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   Poetry
Foto ©: anatta

 

Poems on subjects as closeness, gloom, killing, improvement, saddhus and many more,
by Akhmatova, Angelou, Dao,Kaikini, Szymborska and other
s

     A
Adam Aitken
Anna Akhmatova
Maya Angelou
John Ashbery
Laurence Alma-Tadema
     B
Judith Beveridge
William Blake

Charles Bukowski
     C
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Billy Collins
     D
Jia Dao
Han Dong
     F
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
     G
Gillespie Magee
     H
Byron Haskins
Bob Holman
Gerard Manley Hopkins
H
elen Hunt Jackson
     K
Jayant Kaikini
Yusef Komunyakaa
     M
Dom Moraes
Chandrakanta Murasingh
     N
Suniti Namjoshi
Kunwar Narain
     R
Jürgen Rooste
     S
Wislawa Szymborska
     W
Margaret Walker Alexander
 
Recently added

Yusef Komunyakaa
William Blake

Laurence Alma-Tadema
Byron Haskins

 

A

The bad women of Bangkok

In communist Laos, where they come from
camouflage is a practical art and the moonlight
a nuisance, but the guards sleep through the blackout
and their dreams swim out across the river

towards Sodom – but who here
minds what they do or where they go –
whose drunken searchlight operators
fall to their knees
and the girls disguised as monks
smuggle into clubland,
where you can
lambada with a snake or smile in a cage

of disillusioned crocodiles,
or edit their lives
and take them back to the hills of their youth
riding whatever tiger you choose,
and call it a safari, under umbrellas
in unbecoming heat; sunburn
and innocence smiles for five minutes,
in a cinema verite where we
can’t look away, neither shocked nor relieved

at two-way commerce: your cash relayed to their mothers
via camouflage fish net
they fold your crumpled dollars into.
Makeup and their stripped down
love machine
to play with at breakfast.
What issues from their lips
comes back to them in a cinema, hungover and
condemned to your gaze and a hundred faces
around a curtained screen,
the only face no can see
your own.

Adam Aitken, 1996
From: In One House
Publisher: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1996
ISBN: 0207189943

 

In Human Closeness There...

In human closeness there is a secret edge,
Nor love nor passion can pass it above,
Let lips with lips be joined in silent rage,
And hearts be burst asunder with the love.

And friendship, too, is powerless plot,
And so years of bliss with noble tends,
When your heart is free and known not,
The slow languor of the earthy sense.

And they who strive to reach this edge are mad,
But they who reached are shocked with anguish hard --
Now you know why beneath your hand
You do not feel the beating of my heart.

Anna Akhmatova
Transl.:
Yevgeny Bonver , ed. by Dmitry Karshtedt, 1996

 

Why Is This Century Worse (1919)

Why is this century worse than those others?
Maybe, because, in sadness and alarm,
It only touched the blackest of the ulcers,
But couldn't heal it in its span of time.

Else, in the West, the earthly sun endows
The roofs of cities with the morning light,
But, here, the White already marks a house,
And calls for crows, and the crows fly.

Anna Akhmatova
Transl.:
Yevgeny Bonver , ed. by Dmitry Karshtedt, 2001



If no one ever marries me

If no one ever marries me
I shan't mind very much;
I shall buy a squirrel in a cage,
And a little rabbit-hutch

I shall have a cottage near a wood,
And a pony all my own,
And a little lamb, quite clean and tame,
That I can take to town

And when I'm getting really old,
At twenty-eight or nine
I shall buy a little orphan girl
And bring her up as mine.

Laurence Alma-Tadema, 1897

 

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise. 

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

 

The improvement.

Is that where it happens?
Only yesterday when I came back, I had this
diaphanous disaffection for this room, for spaces,
for the whole sky and whatever lies beyond.
I felt the eggplant, then the rhubarb.
Nothing seems strong enough for
this life to manage, that sees beyond
into particles forming some kind of entity -
so we get dressed kindly, crazy at the moment.
A life of afterwords begins.

We never live long enough in our lives
to know what today is like.
Shards, smiling beaches,
abandon us somehow even as we converse with them.
And the leopard is transparent, like iced tea.

I wake up, my face pressed
in the dewy mess of a dream. It mattered,
because of the dream, and because dreams are by nature sad
even when there’s a lot of exclaiming and beating
as there was in this one. I want the openness
of the dream turned inside out, exploded
into pieces of meaning by its own unasked questions,
beyond the calculations of heaven. Then the larkspur
would don its own disproportionate weight,
and trees return to the starting gate.
See, our lips bend.

