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Rainer Maria Rilke

from Letters:

To N.N. Feb 8, 1912

“But as I will quickly tell you further that I too had an encounter with Brahms, years and years ago, in Arisee. I was then just an ordinary boy, 16 or 17 perhaps, and was visiting a cousin there who was ill, which may explain the fact that one sat sulkily in the garden all the time and reciprocally eked out the boredom until it reached around the entire day. But I, as soon as they took their eyes off me, withdrew from this pious occupation and so to one afternoon out of the village, like something had broken into the Open, the Great, the Real, presumably without a hat, or at any rate, if there was one, it played no part. The going was rather stony up the slope, but I had taken such a flying start that I was as little aware of that as nay other resistance; I dashed ahead in such elemental fashion that my effort ceased to be something personal, to express it one would have to say simply: it ran, as one says: it rains, it lightens. Both in fact were immediately impending. What convinced me of it most unexpectedly was a stout old gentleman coming comfortably down the slope,, who had apparently been figuring out for some time the mildest way of managing our collision; to avert it entirely was, given the initial speed with which I had rushed out, and in view of the slow breadth of the man facing me, physically impossible. So it came about that, growling suddenly, he warded me off; he had reason enough to curse me, and as I looked up at him thoroughly frightened, I had the impression that he was very cross. But as our glances measured each other, for a while this displeasure dissolved into a gentle buzzing that finally passed into a warning about a darkly gathered storm which he pointed out behind him: and really it was already driving threateningly from across the mountains.

Now it would be fine and proper if I had apologized and then thanked him very much for the generous solicitude expended on me despite everything,- but alas, my memory, to be quite truthful, passes on to me no such details. It is more probable that, stammering something or other confusedly, I dodged to the right and stormed on like one crazy, for only now it seemed to me boundlessly free and almost heroic to run into this upraised storm, which beside me the stones were already turning pale. -That is my story. A few days afterward they showed me the old gentleman in town, on the promenade, and told me his name: Brahms. But I don’t think he saw me (fortunately).


Filed under: Letters

Marianne Moore

Excellent intellectual female poet– did not name a model of car put out by Ford.  

   The Pangolin                     

Another armored animal–scale
lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
tail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equipped
the night miniature artist engineer is,
yes, Leonardo da Vinci’s replica–
impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
Armor seems extra. But for him,
the closing ear-ridge–
or bare ear lacking even this small
eminence and similarly safe

contracting nose and eye apertures
impenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater,
not cockroach eater, who endures
exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night,
returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight,
on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside
edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the claws
for digging. Serpentined about
the tree, he draws
away from danger unpugnaciously,
with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping

the fragile grace of the Thomas-
of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or
rolls himself into a ball that has
power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat
head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in-feet.
Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest
of rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thus
Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast
each with a splendor
which man in all his vileness cannot
set aside; each with an excellence!

“Fearfull yet to be feared,” the armored
ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but
engulfs what he can, the flattened sword-
edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-plates
quivering violently when it retaliates
and swarms on him. Compact like the furled fringed frill
on the hat-brim of Gargallo’s hollow iron head of a
matador, he will drop and will
then walk away
unhurt, although if unintruded on,
he cautiously works down the tree, helped

by his tail. The giant-pangolin-
tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like
an elephant’s trunkwith special skin,
is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurable
artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable
whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done
so. Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between
dusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-like
form and frictionless creep of a thing
made graceful by adversities, con-

versities. To explain grace requires
a curious hand. If that which is at all were not forever,
why would those who graced the spires
with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious
low stone seats–a monk and monk and monk–between the thus
ingenious roof supports, have slaved to confuse
grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt,
the cure for sins, a graceful use
of what are yet
approved stone mullions branching out across
the perpendiculars? A sailboat

was the first machine. Pangolins, made
for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade,
with certain postures of a man. Beneath sun and moon, man slaving
to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having,
needing to choose wisely how to use his strength;
a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
like the ant; spidering a length
of web from bluffs
above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
like the pangolin; capsizing in

disheartenment. Bedizened or stark
naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
masters to this world, griffons a dark
“Like does not like like that is abnoxious”; and writes error with four
r’s. Among animals, one has sense of humor.
Humor saves a few steps, it saves years. Unignorant,
modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
he has everlasting vigor,
power to grow,
though there are few creatures who can make one
breathe faster and make one erecter.
Not afraid of anything is he,
and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle
at every step. Consistent with the
formula–warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs–
is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat,
serge-clad, strong-shod. The prey of fear, he, always
curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly
says to the alternating blaze,
“Again the sun!
anew each day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.”

