Poems & poem-like things

Original poetry, translations and videopoems by the authors of this blog. (See Poets and poetry for criticism, etc.)

In other languages
there are words for those brief
and evanescent moments that fade
in between and in and out of joy
or grief; for the first warm drink
you could have on the first day
of the season as well as the sudden
urge to shed one’s clothes and dance
in warm summer rain. And there are words
for the hundred kinds of moss that sleep
on forest floors without heed of what
passes through the centuries,
for the feeling that comes over you
and makes you want to stay indoors
and do nothing but make a cave of your body,
sheltered in sheets… So I want to know
where there is language for this feeling
of being hollowed out from the inside,
of the heart aching to find the fix,
the cure, for what ails the one
who does not know from what spell
she stands transfixed in rain or sun.

black-and-white photo of clouds and trees reflected in a basin of water

 

It will stay light late tonight, the days lengthen…
Today’s living soundtrack fades and retreats,
and the trees, surprised not to see the night,
are still awake in the pale evening, dreaming.

The chestnut trees spread their fragrance
far and wide on this heavy air replete with gold
– we dare not move or toy with this tender air
for fear of stirring up more sleeping scents.

Distant rumblings reach us from the town…
The cloak of dust on a scarcely quivering tree
flies up, disturbed by every little breeze, only
to fall back gently on the peaceful paths below.

This is the same familiar road, the one
we’ve seen and walked so often, every day,
and yet something in this life has changed –
never again will our souls be as they are tonight.

 

Il fera longtemps clair ce soir

Il fera longtemps clair ce soir, les jours allongent,
La rumeur du jour vif se disperse et s’enfuit,
Et les arbres, surpris de ne pas voir la nuit,
Demeurent éveillés dans le soir blanc, et songent…

Les marronniers, sur l’air plein d’or et de lourdeur,
Répandent leurs parfums et semblent les étendre ;
On n’ose pas marcher ni remuer l’air tendre
De peur de déranger le sommeil des odeurs.

De lointains roulements arrivent de la ville…
La poussière, qu’un peu de brise soulevait,
Quittant l’arbre mouvant et las qu’elle revêt,
Redescend doucement sur les chemins tranquilles.

Nous avons tous les jours l’habitude de voir
Cette route si simple et si souvent suivie,
Et pourtant quelque chose est changé dans la vie,
Nous n’aurons plus jamais notre âme de ce soir…

 

Again from her first collection, Le Coeur innombrable / The Uncountable Heart (1901). More translations of Anna de Noailles on Via Negativa are here, here, and here.

Up and to the office, where Sir J. Minnes and I sat all the morning, and after dinner thither again, and all the afternoon hard at the office till night, and so tired home to supper and to bed.
This day I heard that my uncle Fenner is dead, which makes me a little sad, to see with what speed a great many of my friends are gone, and more, I fear, for my father’s sake, are going.

all the morning
all the tired dead
make me eat one more fear


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 24 May 1664.

Up and to the office, where Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and myself met and did business, we being in a mighty hurry. The King is gone down with the Duke and a great crew this morning by break of day to Chatham. Towards noon I and my wife by water to Woolwich, leaving my wife at Mr. Falconer’s, and Mr. Hater and I with some officers of the yard on board to see several ships how ready they are. Then to Mr. Falconer’s to a good dinner, having myself carried them a vessel of sturgeon and a Lamprey pie, and then to the Yarde again, and among other things did at Mr. Ackworth’s obtain a demonstration of his being a knave; but I did not discover it, till it be a little more seasonable. So back to the Ropeyard and took my wife and Mr. Hater back, it raining mighty hard of a sudden, but we with the tilt kept ourselves dry. So to Deptford, did some business there; but, Lord! to see how in both places the King’s business, if ever it should come to a warr, is likely to be done, there not being a man that looks or speaks like a man that will take pains, or use any forecast to serve the King, at which I am heartily troubled. So home, it raining terribly, but we still dry, and at the office late discoursing with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten, who like a couple of sots receive all I say but to little purpose. So late home to supper and to bed.

this break in the rain
not in any forecast

heart raining still
like a sot


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 23 May 1664.

What would you not
take with you if you needed

to go away? What would you keep?
A photograph, one dark blanket

embroidered with tiny seeds that mimic
the flowering of stars? A broken teacup,

your heart a sieve brought repeatedly
to the mouth of the sea— If only

you could remember what it’s like
to taste yourself in a basin

of shy leaves that pull away
at the slightest touch,

what the clean unlined sky was like
before you started to write

in order not to forget, before it filled
with rain and wings and glyphs.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Nation of immigrants.

