PART ONE: DISTRACTION AND ENCHANTMENT
2022 was unkind to my habit of reading lots of books. Partly my paid work was to blame: growing pains (which I am too old for) of the professional kind.
Then there was the several weeks I wasted on Thomas Mann‘s Doctor Faustus, which I had to abandon. What drudgery! What a distraction! I’d read and admired a number of Mann’s short stories, but Doctor Faustus struck me as all posturing, a ponderous performance with no point in sight, almost every moment of it arriving via second- or third-hand reports about Mann’s fictional, Schoenbergian composer, Adrian Leverkühn. We are supposed to believe that Leverkühn is a genius, and to be fair, he talks a good game. But talk is all he does, or all we see him do. On occasion he puts in an appearance, pontificates, sneers, feels so deeply that his nostrils barely stay above the current of secret passions that drive him to … to what? A lot of not much, at least that we’re allowed to see.
Attempting this novel put me in mind of Mark Twain’s assessment of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans in his delicious comic essay, “Fenimore Cooper’s Further Literary Offences: Cooper’s Prose Style.” “Frequently,” Twain notes, “he [Cooper] will explain and justify little things that do not need it and then make up for this by as frequently failing to explain important ones that do need it.” But in Cooper’s work there are at least attempts—often failed, as Twain shows—at coherent, significant action. Mann attempts nothing of the kind. His narrator, Serenus Zeitblom, a supposed childhood friend of Leverkühn, is constantly surprised, dubious, and baffled, but never outraged, by his friend’s incoherent, egomaniacal ravings. A normal reaction of that kind would tarnish the reader’s belief that Leverkühn is an impassioned genius. But Zeitblom fails to prevent this reader, at least, from concluding that Leverkühn is a moral nitwit. In this he resembles any number of QAnon nitwits whose belief that Donald Trump is their savior keeps the orange ape politically afloat.
The end of my tale is this: I gave up on Mann’s book and donated it, along with others of his I’d bought long ago and always meant to read (The Magic Mountain, Joseph and His Brothers, Buddenbrooks) to one of my favorite charities, BookGive. May they find readers more intelligent and forgiving!
As for the books I did finish and enjoy in 2022, they are listed below. I recommend all of them, although among my personal “short list” are those whose titles are shown in green. I want to draw particular attention to these: Oliverio Girondo’s Decals, a joyful Modernist romp; Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Sea, a harrowing and beautiful novel by the 2021 Nobel Prizewinner; The Radiant Lives of Animals, by Linda Hogan, full of gorgeous writing and spiritual insight; David Mason’s Pacific Light, his most moving collection yet; Diane Seuss’s Frank: Sonnets, which bowled me over; and Wendy Videlock’s two interrelated books, Wise to the West (poems) and The Poetic Imaginarium (essays), which are both by turns deeply serious, funny, surprising … delightful as bubbles winking up in a cool flute of champagne.
|The Trees||Percival Everett||Graywolf Press||2021||9781644450642||Fiction|
|If I Were Another||Mahmoud Darwish||Farrar, Straus and Giroux||2009||9780374174293||Poetry|
|The Dawn of Nothing Important||David Giannini||Dos Madres Press||2022||9781953252449||Poetry|
|Almost Complete Poems||Stanley Moss||Seven Stories Press||2016||9781609807276||Poetry|
|Ancient Acid Flashes Back||Adrian C. Louis||University of Nevada Press||2000||9780874173529||Poetry|
|The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza||Eugene Ostashevsky||Ugly Duckling Presse||2008||9780981552101||Poetry|
|Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz||Dick Davis||Mage Publishers||2012||9781933823485||Poetry|
|Last Dream||Giovanni Pascoli||World Poetry Books||2019||9780999261354||Poetry|
|The Radiant Lives of Animals||Linda Hogan||Beacon Press||2020||9780807047927||Essays|
|Hamlet||William Shakespeare aka Edward de Vere||Breezeway Books||2018||9781625505637||Drama|
|In the Café of Lost Youth||Patrick Modiano||NYRB||2016||9781590179536||Fiction|
|The Oxfordian 23||Various||Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship||2021||9798468379073||Nonfiction|
|The Two-Penny Bar||Georges Simenon||Penguin Classics||2014||9780141394176||Fiction|
|Liberties 1:4||Various||Liberties Journal Foundation||2022||9781735718750||Nonfiction|
|A Man with a Rake||Ted Kooser||Pulley Press||2022||9781734979176||Poetry|
|Flying Beneath the Dog Star||Kathryn Winograd||Finishing Line Press||2022||9781646627349||Poetry|
|By the Sea||Abdulrazak Gurnah||Bloomsbury||2002||9780747557852||Fiction|
|Father’s Day||Matthew Zapruder||Copper Canyon Press||2019||9781556595783||Poetry|
|War of the Beasts and the Animals||Maria Stepanova||Bloodaxe Books||2021||9781780375342||Poetry|
|Continuous Creation: Last Poems||Les Murray||Farrar, Straus and Giroux||2022||9780374605636||Poetry|
|Europa||Julio Martínez Mesanza||Diálogos||2016||9781935084907||Poetry|
|Liberties 2:1||Various||Liberties Journal Foundation Foundation||2021||9781735718743||Essays|
|Subjects in Poetry||Daniel Brown||LSU Press||2021||9780807176092||Criticism|
|Liberties 2:3||Various||Liberties Journal Foundation Foundation||2022||9781735718767||Essays|
|Tess of the d’Urbervilles||Thomas Hardy||Heron Books||1970||Fiction|
|Essays and Introductions||W. B. Yeats||Macmillan||1961||LOC 61-8106||Essays|
|The Hurting Kind||Ada Limón||Milkweed Editions||2022||9781639550494||Poetry|
|Dark Things||Novica Tadić||Boa Editions Ltd.||2009||9781934414231||Poetry|
|Courting the Wild Twin||Martin Shaw||Chelsea Green Publishing||2020||9781603589505||Mythology|
|Non Finito||Eleanor Swanson||Fernwood Press||2022||9781594980862||Poetry|
|Homesick for the Earth||Jules Supervielle||Bloodaxe Books||2011||9781852249205||Poetry|
|The World Doesn’t End||Charles Simic||Harcourt Brace & Co.||1989||9780156983501||Poetry|
|Master of Disguises||Charles Simic||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt||2010||9780547397092||Poetry|
|Mankiller Poems: The Lost Poetry of Wilma Mankiller||Wilma Mankiller||Pulley Press||2022||9798985263244||Poetry|
|The Private Lives of Trees||Alejandro Zambra||Open Letter||2010||9781934824245||Fiction|
|Decals||Oliverio Girondo||Open Letter||2018||9781940953878||Poetry|
|Katabasis||Lucía Estrada||Eulalia Books||2020||9781732936355||Poetry|
|Liberties 2:4||Various||Liberties Journal Foundation||2022||9781735718774||Essays|
|Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems||Cornelius Eady||Putnam||2008||9780399154850||Poetry|
|Pacific Light||David Mason||Red Hen Press||2022||9781636280578||Poetry|
|Frank: Sonnets||Diane Seuss||Graywolf Press||2021||9781644450451||Poetry|
|Medicine Year||Thomas R. Smith||Paris Morning Publications||2022||9780578379814||Poetry|
|Always Alwaysland||Stanley Moss||Seven Stories Press||2022||9781644212011||Poetry|
|The Ancient Minstrel||Jim Harrison||Grove Press||2016||9780802124562||Fiction|
|White Eagles Over Serbia||Lawrence Durrell||Arcade Publishing||1995||9781559703123||Fiction|
|Cotton Candy||Ted Kooser||University of Nebraska Press||2022||9781496231291||Poetry|
|Selected Writings||Jules Supervielle||New Directions||1967||Fiction/Poetry|
|Altazor||Vicente Huidobro||Graywolf Press||1988||Poetry|
|Ecology of the Afterlife||Nathan Manley||Split Rock Press||2021||9781735483924||Poetry|
|Wise to the West||Wendy Videlock||Able Muse||2022||9781773491134||Poetry|
|The Poetic Imaginarium: a Worthy Difficulty||Wendy Videlock||Lithic Press||2022||9781946583253||Essays|
|Catching the Light||Joy Harjo||Yale University Press||2022||9780300257038||Essays|
|On Writers and Writing||Margaret Atwood||Virago Press||2015||9780349006239||Essays|
|Pere Gimferrer: Selected Poems||Pere Gimferrer||NYRB||2021||9781681374987||Poetry|
|Exhausted on the Cross||Najwan Darwish||NYRB||2021||9781681375526||Poetry|
|Archaic Smile||A. E. Stallings||Farrar, Straus and Giroux||2022||9780374600723||Poetry|
|The Facts at Dog Tank Spring||Andrew Schelling||Dos Madres Press||2020||9781953252043||Poetry|
|Late Summer Ode||Olena Kalytiak Davis||Copper Canyon Press||2022||9781556596476||Poetry|
|Where We Lay Down||Jeffrey Franklin||Kelsay Books||2021||9781954353954||Poetry|
PART TWO: EXTRACTS
One of the most peculiar and intriguing aspects of Melville’s Moby-Dick is his long list of “extracts” concerning whales and whaling, “Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian.” Like the poor Sub-sub, I’ve kept journals of extracts from my readings for years, inspired not by Melville but by W. H. Auden’s wonderful commonplace book, A Certain World. (I see here that it was published in 1970 on my birthday. Hmm.) Originally, I recorded my extracts in notebooks dedicated to that purpose, but in recent years I’ve done it on my computer. In 2020, fueled by pandemic isolation, I began adding my extracts into a column of my readings spreadsheet. The extracts below are drawn from my 2022 spreadsheet.
These efforts have taught me two things: (1) I prefer to record extracts by hand, so that my creaky typing skills don’t get in the way; and (2) when I go back to handwritten extracts, they feel more real than those in the spreadsheet—more tangible, maybe, and more personal. So this will be my last year of digital extracts! Out of my digital Sub-sub experience, I’ve derived a New Year’s resolution: I will be going back to handwritten extracts in good old journals or notes books. Reading seems best if it flows from eye to hand to heart—the exact opposite route taken by the creative process, which for a writer flows from heart to hand to eye. As an anonymous “old lady” put it (as quoted by E. M. Forster and requoted by Auden in The Dyer’s Hand): “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” And how can I remember what I thought if I have to ruin my eyes by staring into the blue light of a computer screen?
In any case, here are the extracts from various books listed in Part One. Enjoy!
MAHMOUD DARWISH (trans. Fady Joudah)
IF I WERE ANOTHER
From “I See What I Want”
All of nature is soul, and soul is the body’s last dance. 
From “Eleven Planets”
What good is a mirror to a mirror? 
[W]e would have been ordinary had our sky’s stars been a little higher than the stones of our wells, had the prophets been less insistent, and the soldiers not heard our eulogies… 
O my language,
help me to adapt and embrace the universe. Inside me
there’s a balcony no one passes under for a greeting.
And outside me a world that doesn’t return the greeting.
My language, will I become what you’ll come, or are you
what becomes of me? Teach me the wedding parade
that merges the alphabet with my body parts.
Teach me to become a master not an echo. 
He said: I am not looking for a burial
place. I want a place to live in, to curse if I please.
I asked, while the place was passing between us
like a gesture: What is place?
He said: The senses’ discovery of a foothold
for intuition. 
And he said: Each bridge is a rendezvous …
On the bridge, I enter
my exterior and surrender my heart
to a palm tree or a sparrow.
I said: Not exactly. On the bridge I walk
to my interior, tame myself,
and attend to its matters. Each bridge is a schism,
so neither are you as you were a while ago
nor are the creatures memories…. 
At sunset the stranger feels
his need to embrace another stranger, at sunset
the two strangers feel a third in their midst: one
who interferes in what they might or might not say … 
There’s no tomorrow
in yesterday, onward then ….
Though progress might be the bridge of return
to barbarity … 
The intellectual reins in the novelist’s rendition
and the philosopher dissects the singer’s rose. 
I am what I become and will become.
I will make myself by myself
and choose my exile.
My exile is the backdrop of the epic scene,
I defend the poets’ need
to join tomorrow with memories,
I defend the trees the birds wear
as country and exile. 
Aesthetic is only the presence
of the real in form. 
ADRIAN C. LOUIS
ANCIENT ACID FLASHES BACK
Sharon, a Pretty Blond Cheerleader
One day during his first months in Oz
he runs into Sharon, a pretty blond
cheerleader he went to school with.
She’s selling lids on the street, dressed in
raggedy-ass clothes & he’s shocked, shocked
that she runs up to him & gives him a
big wet kiss on the lips. Sharon never
really spoke to him in high school, ran
with the rich white crowd & never
said much except the occasional hi.
Right on the street she fires up a joint
of killer weed & they get blitzed, the
next thing he knows he’s on a bus
with her heading for Potrero Hill
& she’s saying how she’d really
like to ball Jim Morrison &
so he asks her if she’d like to ball
& she says no & he asks why
& she says you know & he says no,
how come & she’s so fucking stoned
she says because you’re Indian
& he hops off the bus somewhere
in the Mission District & he wonders
how home followed him here. 
Higher Than Holy Rollers
Light blesses the freaks in the park.
Unconditional Father Sun anoints
their heads with delirious sweat.
A wind whips a thousand heartbeats
into a low, loving murmur.
