Archive for August, 2020

Monday, 31 August 2020

Pay Up or Else by Luci Tapahonso

Vincent Watchman was shot
in the head February 12
because he owed 97c at
a Thriftway gas station.
While he lay dead,
the anglo gas boy said
I only meant to shoot out
his car tires and scare him.
He fired 2 poor shots – one in the head,
one in the rear window and
the police cited him for
shooting a firearm within city limits.

Meanwhile, Thriftway officials in Farmington
expressed shock
It’s not company policy, after all,
to shoot Navajo customers who run
overflows in the self-serve pumps.
This man will definitely be fired.

There is no way that such an action
can be justified, the official said

while we realized our lives weren’t worth a dollar
and a 24-year-old Ganado man never used
the $3 worth of gas he paid for.


Date: 1981

By: Luci Tapahonso (1953- )

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Riding the Earth (Jewed ‘I-Hoi) by Ofelia Zepeda

Jeweḍ ‘I-Hoi

Kus hascu hab a:g mat hab o cei,
“añ ep ta:tk mat si ‘i-hoi g jeweḍ,
nap pi ṣa’i ta:tk a:pi?”
“Pi’a, pi’a.”
Ñia, kus hascu hab a:g?
Kutp hems heg hab a:g mat o ṣ??-hai g jeweḍ k o ‘i-hoi
a no heg hab a:g mat sikol o memḍad mo g milga:n b a’aga rotation.
Ñia, kutp hems heg hab a:g mo hegai ta:tk.
Kutp hems hab e-elid mo an ke:k id jeweḍ da:m c da’a an da:m ka:cim oidc.
Ceṣṣajcug g jeweḍ hab masma mat hemakc g s-melidkam kawyu o ceṣṣajcug.
An meḍad c g mo’oj ṣelim an e-wiḍut huhu’u mehidag ku:bs oidc.
S-ke:g hab ma:s.
Heg an we:maj wiappoi mo an ko:mcug g taṣ c gahu amjeḍ i-bebhe
si alig ta:gio amjeḍ gamhu hukkam hudñig ta:gio.
Ñia, kut hegai maṣ d maṣad ceḍ o odham o si al hehemad matṣ an o bij.

Riding the Earth

She said she felt the earth move again.
I never knew whether she meant she felt a tremor
or whether it was the rotation of the earth.
I like to think she felt the rotation, because
anyone can feel a tremor.
And when she felt this
she could see herself
standing on the earth’s surface.
Her thick, wide feet solidly planted,
toes digging in.
Her visualization so strong
she almost feels her body arch
against the centrifugal force of the rotation
She sees herself with her long hair floating,
floating in the atmosphere of stardust
She rides her planet the way a child rides a toy.
Her company is the boy who takes the sun on its daily journey
and the man in the moon smiles as she passes by.

In memory of Barbara Lannan


Date: 2005 (original in Tohono O’odham); 2005 (translation in English)

By: Ofelia Zepeda (1952- )

Translated by: Ofelia Zepeda (1952- )

Saturday, 29 August 2020

The Young Ones by Sterling Allen Brown

With cotton to the doorstep
No place to play;
No time: what with chopping cotton
All the day.

In the broken down car
They jounce up and down
Pretend to be sterring
On the way to town.

It’s as far as they’ll get
For many a year;
Cotton brought them
And will keep them here.

The spare-ribbed yard-dog
Has gone away;
The kids, just as hungry,
Have to stay.

In the two-roomed shack
Their mammy is lying,
With a little new brother
On her arm, crying.

Another mouth to feed
Another body to bed,
Another to grow up

But their pappy’s happy
And they hear him say:
“The good Lord giveth,
And taketh awa.

“It’s two more hands
For to carry a row;
Praise God from whom
All blessings flow.”

From: Brown, Sterlina A., “The Young Ones” in Poetry: A magazine of Verse, Vol. LII, No. IV, July 1938, pp. 189-190.

