Blessed are they who sow and do not reap —
they shall wander in extremity.

Blessed are the generous
whose glory in youth has enhanced the extravagant
             brightness of days —
who shed their accoutrements at the crossroads.

Blessed are the proud whose pride overflows
               the banks of their souls                              
to become the modesty of whiteness
in the wake of a rainbow’s ascent through a cloud.        

Blessed are they who know                    
their hearts will cry out from the wilderness                           
               and that quiet will blossom from their lips.                    

Blessed are these
for they will be gathered to the heart of the world,
               wrapped in the mantle of oblivion  
— their destiny’s offering unuttered to the end. 

— Avraham Ben Yitzhak, Blessed are They Who Sow and Do Not Reap

translated by Peter Cole

And when you sit this way by the
and its gold plays over your inclined
   chestnut head,
the light drizzles through your fingers,
and in the mirror of your black silk
the flame’s splendor dances.
Apples on your table glow in the
a wealth of golden grapes overflows
   the basket,
and blessing gives off its ripe scent.
The forest thunders and roars
and sweet is its song
from within the stillness
of your precious corner.

— Avraham Ben Yitzhak, excerpt from I Scarcely Knew Myself ¬

translated by Robert Alter

two places I’ve seen eels, bright whips of flow
like stopper waves the rivercurve slides through
trampling around at first you just make out
the elver movement of the running sunlight
three foot under the road-judder you hold
and breathe contracted to an eye-quiet world
while an old dandelion unpicks her shawl
and one by one the small spent oak flowers fall
then gently lift a branch brown tag and fur
on every stone and straw and drifting burr
when like a streamer from your own eye’s iris
a kingfisher spurts through the bridge whose axis
is endlessly in motion as each wave
photos its flowing to the bridge’s curve
if you can keep your foothold, snooping down
then suddenly two eels let go get thrown
tumbling away downstream looping and linking
another time we scooped a net through sinking
silt and gold and caught one strong as bike-chain
stared for a while then let it back again
I never pass that place and not make time
to see if there’s an eel come up the stream
I let time go as slow as moss, I stand
and try to get the dragonflies to land
their gypsy-coloured engines on my hand
- Alice Oswald, excerpt from Dart  { }

(Source: grecianurn)

Your description puts
an end to all narration.
Your precious name becomes
the seal of my lips.

My loaf of bread stays
dry like the watermill,
Parched like my tongue
inside my mouth.

The physician failed to catch
the ailment within.
The tongue was silent,
the pulse even more so.

The furnace of the sky
was short of firewood.
To bake my bread it
stokes itself with my desire.

Engrossed such in praising
your dark eyes,
The tongue in my mouth has
turned a kohl stick.

The world’s hunting ground
still holds a promise for me.
Searching for a prey,
my bow might hunt itself.

Scattered around the millstone
are my white strands.
Grains to the sky’s revolving mill
are my bones.


Ghani Kashmiri

translated by Mufti Mudasir Farooqi & Nusrat Bazaz

For whom
if not for the one who subjugates the nights
while leaning on star and flute
does silk flutter black in abandonment’s beds

For whom if not for those who walk lightly on earth
does reed puncture insomnia’s breath

— Amjad Nasser, Meritocracy

translated by Fady Joudah

Those whom I love have gone
And I remain, like a sword, alone.

Gone, yes, or going, determination hardens
Into a self-destructive stubbornness.

What melody will resonate its presence
If you play the same old self-reflective chord alone? 

Someone who wrote, “Never to lose you again,” 
Moved, sent no message with a new address

And in that memory there is a mountain,
Above it, a reddish hawk that swooped and soared alone.

Who held a sword and said that he resembled
A sword, in his solitude was nothing less.

Between the old man and the steely angel,
A sleep-drunk intern holding down the ward alone.

The word-root’s there, you look into the branches’
 Cadence and contexts you can only guess.

Translating from a slow-emerging language
Resembles dialogue, and I’m less bored, alone.

Though it’s a doubled blade to be a weapon
And turn yourself onto your own distress.

Silent among her servants, Balqis riding
Back toward her queendom praised the Lord alone. 

If the beloved asked, what would you wish of me?
That without my asking, you would answer “Yes”

The glass of wine not offered to the green-eyed stranger,
The nightly second glass of wine I poured alone.

— Marilyn Hacker, Fugue on a line of Amr bin M’ad Yakrib

under your belly
there’s gnawing in the bones
subterranean & abysmal
the bite that’s more the unscratchable itch/coldfire
now he penetrates me against the landscape
of my own blood and demands escape from
the rotting tongue in which he’s caged

this is the form i wear

out of my pernicious reason
and my slam-driven mind
comes the clay i shape into pleasures
for your knowing
the angles of his body
cut at my grasp-starved hands
his bone hard as young granite at my softness
the authority of his beauty demanding
the familiarity of my flesh

thus you hold me
frozen in your doubtful vision
in your study of my brownness. believe
my curious fingers. trust my
daring fingers
as they probe your opened wound
to find a roundness

- Wanda Coleman, The Language Beneath the Language

     Lyricism of winter, rustle of crepe,
now when the hasty departure nears;
oracular voices of plaintive songs
that in the evening pray for a farewell.

     Vision of the burial of my illusions
in the very tomb of the mortal wound.
Veronican charity from unknown regions,
where at the price of ether life is lost.

     Near dawn I will depart in tears;
and while my years go on curving,
my swift course will curve scythes.

     And under the cold holy oils of a dying moon,
with the timbre of steel in the indolent earth,
dogs, howling, will dig a good-bye.

