They come they wake us…

October 19, 2010

It is difficult to describe why a particular poem resonates with you. Sometimes its the truth or precision or power of an image that bores into you; sometimes its the rhythm of a line or a verse that lingers like a good pop song. Often it can be something that you don’t immediately understand but that loiters around gradually revealing itself over time. Often its when the poet gets to something you recognize, or feel in some inchoate way, but had never really thought about and it suprises you just how well you knew it.  Like a memory that you had yet to revisit. Charles Bukowski said that a a good poem says a hard thing in a simple way. I think that’s about right.

Here are some I have been enjoying recently:

Lady Love by Samuel Beckett

She is standing on my lids
And her hair is in my hair
She has the colour of my eye
She has the body of my hand
In my shade she is engulfed
As a stone against the sky

She will never close her eyes
And she does not let me sleep
And her dreams in the bright day
Make the suns evaporate
And me laugh cry and laugh
Speak when I have nothing to say

e.e.cummings

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
— electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born — pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if — listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go

Days by Philip Larkin

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Forget by Czeslaw Milosz

Forget the suffering
You caused others.
Forget the suffering
Others caused you.
The waters run and run,
Springs sparkle and are done,
You walk the earth you are forgetting.

Sometimes you hear a distant refrain.
What does it mean, you ask, who is singing?
A childlike sun grows warm.
A grandson and a great-grandson are born.
You are led by the hand once again.

The names of the rivers remain with you.
How endless those rivers seem!
Your fields lie fallow,
The city towers are not as they were.
You stand at the threshold mute.

Joy by Robinson Jeffers

Though joy is better than sorrow joy is not great;
Peace is great, strength is great.
Not for joy the stars burn, not for joy the vulture
Spreads her gray sails on the air
Over the mountain; not for joy the worn mountain
Stands, while years like water
Trench his long sides. ‘I am neither mountain nor bird
Nor star; and I seek joy.’
The weakness of your breed: yet at length quietness
Will cover those wistful eyes.

 

From Ithaca by C.p Cavafy

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

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