You’re welcome Kenji. More to follow :)
Bassam Hajjar – The Interpretation of Marble
Translated by Anton Shammas
I don’t mind,
when I look,
from the edge of fifty –
the commotion of pedestrians on a wide street,
where the shops are,
a bunch of students and workers and the unemployed,
fathers who are looking for a safe place
in which to keep the pleasures of seeking,
the hardships of seeking,
day by day,
until the seeking day is over,
and the shortest among them,
the most short-lived,
finds refuge in a night of doubts and suspicion.
I don’t mind,
men who drag the disappointments of hardships into lit houses
with the fever of hope
if there is any hope left
And I don’t mind –
when I look,
days I should have lived,
or the shadow I used to be should have lived,
or the person who was for years in my company
And years elapse
like a silent dialogue
like a speeding bus
ahead of me
filled with those who live without me, here
As if these were the memories of the person
I’ve always wanted to be
As if these were memories I’ve read in a book
which I then lost
a book borrowed by a friend then lost
maybe I sold it to a book peddler
a basket weaver
who will carry it to the end of the world
and barter it for a loaf of bread
a warm cup of soup
And I don’t mind
when I look
the one who doesn’t mind
For I don’t care what happens metres away
away from the gate of my absent-mindedness
Bassam Hajjar – A few things I alone know
Translated by Camilo Gomez-Rivas
He said he was tired
that he had come to his final days,
so he found delight in nothing.
He said daylight hurt his eyes,
dust irritated his lungs,
and that he stayed in his room
sitting on the edge of his bed, his head bowed,
his hands on his hips to support himself.
He said he was tired
and not able to walk in the street
since breathing was a strain,
as if he’d grown used to a kind of suffocation
and was content with as much air
as would not keep the canary alive, dead from the cold.
He said spring
just about killed him,
and the dog days of summer,
and the winter, bitter cold and wet,
and autumn, season of wailing and lamentation,
and that he didn’t know why the chill wouldn’t leave
He said: “Take the ring
it is all I own,
that and the fountain pen.
Now wrap me up in woollen blankets,
give me your face to kiss
and your hands
for I might well not see you tomorrow.”
He said he was tired and couldn’t sleep;
that the night was a frightening wilderness.
These minutes or hours may be the last.
So he rises and walks in the hallway,
drinks a mouthful of water,
and the tumult of his heavy wheezing keeps him company,
as if his wheezes spoke to him
like the children or the neighbours or friends over drinks
or casual meetings during an evening stroll,
and he wouldn’t pray
but said: "I loved whom I loved
and whoever loved me gave me happiness I did not deserve.
I was alive and the death in my lungs was
a pain and a cough,
and I lived with the smallest bit
of air and pleasure.
I watered the climbing plants until they reached
I put the canary in its cage,
fed him seeds and water to drink
and he died despite me
and I cried for three days.
No one will inherit the hardship of living as I have,
asthma pains and the bare means.
I made time to wait for my final hour.
I told no one
but stayed to wait.
I told her when she came towards me
let me rest my tired head on your chest
and I didn’t tell her I wanted to cry
but I cried.
A few things I alone know of
made me cry.
I was not afraid.
I was not miserable,
but I cried."
ELENA SCHVARTS: REMEMBRANCE OF STRANGE HOSPITALITY
Once i had a taste
Of a girlfriend’s milk,
My sister’s milk -
Not to quench my thirst
But satisfy my soul.
into a cup she squeezed
Milk from her left breast.
And in that simple vessel
It gently frothed, rejoiced.
There was something birdlike in its odour,
Whiffs of sheep and wolf, and something older
Than the Milky Way, it was somehow warm and dense.
A daughter in the wilderness,
Once let her aged father drink
From her breasts and thus became
His mother. By this act of grace
Her whiteness drove away the dark,
A cradle substituted for a tomb.
From the duct next to your heart
You offered me a drink-
I’m not a vampire, am i? – Horror.
It frothed and tinkled, warm
And sweet, soft, everlasting,
Crowding time back in a corner.
TRANSTROMER: BREATHING SPACE JULY
The man who lies on his back under huge trees
is also up in them. He branches out into thousands of tiny branches.
He sways back and forth,
he sits in a catapult chair that hurtles forward in slow motion.
The man who stands down at the dock screws up his eyes against the water.
Docks get older faster than men.
They have silver-gray posts and boulders in their gut.
The dazzling light drives straight in.
The man who spends the whole day in an open boat
moving over the luminous bays
will fall asleep at last inside the shade of his blue lamp
as the islands crawl like huge moths over the globe.
Adrian Mitchell: Celia Celia
When i am sad and weary
When i think all hope has gone
When i walk along High Holborn
I think of you with nothing on.
ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI: FRUIT
How unattainable life is, it only reveals
its features in memory,
in nonexistence. How unattainable
afternoons, ripe, tumultuous, leaves
bursting with sap; swollen fruit, the rustling
silks of women who pass on the other
side of the street, and the shouts of the boys
leaving school. Unattainable. The simplest
apple inscrutable, round.
The crowns of trees shake in warm
currents of air. Unattainable distant mountains.
Intangible rainbows. Huge cliffs of clouds
flowing slowly through the sky. The sumptuous,
unattainable afternoon. My life,
swirling, unattainable, free.
DAN PAGIS: EIN LEBEN
In the month of her death, she is standing by the windowframe,
a young woman with a stylish, permanent wave.
She seems to be in a contemplative mood
as she stands there looking out the window.
Through the glass an afternoon cloud of 1934
looks in at her, blurred, slightly out of focus,
but her faithful servant. On the outside
I’m the one looking at her, four years old almost,
holding back my ball, quietly
going out of the photo and growing old,
growing old carefully, quietly,
so as not to frighten her.
(transaltion from Hebrew)
LAM THI MY DA: GARDEN FRAGRANCE
Last night a bomb exploded on the veranda
But sounds of birds sweeten the air this morning.
I hear the fragrant trees, look in the garden
For two silent clusters of ripe guavas.
(translation from Vietnamese)
the eagle of the heart—
what will they be writing about 2,000 years from
if they are
I drink cabernet sauvignon while
listening to Bach: it’s
most curious: this
I look at this hand
holding a cigarette
I feel as if
I have been here
troops with bayonets
the town below.
my dog, Tony, smiles at
it is well
to feel good
for no reason;
with a limited
or with a little love,
not to buckle to
faith, brother, not in the
I tell you
~ Charles Bukowski
i was looking at a Bukowski book yesterday, thinking should i shouldn’t i, but bought the anthology Being Human (3rd in a trilogy) instead- see latest poems above.
GEORGIOS SEFERIADES: (from) MYTHISTOREMA
Sleep wrapped you in green leaves like a tree
you breathed like a tree in the quiet light
in the limpid spring I looked at your face:
eyelids closed, eyelashes brushing the water.
In the soft grass my fingers found your fingers
I held your pulse a moment
and felt elsewhere your heart’s pain.
Under the plane tree, near the water, among laurel
sleep moved you and scattered you
around me, near me, without my being able to touch the whole of you —
one as you were with your silence;
seeing your shadow grow and diminish,
lose itself in the other shadows, in the other
world that let you go yet held you back.
The life that they gave us to live, we lived.
Pity those who wait with such patience
lost in the black laurel under the heavy plane trees
and those, alone, who speak to cisterns and wells
and drown in the voice’s circles.
Pity the companion who shared our privation and our sweat
and plunged into the sun like a crow beyond the ruins,
without hope of enjoying our reward.
Give us, outside sleep, serenity.
YEHUDA AMICHAI: A QUIET JOY
I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.
I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.
I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,
and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.
Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.
But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.
And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:
just a little time left now for quiet joy.
LOUIS MACNIECE: SNOW
The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.
Paul Shaoul – The Wave Comes Out of the Heart of Nullity
Translation to English: Omnia Amin
night, black night
Like coal is the blackness of
Dead suns, coal in the night of coal in the night of the suns
That I follow
And galaxies follow me in the earth’s memory here the sea
Shall raise me and the wave will
Come from the midst of the primordial nothing in the night we start a life forever
Towards a Spring in the field.
Ay, I know that if I follow that star that fills my life
I shall certainly reach my guide’s ascending vehicle on its journey
finally waiting for me in the farthest valley of
the Arabian desert.
Aïcha Arnaout – Wana’rif
Translation to English: Omnia Amin
We will be invited to the feast of the mirrors and we will know
We will depart in the spirit of water and know
We will delve into the secret core and know
O rivers of flaming perfumes have mercy
The saliva of the ashes have come near to stare at us
And the decomposed exiles are the garments
O shiver of time have mercy,
delay for us for a while
The crusher of mystery for the scattered cells
The orbit of the universe for two dots of dust
The cradle of galaxies, the swaddle of planets for our suckling heart
O shimmering star in the familiarity of absence have mercy,
Bless our short and delicious crossing
Let our intuition trick the jugular in the mirror
Let it display the teething of the ages, in the wombs of remoteness
And at destruction dress us up with the quietude of residing
Hassan Najmi – Fluttering
Translation: Fateh Azzam
I’ve come to own the sorrows
Of domesticated gees
Migrating geese pass by, taking pity
Their wings mock me.
After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.
The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.
The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.
I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.
I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
“We do not surrender. But want peace.”
The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.
The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.
They turn the light off, and its white globe glows
an instant and then dissolves, like a tablet
in a glass of darkness. Then a rising.