Filed under: Modernism,

Mark Strand

Taking a Walk with You

Lacking the wit and depth
That inform our dreams’
Bright landscapes,
This countryside
Through which we walk
Is no less beautiful
for being only what it seems.
Rising from the dyed
Pool of it’s shade,
The tree we lean against
Was never made to stand
For something else,
Let alone ourselves.
Nor were these fields
And gullies planned
With us in mind.
We live unsettled lives
And stay in a place
Only long enough to find
We don’t belong.
Even the clouds, forming,
Noiselessly overhead,
Are cloudy without
Resembling us, and storming
The vacant air,
Don’t take into account
Our present loneliness.
And yet why should we care?
Already we are walking off
As if to say,
We are not here,
We’ve always been away.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Robert Bly

The Waltz

One man I know keeps saying that we don’t need
Heaven. He thinks embroidered Russian
Wedding blouses will take the place of angels;
And windy nights when the crows fly up in front
Of your car will replace all the Psalmists.

He wants us to dance high-hearted like the Bacchae,
Even if it’s a waltz. It’s a little awkward;
But if you practice, he says, you can do it.
The hard thing is to try to figure out how
To say goodbye- even just going to the grocery.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Stephen Dunn

Between Angels

Between angels, on this earth
absurdly between angels, I
try to navigate

in the bluesy middle ground
Of desire and withdrawal,
In the industrial air,
Among the bittersweet

Efforts of people to conne t,
Make sense endure.
The angels are out there,
What are they?

Old helpers, half-believed,
Or dazzling better selves,

That I turn away from
As if I preferred
All the ordinary, dispiriting
Tasks at hand?

I shop in the cold
Neon aisles
Thinking of pleasure,
Kissing my pay check,
A mournful kiss goodbye
Thinking of pleasure,
In the evening replenish

My drink, make a choice
To read or love or watch,
And increasingly I watch.
I do not mind living

Like this. I cannot bear
Living like this.
Oh, everything’s true
At different times

In the capricious day,
Just as I don’t forget
And always forget

Half the people in the world
Are dispossessed.
Here chestnut oaks
Ad tenements

Make their unequal claims.
Someone thinks of betrayal.
A child spills her milk;
I’m on my knees cleaning it up-

So ge, squeeze, I change nothing,
Just move it around.
The inconsequential floor
Is beginning to shine.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Paavo Haaviko

Another new poet, a Finnish poet. Very clever and expressive, read also: “Three Short Poems” and satirical “Fifteen Epigrams in Praise of the Tyrant.”

The Bowmen

Statecraft and Foresight have gone to their mountain council,
my lord planted his great banner, we have no business there,
alone, I am nothing, it stands to reason,
come and read, I return to Worms and take nail and hammer,

the hand touches the sky, the foot bears down on the ground,
henceforth may nothing separate the hand from the sky, the
/foot from sky

in the mountains, always winds water and fire, brown dirt,
out of the elements emerge war, bloodshed, and riot,
plague, bad sudden death,
Statecraft and Foresight appear, so do the black men,

honour craves violence,
Foresight sees best when flames glow in the glasses,

but we are here not so much to search in wisdom
as in our hearts,
all of us here not so much to demonstrate foresight
as our readiness.
Anselm Hollo

Filed under: Uncategorized

Sadanand Rege

I have been particularly busy lately, but have still had some time for reading and will share some of the poetry that I have found. I keep thinking about this one, the metaphor…

Old Leaves From The Chinese Earth
(I bought a Chinese book at a second-hand book shop.
I got a man who spoke Japanese to explain it to me.
All that I could make of it is what follows.)

I am Chiang Liang.
Once I was crossing the bridge,
And an old man was sitting there.
And as soon as he saw me,
He took off one of his shoes
And threw it deliberately into the river,
And said to me:
My good fellow,
My shoe has fallen into the river,
Please fish it out for me.
I was furious.
But i curbed my temper
And jumped into the water.
As soon as I had come up with the shoe,
He threw the other into the river.
‘Oh, there goes the other one too.’
I dived into the water again
And came back with the second shoe,
When he threw the first one back into the river.
I was furious. He said:
Meet me here again after thirteen years.

After thirteen years
There was no one on the bridge.
Only the sun blared down on it,
The size of a tiger’s jaw.
I waited a long time for the old man.
Then I came down and looked into the water:
There was my own face behind the sun,
There was nobody on the bridge except the sun.
But someone spoke out of my bones:
One shoe is life, the other is death.
I recognized the voice.
Dilip Chitre

Filed under: Uncategorized

Robertson Jeffers

I seem to like some of his work, despite that I only have one book (The Beginning and the End— his last book). This is one of the shorter poems.

Savagely Individual

Heavy and yellow with the clay wrack from the flooded
The river forces itself into the sea
Not mixing in it, a long crude-ochre serpent outlined
with foam
Splitting the blue-black ocean. Thus a man through the
mass of men
Forces his way, savagely individual,
It is only saints and idiots forget themselves.

Filed under: 20th century

Richard Wilbur

The Writer

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

Filed under: Uncategorized

William Stafford

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Filed under: Deep Image