(Lord’s day). Up and by water to White Hall to my Lord’s lodgings, and with him walked to White Hall without any great discourse, nor do I find that he do mind business at all. Here the Duke of Yorke called me to him, to ask me whether I did intend to go with him to Chatham or no. I told him if he commanded, but I did believe there would be business here for me, and so he told me then it would be better to stay, which I suppose he will take better than if I had been forward to go.
Thence, after staying and seeing the throng of people to attend the King to Chappell (but, Lord! what a company of sad, idle people they are) I walked to St. James’s with Colonell Remes, where staid a good while and then walked to White Hall with Mr. Coventry, talking about business. So meeting Creed, took him with me home and to dinner, a good dinner, and thence by water to Woolwich, where mighty kindly received by Mrs. Falconer and her husband, who is now pretty well again, this being the first time I ever carried my wife thither. I walked to the Docke, where I met Mrs. Ackworth alone at home, and God forgive me! what thoughts I had, but I had not the courage to stay, but went to Mr. Pett’s and walked up and down the yard with him and Deane talking about the dispatch of the ships now in haste, and by and by Creed and my wife and a friend of Mr. Falconer’s came with the boat and called me, and so by water to Deptford, where I landed, and after talking with others walked to Half-way house with Mr. Wayth talking about the business of his supplying us with canvas, and he told me in discourse several instances of Sir W. Batten’s cheats.
So to Half-way house, whither my wife and them were gone before, and after drinking there we walked, and by water home, sending Creed and the other with the boat home. Then wrote a letter to Mr. Coventry, and so a good supper of pease, the first I eat this year, and so to bed.

a throng of sad people
carried here by boat

where land is a half-way house
we go drinking


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 22 May 1664.

Up, called by Mr. Cholmely, and walked with him in the garden till others came to another Committee of Tangier, as we did meet as we did use to do, to see more of Povy’s folly, and so broke up, and at the office sat all the morning, Mr. Coventry with us, and very hot we are getting out some ships.
At noon to the ‘Change, and there did some business, and thence home to dinner, and so abroad with my wife by coach to the New Exchange, and there laid out almost 40s. upon her, and so called to see my Lady Sandwich, whom we found in her dining-room, which joyed us mightily; but she looks very thin, poor woman, being mightily broke. She told us that Mr. Montagu is to return to Court, as she hears, which I wonder at, and do hardly believe.
So home and to my office, where late, and so home to supper and to bed.

a folly of hot hips
laid out on sand

joy thin
as a late supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 21 May 1664.

“mi ritrovai per una selva oscura…”
(“I found myself in a dark wood…”)
~ Dante, Inferno

Today is a mixed bag.
In one sense you are hidden, yet
in another way you are conspicuous.
If you are in mid-life, stay chill
and don’t get sucked in. Hormones
aren’t the only big picture! As long
as you’re aware, enjoy schmoozing
with others! If you’ve started the day
single, never fear: the sun activates
your involvement chart. Be honest. Admit
you want to achieve more. Be daring. Your new
love could sweep you along or be the lone figure
contemplating ephemeral egg white sculptures
in the gallery. Radiate your gossamer wings.
The planets are always boasting about who
has the bigger pull: grade this retrograde,
baby. Wear shades and go without makeup—
pretend you don’t see them stumbling
down the avenue like talent scouts
wasted from yet another after-party.
Go ahead and plan, pitch and promote.
Be your own agent; this is your sign.

I knew when he’d gone out on the porch,
I knew when she’d locked the door
to their bedroom.
From my window I could see
where he sat with his forehead cradled
in his palm, the edge of his nape
milky in moonlight.
I wanted to shout Stop
being so dramatic! Stop making the air
so heavy with your sad misunderstandings!

The glistening barbs thrown
before breakfast was even on the table,
the knives and forks and fruit
whistling through the air like compact
missiles. No one paid attention
to the narrowing orbits of the stars,
or whether spiders fell from the insides
of open umbrellas. I sat under one
wishing for a telegram to come from overseas,
for a hand to pluck me out from under
the bathroom sink where I crouched.
When they didn’t, I discovered I could break
through the skin of my silence. I discovered
words which could plow through the earth
and start up with the sound of an eighteen-
wheeler, to drown out these little hells
and their tiresome ping-ponging
back and forth in space.

Up and to my office, whither by and by comes Mr. Cholmely, and staying till the rest of the company come he told me how Mr. Edward Montagu is turned out of the Court, not [to] return again. His fault, I perceive, was his pride, and most of all his affecting to seem great with the Queene and it seems indeed had more of her eare than any body else, and would be with her talking alone two or three hours together; insomuch that the Lords about the King, when he would be jesting with them about their wives, would tell the King that he must have a care of his wife too, for she hath now the gallant: and they say the King himself did once ask Montagu how his mistress (meaning the Queene) did. He grew so proud, and despised every body, besides suffering nobody, he or she, to get or do any thing about the Queene, that they all laboured to do him a good turn. They also say that he did give some affront to the Duke of Monmouth, which the King himself did speak to him of. But strange it is that this man should, from the greatest negligence in the world, come to be the miracle of attendance, so as to take all offices from everybody, either men or women, about the Queene. Insomuch that he was observed as a miracle, but that which is the worst, that which in a wise manner performed [would] turn to his greatest advantage, was by being so observed employed to his greatest wrong, the world concluding that there must be something more than ordinary to cause him to do this. So he is gone, nobody pitying but laughing at him; and he pretends only that he is gone to his father, that is sick in the country.
By and by comes Povy, Creed, and Vernatty, and so to their accounts, wherein more trouble and vexation with Povy. That being done, I sent them going and myself fell to business till dinner. So home to dinner very pleasant. In the afternoon to my office, where busy again, and by and by came a letter from my father so full of trouble for discontents there between my mother and servants, and such troubles to my father from hence from Cave that hath my brother’s bastard that I know not what in the world to do, but with great trouble, it growing night, spent some time walking, and putting care as much as I could out of my head, with my wife in the garden, and so home to supper and to bed.

how an ear must suffer
out in the world
miracle of attendance to nobody
a cave in the growing night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 May 1664.