The hotel walls shoot up into heaven’s darkness.
Their movements have grown softer, and they sleep,
but their most secret thoughts begin to meet
like two colors that meet and run together
on the wet paper in a schoolboy’s painting.
It is dark and silent. The city however has come nearer
tonight. With its windows turned off. Houses have come.
They stand packed and waiting very near,
a mob of people with blank faces.
Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House-Billy Collins
The neighbor’s dog will not stop barking
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.
The neighbor’s dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,
and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for a barking dog.
When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton
while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.
Ha that Billy Collins is fun. He’s a poet i didn’t know till recently, maybe a posting on here was first, tho he’s in a couple of anthologies i bought recently too. My dog Bryn can sing, he would be great with an orchestra, i can see him now serenading some sexy babe dog called Mimi with Che Gelida Manina (your tiny paw is frozen). with Tom the Cat doing his turn on piano. We don’t leave Bryn and Kiki alone for long and often at home but at a hotel in France when we left them in the room while having breakfast they started up a great howling and we had to move them to the car.
I’m gonna have to come back to a Lorca poem i posted before in English- a few lines vibrating in my brain, from which i sense a change may have started again in my life
El almidón de su enagua
me sonaba en el oído,
como una pieza de seda
rasgada por diez cuchillos.
Yeah I really like Billy Collins. I actually have a neighbor who’s dog is incessantly barking so……..it seemed like a good choice…LOL.
this is one of the most famous poem from the most acclaimed poet from Indonesia, WS Rendra.
One hot Sunday
in a church full of people
a young priest stood at the pulpit.
His face was beautiful and holy
his eyes sweet like a rabbit’s
and he lifted up both his hands
which were lovely like a lily
“Now let us disperse.
There is no sermon today.”
No one budged.
They sat tight in their rows.
There were many standing.
They were stiff. Refused to move.
Their eyes stared.
Their mouths hung open
they stopped praying
but they all wanted to hear.
Then all at once they complained
and together with the strange voice from their mouths
which had to be quickly stifled.
“You can see I am still young.
Allow me to care for my own soul.
Please go away.
Allow me to praise holiness
I want to go back to the monastery
to meditate on the glory of God.”
Again they complained.
No one moved.
Their faces looked sad.
Their eyes questioned.
Their mouths gaped
wanting very much to hear.
“This people ask for guidance, Lord
God, why have you left me at this moment?
Like a flock of hungry lazy jackals
they hang their mouths.
It is hot. I piss in my pants.
Father. Father. Why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Still no one moved.
Their faces were wet.
Their hair was wet.
Their whole bodies were wet.
Sweat poured onto the floor
because it was so hot
and of the misery they bore.
The stench was extraordinarily foul
And their questions took stank foully.
“My brothers, children of the heavenly father.
This is my sermon.
My very first sermon.
Life is very difficult
Dark and difficult
There are many torments.
So in this regard
the wise way to live is ra-ra-ra
Ra-ra-ra, hump-pa-pa, ra-ra-ra.
Look at the wisdom of the lizard
the created God loves most
Go close to the ground
Your souls are squeezed between rocks
Like a lizard ra-ra-ra
like a centipede hum-pa-pa.”
All spoke together:
With a roar everyone in the church:
“To the men who like guns
who fix the flags of truth to their bayonet-points
I want you to listen carefully
to lu-lu-lu, la-li-lo-lu.
Lift your noses high
so you don’t see those you walk on.
For in this way li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.
Cleanse the blood from your hands
so as not to frighten me
then we can sit and drink tea
and talk of the sufferings of society
and the nature of love and death.
Life is full of misery and sin.
Life is a big cheat.
La-la-la, li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.
They stood. They stamped their feet on the floor
Stamping in one rhythm and together
Uniting their voices in:
La-la-la, li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.
Carried along in the strength of their unity
they shouted together
precisely and rhythmically:
La-la-la, li-li-li, la-li-lo-lu.
“Now we live again.
Feel the force of the flow of the blood.
In your heads. In your necks. In your breasts.
In your stomachs. Throughout the rest of your bodies.
[See my fingers shaking with life
The blood is bong-bon-bong.
The blood of life is bang-bing-bong.
The blood of the common life is bang-bing-bong-bong.
Life must be lived in a noisy group.
Blood must mix with blood.
The people exploded with the passion of the lives.
They stood on the pews.
Banged with their feet.
Bells, gongs, door-pailings, window panes
If it made a noise they pounded on it.
With the one rhythm
In accompaniment to their joyous shouts of:
“We must exalt love.
Love in the long grass.
Love in the shops of jews.
Love in the backyard of the church.
Love is unity and tra-la-la.
Tra-la-la. La-la-la. Tra-la-la.
