Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Phoenix-Bird (Marina Tsvetaeva)

What is not needed by others, bring to me:
Everything must be burned in my fire.
I lure life, and I attract death
Into the airy gift of my flame.

My flame loves lightweight materials:
Last year's kindling - wreaths - words.
The flame is radiant from such fuel.
You will rise again - cleaner than ash.

 A Phoenix-bird am I, only I sing in the fire.
You are the basis of my life on high,
I burn, soaring, and burn to the ground
And let your night then be bright.

Bonfire of ice, fiery fountain,
On high I occupy my lofty camp,
On high I carry my great rank,
Of both Companion and Heiress.

--Marina Tsvetaeva, September 2, 1918

Firebird, Janusz Korczak-Ziolkowski

Janusz Korczak-Ziolkowski, a contemporary painter, said he was inspired by the music of Igor Stravinsky.

Что другим не нужно - несите мне:
Всё должно сгореть на моем огне!
Я и жизнь маню, я и смерть маню
В лёгкий дар моему огню.

Пламень любит лёгкие вещества:
Прошлогодний хворост - венки - слова.
Пламень пышет с подобной пищи!
Вы ж восстанете - пепла чище!

Птица-Феникс я, только в огне пою!
Поддержите высокую жизнь мою!
Высоко горю и горю до тла,
И да будет вам ночь светла.

Ледяной костёр, огневой фонтан!
Высоко несу свой высокий стан,
Высоко несу свой высокий сан -
Собеседницы и Наследницы!

2 сентября 1918

the water-thrush

In the quiet heart of the ice-covered valley, the river murmured, trickling.

In the frigid stream, a water-thrush was dipping and diving.

He finished his supper, and flitted to an icy branch in the center of the stream. The fact that he was not yet frozen, and the non-stop flicker of his movements, appeared to constitute a procession of miracles.

And then, not only was he improbably and throbbingly alive, he was -- singing. A warble -- a few piercing, leaping trills -- the sort of call that must have left in its wake traces of yearning, of wordless verses painted on the pewter sky.

In response, another tiny bird flew directly over his head. In less than a blink, he was off the branch, airborne, swirling into formation with his mate, until he disappeared into the forest behind me.

I realized that I had nearly forgotten to breathe, while listening to his song.  


Snow is everywhere; quiet all around;
Nature slumbers in a winter dream,
And between the clouds, gray and grimacing,
The dull daylight is peeking.

Above my empty window
Is only a single bird's nest,
But it serves to remind me
of spring, of flowers, and the sun!

--Ivan Belousov

Всюду снег; кругом всё тихо;
Зимним сном природа спит,
И сквозь туч — седых и хмурых —
Тускло солнышко глядит.

Над моим окном пустое
Птичье гнёздышко одно —
Но весну, цветы и солнце
Мне напомнило оно!..

Иван Белоусов

Friday, November 11, 2016

Half-awake, I breathe in the night.

In the murky mind-sky, there are movements.

Jewel-hued by shades of un-named colors, countless stars appear and dance.

We're all flying now, passing through -- a gateway of fire, a ring of golden light.

Nightingale, I must be moon-dazzled.

They say that Leonard Cohen passed away yesterday.

Fare thee well, nightingale.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Late Fragment - Raymond Carver

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

--Raymond Carver

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Poems to the Sun - Konstantin Dmitrievich Balmont

During Autumn, here in the north-woods, many elusive weather-dances are performed. In one day, the morning may begin under cloud-cover; the clouds may burn off till a river of fog flows through the valley, and billows of steam seem to rise from the lakes. Then, later, one might spy a hang-glider floating off the side of the hills, literally plunging into the afternoon sunlight. The next day, the rain might pelt the leaves relentlessly for hours. But, when one ventures out on a late-night walk, the poplar leaves might be singing in the wind, whispering as they fall.

I am savoring the last few weeks of warmth in the garden.

Here is a fragment of a longer Konstantin Balmont poem, in honor of the sun:

Stop, Sun, and listen. I'm here calling,
And in a frenzy of joyful daring
I hold with you a conversation.
It burns like you, my imagination:

In a thirst for lighted meetings
With you, floating on the heights,
Toward your golden likeness
Souls soar in intrepid flight.

-- Konstantin Belmont

Стой, Солнце, и услышь, я здесь к тебе взываю,
И в исступленьи радостном дерзаю
Вести с тобою речь.
Горит как ты моё воображенье,
И в жажде светлых встреч
К тебе высокое паренье
К золотоликому, вперёд,
Души бестрепетный полёт.

a birch leaf, which fell onto a glass plate in the rain 

Which brings to mind another poem of Konstantin Balmont's, The Aroma of the Sun:

The aroma of the sun? What is this farce?
No, it is not a farce.
In the sun are sounds and dreams,
Aromas and colors
All mingling in a chorus,
Interwoven in a single motif.

The sun smells of grasses,
of fresh water-lilies
awakened in spring,
and of resinous pine.

Woven of the pale light,
the lilies of the valley are high
from the triumph of blossoming
in the sharp scent of the earth.