— César Vallejo, Willow

translated by Clayton Eshleman

(via goneril-and-regan)

Bare-handed, I hand the combs.
The man in white smiles, bare-handed,
Our cheesecloth gauntlets neat and sweet,
The throats of our wrists brave lilies.
He and I

Have a thousand clean cells between us,
Eight combs of yellow cups,
And the hive itself a teacup,
White with pink flowers on it,
With excessive love I enameled it

Thinking “Sweetness, sweetness.”
Brood cells gray as the fossils of shells
Terrify me, they seem so old.
What am I buying, wormy mahogany?
Is there any queen at all in it?

If there is, she is old,
Her wings torn shawls, her long body
Rubbed of its plush—
Poor and bare and unqueenly and even shameful.
I stand in a column

Of winged, unmiraculous women,
I am no drudge
Though for years I have eaten dust
And dried plates with my dense hair.

And seen my strangeness evaporate,
Blue dew from dangerous skin.
Will they hate me,
These women who only scurry,
Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?

It is almost over.
I am in control.
Here is my honey-machine,
It will work without thinking,
Opening, in spring, like an industrious virgin

To scour the creaming crests
As the moon, for its ivory powders, scours the sea.
A third person is watching.
He has nothing to do with the bee-seller or with me.
Now he is gone

In eight great bounds, a great scapegoat.
Here is his slipper, here is another,
And here the square of white linen
He wore instead of a hat.
He was sweet,

The sweat of his efforts a rain
Tugging the world to fruit.
The bees found him out,
Molding onto his lips like lies,
Complicating his features.

They thought death was worth it, but I
Have a self to recover, a queen.
Is she dead, is she sleeping?
Where has she been,
With her lion-red body, her wings of glass?

Now she is flying
More terrible than she ever was, red
Scar in the sky, red comet
Over the engine that killed her—
The mausoleum, the wax house.

- Sylvia Plath, Stings

Three times I’ve seen a lake flood a lake

           Once, a lake, taking the place of sky
                       A waste of water, once, that was a bridge
                                   From Crescent Face to Footprint Lake
                                              that was the flowing world

Seven times a lake being the swell and shape of empty

— Lal Ded

translated by Sonam Kachru

Spill, spread, unpetal, bleed
your soft flowers through great wounds.
Dove-hauled Venus girds her loins
with roses—
see the summer’s last puff of blue
drift on seas of asters to distant
pine-brown coasts; see
this final hour of our mendacious
southern happiness
held aloft.

Gottfried Benn, excerpt from Caryatid

translated by Michael Hofmann

My ear pressed to your side
heavy with child,
I hear rumours of the ocean.
The waves of blood swelling out
in a body unfulfilled.
The mine nudging the seaweed is
eager for its first glimpse of the universe.
Fists tight…clenched for a blow,
the life small as a fist
is aflame with ardour.
But you are so desolate…why desolation?
Do you fear—
As our generations gave lifelong battle
battered by wind and rain
Our birthing bed arrayed
under a palm-leaf thatch
Feasting off gruel
boiled rolling on our cooking fires
Do you fear,
As our generations grown bull-strong, bull-humped
pulling the village like a cart,
became lifeless lumps worth mud,
he too will be mud?
Truly, if he is to be
thus crushed and lifeless
Then—remember the Greek myth?—
As soon as the cord is cut
let’s burn, scorch, fire-harden him
in leaping flames. This phoenix
feeding on live coals
will brave the powerful skies
and all that this nation never offered
to you or me—the joy, the glory—
he will pull down to his feet.

Daya Pawar, Blood-Wave

translated by Priya Adarkar 

(via pyotra)

Brooding on the eightieth letter of Fors Clavigera,
     I speak this in memory of my grandmother, whose
     childhood and prime womanhood were spent in the
     nailer’s darg.

The nailshop stood back of the cottage, by the fold.
     It reeked stale mineral sweat. Sparks had furred
     its low roof. In dawn-light the troughed water
     floated a damson-bloom of dust—

not to be shaken by posthumous clamour. It is one
     thing to celebrate the ‘quick forge’, another
     to cradle a face hare-lipped by the searing wire.

Brooding on the eightieth letter of Fors Clavigera,
     I speak this in memory of my grandmother, whose
     childhood and prime womanhood were spent in the
     nailer’s darg.

— Geoffrey Hill, Mercian Hymns XXV

Where are they all? Some bloom again as tulips or as roses
There in the dust how many forms forever lie concealed!

I too remembered gatherings rich in all kinds of beauty
Now they are only forms and patterns on oblivion’s shelf

Sleep is for him, and pride for him, and nights for him
Upon whose arm your tresses all dishevelled lay

I went into the garden, and it seemed a school assembled
The nightingales heard my laments, then sang their songs of love

How ill my fate! her lowered eyes show only eyelashes
Why then, O God, is it that they can pierce right through my heart?

How, even if I reached her, could I answer her revilings?
All my fair words were spent in gaining access to her house

Wine gives such life to man that on the hand that takes the goblet
Every line seems like a vein through which the life-blood runs

Our creed is ‘God is one’, our cry, ‘Abandon rituals!’
So that communities dissolve to constitute one faith

When one becomes inured to sorrow, sorrow vanishes
Such hardships have befallen me that life is easy now.


Mirza Ghalib

translated by Ralph Russell

Who, if I screamed out, would hear me among the hierarchies
of angels? And if one suddenly did take
me to his heart: I would perish from his
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the onset of terror we’re still just able to bear,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.

Rainer Maria Rilke, excerpt from Duino Elegies

translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann

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