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Authors: Nichita Stanescu

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Nichita Stănescu

W
HEEL WITH A
S
INGLE
S
POKE

and other poems

selected and translated from
the Romanian by Sean Cotter

archipelago books

Copyright © Nichita Stănescu

English translation and afterword © Sean Cotter, 2012

First Archipelago Books Edition, 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Archipelago Books
232 3rd Street #
AIII
Brooklyn, NY 11215
www.archipelagobooks.org

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Stanescu, Nichita, 1933–1983.
[Poems. English. Selections]
Wheel with a single spoke : and other poems / by Nichita Stanescu ;
selected and translated from Romanian by Sean Cotter.
p. cm.
ISBN
978-1-935744-42-9 (pbk.)
1. Stanescu, Nichita, 1933-1983 – Translations into English.
I. Cotter, Sean, 1971 – II. Title.
PC840.29.T345A2 2012
859'.134–dc23
2012006255

Distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution
www.cbsd.com

cover art: Henri Michaux

The publication of
Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems
was made possible with support from the Romanian Cultural Institute, Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Acknowledgments

The translator wishes to thank Luminiţa Soare, Angie Shapira, Luminiţa Lupu, and the Cambridge of Dallas Working Group for their help with this project. I am also grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts, the Romanian Cultural Institute, and the University of Texas at Dallas for their support.

Table of Contents

T
HE
S
ENSE OF
L
OVE
(
Sensul iubrii, 1960
)

The Airplane Dance

End of an Air Raid

A V
ISION OF THE
F
EELINGS
(
O viziune a sentimentelor, 1964
)

In Praise of People

Song on an Aluminum Scaffold

The Lion Cub, Love

To Peace

Sentimental Story

I Remember, Still Amazed

One Thursday, with Love

Song Without an Answer

A Poem

End of a Season

Autumn Love

T
HE
R
IGHT TO
T
IME
(
Dreptul la timp, 1965
)

The Right to Time

Bas-relief with Heroes

Enkidu

Ars Poetica

The Chariot

Savonarola

Bas-relief with Lovers

Song

[To the right, and then to the left]

To Galatea

Old Soldier's Song

Sad Love Song

To Bend the Light

II
E
LEGIES
(
11 Elegii, 1966
)

The Second Elegy, in the Style of the Getes

The Fourth Elegy

The Fifth Elegy

The Eleventh Elegy

A
LPHA
(
Alfa, 1967
)

Raid on the Interior of Stones

Surface

You Might Think I Was a Tree

A Sleep with Saws Inside

Ulysses

V
ERTICAL
R
ED
(
Ro
ş
u vertical, 1967
)

A Soldier

E
GG AND
S
PHERE
(
Oul şi sfera, 1967
)

Fate

Smelling a Flower

Winter Ritual

Medieval Letter

Invocation

Eye Snow

Angel Holding a Book

Transparent Wings

The Young

President Baudelaire

L
AUS
P
TOLEMAEI
(
Laus Ptolemaei, 1968
)

The Atmosphere

Reading

On Contemplative Beings, What They Say, and Some Advice I Would Give Them

A Few General Statements on Speed

On the Life of Ptolemy

On the Death of Ptolemy

Field

An Argument with Euclid

U
NWORDS
(
Necuvintele, 1969
)

Paean

Loss of an Eye

Jacob Battles the Angel; Or, On the Idea of “You”

The Battle Against Five Antiterrestrial Elements

The Heart's Battle Against Blood

[I slept with all my bones along a sword blade]

Sleeping and Waking

Decree

[The beating moon inches across the roof of the mouth]

Mime

Poetry

Song of Three

Laughs and Tears

Murderous Memory

It Was Crushed Music

I'm So Tired I Can't Go On, He Said

Brusque Speech

You Leave Your Scent

[You leave the air with your scent]

The Jester and Death

Contemplation

Pulse

Law

Ode to Joy

Undeciphered Inscription

Where They Go

Scent on a High Hill

The Sacrifice and Burning of Everything

What Is Life? When Does It Start, and Where Is It Going?

Noose

What Is the Supreme Power That Drives the Universe and Creates Life?

What Is a Human? What Are His Origins? What Fate Awaits Him?

