Irises, van Gogh

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

Yehuda Amichat, The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichat, trans. by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell,  (Univ. of California Press, 1986, 1996, 2013)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black,
We watch him as he labors to draw breath.
He takes our breath away to give it back,
Return it to its birth through his slow death.
We hear him struggle, breathing through the pain,
Who once breathed out his spirit upon the deep,
Who formed us when he mixed the dust with rain
And drew us into consciousness from sleep.
His spirit and his life he breathes in all,
Mantles his world in his one atmosphere,
And now he comes to breathe beneath the pall
Of our pollutions, draw our injured air
To cleanse it and renew. His final breath
Breathes and bears us through the gates of death.

Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year (Canterbury Press Norwich, 2012)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

Here is the source of every sacrament,
The all-transforming presence of the Lord,
Replenishing our every element,
Remaking us in his creative Word.
For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,
The air delights to bear His spirit's speech,
The fire dances where the candles shine,
The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.
And here he shows the full extent of love,
To us whose love is always incomplete,
In vain we search the heavens high above,
The God of love is kneeling at our feet.
Though we betray him, though it is the night,
He meets us here and loves us into light.

Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year (Canterbury Press Norwich, 2012)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Lincoln Relics (extract)

His innocence was to trust
the better angels of our nature,
even when the Union cracked
and furious blood
ran north and south
along the lines of pillage.
Secession grieved him
like the falling out of brothers.
After Appomattox he laid
the white flower of forgiving
on Lee's crisp sword.
What was there left for him to do?
When the curtain rose
on Our American Cousin
he leaned forward in his chair
toward the last absurdity,
that other laughable country,
for which he was ready with his ransom  --
a five-dollar Confederate note
in mint condition, and nine
newspaper accolades
neatly folded in his wallet.
It was time for him now
to try on his gold-rimmed spectacles,
the pair with the sliding temples
mended with a loop of string,
while the demon of the absolute,
who had been skulking in the wings,
leaped into focus,
waving a smoking pistol.

Stanley Kunitz, Passing Through: Poems New and Selected  (W. W. Norton & Co, 1995)

The Poet with His Face in His Hands

You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn't need any more of that sound.

So if you're going to do it and can't
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can't
hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water-fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems: Volume Two (Beacon Press, 2005)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Evil Days (for Holy Week)

When, in that final week,
He was entering Jerusalem
They thundered Hosannas,
And greeted Him with branches.

Now the days are ominous and grim,
Hearts are no longer stirred by love,
Eyebrows are knit in contempt.
And now the epilogue, the end.

With all their leaden weight
The heavens laid on the courtyards.
Pharisees looked for proof against Him,
Yet wheedled Him like foxes.

And the dark forces of the Temple
Gave Him to rogues for judgment,
And as fervently as they praised
They cursed Him now.

The rabble from the neighborhood
Was peering through the gates,
They jostled in wait for the outcome,
And bustled about, back and forth.

And a whisper crept round there,
As did rumors from every side.
He recalled the flight to Egypt
And His childhood, but now as in a dream.

He recalled the majestic slope
In the desert, and the heights
From which Satan had tempted Him
With all the kingdoms of the world.

And the wedding feast at Cana,
The guests amazed by miracle.
And the sea on which, in a fog,
He'd walked to the boat as on dry land.

And the gathering of poor in a hovel,
And His going down to a cellar with a candle
Which suddenly, in fright, went out
As the resurrected man was standing up. . . .

Boris Pasternak, trans. from Russian by Nina Kossman     

Friday, April 12, 2019

Now You Need Me

When the rains come
you remember
our old closeness
humping along
in the wet.
You grope the dark
where I hang
by my crooked neck.
You pull off my cover
shake me till my
ribs jiggle
and a moth flies out.
Your hand reaches under
my black skirt
and up one leg
thin as a cane
until I open wide
with a rusty squawk
hovering above you
like a dark and loving
raven, said the old
umbrella, her night
full of holes.

Virginia Hamilton Adair, Ants On the Melon: A Collection of Poems (Random House, 1996)