Posts tagged ‘2014’

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

And This Is the Ballad of My Life by Abraham (Avrom) Sutzkever

And this is the ballad of my life: dipping bread
in salt at a banquet for my unseen guests from afar.
And when they are hailed on by clod of earth after clod of earth,
to meet them between long tree-lined streets once more.

And this is the ballad of my life: that I mumble
strange syllables before the people of silence.
And they, the unseen and heirs of the mists,
fill my living anxiety and contemplations.

And this is the ballad of my life: to be a witness that those
who lashed me with thongs just a moment ago and set
children on fire and cremated them with their grandfathers,
these same people should send off a swarm of diamonds.

A day at the conclusion of days approaches through tears,
the way a blooming cherry tree approaches at the end of night.
And this is the ballad of my life: to hear my critic–
the roaring oracular voice of forever.


Date: 1977 (original in Yiddish) 2014 (translation in English)

By: Abraham (Avrom) Sutzkever (1913-2010)

Translated by: Maia Evrona (19??- )

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Mankind by Mihály Vörösmarty

Listen. For the singing must be still:
Now the world speaks plain.
Hot wings of the rainstorm turn to chill,
Frozen the wind and rain—
The rain is tears, is sorrow’s smart,
The wind sighed by the human heart:
It makes no difference—spirit, virtue, sin:
All hope is vain!

You have heard the story: humankind
Born of their fathers’ breath,
Reaped with their fathers sowed and as they sinned,
Inheritance of death:
And the survivors howl for Law,
And law in turn kills m any more,
The best have failed, the worst’s plots reign:
All hope is vain!

Then the heroes came, and they bestrode
The law with their bright blaze.
Work began: steel cut its bloody road!
Mankind gloried in self-praise.
And when its heroes died, again
It mauled itself in its great pain.
The news? Lightning upon a darkling plain:
All hope is vain!

There is a long peace, and humankind
Teems grossly to beget
So the plague perhaps may one day find
A grander banquet set.
With greedy eyes it scans the sky:
Earth’s not its own, that’s why,
The Earth’s as hard as grave-ground for this strain:
All hope is vain!

How fertile is the earth, and human hands
Make it more fertile still,
Yet poverty stalks over all the lands
And bondage stamps its will.
Must it be so? Or if not, why
Must ancient times repeat the cry?
What’s lacking? Is it virtue? power? Again
All hope is vain!

A godless contract binds you in its bans,
Reason and evil will!
You nourish with the rage of ignorance
Your armies to the kill.
Reason or rage, devil or beast,
Whoever wins, men die at least:
This mud ran mad, this god-faced knot of pain!
All hope is vain!

Beneath Mankind the good earth groans, and now
War years and peace years burn.
The curse of brother-hate blooms on its brow:
You’d think that it would learn,
But then it spawns some greater sin.
Humans are dragon-teeth, the strain
Of Man’s the dragon-toothed, the race of Cain:
All hope is vain! All hope is vain!


From:  Ozsváth , Zsuzsanna and Turner, Frederick (eds. and transls.), Light within the Shade: Eight Hundred Years of Hungarian Poetry, 2014, Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, New York, pp. 30-31.

Date: 1846 (original in Hungarian); 2014 (translation in English)

By: Mihály Vörösmarty (1800-1855)

Translated by: Zsuzsanna Ozsváth (1931- ) and Frederick Turner (1943- )

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Guenivere in Prison by Theodora Goss

She clasped her hands, and she unclasped her hands.
She stood up, and she sat back down again.
She sighed and pushed back copper-colored strands
of hair, and sighed and listened to the rain.
The windows were barred; she stood and looked outside
between the bars, and saw the wet gray walls,
and wateched a lone bedraggled pigeon stride
the battlements, and trickling waterfalls
form from the turrets. The banners hung soaked and limp.
She set her white hands on the windowsill
and left them until they were cold and damp.
She closed her eyes. And then that pigeon stole,
boldly, while she snatched a somewhat rest,
two strands to make a copper-colored nest.

From: Goss, Theodora, Songs for Ophelia, 2020, Mythic Delirium Books: Roanoke, Virginia, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 2014

By: Theodora Goss (1968- )

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??- )

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Hurricane by Annelyse Gelman

