Thursday, 28 April 2011

philip levine

The Rains

The river rises
and the rains keep coming.
My Papa says
it can't flood for
the water can run
away as fast as
it comes down. I believe
him because he's Papa
and because I'm afraid
of water I know I can't stop.
All day in school I
see the windows darken,
and hearing the steady drum
of rain, I wonder
if it wil1 ever stop
and how can I get home.
It did not flood.
I cannot now remember
how I got home.
I recall only that the house
was dark and cold, and I went
from room to room calling
out the names
of all those I lived with
and no one answered. For a time
I thought the waters had swept
them out to sea
and this was all I had. At last
I heard the door opening
downstairs and my brother
stamping his wet boots
on the mat.
Now when the autumn comes
I go alone
into the high mountains
or sometimes with my wife,
and we walk in silence
down the trails
of pine needles
and hear the winds
humming through the branches
the long dirge of the world.
Below us is the world
we cannot see, have come
not to see, soured
with years of never
giving enough, darkened
with oils and fire, the world
we could have come
to call home.
One day the rain
will find us far
from anything, crossing
the great meadows
the sun had hidden in.
Hand in hand, we
will go forward toward nothing
while our clothes darken
and our faces stream
with the sweet waters
of heaven. Your eyes,
suddenly deep and dark in that light,
will overflow with joy
or sadness, with all
you have no names for.
This is who you are.
That other life below
was what you dreamed
and I am the man beside you.

Monday, 25 April 2011

charles bukowski


not much chance,
completely cut loose from
he was a young man
riding a bus
through North Carolina
on the way to somewhere
and it began to snow
and the bus stopped
at a little cafe
in the hills
and the passengers
he sat at the counter
with the others,
he ordered and the
food arrived.
the meal was
and the
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher.
in back,
laughed, a good
the young man watched
the snow through the
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
that it would always
stay beautiful
then the bus driver
told the passengers
that it was time
to board.
the young man
thought, I'll just sit
here, I'll just stay
but then
he rose and followed
the others into the
he found his seat
and looked at the cafe
through the bus
then the bus moved
off, down a curve,
downward, out of
the hills.
the young man
looked straight
he heard the other
of other things,
or they were
attempting to
they had not
the young man
put his head to
one side,
closed his
pretended to
there was nothing
else to do-
just to listen to the
sound of the
the sound of the
in the

and after the bike

we got back. it was great and much to tell but really all that time away with no tv and all of six minutes or so of internet has left me without mcuh of a need for electronica  so apologies for any tardiness in response to comments or even if i've missed any. photos and whatnot will follow and something like normal service may be resumed....

Saturday, 23 April 2011

wd snodgrass

April Inventory

The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven't learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.

The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.

The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I'd ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who's trusted me
I'd be substantial, presently.

I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date.And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.

I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body's hunger;
That I have forces true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.

While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is a value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

august kleinzhaler

The Swimmer

The japonica and laurels tremble
as the wind picks up
out the west-facing wall of the old natatorium,
made wholly of glass.
The swimmer takes her laps,
steady and sure through a blur of turquoise
and importunings of chlorine.
The large room itself now darkens,
lit as it is by natural light,
as the storm clouds press closer to land.

Back and forth, the solitary swimmer,
now on her second mile,
is caught up, held almost,
in that one element she finds her ease;
and in moving through it
the very edges of her strength are engaged,
until, on a turn, her breathing stretched,
health pours into her.

The great glass wall, first pilloried by drops,
their dull, pellet-like clack,
is now streaming with rain:
and from this hill,
where, half-hidden, the old rec center sits,
across the sixty rolling blocks to the sea,
all that is material and solid,
the houses, the cars, the trees,
diminish into shadow
and continue to recede till there is nothing,
nothing at all in the world,
but water.

Monday, 18 April 2011

alun lewis

All Day it has Rained

All day it has rained, and we on the edge of the moors
Have sprawled in our bell-tents, moody and dull as boors,
Groundsheets and blankets spread on the muddy ground
And from the first grey wakening we have found

No refuge from the skirmishing fine rain
And the wind that made the canvas heave and flap
And the taut wet guy-ropes ravel out and snap,
All day the rain has glided, wave and mist and dream,
Drenching the gorse and heather, a gossamer stream
Too light to stir the acorns that suddenly
Snatched from their cups by the wild south-westerly
Pattered against the tent and our upturned dreaming faces.
And we stretched out, unbuttoning our braces,
Smoking a Woodbine, darning dirty socks,
Reading the Sunday papers - I saw a fox
And mentioned it in the note I scribbled home;

And we talked of girls and dropping bombs on Rome,
And thought of the quiet dead and the loud celebrities
Exhorting us to slaughter, and the herded refugees;
-Yet thought softly, morosely of them, and as indifferently
As of ourselves or those whom we
For years have loved, and will again
Tomorrow maybe love; but now it is the rain
Possesses us entirely, the twilight and the rain.

And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard's merry play
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o' Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty - till a bullet stopped his song.