In the sweet illusion of feathers
& glass beads & buckskin,
Naatsi’s half-red whirlwinds
of regret disappear.
For this instant in eternity,
the entire spinning earth
is all young & smiling.
The whole world has lost winter.
It is the Summer of Love
& the people are dancing.
Life is beautiful & people are dancing.
Sweat-popping crazy under the sun,
they smile like coyotes, higher
than holy rollers & low like
the sad funk of sweet delta blues. 
DICK DAVIS (capacious introductory essay and translations)
FACES OF LOVE: HAFEZ AND THE POETS OF SHIRAZ
A flower, without a friend’s face there, I think
that isn’t good.
And springitme, if there isn’t wine to drink,
that isn’t good.
A stroll through gardens, or a wooded place,
Without a pretty tulip-blushing face
that isn’t good.
A cypress swaying, and a rose unfolding,
Without a nightingale’s melodious scolding
that isn’t good.
A sweet-lipped, sexy lover near, if this is
To be with no embraces and no kisses
that isn’t good.
Wine in a garden can be sweet, but when
We have no friend to talk and listen, then
that isn’t good.
And anything the mind dreams, in the end,
Unless it is the features of our friend,
that isn’t good.
The soul’s a useless, coin, Hafez—not worth
Your casting, as an offering, on the earth
that isn’t good. 
I’ve known the pains of love’s frustration—ah, don’t ask!
I’ve drained the dregs of separation—ah, don’t ask!
I’ve been about the world and found at last
A lover worthy of my adoration—ah, don’t ask!
So that my tears no lay the dust before
Her door in constant supplication—ah, don’t ask!
Last night, with my own ears, I heard such words
Fall from here in our conversation—ah, don’t ask!
You bite your lip at me? The lip I bit
Is all delicious delectation!—ah, don’t ask!
Without you, in this beggarly poor hut,
I have endured such desolation—ah, don’t ask!
Lost on love’s road, like Hafez, I’ve attained
A stage … but stop this speculation—ah, don’t ask! 
Do you know what our harps and lutes advise us,
when heard aright?
“Men say that wine’s unlawful—when you drink,
keep out of sight!
They say you shouldn’t talk of love, or hear
love spoken of—
That’s a hard lesson that they’re teaching us,
to give up love.
Love’s beauty they despise—and as for lovers,
they deride them;
They mock the old, and tell the young that love
must be denied them.
I waited at the door, and was deceived
a hundred ways,
Longing to know what was decided there,
veiled from my gaze.
They pester the old Magian priest; look how
Harass the old man with their scorn, and their
One glance ben buy a hundred different forms
of honor’s name—
And in this business it’s the pretty girls
who are to blame.
Some strive and strain and struggle to be with
the longed-for friend,
And others are content to let Fate send
what it will send.
But when all’s said and done, don’t trust the world’s
Since it’s a workshop where all things are changed
Bring wine! Qur’an reciters, clerics, sheikhs,
Look well at each of them, and see a man
who lives by lies. 
I’ve lived my life without a life—
Don’t be surprised at this;
Who counts an absence as a life
When life is what you miss?
Speak, Hafez! On the world’s page trace
Your poems’ narrative;
The words you pen writes will have life
When you no longer live. 
Jahan Malek Khatun
The roses have all gone; “Goodbye,” we say; we must;
And I shall leave the busy world one day; I must.
My little room my books, my love, my sips of wine—
All these are dear to me; they’ll pass away; they must. 
I swore I’d never look at him again,
I’d be a Sufi, deaf to sin’s temptations.
I saw my nature wouldn’t stand for it—
From now on I renounce renunciations. 
I’m off to stroll through the bazaar—and there
I’ll see what can be flushed out from its lair;
I’ll lure a rent-boy home here, or a whore;
One of the two—either will do—I don’t care. 
I’d like a boy to fuck—but I can’t pay;
I’d like some wine to while away the day—
But as I’ve got no cash for carnal pleasures,
It seems there’s nothing left to do but pray. 
Pussy remarked, “This prick’s a masterpiece,
They’ve hung the balls beneath if very nicely;
From tip to toe, you’d say that it’s as though
They’d followed my prerequisites precisely.” 
This nonsense-spouting doctor couldn’t see
A patient and not kill him instantly:
Last night Death came to him and said, “For one
You’ll buy what you’ve been selling, and from me.” 
GIOVANNI PASCOLI (trans. Geoffrey Brock)
The Fallen Oak
Where its shade was, the oak itself now sprawls,
lifeless, no longer vying with the wind.
The people say: I see now—it was tall!
The little nests of springtime now depend
from limbs that used to rise to a safer height.
People say: I see now—it was a friend!
Everyone praises, everyone cuts. Twilight
comes and they haul their heavy loads away.
Then, on the air, a cry—a blackcap in flight,
seeking the nest it shall not find today. 
THE RADIANT LIVES OF ANIMALS
Anyone who sees a herd of equine life and power run across land knows the awe and sheer power of the horses, their thunder rising up from such delicate legs and hooves. With that return of the buffalo, all of this began with one person’s hope and vision. Those two qualities are our future. The vision of imagination and of restoring the earth, the hope of maintaining the lives of all animals, all waters, and the health of the soil. 
Nature has, or is, something of a passion for life. 
Those of us who live in wild zones know the wildlife is not meant for us, however we cherish the grace of such presence. 
PATRICK MODIANO (trans. Chris Clarke)
IN THE CAFÉ OF LOST YOUTH
When we really love someone, we’ve got to accept their role in the mystery. 
LIBERTIES JOURNAL 1:4
Pratap Bhanu Mehta
“The First Virtue: On Ambedkar”
[W]hat ethic is possible after the gods have been slain? […] Although [Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar] referred to liberty, equality, and fraternity as a Holy Trinity—or in his Sanskrit formulation, Triguna, the three qualities—he came to believe that the interpretation that the French Revolution had placed on the relationship between the three emancipatory concepts was untenable. In his last book, The Buddha and his Dhamma, which he was writing at the time of his death in 1956, he turned to a reformulated Buddhism as an affirmation of our finitude, and as a project of ethics without metaphysics. For him, the most striking element of Buddhism was the concept of maiteryi, a form of compassionate friendship. 
“Despair of Wings”
The hiddenness of God pales beside the hiddenness of reality. For this reason the attainment of clarity is more than an optical achievement. It is an operation of all of one’s inwardness The senses are lonely the front lines of experience, and they are easily diverted and defeated. They must have support from the rear, spiritual resources to back them up, to fortify and correct and intensify them. 
BY THE SEA
Aloe wood, ud-al-qamari, the wood of the moon. That was what I thought the words meant, but the man I obtained my consignment from explained that the translation was really a corruption of quimari, Khmer, Cambodia, because that was one of the few places in the whole world where the right kind of aloe wood was to be found. The oud was a resin which only an aloe tree infected by fungus produced. A healthy aloe tree was useless, but the infected one produced this beautiful fragrance. Another little irony by you know Who. 
