Thursday, December 31, 2009


By Günter Grass

I dreamed that I must take leave
of all the things that surrounded me
and cast their shadows: all those possessive
pronouns. And of the inventory, list
of diverse things found. Take leave
of the wearying odours,
smells, to keep me awake, of sweetness,
of bitterness, of sourness per se
and the peppercorn's fiery sharpness.
Take leave of time's ticktock, of Monday's annoyance,
Wednesday's shabby gains, of Sunday
and its treacheries, as soon as boredom sits down.
Take leave of all deadlines: of what in the future
is to be done.

I dreamed of every idea, whether stillborn
or live, of the sense that looks
for the sense behind sense,
and of the long-distance runner hope as well
I must take leave. Take leave of the compound interest,
of saved-up fury, the proceeds of stored dreams,
of all that's written on paper, recalled as analogy
when horse and rider became a memorial. Take leave
of all the images men have made for themselves.
Take leave of the song, rhymed bellyaching, and of
voices that interweave, that six-part jubilation,
the fervour of instruments,
of God and Bach.

I dreamed that I must take leave
of bare branchwork,
of the words bud, blossom and fruit,
of the seasons that, sick of their moods,
insist on departure.
Early mist, late summer. Winter coat. Call out: April April!
say again autumn crocus and may tree,
drought frost thaw.
Run away from tracks in the snow. Perhaps
when I go the cherries will be ripe. Perhaps
the cuckoo will act mad and call. Once more
let peas jump green from their pods. Or the
dandelion clock: only now do I grasp what it wants.

I dreamed that of table, door and bed
I must take leave and put a strain on
table, door and bed, open them wide, test them in going.
My last schoolday: I spell out the names
of my friends and recite their telephone numbers: debts
are to be settled: last of all I write to my enemies
briefly: let bygones be bygones — or:
It wasn't worth quarelling over.
Suddenly I have time.
My eyes as though they'd been trained
in leavetaking, search horizons all around, the hills
behind the hills, the city
on either bank of the river,
as though what goes without saying
must be remembered preserved saved: given up, true, but still
palpable, wide-awake.

I dreamed that I must take leave
of you, you and you, of my insufficiency,
the residual self: what remained behind the comma
and for years ha rankled.
Take leave of the familiar strangeness we live with,
of the habits that politely justify themselves,
of the bonded and registered hatred between us. Nothing
was closer to me than your coldness. So much love recalled
with precise wrongness. In the end
everything had been seen to: safety pins galore.
Lastly, the leavetaking from your stories
that always look for the bulwark, the steamer
out of Stralsund, the city on fire,
laden with refugees;
take leave of my glassware that had shards in mind,
only shards at all times, shards
of itself. Not that:
no more headstands.

And no more pain, ever. Nothing
that expectation might run to meet. This end
is classroom stuff, stale. This leavetaking
was crammed for in courses. Just look how cheaply
secrets go naked! Betrayal pays out no cut-rate prices.
At last advantage cancels itself, evens out for us
the balance sheet,
reason triumphs for the last time,
all that has breath, all things that creep
or fly, all that had not yet
been thought and was to be perhaps,
at an end, on its way out.

But when I dreamed that I must
take leave at once of all creation
so that of no animal for which Noah once
built the ark there should be a redolence,
after the fish, the sheep and the hen
that all perished together with humankind,
I dreamed for myself one rat that gave birth to nine
and was blessed with a future.

From 'Selected Poems 1956-1993'
Translated by Michael Hamburger

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Etching of a Line of Trees

By John Glenday

I carved out the careful absence of a hill and a hill grew.
I cut away the fabric of the trees
and the trees stood shivering in the darkness.

When I had burned off the last syllables of wind,
a fresh wind rose and lingered.
But because I could not bring myself

to remove you from that hill,
you are no longer there. How wonderful it is
that neither of us managed to survive

when it was love that surely pulled the burr
and love that gnawed its own shape from the burnished air
and love that shaped that absent wind against a tree.

Some shadow's hands moved with my hands
and everything I touched was turned to darkness
and everything I could not touch was light.