The One Who Eats Dragonflies

Who Am I? What Is My Place in the Cosmos?

Atavistic Melancholy

Idols of the Grass

Fruits Before Being Eaten

Air Currents

Tragedies in Peacetime

Ars Poetica

Song

Self-Portrait in an Autumn Leaf

Time

Passage . . .

Mirage

So I'll Stay

I, That Is, He

Poem

What?

Game Delay

Tennis

Unwords

A L
AND
C
ALLED
R
OMANIA
(
Un pământ numit România, 1969
)

Cain and Abel

D
OLCE STIL CLASSICO
(
În dulcele stil clasic, 1970
)

Loss of Consciousness Through Cognition

Soul of Mine, Psyche

Myth

B
ELGRADE IN
F
IVE
F
RIENDS
(
Belgradul în cinci prieteni, 1972
)

To Buy a Dog

Vitrification

Fear

Eye Depth

Fading

Signal

A Poet, Like a Soldier

While

Ritual

Way of Speaking

Carriage for a Butterfly

Little Colored Glasses

On the Thickest

Drawing Lots

Dialogue Between a Horse and the Good Lord

Serbs

Song to Encourage the God Andia

[The dogs of your father barked]

[Inside me screams my heart]

[What kind of freight train are you]

Bloodmobile

Eminescu

Cold Balance of the Stars

Letter

G
RANDEUR OF THE
C
OLD
(
Măreţia frigului, 1972
)

Transformation

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Beauty-Sick

Ars Amandi

And If

E
PICA
M
AGNA
(
Epica magna, 1978
)

Paean

Wheel with a Single Spoke

Soldier Oedipus

Self-Portrait

Eye Squared

Oration

Forward Movement

To Feed Me from Your Hand

Haiku

Another Haiku

Tableau with Blind People

Wedding Toast

I
MPERFECT
W
ORKS
(
Operele imperfecte, 1979
)

Lesson on a Cube

Hourglass

Jacob and the Angel

Lesson on a Circle

K
NOTS AND
S
IGNS
(
Noduri şi semne, 1982
)

Through an Orange Tunnel

Knot 17

Sign 14

Knot 23

Sign 18

Sign 19

Knot 31

Knot 33. In the Quiet of Evening

Translator's Afterword

W
HEEL WITH A

S
INGLE
S
POKE

and other poems

T
HE
S
ENSE OF
L
OVE
(
Sensul iubirii, 1960
)
The Airplane Dance

The dance moved in circles, with airplanes:

some golden,

some silver.

They went like this: a half circle

on the left side, going up

then down, over the roofs

. . . then up, on the right

golden, silver.

How they spun as they fell

golden, silver . . .

After that a neighbor's house was gone

and the house on the corner

and the house next door . . .

And I was amazed

and shook my head:

look, there's no house! . . .

look, there's no house! . . .

look, there's no house! . . .

End of an Air Raid
April 5, 1944

You dropped your chalk

and the splintered door beat against the wall

the sky appeared, partly hidden

by the spiders

that fed on murdered children.

Someone had taken away
the walls

and fruit tree

and stairs.

You hunted after spring
impatiently, like you were expecting
a lunar eclipse.

Toward dawn, they even took away

the fence

you had signed with a scratch,

so the storks would not lose their way

when they came

this spring.

A V
ISION OF THE
F
EELINGS
(
O viziune a sentimentelor, 1964
)
In Praise of People

From the point of view of trees,
the sun is a band of heat,
people – a terrible emotion . . .
They are the wandering fruits
of an even greater tree.

From the point of view of stones,
the sun is a falling stone,
people are a tender pressure . . .
They are motion added to motion
and light you can see, from the sun.

From the point of view of air,

the sun is air full of birds,

wing beating on wing.

People are birds never before seen,

with wings ingrown

that beat, hover, glide,

within an air more pure: thought.

Song on an Aluminum Scaffold

And a wind wrapped around my chest
as it passed, and transparent arms,
tossed by body into the clouds,
where lightning licked my breast.

Oh, and thus, in one toss or another,

were my soles sliced by a peak, whose white

turned ruby red with my blood,

later,

when my body extended its height.

