June 07, 2012

A word drops into the mist like a child's ball into high grass where it remains intermittently visible, seductively flashing and glinting until the gold bursts are revealed to be simply field buttercups. Word/mist, word/mist—thus it was with me. And yet, my silence was never total— Like a curtain rising on a vista, sometimes the mist cleared: alas, the game was over. The game was over and the word had been somewhat flattened by the elements so it was now both recovered and useless.  I was renting, at the time, a house in the country. Fields and mountains had replaced tall buildings. Fields, co

The Wife
June 07, 2012

She was nothing. I was she. Even though she understood, the pouring of silvery light into the kitchen each brisk newlywed morning, the crackling of loaves being lifted from the stone, the blackness of tea made days unfold as if divinely scripted, as if all were a discipline, universally obeyed. The lack of plans, the hunger of the ocean, the slight uncertainty about necessities created neither fear nor worry; all who were officially we would find their way. A man would protect his home.

Flames of Goodness
May 30, 2012

THE POLISH POET Cyprian Norwid—though he is known to his compatriots as an artist of the highest eminence and read by schoolchildren in Poland almost

Should the Night
May 18, 2012

Should the night approach your window— go to him naked.  He will flow and darken gently around your hushing beauty, and touch the line of your breasts.  I will stand with him, lost and mutely yearning: come to our darkness.  And your eyes will travel ahead of us giving light for me and my friend. 1923 —Translated from Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier. This poem appeared in the June 7, 2012 issue of the magazine.

How, Beloved
May 18, 2012

How, beloved, can I watch you stand alone in sorrow’s storms, and my heart not tremble? Already a profound night, blacker than the black of your eyes, falls silently upon the universe.  Already it has touched your curls--  Rise up. My hand will hold your dreaming hand and lead you slowly in between the nights. Through the pale mists of childhood my father thus guided me to the house of worship. 1923 —Translated from the Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier. This poem appeared in the June 7, 2012 issue of the magazine.     

Among Schoolchildren
May 04, 2012

The one-story houses were painted aqua, violet, orange, pistachio. I spoke to the taxi driver in broken Spanish. I was becoming a priest, I told him, God willing—Soy un sacerdote (the tense wrong, the article unnecessary, the r rolled too strong)— as we drove over ruts, pot holes, and alongside hungry dogs. Much of the taxi’s interior had been removed. Time slowed that summer in San Pedro Sula. Around the rotary, legless men shook their tambourines, epileptics convulsed, and the blind tapped their sticks through donkey excrement.

Mount Vulture
May 04, 2012

Not quite death from above. Just a shadow thrown down across the homes below. Not even drowning traffic lights in dark or fire, the volcano long cooled and hardened over. Science has taken our superstitions, our tales of ghosts and lights from God, given us desire to push a broken body to a century’s door. There is a hint of the outside scene through the window blinds, but there’s no way to make out the full image. As a child I tried to master the principles of illusion. Mainly of depth and shading in art.

April 20, 2012

Yes, I remember that wall in our demolished town. It jutted almost up to the fifth floor. A mirror hung on the fourth, an impossible mirror, unshattered, firmly attached. It didn't reflect anybody's face, no hands arranging hair, no door across the room, nothing you could call a place. As if it were on vacation— the living sky gazed in it, busy clouds in the wild air, the dust of rubble washed by shining rains, birds in flight, stars, sunrises.  And like any well-made object, it functioned flawlessly, with an expert lack of astonishment. ­ —Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Baranczak

Mare Incognitum
April 20, 2012

That I can’t recall my first glimpse of my mother: Alien-eyed, wrapped in alien cloth, how could I? Once she held me she just was my mother. That’s just how it goes. This is just one of many Beautiful moments I’ve been a part of but can’t (And won’t ever) remember. That’s just life, I guess.  The void. That’s just a part of life: some hidden cave Sunk deep in the mind and built for Beautiful But Can’t Remember. I saw it once: here dissolving,  There reassembling like gleaned second-long seasons. And for what reason? I just don't know. Years asking Myself, Why? Why can we not remember this?

Poems and Persons
April 10, 2012

Being Numerous takes up the long and quixotic history of poets with ambitions as outsized as Yeats’s, such as George Oppen, Frank O’Hara, and a big gr