view with a grain of sand :: wislawa szymborska

We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect, or apt.

Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it.
It doesn’t feel itself seen and touched.
And that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it, it is no different from falling on anything else
with no assurance that it has finished falling
or that it is falling still.

The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, painless.

The lake’s floor exists floorlessly,
and its shore exists shorelessly.
Its water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows.

A second passes.
A second second.
A third.
But they’re three seconds only for us.

Time has passed like a courier with urgent news.
But that’s just our simile.
The character is invented, his haste is make-believe,
his news inhuman.

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to play pianissimo :: lola haskins

Does not mean silence.
The absence of moon in the day sky
for example.

Does not mean barely to speak,
the way a child’s whisper
makes only warm air
on his mother’s right ear.

To play pianissimo
is to carry sweet words
to the old lady sitting in the last dark row
who cannot hear anything else,
and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.

you can’t have it all :: barbara ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam’s twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can’t count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s,
it will always whisper, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.

I will be out of the country for the next two weeks. And while they have Internet everywhere, I have asked S.L. to post poems in my absence. She has been collecting them like rain drops for you.

the layers :: stanley kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

meniere’s :: sue walker

And when she awoke
and sat on the side of the bed
and screamed, “Whoa!”
and her husband said, “Don’t yell”
and the world shifted on its axis
and was down-side-up, up-side-down
and she remembered that in the middle
of the night edging toward morning,
she’d heard in the distance a car horn,
and said to herself: “Hold on
to that twangggg or you’ll disappear”
and then it was morning and the room
was spinning, and red was streaming
into yellow-gold, into amber-redgreenblue
and the hands of the clock twisted
round and seven was sixty-seven
and no time at all, and she lay back
on the pillow and the long days of her life
threaded through her eye and ear,
through her mouthmouthmouth
that was moving trying to say,
tryingtosay, lips moving
and yesterday came up then
out of her stomach outout upoutup
and in her ear, her heart was beating,
a hammer making its rise and fall,
upand down, downdowndown,
the sound of down ringing
in her ear, and she could hear,
she could not hear, and all the time
her life coming up, throwing up
in time that was not time,
that was morning and was not
and was then another day
and the doctor said
idiopathicendolymphatic hydrops,
and she said, “What? what?”
and he said, “Meniere’s”
and said it couldn’t be cured,
and she said, “Couldn’t?” Said “Can’t?”
and he said, “Too much fluid secreted
by the stria vascularis,
but there is an intratympanic
gentamicin treatment
as a last resort,” and she said,
“Yes,” she’d book a flight to Miami,
stay overnight, fly to Aruba, check
into the Riu Paradise Hotel, lie on the sand,
let waves wash over her, and swear
it would not be the last,
no, not the last resort at all.

Journal of the American Medical Association.
2009;301(20):2074.

Courtesy of S.L.

jacaranda :: shirley kaufman

Because the branches hang down with blossoms
for only a few weeks, lavender clumps
that let go quickly
and drop to the ground,

because the flowers are so delicate
even their motion through the air
bruises them,
and they lie where they fall
like tiny pouches of shriveled skin,

because our lives are sagging with marvels
ready to fail us,
clusters of faces drifting away,

what’s settled for is not nearly
what we are after, claims
we keep making or are made on us.
But the recurrence of change
can still surprise us, lilac
that darts and flickers
like the iridescent head of a fly,
and the tree making us
look again.