Friday, 30 May 2008

carol ann duffy

Death and the Moon

(for Catherine Marcangeli)

The moon is nearer than where death took you
at the end of the old year. Cold as cash
in the sky's dark pocket, its hard old face
is gold a s a mask tonight. I break the ice
over the fish in my frozen pond, look up
as the ghosts of my wordless breath reach
for the stars. If I stood on the tip of my toes
and stretched, I could touch the edge of the moon.

I stooped at the lip of your open grave
to gather a fistful of earth, hard rain,
tough confetti, and tossed it down. It stuttered
like morse on the wood over your eyes, your tongue,
your soundless ears. Then as I slept my living sleep
the ground gulped you, swallowed you whole,
and though I was there when you died,
in the red cave of your widow's unbearable cry.

and measured the space between last words
and silence, I cannot say where you are. Unreachable
by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable
in the air, even if souls are stars. I turn
to the house, its windows tender with light, the moon,
surely, only as far again as the roof.the goldfish
are tongues in the water's mouth. the black night
is huge, mute, and you are further forever than that.

waiting for the race

packing the day before the race seems, these days, almost anti-climactic. evrything is in its box, everything in its place, pre sorted and pre checked to avoid any last minute panic. which of course leaves a void between packing the van and watching the clock until leaving time.

read a book. do some stretches. don't think about all the training i haven't done. tomorrow's going to hurt. a lot. but at least the forecast isn't too bad. dry, overcast, not too hot. if the sun comes out, i'm done.

consider going down the bike shop but the bike shop guys are busy doing everyone else's bikes and, having been there yesterday, know fine well i'm ready and don't need anything else. they have six guys going in the pairs, all faster in me. all younger than me as well. i've grown to love these race doubts - am i strong enough, am i quick enough? they clog your limbs up like glue. mostly now, i can ignore them. mostly. except when the hills are too steep and my legs are too sore and everyone and their cat seems to be going past me (but they're not solo!). i learn more about myself in these races than at any other time. the race becomes irrelevant and it's only the questions that matter. keep the pedals turning. breathe

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

antonio machado

The Ephemeral Past

Habitué of a small-town club, this man
who saw Carancha poised one day
to take the bull,
has a withered skin, hair going grey,
eyes dim with disenchantment, and beneath
the grey moustache, lips bent
in nausea and a look
that’s sad – yet sadness it is not
but something more, and less: the void
of the world in the hollow of his head. He still
sports a jacket coloured currant-red
in a three pile velvet, breeches
booted at their extremities and a caramel
Córdoba hat, turned and furbished well.
Three times he inherited, and then lost the lot
Three times at cards and twice
Was widowed. An illegal round of chance
Alone will make him brighten
Sprawled at the green baize table;
Once more the blood begins to flow
As he recollects a gambler’s luck
Or the afternoon of some torero,
Drinks in an episode from the life
Of a daring bandit of the road
Or the bloody prowess of a knife.
He satirizes with a yawn the government’s
Reactionary politics and then
Predicts the liberals will come to power
Again, just as the stork returns to the bell-tower.
Something of the farmer still, he eyes
the heavens, fears them and at times will sigh
thinking of his olives and, disconsolate,
watches for weather-signs when rain is late.
For the rest, boredom. Taciturn, hypochondriac,
shut in the Arcadia of the present,
and to his brow
only the movement of the smoke gives now
its look of thought. The man is neither
of yesterday nor tomorrow
but of never. Hispanic stock, he’s not
the fruit that grew to ripen or to rot,
but shadow-fruit
from a Spain that did not come to be,
that passed away, yet, dead,
persists to haunt us with a greying head.

trans by charles tomlinson and henry gifford

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

octavio paz

A Song Out Of Tune

non visto color de buen verdigay
nin trobo discor ni fago deslay
Juan Alfonso de Baena

The day is short,
the hour long
Motionless I retrace its steps,
climbing its minor calvaries,
I descend on stairs made of air,
and am lost in transparent galleries
-but I don't find me,
and I don't see you.

The day is short,
the hour long.
I see my stubborn hand that writes
its circular words on the page,
I see my shadow on the page,
I see myself falling through the hour's blank center
-but I don't find you,
and I don't see me.

The day is short,
and the hour long.
Time drags on, hides, and peeks,
time is buried, clods of air,
time sprouts up, a column of air,
it bashes my forehead,
scrapes my lids
-but I don't find me,
and I don't see you.

