Archive for February, 2020

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Leap Year by Eileen Chong

for Noah Goh

The morning you are born,
I am in the future and spy
a flower among the glossy leaves
of the magnolia. It is creamy,

perfect, not yet unfurled
but poised to break and blossom
with the turning of the hours.
In the past your mother lies,

strapped in a blue gown, waiting.
We all hold our breath, connected
by pixels and satellites—poor substitutes
for flesh, scent and human presence.

Rain here in Sydney veils the city.
A caul of wet drapes the buildings
that fist at and puncture the sky.
To my right the armadillo sweep

of the opera house, scales unmoving.
The steel-sprung back of the bridge
soars high above the harbour. A ferry paddles
on its everyday, pedestrian way, not knowing

that on a tiny island perched on the equator,
a baby is budding and will soon emerge
in mucus and blood, limbs flailing,
screaming, breathing. Free and beginning.


Date: 2012

By: Eileen Chong (1980- )

Friday, 28 February 2020

Mind the Gap by Abol Froushan

My deeds are in a dance
with how the worlds occur to me
Mind the gap in which the word occurs

Why when tongues kiss
words keep its memory?
Does water wipe the look like tears?

Bare naked trees hit the rain
like no leaves
Finding the face you know in the crowd
Means passing among the leaves

Mind the gap between you and you
Yes-eyes kiss eyes without No
That delights with or without

Is the goodness of rains for the trees
because of the tears that leave the leaves
Or when it rains?

Mind the gap
where it rains.


Date: 2018

By: Abol Froushan (1957- )

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Holy Wars by Robert Schechter

Do even numbers, when they pray,
give thanks unto their God
that unlike all their neighbors they
were not created odd?

If so, is there a second God
some integers believe in
to whom the reverential odd
give thanks that they’re not even?


Date: 2014

By: Robert Schechter (19??- )

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Three Things by Baltasar del Alcázar

There are three things my captive heart
forever dotes upon:
beautiful Inez, smoked ham,
and eggplant parmesan.

Oh lovers, it was sweet Inez
whose power over me
was such I actually despised
whatever was not she.

She made me sense­less for a year.
In truth, I was far gone,
until one day she served me ham
and eggplant parmesan.

Inez was first to win my heart,
but now I’d be hard-pressed
to choose among the three of them
the one I love the best.

In taste, proportion, and in weight,
I’ve nothing to go on:
I love Inez, I love smoked ham,
and eggplant parmesan.

Inez can boast of beauty,
the ham of Southern Spain,
the tender aubergine can boast
of Spanish soil and rain.

The competition is so close,
no winner can be drawn.
They all are one. Inez, the ham,
the eggplant parmesan.

At least, now that she knows that I
love other things as deeply,
Inez might sell me favors much
more often and more cheaply,

since there is now a counterweight
for her to reckon on:
a luscious slab of Spanish ham
and eggplant parmesan.


Date: (original in Spanish); 2017 (translation in English)

By: Baltasar del Alcázar (1530-1606)

Translated by: Robert Schechter (19??- )

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Russian God by Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky

Do you need an explanation
what the Russian god can be?
Here’s a rough approximation
as the thing appears to me.

God of snowstorms, god of potholes,
every wretched road you’ve trod,
coach-inns, cockroach haunts, and rat holes,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of frostbite, god of famine,
beggars, cripples by the yard,
farms with no crops to examine,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of breasts and…all sagging,
swollen legs in bast shoes shod,
curds gone curdled, faces dragging,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of brandy, pickle vendors,
those who pawn what serfs they’ve got,
of old women of both genders,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of medals and of millions,
god of yard-sweepers unshod,
lords in sleighs with two postilions,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

Fools win grace, wise men be wary,
there he never spares the rod,
god of everything contrary,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of all that gets shipped in here,

unbecoming, senseless, odd,
god of mustard on your dinner,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of foreigners, whenever
they set foot on Russian sod,
god of Germans, now and ever –
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.


Date: 1828 (original in Russian); 2009 (translation in English)

By: Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky (1792-1878)

Translated by: Alan Myers (1933-2010)

Monday, 24 February 2020

9 March 1823 by Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky

You stood before me
So still and quiet,
Your gaze was languid
And full of feeling.
It summoned memories
Of days so lovely…
It was the final
One you gave me.

Now you have vanished,
A quite angel;
Your grave is peaceful,
As calm as Eden!
There rest all earthly
There rest all holy
Thoughts of heaven.

Heavenly stars,
Quiet night!