The sun shines in tones,
in the greenness of leaves,
it breathes the singing of birds,
it breathes the laughter of youth.

So, tell it to the blind--
Enough, already!
Do you not see the gates of Eden?
There, the sun has an aroma
Sweetly perceived only by us,
and sensed by the birds and flowers.

Запах солнца? Что за вздор!
Нет, не вздор.
В солнце звуки и мечты,
Ароматы и цветы
Все слились в согласный хор,
Все сплелись в один узор.

Солнце пахнет травами,
Свежими купавами,
Пробуждённою весной,
И смолистою сосной.

Ландышами пьяными,
Что победно расцвели
В остром запахе земли.

Солнце светит звонами,
Листьями зелёными,
Дышит вешним пеньем птиц,
Дышит смехом юных лиц.

Так и молви всем слепцам:
Будет вам!
Не узреть вам райских врат,
Есть у солнца аромат,
Сладко внятный только нам,
Зримый птицам и цветам!
Konstantin Balmont, by Valentin Sarov

Saturday, September 03, 2016

a brief mention of birds

I have been pondering a new question: how does a mind encumbered by the vocabulary of sorrow and enamored of the nuance of melancholy learn to converse in the dialect of delight?

Grief came early to my gate. She left with me her jars of tears. These I poured out freely, for the sake of the softness of my grandmother's heart, for the unbearable gap between myself and my twin; for those pains I could not name: for the absence of cherished faces; for vanished gestures, for languages lost, and in the place of missing words. Grief sent me to far-off meanderings, to conduct inquiries of ancient stones in states of perplexed reverie.

Mornings, I watched and waited for the rays of the light to turn the poplar trunks to gold. The quality of the light, the quantity of the shifting shadows, the changing of the guard.

A day came when I was awakened by the touch of an unseen hand, and found myself uprooted from the comfort of solitude into an unfamiliar universe of displaced perturbation. As if caught up a whirlwind, I discovered that my body was not mine, at all: it might have been, instead, a stage borrowed from the earth, a burial-place for history, for through it rampaged the spirit-senses in protest, waging war and peace, love and hate, birth and death. In recollection of the dance, my feet would refuse to hold me up. A memory of enforced silence caused my throat to seize, to choke in recognition. The chronicles of time flickered through my skin: it was shot, it was burned, it was loved past ecstasy, it was violated, it marched through frozen wastes, it felt the silken nest of a baby's head, and the ruffling of an invisible breeze. Strange shapes and colors began to form in my mind's eye. The keys turned in the locks, and the doors of life fell open; nothing was what I had assumed it to be. After a veil falls from the eyes, the thought occurs: is it all an illusion, or an allusion? And then, of course: what is next?

I hunkered down on a rock today by a river, and dipped my hand into the chilly current, observing how minutely the water records each small variation in topography. A small beige duck landed on the river, and drifted close to me, not once, but twice, coming so close to my feet that I gasped. I hesitated, then began to feel the flow of how the river was me, the duck was me. My soul the river said, I am.  A thought passed through my brain, rejecting the duck soundly, and just at that moment, she flew away, startled. I'm sorry, I told her. Thank you for the lesson, I told my soul, the duck. It's on me, she replied, and busied herself diving for water-bugs upstream.

The birds won't leave me alone this week. A tiny golden nut-hatch circled a few giddy inches round my head not once, but twice the other day, while I stood in my garden, amazed. I wondered, what would her message be to you, if she were me?

The fire-letters of your names glow on my hands, on the soles of my feet, and are branded upon my heart. I beg of you, be gentle with yourselves, my dears, for the fate of you all may have spoken to me through the ache in my bones, but your joy is the singing in my veins.

Friday, July 29, 2016

my back to the sea

Moreover too, Fish-semblances, of green and azure hue, Ready to snort their streams.
--John Keats

On my way home, the road veered left, insinuating itself into a gradual "S" - curve.

I glanced up.  Above the bosky outline of the foothills, a pair of gargantuan wings hovered, on either side of the hazy head of a great white cloud-dragon. As if the clouds had lent their edges in order to shape a fleeting tribute to the storm-shapers.

Facing the mountains, I felt the sky rush around me in a familiar warm whirlpool of greeting. As for the dolphins, they began to sing again: a high and delicious keening, as blue as the future memory of the sea breathing.

I wanted to write about how impossible this all is. 

For so many years, I have been fascinated by the mountains, while turning my back to the sea. My eyes and thoughts were entrained on the ever-changing hillsides, the trees encamped at their feet, and the leaves dancing all summer long in the fickle breeze. As a child, I clambered to their craggy, moss-covered summits, scuttled down like a wild goat, then glanced back up at them again to make sure they were still there.

But through the years, in fits and starts, wave upon wave, the tides have risen. At first it was just my feet that began to feel a tugging sensation, as if they were constantly waterlogged. Later, I met Leviathan, and pods of whales diving, and mermaids gliding through the kelp-forests, nodding cryptically. More than once, I have encountered the hissing water-dragons, fresh from the valley of 10,000 smokes: they sprayed fire and steam unceremoniously into my face.

Now, no matter where I am, if I unbend, the sea comes to me.