Date: 1938

By: Sterling Allen Brown (1901-1989)

Friday, 28 August 2020

Love Song by Paul Blackburn

Beauty is a promise of happiness
And happiness is a big, fat-assed
stuffed bird
that cannot, in its ideal state, move
off its fat

i.e. , I am not Ariel,
I am Caliban,
and sometimes it is very ugly.

From: Blackburn, Paul, The Nets, 1961, Trobar: New York, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1961

By: Paul Blackburn (1926-1971)

Thursday, 27 August 2020

He Fades Away* by Alistair Hulett

There’s a man in my bed I used to love him
His kisses used to take my breath away
There’s a man in my bed I hardly know him
I wipe his face and hold his hand
And watch him as he slowly fades away

And he fades away
Not like leaves that fall in autumn
Turning gold against the grey
He fades away
Like the bloodstains on the pillow case
That I wash every day
He fades away

There’s a man in my bed, he’s on a pension
Although he’s only fifty years of age
The lawyer says we might get compensation
In the course of due procedure
But he couldn’t say for certain at this stage

And he’s not the only one
Who made that trip so many years ago
To work the Wittenoom mines
So many young men old before their time
And dying slow
He fades away
A wheezing bag of bones his
Lungs half clogged and full of clay
He fades away

There’s a man in my bed they never told him
The cost of bringing home his weekly pay
And when the courts decide how much they owe him
How will he spend his money
When he lies in bed and coughs his life away?

*This song is about an Australian blue asbestos miner. The miners (and often their families) were exposed to blue asbestos through the mine at Wittenoom in Western Australia and had a long and very bitter legal battle for compensation with many miners (and their family members) dying of the effects of the asbestos exposure (specifically mesothelioma) before receiving compensation. Wittenoom itself is a declared contaminated site and was phased out as a townsite, being removed from road signs and maps, in the 1990s. As of 2019, there was only one remaining permanent resident.


Date: 1991

By: Alistair Hulett (1951-2010)

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

To a Terrier by Patrick Reginald Chalmers

(November, 1910)

Crib, on your grave beneath the chestnut boughs
To-day no fragrance falls nor summer air,
Only a master’s love who laid you there
Perchance may warm the earth ‘neath which you drowse
In dreams from which no dinner gong may rouse,
Unwakeable, though close the rat may dare,
Deaf, though the rabbit thump in playful scare,
Silent, though twenty tabbies pay their vows.
And yet, mayhap, some night when shadows pass,
And from the fir the brown owl hoots on high,
That should one whistle ‘neath a favoring star
Your small white shade shall patter o’er the grass,
Questing for him you loved o’ days gone by,
Ere Death the Dog-Thief carried you afar!

From: Chalmers, Patrick R., Green Days and Blue Days, 1912, Maunsel and Company Ltd: Dublin and London, p. 88.

Date: 1910

By: Patrick Reginald Chalmers (1872-1942)

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The Last Straw by Rudolph Chambers Lehmann

I sing the sofa! It had stood for years,
An invitation to benign repose,
A foe to all the fretful brood of fears,
Bidding the weary eye-lid sink and close.
Massive and deep and broad it was and bland—
In short the noblest sofa in the land.

You, too, my friend, my solid friend, I sing,
Whom on an afternoon I did behold
Eying—’twas after lunch—the cushioned thing,
And murmuring gently, “Here are realms of gold,
And I shall visit them,” you said, “and be
The sofa’s burden till it’s time for tea.”

“Let those who will go forth,” you said, “and dare,
Beyond the cluster of the little shops,
To strain their limbs and take the eager air,
Seeking the heights of Hedsor and its copse.
I shall abide and watch the far-off gleams
Of fairy beacons from the world of dreams.”

Then forth we fared, and you, no doubt, lay down,
An easy victim to the sofa’s charms,
Forgetting hopes of fame and past renown,
Lapped in those padded and alluring arms.
“How well,” you said, and veiled your heavy eyes,
“It slopes to suit me! This is Paradise.”