Curse us if you will—we are already cursed
to ruin what we love and yet
to love. Everything we touch
lifts to dust; forgive us our weakness.
We have such trouble holding on, only wanted
to show you what homes are made of
by pulling them apart—we were so curious.
We didn’t think how to put them back
together. No one told us there was an order
to your grief, your stubborn acres of love
planted in something so temporary.
No one warned us how fragile your hands are.
We only wanted to help—we who lifted, we
who sank, who pulled roots of asphalt with fists
of wind to make a garden of your city. Please—
grow—look how little you need. We have given you
the gift of robbing you of everything
inessential. We didn’t realize you never wanted
to be reminded that everything
is inessential. Forgive us. We were so
afraid. The first time we saw you, we thought
you were gods: how you pass through fields
unnoticed by the trees, the way you can leave
without leaving anything behind. There is nothing
more dangerous than something with no
destination. Forgive us our reverence. We made skylights
of your rooftops. If you had only looked up
you would have seen what became of them:
your shingles chasing flocks of starlings, lawn chairs
dancing two-step with garden gnomes, orchids
in mailboxes, treehouses in the clouds.
We wanted to show you anything is possible.
Forgive us. We were so in love.
In a past life, we were mothers, and you mourned
when we promised you would outlive us.
We were fires, and you wept when all you knew
would turn to ash turned to ash before you
were ready, because you will never be ready.
We were heart surgeons, but no one wants to hear
you can’t hold onto anything without tearing it apart,
that everyone you love is a stranger to someone
who’s a stranger to you, and sometimes who you love
is a stranger, too. Forgive us our strength.
We have such trouble letting go. Above the keening
branches, a smothering of clouds. Even heaven
is not perfect. Even heaven aches to hold the earth.


Date: 2014

By: Annelyse Gelman (19??- )

Monday, 3 February 2020

Consultation by Chris Woods

He doesn’t look too good,
Suit not as snappy.
His tie’s a bit frayed.
He doesn’t look happy.
Domestic difficulties,
Staff shortages, cuts?
In the driving seat
no longer. Driven nuts.
He doesn’t look too hot.
Has he been up all night?
I’ll be supportive –
“Doc. Are you all right?”

From: Wolf, Rogan (ed.), Poems for…those who wait, 2014, Central and North West London NHS Trust: London, p. 12.

Date: 2014

By: Chris Woods (19??- )

Saturday, 11 January 2020

His Winter by Christine Brandel

He was an obscure poet, I know that,
one not particularly of note as other
poets would say. He hadn’t even written
his own book, for god’s sake.
Yet I stumbled upon his winter
poem, the title meaningless. He was
not the first to write that winter was a kind
of death, a grey, heavy, slow dying
of all who lived. Yet he convinced me
so absolutely that I set the poem on my desk,
got my affairs in order, and went to bed
prepared for the last and longest sleep.


Date: 2014

By: Christine Brandel (19??- )

Monday, 9 December 2019

Told One of the Goldfish Wouldn’t Last the Night… by David John Constantine

Told one of the goldfish wouldn’t last the night
He hid his eyes under a fierce scowl
And went outside on the flags and rode his bike
Round and round, round and round

But it did no good and he brought the fact back in
Heading for his bedroom and his secret stash of chocolate
But his mother got under his scowl and halted him
Till he showed her his eyes and that was that.

So much sorrow there is in a not-quite-five-year-old
They know so much already and suspect the rest
Already they are beyond being consoled
They watch, they have seen it signed and witnessed

That all living creatures have one thing in common:
They die. Creatures as intricate and various
As a worm, a swallow, a cat, a water-scorpion
Baby and grown-up, all of them, all of us

Die. So when in her arms her child became a well
And the waters of sorrow that are under the earth broke through
For a golden fish she was inconsolable
Grieving that his grief was right, just, true.


Date: 2014

By: David John Constantine (1944- )

Monday, 21 October 2019

Artschool Villanal by Krista Bell

Oh, artschool asshole
with your dichotomy, ontology, paintbrush sodomy.
Charcoal on hands, black-like soul.

Intellectually masturbate to the concepts you dole
‘cause pretension’s just tension before epiphany,
you artschool asshole.

Eyes cross the gallery, see an outsider troll.
Those visual obstructions to site specificity
plague your charcoal hands, black-like soul.

Secluded (self-deluded) you function your form.
Swear you’re campy, not kitschy,
while you artschool your asshole.

Top seat, totem poll–
a clean slate beacon of post-post contemporary,
eager to make dirty with charcoal hands, black-like soul.

So, here is a way of taking control
from avant-garded pride (underpainted in painstake cadmium),
with charcoal on my hands, and a black’s-not-a-colour-like soul:
I don’t want to be an artschool asshole.


Date: 2014

By: Krista Bell (19??- )

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Bodies, Flowerbeds: A Villanelle by Viola Allo

The earth, carved up, engraved with bodies,
this hollow vision of death: people resting
together, bodies beneath a bed of flowers.

We soften death into poems and stories.
The art of writing is just a way of wailing
for the earth, carved up, sculpted by bodies.

In Cameroon, hair from the dead is carried,
mixed with cam wood and kept; the living
remember bodies beneath beds of flowers.

What we seek through our endless studies
sits beyond death, but the path to it is sinking
into a carved-up earth, paved with bodies.

The sharp shovel of silence briefly remedies
the ear deaf to the voices of the dead, linking
it to slender-petaled tongues in a flowerbed.

A poem or a story is an etching of memories,
dignity in the fragile face of loss. Soothing
the earth, carved up, engraved with bodies,
we hum together beside a bed of flowers.


Date: 2014

By: Viola Allo (19??- )