Archive for June, 2021

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Algorithm of Eternal Life by Ute von Funcke

At the sea the fishermen

tired, rocking
in rotting boats

they’ve been waiting, waiting
long days and nights

knotting and loosening knots
in their stinking nets

dreaming of
the return of death

waiting in vain

he will not anchor in
the bight of those living forever

the rudder raised to strike
his eyes flaming wheels

Charon in his empty ferry

the fishermen throw him
their last copper coins.

From: von Funcke, Ute, ‘Algorithm of Eternal Life’ in Field: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, Number 100, Spring 2019, p. 21.

Date: 2019 (original in German); 2019 (translation in English)

By: Ute von Funcke (19??- )

Translated by: Stuart Friebert (1931-2020)

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

The Fear of the Dark by Nan Cohen

The fear of the dark is the flame
at the end of a match: one scratch,
and it flares.
Then a voice calls in the night.
And you go to it.

Wherever earth is in shadow,
these fears burn like fires.
This one is yours.
You tend it. Feed it a stick.
The flame crouches
to eat the wood.

Serving the fire,
you don’t fear the dark.
You kneel to it,
hearing its voice
grow softer and slower, until
it says one more thing
you can’t hear. And sleeps.


Date: 2013

By: Nan Cohen (1968- )

Monday, 28 June 2021

Kind of Blue by Angie Estes

Because most stars were born more than six billion
years ago, the average color of the universe has changed
since that bluer period when there were more young stars.
—The Cosmic Spectrum and the Color of the Universe

So the universe is not blue
after all, not even green

but beige because the stars are
older than we thought. But is it

sad, even sadder than
we knew? Describe the sound

of doves — is it coo, coo
coo or who who who? The French

would say it’s rue rue rue
and in Italy it would be summer,

morning, already brocade,
Cecilia Bartoli gargling. And the throats

of doves, are they beautiful
or true in their blue and pink

embroidery? Young stars burn
hot and blue but those near death

are red. Did your father believe
in God?
and the deer leaped

so high above the road I believed
it had been hit by a car. Dear falling

note, intention, dear
no more, dear rain,

give it up. What remains and need
not be mentioned we’ll call

what have you, musica ficta: not
what’s written down but what’s

been played. What if
you paused for a minuet

instead of a minute? The dark
might sky, the blue might

star, the always
could open, the close

might earth. The doves
are just around

the corner, like a train
before it turns into

view. Miles Davis was
right: there will be fewer

chords but infinite possibilities
as to what to do with them. The doves

are coming, true,
true true.


Date: 2004

By: Angie Estes (1950- )

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Orison: February, Eugene, Oregon by Garrett Kaoru Hongo

for Al Young

Months of heavy rain and the back lawn is an emerald pond
with islands of fig and apple trees and their dirt collars
darkening under the pixilated gray of a computer-screen sky.

I’ve cinched my desires in a handful of thin books,
wired the dwarf pines and maples in their pots on the deck
and instructed them in Soul Train and break-dance poses
to beguile my children and signify what’s past.

Which is various: Motown and min’yo blaring together on the PA of my high school gym,
emanations of soul and shamisen from the living room stereo
back when I was a child, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”
rising like a willow tree by a smooth-flowing river
banded with a long slick of stars streaking across its back
in a wall-hanging of calligraphy and gaudy prints over the Silvertone console.

I tell myself I’ve drifted too far now to go back,
my karma the boat of a dry leaf caught in the swirls of that river
taking me from ghetto to this immaculate garden without stain or confusion,
everything so calm and forgotten, the anguish I have
like the darting squirrel that emerges, a nervous and comic thing,
unavailed of all the refulgence and splendor that surrounds him
and would inspire a lapse from instinct and pain
if not for the immutable worry that jags through his heart like a dance.