Extract from 'Grain'

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bago at pagkatapos

Ni Miguel Paolo Celestial

Para akong nilalagnat, di mapakali. Nangangati ang talampakan, kinakati. Meron akong sakit na walang lunas. Para akong latak na iniwan ng baha, malagkit at mamasa-masa. Nauuna sa aking hininga ang kabog ng aking dibdib, di sa kaba kundi sa itim at matapang na kape. Di nauubos ang askal sa kalye, galisin at nagdadala ng rabis. May epidemyang dala ang ganitong mga gabing gutom, di maaaring mabusog.

. . . . . . . . .

Ipinagtabi niya ang aking sepilyo sa kanyang sepilyo, malapit sa hugasan ng pinggan, sa ikalawa kong bisita sa kanyang condo. Ngayon, makalipas ng tatlong pagtatagpo - umagang may halik sa pisngi at balikat - ilang araw na itong tuyo sa kinalalagyan. Hindi ko alam kung nabasa ang kanyang pisngi nung gabing tinalikuran ko siya at di na binalikan, nung pilit niyang pigilan ang daloy ng mga salita at nagmamakaawa ang katahimikan ng kanyang silid. Ilang araw nang nadadampian ng ambon ang aking paggising. Ilang araw nang puyat ang liwanag, di makabangon, di marunong humingi ng tawad.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buhangin / Sand

By Miguel Paolo Celestial

Walang pag-ibig ang pinakamatatamis nating halik.
Walang pagtataksilan ang ating mga haplos.
Dagat ang iyong hinagkan. Dumudulas ang mahihigpit kong yakap.
Matutuyo kang wasak, buhanging kumikinang ang alat.

There is no love in our sweetest kisses.
Nothing to be betrayed by our caresses.
You have touched the sea. My embraces recede.
Left as sand for the sun, salt will glitter on your skin.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Open Wardrobe

By Günter Grass

The shoes are at the bottom.
They are afraid of a beetle
on the way out,
of a penny on the way back,
of a beetle and a penny on which they might tread
till it impresses itself.
At the top is the home of the headgear.
Take heed, be wary, not headstrong.
Incredible feathers,
what was the bird called,
where did its eyes roll
when it knew that its wings were too gaudy?
The white balls asleep in the pockets
dream of moths.
Here a button is missing,
in this belt the snake grows weary.
Doleful silk,
asters becoming a dress.
Every Sunday filled with flesh
and the salt of creased linen.
Before the wardrobe falls silent, turns into wood,
a distant relation of pine trees —
who will wear the coat
one day when you're dead?
Who move his arm in the sleeve,
anticipate every movement?
Who will turn up the collar,
stop in front of the pictures
and be alone under the windy cloche?

From 'Selected Poems 1956-1993'
Translated by Michael Hamburger

Read about Günter Grass

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

By T.S. Eliot

S'io credessi che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza più scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!")
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say, "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."
. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

From 'Collected Poems: 1909-1962'

Read about T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Reply to Vice-Magistrate Chang

By Wang Wei

In these twilight years, I love tranquility
alone. Mind free of all ten thousand affairs,

self-regard free of all those grand schemes,
I return to my old forest, knowing empty.

Soon mountain moonlight plays my ch'in,
and pine winds loosen my robe. Explain this

inner pattern behind failure and success?
Fishing song carries into shoreline depths.

Translated by David Hinton
From 'The Selected Poems of Wang Wei'

Friday, January 30, 2009

Two of my poems in an online journal

Two of my poems, Ako at Ikaw and Araw Gabi are now posted over at the High Chair Poetry Journal. (Even though they may not be in their final form yet.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009


By Pablo Neruda

Facing you
I am not jealous.

Come with a man
at your back,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your bosom and your feet,
come like a river
filled with drowned men
that meets the furious sea,
the eternal foam, the weather.

Bring them all
where I wait for you:
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be, you and I,
alone upon the earth
to begin life.

Translated by Donald D. Walsh
From 'The Captain's Verses'

Read about Pablo Neruda

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bach Concerto

By Jaroslav Seifert

I never slept late in the morning,
the early trams would wake me,
and often my own verses.
They pulled me out of bed by my hair,
dragged me to my table,
and as soon as I'd rubbed my eyes
they made me write.

Bound by sweet saliva
to the lips of a unique moment,
I gave no thought
to the salvation of my miserable soul,
and instead of eternal bliss
I longed for a quick instant
of fleeting pleasure.

