Monday, February 28, 2011

Elizabeth Bishop / A Miracle for Breakfast

Photography by Andre Kertesz
Elizabeth Bishop


At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee, 

waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb 
that was going to be served from a certain balcony 
--like kings of old, or like a miracle. 
It was still dark. One foot of the sun 
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river. 

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river. 

It was so cold we hoped that the coffee 
would be very hot, seeing that the sun 
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb 
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle. 
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony. 

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony 

looking over our heads toward the river. 
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle, 
consisting of one lone cup of coffee 
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb, 
his head, so to speak, in the clouds--along with the sun. 

Was the man crazy? What under the sun 

was he trying to do, up there on his balcony! 
Each man received one rather hard crumb, 
which some flicked scornfully into the river, 
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee. 
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle. 

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle. 

A beautiful villa stood in the sun 
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee. 
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony 
added by birds, who nest along the river, 
--I saw it with one eye close to the crumb-- 

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb 

my mansion, made for me by a miracle, 
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river 
working the stone. Every day, in the sun, 
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony 
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee. 

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee. 

A window across the river caught the sun 
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Theodore Spencer_The Day

Theodore Spencer
The day was a year at first
When children ran in the garden;
The day shrank down to a month
When the boys played ball.

The day was a week thereafter
When young men walked in the garden;
The day was itself a day
When love grew tall.

The day shrank down to an hour
When old men limped in the garden;
The day will last forever
When it is nothing at all.

Theodore Spencer
Poems, 1940-1947
Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1948.

Theodore Spencer (1902 -1949) was widely known as a Shakespearen scholar and literary critic before he published his first book of poetry in 1941. Three more books fellowed before his death at the age of forty-six.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cavafy / Ithaka


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of aventure, full of instruction.
The laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angy  Poseidon—do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your trought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon —you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a summer dawn to enter
—with than gratitude, what joy—
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuos perfumes of every kind,
sensous perfume as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of Knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
You arrival there is what you are destine for.
But do no in the least hurry the journey.
Better that it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to five you wealth.

Ithaka gave you the splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn´t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka has not deceived you.
So wise have you become, of such experience,
that already you will have understood what these
        Ithakas mean.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Denise Levertov / The Day the Audiences

Denise Levertov

(May 8th, 1970. Goucher College, Maryland)

Like this it happened:
after the antiphonal reading from the psalms
and the dance of lamentation before the altar,
and the two poems, Life at War and What Were They Like,
I began to rap, and said:

Yes, it is well that we have gathered
in this chapel to remember
the students shot at Kent State,

but let us be sure we know
our gathering is a mockery unless
we remember also
the black students shot at Orangeburg two years ago,
and Fred Hampton murdered in his bed
by the police only months ago.

And while I spoke the people
- girls, older women, a few men –
began to rise and turn
their backs to the altar and leave.

And I went on and said,
Yes, it is well that we remember
all of these, but let us be sure
we know it is hypocrisy
to think of them unless
we make our actions their memorial,
actions of militant resistance.

By then the pews were almost empty
and I returned to my seat and a man stood up
in the back of the quiet chapel
(near the wide-open doors through which
the green of May showed, and the long shadows
                                     of late afternoon)
and said my words
desecrated a holy place.

And a few days later
when some more students (black) were shot
at Jackson, Mississippi,
no one desecrated the white folk’s chapel,
because no memorial service was held.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Charles Simic / For the Sake of Amelia

Charles Simic


Tending a cliff-hanging Grand hotel
In a country ravaged by civil war.
My heart as its only bellhop.
My brain as its Chinese cook.

It's a run-down seaside place
With a row of gutted limousines out front,
Monkeys and fighting cocks in the great ballroom,
Potted palm trees grown wild to the ceilings.

Amelia surrounded by her beaus and fortune-tellers,
Painting heer eyelashes and lips blue
In the hour of dusk with the open sea beyond,
The long empty beaches, the tide's shimmer...

She pleading with me to check the ledgers,
Find out if Lenin stayed here once,
Buster Keaton, Nathaniel Hawthorne,
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote on love?

A hotel in which one tangos to a silence
Which has the look of cypresses in silent films...
In which children confide to imaginary friends...
In which pages of an important letter are flying...

But now a buzz from the suite with mirrors.
Amelia in the nude, black cotton over her eyes.
It seems there's a fly
On the tip of heer lover's Roman nose.

Night of distant guns, distant and comfortable.
I am coming with a flyswatter on a silver tray.
Ah the Turkish delights!
And the Mask of Tragedy over her pubic hair.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pablo Neruda / Walking Around

Pablo Neruda

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailor shops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoe eshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Maya Angelou / Still I Rise

Maya Angelou

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.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poe / Annabel Lee

Photography by Zena Holloway

Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Poe / The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; -vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books 
surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore,
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,

Nameless here forevermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me -filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
" 'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you."Here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, somewhat louder than before,
"Surely," said I, "surely, that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore;-
" 'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what the lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore."
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never- nevermore."

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
 Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! -prophet still, if bird or devil!-
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by horror haunted -tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead? -tell me- tell me I implore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil -prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" 

Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Siv Cedering / Help Me With the Buttons

Charlotte Rampling
Photography by Betina Rheims

Siv Cedering

Help me
the buttons

my body
the only clothing
I can possibly

Siv Cedering
Letters from the floating world
Pittsburg, University of Pittsburg Press, 1984

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maya Angelou / Phenomenal Woman

Photography by Desiree Dolron
Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them 
They think I'm telling lies. 
I say, 
It's in the reach of my arms 
The span of my hips, 
The stride of my step, 
The curl of my lips. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

I walk into a room 
Just as cool as you please, 
And to a man, 
The fellows stand or 
Fall down on their knees. 
Then they swarm around me, 
A hive of honey bees. 
I say, 
It's the fire in my eyes 
And the flash of my teeth, 
The swing of my waist, 
And the joy in my feet. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered 
What they see in me. 
They try so much 
But they can't touch 
My inner mystery. 
When I try to show them, 
They say they still can't see. 
I say 
It's in the arch of my back, 
The sun of my smile, 
The ride of my breasts, 
The grace of my style. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.
Now you understand 
Just why my head's not bowed. 
I don't shout or jump about 
Or have to talk real loud. 
When you see me passing 
It ought to make you proud. 
I say, 
It's in the click of my heels, 
The bend of my hair, 
The palm of my hand, 
The need of my care, 
'Cause I'm a woman 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Charles Bukowski / Shoes

Shoe, 1983
Photography by Helmut Newton

By Charles Bukowski
Translated into Spanish by Triunfo Arciniegas

when you're young
          a pair of
          high-heeled shoes
          just sitting
          in the closet
          can fire your
          when you're old
          it's just
          a pair of shoes
          in them
          just as