Friday, 15 April 2011

kenneth rexroth

Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

a bit of bike

after last month's rain aborted trip i set my mind on april. true i've not quite cleaned or sorted the bikes yet and i'm due to be away in the next few hours but i'll manage. i broke myself last week upping my miles a wee bit and, given i'll be in the west coast, tackling a bit of wind. hint to self, glen quaich is not the place to tackle a bit of wind. rather the opposite in fact (i should point out for those fond of their geographical pedantry that obviously i was doing it the opposite way, given the prevailing northerness of the winds. which, if anything is only slightly worse than doing it from kenmore). good fun tho and most likely one of my top five glens to cycle in these scottish-shire parts. rubbish in a car tho. so don't go. ever!

the plan, such as it is (and the vagueness of it has caused some discontent domestically among the van driving component of team swiss) is either a loop (in either direction) from here to mull, across at kilchoan, up to armadale, across skye, then butt to barra on the western isles and back home. or (because we'd rather be cycling/driving than waiting for calmac/the weather's rubbish) off to mull, then straight up the west coast on broadly the same route, up to durness, across to tongue and back down to inverness if we've time. time being the operative thing as the more i look at any of the routes the more i want to do and the fuller the van gets. take t round and about in mull. absolutely. wee camp in ulva? oh yes. kayaking in the western isles? kiting in the western isles? swimming!? all of those. chilling out in valtos (there is so no chance of this one!), arisaig, handa island... the list goes on and on. the only certainty is a visit to the land of sore legs.

can't wait...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


a long slow night at work last night so time enough to browse the scottish poetry library's event list. aside from the orkney book festival's making the obvious omission of me (!!!!!) what was this..?? WHAT was this!!!!???? margaret atwood comes to scotland. i read it again. yes, that was right, atwood coming to scotland. i found myself all excited and a frenzy of ticket booking ensued when i got home.

fair credit then to university of aberdeen writer's festival. and even moreso when it  becomes apparent that not only is atwood appearing twice but kenneth white is there as well. naturally i'm working but at least i can make the friday date. i did try to share my excitement with my co-workers but they were like margaret who? never heard of her....

which is odd to me but then again they're not going. will i be taking my well thumbed copy of eating fire? oh yes!!!

record store day

this weekend it's record store day. now i don't mean hmv or any of that type or the shelf in your local tescos etc. no, this is for those wee independent interesting shops that are fast vanishing, the ones from the days before this downloading malarkey, when a happy weekend's couple of hours could be spent browsing the shelves and listening to what was new. call me a luddite but i miss those times.

the closest to me, i think (were i not somewhere between mull and skye doubtless in the rain) is coda records in edinburgh. they have all manner of shenanigans going on. should you be available, avoid amazon, go to the shop. hang out. because you're worth it...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


today is the anniversary of yuri gagarin's first orbit of the earth. no space for cameras in those days but a recreation exists here. all looks very interesting...

Monday, 11 April 2011


now i've been thoroughly entertained by a few poetic meltdowns in the past, a wee bit of sympathy sure - once upon a time there was a swiss who did take himself massively too seriously (okay maybe not that seriously but seriously enough!) - but rarely as much as i have by the recent jacqueline howlett shenanigans. i thought about maybe sticking it up on here but really that was to be giving it too much oxygen  and to be honest i'd rather preferred the more high profile car crash behaviour of the like of alain de botton or the bevis hillier/an wilson spat. although if de botton was to take a leaf out of howlett's book and tell a reviewer to fuck off i'd be highly gratified!

today's entertainment comes from the guardian and features garrison keillor and august kleinzahler. aside from the whole guardian tone of it, what with it being the guardian and all so not much can be expected, i have to think for all concened - have you nothing better to do! apparently not. anyway the kleinzahler article is better than the guardian but funnier and more tongue in cheek than it suggests.

should you find yourself tempted to comment tho - this is the internet after all - i suggest you curb that instinct and instead go off and write a poem, paint a picture, play some music, read a book or just stare out the window. really, honestly there are miles better things to do....

paul eluard


Elle est debout sur mes paupières
Et ses cheuveux sont dans les miens
Elle a la forme de mes mains,
Elle a la couleur de mes yeux,
Elle s’engloutit dans mon ombre
Comme une pierre sur le ciel.

Elle a toujours les yeux ouverts
Et ne me laisse pas dormer.
Ses reves en pleine lumière
Fond s’évaporer les soleils,
Me font rire, pleurer et rire,
Parler sans avoir rien è dire.

Lady Love

She is standing on my lids
And her hair is in my hair
She has the colour of my eye
She has the body of my hand
In my shade she is engulfed
As a stone against the sky

She will never close her eyes
And she does not let me sleep
And her dreams in the bright day
Make the suns evaporate
And me laugh cry and laugh
Speak when I have nothing to say

trans samuel beckett

Friday, 8 April 2011

anna akhmatova

I Taught Myself to Live Simply

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

trans unknown

Monday, 4 April 2011

sir philip sidney

Ring Out Your Bells

Ring out your bells, let mourning shows be spread;
For Love is dead--
All love is dead, infected
With plague of deep disdain;
Worth, as nought worth, rejected,
And Faith fair scorn doth gain.
From so ungrateful fancy,
From such a female franzy,
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Weep, neighbours, weep; do you not hear it said
That Love is dead?
His death-bed, peacock's folly;
His winding-sheet is shame;
His will, false-seeming holy;
His sole exec'tor, blame.
From so ungrateful fancy,
From such a female franzy,
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Let dirge be sung and trentals rightly read,
For Love is dead;
Sir Wrong his tomb ordaineth
My mistress' marble heart,
Which epitaph containeth,
"Her eyes were once his dart."
From so ungrateful fancy,
From such a female franzy,
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Alas, I lie, rage hath this error bred;
Love is not dead;
Love is not dead, but sleepeth
In her unmatched mind,
Where she his counsel keepeth,
Till due desert she find.
Therefore from so vile fancy,
To call such wit a franzy,
Who Love can temper thus,
Good Lord, deliver us!