“You were settlers?”
She winced. “Yes, settlers.”
She paused for a moment before replying, then when she began to speak again, I saw that she frowned with concentration. “I don’t think I’ve been asked that question in exactly that way before. You don’t mean why Kenya rather than another place. Because in that way it did not matter whether it was Kenya or another place. We were European. We could go anywhere in the world we wanted. You mean why did you choose to go and take what belonged to other people, and call it your own and prosper on duplicity and force. Even fight and maim for what you had no right to Isnt that what you mean? Well, because we lived at a time when it seemed we had a right to do all that, a right to places that were only occupied by people with dark skins and frizzy hair. That was the meaning of colonialism, and everything was done to persuade us not to notice the methods that made it possible for us to go where we wanted. My parents bought land in the Ngong Hills and became coffee farmers. The natives were pacified and labour was cheap. My parents didn’t ask how that state of affairs had been achieved, and no one encouraged them to, although it was easy enough to see how when we lived there.” 
in the early 1800s
poets walked for days
talking to each other
into the names
of what they say
lake sky nightingale
ether gold sea
saying them now
I sense natural power
and how it must
have felt to place
them so exactly
a spell that worked
now they hardly
or too much
one word always
light on water
it just reflected
everything that tried
to make it more
than what it was
it hasn’t really changed
since it was said
by the Greeks
and even now
when it’s spoken
we still shudder
hidden soul that’s near
into what surrounds
can make you forget
your love of anything
into the past
such a relief
no matter how bad
it’s over now
but I come back
each time to remember
this is not a story
and all things I love
are real and can
I don’t want to write it
be destroyed. [116-117]
CONTINUOUS CREATION: LAST POEMS
Lightning Strike by Phone
Storm coming now. I must hang up—
she said, and was painfully slapped.
Indeed if the junction box outside
hadn’t blown apart, she would have died
of the lightning that fused condensers
and blew them all over the paddock
and as her face burned and rang
a ball of lightning formed out along
the verandah, came snorting and strumming
to the door, and sucked inside
straight into the video, which came on
and displayed all it knew, its numbers,
all its jittering pathetic ruined numbers
that would never sing again, or tell a story.
A black cloud imprinted round the phone
marked it, too, as instant archaeology. 
JULIO MARTÍNEZ MESANZA (trans. Don Bogen)
EUROPA: SELECTED POEMS
Towers Are An Image of Our Pride
Towers are an image of our pride.
Men, whose lives are brief and easily lost,
waste all their precious days erecting towers.
And hope is never kindled by a tower.
Even the one that has a set of bells
and makes a nest for storks is culpable.
I am tired of hearing the nonsense
spread by those who live inside the tower
and those who grovel in its shadow.
I find its inside loathsome, and the sun
reflected off its bricks has left me blind,
because towers are made of gold and blood.
The heap of dust that rises when they fall
cannot make me sad, and their ruins
do not start me brooding on the fate
of the mighty, or ambition or beauty,
but rather lead me out of the prison
of alienation, liberating me. 
TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES
Mrs. d’Urberville was not the first mother compelled to love her offspring resentfully, and to be bitterly fond. 
[O]n reaching the edge of the escarpment [Tess] gazed over the familiar green world beyond, now half-veiled in mist. It was always beautiful from here; it was terribly beautiful to Tess to-day, for since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing, and her views of life had been totally changed for her by the lesson. 
When the chants came on one of her favourites happened to be chosen among the rest—the old double chant ‘Langdon’—but she did not know what it was called, though she would much have liked to know. She thought, without exactly wording thought, how strange and godlike was a composer’s power, who from the grave could lead through sequences of emotion, which he alone had felt at first, a girl like her who had never head of his name, and never would have a clue to his personality. 
On these lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was of a piece with the element she moved in. Her flexuous and stealthy figure became an integral part of the scene. At times her whimsical fancy would intensify natural processes around her till they seemed a part of her own story. Rather they became a part of it; for the world is only a psychological phenomenon, and what they seemed they were. The midnight airs and gusts, moaning amongst the tightly wrapped buds and bark of the winter twigs, were formulae of bitter reproach. A wet day was the expression of irremediable grief at her weakness in the mind of some vague ethical being whom she could not class definitely as the God of her childhood, and could not comprehend as any other. 
The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious sentient, personal look, demanding the masculine pronoun for its adequate expression. His present aspect, coupled with the lack of all human forms in the scene, explained the old-time heliolatries in a moment. One could feel that a saner religion had never prevailed under the sky. 
She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of thje year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but noot the less surely there. When was it? Why did she not feel the chill of each yearly encounter with such a cold relation? 
She was expressing n her own native phrases—assisted a little by her Sixth Standard training—feelings whin might almost have been called those of the age—the ache of modernism. 
The ‘appetite for joy’ which pervades all creation, that tremendous force which sways humanity to its purpose, as the tide sways the helpless weed, was not to be controlled by vague lucubrations over the social rubric. 
Thus Tess walks on; a figure which is part of the landscape; a fieldwoman pure and simple, in winter guise; a gray serge cape, a red woollen cravat, a stuff skirt covered by a whitey-brown rough wrapper, and buff-leather gloves. Every thread of that old attire has become faded and thin under the stroke of raindrops, the burn of sunbeams, the stress of winds. There is no sign of young passion in her now—
The maiden’s mouth is cold
Fold over simple fold
Binding her head.
Inside this exterior, over which the eye might have roved as over a thing scarcely percipient, almost inorganic, there was the record of a pulsing life which had learnt too well, for its years, of the dust and ashes of things, of the cruelty of lust and the fragility of love. 
Mrs. Brooks, the lady who was the householder at The Herons, and owner of all the handsome furniture, was not a person of an unusually curious turn of mind. She was too deeply materialized, poor woman, by her long and enforced bondage to that arithmetical demon Profit-and-Loss, to retain much curiosity for its own sake, and apart from possible lodgers’ pockets. 
W. B. YEATS
ESSAYS AND INTRODUCTIONS
[I]t is certain that before the counting-house had created a new class and a new art without breeding and without ancestry, and set this art and this class between the hut and the castle, and between the hut and the cloister, the art of the people was as closely mingled with the art of the coteries as was the speech of the people that delighted in rhythmical animation, in idiom, in images, in words full of far-off suggestion, with the unchanging speech of the poets. [10-11]
[O]ur life in the cities, which deafens or kills the passive meditative life, and our education that enlarges the separated, self-moving mind, have made our souls less sensitive. 
[A]ll artists understand … that the important things, the things we must believe in or perish, are beyond argument. We can no more reason about them than can the pigeon, come but lately from the egg, about the hawk whose shadow makes it cower among the grass. 
