Can Anyone Think Why

Once individuals have the motivation to do something different, the whole world can begin to change.

Esther Cameron

a’ anit Ester, id est
The Fast of Esther

By Esther Cameron

Can anyone still hear my people’s cry,
Even they themselves? Can anybody stand
In the blown-apart heart of the Holy Land,
Can anybody see with shattered eye
All that is done? Can anyone think why,
Marshal a shredded brain to understand?
Can anybody grasp a severed hand,
Can a cut-out tongue still stammer of Sinai?
O GOD, restore the image of Your Law,
Restore the sacredness of human form,
If not for Israel’s, for your sweet earth’s sake.
Send us a sign, send forth a ray to draw
Love’s faithful in against the hateful storm,
To uphold the norm, and face down Amalek!”

 


 

Chopsticks

by Esther Cameron

On the old upright piano in the gym
short fingers jangle out the clanking Hymn
to Anarchy the children always know. 
Where do they learn it? Players come and go,
but it survives, jumping form span to span
of their quick generations. Peter Pan
must have composed the thing. Though surely he
would have put into it more revelry,
more reverie or more rhodomontade – 
something, anyway, other than this odd – 
angled insouciance.  Here you hear no dream
of islands, crocs, clocks, pirates. Aimless meme,
It asks only to cause a small annoyance
before relapsing into dumb compliance.
Nothing will change, tink tink.  Anyone care?
Clank clank. Indifference, older than despair. 

Meteors To Streak The August Sky

Julia Kasdorf

Nothing but blackness above And nothing that moves but the cars…. God, if you wish for our love, Fling us a handful of stars!

Louis Untermeyer

 

Landscape with Desire

by Julia Kasdorf​

Next month maples along this lake will rage
orange and scarlet. Firs we barely discern
on that far shore will state their dark shapes,
so we are torn between taking it all in
from the porch and taking a swim. At night
we pull on sweatshirts, lie down on the dock,
heads nestled in life preservers, and wait
for meteors to streak the August sky
like runs in the blackest stocking against
the whitest thigh. With each plummeting light,
our voices rise like love cries, more urgent
and louder than any solitary loon or coyote
calling to its mate. Only we conflate
longing and loss like this; only we wait


 

Infidelity

By Louis Untermeyer 
 
You have not conquered me—it is the surge
Of love itself that beats against my will;
It is the sting of conflict, the old urge
That calls me still.
 
It is not you I love—it is the form
And shadow of all lovers who have died
That gives you all the freshness of a warm
And unfamiliar bride.
 
It is your name I breathe, your hands I seek;
It will be you when you are gone.
And yet the dream, the name I never speak,
Is that that lures me on.
 
It is the golden summons, the bright wave
Of banners calling me anew;
It is all beauty, perilous and grave—
It is not you.

Wild To Hold

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 – 1542)

Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.

Anatole Broyard

 

The Heart and Service

By Sir Thomas Wyatt
 
The heart and service to you proffer’d
With right good will full honestly,
Refuse it not, since it is offer’d,
But take it to you gentlely.
 
And though it be a small present,
Yet good, consider graciously
The thought, the mind, and the intent
Of him that loves you faithfully.
 
It were a thing of small effect
To work my woe thus cruelly,
For my good will to be abject:
Therefore accept it lovingly.
 
Pain or travel, to run or ride,
I undertake it pleasantly;
Bid ye me go, and straight I glide
At your commandement humbly.
 
Pain or pleasure, now may you plant
Even which it please you steadfastly;
Do which you list, I shall not want
To be your servant secretly.
 
And since so much I do desire
To be your own assuredly,
For all my service and my hire
Reward your servant liberally.
 

Whoso List to Hunt

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, helas! I may no more.
The vain travail hath worried me so sore,
I am of them that furthest come behind.
Yet may I by no means, my worried mind
Draw from the deer; but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I, may spend his time in vain;
And graven in diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about,
“Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild to hold, though I seem tame.”

 

Some Calculus Takes Centuries To Read

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

W. B. Yeats

The Artist

by Erin Redfern

The discovery of lapis lazuli in the dental calculus of an 11th-century religious woman is without precedent in the European medieval archaeological record and marks the earliest direct evidence for the use of this rare and expensive pigment by a religious woman in Germany.*

She kisses the bristles to a fine tip,
dips her brush in cerulean dust. Brings her skill
to bear on the letter, its lobe soon gravid

with blue. Blue pigment nestles in her teeth.
Some calculus takes centuries to read.
One historian guessed she was there to clean

the room. Or was she there to kiss the book?
Scrub, smooch––aren’t these the things that women do?
Let’s ask her:  are you Woman, or Master?

