Helga

by Carl Sandburg

The wishes on this child’s mouth
Came like snow on marsh cranberries;
The tamarack kept something for her;
The wind is ready to help her shoes.
The north has loved her; she will be
A Grandmother feeding geese on frosty
Mornings; she will understand
Early snow on the cranberries
Better and better then.

Garbage #11 by Ammons

an early June morning in early June, we, having
already gone out to breakfast, pop into the red

Toyota Tercel and breeze down the hill by Lake
Cayuga to the farmers' market, so bright, so

clear, rows and rows of cars and stalls and,
beyond, boats docked calm on the glassy inlet:

the people look a little ruffled, like yards
trying to come out of icebound winters into

springs, the old stalks still there, the space
of the new stuff not filled out: affliction

here, where the heavy woman, heavier than last 
fall, leans over to swish one knock-knee past

(check that rhyme) the other; affliction there,
where the wobble-legged man leans over into his

arm crutches, a four-legged progression: aging
women, drooped breasts under loose T-shirts,

hair making a virtue of snow-white or veering
off into an original expression of blue:

toothless, big-bellied, bald, broad-rumped,
deaf: the afflicted, hurts hurting but less

than they hurt at home or, if hurting more,
with some compensation: one absolutely lovely

person, perhaps: the radiance of some babies'
faces, the perfect interest of some boy in mud

puddles: and this is all under the aspect of
eternity, soon to be: but listen to the

good-mornings and how've-you-beens and 
were-you-away-any-of-the-winters, along with

the hanging baskets of fuchsia, purple and red
and streaked white, tuberous begonias with the

freshest colors alive, bread, and stall after 
stall of vegetables, goat cheese, honey, coffee

plus a live minnequin who is moved to thank you
by coins and bills dropped in a hat: this is

we at our best, not killing, scheming, abusing,
running over, tearing down, burning up: why

did invention ever bother with all this, why
does the huge beech by the water come back every

year: oh, the sweet pleasures, or even the hope
of sweet pleasures, the kiss, the letter from

someone, the word of sympathy or praise, or just
the shared settled look between us, that here

we are together, such as it is, cautious and
courageous, wily with genuine desire, policed

by how we behave, all out of eternity, into
eternity, but here now, where we make the most

of it: I settle down: I who could have used
the world share a crumb: I who wanted the sky

fall to the glint in a passing eye: the crack 
in the dome of knowledge, the aperture, so to

say, poetically speaking, into faith is, of
course, as everyone knows, the magical exception

to the naturalistic rule: derivations (pharma-
cological?) from nature do what they can, usually

with terrible side effects or with disjunctivitis
with othe rdrugs (with, with) but one exception

as in rising in a fiery go-cart is lustfully
believed to overturn, or else to bouy, all

naturalism, by which is intended to be meant
sense, common and unusual varieties, science,

knowledge, craft: there is a web-worm falls
sometimes aslant the honeysuckle hedge in spring

breeze or other dislocation and finds itself
asquirm dangerously dangled in the open air (I've

seen hornets trim those babies right out of the
air): this one I paused to view was wrestling

up the single thread of web, nipping and tucking,
reaching up for a hold on the tight and bringing

itself up till the bit length could be added
to the tiny cotton ball gathered at its

head: but this is mere mechanics: down its
back was a purplish streak exactly the color

of honeysucklebushlimbstems, the top part (buds)
of the stems: his feet, his laterals, were

exactly the color of the lateralhoneysucklebush
limbstems: while this waits explanation, I

hold it a sufficient miracle, on which, tho,
I posit no faith of a kind but faith of another

kind: that is, maybe some spooky agency does
manage all: we're attracted to stars not because

they're confessional but because of the roles 
they create into play; we're attracted to

pretend, not fact, first: then, the clothing 
of creativity about the person attracts us to

his sins: we are awed and want the clay feet
to stop walking over us: also we want better

to understand how to reach this creativity's 
sinfulness ourselves so why can't poets

speak in tongues, others than their own; is
truth in the fact or in the ppersuasion, in the

credible action or the flat statement: I don't
care whether anybody believes me or not: I

don't know anything I want anybody to believe or
in: but if you will sit with me in the light

of speech, I will sit with you: I would rather 
do this than eat your ice cream, go to a movie,

hump a horse, measure a suit, suit a measure:
I would at my age rather do this than

skateboard, but I can think of nothing I'd
rather do than think of skateboard loops out

of skateboard bowls, the various designs in the
momenta: the rising up in rounds over the rims. 