A floating soul and I crossed paths.

It told me, in despair:

I have not descended from these high currents

since Hiroshima's mushroom launched me into the air.

O soul, I shouted,

I am not dead!

Calm yourself with the moon.
The scaffolding sprayed into translucence
and I danced across, surrounded by light,
with the tip of my vision in the future.

The Lion Cub, Love

The lion cub, love

leapt toward my face.

Her hunt had begun, muscles tense,

long before.

Her white fangs plunged into my face,

the lion cub bit me, today, in the face.

And at that moment, nature
encircled me, further
away it felt, then closer
like a narrowing of waters.
And my gaze jetted upward,
a rainbow in two parts,
and I found my sense of hearing
near the song of the skylark.

I moved my hand to my brow,

temple and chin,

but my hand no longer knew them.

And slipping into the unknown

passing over a desert, dazzling

in measured steps

moved a copper lioness

treacherous,

a little further away,

and a little further . . .

To Peace

I look back over my life's ages,

over the line of bodies I set up

straight

like a pillar to support

the sky, with the sun in the center.

There's a child's body whose arms hold

an adolescent's body.

There's an adolescent whose shoulders lift

a man's body.

There's a man's body on whose forehead are

the wrinkled feet of an old man.

There's an old man with whiskers yellowed

from tobacco,

who kisses the mouth

of phantom clouds,

the blue sky, the black universe.

This life of mine, like a pillar,
I offer to hold your heavens
over weddings and births,

and I call on lovers to carve

their initials into me,

enclosed in the outline of a great heart,

pierced by an arrow

of light.

Sentimental Story

In the end, we saw each other more and more often.

I was on one side of the hour,

you, the other,

like the handles of an urn.

Only words flew between us,

before and after.

Their vortex was almost visible,

and then,

I dropped to one knee,

stuck my elbow in the earth,

only to observe how blades of grass

bent under falling words,

as though beneath the paw of a sprinting lion.

The words spun and spun between us,

before and after,

and the more I loved you, the more

they repeated, in an almost visible vortex,

da capo, the structure of matter.

I Remember, Still Amazed

I remember, still amazed

by that time when my mind

was enveloped in a haze,

the jumble

of memories and desires and loves,

and I would wait to fall asleep, to plunge into a sleep,

like a pearl diver, whose ocean

pulls streams of blood from his nostrils.

I was connected to objects

by invisible vines,

I would hang from them and swing,

I threw myself from hour to hour,

the way, once upon a time,

a shouting Tarzan threw himself,

from one jungle tree to another

his feet fluttering through the air,

never touching

the silent, fecund earth.

One Thursday, with Love

An evening one Thursday, an evening heart-thick,
when our destinies grew
like grass in spring,

and I loved you

so much I forgot you

and believed you were part of me.

And only then was I surprised
when I smiled sometimes, and you
didn't

when I stole leaves from the trees

and you

stayed beneath them, a little longer.

Only then did it seem

you were someone other,

but only as

the evening sun can be another –

the moon . . .

Song Without an Answer

Why should I love you, woman dreaming,
wrapped around me like smoke, like a grapevine
around my chest, brow,
ever lithe, ever writhing?

Why should I love you, woman delicate
as a blade of grass that bisects the estival
moon, knocking it into the waters,
separated from itself
like two lovers after an embrace? . . .

Why should I love you, melancholic eye,
pale sun that rises over my shoulder
and drags along a sky, in gentle scents
thin clouds, and no shade?

Why should I love you, unforgotten hour,

when in place of tones

horses race around my heart,

a herd of foals with rebellious manes?

Why should I love you so much, love,

a sky colored by seasons knocked

(always another, always close)

like a falling leaf. Like a breath wind turns to frost.

A Poem

Tell me, if I ever caught you
and kissed the arch of your foot,
wouldn't you limp a little after that
for fear of crushing my kiss? . . .

End of a Season

I watched so carefully
that noon sputtered over the cupolas
and sounds around me turned to ice,
twisted like columns.

I watched so carefully

that scents undulating in the air

plunged into a darkness

as though I had never before felt

cold.