I have observed dreams and visions very carefully, and am now certain that the imagination has some way of lighting on the truth that the reason has not, and that its commandments, delivered when the body is still and the reason silent, are the most binding we can ever know. 
I do not think men change much in their deepest thought…. 
I imagine that when [Shelley] wrote his earlier poems he allowed the subconscious life to lay its hands so firmly upon the rudder of his imagination that he was little conscious of the abstract meaning of the images that rose in what seemed the idleness of his mind. Anyone who has any experience of any mystical state of the soul knows how there float up in the mind profound symbols, whose meaning, if indeed they do not delude one into the dream that they are meaningless, one does not perhaps understand for years. [78-79]
[O]ur thoughts are not, as we supposed, the deep, but a little foam upon the deep. 
Had there been no Renaissance and no Italian influence to bring in the stories of other lands, English history would, it may be, have become as important to the English imagination as the Greek myths to the Greek imagination; and many plays by many poets would have woven it into a single story whose contours, vast as those of Greek myth, would have made living men and women seem like swallows building their nests under the architrave of some Temple of the Giants. 
Quoting Blake: “The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this: that the more distinct, sharp and wiry the bounding in, the more perfect the work of art; and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism and bungling.” 
[Dante’s] inspiration was mingled with a certain philosophy, blown up out of his age, which Blake held for mortal and the enemy of immortal things, and which from the earliest times had sat in high places and ruled the word.. This philosophy was the philosophy of soldiers, of men of the world, of priests busy with government, of all who, because of the absorption in active life, have been persuaded to judge and to punish, and partly also, he admitted, the philosophy of Christ, who in descending into the world had to take on the world; who, in being born or Mary, a symbol of the law in Blake’s symbolic language, had to ‘take after his mother,’ and drive the money-changers out of the Temple. Opposed to this was another philosophy, not made by men of action, drudges of time and space, but by Christ when wrapped in the divine essence, and by artists and poets, who are taught by the nature of their craft to sympathise with all living things, and who, the more pure and fragrant is their lamp, pass the further from all limitations, to come at last to forget good and evil in an absorbing vision of the happy and the unhappy. […] He called followers of the first philosophy pagans, no matter by what name they knew themselves, because the pagans, as he understood the word pagan, believed more in the outward life, and in what he called “war, princedom, and victory,” than in the secret life of the spirit; and the followers of the second philosophy Christians, because only those whose sympathies had been enlarged and instructed by art and poetry could obey the Christian command of unlimited forgiveness. […] The kingdom that was passing was, he held, the kingdom of the Tree of Knowledge; the kingdom that was coming was the kingdom of the Tree of Life: men who ate from the Tree of Knowledge wasted their days in anger against one another, and in taking one another captive in great nets; men who sought their food among the green leaves of the Tree of Life condemned none but the unimaginative and the idle, and those who forget that even love and death and old age are an imaginative art. [128-130]
True art is expressive and symbolic, and makes every form, every sound, every colour, every gesture, a signature of some unanalysable imaginative essence. False art is not expressive, but mimetic, not from experience but from observation, and is the mother of all evil…. 
[A]s if the noblest achievement of art was not when the artist enfolds himself in darkness, while he casts over his readers a light as of a wild and terrible dawn. 
[N]o symbol tells all its meaning to any generation…. 
The purpose of rhythm, it has always seemed to me, is to prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment of creation, by hushing us with an alluring monotony, while it holds us waking buy variety, to keep us in that state of perhaps real trance, in which the mind liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols. 
Our thoughts are emotions are often but spray flung up from hidden tides that follow a moon no eye can see. 
The arts are, I believe, about to take upon their shoulders the burdens that have fallen from the shoulders of priests, and to lead us back upon our journey by filling our thoughts with the essences of things, and not with things. . [This very much the opposite of WCW]
I have heard [John O’Leary] say more than once, “I will not say our people know good from bad, but I will say that they don’t hate the good when it is pointed out to them, as a great many people do in England. [250, footnote]
[C]omedy is more personal than tragedy…. 
A Guitar Player: A girl has been playing on a guitar. She is pretty, and if I had not listened to her I could have watched her, and if I had not watched her I could have listened. Her voice, the movements of her body, the expression of her face, all said the same thing. A player of a different temper and body would have made all different, and might have been delightful in some other way. A movement not of music only but of life came to its perfection.. I was delighted and I did not know why until I thought, :That is the way. my people, the people I see in the mind’s eye, play music, and I like it because it is all personal, as personal Villon’s poetry.” The little instrument is quite light, and the player can move freely and express a joy that is not of the fingers and the mind only but of the whole being; and all the while her movements call up into the mind, so erect and natural she is, whatever is most beautiful in her daily life. Nearly all the old instruments were like that; even the organ was once a little instrument, and when it grew big our wise forefathers gave it to God in the cathedrals, where it befits Him to be everything. But if you sit at the piano, it is the piano, the mechanism, that is the important thing, and nothing of ou means anything but your fingers and your intellect. [268-269]
[W]e should ascend out of common interests, the thoughts of the newspapers, of the market-place, of men of science, but only so far as we can carry the normal, passionate, reason self, the personality as a whole. We must fine some place upon the Tree of Life for the phoenix’ nest, for the passion that is exaltation and the negation of the will, for the wings that are always upon fire, set high that the forked branches may keep it safe, yet low enough to be out of the little wind-tossed boughs, the quivering of the twigs. 
Before we can see objective truth we must exhaust subjective. 
THE HURTING KIND
On the top of Mount Pisgah, on the western
slope of the Mayacams, there’s a madrone
tree that’s half-burned fro the fires, half-alive
from nature’s need to propagate. One side
of her is black ash, and at her root is what
looks like a cavity hollowed out by flame.
On the other side, silvery-green broadleaf
shoots ascend toward the winter light
and her bark is a cross between a bay
horse and a chestnut horse, red and velvety
like the animal’s neck she resembles. Staring
at the tree for a long time now, I am reminded
of the righteousness I had before the scorch
of time. I miss who I was. I miss who we all were,
before we were this: half-alive to the brightening sky,
half-dead already. I place my hand on the unscarred
bark that is cool and unsullied, and because I cannot
apologize to the tree, to my own self I say, I am sorry,
I am sorry I have been so reckless with our life. 
THE WORLD DOESN’T END
The dog went to dancing school. The dog’s owner sniffed vials of Viennese air. One day the two heard the new Master of the Universe pass their door with a heavy step. After that, the man exchanged clothes with his dog. It was a dog on two legs, wearing a tuxedo, that they led to the edge of the common grave. As for the man, blind and deaf as he came to be he still wags his tail at the approach of a stranger. 
MASTER OF DISGUISES
The Boardwalks Are Deserted
Duck in a shooting gallery, it’s Sunday.
