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Poetry: Faculty and Staff Favorites

Faculty and Staff Favorites

Lapis Lazuli


(for Harry Clifton)


I have heard that hysterical women say

They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,

Of poets that are always gay,

For everybody knows or else should know

That if nothing drastic is done

Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out,

Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in

Until the town lie beaten flat.

All perform their tragic play,

There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,

That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;

Yet they, should the last scene be there,

The great stage curtain about to drop,

If worthy their prominent part in the play,

Do not break up their lines to weep.

They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;

Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.

All men have aimed at, found and lost;

Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:

Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.

Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,

And all the drop scenes drop at once

Upon a hundred thousand stages,

It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.

On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,

Camel-back, horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,

Old civilisations put to the sword.

Then they and their wisdom went to rack:

No handiwork of Callimachus

Who handled marble as if it were bronze,

Made draperies that seemed to rise

When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;

His long lamp chimney shaped like the stem

Of a slender palm, stood but a day;

All things fall and are built again

And those that build them again are gay.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,

Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,

Over them flies a long-legged bird

A symbol of longevity;

The third, doubtless a serving-man,

Carries a musical instrument.

Every discolouration of the stone,

Every accidental crack or dent

Seems a water-course or an avalanche,

Or lofty slope where it still snows

Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch

Sweetens the little half-way house

Those Chinamen climb towards, and I

Delight to imagine them seated there;

There, on the mountain and the sky,

On all the tragic scene they stare.

One asks for mournful melodies;

Accomplished fingers begin to play.

Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,

Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

Tribal Music

by Sherman Alexie

Watching PBS, it occurs
To me that I want to be
Yo Yo Ma’s cello.

Hello! Does this mean
That I’m sexually attracted
To Yo Yo Ma? Nah,

He’s cute and thin
Looks great in a tux,
And makes the big bucks,

But I long to be simultaneously
As strong and fragile
As the cello. I want to be

The union of fingertip
And string. I want less
To be a timorous human

And desire more
To become a solid
Wooden thing, warm

To the touch but much
Colder when left
Alone in my case. I need

To flee the mystery
Of mortality and insanity
And become that space

Between the notes.
I no longer want to be the root
Cause of anybody’s pain,

Especially my own.
O, Yo Yo Ma, I hem
And haw, but let’s be clear:

I want to abandon
My sixteen-drum fear
And inhabit the pause

That happens between falling
In love and collapsing
Because of love. I want

To be sane. I want to be
Clean and visionary
Like a windowpane.

O Me! O Life!


Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.


La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.

— Charles Baudelaire


Nature is a temple in which living pillars 
Sometimes give voice to confused words; 
Man passes there through forests of symbols 
Which look at him with understanding eyes.

Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance 
In a deep and tenebrous unity, 
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day, 
Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.

There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
— And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,

With power to expand into infinity,
Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin, 
That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.

— William Aggeler

A Patio

At evening
they grow weary, the patio's two or three colours.
Tonight, the moon, bright circle,
fails to dominate space.
Patio, channel of sky.
The patio is the slope
down which sky flows into the house.
eternity waits at the crossroad of stars.
It's pleasant to live in the friendly dark
of entrance-way, arbour, and cistern. 
-- Jorge Luis Borges




Separation by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.



If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

From Traveling at Home
by Wendell Berry


Even in a country you know by heart

It’s hard to go the same way twice.

The life of the going changes;

the chances change and make a new way.

Any tree or stone or bird

Can be the bud of a new direction”

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

The Second Coming


Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Among School Children


I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and history,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way—the children's eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.
I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire, a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy—
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato's parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.
And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t'other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age—
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler's heritage—
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.
Her present image floats into the mind—
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once—enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.
What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?
Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.
Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother's reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts—O Presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise—
O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
W. B. Yeats, “Among School Children” from The Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition, edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright 1933 by Macmillan Publishing Company, renewed © 1961 by Georgie Yeats. Reprinted with the permission of A. P. Watt, Ltd. on behalf of Michael Yeats.
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Wallace Stevens, "The Snow Man" from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens and renewed 1982 by Holly Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. 

