Live without pretenses, live So that, finally, You draw towards yourself the love Of space, hear the future.*
One should walk along the beach
and see winter spacing itself between
people, but don’t fill in the gaps. Leave them
to chance and feel the sand between your toes,
sinking into soft ambiguity. Others may find your
path, step inside, perhaps, but keep to yours,
seaweed on one side and the tide, inching
closer, on the other until your paths
converge (it won’t retreat or apologise)
and your feet are fully submerged.
Your footprints will disappear without trace
and, finally, you can say I live.
I may walk this beach again, but, until then,
I live in the margins of time and place.
*Boris Pasternak, “To be famous isn’t decent” Translation by Bob Perelman and Kathy Lewis in Glad and Weissbort (1978),Russian Poetry: The Modern Period
The fairy was past caring
and – half-dazed – smiled.
Captain America swung on his thread,
ready to catch her. It was a good idea
to put the tree near the window. See the crystals
catch the light and the clouds.
At night, I dream of you. You do what I do,
which is odd, but the brain gathers
and tends to both memory and fantasy the same.
Nobody thinks twice or makes sense.
Planes carry on taxiing down country lanes
trimming hedges with their wings.
In Spring, I finally hear them. Green tree frogs.
I’ve never seen one nor waded into their bogs,
or the odd swimming pool, or the marshes and creeks
where they croak, incessantly, like cicadas, for weeks,
(only when they’re silent, the sun might hide behind
a cloud, can I really hear the din). I should find
hundreds of them, the whole choir. Now, they’re gone,
the heat’s dried up the little brook. There’s none
in the garden, but still I look and see the sun cleave
a path through the weeping willow. I must leave
everything behind and listen. Barefoot, I tread
with nothing but the ghost of singing in my head.
I cartwheeled over the sea and
saw you waving from a bus at me.
I jumped aboard and yelled come play
with the light over the bays and
the clouds whispering with the planes.
Let’s clamber through the pipes
and balance on the poems in the streets.
Climb the statues and skim the marina
with me. Let’s peek through our fingers
at paintings and play hide and seek
with the tour guide. We’ll paint
with light and waves. Hop off, hold
hands, run and see what we will see.
Take a look and please understand
that you will not be allowed to
close the box until you see all
its contents and tell me that
you understand everything you see.
You cannot proceed until you have
looked inside the box. This message
will not disappear until you tell me
that you understand. You cannot pretend
you didn’t see. You cannot pretend
you did not understand. You cannot
not understand so please tell me
that you understand. Okay? I want
to make sure you know. You can learn
more, but you cannot close and walk away.
Look at the painting before you
read the text. See gold. Light.
A blue jug. A still life. Purple
and bronze. Stand back and look.
Don’t be tempted by the text.
Your hands tunneling my sight.
Your breath on my neck. Now say. Gold, light, a blue jug, a still life.
Now read the title to the side.
Come here please, Frost, that last sonnet you wrote
wasn’t good enough. I’ll be meeting
with your parents next week, won’t I?
Furthermore, I don’t think it’s a good idea
to sit next to Robert Burns anymore.
Sit at the back of the class today and don’t annoy
Sylvia on the way. Thank you.
Mr Stevens, is something interesting?
Right, a timed poem called An Orange.
You have 35 minutes. Excuse me, Mr Eliot!
Would you stop looking over your shoulder
at whatever it is William is doing? Pardon?
A bit of intertextuality? Not in my classroom.
Mr Poe? Hello? Mr Poe?
Stop looking out of the window, Whitman!
You may begin.
At last! New mountain air after rains.
Autumnal moon pours through pines.
Spring rushes over stones, crystalline.
Ruffled bamboos return noisy bathers’ glee
as fishing boats release lotus flowers’ full glory.
Be still, my friend, and stay with me!
You can read David Hinton’s translation of Wang Wei’s poem and Carol Rumens’s commentary at Poem of the Week here.