Saturday, April 08, 2006

Aimee downstairs, though a writer, absolutely hates poetry. "I only do prose," she once told me.

How funny to find her in her cubicle reciting this in her best Sco?ish accent:

To a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

-Robert Burns, 1786


Never tried Haggis before, but anything that's had an ode penned to it by a bard has to be food of the gods. The foods claimed by my forebears, kishka and lutefisk, don't have quite the cache, but are still quite good (if you ignore what's in them).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Friday in Lent.

Should I get myself oysters or fried smelts for dinner? Maybe I should see if the market up the street still has any yellow pike left. Freshwater fish is somewhat of a rarity on the seacoast, so this childhood favorite would be a real treat.

Fish Crier

I KNOW a Jew fish crier down on Maxwell Street with a voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble in January.
He dangles herring before prospective customers evincing a joy identical with that of Pavlowa dancing.
His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to whom he may call his wares, from a pushcart.

-Carl Sandburg, from Chicago Poems

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Losing and finding one's self in love; loving for the sake of love...better than sex in my book.

The whole world is a marketplace for Love,
For naught that is, from Love remains remote.
The Eternal Wisdom made all things in Love.
On Love they all depend, to Love all turn.
The earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in Love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love.

From each, Love demands a mystic silence.
What do all seek so earnestly? "Tis Love.
Love is the subject of their inmost thoughts,
In Love no longer "Thou" and "I" exist,
For self has passed away in the Beloved.
Now will I draw aside the veil from Love,
And in the temple of mine inmost soul
Behold the Friend, Incomparable Love.
He who would know the secret of both worlds
Will find that the secret of them both is Love.

-Farid ud Din Attar

-"The Concourse of the Birds" from Attar's The Conference of the Birds, painted by Habib Allah, ca. 1600.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Razors pain you; Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give;
Gas smells awful; You might as well live.

-Dorothy Parker

Most of the time it's only by sheer force of will that I get myself out of bed in the morning and drag me into work.

I really do have to get my résumé updated.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Warmed by the glow of a star that may or may not have died on him, Pablo decided to learn the Romanian Language. Here is one of the fruits of his translation efforts along with a bit of explanation:

I mailed a “La mulţi ani” to Stefan in Singapore. He is two years younger than I. He sent back likewise.

Now one more time, my submission for the (poetry) blog. A poem I like intellectually for the sense of paradox that it builds up and reiterates in a few short lines, but also for the ambiguous conclusion. Is it about hope? Or regret? Or just about making the most of pleasant memories?

La Steaua

La steaua care-a răsărit
E-o cale-atât de lungă,
Că mii de ani i-au trebuit
Luminii să ne-ajungă.

Poate de mult s-a stins în drum
În depărtări albastre,
Iar raza ei abia acum
Luci vederii noastre,

Icoana stelei ce-a murit
Încet pe cer se suie:
Era pe când nu s-a zărit,
Azi o vedem, şi nu e.

Tot astfel când al nostru dor
Pieri în noapte-adâncă,
Lumina stinsului amor
Ne urmăreşte încă.

-Mihai Eminescu

For the Star

For the star that just arose
There lies so long a way,
Thousands of years must come to close
That we might see its ray.

And very like it flickered out,
Out in the blue expanses,
Yet now its light has come about
To glimmer in our glances.

The image of the star that died,
A slowly climbing dot,
Though when it was, it wasn’t spied,
Is seen now, and is not.

Just so, when in the deepest dark
Our longings perished lay,
Extinguished love has sent a spark
Pursuing us today.

-My translation

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pablo, however, is alive and well and is celebrating his 38th April today. I wish him all the happiness in the world and send out about the best definition of this state I've come across:


I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

-Carl Sandburg
Missed Birthday.

I was in a bit of a panic this morning because I didn't get a birthday card out in time. Then I remembered: Vince would have been 92 today.


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots,
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hard to believe, but I'm not the hugest fan of Poetry. I particularly hated it when I was younger and had to submit to it (along with its interpretations) being crammed down my throat like horse pills:


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

It's taken a fair bit of time for me to come around to enjoying it, much like it's been taking me some time to warm up to Marianne Moore. There's a lot to be said for poetry that works (for me), just like there's a lot to be said for a poet who loves baseball and animals, who writes of beautiful things she's dreamt of acquiring, who is so plain-speaking, and who just gets it.