EppsNet Archive: Poetry

On the Infanticide Marie Farrar

 

Marie Farrar: month of birth, April Died in the Meissen penitentiary An unwed mother, judged by the law, she will Show you how all that lives, lives frailly. You who bear your sons in laundered linen sheets And call your pregnancies a ‘blessed’ state Should never damn the outcast and the weak: Her sin was heavy, but her suffering great. Therefore, I beg, make not your anger manifest For all that lives needs help from all the rest. — Bertolt Brecht, “On the Infanticide Marie Farrar” A translation of the entire poem is available here, among other places. Read more →

Why People Are So Messed Up

 

When I was a kid, I had a cousin Kathy, who liked to eat meals one item at a time. For example, if she had what I had last night, which was salmon, spinach and brown rice, she’d eat all of the salmon, then all of the spinach, then all of the rice. Not necessarily in that order but you get the idea. Some adults in our family would get mad that she ate meals that way and would yell at her to stop doing it. Like, what difference could it possibly make to anyone in what order she eats portions of food? Mind your own goddamn business. Bad parenting is probably my hottest of hot buttons. Or as Philip Larkin used to say: They fuck you up, your mum and dad.     They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had     And add… Read more →

You Do Not Need Many Things

 

My house is buried in the deepest recess of the forest Every year, ivy vines grow longer than the year before. Undisturbed by the affairs of the world I live at ease, Woodmen’s singing rarely reaching me through the trees. While the sun stays in the sky, I mend my torn clothes And facing the moon, I read holy texts aloud to myself. Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith. To enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things. — Ryokan Taigu Read more →

Too Lazy To Be Ambitious

 

Too lazy to be ambitious, I let the world take care of itself. Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag; a bundle of twigs by the fireplace. Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? Listening to the night rain on my roof, I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out. — Ryokan Taigu Read more →

Begging

 

today’s begging is finished; at the crossroads i wander by the side of hachiman shrine talking with some children. last year, a foolish monk; this year, no change! — Ryokan Taigu Read more →

Wild Geese

 

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting– over and over announcing your place in the family of things. — Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese” Read more →

Long have I longed, till I am tired
  Of longing and desire;
Farewell my points in vain desired,
  My dying fire;
Farewell all things that die and fail and tire.
— Christina Rossetti, “Till Tomorrow”

My Soul

 

Oh feed to the golden fish his egg Where he floats in his captive bowl, To the cat his kind from the womb born blind, And to the Lord my soul. — Stevie Smith, “My Soul” Read more →

Not Waving But Drowning

 

Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning. Poor chap, he always loved larking And now he’s dead It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, They said. Oh, no no no, it was too cold always (Still the dead one lay moaning) I was much too far out all my life And not waving but drowning. — Stevie Smith, “Not Waving But Drowning” Read more →

W.S. Merwin, 1927-2019

 

I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time. W.S. Merwin RIP W.S. Merwin Also . . . “Yesterday” by W.S. Merwin How Can You Ever Be Sure? Read more →

Mary Oliver, 1935 – 2019

 

Mary Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She died today of lymphoma at the age of 83. The Poetry Foundation has a biography and a selection of poems, although I prefer the selection at the Peaceful Rivers site. Her work had a Whitmanesque love of life. I’ve included one of my favorites here: The Journey One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice — though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full… Read more →

EppsNet at the Movies: The Garden of Words

 

The Garden of Words is a beautiful short film about loneliness and love and longing, inspired by verses from the Manyoshu, an anthology of ancient Japanese poems: A faint clap of thunder Clouded skies Perhaps rain will come If so, will you stay here with me? A faint clap of thunder Even if rain comes or not I will stay here Together with you. Rain is a central motif in the film. Like the force of love, it can’t be controlled or stopped. Highly recommended! Rating:     Director: Cast: IMDb rating: ( votes) Read more →

Sailing to Byzantium

 

That is no country for old men. The youngIn one another’s arms, birds in the trees– Those dying generations – at their song,The salmon?falls, the mackerel?crowded seas,Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer longWhatever is begotten, born, and dies.Caught in that sensual music all neglectMonuments of unageing intellect. An aged man is but a paltry thing,A tattered coat upon a stick, unlessSoul clap its hands and sing, and louder singFor every tatter in its mortal dress,Nor is there singing school but studyingMonuments of its own magnificence;And therefore I have sailed the seas and comeTo the holy city of Byzantium. O sages standing in God’s holy fireAs in the gold mosaic of a wall,Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,And be the singing?masters of my soul.Consume my heart away; sick with desireAnd fastened to a dying animalIt knows not what it is; and gather meInto the artifice of eternity.… Read more →

I Feared That the Dam Might Break So I Loosed the River

 

I can never remake the thing I have destroyed;   I brushed the golden dust from the moth’s bright wing, I called down wind to shatter the cherry-blossoms,   I did a terrible thing. I feared that the cup might fall, so I flung it from me;   I feared that the bird might fly, so I set it free; I feared that the dam might break, so I loosed the river:   May its waters cover me. — Aline Murray Kilmer, “Shards” Read more →

You Will Know Whether it Has All Been True

 

How does a life flash before one’s eyes At the end? How is there time for so much time? You pick up the book and hold it, knowing Long since the failed romance, the strained Marriage, the messenger, the mistake, Knowing it all at once, as if looking through A lighted dormer on the dark crest of a barn. You know who is inside, and who has always been At the other edge of the wood. She is waiting For no one in particular. It could be you. If you can discover which tree she has become, You will know whether it has all been true. — J.D. McClatchy, “Wolf’s Trees” Read more →

Essay on the One Hand and the Other

 

Consider the palms. They are faces, eyes closed, their five spread fingers soft exclamations, sadness or surprise. They have smile lines, sorrow lines, like faces. Like faces, they are hard to read. Somehow the palms, though they have held my life piece by piece, seem young and pale. So much has touched them, nothing has remained. They are innocent, maybe, though they guess they have a darker side that they cannot grasp. The backs of my hands, indeed, are so different that sometimes I think they are not mine, shadowy from the sun, all bones and strain, but time on my hands, blood on my hands— for such things I have never blamed my hands. One hand writes. Sometimes it writes a reminder on the other hand, which knows it will never write, though it has learned, in secret, how to type. That is sad, perhaps, but the dominant hand… Read more →

Though Much is Taken, Much Abides

 

Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. — Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses” Read more →

She Never Even Knew It

 

Chapter XXII of George Eliot’s Middlemarch starts with an epigraph from Alfred de Musset: Nous câusames longtemps; elle était simple et bonne. Ne sachant pas le mal, elle faisait le bien; Des richesses du coeur elle me fit l’aumône, Et tout en écoutant comme le coeur se donne, Sans oser y penser je lui donnai le mien; Elle emporta ma vie, et n’en sut jamais rien. Some editions of Middlemarch provide a translation in a footnote: We talked for a long time; she was simple and kind. Knowing no evil, she did only good: She gave me alms from the riches of her heart, And listening intently as she poured out her heart, Scarcely daring to think, I gave her mine; Thus she carried off my life, and never even knew it. Read more →

Rhapsody

 

I am glad daylong for the gift of song,      For time and change and sorrow; For the sunset wings and the world-end things      Which hang on the edge of to-morrow. I am glad for my heart whose gates apart      Are the entrance-place of wonders, Where dreams come in from the rush and din      Like sheep from the rains and thunders. — William Stanley Braithwaite, “Rhapsody” Read more →

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