Archive for February, 2015

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Parchment Skin by Ágnes Lehóczky

(for a friendship)

I mean, to remember is like carving coffins out of cedars and
graffitiing a simple word all over the façade. Learning
reiterations by heart. Against traps of falling towards
forgetfulness. Coffin texts engraved about the detours of the
forgotten. The loss of the sun. Eyelids. Tattooed with
instructions. Written vertically, towards an idle present. They
spiral. Spiralling nowhere like odd church towers which, you
say, look unfinished like the past. Beheaded here-and-nows.
Colossal owls. White-washed lighthouses. Minding town and
sea. Spotting caravans of cargo ships inching along the
midsummer horizon. Is this journey ever going to end?
Between now and then, to and fro in this notebook? Back and
forth between these visitations. We are lost between the
length and height, width and breadth of remembering.
Enveloped. Between layers of shadows. Have you noticed
the adjournment of the years ahead? Savouring the milky
hour from bottomless mugs. Will we remember how we
drank time? Have you ever been in this underground garden
before? Assembling for an early morning labyrinthine
breakfast? A life-long preparation. Iterations. Don’t forget
the teaspoon. The porcelain. Slurping from dead wells.
Counting the clock. Counting cocooned bugs. Matter-of-fact
bugs, as long as empty cases count. They count. We spot a
dozen of them. We spot the impromptuness with which we
spot them. The impromptuness with which we forget them.
You say, the absence of memories is a little bit like dying. Or
dying for the second time. That’s why. Let’s try and graffiti
coffins carved out of cedars. You do mine. Here, on my dry
skin. Where is the dragonfly? Its disposed skin stuck to the
reed. How can nothing hold on; after all? With antennae,
with empty gloves. Abandoned gravitation. The skin of
twenty odd years. The cocoon of the sepia city in waiting. A
light yellow home. Cities don’t leave, they stay. They don’t.
They travel in sunburnt parchments. In sand grains. In the
vertigo of the sea. In the shell of the crab crawling to and fro.
In your hand crawling to and fro. Rotating. The way you
drag its empty body around carving circles in the sand. The
resemblance dizzies me. The likeness between the cocoon
and the body that is gone. The similarity between the live and
the dead. Importunate sea gulls in the North wind. Fishing in
the air. Circulating above us. They come almost too close to
my face, as if they were, in fact, fishing for faces, fishing for
hair, fishing for skin. Fishing for shadows and for ghosts. For
holes in pebbles. Impromptu absences washed out by the
tide, sucked back into no-time. Where will we have come
from, not now, but by then? Before the twenty odd years. Do
you remember the swimming pools at home? Will they
always be there? Which one shall we go to? I warned you not
to drown. The simultaneous shivering and sweating. The old
spectres of pubs, wingless, hunched. What do we do with
these non-events of life? The ‘all is well’, the way you shrug
your shoulders. The way I shrug mine. The way grandfather
used to. At home. But not a matter-of-fact home. Unless the
earth counts. It counts. The trains. The maladroit crawling of
a daddy-long-legs on a train window. The resistance of the
wind. Its cohesive hold. Then how softly and gently off it
goes, back to the time of departure. The water spiders, like
split seconds in the garden of memorilessness. The milky
coffee and the huge mugs. We are drinking time. The frogs
in the pond as if they were hours crawling between us and
the unknown on a liquefied never-will-be-day. The varied
skin patterns. We count them. The poisonous bluebells. The
bees drowning in their lilac embrace. Let go. Of the twenty
odd years. The summer is nearly over. The sweltering early
autumns, the yellow chestnut trees. The autumn crows. The
home crows. How defencelessly bizarre they are.
Defencelessly ugly. The crow families at home. The crow
nests at home, the have-you-seen-one questions. The crisp
North wind here. Goosebumps of memories: I told you,
you’ll be freezing. Here is my woolly jumper. Put it on. My


Date: 2013

By: Ágnes Lehóczky (1976- )

Friday, 27 February 2015

The White Rose by John Boyle O’Reilly

The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
Oh, the red rose is a falcon.
And the white rose is a dove.