So we adventured to the topmost hill,
And, when the sunset shot the sky with red,
Homeward returned and found you taking still
Deep draughts of peace with pillows ‘neath your head.
“His sleep,” said one, “has been unduly long.”
Another said, “Let’s bring and beat the gong.”

“Gongs,” said a third and gazed with looks intent
At the full sofa, “are not adequate.
There fits some dread, some heavy, punishment
For one who sleeps with such a dreadful weight.
Behold with me,” he moaned, “a scene accurst.
The springs are broken and the sofa’s burst!”

Too true! Too true! Beneath you on the floor
Lay blent in ruin all the obscure things
That were the sofa’s strength, a scattered store
Of tacks and battens and protruded springs.
Through the rent ticking they had all been spilt,
Mute proofs and mournful of your weight and guilt.

And you? You slept as sweetly as a child,
And when you woke you recked not of your shame,
But babbled greetings, stretched yourself and smiled
From that eviscerated sofa’s frame,
Which, flawless erst, was now one mighty flaw
Through the addition of yourself as straw.

From: Lehmann, R C, The Vagabond and Other Poems from Punch, 1918, John Lane, The Bodley Head: London, p. 102.

Date: 1914

By: Rudolph Chambers Lehmann (1856-1929)

Monday, 24 August 2020

Unchanging Dolls’ Faces by Enomoto Seifu

unchanging dolls’ faces—
I’ve had no choice, except
to grow old.

From: Ueda, Makoto (ed. and transl.), Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women, 2003, Columbia University Press: New York, p. 60.

Date: c1800 (original in Japanese); 2003 (translation in English)

By: Enomoto Seifu (1732-1815)

Translated by: Makoto Ueda (1931- )

Sunday, 23 August 2020

To the Edinburgh Reviewers: Epistle the First by Alexander Boswell

Ye young Reviewers! listen to my strain!
Pardon my maxims, if they give you pain.
Accept the mild effusions of my pen;—
Ye are the ducklings, I the guardian hen.
I cannot follow—poor old anxious fool,—
But tremble, while you dabble in the pool.
Your early talents promise very fair,
Use them with prudence, cultivate with care.
Blast not my hopes, nor ridicule my fears;
Nor slight the wisdom of a length of years.

A knack at words you have, some fancy too;
But have you judgment, think you, to review ?-
You read I find,—then, like true men of spirit,
You needs must write, that folks may know your merit.
You pace the room, in fancy dealing terror,—
(There, I must hint, you’re rather in an error).
All are not d——d you happen to dislike;
All turn not marble whom your glances strike.—

When the fierce tyger rages o’er the land,
Then to the chase, ye hunters, in a band!
Or when the crocodile, with treacherous tears,
Seeks to decoy and lead us by the ears,
Then to your task, these ravening foes destroy,
We’ll shout your praises with tumultuous joy.
But where’s the honour, where the mighty feat,
To seize a victim that can only bleat?
Why tinge with red the unassuming cheek,
Or tear a linnet with a vulture’s beak?
Come, prythee do not vaunt, and puff, and swell,
That you can see what others see as well.
Toss not your heads about with happy grin,
Proud when you catch a straw, or find a pin.
Is he a lion who can gorge a rat?
Is he Goliath who can crush a gnat?

Treasure this maxim in your thoughts for ever:
“A Critic must be just, as well as clever.”
Cloud not another’s light, that you may shine,
And some politeness with your wit combine.
You must not be so rude, nor so conceited;
A woman surely should be gently treated.
Her poems, like her form, may catch your eye;
She seeks to please, but claims no ardent sigh.
If dress’d with taste, approach her and admire;
If tawdry, pray be silent and retire.
Don’t snatch her cap, and kick it in the air;
Don’t tear her gown, or thrust her from her chair;
Don’t, arms a-kimbo, labour to affront her,
Nor use her as you use poor Mrs. H- r.1

Let not a doctor’s wig your satire aid;
So poor an ally must your cause degrade.
Patterns you are of style, no doubt, of grace;
Then prythee, let us have each critic face;
To each essay prefix the learned head,
That lines and features may at once be read.
Thus he, whom now we deem or black or yellow,
May prove, if colour’d well, a pretty fellow.
If more than usual sharp his phiz, or fuller,
More clever we shall rate his works or duller.