John Ashbery

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B

Saddhus

Some chew necrotic weeds. Some sleep
in charnel fields. Some are purified 
by the putrefactive quality of time
and happily multiply in eternity's folds. 
Some dig ditches and like refuse 
 
throw themselves in. Some don't mind 
the urine of town dogs. Some don't 
mind their buttocks becoming sharp 
as heifers' hoofs. Some are ever-walkers,
men of good sense but small gesture,
 
small-moment journeymen wearing 
out their feet with stones. Some find 
no answers in the ever-commuting sky 
and lie still on bramble palliasses, 
or they become ever-sitters and vow 
 
not to straighten their limbs. Some 
make leashes of their penises and walk 
chastity's heavy stones. Some are lost 
to an ever-administered distance, 
clouds and wind their error of alliance 
 
and so they never find peaceful homes. 
Some come down from the mountains 
into the searing belly of the wind, 
and sit between six fires, then turn, 
already blind, towards a seventh fire, 
 
the sun. Some live sting by sting, 
ache by ache, and wait for the smells 
the tidal breezes bring, still not knowing 
what is gathered, what is won 
beyond the vermin, beyond the dung.
 
Judith Beveridge
 
 

The Echoing Green

The Sun does arise,
And make happy the skies;
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring;
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around
To the bells' cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the Echoing Green.

Old John, with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
``Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls & boys,
In our youth time were seen
On the Echoing Green.''

Till the little ones, weary,
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have on end.
Round the laps of their mothers
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest,
And sports no more seen
On the darkening Green.

William Blake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As crazy as I ever was
 

drunk and writing poems
at 3 a.m.

what counts now
is one more
tight pussy

before the light
tilts out

drunk and writing poems
at 3:15 a.m.

some people tell me that I'm
famous.

what am I doing alone
drunk and writing poems at
3:18 a.m.?

I'm as crazy as I ever was
they don't understand
that I haven't stopped hanging out of 4th floor
windows by my heels-
I still do
right now
sitting here

writing this down
I am hanging by my heels
floors up:
68, 72, 101,
the feeling is the
same:
relentless
unheroic and
necessary

sitting here
drunk and writing poems
at 3:24 a.m.

Charles Bukowski
from: Love is A Dog From Hell

 

She said
 

what are you doing with all those paper
napkins in your car?
we dont have napkins like
that
how come your car radio is
always turned to some
rock and roll station? do you drive around with
some
young thing?

you're
dripping tangerine
juice on the floor.
whenever you go into
the kitchen
this towel gets
wet and dirty,
why is that?

when you let my
bathwater run
you never
clean the
tub first.

why don't you
put your toothbrush
back
in the rack?

you should always
dry your razor

sometimes
I think
you hate
my cat.

Martha says
you were
downstairs
sitting with her
and you
had your
pants off.

you shouldn't wear
those
$100 shoes in
the garden

and you don't keep
track
of what you
plant out there

that's
dumb

you must always
set the cat's bowl back
in
the same place.

don't
bake fish
in a frying
pan...

I never saw
anybody
harder on the
brakes of their
car
than you.

let's go
to a
movie.

listen what's
wrong with you?
you act
depressed.

Charles Bukowski
from: War All the Time

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Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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C

Another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house


The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

Billy Collins

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D

Seeking the Sage but not meeting
 
Beneath a pine tree I asked a boy
He says his master has gone to collect herbs
"He's somewhere on this mountain here,
But because of the cloudy mists, I don't know where he is!"

Jia Dao

 

Some people don't say much

some people don’t say much 
they are neither mute nor introverted 
saying only what’s necessary 
speaking only when courtesy demands it 
floating on the surface of speech 
this is how they are all their lives 
summed up in a few phrases 
some people live like epitaphs 
long years reduced to a sentence or two 
soberly like headstones they stand there 
facing us

Han Dong, 2004
Translation: 2006, Simon Patton

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F

History of the airplane

And the Wright brothers said they thought they had invented
something that could make peace on earth
(if the wrong  brothers didn’t get hold of it)
when their wonderful flying machine took off at Kitty Hawk
into the kingdom of birds but the parliament of birds was freaked out
by this man-made bird and fled to heaven

And then the famous Spirit of Saint Louis took off eastward and
flew across the Big Pond with Lindy at the controls in his leather
helmet and goggles hoping to sight the doves of peace but he did not
Even though he circled Versailles

And then the famous Yankee Clipper took off in the opposite
direction and flew across the terrific Pacific but the pacific doves
were frighted by this strange amphibious bird and hid in the orient sky

And then the famous Flying Fortress took off  bristling with guns
and testosterone to make the world safe for peace and capitalism
but the birds of peace were nowhere to be found before or after Hiroshima

