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.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Moon and Apple - Rolf Jacobsen

Moon and Apple

When the apple tree blooms,
the moon comes often like a blossom,
paler than any of them,
shining over the tree.

It is the ghost of the summer,
the white sister of the blossoms who returns
to drop in on us,
and radiate peace with her hands
so that you shouldn't feel too bad when the hard times come.
For the Earth itself is a blossom, she says,
on the star tree,
pale with luminous
ocean leaves.

by Rolf Jacobsen

(English version by Robert Bly)

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Au Revoir, Yves Bonnefoy

What left knew how to return. How happy the time when, if a path disappeared, we knew it was only because there was no reason to go onward, on this side of the end of the world.

-- Yves Bonnefoy

The Lightning

It rained, during the night.
the path smells of wet grass,
then, once again, the hand of the heat

on our shoulder, to say
that time will never take anything from us.

But look,
there where the field runs up against the almond tree,
a beast of prey has sprung
from yesterday to today through the leaves.

And we stop, it is outside the world,

and I come toward you,
I finish tearing you from the blackened trunk,
branch, lightning-struck summer
from which yesterday's sap flows, still divine.

--Yves Bonnefoy

(from In the Shadow's Light, translated from the French by John Naughton)

The torch of Yves Bonnefoy's words continues to flicker along the path, even as he himself has slipped past our reach. I imagine him awaiting all of us readers on a higher pinnacle than we have yet conquered, sending the echo of a wry and gentle smile into our dawns and dusks.

You know it is Debussy, when you you hear the pianist making love to the piano. 

-- a quote from one of my daughters

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wladyslaw Szpilman - Chopin Nocturne No. 20

Light - like strings of golden beads,
The taste of a night-leaf on the lips.
Free us from our daily stresses,
Friends, know this: I inhabit your dreams.

--Marina Tsvetaeva

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Summer Garden - Anna Akhmatova

Summer Garden

I only wish to see the roses in that garden
Where the best of the walls in the world rise up,

Where the statues remember me young,
And I remember them, near the waters of the Neva.

In the fragrant silence between the royal lindens,
I imagine the creaking of a ship's masts.

And a swan, as before, floats through the ages,
Admiring the beauty of his double.

The dead steps of hundreds of thousands sleep,
Of enemies and friends; of friends and enemies.

A procession of shadows with no end in sight,
From the vases of granite to the door of the palace.

There they whisper, my white nights
About someone's high and secret love.

And all is lit with mother-of-pearl and jasper,
But the source of light is mysteriously hidden.

--Anna Akhmatova

Летний сад

Я к розам хочу, в тот единственный сад,
Где лучшая в мире стоит из оград,

Где статуи помнят меня молодой,
А я их под невскою помню водой.

В душистой тиши между царственных лип
Мне мачт корабельных мерещится скрип.

И лебедь, как прежде, плывет сквозь века,
Любуясь красой своего двойника.

И замертво спят сотни тысяч шагов
Врагов и друзей, друзей и врагов.

А шествию теней не видно конца
От вазы гранитной до двери дворца.

Там шепчутся белые ночи мои
О чьей-то высокой и тайной любви.

И все перламутром и яшмой горит,
Но света источник таинственно скрыт.

--Анна Ахматова

Friday, May 20, 2016


...under the greenwood tree ... come hither ....

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

As the light of Spring leaks into my dreams,
I gather the shadows of winters past
under the black wool coat on my shoulders,
a shelter for shy mirrors of moonlight.

A mountain, up close, is not how you imagined.
Its profile alters inexplicably with each step.
Just above the rocky cliffs, a gray ribbon,
a lone eagle, flickering in the wind.

Never had I been seized by the charms of Egypt,
aside from a passing fancy for hieroglyphs,
yet now a pyramid shimmers in stippled carpet,
and Anubis lurks in the paisley of my quilt.

Though I plunk along on an untuned piano,
the ghost of Schubert appears, undeterred.
I am alone, I declare. But I overhear the murmurs
of Ivan and Alyosha among the sticky leaves.