Source: Poetry magazine (1921)



This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold 

To A Stranger Born In Some Distant Country Hundreds Of Years From Now  
by  Billy Collins

Nobody here likes a wet dog.
No one wants anything to do with a dog
that is wet from being out in the rain
or retrieving a stick from a lake.
Look how she wanders around the crowded pub tonight
going from one person to another
hoping for a pat on the head, a rub behind the ears,
something that could be given with one hand
without even wrinkling the conversation.

But everyone pushes her away,
some with a knee, others with the sole of a boot.


Even the children, who don’t realize she is wet
until they go to pet her,
push her away
then wipe their hands on their clothes.
And whenever she heads toward me,
I show her my palm, and she turns aside.

O stranger of the future!
O inconceivable being!
whatever the shape of your house,
no matter how strange and colorless the clothes you
may wear,
I bet nobody there likes a wet dog either.
I bet everybody in your pub
even the children, pushes her away


The Unicorn
by Shel Silverstein

A long time ago, when the earth was green
And there was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen,
And they run around free while the world was bein' born,
And the lovliest of all was the Unicorn.

There was green alligators and long-neck geese.
There was humpy bumpy camels and chimpanzees.
There was catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
The lovliest of all was the Unicorn.

But the Lord seen some sinnin', and it caused him pain.
He says, "Stand back, I'm gonna make it rain."
He says, "Hey Brother Noah, I'll tell ya whatcha do.
Go and build me a floatin' zoo.

And you take two alligators and a couple of geese,
Two humpy bumpy camels and two chimpanzees.
Take two catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
Noah, don't you forget my Unicorn."

Now Noah was there, he answered the callin'
And he finished up the ark just as the rain was fallin'. He marched in the animals two by two,
And he called out as they went through,

"Hey Lord, I got your two alligators adn your couple of geese,
Your humpy bumpy camels and your chimpanzees.
Got your catsandratsandelephants -- but Lord, I'm so forlorn
'Cause I just don't see no Unicorn."

Ol' Noah looked out through the drivin' rain
But the Unicorns were hidin', playin' silly games.
They were kickin' and splashin' in the misty morn,
Oh them silly Unicorn.

The the goat started goatin', and the snake started snakin',
The elephant started elephantin', and the boat started shaking'.
The mouse started squeakin', and the lion started roarin',
And everyone's abourd but the Unicorn.
I mean the green alligators and the long-neck geese,
The humpy bumpy camels and the chimpanzees.
Noah cried, "Close the door 'cause the rain is pourin'--
And we just can't wait for them Unicorn."

Then the ark started movin', and it drifted with the tide,
And the Unicorns looked up from the rock and cried.
And the water come up and sort of floated them away--
That's why you've never seen a Unicorn to this day.

You'll see a lot of alligators and a whole mess of geese.
You'll see humpy bumpy camels and lots of chimpanzees.
You'll see catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
You're never gonna see no Unicorn


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
      And the mome raths outgrabe. 
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun 
      The frumious Bandersnatch!” 
He took his vorpal sword in hand; 
      Long time the manxome foe he sought— 
So rested he by the Tumtum tree 
      And stood awhile in thought. 
And, as in uffish thought he stood, 
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, 
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, 
      And burbled as it came! 
One, two! One, two! And through and through 
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! 
He left it dead, and with its head 
      He went galumphing back. 
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? 
      Come to my arms, my beamish boy! 
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” 
      He chortled in his joy. 
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

by Robert Frost


Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry -
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there's a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods' excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone's road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you're lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left's no bigger than a harness gall.
First there's the children's house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny's
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it,
So can't get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn't.
(I stole the goblet from the children's playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion. 

“The Unnecessary”  by Karen Murai

A shoe full of water left on a porch,
almost menacing like a swing
that begins to move by itself.
So unnecessary and yet you’d
hate to move it. It seems to
have a purpose, it snatches
from you something like open-
mouthed sleep. Though it’s really,
only, just sitting there
like a hand in a lap.
Funny how the unnecessary
can seem so important,
expanding, contracting,
cleaning itself. Whatever it is,
it won’t let us in. It folds
inside itself like a dying star,
in a way it’s superior, as
original as every murder.
You’d like to take it home somehow
and set it on a table, but
you collide with its intentions,
you’d tickle it to nothing.
Better just to walk by.
It’s an accident seen at a
distance, just a curl of smoke
high in the sky.
Walk up the steps and let the
screen door slam behind you.
It will be something you mention.

