Here I will not hear the voice of the cuckoo.
Here the tree will not wear a cape of snow.
But it is here in the shade of these pines
my whole childhood reawakens.
The chime of the needles: Once upon a time –
I called the snow-space homeland,
and the green ice at the river’s edge -
was the poem’s grammar in a foreign place.
Perhaps only migrating birds know -
suspended between earth and sky -
the heartache of two homelands.
With you I was transplanted twice,
with you, pine trees, I grew -
roots in two disparate landscapes.
“When I see how calm,
how full of pride you are,
something inside me goes wild –
How can one live this awesome life
without a touch of madness,
with only a grim, ancient pride?
If I could, I would burn down
that we call the seasons,
along with your cursed dependence
on earth and air and sun,
on rain and dew.”
The cypress does not answer.
He knows there is madness in him,
But the flame will not understand,
the flame will not believe.
Flowers from a New Love after the Divorce
Homeward returning. High in Front advanc’t,
The brandisht Sword of God before them blaz’d
Fierce as a Comet; which with torrid heat,
And vapour as the Libyan Air adust,
Began to parch that temperate Clime; whereat
In either hand the hastning Angel caught
Our lingring Parents, and to th’ Eastern Gate
Led them direct, and down the Cliff as fast
To the subjected Plaine; then disappeer’d.
They looking back, all th’ Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav’d over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng’d and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.
-John Milton, ending of Paradise Lost (Chapter 12 632-649)
Lord of the heart’s silliness,
and the crimes of actions.
Father of the hungry-body’s pain,
Feed me life,
and then I’ll know,
That there is a big sun in your sky,
and her golden light is much to me.
Here, I’ll stretch out my hand,
spare me some change.
Note: I translated this poem from the Hebrew on my own so some of the translation is probably imperfect. For example the word הטריפני means feed but the root of the word is that of “prey” as in make me prey, it’s used to connote feeding but with a stronger intonation, as in make me prey of life.
O the songs you sang of Brazil, of the Amazons
boiling up their rice in satellite dishes, stealing whatever men
or comfort they could! For years I dreamed of turning Amazon,
letting my slips and hair grow wild as flowered vines in the Amazon.
Did I tell you? Once near Rio, I nearly drowned
when the tide, like a lover, stole back to the Amazon,
her brown lips wide and waiting. They had to pull me up
before I sank for good, like you, my pale body yanked up
like a tooth rotten at the root, while the sounds of the Amazon
crooned in my blood. They warmed me like love.
The songs you sang were always about love.
The boys in the chip shops lied to you about love,
slick under their Elvis haircuts, eyes sequined like the Amazon’s
dark amniotic waters. Them you loved,
as much as the Irish who fled to New York, loving
the night sounds of Christmas bells kissing the stars, men
chained to Church and self-hatred who called you ‘Luv,’
their unwashed necks tasting of bitterroot and Love-
Me-Not when you lured them down, down, down
to your apartment. Even the Socialists who wouldn’t go down
on you, their bad skins splintering in the cold, these too you loved,
teasing them into the bars where you propped them up
on wood stools to demand why you weren’t quite up
to our standards yet, our Madonnas and Kylies, app-
aratchiks of plasticity, of de-thighed loving-
kindness spray painted pink. You were the London girl, flying up
and over townships, backed by a flaming Amazonian
'do and Johnny Marr beat. Lonely girls, we put you up
on a pedestal. You put us on the pill, crooning Are you up
for disappointment? in our bedrooms packed with men’s
photographs and colognes. On a cold gray day, a cold gray man
will do, I learned to sigh, and gathered up
all signs of strangers’ passing like treasures from the drowned;
fragile wood ships sinking into horizons, down
to the tips of their amber sails; down
to me, where I lived through a voice that called up
starfish and sirens, breathy songs so tearful as to drown
sailors in their own beds. They said: In Mexico, she drowned
in front of her two children. Isn’t that sad? Frankly, I’d love
a better word than sad right now. Something less drowsy
and inert, something to reflect the woman you were drowning
in her bathtub, clutching a martini. The Amazon’s
sheared off breast perhaps, or the war cries that rattled their jungle
like silver spears. I’m in your eyes; I’m drowning,
you purred in stereo until I could only picture the man
who’d pull me under the way you could, into the male,
heady registers my voice could barely reach. Here comes that man
again, Kirsty, the one who can’t stop killing you with his down-
burst of sighs, his tooth-and-nail kisses. You with your black jack-
boots and bejeweled cashmeres, mane
of hair sweetly teased into powdery red, op-
eratic clouds settled after the nuclear blast: what man
can resist you? Not even that Insatiable Mister
who’s caught you (at last) into his thin arms, crying, Beloved!
the way he once caught at me, adrift at sea and in love
with the tug of shoals and moon. I swore no more songs for dead men
or rock stars but you were the last straw, my Penthesilea
calling all her Amazons
to war. O my Amazon,
the girls you’ve left are still here; like me, waving, not drowning,
before the poets on their pylons, eyes fixed to the ships sailing above
us in the night, mouths full of the hymns you sang of love.
The world is beautiful and wrong. But the men, Kirsty. O the men.
Why Some Girls Love Horses
The Appearance of the High Priest
True! how majestic was the High Priest as he left the Holy of Holies in peace, without injuries.
Like the heavenly canopy stretched out over those who dwell above was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like lightening bolts emanating from the radiance of the Animals was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the fringes attached to the four corners was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the image of the rainbow amidst the cloud was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the majesty in which the Creator clothed the creatures was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like a rose that is placed amidst a precious garden was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like a crown that is placed on a king’s forehead was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the graciousness granted to a bridegroom’s face was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the purity that was placed upon the turban pure was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the one who sat in concealment to plead before the King was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like the morning star on the eastern border was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like one garbed in the robe and armor of righteousness was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like an angel stationed on a highway was the appearance of the High Priest.
Like a lamp peering from between the windows was the appearance of the High Priest.
Note: This Poem is from the services of Yom Kippur, it concerns the praise that the crowds at the Holy Temple would sing when the High Priest would reappear from the Holy of Holies (the Sanctum Sanctorium).
The Holy of Holies in the Temple was only entered once a year, by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. If he was unworthy, he wouldn’t come out alive, he would be unable to survive it’s holiness, but if he was worthy, if he did reappear, he was able to deliver their the greatest offerings.
The poem is about how beautiful the moment of seeing the High Priest emerge from the Holy of Holies was.
A KITE IS A VICTIM
A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.
A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won’t give up,
or the wind die down.
A kite is the last poem you’ve written,
so you give it to the wind,
but you don’t let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.
A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the whole cold night before,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.