And so then clever men built bigger and faster flying  machines and
these great man-made  birds with jet plumage flew higher than any
real birds and seemed about to fly into the sun and melt their wings
and like Icarus crash to earth 

And the Wright brothers were long forgotten in the high-flying
bombers that now  began to visit their blessings on various Third
Worlds all the while claiming they were searching for doves of
peace

And they kept flying and flying until they flew right into the 21st
century and then  one fine day a Third World struck back and
stormed the great planes and flew them straight into the beating
heart of Skyscraper America where there were no aviaries and no
parliaments of doves and in a blinding flash America became a part
of the scorched earth of the world

And a wind of ashes blows across the land
And for one long  moment in eternity
There is chaos and despair

And buried loves and voices
Cries and whispers
Fill the air
Everywhere

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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G

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

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A Poet's Rest 

My itchy nose
carries me afar
in fragrances roaming,

My eyes find words to classify
demure and glowing hues;
a cardinal, a dove in flight,
a raven inspects me from a tree.

I touch the stubble
and the silk
and toil to find
the word's fine fabric.

I rush to stumble over words to twist
my tongue in strident ways.
But after all, I use my last
ounce of reason to find in you
a poet's rest.

Byron Haskins

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Saying Goodby

from Chinese Poems

Now you´re giving wine to the horse!
Why did I ever ask you for directions?
You ask me why I asked you?
Who´s the guide around here anyway?
Surely we´re not lost.
Are we lost?
We´re lost.
Let us never go back
May we never be found.

Bob Holman
From: bob holman’s the collect call of the wild, Henry Holt And Company, Inc. , New York 1995

 

God's Grandeur (1877)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

 

September

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harves.
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

'T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

 

Doubt

They bade me cast the thing away,
They pointed to my hands all bleeding,
They listened not to all my pleading;
The thing I meant I could not say;
I knew that I should rue the day
If once I cast that thing away.

I grasped it firm, and bore the pain;
The thorny husks I stripped and scattered;
If I could reach its heart, what mattered
If other men saw not my gain,
Or even if I should be slain?
I knew the risks; I chose the pain.

O, had I cast that thing away,
I had not found what most I cherish,
A faith without which I should perish,--
The faith which, like a kernel, lay
Hid in the husks which on that day
My instinct would not throw away!

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

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K

At the end of the vigil

The nurse is at the bus stop
Leaving the night-shift behind her
A milk van and a rickshaw pass by
Leaving a whiff of incense
The doc who had come for an emergency
In pyjamas is honking at the exit gate
Those weary after running around
In tunnel dreams are rising sluggishly like statues
On the footpath

Tiffin carriers greet florists
Bicycle bells are calling out
To plastic lotuses in the ponds
The ward boy wielding a long broomstick
Mistakes an orange peel for the fruit
Somebody who unveiled a mosquito net last night
Forgot to remove the nails driven into the sky

The trees convulse
Shaking off the darkness 

Let all hospital doors open
Let all children with feverish eyes come into my embrace
Let wounds heal with the mere kiss of a sunray
And let the tears not curdle the milk of our bosoms.

Jayant Kaikini, 1997
From: Neelimale, publisher: Patrike Prakashana, Bangalore

 

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Yusef Komunyakaa
From  Dien Cai Dau (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press), 1988.

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M

Leaf

Little fugitive, you have paused between
snailcoloured boulders slimed with early mist,
left hand tilted upward from the wrist,
right hand rested on a rounded hip.
Poised for temple drumbeats from the south,
you freeze into a pose that shows your etched
profile; blown hair obscures your tender mouth.

Thrushes whistle, the inveterate dove
intones from its tree a dull lament.
My headache leads to memories of war,
of those once known, shadowless with the dead.
Immobile between rocks, green leaves surround you,
Only black hair blown back by valley winds
persuade me what I see is not a statue.

Elsewhere the knouts, monotonous, rise and fall.
The fruit, bitten into, decomposes
in the mouth. The innocent totems of evil,
uniforms and computers, rule the world.
But here, with clear weather to the west,
I watch the peak, senile since its first days,
rise up, worshipped, from the pine forest.

Accumulations of stillness and silence,
found always in mountains, also in you,
that instant you stand, sculpted by wind,
time in stasis, night not yet come.
No tears for lost love, for grief no relief
elsewhere, but here, where boulders and trees are.
Grow gently in me, delicate green leaf.

Dom Moraes

 

The Stone Speaks in the Forest

The golden deer grew restless
And suddenly came running
Into this amlaki grove
Looking for a mate.

One day the king arrived, lights played,
He stood with his foot
Pressing the forehead of the stone
And looking to find which way
His prey had fled.
The weight of his feet tormenting the hill
The stone was silent because
The pain was not his alone.