From: Dralyuk, Boris, “Three Poems from the Golden Age” in Pushkin Review, 2015-16, 18-19, p. 139.

Date: 1823 (original in Russian); 2015 (translation in English)

By: Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky (1783-1852)

Translated by: Boris Dralyuk (19??- )

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Lines 275-298 [Eros Shoots Medea] from “Book 3: The Tale of the Argonauts” by Apollonius of Rhodes

But Eros the while through the mist-grey air passed all unseen
Troubling them, even as heifers that hear the piping keen
Of the gadfly — ‘the breese’ do the herders of oxen name the thing.
In the forecourt beneath the lintel swiftly his bow did he string :
From his quiver took he a shaft sigh-laden, unshot before :
With swift feet all unmarked hath he passed the threshold o’er,
Keen-glancing around : he hath glided close by Aison’s son:
He hath grasped the string in the midst, and the arrow-notch laid thereon.
Straightway he strained it with both hands sundered wide apart,
And he shot at Medea ; and speechless amazement filled her heart.
And the God himself from the high-roofed hall forth-flashing returned
Laughing aloud. Deep down in the maiden’s bosom burned
His arrow like unto flame; and at Aison’s son she cast
Side-glances of love evermore ; and panted hard and fast
‘Neath its burden the heart in her breast, nor did any remembrance remain
Of aught beside, but her soul was melted with rapturous pain.
And as some poor daughter of toil, who hath distaff ever in hand,
Heapeth the slivers of wood about a blazing brand
To lighten her darkness with splendour her rafters beneath, when her eyes
Have prevented the dawn; and the flame, upleaping in wondrous wise
From the one little torch, ever waxing consumeth all that heap;
So, burning in secret, about her heart did he coil and creep,
Love the destroyer: her soft cheeks’ colour went and came,
Pale now, and anon, through her soul’s confusion, with crimson aflame.

From: Apollonius and Way, Arthur Sanders (transl.), The Tale of the Argonauts, 1901, J. M. Dent and Co: London, pp. 101-102.

Date: 3rd century BCE (original in Greek); 1901 (translation in English)

By: Apollonius of Rhodes (3rd century BCE)

Translated by: Arthur Sanders Way (1847-1930)

Saturday, 22 February 2020

In a Time of Peace by Ilya Kaminsky

Inhabitant of earth for forty something years
I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open

their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.

It is a peaceful country.

We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
to buy shampoo,
pick up the children from school,
get basil.

Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
for hours.

We see in his open mouth
the nakedness
of the whole nation.

We watch. Watch
others watch.

The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy.

It is a peaceful country.

And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.

All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt.

This is a time of peace.

I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.


Date: 2019

By: Ilya Kaminsky (1977- )

Friday, 21 February 2020

Encroachment by Elizabeth Arnold

The male is the aggressor
even in a birdbath full of sparrows,

mounting, determining what, when, going after

all that shouldn’t be his
more than another’s.

The only way for a woman to be

truly free
is to live alone, liberation

just too high a hurtle

with the man there, history being
a pile of tree trunks on our donkey backs.


Date: 2017

By: Elizabeth Arnold (1958- ) Encroachment (21 February 2020)

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Homo Sapiens by Michael Waters

Imagine a morning moon the color of cream
Still steaming, a soul
Newly-minted each exhalation of light,
Omphalos quick with swirling aura.
Then the slow dissolve to absence.

Who can hold her?
Struck by the cold, the absolute
Clarity of this nth morning of creation,
Who might articulate this emotion
That somehow slipped past the masters, unnamed?

That creature whose skull was found
Fragmented in lake-muck
More than one million years past her last
Sigh—was she also struck by the icy
Spill of moonlight so close to her cave
She might have stretched her fingers
Toward its receding source?

Breasts milky in the afterglow,
She must have been beautiful, wild child,
Stunned for a moment into consciousness.

The moon arcs now from that dawn to this,
Passing over the bewildered
Brilliance of van Gogh who brushed the moon
On thick to halt her travels,
Over the unraveling intellect of Céline
Who pinned the moon to a page
To prevent her passage even one night more.

But the moon forever fails over blight-scarred bark
While some early riser bears witness, fixed in the moment,
This day entered into
The log of creation by the soon-to-be forgotten
Who tumble into passions
Impossible to tame.

The wilderness remains with us.
The moon rises and beckons, leaving
A residue still too ancient to name.

From: Waters, Michael, “Homo Sapiens” in Poetry, January 1988, pp. 344-345.

Date: 1988

By: Michael Waters (1949- )