux trop fixes,
À qui sont-ils?

Je marche, je mange et je bois,
Je fais l'amour et je dors
Je jouis de la vie
Et je jongle avec la mort.

À tout ceci mon corps
Demeure étranger.
Ne se teinte-t-il jamais
de ma pensée?

Est-il trop moi
Ou suis-je trop lui?
Ainsi que ces objets familiers
Qu'on ne remarque plus
Tant on les a vus,
Tant ils sont en nous.

Rosaire Dion-Lévesque

The Stranger

This body? Is it me,
or am I it?

I look at my hand,
under the lamp's
raw light.
--Such uneven, blunt digits!
I look at my hand:
a stranger to me.

This face in the mirror.
--Brow too high,
eyes too fixed,
whose are they?

I walk, eat, drink.
I make love and sleep.
I relish my life
and juggle with death.

In all this, my body
is still a stranger.
Does it never hold
the tint of my thought?

Is it too much me
or I too much it?
Like those familiar objects
we no longer notice,
we've seen them so much,
they are so deep in us.

(my translation)