In vain did the bells try to lift me up:
I clung to the ground with tooth and nail.
It was full of fragrance
and exciting mysteries.
And when I gazed at the sky at night
I did not seek the heavens.
I was more afraid of the black holes
somewhere on the edge of the universe,
they are more terrible still
than hell itself.

But I caught the sound of a harpsichord.
It was a concerto
for oboe, harpsichord and strings
by Johann Sebastian Bach.
From where it came from I do not know.
But clearly not from earth.

Although I had not drunk any wine
I swayed a little
and had to steady myself with
my own shadow.

Translated by Edwald Osers
From 'The Selected Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert'

Read about Jaroslav Seifert

Epiphany, 1937

By George Seferis

The flowering sea and the mountains in the moon's waning
the great stone close to the Barbary figs and the asphodels
the jar that refused to go dry at the end of the day
and the closed bed by the cypress trees and your hair
golden; the stars of the Swan and that other star, Aldebaran.

I've kept a rein on my life, kept a rein on my life, travelling
among yellow trees in driving rain
on silent slopes loaded with beech leaves,
no fire on their peaks; it's getting dark.
I've kept a rein on my life; on your left hand a line
a scar at your knee, perhaps they exist
on the sand of the past summer perhaps
they remain there where the north wind blew as I hear
an alien voice around the frozen lake.
The faces I see do not ask questions nor does the woman
bent as she walks giving her child the breast.
I climb the mountains; dark ravines; the snow-covered
plain, into the distance stretches the snow-covered plain, they ask nothing
neither time shut up in dumb chapels nor
hands outstretched to beg, nor the roads.
I've kept a rein on my life whispering in a boundless silence
I no longer know how to speak nor how to think; whispers
like the breathing of the cypress tree that night
like the human voice of the night sea on pebbles
like the memory of your voice saying 'happiness'.

I close my eyes looking for the secret meeting-place of the waters
under the ice the sea's smile, the closed wells
groping with my veins for those veins that escape me
there where the water-lilies end and that man
who walks blindly across the snows of silence.
I've kept a rein on my life, with him, looking for the water that touches you
heavy drops on green leaves, on your face
in the empty garden, drops in the motionless reservoir
striking a swan dead in its white wings
living trees and your eyes riveted.

This road has no end, has no relief, however hard you try
to recall your childhood years, those who left, those
lost in sleep, in the graves of the sea,
however much you ask bodies you've loved to stoop
under the harsh branches of the plane trees there
where a ray of the sun, naked, stood still
and a dog leapt and your heart shuddered,
the road has no relief; I've kept a rein on my life.

                                                                                          The snow
and the water frozen in the hoofmarks of the horses.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard
From 'Collected Poems'

Read about George Seferis

I Sit by the Window

By Joseph Brodsky
For Lev Loseff

I said fate plays a game without a score,
and who needs fish if you've got caviar?
The triumph of the Gothic style would come to pass
and turn you on - no need for coke, or grass.
I sit by the window. Outside, an aspen.
When I loved, I loved deeply. It wasn't often.

I said the forest's only part of a tree.
Who needs the whole girl if you've got her knee?
Sick of the dust raised by the modern era,
the Russian eye would rest on an Estonian spire.
I sit by the window. The dishes are done.
I was happy here. But I won't be again.

I wrote: The bulb looks at the flower in fear,
and love, as an act, lacks a verb; the zer-
o Euclid thought the vanishing point became
wasn't math - it was the nothingness of Time.
I sit by the window. And while I sit
my youth comes back. Sometimes I'd smile. Or spit.

I said that the leaf may destory the bud;
what's fertile falls in fallow soil - a dud;
that on the flat field, the unshadowed plain
nature spills the seeds of trees in vain.
I sit by the window. Hands lock my knees.
My heavy shadow's my squat company.

My song was out of tune, my voice was cracked,
but at least no chorus can ever sing it back.
That talk like this reaps no reward bewilders
no one - no one's legs rest on my sholders.
I sit by the window in the dark. Like an express,
the waves behind the wavelike curtain crash.

A loyal subject of these second-rate years,
I proudly admit that my finest ideas
are second-rate, and may the future take them
as trophies of my struggle against suffocation.
I sit in the dark. And it would be hard to figure out
which is worse; the dark inside, or the darkness out.

