Thursday, April 14, 2005

Le Petit Qui Pleure

Un gosse qui n'a pas sept ans
Chiale au sortir du vieux faubourg
Où ça sent la peine et l'amour.
Et je m'arrête là, longtemps
Moi, dont le coeur saigne ce soir
Tout rouge, en un silence atroce.
Je m'arrête sur le trottoir
A regarder chialer ce gosse...

Pleure, pleure mon petit gâs
Dis, pourquoi pleures-tu ? Pour rien !
Mais pleure : ça me fait du bien !
Pleure pour moi qui ne peux pas

Gaston Couté

The crying little boy

A boy of not quite seven
Cries at the limits of the old suburb
Where one feels the pain and the love.
And I stop there for a while
I, whose heart is bleeding tonight
All red, in awful silence.
I stop on the on the sidewalk
To watch this kid crying.

Cry, cry, my little one
Say, Why are you crying? No reason!
But cry: it does me good!
Cry for me, as I cannot.

I can't really do justice to this poem and I'll not make excuses for the translation. The sender tells me that he finds it more hopeful than sad. For me, it's bringing up some hard memories of the numb time of when I couldn't cry, couldn't feel, almost couldn't function properly. Thinking on that's painful now, but that's not so bad. Pain implies feeling and feeling is important to living.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Refused at the inn -
But I took this unkindness
As a gracious act;
Under the hazy evening moon
I slept beneath blossoms.

-Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875)

After a tragic young life, Rengetsu became a Buddhist nun at the age of 32. By the time of her death, she was reknowned as a master poet, calligrapher, painter and potter.

In my meanderings around the web to find more information on her, what continually strikes me is a grace, a peacefulness, an amazing fullness of spirit from a person who had so much tragedy befall her.

I wish I could find an image of the scroll on which the Hazy Moon verse is written online, as it is stunning. If you're able to do so, go visit it at the Sackler where it will be on display until the 17th of April.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Just an aside...these words never fail to make me all teary-eyed. Sorry. Can't help it.

Remember The Mountain Bed

Do you still sing of the mountain bed we made of limbs and leaves:
Do you still sigh there near the sky where the holly berry bleeds:
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves, face, breast, hips and thighs.
You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes.

Rosin smells and turpentine smells from eucalyptus and pine
Bitter tastes of twigs we chewed where tangled woodvines twine
Trees held us in on all four sides so thick we could not see
I could not see any wrong in you, and you saw none in me.

Your arm was brown against the ground, your cheeks part of the sky.
As your fingers played with grassy moss, and limber you did lie:
Your stomach moved beneath your shirt and your knees were in the air
Your feet played games with mountain roots, as you lay thinking there.

Below us the trees grew clumps of trees, raised families of trees, and they
As proud as we tossed their heads in the wind and flung good seeds away:
The sun was hot and the sun was bright down in the valley below
Where people starved and hungry for life so empty come and go.

There in the shade and hid from the sun we freed our minds and learned.
Our greatest reason for being here, our bodies moved and burned
There on our mountain bed of leaves we learned life’s reason why
The People laugh and love and dream, they fight, they hate to die.

The smell of your hair I know is still there, if most of our leaves are blown,
Our words still ring in the brush and the trees were singing seeds are sown
Your shape and form is dim, but plain, there on our mountain bed
I see my life was brightest where you laughed and laid your head…

I learned the reason why man must work and how to dream big dreams,
To conquer time and space and fight the rivers and the seas
I stand here filled with my emptiness now and look at city and land
And I know why farms and cities are built by hot, warm, nervous hands.

I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears,
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here:
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again.

All this day long I linger here and on in through the night
My greeds, desires, my cravings, hopes, my dreams inside me fight:
My loneliness healed my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain
Back to the breast of my woman and child to scatter my seeds again.

-Woody Guthrie
As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

-W H Auden

Where to begin on this? I see a bit of Baudelaire here. The river image and the soft rocking feel of the words if you say them aloud brings to mind Apollinaire. I also sense Woody Guthrie's presence somewhat in the ballady feel and beautiful, deceptively simple language. From what I've read of Auden so far, it seems that he had an amazing wealth of resources to draw from. Thank you, Richard, for introducing me to him!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Having a car here just doesn't make sense for me right now. For one thing, it's way too expensive to feed and house the thing, to keep it up and to pay the extortionate insurance premiums that Massachusetts agencies gouge you with. Public transportation or my own two feet get me to just about everywhere I need to go. For more extended distances, I can always rent something.

Nick's rhapsody on the sensual pleasure of driving, however, gave me pause to remember just what I miss by not having a car.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I was up early this morning scrubbing and mopping, as it was my turn to clean the apartment. While waiting for the mop bucket to fill, I opened my blinds and saw that Raphaella's laundry was already hung up and fluttering away. She'd beaten me yet again.

Oda para planchar

La poesía es blanca:
sale del agua envuelta en gotas,
se arruga y se amontona,
hay que extender la piel de este planeta,

hay que planchar el mar de su blancura
ya van y van las manos,
se alisan las sagradas superficies
y así se hacen las cosas:
las manos hacen cada día el mundo,
se une el fuego al acero,
llegan al lino, el lienzo y el tocuyo
del combate de las lavanderías
y nace de la luz u na paloma:
la castidad regresa de la espuma.

-Pablo Neruda

In Praise of Ironing

Poetry is pure white.
It emerges from water covered with drops,
is wrinkled, all in a heap.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed out, the sea's whiteness;
and the hands keep moving, moving,
the holy surfaces are smoothed out,
and that is how things are accomplished.
Every day, hands are creating the world,
fire is married to steel,
and canvas, linen, and cotton
come back from the skirmishings of the laundries,
and out of light a dove is born -
pure innocence out of the swirl.

-translation by Alastair Reid,

from Fully Empowered
I spent a good bit of yesterday at the Sackler Museum looking at likenesses of all sorts of dead folks of antiquity rendered in just about every material available for sculpture. The common link I saw between them all was that not a single one was whole. Everyone was missing something - perhaps a nose, an ear or at least one limb. This came to mind:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley