Colors are words’ little sisters. They can’t become soldiers.
I’ve loved them secretly for a long time.
They have to stay home and hang up the sheer curtains
of our familiar kitchen, bedroom and den.
I’m very close to young Crimson, and brown Sienna
but even closer to thoughtful Cobalt with her distant eyes and
We walk in dew.
The night sky and the southern ocean
are her possessions
and a tear-shaped pendant on her forehead:
the pearls of Cassiopeia.
We walk in dew on late nights.
But the others.
Meet them on a June morning at four o’clock
when they come rushing toward you,
on your way to a morning swim in the green cove’s spray.
When you can sunbathe with them on the smooth rocks.
-Which one will you make yours?
At Some Point They’ll Want to Know What It Was Like
–Tracy K. Smith
There was something about how it felt. Not just the during —
That rough churn of bulk and breath, limb and tooth, the mass of us,
The quickness we made and rode — but mostly the before.
The waiting, knowing what would become. Pang. Pleasure then pain.
Then the underwater ride of after. Thrown-off like a coat over a bridge.
Somehow you’d just give away what you’d die without. You just gave.
The best was having nothing. No hope. No name in the throat.
And finding the breath in you, the body, to ask.
Oh, this one makes me ache. Ache. Ache. “Surely this/is the only thing we’ve never/wanted to talk about”.
Tiden går (hva skal den ellers ta seg til).
En dag hører du den banker på døren din.
Den har banket på hos oss,
men jeg lukket ikke opp.
Ikke denne gang.
jeg har ofte stått og sett litt på deg,
sånn om morgenen foran speilet der
når du kjemmer håret ditt, det
knitrer i det, som i sne i påskefjellet
og du bøyer deg litt frem (jeg ser det godt)
– er det kommet en rynke til?
– Det er det ikke. For meg
er du ung.
Det er sevje i deg, skog. Et tre
og med fugler i. De synger enda.
Kanskje litt lavt i høst, men likevel.
– Ikke en dag uten en latter i strupen,
eller det sakte streifet av en hånd.
må jeg holde den enda fastere,
for du vet, vi skal ut å reise snart,
og ikke med samme båt.
Noen har banket på døren vår, men gått igjen.
er visst det eneste vi aldri
har villet snakke om.
(Written toward the end of the Vietnam War.)
No longer troubling to charm, curt,
without cadence, they bark their lies,
impatient of our credulity,
like teachers who repeat the lesson
for idiots stuck on the first page.
They pity themselves, complain
our stupidity forces them to lie,
and say, Why can’t we do as we please?
Their guile, complaints, their greediness.
Capable of nurture only, we
are like mothers, we nourish them,
believe what they say and repeat it
for one another, knowing the while
credulity isn’t enough
and something not easy is required,
a pretense of intelligence,
a sacrifice, a faith they could believe
worthy of their treachery, worth
betraying. It is adversaries they crave,
and what lies we think we hear are
higher truths we have overheard.
the children sitting in a ring, we take up
the papers, speak aloud the pathos
and mystery of our leaders’ lives.
Alone, in dark chambers, in ordinary-
seeming chairs, at the innermost recession
of a thousand thoughts, they reach decisions,
while wives bring warmth and grace and wit
(we venerate their warmth and grace and wit)
when they are tired or under the weather,
servants trot softly in the hallways
with urgent whispers, vehement faces,
and only with the utmost diffidence
their dogs roll over — lips in rictus,
eyes alert, little paws held up like sticks
— begging to have their bellies scratched.
To know this is a constant pleasure!
Then, to move our coarse fingers along the lines,
over the inscrutable words, to murmur their names,
to feel ourselves becoming more human,
to draw close about the fire!
At such moments,
overcome by shame for our clamorous natures,
we look down, our eyes seek out the children,
we see their small heads, unimaginably
like ours, bent above the pages, the furious
concentration that grips their innocent,
unblemished faces, their minds that leap ahead
to seize the ending before the tale is done.
This generation, we say to ourselves,
They will be different, They will be better!
Powerfully, they bend our eyebeams to themselves
— we see, we feel them bending within
our unbreakable domestic circle.
This is awesome, this is more than sweet.
And what would life be without affection!
— it is our solace, our achievement,
it is the language we speak.
It says that everything is true.
And truly, as we disbelieve less, the world
becomes miraculous beyond believing,
though less a place requiring us, less, at last,
The thought of our nonentity,
the world without us, this large bare ball
flying empty into the empty day,
is stunning, takes our breath, like something
intimate and alien, like a knife
in the lungs.
Our leaders chide us,
for sentimental, for living in others,
but can they guess our helplessness?
We break another stick from the ramparts
and thrust it on the fire set blazing
by all the power of our affection
— and another necessary lie comes
quiet from the matterless night, settles
panting beside us, warms a bloody muzzle
between paws, snuggles down toward sleep.
So everything ends, like this, near a fire
in silence and wonder, our fingers idly
soothing a murderer’s nape, and somewhere
out there, a last bitter scream doesn’t stop.
They don’t bother stifling it,
even with a lie.