                          A.R. Ammons (1993) From his book "Garbage"

RUSSIA COMES INTO POLAND

by Adam Zagajewski
Through the meadow and hedgerow, village and forest, cavalries on the march, infantries on the march, horses and cannons, old soldiers, young soldiers, children, wiry wolfhounds at full gallop, a blizzard of feathers, sleds, Black Marias, carriages, taxis, even the old cars called Moskwitch come roaring in, and warships and rafts and pontoon bridges roar in, and barges, steamships, canoes (some of which sink), barrage balloons, missiles, bombers, howitzer shells whistling arias from an opera, the shriek of flagellants and the growl of commands, songs slashing the air with notes made of steel, yurts and tents break camp, ropes tighten, Messengers, painting, die as they run, cables rush out, candles burning with quick crimson flames, colonels dozing in carriages faster than light, popes piously murmuring blessings, even the moon is along on that hard, iron march. Tanks, sabers, ropes, Katyusha shells whirring like comets, fifes and drums exploding the air, clubs crunching, the heaving decks of ferries and of invasions sigh, sway, the sons of the steppes on the march, Moslems, condemned prisoners, lovers of Byron, gamblers, the whole progeny of Asia with Suvorov in the lead limps in with a train of fawning courtiers who dance; the yellow Volga runs in, Siberian rivers chanting, camels pensively plod, bringing the sands of the desert and humid mirages, the fold-eyed Kirghizes marching in step, the black pupils of the God of the Urals, and behind them schoolteachers and languages straggle, and behind them old manor houses skate in like gliders, and German doctors with dressings and plasters; the wounded with their alabaster faces, regiments and divisions, cavalries, infantries, on the march, Russia comes into Poland, tearing cobwebs, leaves, silk ribbons, ligaments and frontiers, breaking treaties, bridges, alliances, threads, ties, clotheslines with wet washing still waving, gates, arteries, bandages and conjunctions, future and hope; Russia comes in, marching into a hamlet on the Pilica, into the deep Mazovia forests, rending posters and parliaments, trampling roads, footbridges, paths, streams. Russia comes into the eighteenth century, into October, September, laughter and tears, into conscience, into the concentration of the student, the calm silence of the warm bricks of a wall, comes into the fragrance of meadows, herbs, the tangled paths of the forest, trampling the pansy, the wild rose, hoofprints in the moss, tractor and tank prints in the soft moss, it overturns chimneys, tree trunks, palaces, turn off lights, makes great bonfires out in the formal garden, stains the clear spring, razes the library, church, town hall, flooding its scarlet banners through the sky, Russia comes into my life, Russia comes into my thought, Russia comes into my poetry.

Translated by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C.K. Williams Purchase "Without End" by Adam Zagajewski and the translators

PRESENCE

by Adam Zagajewski

I was born in a city of wild cherries
and hard-seeded sunflowers (common wisdom
had it halfway from the West
to the East). Globes stained by verdigris
kept careless vigil.

Might only the absence of presence be perfect?
Presence, after all, infected with the original
sin of existence, is excessive, savage,
Oriental, superb, while beauty, like a fruit knife,
snips its bit of plentitude off.
Life accumulates through generations
as in a pond; it doesn’t vanish
with its moment but turns
airy and dry. I think
of a half-conscious prayer, the chapped lips
of a boy at his first confession,
the wooden step creaking
under his knees.
At night, autumn arrives
for the harvest, yellow, ripe for flame.
There are, I know, not one
but at least four realities,
intersecting
like the Gospels.
I know I’m alone, but linked
firmly to you, painfully, gladly.
I know only the mysteries are immortal.

 

 

Translated by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C.K. Williams

A TALK WITH FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

by Adam Zagajewski

Most highly respected Professor Nietzsche,
sometimes I seem to see you
on a sanatorium terrace at dawn
with fog descending and song bursting
the throats of the birds.

Not tall, head like a bullet,
you compose a new book
and a strange energy hovers around you.
Your thoughts parade
like enormous armies.

You know now that Anne Frank died,
and her classmates and friends, boys, girls,
and friends of her friends, and cousins
and friends of her cousins.

What are words, I want to ask you, what
is clarity and why do words keep burnging
a century later, though the earth
weighs so much?

Clearly nothing links enlightenment
and the dark pain of cruelty.
At least two kingdoms exist,
if not more.

But if there’s no God and no force
welds elements in repulsion,
then what are words really, and from whence
does their inner light come?

And from where does joy come, and where
does nothingness go? Where is forgiveness?
Why do the incidental dreams vanish at dawn
and the great ones keep growing?

Translated by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C.K. Williams

R. SAYS

by Adam Zagajewski

Literary rats–says R. that’s us.
We meet on line at discount movies;
at dusk, when brocaded suns sink in green ponds,
we leave the libraries, fattened on Kafka.
Enlightened rats, in fatigues, or in the uniforms
of an army mustered by a literate despot;
the secret police of a poet who might be coming to power
at the edge of the city. Rats with stipends, confidential
grant applications, snide remarks; rats with slick hair
and meticulous whiskers.
Capitals, burning asphalt, philanthropic dowagers
all know us well, but not deserts, oceans, or jungles.
An atheist epoch’s Benedictines, missionaries of easy despair,
we might be a link in an evolution
whose sense and address no one betrays.
We’re compensated in small, worthless gold coin,
and with the moment of bliss when metaphor’s flame
welds two free-floating objects, when a hawk lands,
or a tax inspector makes the sign of the cross.

Translated by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C.K. Williams