Your tormentors have now dispersed
To nurse their hangovers in private,
Or to stand with heads bowed in church.
Where is the couple who shared
A slice of pizza between kisses?
A man on all fours chasing a dog?
The old lady tipping her toe in the sea?
Even the fortuneteller’s shack is closed.
The cards warning of dark strangers,
Lovers to be sundered, hopes wrecked,
Lie on her table with their faces down.
End-of-the-season chill already in the air.
The gulls have the spilled contents
Of a trash basket to keep them happy,
And I have my little ducky to think about. 
From “The Invisible”
A rusty key from a cigar box full of keys
In a roadside junk shop.
The one I held on to a long time
Before I let it slip
Through my fingers.
Most likely, when it was still in use,
The reclusive author
Of “The Minister’s Black Veil”
Was still cooped up
In his mother’s house in Salem.
It opened a small drawer
With a stack of yellowed letters
In a dresser with a mirror
That gave back a pale face
With a pair of feverish eyes
In a room with a view
Of black, leafless trees
And red clouds hurrying at sunset,
Where soon tears fell
Causing the key to go rusty. 
O Persephone, is it true what they say,
That everything that is beautiful,
Even for one fleeting moment,
Descends to you, never to return?
Dressmaker pinning a red dress in a store window,
Old man walking your sickly old dog,
Even you little children holding hands
As you cross the busy street with your teacher,
What hope do you have for us today?
With the sky darkening so early,
The first arriving flakes of snow,
Falling here and there, then everywhere. 
NOVICA TADIĆ (trans. Charles Simic)
On a Train Station, Dream
Small, bent over, gray,
I’m sitting with arms crossed
on my luggage.
I ask nothing of no one.
Wait for no one.
I don’t know where I’ve come from
nor where I’m going.
In the trunk are my books,
in the suitcase my shirts.
I packed everything I had.
On my head I wear
a cap of many colors,
my great pride and joy. 
COURTING THE WILD TWIN
The castle can be a place of spirit, b ut the forest offers soul. There are levels of sophistication to this description but I need to exaggerate to make the picture more distinct. Spirit lives, soul depends. Spirit is a spark; soul is a drop of water. Spirit is a great idea; soul is deep knowing. We absolutely need both.
Liminal information is often irrational, hard to decipher, imagistic not conceptual, It’s often unsettling because it rarely conforms to the norm. It never smooths anything over. 
Thinking in myth grows us in how to talk. Not in thesaurus-speak but in image power. So we find out what we think by risking words. The words themselves are animate, revealing secret meetings within the soul that the mind hadn’t quite caught up with yet. 
Religious, agnostic, atheist: we all service in some kind of temple. 
Beauty is created not just by desire but by diligence. 
I have built out of my incompleteness. 
Practical gets up from the table and goes to the toolshed when too many big words are used. 
I wonder if there is a cultural, not even conscious persona, death wish in the West. Something inside us may simply have had enough. 
This world can be Otherworld, Underworld, Heavenly, Hellish and all points in between. It can still be Arcadia, Camelot, Eden almost. That’s why it’s confusing. we still get to go on holiday, rink wine, watch beautiful sunsets. We still pay insurance and kids still go to College. But there is something happening. An unraveling. A collapsing, both tacit and immense in scale.
We are frightened and we do not know what will happen next.
But we are still using dayworld words. This is why so little works. 
[T]here’s an odd twisted eroticism, a Western Thanatos that always comes with excessive privilege. 
As many have noted, religion is often a wonderful defence against having a religious experience. 
She finds the photograph, 5×7,
black, white, and gray, depicting
three figures in silhouette.
Few details of their faces, their
features, or their clothing can be
made out, though the one in the middle,
a bit shorter than the others, has
long wavy hair, and the one
on the left, hands on hips, elbows
forming triangles the crepuscular
light show through, wears a cap,
bill turned sideways. Little
is known of the one on the right,
round alien-shaped head melded
with the top of what might be
a spruce tree. Above a faint horizon
line, a gray background is seen,
suggesting mountains or smoke
from a fire billowing out of control.
Who are these people and what
happened when the fire, if it was
a fire, drew closer? Even studying
the photograph carefully, under
magnification, reveals no more
Three people, outdoors,
whose lives are in danger. 
JULES SUPERVIELLE (trans. Moniza Alvi)
HOMESICK FOR THE EARTH
The night within me
and the night outside
dare to show their stars,
And I row hard
between these familiar
darknesses, then pause
to take everything in.
It’s a shock
to see myself from afar—
a frail speck
beating quickly, breathing
on deep lake water.
Night runs its hands
down my sides.
But which night is it?
There’s only one darkness
turning like a carousel
in the sky, in my veins.
It’s a long time
since I disappeared.
I can see my wake
hung with stars.
It was such hard work. 
Three in the morning.
This must be the inn
where the soul changes horses.
Short stop in the night
where sleep slips away
from under my raised eyelids.
Although I’m in bed
they pull me
onto an unfamiliar road—
grey felt horses
with stilled nostrils
their hoof beats soundless
beneath the shell of myself.
Even if I listen hard
all I hear is my faulty heartbeat
taking stock of its courage—
and my despair.
I move uncertainly
under the rubble3 of sleep
in a time both then and now.
I sit in my old classroom
along with the others.
I’m being questioned:
“Why were they so wretched?”
“Our country torn in half.”
“Why the pain of hoping
when honor itself seemed dead?”
Too depressed to answer
I wept in the dark.
Then drawn, shamefaced, by horses
continued on the road
out of childhood and History
into a slow
and modest dawn. 
In the Forest
In the forest beyond time
a tall tree is cut down.
A lofty emptiness trembles
like a wound
near the horizontal trunk.
Fly this way, birds
and build your nests here
in this memory of height. Quickly,
while it is still murmuring. 
HARDHEADED WEATHER: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS
My father loves my sister so much he has to strike her. He cares for her so deeply that he has crossed, for the first and only time, into my mother’s domain.
He has caught his daughter red-handed at the front door, trying to sneak home late from her boyfriend’s house.
And my father, poor ghost, knows too much. Without ever leaving the house, he has overheard every sweet thing this man, an old buddy of his, has whispered to her in bed.
Tonight, my sister discovers her only power. As she tussles with him on the front porch, she is all heat and righteous passion.
He will never try this hard again to tell anyone how much he loves them. With his belt, my father tries to tell my sister what he knows a man is capable of, but all he does is tell her fortune. [162-163]
The Solitude of Work
Unscrew the hatch and look down in the hold:
ten thousand purple crab in a living cast,
clicking the air with slow claws or clinging
to each other’s horny shells. In boots and gloves
I’d stand on their backs, bend down and throw them
two at a time into the lowered mesh,
two hundred to a bag to be hoisted away
and kept alive in the sharp brine of the bay
till it as time to butcher them. That job
was harder, breaking a ten-pound crab apart
on a chest-high blade. They sense death coming
and slowly fought the blade with claws like fists,
and when their shells were gutted empty things
thrown in the grinder, there was still a smell,
my own grim smell from a day of taking lives—
never a happy enterprise.
