June 6, 2007

yesterday was spent down in the trenches


Arthur Lavine, Playground, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York, 1970


The Fear of Death Disturbs Me
-- by William Meredith (RIP)

Now it is almost certain that we will be going.
The place is thought to be foul, whether defiled
By ourselves (Who are variously seen as knowing
Or unknowing offenders) or befouled
Like a public lavatory by no one knows whom-
The mucker we all agree about, whose nick-name
Is all he ever scrawls in the filthy room.
But whoever the vandal is, it is all the same:

We will have to quit the ambient sweet air
For dankness and stench where, mustered one by one
By bullies, some of us they say will give
A poor account, a worse even than here.
With this much notice something should be done,
Yet what is there to do but try to live?


The Return
-- by Gu Cheng

(translated by Aaron Crippen)

don’t go to sleep, don’t
Dear, the road is long yet
don’t go too near
the forest’s enticements, don’t lose hope

write the address
in snowmelt on your hand
or lean on my shoulder
as we pass the hazy morning

lifting the transparent storm curtain
we’ll arrive at where we are from
a green disk of land
around an old pagoda

there I will guard
your weary dreams
and drive off the flocks of nights
leaving only bronze drums, and the sun

as beyond the pagoda
tiny waves quietly
crawl up the beach
and draw back trembling


Never Again the Same
-- by James Tate

Speaking of sunsets,
last night's was shocking.
I mean, sunsets aren't supposed to frighten you, are they?
Well, this one was terrifying.
Sure, it was beautiful, but far too beautiful.
It wasn't natural.
One climax followed another and then another
until your knees went weak
and you couldn't breathe.
The colors were definitely not of this world,
peaches dripping opium,
pandemonium of tangerines,
inferno of irises,
Plutonian emeralds,
all swirling and churning, swabbing,
like it was playing with us,
like we were nothing,
as if our whole lives were a preparation for this,
this for which nothing could have prepared us
and for which we could not have been less prepared.
The mockery of it all stung us bitterly.
And when it was finally over
we whimpered and cried and howled.
And then the streetlights came on as always
and we looked into one another's eyes--
ancient caves with still pools
and those little transparent fish
who have never seen even one ray of light.
And the calm that returned to us
was not even our own.


* Tuli KupferbergI Am An Artist for Art's Sake.

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