In a Tree House 
by Hafiz



Will someday split you open

Even if your life is now a cage,


For a divine seed, the crown of destiny, 

Is hidden and sown on an ancient fertile plain

You hold the title to.


Love will surely bust you wide open

Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy


Even if your mind is now 

A spoiled mule.


A life giving radiance will come,

The Friend’s gratuity will come -


O look again within yourself,

For I know you were once the elegant host 

To all the marvels in creation.


From a sacred crevice in your body

A bow rises each night

And shoots your soul into God.


Behold the Beautiful Drunk Singing One

From the lunar vantage point of love.


He is conducting the affairs 

Of the whole universe


While throwing wild parties

In a tree house - on a limb

In your heart.

The Red Wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams1883 - 1963

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The Night Abraham Called to the Stars
by Robert Bly

Do you remember the night Abraham first saw
The stars? He cried to Saturn: "You are my Lord!"
How happy he was! When he saw the Dawn Star,

He cried, ""You are my Lord!" How destroyed he was
When he watched them set. Friends, he is like us:
We take as our Lord the stars that go down.

We are faithful companions to the unfaithful stars.
We are diggers, like badgers; we love to feel
The dirt flying out from behind our back claws.

And no one can convince us that mud is not 
Beautiful. It is our badger soul that thinks so.
We are ready to spend the rest of our life

Walking with muddy shoes in the wet fields.
We resemble exiles in the kingdom of the serpent.
We stand in the onion fields looking up at the night.

My heart is a calm potato by day, and a weeping
Abandoned woman by night. Friend, tell me what to do,
Since I am a man in love with the setting stars.

Mereces un amor que te quiera despeinada
by Frida Kahlo

Mereces un amor que te quiera despeinada,
incluso con las razones que te levantan de prisa
y con todo y los demonios que no te dejan dormir.

Mereces un amor que te haga sentir segura,
que pueda comerse al mundo si camina de tu mano,
que sienta que tus abrazos van perfectos con su piel.

Mereces un amor que quiera bailar contigo,
que visite el paraíso cada vez que ve tus ojos
y que no se aburra nunca de leer tus expresiones.

Mereces un amor que te escuche cuando cantas,
que te apoye en tus ridículos,
que respete que eres libre,
que te acompañe en tu vuelo,
que no le asuste caer.

Mereces un amor que se lleve las mentiras,
que te traiga la ilusión,
el café
y la poesía.

by Sharon Olds

(for Henry Averell Gerry, 1941-60) 

I hardly know how to speak to you now,
you are so young now, closer to my daughter's age
than mine -- but I have been there and seen it, and must
tell you, as the seeing and hearing
spell the world into the deaf-mute's hand.
The tiny dormer windows like the ears of a fox, like the
long row of teats on a pig, still
perk up over the Square, though they're digging up the
street now, as if digging a grave,
the shovels shrieking on stone like your car
sliding along on its roof after the crash.
How I wanted everyone to die I if you had to die,
how sealed into my own world I was,
deaf and blind. What can I tell you now,
now that I know so much and you are a 
freshman still, drinking a quart of orange juice and
playing three sets of tennis to cure a hangover, such an
ardent student of the grown-ups! I can tell you
we were right, our bodies were right, life was
pleasurable in every cell.
Suddenly I remember the exact look of your body, but
better than the bright corners of your eyes, or the
puppy-fat of your thighs, or the slick
chino of your pants bright in the corners of my eyes, I 
remember your extraordinary act of courage in
loving me, something no one but the
blind and halt had done before. You were
fearless, you could drive after a sleepless night
just like a grown-up, and not be afraid, you could
fall asleep at the wheel easily and
never know it, each blond hair of your head -- and they were
thickly laid -- put out like a filament of light,
twenty years ago. The Charles still
slides by with that ease as your death was hard,
wanted all things broken and rigid as the
bricks in the sidewalk or your love for me
stopped cell by cell in your young body,
Ave -- I went ahead and had the children,
the life of ease and faithfulness,
the palm and the breast, every millimeter of delight in the body.
I took the road we stood on at the start together, I
took it all without you as if
in taking it after all I could
most honor you.

