from Natural History

The clemancie of Elephants. How elephants
breed and how they disagree with Dragons.
How they make sport in a kind of Morrish dance.
How in drinking they may swallow down a horsleech
(which worme they begin now to call a blood-sucker).
The elephant who wrote Greeke and read musicke.
The elephant who cast a fancie and was enamoured upon
a wench in Egypt who sold nosegaies and wickerishe.
Their hornes, or properly Teeth, of which men make
images of the gods, fine combes, wanton toies.
Who march alwaies in troupes. Who snuffe and puffe.
Who the troublesome flie haunts.
Who cannot abide a rat or a mouse. Who are purified
by dashing and sprinkling themselves with water.
Who, enfeebled by sicknesse, lie upon their backes,
casting and flinging herbs up toward heaven.
Who adore and salute in their rude manner that planet,
the moone.

A.B. Jackson


Imaginary Number

The mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
is not big and is not small.
Big and small are

comparative categories, and to what
could the mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
be compared?

Consciousness observes and is appeased.
The soul scrambles across the screes.
The soul,

like the square root of minus 1,
is an impossibility that has its uses.

Vijay Seshadri

The Long Meadow

The Long Meadow
Near the end of one of the old poems, the son of righteousness,
the source of virtue and civility,
on whose back the kingdom is carried
as on the back of the tortoise the earth is carried,
passes into the next world.
The wood is dark. The wood is dark,
and on the other side of the wood the sea is shallow, warm, endless.
In and around it, there is no threat of life —
so little is the atmosphere charged with possibility that
he might as well be wading through a flooded basement.
He wades for what seems like forever,
and never stops to rest in the shade of the metal raintrees
springing out of the water at fixed intervals.
Time, though endless, is also short,
so he wades on, until he walks out of the sea and into the mountains,
where he burns on the windward slopes and freezes in the valleys.
After unendurable struggles,
he finally arrives at the celestial realm.
The god waits there for him. The god invites him to enter.
But looking through the glowing portal,
he sees on that happy plain not those he thinks wait eagerly for him—
his beloved, his brothers, his companions in war and exile,
all long since dead and gone—
but, sitting pretty and enjoying the gorgeous sunset,
his cousin and bitter enemy, the cause of that war, that exile,
whose arrogance and vicious indolence
plunged the world into grief.
The god informs him that, yes, those he loved have been carried down
the river of fire. Their thirst for justice
offended the cosmic powers, who are jealous of justice.
In their place in the celestial realm, called Alaukika in the ancient texts,
the breaker of faith is now glorified.
He, at least, acted in keeping with his nature.
Who has not felt a little of the despair the son of righteousness now feels,
staring wildly around him?
The god watches, not without compassion and a certain wonder.
This is the final illusion,
the one to which all the others lead.
He has to pierce through it himself, without divine assistance.
He will take a long time about it,
with only his dog to keep him company,
the mongrel dog, celebrated down the millennia,
who has waded with him,
shivered and burned with him,
and never abandoned him to his loneliness.
That dog bears a slight resemblance to my dog,
a skinny, restless, needy, overprotective mutt,
who was rescued from a crack house by Suzanne.
On weekends, and when I can shake free during the week,
I take her to the Long Meadow, in Prospect Park, where dogs
are allowed off the leash in the early morning.
She’s gray-muzzled and old now, but you can’t tell that by the way she runs.

VIjav Seshadri

The Little Mute Boy

The Little boy was looking for his voice.
(The king of the crickets had it.)
In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.

I do not want it for speaking with;
I will make a ring of it
that my silence will wear
on its little finger.

In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.

(The captive voice, far away
put on the cricket’s clothes)

Frederico Garcia Lorca (trans W.S. Merwin)

At Lords

It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though my own red roses there may blow;
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though the red roses crest the caps, I know.
For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run-stealers flicker to and fro,
To and fro: –
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!

Francis Thompson

The Planters Daughter

When night stirred at sea
And the fire brought the crowd in,
They say that her beauty
Was music in mouth
And few in the candlelight
Thought her too proud,
For the house of the planter
Is known by the trees.

Men that had seen her
Drank deep and were silent,
The women were speaking
Wherever she went –
As a bell that is rung
Or a wonder told shyly,
And O she was the Sunday
In every week.

Austin Clarke

Bjorn Olinders Pictures

I have learned about dying by looking at two pictures
Bjorn Olinder needed to look at when he was dying:
A girl whose features are obscured by the fall of her hair
Planting a flower,
and a seascape: beyond the headland
A glimpse of immaculate white sand that awaits our footprints.

Michael Longley

The Wind

after Antonio Machado

The wind pulled up and spoke to me one day.
The jasmine on his breath took mine away.

‘This perfume can be yours too, if you wants:
just let me carry off your roses’ scent.’

‘My roses? But I have none left,’ I said.
‘The flowers in my garden are all dead.’

He sighed. ‘Give me the fallen petals, then.
The leaves that rattle in the empty fountain.’

With that, he left me. And I fell to weeping
for the garden that they gave into my keeping.

Don Paterson

Thesis Sentence

Elaine moves a step forward
and everyone else goes back to work.

All day the curtains are moved by the breeze
and some say this is a sign from God.

X writes as if she were God
and knows what it’s like to be God all the time.

Others say God is a set of words
held tightly together by an invisible bond –

not one can be added or removed.
The poem is a small machine made of God.

Elaine Equi

The Herefordshire Carol

So to celebrate that kingdom: it grows
greener in winter, essence of the year;
the apple-branches musty with green fur.
In the viridian darkness of its yews

it is an enclave of perpetual vows
broken in time. Its truth shows disrepair,
disfigured shrines, their stones of gossamer,
Old Moore’s astrology, all hallows,

the squire’s effigy bewigged with frost,
and hobnails cracking puddles before dawn.
In grange and cottage girls rise from their beds

by candlelight and mend their ruined braids.
Touched by the cry of the iconoclast,
how the rose-window blossoms with the sun!

Geoffrey Hill