Man’s Song / Woman’s Song

by Khaled Mattawa, translated from the Arabic written by Adonis

copyright ©2010 by Yale University



Man’s Song

Sideways,
I glimpsed your face drawn on the trunk of a palm
and saw the sun, black in your hands.
I tied my longing to that tree and carried night in a basket
                                                                carried the whole city
and scattered myself before your eyes.
                                                Then I saw your face hungry like a child’s.
I circled it with invocations
and above it I sprinked jasmine buds.

Woman’s Song

Sideways,
I caught sight of his old man’s face
robbed by days and sorrows.
he came to me holding his green jars to his chest
rushing to the last supper.
Each jar was a bay
and a wedding held for a harbor and a boat
where days and shores drown
where seagulls probe their past and sailors divine the future.
He came to me hungry and I stretched my love toward him,
a loaf of bread, a glass cup, and a bed.
I opened the doors to wind and sun
and shared with him the last supper.

No Angels in This Death Poem

by Priscila Uppal

copyright ©2006 by Priscila Uppal



Absolutely no angels in this death poem.
Half-baked poets offer angels for consolation
the way neighbours offer fruitcake at Christmas.

Absolutely no talk of Christmas in this death poem.
Resurrection went out with yesterday’s trash and
holy stars and wise men appear on hockey jerseys.

Absolutely no wise men in this death poem.
Wise men have never made dying understandable.
They’ve drawn no pie charts or graphs for the soul.

Absolutely no mention of souls in this death poem.
THe soul is not a ship, or a bird, or a flag, or a flower.
We have no power of attorney over it, no death connection.

Absolutely no mention of death in this death poem.
Angels are listening and the wise men are sketching.
Look at where all these souls are headed and tell no one.

Interesting People of Newfoundland

by John Ashbery

copyright ©2007 by John Ashbery



Newfoundland is, or was, full of interesting people.
Like Larry, who would make a fool of himself on street corners
for a nickel. There was the Russian who called himself
the Grand Duke, and who was said to be a real duke from somewhere,
and the woman who frequently accompanied him on his rounds.
Doc Hanks, the sawbones, was a real good surgeon
when he wasn’t completely drunk, which was most of the time.
When only half drunk he could perform decent cranial surgery.
There was the blind man who never said anything
but produced spectral sounds on a musical saw.

There was Walsh’s, with its fancy grocery department.
What a treat when Mother or Father
would take us down there, skidding over slippery snow
and ice, to be rewarded with a rare fig from somewhere.
They had teas from every country you could imagine
and hard little cakes from Scotland, rare sherries
and Madeiras to reward the aunts and uncles who came dancing.
On summer evenings in the eternal light it was a joy
just to be there and think. We took long rides
into the countryside, but were always stopped by some bog or other.
Then it was time to return home, which was OK with everybody,
each of them having discovered he or she could use a little shuteye.

In short there was a higher per capita percentage of interesting people
there than almost anywhere on earth, but the population was small,
which meant not too many interesting people. But for all that
we loved each other and had interesting times
picking each other’s brain and drying nets on the wooden docks.
Always some more of us would come along. It is in the place
in the world in complete beauty, as none can gainsay,
I declare, and strong frontiers to collide with.

Worship of the chthonic powers may well happen there
but is seldom in evidence. We loved that too,
as we were a part of all that happened there, the evil and the good
and all the shades in between, happy to pipe up at roll call
or compete in the spelling bees. It was too much of a good thing
but at least it’s over now. They are making a pageant out of it,
one of them told me. It’s coming to a theater near you.

Solstice

by Roo Borson

copyright ©2004 by Roo Borson



As for you, world –
you’ll have become small, and round, and lavender-coloured: ode
to the ewer, the comb, the water cooler.
And you? You lived in a place which was once a town,
you’ve seen it on maps before, others loaded ships
as in a dream: mood, appetite, memory, learning –
the demands seemed endless, all marsh-lights and loveliness,
the final estimates for the real world
or these propositions, for instance, which are sometimes true.
Indeed such unconscious concentration is possible,
in the neon light of early spring
and later, those evenings no longer fully spring
yet not quite summer either,
when the scent pulls back into the flower
and blackbirds bathe among violets,
half aspect, half unreal, in the slow rain of leaves.
Day after day, some days not returning,
and the boughs painted with light green lichen,
the detailed pink of the flowering apricot –
don’t go there unless to banish yourself,
because you are banished, beech,
oak, birch, and yew, among the hazel woods
of the elder world, where feathers flash
among the branches and hide in the darkening varnish
and history becomes the history of bad ideas,
a gloom of rotten nuts and nut-skins,
bitter paper. And tonight
the half-light in which paper glows –
walls, porticos, arches, places (who lived there?),
the print invisible, and the ocean sounding
all night long, clavicle to vena cava,
clavicle to vena cava,
it’s not a description.

