Poetry

“Walker” – Antonio Machado

Walker, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.

Walking you make the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path you never
again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

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Poetry

“River” – Shuntaro Tanikawa

Mother,
Why is the river laughing?

Why, because the sun is tickling the river.

Mother,
Why is the river singing?

Because the skylark praised the river’s voice.

Mother,
Why is the river cold?

It remembers being once loved by the snow.

Mother,
How old is the river?

It’s the same age as the forever young springtime.

Mother,
Why does the river never rest?

Well, you see it’s because the mother sea
is waiting for the river to come home.

Translated from the Japanese by Harold Wright.

 

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Poetry

“From Nowhere” – Marie Howe

I think the sea is a useless teacher, pitching and falling
no matter the weather, when our lives are rather lakes

unlocking in a constant and bewildering spring. Listen,
a day comes, when you say what all winter

Iโ€™ve been meaning to ask, and a crack booms and echoes
where ice had seemed solid, scattering ducks

and scaring us half to death. In Vermont, you dreamed
from the crown of a hill and across a ravine

you saw lights so familiar they might have been ours
shining back from the future.

And waking, you walked there, to the real place,
and when you saw only trees, come back bleak

with a foreknowledge we have both come to believe in.
But this morning, a kind day has descended, from nowhere,

and making coffee in the usual way, measuring grounds
with the wooden spoon, I remembered,

this is how things happen, cup by cup, familiar gesture
after gesture, what else can we know of safety

or of fruitfulness? We walk with mincing steps within
a thaw as slow as February, wading through currents

that surprise us with their sudden warmth. Remember,
last week you woke still whistling for a bird

that had miraculously escaped its cage, and look, today,
a swallow has come to settle behind this rented rain gutter,

gripping a twig twice his size in his beak, staggering
under its weight, so delicately, so precariously it seems

from here, holding all he knows of hope in his mouth.

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Poetry

“The Portrait” – Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.

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Poetry

“What Happened” – Forrest Hamer

To say about it one thing. No, two. It was a horror. It could not be spoken.
So first there was the problem of recovering speech.
Calling out to it, listening each other.
We looked to the assurances of nature — regular violence, regular relief.
Color splayed before us — yellows, rhythms of red.
Faces and patterns in faces. Patience.
Finally, a word, but not many.
Silence again, longing.
More words but not what happened; words we had already said.
Horror holding, a black hole. Opening a little,
then a little more, then: we could think about the horror: what happened
a kind of speech, but not yet.

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Poetry

“Any Case” – Wislawa Szymborska

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were first.
You survived because you were last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
one step, a hair away?

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net’s mesh was tight, but you– through the mesh?
I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.
Listen,
how quickly your heart is beating in me.

– Translated from the Polish by Grazyna Drabik & Sharon Olds

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Poetry

Of Three or Four in a Room – Yehuda Amichai

Of three or four in a room
there is always one who stands at the window.
He must see the evil among the thorns
and the fires on the hill.
And how people who went out of their houses whole
are given back in the evening like small change.
 
Of three or four in a room
there is always one who stands at the window,
his dark hair above his thoughts.
Behind him, words.
And in front of him voices wandering without a knapsack,
hearts without provisions, prophecies without water,
large stones that have been returned there
and stay sealed, like letters that have no
address and no one to receive them.

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