Ode to the Black Panther by Pablo Neruda
11:30 PM

It happened 31 years ago,
I can’t forget it,
in Singapore, the rain
hot like blood
on the ancient white walls
half-eaten by the dampness
that left
leprous kisses on them.
The dark crowd
suddenly glowed
in a flash of lightning,
baring teeth
or eyes
and the steel-like sun
was an implacable sword
in the sky.

I stumbled through flooded streets,
the red Betel nuts
lifting themselves
the beds of fragrant leaves
and the Dorian fruit
rotted away
in the sultry afternoon.

All of a sudden
I faced a stare
coming out of a cage
in the middle of a street,
two icy circles,
two magnets,
two enemy currents,
two eyes
that penetrated my eyes
and nailed me to the earth
and to the leprous wall.

I then saw
the rippling body
and it was
a trace of velvet
flexing perfectly,
darkest night.

Under her black fur
brushed with dust
flashed topaz rhombuses,
or gold hexagons—
I’m not sure which—!
whenever her thin presence moved.

The thinking
in a box
in the middle
of a filthy street.
Out of the jungle
far away from lies,
the stolen spaces,
the bittersweet odor
of humans
and their dust-filled houses
she alone
through her gem-like
her disgust,
her burning hatred,
and those eyes
that closed
a door to the wilderness.

She paced back and forth
like fire and like smoke,
and when she closed her eyes
she became invisible
distant unembraceable night.

[Translated from the Spanish by David Unger]


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

The Script On a Book by Anna Akhmatova
11:22 PM

The given by you - is yours.
Shota Rustavely

From under what deaf ruins I speak rhyme,
From under what an avalanche cry out:
Like I am burning in the white quicklime
Under the volts of chambers underground.

I’ll simulate a winter, mute and lost,
And close, fast, the ever opened entrance,
But they will hear my alone voice,
And trust in it will be their final sentence.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

Love Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda
11:20 PM

I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

Sappho's Poem of Jealousy through various translations
4:21 PM

Sappho was one of the only well-known ancient Greek women poets. Born between 630 and 612 B.C., Sappho lived an affluent life where she spent her days on the isle of Lesbos, writing poetry and studying the arts. Sappho was what was known as a lyrist - a person who wrote poems to be accompanied in performance by a lyre player the music for which Sappho wrote herself.

All of Sappho's poetry, except for one poem, only exist in fragments today. Her poems are available in many different translations that put a slightly different spin on the original meaning.

Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC) was a Latin poet who in his translation of Sappho's Poem of Jealousy inserted the name of his own love (Lesbia). Some of the following versions are actually translated from Catullus’s version of Sappho's poem.

Equal to Jove that youth must be —
Greater than Jove he seems to me —
Who, free from Jealousy’s alarms,
Securely views thy matchless charms.
Ah! Lesbia! though ’tis death to me,
I cannot choose but look on thee;
But, at the sight, my senses fly,
I needs must gaze, but, gazing, die;
Whilst trembling with a thousand fears,
Parch’d to the throat my tongue adheres,
My pulse beats quick, my breath heaves short,
My limbs deny their slight support;
Cold dews my pallid face o’erspread,
With deadly languor droops my head,
My ears with tingling echoes ring,
And life itself is on the wing,
My eyes refuse the cheering light,
Their orbs are veil’d in starless night:
Such pangs my nature sinks beneath,
And feels a temporary death.

Translated by Lord Byron (ca. 1820)

That man is peer of the gods, who
face to face sits listening
to your sweet speech and lovely
It is this that rouses a tumult
in my breast. At mere sight of you
my voice falters, my tongue
     is broken.
Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
my limbs; my eyes
are blinded and my ears
Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
me down. I grow
paler than grass and lack little
     of dying.

Translated by William Carlos Williams (1958)

He must feel blooded with the spirit of a god
to sit opposite you and listen, and reply,
to your talk, your laughter, your touching,
breath-held silences. But what I feel, sitting here
and watching you, so stops my heart and binds
my tongue that I can’t think what I might say
to breach the aureole around you there.
It’s as if someone with flint and stone had sparked
a fire that kindled the flesh along my arms
and smothered me in its smoke-blind rush.
Paler than summer grass, it seems
I am already dead, or little short of dying.

Translated by Sherod Santos (2005)


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

The Act by William Carlos Williams
3:56 PM

There were the roses, in the rain.
Don't cut them, I pleaded.
They won't last, she said.
But they're so beautiful
where they are.
Agh, we were all beautiful once, she said,
and cut them and gave them to me
in my hand.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

Mock Orange by Louise Glück
3:15 PM

It is not the moon, I tell you.
It is these flowers
lighting the yard.
I hate them.
I hate them as I hate sex,
the man's mouth
sealing my mouth, the man's
paralyzing body—
and the cry that always escapes,
the low, humiliating
premise of union—
In my mind tonight
I hear the question and pursuing answer
fused in one sound
that mounts and mounts and then
is split into the old selves,
the tired antagonisms. Do you see?
We were made fools of.
And the scent of mock orange
drifts through the window.
How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