So much happier was the hold cleared out
and hosed, where I sat in my own sweat and gear
feeling the sky rain softly through the hatch,
and work was done. My body reeked and ached.
The crew came dow2n, bringing along their talk
and strutting lies. Somehow the solitude
of work stayed with me through the many years,
the many tasks left incomplete, the days
lightened in the forgetfulness of work.
The way I screwed the hatch back on the hold
and looked out from the deck on the dark bay.
One boat moved on, and another came to moor. 
Maybe we wander the soundless antechambers, halls
and gateways, rustling scapular and underskirt, slight
swinging of the cross on its cord makes a sound
like a bottle fly. Angular shadows, stories-tall, color
of Mourvèdre grapes, purple-black with a yeasty haze.
Maybe—can it be? Death is a nunnery? Six lines and sick
already of this allegory. Looking for a nonfussy definition
of the Sublime. Something I can really sink my teeth into
like the tough meat of an animal, the last of its kind. Or
spinning the wool of a black sleep, all the while telling
myself the story of myself. Nurse says the membrane
between life and death will thin like the effacement
of the cervix. I remember begging to die when I gave
birth and begging to be born when I was dying. 
Death does not exist in poetry. A line may fade into the silence past its breaking
but that is not death. No choking sounds in poems, no smell of blood. I can describe
the sounds, the smells, but description is, in fact, a hiding place. There is no nobility
in description. Is there nobility in poems? Let’s hope not. Nobility is another place
to hide. “Through all these myriads felt and mostly scorned and disreputable realities,”
Alan wrote in a poem. I hope it is OK that I have quoted you, Alan. It is a poem
about love’s nuance but Alan would agree there is no love in poems. There is no love
in a mushroom, in a handmade wedding dress. No death in a funeral hankie
embroidered with the words “Try not to use it.” I looked at a worm and I thought
it was an angel. I looked an angel and through it was a storm. What is wrong
with the mind is what is wrong with the poem. It is difficult to get the news-
boy to be a newsboy. He keeps turning into a girl carrying a fish in a cloth delivery
bag to her grandmother who is really a wolf dressed as a grandmother singing a line
from Ulysses: “So stood they there both awhile in wanhope, sorrowing one with other.” 
THOMAS R. SMITH
Tiny Poem in the Taoist Manner
Happily writing poems
and practicing Qigong—
am I finally becoming the person
I used to think I was?
April 16 2020 
April never gives us more than we can take.
May, now, that’s another matter.
May comes on with her green that makes
us forget how somber the earth can be.
New leaves are a lime-green confetti thrown
up in the air, confetti that never
comes down. The occasion is every
event in your life that can possibly
be celebrated, all at once—wedding,
graduation, anniversary, birthday,
retirement—and it’s all for you and
none of it is for you. The heart senses
something it has desired and feared, come near
and then draw back. And suddenly it’s summer.
May 7, 2020 
The Long Summer
Nineteenth of June. It’s going to be a long
summer. All of our seasonal celebrations
cancelled or gone virtual, home-bound,
the question biomes what to do with the space
we confront when we turn away from
our devices. Does our time explode
or implode? There are abysses in
the hours we take pains to avoid,
whole emotional Mariana Trenches
of memory and apprehension that can
be worked around only by staying
insanely busy. For some this way
indeed lies madness, spreading
from the top like venom from a snakebite.
But others, it’s likely, may look back
on this as the summer that stretched beyond
the parentheses of Memorial Day
and Labor Day to become a world
unto itself in which we rediscovered
and perhaps were able to keep for a while
the riches of expanse and dreaming
we’d so often and yearningly recalled
but failed to grasp, glimpse them as we might
in the clouded playroom mirror of childhood.
June 19, 2020. 
Just to see and hear him on a screen
hurts the soul. Stench of abuse.
The Abyss hijacks the microphone,
no muting the rant the psychotic
can’t switch off in his head.
The assault on truth is visceral:
the viewer’s knees tremble, breath comes
up short. Lies fly out of the mouth
in black streams. They are his children:
father of lies, lord of the flies.
Damaged horror child exposed.
The networks call it a “debate.”
Burroughs called it “naked lunch.”
Yeats called it “rough beast.” I call it
“rape in an abandoned house.”
September 30, 2020 
I wanted to speak to the Ferryman.
I called directory inquiry, information,
on my smartphone. I was given a number,
a revelation. I swore to Hermes,
Gods’ messenger, not to show or share
that sacred number with any human, king or serf.
I called, digital ladies;’ voices answered:
“He’s busy.” “Unavailable.” “Occupied.”
I remember the bloody and high voltage occasions
when the Ferryman was so close
I could smell and taste his breath.
After he came close to me
cat scans of my head showed I had an artifact,
a souvenir, a presence in an inoperable place,
camped under my hippocampus.
I’ve seen the Arrogant? I’m ashamed to tell the truth.
After World War II, I often wore black,
I limped like Richard III. Talk about the Styx,
my heart called for a horse, a horse.
I try to sing a hymn made out of holy facts.
Every sparrow knows Christ walked on water.
The Ferryman poled his ferry on dry land.
Dead drunk, I’ve seen him and his ferry in the sky
along the shoreline of Paradise.
Right now I see his ferry in the pond below my window,
the Ferryman in a rocking chair is bored with me.
He’s waiting, yawning, smoking a cigar.
He blows clouds of smoke rings
across the lawn over a great red oak.
I call him respectfully. He won’t speak to me.
Margie, my last dog, barks,
“Get the hell out of here!”
Does he ever ferry dogs, loving cats?
Rocking seems to entertain him.
I’m caught not saved, even though I praise
King David, Santa Teresa de Ávila
San Juan de la Cruz, the Ferryman who has
no name I know will eventually take me
by pole and his demon wings,
to an island where skeletons dance.
Now I think his accented Greek voice
is loud and clear. He’s poling. He shouts my name,
I’m hiding. Clear across the Hudson Valley
I hear “Repent, repent.” He’s the double
of the statue of the murdered Commendatore
in Don Giovanni. I answer, “Your excellence,
Ferryman, statue, I invite you to dinner.”
I’ve set the table with wine glasses,
New York State, Duchess County red wine,
Hudson blue linen napkins,
knives, knives, knives, knives, no forks or spoons.
I know in a little while the Ferryman
will take me across the Styx in the company
of the four seasons, made human:
winter, spring, summer and autumn.
