translated by coleman barks
Some people work and become wealthy. Others do the same and
remain poor. Marriage
fills one with energy. Another it drains. Don’t trust ways.
They change. A means
flails about like a donkey’s tail. Always add the gratitude
clause, if God wills. Then
proceed. You may be leading a donkey, no, a goat, no, who can
tell? We sit in a dark pit
and think we’re home. We pass around delicacies. Poisoned
bait. You think this
is preachy double-talk? Those who do not breathe the God
willing phrase live in a
collective blindness. Rubbing their eyes in the dark,
they ask, “Who’s there?”
The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other.
His watch is wicked, going on
without him. Pass your hand
across the blue man’s lips and
Q.E.D. We know we breathe
(and quite without our help) but then
we know we know, and so forget.
It’s strange to be alive but we
have not felt awe since we were someone’s
kid, and that was once
upon a time. In time we taught ourselves
to find the world mundane, and all
the unknown unsurprising, like
next Sunday, for example.
God himself gets bored, God knows.
On holidays we like to make
some sugar on a rope, some fallout
in the form of rocks,
the Science City someone gave
to Junior, Christmas Day. And you can etch
your name in the petri dish with pure
bacteria, or in the virgin snow with piss.
We draw lines at skin, for different,
at heart for dead; the EEG goes on all by itself. We used
to sing, and when we did, we sensed
the air itself was lively; then we fell
back into dream, we froze. And all night long
in the drawing room, after the household’s asleep,
the crystal grows.
(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill−more of each
than you have−inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditioned breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Makes the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
Courtesy of E.S.
translated by a. s. kline
The girl with the lovely face,
goes, gathering olives.
The wind, that towering lover,
takes her by the waist.
Four riders go by
on Andalusian ponies,
in azure and emerald suits,
in long cloaks of shadow.
‘Come to Cordoba, sweetheart!’
The girl does not listen.
Three young bullfighters go by,
slim-waisted in suits of orange,
with swords of antique silver.
‘Come to Sevilla, sweetheart!’
The girl does not listen.
When the twilight purples,
with the daylight’s dying,
a young man goes by, holding
roses, and myrtle of moonlight.
‘Come to Granada, my sweetheart!’
But the girl does not listen.
The girl, with the lovely face,
goes on gathering olives,
while the wind’s grey arms
go circling her waist.
translated by naomi lazard
This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
It stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.
The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.
Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.
Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.