Suddenly

I found myself so far away

and foreign,

lost behind my own face,

as if I had wrapped my senses

in the senseless mountains of the moon.

I watched so carefully

that

I did not recognize you, and you may

be ever-arriving,

every hour, every second,

and through my erstwhile vigil, you march

as if through a phantom Triumphal Arch.

Autumn Love

Autumn is here, cover my heart with something,
the shadow of a tree, or better, the shadow of you.

Sometimes I'm afraid I will see you no more,
that my sharp wings might grow up to the clouds,
that you'll hide within an odd eye,
and it will shut under a wormwood leaf.

Then I step toward the rocks and fall silent,
I pick words up and drown them in the ocean.
I whistle the moon to rise and make it
into a great emotion.

T
HE
R
IGHT TO
T
IME
(
Dreptul la timp, 1965
)
The Right to Time

I.

Even rocks sprouted that day,
with winter at zenith above the earth
and within the shell of spherical hours
beat rock-smasher, Phoenix wings.

And the air

suddenly compacted,

suddenly petrified like a frozen sea

that crushes within itself

corpses

rising toward the surface.

In that earthshaken February, battle-ready,

the land requested its natural right

to time,

like color for the eye

and the bud of hearing

on the eardrums.

In that earthshaken February, battle-ready,

with the thick whistle toward the future

of anchors thrown,

strength knotted in pleats of air,

the hawks' throats suddenly blocked.

And the girders of the sky, in place,
were covered with white wings
imagining air yet to be,
raised to another, more worthy foundation.

In that earthshaken February, battle-ready,

the eyes of rifles

gazed long, with bullets,

at our head and raised chest,

their lords not imagining time had frozen

their bodies clenched within a block

ever denser, ever deeper.

Even rocks sprouted that day,
with Winter at zenith and glistening.
A veil of death covered dreams over,
when death killed nothing but itself.

II.

A rush of white clouds, a rush of long clouds
drove each second.
In earthshaken February,
a woman gave birth into the world,
her son receiving his right to time.

She shot into the air
the stone arrow
of a scream.

The child's body rose

heavy and sure, like the moon,

from seawater.

And a horizon appeared, of women

who covered the globes of their earthly bellies

with black aprons.

A horizon appeared, of pregnant women

who gazed upon her.

A woman gave birth into the world.

In February, under the wheel of freezing wind,

birth pains embraced her,

like a man much too strong,

with arms of lead.

A rush of white clouds, a rush of long clouds
drives each second, strikes them,
thins them . . .

A second may meander

through forges, cables,

walls, along railways it meanders

it finds a woman's eye and shines through,

it finds a woman's cheek and colors it,

it finds a woman's mouth and makes it arc,

it finds a woman's scream and makes it into

a pillar of the sky.

And a horizon appeared, of women

who covered the globes of their earthly bellies

with black aprons.

A horizon appeared, of pregnant women

who gazed upon her.

The child's body, heavy and sure

continued to rise

like a heart drumming,

like a planet breaking away

from a sun.

In February, under the wheel of freezing wind,
the great flag of snow
fell, dew-wet, to the earth.

And the soldiers' hobnailed boots

tore the flag apart, in rhythm

and iron runners from sleds with

brass bells

sliced the flag into bandages,

for the reddened temples,

battered shoulders,

and gunshot chests

of those who stood guard.

But a woman gave birth into the world.

In February,

her child received

his right to time,

just as great questions receive
their answer
in history.

And a horizon appeared, of women

who covered the globes of their earthly bellies

with black aprons.

A horizon appeared, of pregnant women

who smiled, heavy and trusting.

III.

But then the woman felt
her arms could not hold the boy
any more than yours could lift
a river.

She felt him break away
from her breast
as words do
from the mouth.

The warmth of his being

– she felt –

rose up on the warmth of her body

toward petrified clouds.

And all of this seems

unchangeable,

the way you cannot temper

an event

that took place in the past.

The woman then felt

that her son ran glistening

toward the great toothed wheels

of the seasons,

that he threw his shadow onto them,

whipping them,

that the biting lashes turned the cogs

with a high whistle,

and winter threw its frozen bodies

onto the carcass of spring leaves,

and spring threw its shivering trees

onto the swollen summer ocean,

and the sun of summer, slipping, hit

and shook the fruits of autumn loose.

And autumn drove its prow

like an icebreaker

into the white quick of winter,

and parted and crushed

and shattered and broke it.

The woman shot a glistening
arrow into the air,
a cry of joy
for her son.

February watched over him.

It touched his white and shining shoulder

like one who draws sound

from a harp,

and truly, there he was.

Its hands caressed him, its sight,

hearing, smell, taste,

its everything at once,

and he was alive and unhurt.

February watched over him.

And embraced him

the way the heart does its blood

and the mind ideas, so was he, complete,

and he received his natural right

to time,

the way the open eye receives

the face of things that laugh or cry.

February watched over him.

Bas-relief with Heroes

The young soldiers sit in a glass case

the way they were found, shot in the forehead,

so they could be seen, they sat in a glass case,

holding their last movements,

the profile, arm, knee, their last movements,

when they were shot by surprise in the forehead

or between the shoulder blades with a flame more fragile

than the finger of a child pointing at the moon.

They left behind an empty barracks

that smelled like ankle-wraps, cigarette butts, like a closed window.

Wooden suitcases filled the barracks

and rattled their iron handles

like the moon rattles its iron handles

just before it's opened

to look for the old letters and old photographs

of time.

The young soldiers were smeared with wax

on their faces and hands, to shine,

rubbed with wax to shine, rubbed with wax,

and set exactly as they were the moment

when life broke and death swallowed the moment.

They are still, never not shining,

and we look at them like we might look at a moon

rising from the middle of the square.

For our sake, now that we are the same age,

even though they've spent many years inside the case,

for our sake, we who have caught up with and passed them,

who have a heart that beats, and memory,

a fresh, utterly fresh memory,

the young soldiers sit in a glass case

and mock each other constantly

as though they were alive.

Enkidu
My friend Enkidu is dead. Together, we killed lions
.

from the E
PIC OF
G
ILGAMESH

I.

Look at your hands and rejoice, for they are absurd.

And look at your feet, in the evening, as you stand straight

and hang toward the moon.

I may be too close for you to see me,

but even this is not nothing.

I will become distance, to fit your eyes,

or a word, with sounds the size of ants,

to fit your mouth.

Touch your ear and laugh and wonder at your touch.

I ache, even in the brief transit.

I stretched my gaze until it hit a tree,

and there it was!

Look at my shoulders, and tell yourself they are the

strongest you've seen, aside from grass and bison,

who are like that for no reason.

My shoulders shift distance, like a leather bag

pushed by a windmill.

This is why when lights I have not touched

burn the backs of my eyes

a gentle blue pain passes above the crown of my head

in place of the sky.

And if I ache with rivers,

rocks, a length of ocean,

just enough for everything to be my bed,

never enough to fit my thought's

eternal expansion, oh, then there's no way I'll know

how you also ache, and I am not the one

to whom I speak.

II.

So something would exist between us – maybe

me – I baptized what I had done,

wounding myself,

always making myself smaller, always dying,

by words from my own lips.

And the great pain, I called it blue

for no reason, or just because that's how

my lips smiled.

I ask you whether you, smiling,

would call another pain the same?

Surely, the height I threw away from my sight,

like a spear never to return,

you caressed differently, because your hands,

my twins, are absurd, and we should

rejoice in these words passing

from one mouth to another like an invisible river,

for they do not exist.

O, friend, how is your blue?

III.

A game of passes, some fast, some slow,

before my eye and with me creating the

trees, stones, and river,

over my slower body

dragged along by thought, like goats at evening,

by a rope.

Time, alone everywhere, myself,

and after that.

IV.

And when everything is erased, like seas inside a shell,

there's nothing anymore, except in the eyes of those

who are not, the passage of pain into the passages

of time, O, my friend, when I am like someone,

I will not be, because one thing like another

does not exist.

What is unique is in pain, measured like eddies

in the mountains, the passage of time,

knowing it is alone,

changing the names of surrounding things.

V.

Whatever is not limitless is,

it travels everywhere, encountering the wide marks

I call Time.

Whatever is not everywhere is, it swallows

my legs up to the knees, beats the elbow of my heart,

on my mouth it dances.