If woman, votary of ink, with which
I net the numinous. If master, the same.

Bowed to the body of the word, she prays
bowl, serif, ligature, head
until she, too, is illuminated.

 


Lapis Lazuli

By W. B. Yeats 

(for Harry Clifton)

I have heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out,
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.
 
All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That’s Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.
 
On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,
Camel-back, horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;
His long lamp chimney shaped like the stem
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again
And those that build them again are gay.
 
Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.
 
Every discolouration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.
 

My Unhappiness Comes From Too Much Thinking

Love wants everything without condition, love has no laws.

Pierre de Ronsard

O Flush, My Dog

An Excerpt

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
 
 
LOVING friend, the gift of one,
Who, her own true faith, hath run,
Through thy lower nature ;
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature !
 
 
…….
 
 
And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
Often, man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men, —
Leaning from my Human.
 
Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
Sugared milk make fat thee !
Pleasures wag on in thy tail —
Hands of gentle motion fail
Nevermore, to pat thee !
 
Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
Sunshine help thy sleeping !
No fly ‘s buzzing wake thee up —
No man break thy purple cup,
Set for drinking deep in.
 
Whiskered cats arointed flee —
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
Cologne distillations ;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast-day macaroons
Turn to daily rations !
 
Mock I thee, in wishing weal ? —
Tears are in my eyes to feel
Thou art made so straightly,
Blessing needs must straighten too, —
Little canst thou joy or do,
Thou who lovest greatly.
 
Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
Pervious to thy nature, —
Only loved beyond that line,
With a love that answers thine,
Loving fellow-creature !
 
 

Les Amours de Cassandre
LXXVIII

By Pierre de Ronsard

Little water dog, how happy you are,
If you could only understand your luck,
To be able to stretch your body out between her arms,
And to sleep on her lovestruck breast!

Whereas I live on weak and languishing,
Because I understand my fortune too well.
Alas! For having wanted in my youth to learn
Too many reasons, I’ve made myself unhappy.

I wish I were a village roughneck,
An idiot, without intelligence, without understanding,
Or a woodcutter working out in the fields:
Then I would have no feeling for love.
Too much mind causes my sorrows,
And my unhappiness comes from too much thinking.

Les Amours de Cassandre, LXXVIII, 1552

Petit barbet, que tu es bienheureux,
Si ton bon-heur tu sçavois bien entendre,
D’ainsi ton corps entre ses bras estendre,
Et de dormir en son sein amoureux !

Où moy je vy chetif et langoureux,
Pour sçavoir trop ma fortune comprendre
Las! pour vouloir en ma jeunesse apprendre
Trop de raisons, je me fis malheureux.

Je voudrois estre un pitaut de village,
Sot, sans raison et sans entendement,
Ou fagoteur qui travaille au bocage:
Je n’aurois point en amour sentiment.
Le trop d’esprit me cause mon dommage,
Et mon mal vient de trop de jugement.

Being Not Unloveable

G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936)

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

G. K. Chesterton

For A War Memorial

by G. K. Chesterton

The hucksters haggle in the mart
The cars and carts go by;
Senates and schools go droning on;
For dead things cannot die.

A storm stooped on the place of tombs
With bolts to blast and rive;
But these be names of many men
The lightning found alive.

If usurers rule and rights decay
And visions view once more
Great Carthage like a golden shell
Gape hollow on the shore,

Still to the last of crumbling time
Upon this stone be read
How many men of England died
To prove they were not dead.


The Convert

By G. K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live

I Shall Walk Straightly

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000)

One reasons cats are happier than people is they have no newspapers.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Hunchback Girl: She Thinks of Heaven

by Gwendolyn Brooks

My Father, it is surely a blue place,
And Straight. Right. Regular. Where I shall find
No need for scholarly nonchalance or looks
A little to the left or guards upon the
Heart to halt love that runs without crookedness
Along its crooked corridors. My Father,
It is a planned place surely. Out of coils,
Unscrewed, released, no more to be marvelous,
I shall walk straightly through most proper halls
Proper myself, princess of properness.