Making Sure

by Jeramy Dodds

copyright ©Jeramy Dodds, 2008



Deer, a jackrabbit the size of a motorcycle.
– Tim Lilburn

Hit quick, the road-wasted stag
fell like the sick sorrel horse
we hunted by syringe
in a 3 x 5 pen. His fallen
figure-skater sprawl
drew out our awe, lying
on his own canvas of blood,
iron tailings from a ran-down mill.
Overcoated men with leather bags
of tinctures and bitters
couldn’t bring him around.
Witnesses stood, arms crossed,
afraid their hands might reach
for the debris of muscle guyropes
knifed by the blunt bumper of an SUV.
Looking aside I saw
a young woman come out
of the woods and work
her way through the crowd,
coming to rest in a kneel
at the buck’s breast.
We moved to halt her
but she heeled us with one hand
while the other slid to his snapped
sapling crown. She rubbed her fingers
gently down his brow, grappling his snout
to bring his half-yard of neck right round.

Ponds, In Love

by C.D. Wright

copyright ©C.D. Wright, 2002



One was always going when the other was coming back
One was biting a green apple
The deeper the evening the louder the singing
Throwing the core out the window
An oar stirred the dark then quit
A face drenches itself in carlight
A wrist wearing a man’s watch dipped a net
Even as one turned toward an unfinished building
The other wondered what one would have on
Upon returning will the hair be fallen or cropped
If one reaches what is grasped for
Gnats go for the eyes
Will utter disappointment set in
Will it be water or milk or wine tonight
Mostly one listened in the low-intensity glow
Of events one sustains incomprehensible feelings

Ark

by John Glenday

copyright ©John Glenday 2009



Did we really believe
our love could have survived
on that boat something or other
had us build of spavined cedar
pitched and thatched against the flood,
with two of nothing but ourselves on board –
no raven to hoist behind the rain,
no dove returning with a sprig of green?

New Rule

by Anne Carson

copyright ©2000 Anne Carson



A New Year’s white morning of hard new ice.
High on the frozen branches I saw a squirrel jump and skid.
Is this scary? he seemed to say and glanced

down at me, clutching his branch as it bobbed
in stiff recoil – or is it just that everything sounds wrong today?
The branches

clinked.
He wiped his small cold lips with one hand.
Do you fear the same things as

I fear? I countered, looking up.
His empire of branches slid against the air.
The night of hooks?

The man blade left open on the stair?
Not enough spin on it, said my true love
when he left in our fifth year.

The squirrel bounced down a branch
and caught a peg of tears.
The way to hold on is

afterwords
so
clear.

In-Flight Movie

by Karen Solie

copyright ©Karen Solie 2001.



Above, blue darkens as it thins to an airlessness wheeling
with sparkling American junk
and magnetic brains of astronauts. We are flung
across our seats like pelts.

Some of us are eating small sandwiches.
Some of us have taken pills and are swallowing
glass after glass of gin.

We were never intended to view the curve of the earth

so they give us televisions, a film
about a man and his daughter who teach a flock
of Canada geese to fly.

Wind shear hates the sky and everything in it,
slices at right angles across the grain of currents
like a cross-cut saw.

Fog loves surprises.

We have fuel, fire, Starbuck’s coffee, finite
possibilities of machinery. A pilot with human hands
and nothing for us to do, turbulence being to air
what hope is to breathing.
A property.

Far below, a light comes on in the kitchen of a farmyard
turning with its piece of the world into shadow.
Someone can’t sleep

an engine noise falls around the house like snow, vapour trails
pulled apart by frontal systems locked overhead
since high school. Imagines
alien weathers that unfurl in time zones
beyond the horizon.

The Newsagent

by Paul Farley

copyright ©Paul Farley 2006



My clock has gone although the sun has yet to take the sky.
I thought I was the first to see the snow, but his old eyes
have marked it all before I catch him in his column of light:
a rolled up metal shutter-blind, a paper bale held tight

between his knees so he can bring his blade up through the twine,
and through his little sacrifice he frees the day’s headlines:
its strikes and wars, the weather’s big seize up, runs on the pound.
One final star still burns above my head without a sound

as I set off. The dark country I grew up in has gone.
Ten thousand unseen dawns will settle softly on this one.
But with the streets all hushed I take the papers on my round
into the gathering blue, wearing my luminous armband.