My Real Dwelling

My real dwelling

Has no pillars

And no roof either

So rain cannot soak it

and wind cannot blow it down!

 

Ikkyu 

(trans. John Stevens)

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When After A Long Life

When, after a long life, it falls out
That he takes on a form he had sought
And every word carved in stone
Grows its hoarfrost, what then? Torches
of Dionysian choruses in the dark mountains
From whence he comes. And half of the sky
With its snaky clouds. A mirror before him.
In the mirror the already severed, perishing
Thing.

Czeslaw Miltosz

Completing Lists

I have a long list of words
and when I fall asleep all the words
on my list will also be asleep
and able to be used in sleep.
But there is someone else
with an even longer list
whose job it is to make sure
everything stays awake.
After all, the world could end
accidentally if everything in it
went to sleep at the same time.
He’s very serious and vigilant
about his job – drinking coffee
and taking speed – but I keep
adding more and more words
to mine, making it heavy and dreamy,
like loading cargo onto a boat.

Elaine Equi

Registration

Where the worms had opened the owls chest,
he could see, inside her frail ribs,
the city of Byzantium. Exquisitely made
of ironwood and brass. The pear trees around
the harem and the warships were perfectly detailed.
No wonder they made that mewing sound, he thought,
calling to each other among the dark arbors
while the cocks crow and answer and a farther
rooster answers that: the sound proceeding
up the mountain, paling and thinning until
it is transparent, like the faint baying of hounds.

Jack Gilbert

Ghosts

I heard a noise this morning and found two men
leaning on the wall of my vineyard, looking out
over the fields, silent. Went back to my desk
until somebody raised the trap door of the well.
It was the one with the cane, looking down inside.
But I was annoyed when the locked door rattled where
the grain and wine were. Went to the kitchen window
and stared at him. He said something in Greek.
I spread my arms to ask what he was doing.
He explained about growing up out there long ago.
That now they were making a little walk among
the old places. Telling it with his hands.
He made a final gesture, rubbing the side
of the first finger against that of the other hand.
I think it meant how much he felt about being here
again. We smiled, even though he was half blind.
Later, my bucket banged and I saw the heavy one
pulling up water. He cleaned the mule’s stone basin
carefully with his other hand. Put back a rock
for the doves to stand on and poured in fresh water.
Stayed there, touching the old letters cut into the marble.
I watched them go slowly down the lane and out
of sight. They did not look back. As I typed,
I listened for the dog at each farm to tell me
which house they went to next. But the dogs did not
bark all the way down the long bright valley.

Jack Gilbert

Ararat

It was never a flud, they got it all rong.

It wus a heetwave.  Who ever herd of a flud

in the desert?  As if we wud hav minded.

We didn’t pich up on that peek to keep dry

but cool.  You cant imagin the heet.

It rold in like invisibal fire, like lions breth.

Never mind an eg you cud fry a stake

on a rok, and in the shade.  Sandals smoked

with every step You had to wair 2 pairs

and even then run. Sleeping – a nitemare,

a joke.  The only way to lie down was to souse

yor bed every our with water – warm water –

if you culd find it.  Who wonts to shlep

to the well and bak 6 times a nite?

For shlep I mean skip.  Forget dreems

Dreems evaporated before they cud reach us.

 

We took to a cave.  It wus cool as a buchers

at ferst.  Cudnt beleev our luk, problem solvd,

wed wate it out.  We hung blankits over the mouth

to keep out the sun.  Then dusnt the erth

heet up round us like an uven.  The place turnd

into a bakers.  The animals started showing up,

limping, wining.   The lions came ferst and purd

at the blankits.  I let them in.   The lady nuzzled

my elbow, likt my hand with that scraper-

tung of hers.  She drew blud but didnt meen to

and never came bak for  mor.  they straggled

past our pots and rugs, curld up in the caves dark.

After that we cul hardly refuse the rest.

 

In they cum, 2 by 2 trew enuff.

Grunt, grumbles, grones.  Mones and mews

wines and wimpers.  Cluks, chirrups,

werring, buzzes, wissals, flooting.

Piping, worbling, fluttering, droning,.

Berps, farts, sies –  you name it we herd it.

the cave fild with the gurgels of a milion

small slumbers.   Youd tink it wudve stunk

but the mingled odors of a million beests

was sweet to the nostrel like a bloom of flours.

And the dung? Strange but there wus nun.

 

The sky ternd yellow.  We stopt eeting.

The apetite dusnt do well at that heet.

We neither slept or woke.  Ime no hero

but sumthing had to be dun.  So I organize

the boys.  We lit a fire outside, wated til

the coles glowed then herded the lot strate out

onto them.  The trik is wuns hteyve been over

those coles theg round dusnt seem so hot.

A quik shok and you can handel anything.

Shem led the way: up the hill as fast

as we cud.  A din of bleedings and bellows

such as never herd before, up we gallop,

drumming that smoking ground – a caravan

of ansesters herling it self up the mountin.

 

We capt the peek up there like a nippal.

It wasn’t exactly cool but we had a chance.

The sky wus blew agen for I thing.

Down below all you cud see wus yellow fog.

No ground, no hills.  We hung on to our iland of air.

So cleer up there, cleer as a shaving mirrer.

You hav a good long look at yourself

at a time like that.  I didn’t like wot I aw:

greed and mor greed.  Iternal diatisfaction.

Therst does funny things to you.

I even wept.  I had no teer of corse.

but I felt the rivulets of dust on my cheek

like guttermarks on brik. I felt rite to weep.

 

Its trew a duv flew up to us.  A spek

shivring in the haze below, it flapt it self

into shape like a mirage cuming up

from the fog.  It lit on my sholder,

put its beek to my eer to wisper sumthing –

the sweetest messige ever herd.

Tho I cudnt make it out at ferst,

not until I put my finger in my eer.

I drew it out cool: a drop of water

bellying on the end of it.  I tried to shout

the news but my throte wudnt make a sound.

 

The first drops streemd, sizzled and stung.

By then I didn’t no if any I in the sprall

of flesh wus alive still.  But as the rain fell

I herd mones and yelps all round, a crazy

dog barkt up at the thunderheds

in a rage, a fox howled, the frogs flooted

like an organ.  Neks rose like plant stems.

Wite clouds bloomd up from the yellow fog.

I cried wen I saw them.  I new we had wun.

That’s the trooth.  I never got my voice bak

so I cudnt put rite the talk of fluds.

Not until I lernt pen and ink.  And I wus

sixty when it happened not 6 hundred.

If I liv to 2 hundred Ile be happy.  A drop

just fell on my page.  I luv the rain.  who dusn’t.

Anuther drop.  Like littal berrees, spattrings

of juce wair they hit my ink.  I let them be.

Be the teers I cudn’t cry.  The lords dew.

 

Henry Shukman

 

What was Told, THAT

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

Rumi

(trans. Coleman Barks)