Date: 2018

By: Garrett Kaoru Hongo (1951- )

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Drifting Flowers of the Sea by Carl Sadakichi Hartmann

Across the dunes, in the waning light,
The rising moon pours her amber rays,
Through the slumbrous air of the dim, brown night
The pungent smell of the seaweed strays—
From vast and trackless spaces
Where wind and water meet,
White flowers, that rise from the sleepless deep,
Come drifting to my feet.
They flutter the shore in a drowsy tune,
Unfurl their bloom to the lightlorn sky,
Allow a caress to the rising moon,
Then fall to slumber, and fade, and die.

White flowers, a-bloom on the vagrant deep,
Like dreams of love, rising out of sleep,
You are the songs, I dreamt but never sung,
Pale hopes my thoughts alone have known,
Vain words ne’er uttered, though on the tongue,
That winds to the sibilant seas have blown.
In you, I see the everlasting drift of years
That will endure all sorrows, smiles and tears;
For when the bell of time will ring the doom
To all the follies of the human race,
You still will rise in fugitive bloom
And garland the shores of ruined space.


Date: 1904

By: Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (1867-1944)

Friday, 25 June 2021

Think of Others by Mahmoud Darwish

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).


Date: 2005 (original in Arabic); 2009 (translation in English)

By: Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

Translated by: Mohammed Shaheen (19??- )

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Thief by Lee Sharkey

A thief has stolen the water from under the village.
He flees, holding it in his arms. The land is parched.

As a hand gathers eggs from the nest, the rich have gathered all the earth.
No bird opens its wing.

The land idolator builds his house in our orchard.
He’s in love with his passive solar, his bougainvillea.

The CEO is fingering something in his pocket.
C-notes in a money clip? A Glock? A worry stone?

The tyrant, the buffoon, the egomaniac.
The quantum state where the despot is all three.

The thief of memory has erased my face.
I ache. His blank indifference robs me of my history.

Like rats to a hayfield sycophants come and kneel before the king.
Listen: a rustling in the sheaves.

I take a pill to make loss go away.
A face appears in the mirror, swollen and asymmetrical.

The thief of righteousness has planted his semen in my belly.
I do hard labor, bring forth a chimera.

No one opens his mouth to speak.
Out of this quiet, a thought neither quartered nor quelled.


Date: 2020

By: Lee Sharkey (1945-2020)

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

To Spring by Roger Greenwald

Dreaded season when light’s too long too soon,
winter turns to you before its work is done.
Along with snowdrops, forsythia, anemone,
along with tulips breaking out of their bulbs,
comes the long memory of the fatal spring
when I was thirty-three and my love wasn’t there,
had gone without waiting and said she’d return,
but winter’s work done, was still gone.
Absence stronger than flowers, steaming in sun,
poisoned the season, buried morbid winter
and filled imagined summer with vapors. Light,
light spring drifts in like a feather
used for torture, its touch
too much and not enough.


Date: 2012

By: Roger Greenwald (1945- )

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Again a Solstice by Jennifer Chang

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked
for bacon in my sandwich, and then

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar:

I did not use a knife. I lied
about what he did to my faith
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake.
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk.
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke,
the lifeguard perilously close to diving.
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick.

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake.
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion

I’ll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake,
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I’m correcting my mistakes.

It means I don’t want to be lonely.


Date: 2010

By: Jennifer Chang (19??- )

Monday, 21 June 2021

Letter to the Light by Rolf Jacobsen

Morning’s paper is splendidly unfolded
on the Earth, it is a new day
and a tractor is already out there with its lumpy fist,
writing a letter to the light, growling
each letter aloud to itself, for it’s important
to get everything in, the thunder and the bees,
the ant trail that’s extended its little
silken foot in the grass, our peace
and the unease we feel about everything—it has to get all these in.

Large moist lines and a slow hand
that shakes a lot but not it’s all said,
the page is full and everything’s laid out in the open
like a letter to no-one, the plow’s letter
to light that anyone’s welcome to read.

From: Jacobsen, Rolf and Greenwald, Roger (transl.), North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen, A Bilingual Edition, 2002, The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, p. 123.

Date: 1960 (original in Norwegian); 1985 (translation in English)

By: Rolf Jacobsen (1907-1994)

Translated by: Roger Greenwald (1945- )