Acts

With regard to these acts: removal of clothing,

nudity in front of females or before prayer,

the belly a heap of wheat set about with lilies,

 

a brood of men with bushy locks, black as raven,

the shaving of beards O daughters of Jerusalem,

exposure to extreme temperatures, hot or cold, short

 

shackling to an eye-bolt in the floor,

spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,

three hundred and fifty incidents of self-harm,

 

a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed,

hoods, goggles, lap dances during interrogation,

fear of dogs, the use of dogs; the acts in question

 

were overseen by known government officials,

their teeth a flock of sheep, evenly shorn.

 

A.B. Jackson

(from the Wilderness Party)

 

  • an astonishing found poem from the brilliant and mind of A. B. Jackson; it containing extracts from the Song of Solomon and a UN report called Situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay 2006

Funny

What’s it like being a human

the bird asked

I myself don’t know

it’s being held prisoner by your skin

while reaching infinity

being a captive of your scrap of time

while touching eternity

being hopelessly uncertain

and helplessly hopeful

being a needle of frost

and a handful of heat

breathing in the air

and choking wordlessly

it’s being on fire

with a nest made of ashes

eating bread

while filling up with hunger

it’s dying without love

it’s loving through death

 

That’s funny said the bird

and flew effortlessly up into the air

 

Anna Kamienska

(trans. from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

I carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

I fear

no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

her is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

E.E. Cummings

From Shape of Time

You aren’t better than anyone.

You aren’t worse than anyone.

You have been given the world.

See what there is to see.

 

Protect what is around you,

hold who is there beside you.

All creatures in their own way

are funny –

 

and fragile.

 

*

The question isn’t

how to be in style

but

how to live in truth

in the face of all the winds?

 

With mindfulness, courage,

patience, sympathy –

how to remain brave

when the spirit fails?

 

*

 

Idleness is often empowering,

recreating oneself –

just as the moon gradually

grows full once again,

a battery surely and

steadily recharges,

so everything, everyone

must have time for the self –

 

for mirth and for laziness

time to be human.

 

Doris Kareva

(trans. from Estonian by Tiina Aleman)

Found in Being Human, ed. Neil Astley

Still Looking Out For Number One

 

Now that you’ve gone away for five days,

I’ll smoke all the cigarettes I want,

where I want.  Make biscuits and eat them

with jam and fat bacon.  Loaf. Indulge

myself.  Walk on the beach if I feel

like it.  And I feel like it, alone and

thinking about you when I was young.  The people

then who loved me beyond reason.

And how I loved them above all others.

Except one.  I’m saying I’ll do everything

I want here while you’re away!

But there is one thing I wont do.

I won’t sleep in our bed without you.

No. It does not please me to do so.

I’ll sleep where I damn well feel like it –

where I sleep best when you’re away

and I can’t hold you the way I do.

On the broken sofa in my study.

 

Raymond Carver

 

 

Interruption on a Journey

 

The hare we had run over

Bounced about the road

On the springing curve

Of its spine.

 

Cornfields breathed in the darkness,

We were going through the darkness and

The breathing cornfields from one

Important place to another.

 

We broke the hare’s neck

And made that place, for a moment,

The most important place there was,

Where a bowstring was cut

And a bow broken forever

That had shot itself through so many

Darknesses and cornfields.

 

It was left in that landscape.

It left us in another.

 

Norman McCaig

 

Sounds of the Day

 

When a clatter came,

It was horses crossing the ford.

When the air creaked, it was

A lapwing seeing us off the premises

Of its private marsh.  A snuffled puff

Ten yards from the boat was the tide blocking,

unblocking a hole in a rock.

When the black drums rolled, it was water

Falling sixty feet into itself.

 

When the door

Scraped shut, it was the end

Of all the sounds there are.

 

You left me

Beside the quietest fire in the world.

 

I thought I was hurt in my pride only,

Forgetting that,

When you plunge your hand into freezing water,

You feel

A bangle of ice round your wrist

Before the whole hand goes numb.

 

Norman McCaig