Court Musicians

by Joyce Kilmer

As when in summer-scented days gone by
The court-musicians, dressed in velvets gay
And golden silks, would on their gitterns play
And blend their voices with the strings’ love-cry,
So that the princess from her tower on high
Might through the rose-framed window hear their lay,
And make more splendid the resplendent day
By leaning out, her choristers to spy;

So now, with weary voice and violin,
Two court-musicians rend the dusty air.
Their shrill notes pierce the elevated’s din,
And thrill a girl’s heart with a pleasure rare.
For her has sweeter music never been;
They never saw a princess half so fair.

Naming These Things Is The Love-Act

Patrick Kavanaugh (1904 – 1967)

“I saw the danger, yet I passed along the enchanted way,

And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”

Patrick Kavanaugh

 

The Hospital

by Patrick Kavanaugh

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row
Plain concrete, wash basins – an art lover’s woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.

This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge;
For we must record love’s mystery without claptrap,
Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.

 


The Visiting Hour

 
By Toi Derricotte
 
he came in his seedy brown jacket smelling of paint.   all
thumbs, a man stumbling over his own muscles, unable to
hold some part of himself and rock it, gently.   she gave
up, seeing him come in the door, wanting to show him her
flat belly just an hour before, looking at her own corpse
in the mirror.   she lay there reduced, neither virgin nor mother.
 
it had been decided.   the winter was too cold in the garage.
they would live with her mother.   the old bedroom was
already prepared, cleaned, the door opened.   the solitary
twin bed remained; he would sleep on the porch.
 
she looked at him and tried to feel her way into the body
of a woman, a thing which has to be taken care of, held
safely in his arms.
 
she lay there, trying to hold on to what she had, knowing
she had to let it go.

My Tongue Is Divided Into Two

Hannah Lowe

“A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in.. And how many want out.”

Tony Blair

 Sonnet for the British-Born

by Hannah Lowe

And suddenly, new language: ‘British-Born’,
for kids who grew up on terraces in Leeds
or tower blocks in Bow, and at weekends tied
their bootlaces for footie on the lawn
and went to college to study Sports or Business
or Car Mechanics and spoke with accents thick
as Yorkshire mud or London bullet-quick –
bare good and innit – and were as British as

a pack of salt-and-vinegar, and no,
his teacher hadn’t noticed him withdrawing
and no, his mother hadn’t wondered who
he called at 2am in the blue lit bedroom
of their bungalow, though despite her scrubbing,
the words still clear on their garden wall: ‘Go Home’


My Tongue is Divided Into Two

By Quique Aviles
 
My tongue is divided into two
by virtue, coincidence or heaven
words jumping out of my mouth
stepping on each other
enjoying being a voice for the message
expecting conclusions
 
My tongue is divided into two
into heavy accent bits of confusion
into miracles and accidents
saying things that hurt the heart
drowning in a language that lives, jumps, translates
 
My tongue is divided by nature
by our crazy desire to triumph and conquer
 
This tongue is cut up into equal pieces
one wants to curse and sing out loud
the other one simply wants to ask for water
 
My tongue is divided into two
one side likes to party
the other one takes refuge in praying
 
tongue
english of the funny sounds
tongue
funny sounds in english
tongue
sounds funny in english
tongue
in funny english sounds
 
My tongue sometimes acts like two
and it goes crazy
not knowing which side should be speaking
which side translating
 
My tongue is divided into two
a border patrol runs through the middle
frisking words
asking for proper identification
checking for pronunciation
 
My tongue is divided into two
My tongue is divided into two
 
I like my tongue
it says what feels right
I like my tongue
it says what feels right

In My Heart

Edmund Spenser

“Sleep after Toil, Port after stormy Seas,

Ease after War, Death after Life, does greatly please.”

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book One

Amoretti III: The Sovereign Beauty

By Edmund Spenser
 
The sovereign beauty which I do admire,
Witness the world how worthy to be praised:
The light whereof hath kindled heavenly fire
In my frail spirit, by her from baseness raised;
That being now with her huge brightness dazed,
Base thing I can no more endure to view;
But looking still on her, I stand amazed
At wondrous sight of so celestial hue.
So when my tongue would speak her praises due,
It stopped is with thought’s astonishment:
And when my pen would write her titles true,
It ravish’d is with fancy’s wonderment:
Yet in my heart I then both speak and write
The wonder that my wit cannot indite.
 
 

Sonnet

On being Cautioned against Walking on a Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It was Frequented by a Lunatic (1797)

by Charlotte Smith (1749 – 1806)

Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-utter’d lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.