Spirit like water moulded by unseen stone and sandbar, pleats and funnels according to its own submerged necessity — to the indolent eye pure wilfulness, to the stray pine-needle boiling in that cascade-bent pool a random fury: Law, if that's what's wanted, lies asking to be read in the dried brook-bed.
For Example November 23, 1963
Sometimes you meet an old man whose fist isn't clenched blue-white. Someone like that old poet
whose grained palm once travelled the bodies of sick children. Back in the typed line
was room for everything: the blue grape hyacinth patch, the voluntary touch
of cheek on breast, the ear alert for a changed heartbeat and for other sounds too
that live in a typed line: the breath of animals, stopping and starting up of busses,
trashfires in empty lots. Attention once given returned again as power.
An old man's last few evenings might be inhabited not by a public—
fountains of applause off auditorium benches, tributes read at hotel banquets—
but by reverberations the ear had long desired, accepted and absorbed.
The late poem might be written in a night suddenly awake with quiet new sounds
as when a searchlight plays against the dark bush-tangle and birds speak in reply.
Translations December 25, 1972
You show me the poems of some woman my age, or younger translated from your language
Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow enough to let me know she's a woman of my time
with Love, our subject: we've trained it like ivy to our walls baked it like bread in our ovens worn it like lead on our ankles watched it through binoculars as if it were a helicopter bringing food to our famine or the satellite of a hostile power
I begin to see that woman doing things: stirring rice ironing a skirt typing a manuscript till dawn
trying to make a call from a phonebooth
The phone rings endlessly in a man's bedroom she hears him telling someone else Never mind. She'll get tired. hears him telling her story to her sister
who becomes her enemy and will in her own way light her own way to sorrow
ignorant of the fact this way of grief is shared, unnecessary and political
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve May 26, 2008
Saw you walking barefoot taking a long look at the new moon's eyelid
later spread sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair asleep but not oblivious of the unslept unsleeping elsewhere
Tonight I think no poetry will serve
Syntax of rendition:
verb pilots the plane adverb modifies action
verb force-feeds noun submerges the subject noun is choking verb disgraced goes on doing
there are adjectives up for sale
now diagram the sentence
Quarto June 8, 2009
1. Call me Sebastian, arrows sticking all over The map of my battlefields. Marathon. Wounded Knee. Vicksburg. Jericho. Battle of the Overpass. Victories turned inside out But no surrender
Cemeteries of remorse The beaten champion sobbing Ghosts move in to shield his tears
2. No one writes lyric on a battlefield On a map stuck with arrows But I think I can do it if I just lurk In my tent pretending to Refeather my arrows
I'll be right there! I yell When they come with their crossbows and white phosphorus To recruit me Crouching over my drafts lest they find me out and shoot me
3. Press your cheek against my medals, listen through them to my heart Doctor, can you see me if I'm naked?
Spent longer in this place than in the war No one comes but rarely and I don't know what for
Went to that desert as many did before Farewell and believing and hope not to die
Hope not to die and what was the life Did we think was awaiting after
Lay down your stethoscope back off on your skills Doctor can you see me when I'm naked?
4. I'll tell you about the mermaid Sheds swimmable tail Gets legs for dancing Sings like the sea with a choked throat Knives straight up her spine Lancing every step There is a price There is a price For every gift And all advice