Summer wears a wreath of roses crowned with laurel,
Spring wears a waistcoat of budding dandelions,
Autumn, a coat of fallen maple leaves and grapevines,
wrinkled Winter has snowflakes in his hair and beard.
He wears ice snowshoes. I pretend to sleep. [224-226]
THE ANCIENT MINSTREL
He had to write and there were long periods of time when he didn’t have a poem ready to arrive. René Char, a French poet he worshipped, had said about writing poetry, “You have to be there when bread comes fresh from the oven.” You had to live your life in a state of readiness for the poem even though it could very well be a month or two between poems. Another pet obsession of his though not much believed in the cramped world of poetry was that every poet is obligated to read everything published in poetry through time, no matter from what country or time period. He spent years and years doing so. How could you write if you weren’t familiar with what was best in the history of the world? 
It’s just a rusty corrugated pipe
buried under a road with a trickle
of rainwater glinting its way down
a long ditch beside it, making a turn
toward the opening, shedding light
from its back as it enters, draping it
over a hubcap. Inside, the water
pauses and pools before moving on.
There it can hear for the first time
its own music, as if played n
a xylophone, echoing, echoing.
Haven’t you heard it, that solo?
Now that I’ve brought you this far,
our shoes soaked by the wet grass,
and have stooped down to show you
this place where the water plays
for itself a light tune in the darkness,
you’ll be able to hear it forever. 
PERE GIMFERRER (trans. Adrian Nathan West)SELECTED POEMS
To die serenely as I’ve never lived
and watch the cars pass as on a screen
and the slow songs of Nat King Cole
a saxophone a piano the nightfalls on terraces underneath the parasols
this life I never managed to interpret
the wind in the hallways windows open all is white as in a clinic
all dissolved like a cyanide capsule in darkness
Slides with my story are projected
amid the heavy scent of chloroform
Under the fog of the operating room nest strange colored birds. 
Hymn to January
For Vicente Aleixandre, in memoriam
It has darkened as I read. A splinter
of light settles on the windows.
All has withdrawn in this cave
with barbs and stars. Very slowly,
a fish cuts a course between two waters.
Tempt the light devoid of eyes,
you sailcloth skull. Turn and turn
around the aquiline axis. The mask
of man grates as it decays,
burned from within like an ember.
What pain I divine and sense here,
between cheek and cheekbone. An ulcer
or your ever-sweet skin. So the waters
kiss, thrash the stone, erode it,
open the heavens within it. Furrows hear
the word of the sun at midday.
Dying makes sense. Pore by pore,
as the moon absorbs nostalgia,
we surrender to nonbeing. So
the light of the room retires,
twisted into shoots of grapevines. Agony
of jasmine in its skeletal box,
coal trousers. The scorpion
does not pray to the demons of the night,
for it is one of them. And my eyes
do not receive the light: they reintegrate it,
reunite it in sediments of mirror,
to engender dragons. What does it mean,
this ruby of light cleaving the sex,
the dispersion of the sky that in January
consoles the clouds aflame,
the silent piety of snow,
the enamored moss green? I think
of the truth of the world. It’s impossible
to forget the silence beneath the archways
of this plaza whipped by a cold wind
where we loved each other the first time. Light
light of those expanses that in childhood
we held on to tentatively, without knowing
they would have to save us. Like now,
when the night is high on the roofs
and a silvery bird is in its death throes. [127-129]
EXHAUSTED ON THE CROSS
I don’t have a widow who’ll be there
to receive the poet’s coat of arms
and dole out downcast smiles
on the night of my commemoration—
any melancholic woman
can be my widow then.
I have no offspring either—
the children born amid the shelling
in these sullen hospitals
are simply companions
joining this family we’ve created
from the ruins of our families.
Even after a thousand years
I still won’t be a father.
one of the youngest and most
reckless of these children
(but that won’t stop them
from taking me for their father).
I’ll fight to the bitter end
for the right
not to be a father to my children. 
A. E. STALLINGS
Hades Welcomes His Bride
Come now, child, adjust your eyes, for sight
Is here a lesser sense. Here you must learn
Directions through your fingertips and feet
And map them in your mind. I think some shapes
Will gradually appear. The pale things twisting
Overhead are mostly roots, although some worms
Arrive here clinging to their dead. Turn here.
Ah. And in this hall will sit our thrones,
And here you shall be queen, my dear, the queen
Of all men ever to be born. No smile?
Well, some solemnity befits a queen.
These thrones I have commissioned to be made
Are unlike any you imagined; they glow
Of deep-black diamonds and lead, subtler
And in better taste than gold, as will suit
Your timid beauty and pale throat. Come now,
Down these winding stairs, the air more still
And dry and easier to breathe. Here is a room
For your diversions. Here I’ve set a loom
And silk unraveled from the finest shrouds
And dyed the richest, rarest shades of black.
Such pictures you shall weave! Such tapestries!
For you I chose those three thin shadows there,
And they shall be your friends and loyal maids,
And do not fear from them such gossiping
As servants usually are wont. They have
Not mouth nor eyes and cannot thus speak ill
Of you. Come, come. This is the greatest room;
I had it specially made after great thought
So you would feel at home. I had the ceiling
Painted to recall some evening sky–
But without the garish stars and lurid moon.
What? That stark shape crouching in the corner?
Sweet, that is to be our bed. Our bed.
Ah! Your hand is trembling! I fear
There is, as yet, too much pulse in it. [4-5]
Arachne Gives Thanks to Athena
It is no punishment. They are mistaken—
The brothers, the father. My prayers were answered.
I was all fingertips. Nothing was perfect:
What I had woven, the moths will have eaten;
At the end of my rope was a noose’s knot.
Now it’s no longer the thing, but the pattern,
And that will endure, even though webs be broken.
I, if not beautiful, am beauty’s maker.
Old age cannot rob me, nor cowardly lovers.
The moon once pulled blood from me. Now I pull silver.
Here are the lines I pulled from my own belly—
Hang them with rainbows, ice, dewdrops, darkness. 
The Poet Dreams of Herself as a Young Girl
How talented, my daughter,
In all media of art—
Oils, charcoal, water,
The rending of the heart.
They told you you were clever,
But the heart is not an egg
That breaks once and forever;
It’s a dog that learns to beg
For bones dropped on the floor,
To lick up spilt milk there
Curdled with tears, to adore
From the shelter under a chair.
You thought that you were wise,
But the brain is not a box
Inlaid with galaxies;
It’s the steel trap and the fox
Gnawing its foot to escape
While buzzards dial the sky
And you see the huntsman’s cape
Crimson as liberty.
For your sake, I still loathe
The way he made you trip
On the long sleeve of your love,
Your innocence let slip
Like a bra-strap over your shoulder.
But you already know the rest:
How you died, then got older,
How you buried your heart in my chest. [62-63]