Going Blind

She sat at tea just like the others. First
I merely had a notion that this guest
Held up her cup not quite like all the rest.
And once she gave a smile. It almost hurt.

When they arose at last, with the talk and laughter,
And ambled slowly and as chance dictated
Through many rooms, their voices animated,
I saw her seek the noise and follow after,

Held in like one who in a little bit
Would have to sing where many people listened;
Her lighted eyes, which spoke of gladness, glistened
With outward luster, as a pond is lit.

She followed slowly, and it took much trying,
As though some obstacle still barred her stride;
And yet as if she on the farther side
Might not be walking any more, but flying.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated from the German by Walter Arndt

end

A noiseless patient spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever reeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres
to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile
anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

— Walt Whitman

end

On Turning Fifty

                    for Larry Apple on his birthday

It is not the spirit now, but the arch
of each foot that must be buttressed; to lift
is no shame to the lifter; neither church
nor state can refuse the determined drift
back toward the earth. Yet not with the lurch
of the frightened driver learning to shift
for the first time, death-grip on the clutch
as he gropes from forty into fifty.

But gently now, the way a sheet is spread
fresh from the line above the unmade bed
falling so slowly it hovers midspace
and seems angels lie round a picnic cloth.
The harried driver thinks such case is sloth;
the sated angels know it’s only grace.

— Steve Kronen

end

Seen fleetingly, from a train

Seen fleetingly, from a train:
a foggy evening, strands of smoke
hanging immobile over fields,
the humid blackness of earth, the sun
almost set—against its fading shield,
far away, two dots: women in dark wraps
coming back from church perhaps, perhaps
one tells something to another, some common story,
of sinful lives perhaps—her words
distinct and simple but out of them
one could create everything
again. Keep it in memory, forever:
the sun, ploughed earth, women,
love, evening, those few words
good for the beginning, keep it all—
perhaps tomorrow we will be
somewhere else, altogether.

— Bronislaw Maj

Translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass

end

Video Blues

My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy,
and likes to rent her movies, for a treat.
It makes some evenings harder to enjoy.

The list of actresses who might employ
him as their slave is too long to repeat.
(My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy,

Carole Lombard, Paulette Goddard, coy
Jean Arthur with that voice as dry as wheat . . .)
It makes some evenings harder to enjoy.

Does he confess all this just to annoy
a loyal spouse? I know I can’t compete.
My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy.

And can’t a woman have her dreamboats? Boy,
I wouldn’t say my life is incomplete,
but some evening I could certainly enjoy

two hours with Cary Grant as my own toy.
I guess, though, we were destined not to meet.
My husband has a crush on Myrna Loy,
which makes some evenings harder to enjoy.

— Mary Jo Salter

end

The World Before Them

Actually, it was sweet and heavy with juice
and we passed it back and forth, a river
of nectar running down her chin and mine
until we were full and our faces shone
and could not tell receiver from giver.
I loved its weight in my hand, bruised
just a little from having fallen
from those high, green limbs. And we took its seed
and planted more when we left that place
so we’d always be sure to have its taste
upon our tongues. That was her idea, freed
us from working about the future. And all in
all, we didn’t. We ate them to the core.
It’s as though we’d been provided for.

— Steve Kronen

end

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                            i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which
         grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

— e.e. cummings

end