Saturday, March 31, 2012

"let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love"

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, and count all the mumblings of sour age at a penny's fee. Suns set can rise again: we when once our brief light has set must sleep through a perpetual night. Give me of kisses a thousand, and then a hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then another thousand without resting, then a hundred. Then, when we have made many thousands, we will confuse the count lest we know the numbering, so that no wretch may be able to envy us through knowledge of our kisses' number.

Poem 5 from The Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus

The Kiss, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892-93

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Cries of birds are everywhere confused"

The solitary goose does not drink or eat,
It flies about and calls, missing the flock.
No-one now remembers this one shadow,
They've lost each other in the myriad layers of cloud.
It looks into the distance: seems to see,
It's so distressed, it thinks that it can hear.
Unconsciously, the wild ducks start to call,
Cries of birds are everywhere confused.

~ Du Fu (712-770)

Melancholy, Constance Charpentier, 1801

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"The birds have less to say for themselves..."

A Line-storm Song
by Robert Frost

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift,
The road is forlorn all day,
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift,
And the hoof-prints vanish away.
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
Expend their bloom in vain.
Come over the hills and far with me,
And be my love in the rain.

The birds have less to say for themselves
In the wood-world’s torn despair
Than now these numberless years the elves,
Although they are no less there:
All song of the woods is crushed like some
Wild, easily shattered rose.
Come, be my love in the wet woods; come,
Where the boughs rain when it blows.

There is the gale to urge behind
And bruit our singing down,
And the shallow waters aflutter with wind
From which to gather your gown.
What matter if we go clear to the west,
And come not through dry-shod?
For wilding brooch shall wet your breast
The rain-fresh goldenrod.

Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
But it seems like the sea’s return
To the ancient lands where it left the shells
Before the age of the fern;
And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain.
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
And be my love in the rain.

In the Rain, Franz Marc, 1912

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Bees and wasps suck the heavy rose."

Heaviness and tenderness—sisters: the same features.
Bees and wasps suck the heavy rose.
Man dies, heat leaves the sand, the sun
of yesterday is borne on a black stretcher.

Oh the heavy honeycomb, the tender webs—easier
to hoist a stone than to say your name!
Only one purpose is left me, but it is golden:
to free myself of the burden, time.

I drink the roiled air like a dark water.
Time has been plowed; the rose was earth. In a slow
whirlpool the heavy tender roses,
rose heaviness, rose tenderness, are plaited in double wreaths.

~ Osip Mandelstam, from Selected Poems

Mutter und Sohn, Otto Mueller, 1919

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"See, blossoms, branches, fruit, leaves I have brought..."

by Paul Verlaine

See, blossoms, branches, fruit, leaves I have brought,
And then my heart that for you only sighs;
With those white hands of yours, oh, tear it not,
But let the poor gift prosper in your eyes.

The dew upon my hair is still undried,--
The morning wind strikes chilly where it fell.
Suffer my weariness here at your side
To dream the hour that shall it quite dispel.

Allow my head, that rings and echoes still
With your last kiss, to lie upon your breast,
Till it recover from the stormy thrill,--
And let me sleep a little, since you rest.

Study for the figure of "Spring" at l'Opéra-Comique, Paris, Luc Olivier-Merson (1846-1920)

Monday, March 19, 2012

A second introduction

I'm finally getting around to another installment of the series featuring work from emerging writers who probably aren't (yet) on your radar. I wish I hadn't dawdled so long before sending you to Sonja Livingston's beautiful essay, "Dare: A Parenthetical Aside." This meditation on Virginia Dare (remember her?) rediscovers the emotional power in a familiar story. I've returned to the piece several times and it loses none of its effect in rereading.

Sonja has published a terrific memoir, Ghostbread, and you can find more of her short pieces at her website. She talks a bit about how she came to writing in a video interview here. She teaches at the University of Memphis.

Dancing Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White, the grandfather of Virginia Dare, 1585

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt..."

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

From One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII by Pablo Neruda.

July Sun, Henry Scott Tuke, 1913

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Yesterday I wanted to speak of it..."

For Love
by Robert Creeley

for Bobbie

Yesterday I wanted to
speak of it, that sense above
the others to me
important because all

that I know derives
from what it teaches me.
Today, what is it that
is finally so helpless,

different, despairs of its own
statement, wants to
turn away, endlessly
to turn away.

If the moon did not ...
no, if you did not
I wouldn’t either, but
what would I not

do, what prevention, what
thing so quickly stopped.
That is love yesterday
or tomorrow, not

now. Can I eat
what you give me. I
have not earned it. Must
I think of everything

as earned. Now love also
becomes a reward so
remote from me I have
only made it with my mind.

Here is tedium,
despair, a painful
sense of isolation and
whimsical if pompous

self-regard. But that image
is only of the mind’s
vague structure, vague to me
because it is my own.

Love, what do I think
to say. I cannot say it.
What have you become to ask,
what have I made you into,

companion, good company,
crossed legs with skirt, or
soft body under
the bones of the bed.

Nothing says anything
but that which it wishes
would come true, fears
what else might happen in

some other place, some
other time not this one.
A voice in my place, an
echo of that only in yours.

Let me stumble into
not the confession but
the obsession I begin with
now. For you

also (also)
some time beyond place, or
place beyond time, no
mind left to

say anything at all,
that face gone, now.
Into the company of love
it all returns.

Liebespaar (Der Kuss), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1930

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Like a bird that strikes against the wind"

Like concentric ripples
over the water,
so in my heart
your words.

Like a bird that strikes
against the wind,
so on my lips
your kisses.

Like exposed fountains
opposing the evening,
so my dark eyes
over your flesh.

From "Madrigals" by Federico García Lorca, trans. by A.S. Kline

Siesta, Otto Schoff, c.1920s