the humbled heart :: siegfried sassoon

Go your seeking, soul.
Mine the proven path of time’s foretelling.
Yours accordance with some mysteried whole.
I am but your passion-haunted dwelling.

Bring what news you can,
Stranger, loved of body’s humbled heart.
Say one whispered word to mortal man
From that peace whereof he claims you part.

Hither-hence, my guest,
Blood and bone befriend, where you abide
Till withdrawn to share some timeless quest.
I am but the brain that dreamed and died.

requiem :: bei dao

translated by eliot weinberger and iona man-cheong

for Shanshan

The wave of that year
flooded the sands on the mirror
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and the meaning of leaving
the instant when all languages
are like shadows cast from the west

life’s only a promise
don’t grieve for it
before the garden was destroyed
we had too much time
debating the implications of a bird flying
as we knocked down midnight’s door

alone like a match polished into light
when childhood’s tunnel
led to a vein of dubious ore
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and poetry rectifying life
rectifies poetry’s echo

ballad of the comely woman :: t. alan broughton

As I walked out one day
I met on my path a woman
ugly as sin and walking a dog.
She stopped me and said, “Young man,

would you lie with me here
in this field where we’re alone,
only my dog as companion?”
The dog went chasing a squirrel.

I placed a hand most gently
on her arm and said, “Old woman,
I’ve a wife and loving son
dearer to me than my life.

I could not betray such presences.”
“Then,” she said, “how like you this?”
and stepping to me her limbs grew slim,
her bare breasts brushed my chest.

O love, more than my hair stood on end,
and the grass looked so very green
I could not resist lying down
with her beneath me. “What if,”

I said between our kisses, “you change
again?” “I’m always the same,” she said,
and therewith I was left with my face
in the sod and my own restless heart.

the leaving :: brigit pegeen kelly

My father said I could not do it,
but all night I picked the peaches.
The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily.
I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?
I had only one and a long patience with lit hands
and the looking of the stars which moved right through me
the way the water moved through the canals with a voice
that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering
and those who had gathered before me.
I put the peaches in the pond’s cold water,
all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands
twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors,
all night my back a straight road to the sky.
And then out of its own goodness, out
of the far fields of the stars, the morning came,
and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses
just after it has been rung, before the metal
begins to long again for the clapper’s stroke.
The light came over the orchard.
The canals were silver and then were not.
and the pond was–I could see as I laid
the last peach in the water–full of fish and eyes.

poppies :: mary oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

I looked for life and did a shadow see :: james galvin

Some little splinter
Of shadow purls
And weals down
The slewed stone
Chapel steps,
Slinks along
The riverrock wall
and disappears
Into the light.
Now ropy, riffled,
Now owlish, sere,
It smolders back
To sight beneath
A dwarfish, brindled tree
That chimes and sifts
And resurrects
In something’s sweet
And lethal breath.
This little shadow
Seems to know
(How can it know?
How can it not?)
Just when to flinch
Just where to loop and sag
And skitter down,
Just what to squirrel
And what to squander till
The light it lacks
Bleeds it back
And finds
My sleeping dark-haired girl —
O personal,
Impersonal,
Continual thrall —
And hammocks blue
In the hollows of her eyes.