In The Village Of My Ancestors
Someone embraces me
Someone looks at me with the eyes of a wolf
Someone takes off his hat
So I can see him better
Everyone asks me
Do you know how I'm related to you
Unknown old men and women
Appropriate the names
Of young men and women from my memory
I ask one of them
Tell me for God's sake
Is George the Wolf still living
That's me he answers
With a voice from the next world
I touch his cheek with my hand
And beg him with my eyes
To tell me if I'm living too
- Vasko Popa
- Czeslaw Milosz
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.
One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.
I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget - I kept saying - that we are all children of the King.
For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago -
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef - they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.
There comes a time in every man's life
when he thinks: I have never had a single
original thought in my life
including this one & therefore I shall
eliminate all ideas from my poems
which shall consist of cats, rice, rain
baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants
red brick houses where I shall give up booze
and organized religion even if it means
despair is a logical possibility that can't
be disproved I shall concentrate on the five
senses and what they half perceive and half
create, the green street signs with white
letters on them the body next to mine
asleep while I think these thoughts
that I want to eliminate like nostalgia
0 was there ever a man who felt as I do
like a pronoun out of step with all the other
floating signifiers no things but in words
an orange T-shirt a lime green awning
- David Lehman
His first infidelity was a mistake, but not as big
As her false pregnancy. Later, the boy found out
He was born three months earlier than the date
On his birth certificate, which had turned into
A marriage license in his hands. Had he been trapped
In a net, like a moth mistaken for a butterfly?
And why did she--what was in it for her?
It took him all this time to figure it out.
The barroom boast, "I never had to pay for it,"
Is bogus if marriage is a religious institution
On the operating model of a nineteenth-century factory.
On the other hand, women's lot was no worse then
Than it is now. The division of labor made sense
In theories developed by college boys in jeans
Who grasped the logic their fathers had used
To seduce women and deceive themselves.
The pattern repeats itself, the same events
In a different order obeying the conventions of
A popular genre. Winter on a desolate beach. Spring
While there's snow still on the balcony and,
In the window, a plane flies over the warehouse.
The panic is gone. But the pain remains. And the apple,
The knife, and the honey are months away.
- David Lehman
When she says Margarita she means Daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."
He's supposed to know that.
When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
When a woman loves a man it is one-ten in the morning,
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.
When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"
When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water ruching over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.
Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?
When he says, "Ours is a transitional era."
"That's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the Martini he is sipping.
They fight all the time
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.
One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
another nine times.
When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that
she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.
When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.
When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.
- David Lehman
(will you teach a
wretch to live
straighter than a needle)
again and)ask a
(did you kiss
a girl with nipples
like pink thimbles)
ago and)ask a
in the snow
- e.e. cummings
- e. e. cummings