tall to the sky

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Stewardess
Yehuda Amichai
A stewardess told us to extinguish all smoking materials
And did not detail, cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
I answered her in my heart: You have beautiful love material,
And I did not detail either.

And she told me to buckle up, bind myself
To the chair, and I answered:
I want all the buckles in my life to have the shape of your mouth.

And she said: You want coffee now or later,
Or never. And she passed by me
Tall to the sky.

The small scar at the top of her arm
Testified that she will never be touched by smallpox
And her eyes testified that she’ll never fall in love again:
She belongs to the conservative party
Of lovers of one great love in their life.

comes dear, going cheap

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It Comes Dear and It’s Going Cheap
Caj Westerberg

6
Sitting in a café
and through the window there’s a little tree. A maple.
Its leaves are fluttering.
Visible right up to the tip.
Then behind it, though actually it seems in front
a tram’s pulling up and stopping. It opens its throat
and teeth rear up.
Then the jaws clack shut and the whole contraption slides off.
In the maple
there’s a convulsion.

7
Buying and selling
selling and buying
our own life.
Bad, bad.
It comes dear
and it’s going cheap.

Photo by Lyndon Li on Unsplash

hidden

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Hidden
Naomi Shihab Nye
If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
sigh
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

pockets

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Pockets
Howard Nemerov
Are generally over or around
Erogenous zones, they seem to dive
In the direction of those

Dark places, and indeed
It is their nature to be dark
Themselves, keeping a kind

Of thieves’ kitchen for the things
Sequestered from the world
For long or little while,

The keys, the handkerchiefs,
The sad and vagrant little coins
That are really only passing through.

For all they locate close to lust,
No pocket ever sees another;
There is in fact a certain sadness

To pockets, going in their lonesome ways
And snuffling up their sifting storms
Of dust, tobacco bits and lint.

A pocket with a hole in it
Drops out; from shame, is that, or pride?
What is a pocket but a hole?

eros

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Eros
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

I.
Where is he taking us
now that he has turned back?

Where will this take us,
this fever,
spreading into light?

Nothing we have ever felt,
nothing we have dreamt,
or conjured in the night
or fashioned in loneliness,
can equal this.

Where is he taking us,
Eros,
now that he has turned back?

II.
My mouth is wet with your life,
my eyes blinded with your face,
a heart itself which feels
the intimate music.

My mind is caught,
dimmed with it,
(where is love taking us?)
my lips are wet with your life.

In my body were pearls cast,
shot with Ionian tints, purple,
vivid through the white.

III.
Keep love and he wings
with his bow,
up, mocking us,
keep love and he taunts us
and escapes.

Keep love and he sways apart
in another world,
outdistancing us.

Keep love and he mocks,
ah, bitter and sweet,
your sweetness is more cruel
than your hurt.

Honey and salt,
fire burst from the rocks
to meet fire
spilt from Hesperus.

Fire darted aloft and met fire,
and in that moment
love entered us.

IV.
Could Eros be kept,
he was prisoned long since
and sick with imprisonment,
could Eros be kept,
others would have taken him
and crushed out his life.

Could Eros be kept,
we had sinned against the great god,
we too might have prisoned him outright.

Could Eros be kept,
nay, thank him and the bright goddess
that he left us.

V.
Ah love is bitter and sweet,
but which is more sweet
the bitterness or the sweetness,
none has spoken it.

Love is bitter,
but can salt taint sea-flowers,
grief, happiness?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your lover if he crave it?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your lover if he wish it
for a new favourite,
who can say,
or is it sweet?

Is it sweet to possess utterly,
or is it bitter,
bitter as ash?

VI.
I had thought myself frail,
a petal
with light equal
on leaf and under-leaf.

I had thought myself frail;
a lamp,
shell, ivory or crust of pearl,
about to fall shattered,
with flame spent.

I cried:

“I must perish,
I am deserted in this darkness,
an outcast, desperate,”
such fire rent me with Hesperus,

Then the day broke.

VII.
What need of a lamp
when day lightens us,
what need to bind love
when love stands
with such radiant wings over us?

What need–
yet to sing love,
love must first shatter us.

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

moths

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Moths
Eavan Boland

Tonight the air smells of cut grass.
Apples rust on the branches. Already summer is
a place mislaid between expectation and memory.

This has been a summer for moths.
Their moment of truth comes well after dark.
Then they reveal themselves at our window-
ledges and sills as a pinpoint. A glimmer.

The books I look up about them are full of legends:
ghost-swift moths with their dancing assemblies at dusk.
Their courtship swarms. How some kinds may steer by the moon.

The moon is up. The back windows are wide open.
Mid-July fills the neighborhood. I stand by the hedge.

Once again they are near the windowsill—
fluttering past the fuchsia and the lavender,
which is knee-high, and too blue to warn them

they will fall down without knowing how
or why what they steered by became, suddenly,
what they crackled and burned around. They will perish—

I am perishing—on the edge and at the threshold of
the moment all nature fears and tends towards:

the stealing of the light. Ingenious facsimile.

And the kitchen bulb which beckons them makes
my child’s shadow longer than my own.

Photo by Timo Vijn on Unsplash

“languish in a grammar of sighs”

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What Language Did
Eavan Boland

The evening was the same as any other.
I came out and stood on the step.
The suburb was closed in the weather

of an early spring and the shallow tips
of washed-out yellows of narcissi
resisted dusk. And crocuses and snowdrops.

I stood there and felt the melancholy
of growing older in such a season,
when all I could be certain of was simply

in this time of fragrance and refrain,
whatever else might flower before the fruit,
and be renewed, I would not. Not again.

A car splashed by in the twilight.
Peat smoke stayed in the windless
air overhead and I might have missed:

a presence. Suddenly. In the very place
where I would stand in other dusks, and look
to pick out my child from the distance,

was a shepherdess, her smile cracked,
her arm injured from the mantelpieces
and pastorals where she posed with her crook.

Then I turned and saw in the spaces
of the night sky constellations appear,
one by one, over roof-tops and houses,

and Cassiopeia trapped: stabbed where
her thigh met her groin and her hand
her glittering wrist, with the pin-point of a star.

And by the road where rain made standing
pools of water underneath cherry trees,
and blossoms swam on their images,

was a mermaid with invented tresses,
her breasts printed with the salt of it and all
the desolation of the North Sea in her face.

I went nearer. They were disappearing.
Dusk had turned to night but in the air –
did I imagine it? – a voice was saying:

This is what language did to us. Here
is the wound, the silence, the wretchedness
of tides and hillsides and stars where

we languish in a grammar of sighs,
in the high-minded search for euphony,
in the midnight rhetoric of poesie.

We cannot sweat here. Our skin is icy.
We cannot breed here. Our wombs are empty.
Help us to escape youth and beauty.

Write us out of the poem. Make us human
in cadences of change and mortal pain
and words we can grow old and die in.