А. С. Пушкин

(из Египетских Ночей)

Поэт идет — открыты вежды, Но он не видит никого;

А между тем за край одежды Прохожий дергает его...

«Скажи: зачем без цели бродишь? Едва достиг ты высоты,

И вот уж долу взор низводишь И низойти стремишься ты.

На стройный мир ты смотришь смутно; Бесплодный жар тебя томит;

Предмет ничтожный поминутно Тебя тревожит и манит.

Стремиться к небу должен гений, Обязан истинный поэт

Для вдохновенных песнопений Избрать возвышенный предмет».

— Зачем крутится ветр в овраге, Подъемлет лист и пыль несет, Когда корабль в недвижной влаге Его дыханья жадно ждет?

Зачем от гор и мимо башен Летит орел, тяжел и страшен, На чахлый пень? Спроси его. Зачем арапа своего

Младая любит Дездемона, Как месяц любит ночи мглу? Затем, что ветру и орлу

И сердцу девы нет закона. Таков поэт: как Аквилон, Что хочет, то и носит он — Орлу подобно, он летает И, не спросясь ни у кого, Как Дездемона, избирает Кумир для сердца своего.


A. S. Pushkin

(from Egyptian Night)

A poet walks – with seers open, But his sensations take no note;

And meanwhile random strangers often Disturb a button on his coat ...

“Tell: What's the purpose of your roaming? Once having reached a proper height, You, in a manner most ironic,

Would suddenly reduce your sight. Relentless fever burns you vainly, The world of symmetry appalls; Unworthy subjects nightly, daily Excite your mind and move your soul. A talent must aspire for beauty.

A poet of your self-esteem Has, as a matter of his duty, To find a dignifying theme.”

– Why would the wind apply its prowess To sweeping heaps of dusty leaves, Whereas a brig awaits its powers Amidst the moist of breathless seas?

Why would, all hills beside and castles, The eagle, bold and dreadful, hustle  To guard a stump? Inquire of it!

Why, full of youth, and charm, and wit, Would Desdemona love her moor as The Moon adores the gloom of night? Because no wind's blast, eagle's flight, Or maiden's heart abides by orders ... Such is the poet: Much like winds,

He picks whatever suits his whims, – Like eagles, he is freely soaring,

And – heeding neither rich nor smart – Like Desdemona, for adoring, Appoints an idol of his heart.

Translated by Alexander Givental and Elysee Wilson-Egolf

Борис Пастернак by Boris Pasternak  1956 Translated by Alexander Givental

Быть знаменитым некрасиво.

Не это подымает ввысь.

Не надо заводить архива,

Над рукописями трястись.

Цель творчества  самоотдача,

А не шумиха, не успех.

Позорно ничего не знача,

Быть притчей на устах у всех.

Но надо жить без самозванства,

Так жить, что бы в конце концов

Привлечь к себе любовь пространства,

Услышать будущего зов.

И надо оставлять пробелы

В судьбе, а не среди бумаг,

Места и главы жизни целой

Отчеркивая на полях.

И окунаться в неизвестность,

И прятать в ней свои шаги,

Как прячется в тумане местность,

Когда в ней не видать ни зги.

Другие по живому следу

Пройдут твой путь за пядью пядь,

Но пораженья от победы

Ты сам не должен отличать.

И должен ни единой долькой

Не отступаться от лица,

Но быть живым, живым и только,

Живым и только до конца.

To be renowned is not a virtue.

That's not what's lifting us aloft.

Don't tag your papers for the future,

Don't quiver over every draft.

Creation is an act of sharing,

And not a way of making fuss.

It is disgracing, being barren,

To be a theme of people's buzz.

And you should strive not for perfection,

But should endeavor, after all,

To win the genuine affection

Of space, to hear the future's call.

And you should indicate omissions

In your own fate, not your archive,

With chapters destined for revision

Marked on the margins of your life,

And deepen into the obscureness,

And hide your footsteps in its turf,

As a terrain conceals its surface

In fog, when light does not return.

Your followers will put on trial

Your every step from end to start.

But you yourself should not your triumphs

And losses try to tell apart,

And not allow a tiny fraction

Of give-and-take with your intent,

But be alive in every action,

In every action, to the end.