translated by w. s. merwin
It happens that one pronounces
a few words just for oneself
alone on this strange earth
then the small white flower
the pebble like all those that went before
the sprig of stubble
find themselves re-united
at the foot of the gate
which one opens slowly
to enter the house of clay
while chairs, table, cupboard,
blaze in a sun of glory.
When latest autumn spreads her evening veil,
And the gray mists from these dim waves arise,
I love to listen to the hollow sighs
Through the half leafless wood that breathes the gale.
For at such hours the shadowy phantom pale,
Oft seems to fleet before the poet’s eyes;
Strange sounds are heard, and mournful melodies
As of night-wanderers who their woes bewail.
Here by his native stream, at such an hour,
Pity’s own Otway I methinks could meet
And hear his deep sighs swell the saddened wind!
O Melancholy, such thy magic power
That to the soul these dreams are often sweet
And soothe the pensive visionary mind.
Night from a railroad car window
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light.
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh…And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new
Courtesy of C.A.
Last night, when the moon
slipped into my attic room
as an oblong of light,
I sensed she’d come to commiserate.
It was August. She traveled
with a small valise
of darkness, and the first few stars
returning to the northern sky,
and my room, it seemed,
had missed her. She pretended
an interest in the bookcase
while other objects
stirred, as in a rock pool,
with unexpected life:
strings of beads in their green bowl gleamed,
the paper-crowded desk;
the books, too, appeared inclined
to open and confess.
Being sure the moon
harbored some intention,
I waited; watched for an age
her cool gaze shift
first toward a flower sketch
pinned on the far wall
then glide down to recline
along the pinewood floor,
before I’d had enough. Moon,
I said, We’re both scarred now.
Are they quite beyond you,
the simple words of love? Say them.
You are not my mother;
with my mother, I waited unto death.
The spring has darkened with activity.
The future gathers in vine, bush, and tree:
Persimmon, walnut, loquat, fig, and grape,
Degrees and kinds of color, taste, and shape.
These will advance in their due series, space
The season like a tranquil dwelling-place.
And yet excitement swells me, vein by vein:
I long to crowd the little garden, gain
Its sweetness in my hand and crush it small
And taste it in a moment, time and all!
These trees, whose slow growth measures off my years,
I would expand to greatness. No one hears,
And I am still retarded in duress!
And this is like that other restlessness
To seize the greatness not yet fairly earned,
One which the tougher poets have discerned—
Gascoigne, Ben Jonson, Greville, Raleigh, Donne,
Poets who wrote great poems, one by one,
And spaced by many years, each line an act
Through which few labor, which no men retract.
This passion is the scholar’s heritage,
The imposition of a busy age,
The passion to condense from book to book
Unbroken wisdom in a single look,
Though we know well that when this fix the head,
The mind’s immortal, but the man is dead.
Beyond the traceries of the auroras,
The fires of tattered sea foam,
The ghost-terrain of submerged icebergs;
Beyond a cinder dome’s black sands,
Beyond peninsula and archipelago,
Archipelago and far-flung islands,
You have made of exile a homeland,
Voyager, and of that chosen depth, a repose.
The eel shimmers and the dogfish darts,
A dance of crisscrosses and trespasses
Through distillate glints and nacreous silts,
And the sun, like fronds of royal palm
Wind-torn, tossed, lashes upon the wake,
But no lamplight mars or bleaches your realm,
A dark of sediment, spawn, slough, and lees,
Runoff, pitch-black, from the rivers of Psalms.