What is not timeless is, the way a memory is.

Like the vision of hands, it is,

like the hearing of eyes.

VI.

I die with every thing I touch,

with rotating stars, with sight;

with every shadow I cast over the sand,

a little less soul remains, a thought

stretches a bit further; I look

at everything as though I see death, only seldom

do I forget, and then I create dances

and songs from nothing, shrinking myself and pulling out

my throbbing temples, to turn them into crowns of myrtle.

VII.

Come out of the tent, friend, so we can be face-to-face,

can look at each other, be quiet together, always asking

whether the other is,

and how he senses himself.

Game of tumbling, with stones,

shaken out of somewhere, toward somewhere else.

Ars Poetica

I taught my words to love,

I showed them my heart

and would not give up until their syllables

did not start to beat.

I showed them trees

and what words wouldn't rustle

I hanged, without pity, from the branches.

In the end, words

needed to resemble both me

and the world.

Then

I came to me,

I braced myself between two banks

of a river,

to present a bridge,

a bridge between a bull's horn and grass,

between black stars of light and earth,

between the temple of a woman's head and a man's,

letting words travel over me

like racing cars, electric trains,

only so they could cross faster,

only so they would learn to transport the world,

from itself,

to itself.

The Chariot
for Mihai Eminescu

A chariot whistles across the field

of my moments.

Four horses pull two warriors.

One has his eyes on leaves, the other,

his eyes in tears.

One lodges his heart ahead, in the horses,

the other drags it behind, over stones.

One holds reins in his right hand,

the other, sadness in his arms.

One is beset by his weapons,

the other by his memories.

A chariot whistles across the field

of my moments.

Four black horses pull two warriors.

One lodges his life in eagles,

the other in the tumbling wheels,

and the horses run, until their muzzles shatter

the moment,

they run beyond, they run far beyond

and vanish.

Savonarola

Savonarola came to me and said:

Let's burn all the trees on the bonfire of vanities,

let's burn all the grass, wheat, and corn,

and make everything a little simpler.

Let's shatter the rocks, let's pluck

the rivers from their beds and make

everything simpler, a lot simpler.

Let's renounce our legs,

for walking is vanity.

Let's renounce our sight,

for the eye is vanity.

Let's renounce our hearing,

for the ear is vanity.

Let's renounce our hands

and make everything simpler,

a lot simpler!

Savonarola came to me in a dream,

like a scar deep in the brain of the world.

He came to me in a dream

and I woke up shouting and screaming.

Bas-relief with Lovers

Again, we are ourselves no more,

we know no more where we begin

nor where we end, in given space,

placed on the pillar of these seconds.

Again, our bodies shaped in bas-relief

exist out from us, that is,

just one half of us can move,

that side turned to the world.

Again, all is centered on the eye,

the brow, just the cheek,

just the arm outstretched is all,

whatever else will cease to be.

Inscribed within a circle,

we know no more where we begin

nor where we end, in given space,

placed on the pillar of these seconds.

Song

The present is made only of memories.

What was, no one truly knows.

The dead constantly trade

names, numbers, one, two, three . . .

There is only what will be,

only happenings yet unhappened,

hanging from an unborn branch

half a phantom . . .

There is only my frozen body,

final, stony, and feeble.

My sadness hears how unborn dogs

bark at unborn people.

Only they will truly be.

We who live these moments,

we are a nighttime dream,

a svelte, scampering millipede.

To the right, and then to the left

listed the demented skiff,

depending on how I embraced you,

or on the smell of algae or mint.

It scribed a flashing alphabet,

in cuttlefish, water, and gar.

Its words were only four:

I am, you are . . .

And gallantly they seemed to drown

in the glare, monotonous, bland,

or lazily through lazy clouds

they crossed the Flying Dutchman . . .

Beloved zigzag, almost dreamed,

with sargasso seas below,

a heart free from the slavery

of determined shores, of nerves and bones.

To Galatea

I know your every hour, every movement, every scent,

and your shadow, your silence, your breast,

how they tremble and what colors precisely,

and your gait, your melancholy, your eyebrows,

and your blouse, your ring, and moment,

and my patience runs out and I drive my knee against the stone

and I beg you,

give birth to me.