But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.

From: O’Reilly, John Boyle, In Bohemia, 1890, The Pilot Publishing Co: Boston, p. 24.

Date: 1886

By: John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Bird by Anyte of Tegea

You will never rise up again with a flutter of thick wings and rouse me from my bed in the morning;
For a thief came silently upon you in your sleep and killed you, pressing his finger into your throat.


Date: 3rd century BCE (original); 1919 (translation)

By: Anyte of Tegea (3rd century BCE)

Translated by: Richard (Edward Godfree) Aldington (1892-1962)

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Four Variations on the Same Midwinter by James Wilkes

The gold cover and
the world breathing birth to zero.
The weather bleached of haunt.
It’s now love, to decline.

Breath witness
of hare’s haunt, and sheep’s.
Fire now. Light me.
Don’t dim beside day.

Light’s lower rip to curtain
so I stood breathing the weather of hare and sheep.
If ever it’s still, inquisitive and bright.

Through eve, so
birth the barrow the fields.
Un-flowered on blether
need roused fingers and rise


Date: 2009

By: James Wilkes (1980- )

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

I Too Have Loved by Florence van Leer Earle Nicholson Coates

I, too, have loved the Greeks, the Hero-sprung,
The glad, spoiled children of Posterity :
Have closed my eyes, more near their shrines to be,
Have hushed my heart, to hear their epics sung.
Upon their golden accents I have hung,
With Thyrsis wooed to vales of Sicily,
And Homer, blind, has given me to see
Olympus, where the deathless Gods were young.

But still, that one remembering with awe
Whose vision deeper than all others saw,
I feel the dearer debt my spirit owes
To him, who towers, peerless and sublime,
The noblest, largest intellect of Time,
Born where the English Avon softly flows.


Date: 1919

By: Florence van Leer Earle Nicholson Coates (1850-1927)

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Legend of Camelot – Part 1 by George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier

Tall Braunighrindas left her bed
At cock-crow with an aching head.
O miserie!
“I yearn to suffer and to do,”
She cried, “ere sunset, something new!
O miserie!
“To do and suffer, ere I die,
I care not what. I know not why.
O miserie!
“Some quest I crave to undertake,
Or burden bear, or trouble make.”
O miserie!
She shook her hair about her form
In waves of colour bright and warm.
O miserie!
It rolled and writhed, and reached the floor
A silver wedding-ring she wore.
O miserie!
She left her tower, and wandered down
Into the High Street of the town.
O miserie!
Her pale feet glimmered, in and out,
Like tombstones as she went about.
O miserie!
From right to left, and left to right;
And blue veins streakt her insteps white;
O miserie!
And folks did ask her in the street
“How fared it with her long pale feet?”
O miserie!
And blinkt, as though ’twere hard to bear
The red-heat of her blazing hair!
O miserie!
Sir Galahad and Sir Launcelot
Came hand-in-hand down Camelot;
O miserie!
Sir Gauwaine followed close behind;
A weight hung heavy on his mind.
O miserie!
“Who knows this damsel, burning bright,”
Quoth Launcelot, “like a northern light”?
O miserie!
Quoth Sir Gauwaine “I know her not!”
“Who quoth you did?” quoth Launcelot.
O miserie!
“’Tis Braunighrindas!” quoth Sir Bors.
(Just then returning from the wars.)
O miserie!
Then quoth the pure Sir Galahad
“She seems, methinks, but lightly clad!
O miserie!
“The winds blow somewhat chill to-day.
Moreover, what would Arthur say!”
O miserie!
She thrust her chin towards Galahad
Full many an inch beyond her head. . . .
O miserie!
But when she noted Sir Gauwaine
She wept, and drew it in again!
O miserie!
She wept “How beautiful am I!”
He shook the poplars with a sigh.
O miserie!
Sir Launcelot was standing near;
Him kist he thrice behind the ear.
O miserie!
“Ah me!” sighed Launcelot where he stood,
“I cannot fathom it!” . . . (who could?)
O miserie!
Hard by his wares a weaver wove,
And weaving with a will, he throve;
O miserie!
Him beckoned Galahad, and said,—
“Gaunt Braunighrindas wants your aid . . .
O miserie!
“Behold the wild growth from her nape!
Good weaver, weave it into shape!”
O miserie!
The weaver straightway to his loom
Did lead her, whilst the knights made room;
O miserie!
And wove her locks, both web and woof,
And made them wind and waterproof;
O miserie!
Then with his shears he opened wide
An arm-hole neat on either side,
O miserie!
And bound her with his handkerchief
Right round the middle like a sheaf.
O miserie!
“Are you content, knight?” quoth Sir Bors
To Galahad; quoth he, “Of course!”
O miserie!
“Ah, me! those locks,” quoth Sir Gauwaine,
“Will never know the comb again!”
O miserie!
The bold Sir Launcelot quoth he nought;
So (haply) all the more he thought.
O miserie!


