Guest Authors

Anna de Noailles, 1920

Black and white portrait of Noailles.

 

As a knife entering a fruit
slides into it, ravaging,
the soft sound of a melody
cleaves the heart in two
and tenderly destroys it
— and the iridescent languor
of chords and arpeggios
descends, cunning and cutting,
through the body’s weakness
and the divided soul…

 

Comme un couteau dans un fruit
Amène un glissant ravage,
La mélodie au doux bruit
Fend le coeur et le partage
Et tendrement le détruit.
— Et la langueur irisée
Des arpèges, des accords,
Descend, tranchante et rusée,
Dans la faiblesse du corps
Et dans l’âme divisée…

 

Portrait of the poet by Paul Thévenaz
More on Anna de Noailles in a previous post

The Tub 1917 by Vanessa Bell 1879-1961

Today’s word is raw, said the weather forecaster,
and you flinched, soft skin flayed by wind and sleet,
soft heart by unremitting news of inhumanity.
So embrace this respite, stuff your stiff winter coat
into a locker, stretch and let your sore soul touch
the curves and colours of the pictures, slow-dance
with the fading shapes and figures frescoed on every wall.
You know the artist too was flayed, continued painting
through the worst of times, death and betrayal, two long wars…
Her work outlasted all of it, is here to wrap your fear,
your sorrow in warm flesh, bathe you in earth-green light.

 

Vanessa Bell at Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Tub, 1917 (Tate Modern)

Black-and-white photo of the end of a park bench with a wide open space behind it and a line of trees in the distance.

Today, crossing the scrap of Clapham Common
right by the tube entrance, this unappealing piece
with scanty grass and grubby benches shat upon
by crows and pigeons, I remember again a lanky,
windswept woman and glimpse the fading shape
of brassy wings. Here is where I’d often see her,
comfortably hunkered on one of these greasy seats
or stalking towards them, all flying silver mane
and lamentable, flapping coat, happy to hang out
alone or with the old homeless guys who favoured
this draughty and neglected corner of the common,
facing the statue of Temperance and Providence
from a safe distance. I used to stare, imagining wide-
eyed and shy the fabulous mechanics of her mind.

 

The British novelist Angela Carter died 25 years ago – such mixed feelings in remembering an amazing writer who died too young, and a time when we had great hopes for post-Cold-War peace and democratisation.
Angela Carter: official website and another lovely site with new publications, events and discussion.
Statue of Temperance and Providence on Clapham Common, 1884.

You can’t remember how many nights
or days or cycles you’ve picked yourself up
from countless falls.
Luisa A. Igloria, “Way Station

for my mother

before your attending doctors
could bore a hole in your throat
to attach tubes to a life-sustaining machine,
you waged your silent
protest by dying at the hour of
great mercy, the hour i was away
from your bed, the hour i chose
to indulge in a siesta elsewhere
to make up for days, some nights
i hovered over you like a dutiful
daughter, a role
alien to me

nothing in your sudden departure
in cruel May prepared me or those
closest to you for this dystopian
universe we now inhabit:
the cheapening of human lives,
killings to the right of us,
killings to the left, to the front
and behind us, duct-taped corpses
fouling the night, the bitter wails of
new widows and orphans, bald men,
bewigged men, their bald-faced lies,
their armies of trolls scrutinizing,
deciphering our increasingly secret hieroglyphics

they say this downward cycle of darkness
is but temporary, depending on
a leader’s term of office

if this churlish despot leaves
through a possible resistance,
will Enlightenment follow?

even you in your grave, Mother, would
chide me for clinging to a child’s naivete
but let me hang on to this belief, so written
in Ecclesiastes, that all things under heaven,
on this earth, serve a purpose

Let us not spend
these remaining days being experimental
and eating nothing
Luisa A. Igloria, “If these are the last days

Is this the end of days
or simply the end of the year?
Either way, we behave
the same: for breakfast, we eat
cookies full of butter and nuts.
We begin home repair projects unlikely
to be finished. We eat salad
for lunch, because we may survive
and need some nutrients.
In the afternoon, we meet friends
for tea and conversations that deepen
in the gathering dusk. During the evening lit
only by the table-top trees, we eat
the last of the cookies and await
the final answers.

We were always
Trying to run toward each other.
Luisa A. Igloria, “Landscape in an afterlife

Once again, you find yourself
on the old revolutionary road
with the houses that once hid
the asylum seekers.

The long road stretches
before you, overgrown
with brambles and struggling seedlings.
You see the fires
ahead, burning cities
or perhaps the lights
of fellow travelers.
Smoke hides the mountains.

The road is lined
with the suitcases of immigrants
who abandoned all the essentials
they once lugged to a new country.

You have kept your treasures
sewn into your hemlines, heirloom
seeds and the small computer chip
that holds your freedom papers.
Your grandmother’s gold hoops dance
in your earlobes and twinkle
around your fingers.

You hear the voices of the ancestors,
colored with both reason and panic.
Go faster, they urge.
You are needed up ahead.

I love the sound of snow… You can hear it even if you are only standing on a balcony. [The sound] is only minimal, not even a real noise: a breath, a trifle of a sound. You have the same thing in music: if in the score there is a pianissimo marked that ends in nothing. Up there you can feel this ‘nothing’. With an orchestra it is very difficult to achieve it. The Berlin Philharmonic manage(s) it sometimes.
Claudio Abbado

how can i love that which
has not been fully experienced
like the sight of snow falling on trees
stripped of leaves in the fall?

but fully imagined
i see snow falling and
shrouding bloodied corpses,
washing clean and clear of suspicions
these snuffed out lives

in a country that knows of
seasons of dust and of wet on wet,
i desire the benediction of snow,
a rest from the burst of bullets
and cusses

the arbitrary blankness,
the nothingness of
whitened landscapes
with a hint of resurrection
pushing out of sorrow’s
inhospitable ground

Manila, Philippines
Nov. 17, 2016

Not accepting, not rejecting
says the Buddha as the demons
elect to live with him
Hospitality for demons by Luisa A. Igloria

I think of the demons
that have kept us company
through the ages.

Now we have medications
that quiet the howling
of some of these demons.
But still some ask for stories
and a glass of milk.
Some make stronger demands,
and we struggle to deliver.

On the morning after the election
the seething wind finally silenced,
I startle from sleep, mistaking
the cat’s crying
for a larger weeping.
I listen for the call of the ancient
prophet or the modern Romero,
and hear the rustle in the palm trees.

On this holiday, the living
visit the cities of the dead…
Remembering the dead by Luisa A. Igloria

The dead do not want
your candles or your picnics,
all your attempts to stay connected.
The dead scoff
at your sugar skulls
and all the ways you try
to sweeten the truth.

You will join them soon
enough, so leave the dead
to their own devices. Conduct
your business in the land
of the living. Wear your baubles
because they are beautiful,
not because you hope
that they can protect
you from the malevolent spirits,
the ones your grandmother warned
you of, thousands of them,
keeping watch over every hour.

photo of weeping willows

My castle has a moat
bordered by weeping willows
and filled with tears.
Great blue herons pattern the sky
with dinosaur wings.
They land and line the bank,
erect and still as meditating monks
in grey-blue robes, no longer
prehistoric but eternal.
Happiness holds my hand as, slowly,
we walk to raise the drawbridge.