I know everything that is far from you,

who can say what exists that far away,

after noon, after the horizon, beyond the sea . . .

and all beyond all of them,

who can say what something that far off is called.

That's why I bend my knee to meet

the twin knee of stone.

And I beg you,

give birth to me.

I know all you never knew,

the heartbeat past the beat you hear,

the end of the word when you spoke just a syllable,

trees – wooden shadows of your veins,

rivers – shifting shadows of your blood,

and stones, stones – stone shadows

of my knee,

which I bend before you and I beg,

give birth to me. Give birth to me.

Old Soldier's Song

The moon is heavy on my face,

my chest, and on my memory,

it will weigh on me like platinum,

until I drop the flag of glory.

Until I bend my knee,

and the tearing makes me scream,

like a narrowing viaduct

that batters trees with stony rain.

Until I lift the heel

I pressed upon your hour,

until it tarnishes, the loneliness

that covers me in silver.

Sad Love Song

Only my life will truly die for me,

but who knows when.

Only grass knows how earth tastes.

Only my blood truly longs

for my heart, as it moves on.

Tall is air, tall is you,

tall is my sadness.

A time will come when horses die.

A time will come when cars rust.

A time will come when rain is cold

and every woman has your head on

and wears your dresses.

A bird will come, large, white,

and lay the egg of the moon.

To Bend the Light

I.

I tried to string the light

like Ulysses strung his bow in the stone hall

of the suitors.

I tried to bend the light

like a branch whose only leaf

was the sun.

But the light, in cold vibration, pulled

off my arms,

and sometimes they grew back,

other times, not.

I tried to pull the light down,

to break it over my knee like a sword,

but the edge slipped from my hands,

and cut off my fingers.

Oh, they fell on the ground

rapping

like a wild spring rain, or

rolling like drums that foretell evil.

And I waited,

and sometimes my fingers

grew back,

other times, not.

And I took the light in my arms

like a tree trunk

and begged permission

to bend it,

but it would tilt just enough

to throw my head against the rocks,

my legs kicking toward the stars,

like two Turkish warlords howling

for a helmet knocked across a battlefield.

II.

I tried to bend the light.

I hung on to it with both hands,

and every evening,

I dropped down to the stones, my head sparking

on impact.

The thick, black oil of nighttime dreams

not blood

spurted from my forehead

and spread around me like a pool,

like a lake rising

against a single shore –

the bone of my brow.

Everything moved far from me,

like the heart, before death.

Everything was closer to me

than a retina wounded by light.

I was on the edge of a black lake

with a single shore

(the bone of my brow)

and I could see through it, like

through a magnifying glass.

III.

I looked through the black glass

of nighttime dreams,

deep into the earth,

where the sun falls in flicks,

and lindens over their shadows,

my hands fell beside smooth stones,

half in darkness, half in light.

My eyelids fell battered

by ancient skies never seen before.

(Outside, a gaze broke

and fell, floating alone.)

The light fell in round spaces

unraveled into shakes and waves,

it hit the edges and unheard

blacker and blacker hummed the sound.

IV.

But corpses fill the depths of the earth

and there is no room, no room, no room

for questions.

Like roots, dead skeletons

twist the quick of the earth, and wring

the lava out, until it loses its mind.

Here there is never room, no room, no room,

even time must enter time

like facing mirrors.

Even memories must enter memories,

and my childhood face

has ten eyes squeezed together,

ready to pile all their images together

in a deadly mound.

I was dizzy, I looked into the quick of the earth –

from every age

hung a body

less and less filled out,

less material,

like a worm cut into bait

to hook the years.

Here there is never room, no room, no room.

The black lens of nighttime dreams

will not reveal even one fissure

where I could lay down

and put a question to rest.

The quick of the earth is full

of homes of corpses,

and there is no room, no room, no room,

for questions.

There are ten skulls in a skull.

There are ten shanks in a shank.

There are ten sockets in an eye socket.

Everything ramifies downward,

an uninterrupted root of bone

that wrings out of itself

black death, black lava,

pits and cores, lost time.

V.

I was trying to string the light

when the bow suddenly straightened