A man with a broken heart came today
Accompanied by his lady love
Sprayed dreams and tears on the stone
And went away rowing upstream.
They will build their home in the deep forest.

Water runs, the laidom* leaves quiver
Hachukrai drags his bamboo raft
There is a market downstream, on a sandy islet.
Wondering, who will respond now,
The stone speaks in the forest
Bow and arrow in hand.

*) laidom: wild and swinging leaf

Chandrakanta Murasingh
From: Indian Literature, Delhi, 2000
Transl. Udayan Ghosh

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N

Grass Blade

As the first blade bends,
                      Grass Blade
murmurs,
“I bend, but do not break.”

Foot
keeps coming down.
                      Passionate

Grass Blade
mounts a campaign:
       Grass blades henceforth
                          to be made of
glass.
    Feet henceforth
                            to travel
shoeless.
People walk away –

Why get hurt?
Oak Tree observes,
                           “Feet are
not relevant.”

Suniti Namjoshi
From: Sycorax: New Fables and Poems, publisher: Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2006
Transl. K. M. Sherrif

 

A shop that sells peace

He sells peace in the neighbourhood
His shop
of loudspeakers
is right next to my house.

I pay him a hundred rupees a month
for not playing the loudspeaker
two hours before sunrise.

He knows that I am
one of those unfortunate people
who cannot live
without peace!

He knows
that in the days to come
peace will be even scarcer
than clean water and clean air.

He knows that
the age of revolutions is over
and in order to fill his stomach
he must sell
peace.

I am grateful to him.
In a country like India
where prices have skyrocketed
a hundred rupees a month
for two hours of peace
is not expensive.

Kunwar Narain, 1993
From: Koee Doosra Naheen, publisher: Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi
Translation: Apurva Narain

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R

at work
they want me to be
a duracell rabbit

what comes out is the usual guinea pig

at home they expect me
to bustle about
like an eager daddy penguin

and not like your average tipsy bullfinch

but my heart my
heart is free as an onion
a bulb underneath and tops on top

in a gently roaring nordic wind

Jürgen Rooste, 2005
From: Ilusaks inimeseks, Publisher: Verb, Tallinn, 2005
Translation: 2007, Eric Dickens

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S

Tortures

Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain,
it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
In tortures all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it's just the earth that's grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

Nothing has changed. It's just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds.

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.

Wislawa Szymborska

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I'm very well, thank you

There is simply nothing the matter with me,
I'm as rudely healthy as I can be,
I've got arthritis in both my knees
And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze,
My pulse is weak and my blood is thin,
But...I'm awfully well for the shape that I'm in.

Sleep is denied me, night after night,
But every morning I find I'm all right.
My memory's failing, my head's in a spin
But I'm awfully well for the shape that I'm in.

Old age is golden, I've often heard it said,
But sometimes I think as I get into bed,
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,
My eyes on a table until I get up,
Ere sleep overtakes me I say to myself,
'Is there anything else I could lay on the shelf?'

The moral is this, as my tale I unfold
That for you and for me who are now getting old
It's better to say 'I'm fine' with a grin
Than to let the folks witness the shape we are in.

A man is not old when his hair goes grey,
A man is not old when his teeth decay,
He is ready for his long, long sleep
When his mind makes appointments which his body can't keep.

I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
And pick up the paper and read the 'obits'.
If my name is still missing I know I'm not dead,
So I finish my breakfast and go back to bed.

Unknown

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W

For my people (1942)

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power;
For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the nowyears and the maybe years, washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching dragging along never gaining never reaping never knowing and never understanding;
For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss Choomby and company;
For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know the reasons why and the answers to and the people who and the places where and the days when, in memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we were black and poor and small and different and nobody cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;
For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these thing to be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine and religion and success, to marry their playmates and bear children and then die of consumption and anemia and lynching;
For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and other people's pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and land and money and something-something all our own;
For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied and shackled and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;
For my people blundering and groping and floundering in the dark of churches and schools and clubs and societies, associations and councils and committees and conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches, preyed on by facilie force of state and fad and novelty, by false prophet and holy believer;
For my people standing trying to fashion a better way from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the dams and eves and their countless generations;
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace by written in the sky. Let a second generation fill of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of healing and strength of final clenching by the pulsing in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs by written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control.

Margaret Walker Alexander

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One of our primary goals at Cedar Gallery is to provide a public forum for both unknown and established poets to showcase their works. We particularly encourage contributions from unpublished aspiring artists, but are happy to consider all submissions.

Please, send your contributions to: cedars.letters@live.nl

 

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