Mild Doctor Langford2, little did’st thou ween,
When with a fair round face, and placid mein,
Amidst the kind restorers of the drown’d
You preach’d humanity to all around.

Ah ! little thought you that each trope and figure
Should pass the ordeal with so much rigour;
That what made Doctors Hawes and Lettsome weep
Should lull a critic, in the north, to sleep;
Who, though by nostrums and gay friends beset,
Upon my life, seems somewhat sleepy yet.

When the tir’d seaman in his hammock swings,
And dreams of rare fresh beef—ecstatic things!
With vacant grasp he snatches at a bit:
So our reviewer at a piece of wit:
Old jests of Joe his college letch provoke,
And, while he doses, struggles for a joke.

We love not petulance—it sickens quite—
‘Tis nauseous—and although you may be right,
More to our feelings than our judgment trusting,
We fain would have you wrong,—’tis so disgusting.

Touch not on topics you can’t understand:—
Why lug his Lordship3 forward sword in hand-
You read the title and a line or two,
And tell us so—Is this then to review?
Why ev’ry trifle to our notice bring,
Merely that you may say a clever thing?

Your Pegasus, we find, is but a colt:
We see him start, dash headlong on, and bolt
He kicks, o’erleaps all bounds, and scorns all check,
The reins of reason loose upon his neck.

Some plants of vigour deck your work, I own,
But flowering weeds are very thickly sown.
If each contributor had equal powers,
I should not grudge the many tedious hours,
Torn from the pastimes that become your age,
To plod for jests, and blot a heavy page.
To Mounier’s candid critic4 praise is due;
Make him your leader, keep him in your view.
Learn to be modest, in your wit be chaste,
Ye are not, yet, all Chesterfields5 in taste.

I move not forward, with Herculean tread .
And iron-mace, to break each Hydra head; .
An humble friend, I offer hints in season,
Watching with fervent hope your dawning reason.
Prosper your youthful efforts to be known!
Whose swelling fame is dearer than my own.

1. Review of Poems. By Mrs. Hunter [Anne Home Hunter (1742-1821)] in the first issue of the Edinburgh Review, 1802.
2. Review of 
Anniversary Sermon of the Royal Humane Society. By W. Langford, D.D. in the first issue of the Edinburgh Review, 1802.
3. William, Earl of Ancrum, afterwards Marquis of Lothian, whose observations in relation to proposed improvements in the arms and accoutrements of light cavalry had been inserted in the “Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.”
4. Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850) was one of the founders of the
Edinburgh Review and served as its editor from 1803 until 1829. He wrote a review of J. J. Mounier’s De l’influence des Philosophes..sur la Revolution de France in the magazine’s first issue which was thought exemplary and the benchmark for the Edinburgh Review’s future reviews and articles.
5. Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope (1694-1773), was considered an arbiter of taste.

From: Boswell, Alexander and Smith, Robert Howie (ed.), The Poetical Works of Sir Alexander Boswell, of Auchinleck, Baronet. Now first collected and edited, with memoir, 1871, Maurice Ogle & Company: Glasgow, pp. 126-131.

Date: 1803

By: Alexander Boswell (1775-1822)

Saturday, 22 August 2020

The Leaf by Antoine-Vincent Arnault

Thou poor leaf, so sear and frail,
Sport of every wanton gale,
Whence, and whither, dost thou fly
Through this bleak autumnal sky!’
‘On a noble oak I grew,
Green, and broad, and fair to view;
But the Monarch of the shade
By the tempest low was laid.
From that time, I wander o’er
Wood, and valley, hill, and moor;
Wheresoe’er the wind is blowing,
Nothing caring, nothing knowing.
Thither go I, whither goes
Glory’s laurel, Beauty’s rose.


Date: 1812 (original in French); 1826 (translation in English)

By: Antoine-Vincent Arnault (1766-1834)

Translated by: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)