Like the grass
we must flourish
in unity and love.
Let us pulverize ourselves.
Let us shelter beneath the grass.
Let us love beneath the grass.
Taking as our guide:
Tra-la-la. La-la-la. Tra-la-la.”
The whole congregation roared.
They began to dance. Following the one rhythm
They rubbed their bodies against each other
Men against women. Men against men.
Women with women. Everyone rubbed.
And some rubbed their bodies against the walls of the church.
And shouted in a queer mad voice
shrilly and together:
Tra-la-la. La-la-la. Tra-la-la.
“Through the holy prophet Moses
God has said:
Thou must not steal.
Junior civil servants stop stealing carbon.
Serving-girls stop stealing fried chicken bones.
Leaders stop stealing petro.
And girls, stop stealing your own virtue.
Of course, there is stealing and stealing.
The difference is: cha-cha-cha, cha-cha-cha.
All things come from God
everything belongs to everyone.
Everything is for everyone.
We must be one. Us for us.
This is the guiding principle.”
They roared like animals:
They stole window panes.
They took everything in the church.
The candelabra. The curtains. The carpets.
The silverware. And the statues covered with jewels.
Cha-cha-cha, they sang:
Cha-cha-cha over and over again
They smashed the whole church
Like wet panting animals
Then suddenly the shrill voice of an old woman was heard:
“I am hungry. Hungrry. Hu-u-unggrryyy.”
And suddenly everyone felt hungry.
Their eyes burned.
And they kept shouting cha-cha-cha.
“Because we are hungry
let us disperse.
Go home. Everyone stop.”
Cha-cha-cha, they said
and their eyes burned.
The mass and the sermon are over.”
Cha-cha-cha, they said.
They didn’t stop.
They pressed forward.
The church was smashed. And their eyes flashed.
“Lord, Remember the sufferings of Christ.
We are all his honored sons.
Hunger must be overcome by wisdom.”
They advance and beat against the pulpit.
They dragged the priest from the pulpit.
They tore his robes.
A Fat woman kissed his fine mouth.
And old woman licked his pure breast.
And girls pulled at both his legs.
And thus they raped him in a noisy throng.
Then they chopped his body to bits.
Everyone at his flesh. Cha-cha-cha.
They feasted in the strength of their unity.
They drank his blood.
They sucked the marrow from his bones.
Until they had eaten everything
and there was nothing left.
—Translated from the Bahasa Indonesia by Harry Aveling
Ah yes, i know that poem- i was considering it and some others from Indonesia for my anthology lists
Vasko Popa’s poem about Cioran
(not really a professional translation)
Higher School of Love
Before a storm in the Luxembourg Gardens
My old philosopher friend
Goes back for a moment
To the distant forests of his youth
At a Carpathians field trip
A storm catches our young bunch
Igniting bolts in our hair
Breaking thunders behind our napes
And throwing us to the ground
Together with the pines
The girls screaming crying
And the boys not doing any better
The youngest I bellow at them
What are you whining about
Easy for you to die
You’ve all already fucked
How can I die
Oh! the pine tops creak as they scrape their boughs together
I hear too the south wind lamenting
And from the river triumphal voices
Of elves who laugh at the wind or shout with each gust
Attis Attis Attis charming untidy
It is your name they have mocked in the night
Because one of your pines falls in the gothic wind
The forest withdraws in flight like an ancient army
Whose lances O pines wave as they turn
Villages are extinguished and now they meditate
Like virgins old men or poets
They will not wake for anyone who comes
But slumber though vultures swoop on their pigeons
O you tender ones, step now and then
into the breath that takes no heed of you;
let it part as it touches your cheeks,
it will quiver behind you, united again.
O you who are blessed, o you who are whole,
you who seem the beginning of hearts.
Bows for the arrows and targets of arrows,
tear-stained your smile shines more everlasting.
Fear not suffering; the heaviness,
give it back to the weight of the earth;
the mountains are heavy, heavy the oceans.
Even the trees you planted as children
long since grew too heavy, you could not sustain them.
Ah, but the breezes . . . ah, but the spaces . . .
~Rainer Maria Rilke (from Sonnets to Orpheus)
The passing spring,
With tearful eyes.
It was with awe
That I beheld
Fresh leaves, green leaves,
Bright in the sun.
A thicket of summer grass
Is all that remains
Of the dreams and ambitions
Of ancient warriors.
In the utter silence
Of a temple,
A cicada’s voice alone
Penetrates the rocks.
Move, if you can hear,
Silent mound of my friend,
My wails and the answering
Roar of autumn wind.
Red, red is the sun,
Heartlessly indifferent to time,
The wind knows, however,
The promise of early chill.
~Matsuo Basho (from The Narrow Road to the Deep North)