Words I said and never meant




        There are words
I've had to save myself from,
like My Lord and Blessed Mother,
words I said and never meant,
though I admit a part of me misses
the ornamental stateliness
of High Mass, that smell

        of incense. Heaven did exist,
I discovered, but was reciprocal
and momentary, like lust
felt at exactly the same time—
two mortals, say, on a resilient bed,
making a small case for themselves.

        You and I became the words
I'd say before I'd lay me down to sleep,
and again when I'd wake—wishful
words, no belief in them yet.
It seemed you'd been put on earth
to distract me
from what was doctrinal and dry.
Electricity may start things,
but if they're to last
I've come to understand
a steady, low-voltage hum

        of affection
must be arrived at. How else to offset
the occasional slide
into neglect and ill temper?
I learned, in time, to let heaven
go its mythy way, to never again

        be a supplicant
of any single idea. For you and me
it's here and now from here on in.
Nothing can save us, nor do we wish
to be saved.

        Let night come
with its austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
It can do us no harm.
We'll put some music on,
open the curtains, let things darken
as they will

Here and Now, Stephen Dunn

Photo: Lisbon, Cais das Colunas (today)

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
of your solitude, must be past

thousands, for you rode this plane
alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
well into the next hamlet, town,

city, the next century, as the trees twitch
and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll

wonder if this compass will ever change.
The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
to be close, so why should you?

Sally Wen Mao

No part, but a whole

How have I laboured?
How have I not laboured
To bring her soul to birth,
To give these elements a name and a centre!
She is beautiful as the sunlight, and as fluid.
She has no name, and no place.
How have I laboured to bring her soul into separation;
To give her a name and her being!

Surely you are bound and entwined,
You are mingled with the elements unborn;
I have loved a stream and a shadow.
I beseech you enter your life.
I beseech you learn to say ‘I’
When I question you;
For you are no part, but a whole,
No portion, but a being.

Ezra Pound, Ortus in The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917

LIFE WHILE-YOU-WAIT

Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run ?
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.

Wislawa SzymborskaPoems New and Collected 1957-1997, trans. S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh

Is this then a book

Os Livros

É então isto um livro,

este, como dizer?, murmúrio,

este rosto virado para dentro de

alguma coisa escura que ainda não existe

que, se uma mão subitamente

inocente a toca,

se abre desamparadamente

como uma boca

falando com a nossa voz?

É isto um livro,

esta espécie de coração (o nosso coração)

dizendo “eu” entre nós e nós?

Manuel António Pina

Books

Is this then a book,

this, how shall I say? murmur,

this face turned to the inside

of something dark that doesn’t yet exist,

that if touched

by a suddenly innocent hand

opens helplessly

like a mouth

speaking in our own voice?

Is this a book,

this kind of heart (our heart)

saying ‘I’ between we and us?

Translated by Ana Hudson

we make mistakes and call them coincidences

If we never have enough love, we have more than most.
We have lost dogs in our neighborhood and wild coyotes,
and sometimes we can’t tell them apart. Sometimes
we don’t want to. Once I brought home a coyote and told
my lover we had a new pet. Until it ate our chickens.
Until it ate our chickens, our ducks, and our cat. Sometimes
we make mistakes and call them coincidences. We hold open
the door then wonder how the stranger ended up in our home.
There is a woman on our block who thinks she is feeding bunnies,
but they are large rats without tails. Remember the farmer’s wife?
Remember the carving knife? We are all trying to change
what we fear into something beautiful. But even rats need to eat.
Even rats and coyotes and the bones on the trail could be the bones
on our plates. I ordered Cornish hen. I ordered duck. Sometimes
love hurts. Sometimes the lost dog doesn’t want to be found.

Hunger by Kelli Russel Agodon

 

Photo: Hard Club, Porto (2014)

The syntax of things

since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool

while Spring is in the world

my blood approves

and kisses are a better fate

than wisdom

lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry

—the best gesture of my brain is less than

your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms

for life’s not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis

e.e. cummings, Since feeling is first

Photo: streets of Porto. May there be forgiveness for the word.

I do pay too much attention to the “syntax of things” and it’s becoming harder to move beyond words.