Click here to read golden Shakespeare’s Sonnet 31.
Let Them Hold You
by Asher Blake
Suddenly the warbler stops his singing;
taken like a message under a seal,
her milky thigh inked with a bird,
silent upon the white cliff faces
of her alabster thigh; off somewhere,
like a bird she is gone.
From some perch in the brambles
of the jealous gut
our songbird has flown.
In a swarm of parting,
my hand is nested in barbed wire.
The california highways wind
against the hills which themselves
sift through the sieve of fortune.
They are an armada of gauze
advancing without noise;
that bear silver horns to sound out victory.
They are a world that birds trash in death
but levitate in morning’s glory,
those blue hill bathers
cloaked in shadows, moving
like oars in a shallow sea.
Fullness of knowledge in a seed
so they may sing the entirety
as a cosmos in a seraph wing.
With fury I stamp my bed,
its bull backed hours,
and cast her bra for shelter
over the clockface.
And I tear the package of slavish
heraldry with my teeth,
open my root,
bite at my young manhood
and spill myself like fish eggs on a hook.
In three years I will go homeless
like deer through the city.
Come now you horned night,
black coffee sitting
like a delirious bull in the heat,
full highways will pass back this way
and the melons will be sold again;
and women worn down by sweet desire
make their rugged men drown,
stroking the sea,
freeform in passage;
and my sister
migrating in the West
will appear on the vine,
her grapes wrapped in bitter thorns.
The hills hold her in their lap
a world so flighty and blue
like another sinking navy.
I take my brush of turpentine
and revise the roads that lead away,
erase until my shepherd dog
begins to twitch in sleep,
and I, like Mars on a war field,
reddened with the wealth of the country,
turn and color everything back in.
Here Carolyn Kizer has appropriated themes from the Midnight Songs, (both a genre and anthology, “Tzu Yeh”) and also the Book of Songs anthology, both from the Classical Chinese tradition. However her work is as fresh as the best direct translations of Classical Chinese poetry I have read. (The Chinese and Japanese translations of Kenneth Rexroth I recommend wholeheartedly.) Best to just read her poem instead of my prattling.
These are sections 3-30 of James Joyce’s long poem, Chamber Music, which comprised his first book. Published in 1907, Joyce of course became famous for his novels and short stories and his poetry has unfortunately been largely forgotten.
The Poetry Foundation has written that Chamber Music was noticed by Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, “and included in Pound’s influential Imagist Anthology of 1914. Pound wrote of Chamber Music: “the quality and distinction of the poems in the first half…is due in part to their author’s strict musical training…the wording is Elizabethan, the metres at times suggesting Herrick.’ Known as a lyric poet, Joyce based some of his poems on songs. His poems have been set to music by composers including Geoffrey Moyneux Palmer, Ross Lee Finney, Samuel Barber, and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, as well as the group Sonic Youth.”
Sections 3-30 of 36 total
At that hour when all things have repose,
O lonely watcher of the skies,
When the shy star goes forth in heaven
All maidenly, disconsolate,
Lean out of the window,
I would in that sweet bosom be
(O sweet it is and fair it is!)
My love is in a light attire
Among the apple-trees,
Who goes amid the green wood
With springtide all adorning her?
Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
Dancing a ring-around in glee
Bright cap and streamers,
He sings in the hollow:
Bid adieu, adieu, adieu,
Bid adieu to girlish days,
What counsel has the hooded moon
Put in thy heart, my shyly sweet,
Go seek her out all courteously,
And say I come,
My dove, my beautiful one,
From dewy dreams, my soul, arise,
From love’s deep slumber and from death,
O cool is the valley now
And there, love, will we go
Because your voice was at my side
I gave him pain,
O Sweetheart, hear you
Your lover’s tale;
Be not sad because all men
Prefer a lying clamour before you:
In the dark pine-wood
I would we lay,
He who hath glory lost, nor hath
Found any soul to fellow his,
Of that so sweet imprisonment
My soul, dearest, is fain–
This heart that flutters near my heart
My hope and all my riches is,
Silently she’s combing,
Combing her long hair
Lightly come or lightly go:
Though thy heart presage thee woe,
Thou leanest to the shell of night,
Dear lady, a divining ear.
Though I thy Mithridates were,
Framed to defy the poison-dart,
Gentle lady, do not sing
Sad songs about the end of love;
Dear heart, why will you use me so?
Dear eyes that gently me upbraid,
Love came to us in time gone by
When one at twilight shyly played
Portrait With Flashlight
from Five Portraits
by Donald Justice
What lonely aisles you prowled
In search of the forbidden,
Blinking your usher’s torch,
Firefly of the balconies!
And when you found it – love! –
It was to pure French horns
Soaring above the plains
Of Saturday’s Westerns.
The defiant eyes laughing
Into the sudden beam,
The soft Mexican curses.
The stains, the crushed corsages…
Off, off with those bright buttons,
Poor spy. Your heart’s as dark
As theirs was and it speaks
With the same broken accent.
Girls read it in your eyes now
And ask for your autograph.
They torture you for secrets.
And you give them poems,
Poems with hair slicked back,
Smelling of bay rum, sweat,
And hot buttered popcorn.