Date: 1866

By: George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier (1834-1896)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Music and Death by René François Armand (Sully) Prudhomme

Kindly watcher by my bed, lift no voice in prayer,
Waste not any words on me when the hour is nigh,
Let a stream of melody but flow from some sweet player,
And meekly will I lay my head and fold my hands to die.

Sick am I of idle words, past all reconciling,
Words that weary and perplex and pander and conceal,
Wake the sounds that cannot lie, for all their sweet beguiling;
The language one need fathom not, but only hear and feel.

Let them roll once more to me, and ripple in my hearing,
Like waves upon a lonely beach where no craft anchoreth:
That I may steep my soul therein, and craving naught, nor fearing,
Drift on through slumber to a dream, and through a dream to death.


Date: 1869 (original in French); 1896 (translation in English)

By: René François Armand (Sully) Prudhomme (1839-1907)

Translated by: George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier (1834-1896)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Matin Song by Nathaniel Field

Rise, Lady Mistress! rise!
The night hath tedious been;
No sleep hath fallen into mine eyes,
Nor slumbers made me sin.
Is not she a saint, then, say!
Thought of whom keeps sin away?

Rise, madam! rise, and give me light,
Whom darkness still will cover,
And ignorance, more dark than night,
Till thou smile on thy lover.
All want day till thy beauty rise,
For the gray morn breaks from thine eyes.

From: Briscoe, J. Potter, Tudor and Stuart Love Songs, 1902, E.P. Dutton and Co: New York, p. 89.

Date: 1618

By: Nathaniel Field (1581-c1633)

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Old Playhouse by Kamala Das (Kamala Surayya) (Madhavikutty)

You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every
Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow
Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall. I remember the rudder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves. Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is
No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man’s technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For, love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.

From: Kamala Das, The Old Playhouse and Other Poems, 2004, Orient Longman Private Ltd: Mumbai, pp. 1-2.

Date: 1973

By: Kamala Das (Kamala Surayya) (Madhavikutty) (1934-2009)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ruffling Wind by Richard Watson Dixon

Does the south wind ever know
That he makes the lily blow?
Does the north wind hear the cry
Of the leaf he whirls on high?

Do the strong winds fear the rage
Of the ocean they engage?
Do the light winds on the lake
Love the ripple that they make?

O would they then come to spoil
Sad Earth’s image of her toil?
O would they more make to cease
Sweet Earth’s mirror of her peace?

From: Dixon, Richard Watson and Bridges, Robert (ed.), Poems by the Late Rev. Dr. Richard Watson Dixon: A Selection with Portrait and A Memoir by Robert Bridges, 1909, Smith, Elder, & Co: London, p. 147.

Date: 1909 (published)

By: Richard Watson Dixon (1833-1900)