[Epigraph: “It is inevitable that life should be harvested like a crop that is ripe, and one man should die while another lives.” (Euripides, Hypsipile)]

Thou knowest all; I seek in vain
What lands to till or sow with seed–
The land is black with briar and weed,
Nor cares for falling tears or rain.

Thou knowest all; I sit and wait
With blinded eyes and hands that fail,
Till the last lifting of the veil
And the first opening of the gate.

Thou knowest all; I cannot see.
I trust I shall not live in vain,
I know that we shall meet again
In some divine eternity.


A counterpoint to the Yeats poem I posted recently. And in looking for a version to rip from and perhaps redirect you somewhere else, this poem offers quite some choices – from the mixture of satisfaction at finding someone who had posted it precisely a year ago but paired it with a very sententious sunset-on-a-field-of-flowers bit of photoshop, to the inadvertent discovery of many, many animated gifs of completely ripped male torsos. I had to copy the epigraph out myself, but that’s not the end of the world, is it?

Yesterday’s Yeats was in good part an excuse to post this brilliant piece by Ferlinghetti, 26 in Pictures of the Gone World, or ‘Reading Yeats’.


——–Reading Yeats I do not think
——————————————-of Ireland
but of midsummer New York
————————————and of myself back then
—–reading that copy I found
————————————on the Thirdavenue El

———-the El
—————-with its flyhung fans
—–and its signs reading

———-the El
—————-careening thru its thirdstory world
—–with its thirdstory people
—————————-in their thirdstory doors
looking as if they had never heard
————————————————of the ground

———-an old dame
————————watering her plant
or a joker in a straw
——————putting a stickpin in his peppermint tie
and looking just like he had nowhere to go
—————————————————-but coneyisland

————-or an undershirted guy
—————————————–rocking in his rocker
watching the El pass by
——————-as if he expected it to be di fferent
———–each time

—————-Reading Yeats I do not think
————————————————–of Arcady
and of its woods which Yeats thought dead
——————————————————I think instead
————-of all the gone faces
——————————getting o ff at midtown places
——–with their hats and their jobs
————-and of that lost book I had
—————————-with its blue cover and its white inside
where a pencilhand had written
——————————————-HORSEMAN, PASS BY!

[Ripped from landsburg.com, an attempt at original spacing added.]

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into truth.

[Read in W. B. Yeats: Poems selected by Seamus Heaney]

Shouts of pleasure and our silence form
the strummed song of the afternoon.
We have turned the sack of our talk inside out
in the unhappy search for its square root
and sit happily amid our broken arithmetic.
We are staring into a blue bowl
which encircles the liquid evening light,
we dip in our arms and splash our faces
until they are golden and shining. Our eyes
are brimming with light

——————————I can step over
the flaming grass into your cool indigo
and twist like a fish through a dappled pool
of dream-stained inks and drowning shadows,
the disintegrating faces of the formerly loved.
I can try on the strange geometry of your body
from the inside, pressing palms to the curve
of your skull, feet into the soft untanned
leather of yours and swell like a corpse
with fluid love

[Ripped from foam:e; Siofra’s blog can be found here: http://siofra.net/]

How silvery, by W.G. Sebald

14 February 2012

How silvery

on that
January morning
the towers
of Frankfurt
into the ice-cold


I’ve finished Across the Land and the Water now. I might still put up another couple of pieces from it; but this, this is exactly the kind of poem I was thinking of when I made my resolution, and started this blog: something small, eminently include-able in anyone’s day, and which I find makes life just ever so slightly better.

Thistles, by Ted Hughes

14 February 2012

Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasphed fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up

From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.

Then they grow grey like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.

[Ripped from famouspoetsandpoems.com; read in Poems selected by Simon ArmitageFaber & Faber.]

Festifal, by W. G. Sebald

5 February 2012

In 2008, George Steiner published My Unwritten Books, which describes the books he long planned to write, but now knows he never will. It is ‘part-memoir, part-scholarly miscellany, which veers wantonly between mandarin obscurity and foolishly naked revelation,’ according to the Independent. (I must add that this remains an unread book, for me; I have his At the New Yorker in my ‘to read’ pile – I thought it best to read more he has written before getting on to things he hasn’t.)

This idea of representing the potential of things that remain unwritten, suggesting works, is one of the appeals of Sebald’s ‘Festifal’. When I first read it, the form (or format) stood out: the summary descriptions of a play. For whatever reason, I love poetry that is squeezed into the confines of apparently functional forms of writing. As for the content, however, I was somewhat nonplussed: Sebald, like Steiner, is a polyglot, and has a far greater knowledge of the classics than I do, and nowhere else have I read him express that so densely as here. But the first three lines of the Intermezzo are brilliant in their suggestion of the possibility of stories, and their arrangement. This, in combination with the form, encapsulates and communicates a tremendous sense of potentiality, even if the elliptical nature of the content, with its reliance on intertextual reference, doesn’t guarantee much immediate substantive ‘satisfaction’ for a reader like me.


On the Sandwich Islands
the Dictaean Grotto

Basil the Rainmaker
and the coiled polar dragon

Somnia, terrores magicos,
miracula, sagas, nocturnos
lemures portentaque Thessala

Acts of negligence in accordance
with relative beauty
strength or wit
——-ex. gratis: The plump Etruscan,
——————–the ivory flute
——————–and Latin song
——————–Proteus sub aqua submersus
——————–putting ugly cattle to pasture
——————–aut etiam:
——————–The Sphinz
——————–fleeing toward Libya

Final Tableau:
Victorious Basil
earns the sobriquet Fifty

Salomo Schellenkönig the skilled
basket weaver counts his coppers

A small fortune


The translator’s notes gloss most of the allusions, so if you’re interested in getting to the bottom of what Sebald’s writing about you can try. But as ‘Plot’ is entirely in Latin, and would seem like an important part of a play, this is what Google Translate offers: ‘Dreams, magic terrors, / miracles, the curtains of the night / ghosts wonders of Thessaly’.

[From Across the Land and the Water.]