The day is short,
the hour long.
I walk through lots and corridors and echoes,
my hands touch you and you suddenly vanish,
I look in your eyes and suddenly vanish,
the hour traces, erases, invents its reflections
-but I don't find you,
and I don't see me.

The day is short,
the hour long.
There is a seed asleep in time,
that explodes in the air with a burst of syllables,
it is a word, and it speaks without speaking
the names of time, yours and mine,
-but I don't find me,
and I don't see you.

Names are fruit that ripen and fall;
the hours immense, inside itself it falls.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

raymond carver

Late Fragment

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

Thursday, 22 May 2008

and then i came back

so, a bit of time on mull, a place i'd only been briefly to before and which, after this visit, i'll be back again very shortly. mostly i was on the road bike, though i did have both the x and the mtb. the x bike is good but being back on the road bike after so long was just sublime especially given some of the country i got to ride through. i was surprised by the size of the cliffs and, aside from iona, the lack of tourists. i felt really chilled out there and can't wait to go back.

off back to sweden after that for family related shenanigans and my birthday. aside from much time spent on the boat and some really pretty successful fishing my abiding memory is when we first all got together, three generations of us (of which i realise now i was the second or third oldest!), of which really only the children are properly swedish (though there's quite a lot of 'proper' swedes would disagree i think). the kids, once they got used to us again, were great, teaching me how to count up to ten in swedish and showing off the fact they could sing songs in spanish and english.

coming home was difficult, esp as the university have decided to give me some hassle, but mainly because i feel as if i don't have the energy for another move, something i need to be thinking about. my head is, however, stuffed with stuff to write and make, and the garden, which has assumed an increased presence this year, is full of growing things.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


discussion about rilke elsewhere have got me to reading rilke again, this in particular. haven't come across the original or i'd have posted it but here's a couple of versions both of which i like and one in portuguese, that i think is rather lovely

Extinguish my sight, and I can still see you;
plug up my ears, and I can still hear;
even without feet I can walk toward you,
and without mouth I can still implore.
Break off my arms, and I will hold you
with my heart as if it were a hand;
strangle my heart, and my brain will still throb;
and should you set fire to my brain,
I still can carry you with my blood.

trans annemarie s. kidder

Extinguish Thou my eyes:I still can see Thee,
deprive my ears of sound:I still can hear Thee,
and without feet I still can come to Thee,
and without voice I still can call to Thee.

Sever my arms from me, I still will hold Thee
with all my heart as with a single hand,
arrest my heart, my brain will keep on beating,
and Should Thy fire at last my brain consume,
the flowing of my blood will carry Thee.

trans albert ernest flemming

Apágame los ojos: puedo verte,
ciérrame los oídos: puedo oirte,
y hasta sin plantas puedo ir hacia ti
y hasta sin boca puedo conjurarte.
Destrúyeme los brazos: puedo asirte
en mi corazón lo mismo que una mano,
detán mi corazón y mi cerebro
palpitará, y si arrojas fuego en él
te llevaré en la sangre.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

the shore

I take 'seaboard' (littoral, shore) to be particularly significant space. We are close there to the beginnings if life, we cannot but be aware there of primordial rhythms (tidal, meteorological). In that space, too, we have one foot, as it were, in humanity (inhabited, inscribed space) the other in the non-human cosmos (chaos-cosmos, chaosmos) - and I think it is vital important to keep that dialogue alive. It may be for reasons similar to those I have just evoked that in a text belonging to a tradition which I perhaps bear in my bones, an old Celtic text, 'The Talk of the Two Scholars' (Imacallam in da thuarad), we read: 'the shore was always a place of predilection for the poets'.

Kenneth White

Friday, 2 May 2008

emily dickinson

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

six random things

andrew recently tagged me in response to a post by george szirtes. i'm not sure six random facts about yourself can be truly random - really they should be picked by someone else - and i always have problems with these biographical things so i'll reproduce a bio (containing, handily, six items) i did for an anthology i'm in from a wee while ago. forme these bios are an area of creativity badly underutilised.this is a position at least two people who edited me have disagreed on. big time! anyway....

swiss is one of the many and varied islands of the mythic island of scotia. its people believe in the guiding power of cats,love unconditional, the blue smartie, the clean beauty of a perfect breaking wave and the notion that at least one in six statements should be untrue