Monday, December 25, 2006

open secret

open secret

Take someone who doesn't keep score,
who's not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest even
in his own personality: He's free

* * *

They say that Paradise will be perfect
with lots of clear white wine and all the beautiful women.
We hold on to times like this then,
since this is how it's going to be.

--Open Secret, Versions of Rumi, tr. John Moyne and Coleman Barks

Friday, December 15, 2006

pointe-a-pitre, guadeloupe, french west indies

particular sounds have become familiar
markets, motorbikes, the clock tower
but at ten o'clock the street is too quiet
starving black dogs drift past in ragged files,
death messengers dispersed from the center of town
their tongues hang out; their eyes are
narrow, sickened

mothers carry garbage down to the gutter
across from the Palais de Justice dogs are
sleeping on the steps of St. Peter's Cathedral

you go into the street, stumble, look up
you catch a glimpse
you pass her room, brown cloth swatches
you recognize the eyes

earlier there were bats, flitting like swallows
through the half light, from the balcony
over the park, the dark comes quickly, over fishermen and secretaries

earlier the brothers were chanting paternosters
behind the high walls, down in the gardens
dogs and monks under the shadow of the cathedral,
waiting for visions and mysteries
aeons ago celestial warriors tore off a corner of Paradise,
flinging it to earth . . .

in the cafe at ten o'clock, the swarthy men
are playing at checkers
you go into the street and are alone
you step down, you are isolated, timeless
this is your own corner

ten o'clock, everyone is weeping
I want to be there, to go, to see, to ascend
we have all drawn crazy scenes as children

not that the pictures get any better
gutter noises; cockroaches scuttle over stones
this world has broken too many people

in your own glass the eyes look forgotten
in the center of the city the cathedral watches
like a mother over all her wandering sons

--Amos Stoltzfus

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

silence dans de plus vastes syllabaires

. . . Des terres neuves, par là-haut, comme un parfum puissant de grandes femmes mûrissantes,

Des terres neuves, par là-haut, sous la montée des hommes de tout
âge, chantant l'insigne mésalliance,

Toute la terre aux arbres, par là-haut, dans le balancement de ses plus
beaux ombrages, ouvrant sa tresse la plus noire et l'ornement grandiose
de sa plume, comme un parfum de chair nubile et forte au lit des plus
beaux êtres de ce monde.

Et c'est une fraîcheur d'eaux libres et d'ombrages, pour la montée des hiHomes de tout hommes de tout âge, chantant l'insigne misalliance,

Et c'est une fraîcheur de terres en bas âge, comme un parfum des
choses de toujours, de ce côté des choses de toujours,

Et comme un songe prénuptial où l'homme encore tient son rang, à
la lisière d'un autre âge, interprétant la feuille noire et les arborescences
du silence dans de plus vastes syllabaires.

Toute la terre nouvelle par là-haut, sous son blason d'orage, portant
cimier de filles blondes et l'empennage du Sachem,

Toute la terre nubile et forte, au pas de l'Étranger, ouvrant sa fable
de grandeur aux songes et fastes d'un autre âge,

Et la terre à longs traits, sur ses plus longues laisses, courant, de mer
à mer, à de plus hautes écritures, dans le déroulement lointain des plus
beaux textes de ce monde.

* * *

. . . New lands, up there, like a powerful perfume of tall women ripening,

New lands up there, beneath the ascent of men of every age, singing the signal misalliance,

All the land of trees, up there, in the swaying of its most beautiful shades, opening the blackest of its tresses and the imposing ornament of its plumage, like a perfume of flesh, nubile and vigorous, in the bed of this world's most beautiful beings.

And there is a freshness of free waters, of shades, for the ascent of men of every age, singing the signal misalliance,

And tehre is a freshness of lands in infancy, like a perfume of things everlasting, on this side of everlasting things,

And like a prenuptial dream wherein man, on the verge of another age, retains his rank, interpreting the black leaf and the arborescences of silence in vaster syllabaries.

All the land, up there, new beneath its blazonry of storm, wearing the crest of golden girls and the feathered head-dress of the Sachem,

All the nubile and vigorous land, at the step of the Stranger, opening up the fable of its grandeur to the dreams and pageantries of another age,

And the land in its long lines, on its longest strophes, running, from sea to sea, to loftier scriptures, in the distant unrolling of this world's most beautiful texts.

--Vents, St. Jean Perse, tr. Hugh Chisholm

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ces terres jaunes, notre delice...

I spent the autumn of 1967 in Guadeloupe, where I was introduced to the Guadeloupean poet St. Jean Perse. There I fell in love with an Indian girl. We spent dreamy adolescent hours in the parks, the cathedral, and down at the docks.

Mathematiques suspendues aux banquises du sel! Au point sensible de mon front ou le poeme s'etablit, j'inscris ce chant de tout un peuple, le plus ivre,
a nos chantiers tirant d'immortelles carenes!

Mathematics hung on the floes of salt! there at the sensitive point on my brow where the poem is formed, I inscribe this chant of all a people, the most rapt god-drunken,
drawing to our dockyards eternal keels!

--Anabase, St. Jean Perse, tr. T.S. Eliot

I traveled round the world to find the sun
I couldn't stop myself from having fun
And then one day I met an Indian girl
And she made me forget this troubled world
We're living in