From 'Collected Poems in English'

Read about Joseph Brodsky

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Clerk's Tale

By Spencer Reece

I am thirty-three and working in an expensive clothier,
selling suits to men I call "Sir".
These men are muscled, groomed and cropped -
with wives and families that grow exponentially.
Mostly I talk of rep ties and bow ties,
of full-Windsor knots and half-Windsor knots,
of tattersall, French cuff, and English spread collars,
of foulards, neats, and internationals,
of pincord, houndstooth, nailhead, and sharkskin.
I often wear a blue pin-striped suit.
My hair recedes and is going gray at the temples.
On my cheeks there are a few pimples.
For my terrible eyesight, horn-rimmed spectacles.
One of my fellow-workers is an old homosexual
who works hard and wears bracelets with jewels.
No one can rival his commission checks.
On his break he smokes a Benson & Hedges cigarette,
puffing expectantly as a Hollywood starlet.
He has carefully applied a layer of Clinique bronzer
to enhance the tan on his face and neck.
His hair is gone except for a few strands
which are combed across his scalp.
He examines his manicured lacquered nails.
I admire his studied attention to details:
his tie stuck to his shirt with masking tape,
his teeth capped, his breath mint in place.
The old homosexual and I laugh in the back
over a coarse joke involving an octopus.
Our banter is staccato, staged and close
like those "Spanish Dances" by Granados.
I sometimes feel we are in a musical -
gossiping backstage between our numbers.
He drags deeply on his cigarette.
Most of his life is over.
Often he refers to himself as "an old faggot".
He does this bemusedly, yet timidly.
I know why he does this.
He does this because his acceptance is finally complete -
and complete acceptance is always
bittersweet. Our hours are long. Our backs bent.
We are more gracious than English royalty.
We dart amongst the aisles tall as hedgerows.
Watch us face into the merchandise.
How we set up and take apart mannequins
as if we were performing autopsies.
A naked body, without pretense, is of no use.
It grows late.
I hear the front metal gate close down.
We begin folding the ties correctly according to color.
The shirts - Oxfords, broadcloths, pinpoints -
must be sized, stacked, or rehashed.
The old homosexual removes his right shoe,
allowing his gigantic bunion to swell.
There is the sound of cash being counted -
coins clinking, bills swishing, numbers whispered -
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. . .
We are changed when the transactions are done -
older, dirtier, dwarfed.
A few late customers gawk in at us.
We say nothing. Our silence will not be breached.
The lights go off, one by one -
the dressing room lights, the mirror lights.
Then it is very late. How late? Eleven?
We move to the gate. It goes up.
The gate's grating checkers our cheeks.
This is the Mall of America.
The light is bright and artificial,
yet not dissimilar to that found in a Gothic cathedral.
You must travel down the long hallways to the exits
before you encounter natural light.
One final formality: the manager checks out bags.
The old homosexual reaches into his over-the-shoulder leather bag -
the one he bought on his European travels
with his companion of many years.
He finds a stick of lip balm and applies it to his lips
liberally, as if shellacking them.
Then he inserts one last breath mint
and offers one to me. The gesture is fraternal
and occurs between us many times.
At last, we bid each other good night.
I watch him fade into the many-tiered parking lot,
where the thousands of cars have come
and are now gone. This is how our day ends.
This is how our day always ends.
Sometimes snow falls like rice.
See us take to our dimly lit exits,
disappearing into the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul;
Minneapolis is sleek and St. Paul,
named after the man who had to be shown,
is smaller, older, and somewhat withdrawn.
Behind us, the moon pauses over the vast egg-like dome of the mall.
See us loosening our ties among you.
We are alone.
There is no longer any need to express ourselves.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wheel-Rim River

By Wang Wei

5 Deer Park

No one seen. Among empty mountains,
hints of drifting voice, faint, no more.

Entering these deep woods, late sunlight
flares on green moss again, and rises.

18 Magnolia Slope

Lotus blossoms adrift out across treetops
flaunt crimson calyces among mountains.

At home beside this stream, quiet, no one
here. Scattered. Scattered open and falling.

Translated by David Hinton
From 'The Selected Poems of Wang Wei'