Love Song: I And Thou by Alan Dugan
3:14 PM

Nothing is plumb, level or square:
the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh, I spat rage's nails
into the frame-up of my work:
it held. It settled plumb,
level, solid, square and true
for that great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it, I sawed it,
I nailed it, and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand crosspiece but
I can't do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

A Man Meets A Woman In The Street by Randall Jarrell
3:10 PM

Under the separated leaves of shade
Of the gingko, that old tree
That has existed essentially unchanged
Longer than any other living tree,
I walk behind a woman. Her hair's coarse gold
Is spun from the sunlight that it rides upon.
Women were paid to knit from sweet champagne
Her second skin: it winds and unwinds, winds
Up her long legs, delectable haunches,
As she sways, in sunlight, up the gazing aisle.
The shade of the tree that is called maidenhair,
That is not positively known
To exist in a wild state, spots her fair or almost fair
Hair twisted in a French twist; tall or almost tall,
She walks through the air the rain has washed, a clear thing
Moving easily on its high heels, seeming to men
Miraculous...Since I can call her, as Swann couldn't
A woman who is my type, I follow with the warmth
Of familiarity, of novelty, this new
Example of the type,
Reminded of how Lorenz's just-hatched goslings
Shook off the last remnants of the egg
And, looking at Lorenz, realized that Lorenz
Was their mother. Quaking, his little family
Followed him everywhere; and when they met a goose,
Their mother, they ran to him afraid.

Imprinted upon me
Is the shape I run to, the sweet strange
Breath-taking contours that breathe to me: 'I am yours,
Be mine!'
Following this new
Body, somehow familiar, this young shape, somehow old,
For a moment I'm younger, the century is younger.
the living Strauss, his moustache just getting gray,
Is shouting to the players: 'Louder!
Louder! I can still hear Madame Schumann-Heink-'
Or else, white, bald, the old man's joyfully
Telling conductors they must play Elektra
Like A Midsummer Night's Dream -like a fairy music;
Proust, dying, is swallowing his iced beer
And changing in proof the death of Bergotte
According to his own experience; Garbo,
A commissar in Paris, is listening attentively
To the voice telling how McGillicuddy me McGillivray,
And McGillivray said to McGillicuddy-no, McGillicuddy
Said to McGillivray-that is, McGillivray...Garbo
Says seriously: 'I vish dey'd never met.'

As I walk behind this woman I remember
That before I flew here-waked in the forest
At dawn, by the piece called Birds Beginning Day
That, each day, birds play to begin the day-
I wished as men wish: 'May this day be different!'
The birds were wishing, as birds wish-over and over,
With a last firmness, intensity, reality-
'May this day be the same!'
Ah, turn to me
And look into my eyes, say: 'I am yours,
Be mine!'
My wish will have come true. And yet
When your eyes meet my eyes, they'll bring into
The weightlessness of my pure wish the weight
Of a human being: someone to help or hurt,
Someone to be good to me, to be good to,
Someone to cry when I am angry
that she doesn't like Elektra, someone to start on Proust with.
A wish, come true, is life. I have my life.
When you turn just slide your eyes across my eyes
And show in a look flickering across your face
As lightly as a leaf's shade, a bird's wing,
That there is no one in the world quit like me,
That if only...If only...
That will be enough.

But I've pretended long enough: I walk faster
And come close, touch with the tip of my finger
The nape of her neck, just where the gold
Hair stops, and the champagne-colored dress begins.
My finger touches her as the gingko's shadow
Touches her.
Because, after all, it is my wife
In a new dress from Bergdorf's, walking toward the park.
She cries out, we kiss each other, and walk arm in arm
Through the sunlight that's much too good for New York,
The sunlight of our own house in the forest.
Still, though, the poor things need it...We've no need
To start out on Proust, to ask each other about Strauss.
We first helped each other, hurt each other, years ago.
After so many changes made and joys repeated,
Our first bewildered, transcending recognition
Is pure acceptance. We can't tell our life
From our wish. Really I began the day
Not with a man's wish: 'May this day be different,'
But with the birds' wish: 'May this day
Be the same day, the day of my life.'


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

Lines Written In The MS. Of "The Cap And Bells" by John Keats
12:25 AM

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood,
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm'd. See, here it is—
I hold it towards you.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

Three Sorts Of Serpents Do Resemble Thee by Michael Drayton
12:19 AM

Three sorts of serpents do resemble thee:
That dangerous eye-killing cockatrice,
The enchanting siren, which doth so entice,
The weeping crocodile—these vile pernicious three.
The basilisk his nature takes from thee,
Who for my life in secret wait dost lie,
And to my heart sendst poison from thine eye:
Thus do I feel the pain, the cause, yet cannot see.
Fair-maid no more, but Mer-maid be thy name,
Who with thy sweet alluring harmony
Hast played the thief, and stolen my heart from me,
And like a tyrant makst my grief thy game:
Thou crocodile, who when thou hast me slain,
Lamentst my death, with tears of thy disdain.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

A fragment by the Roman poet Petronius Arbiter, translation by Ben Jonson
12:17 AM


Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not then rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustfull beasts, that onely know to doe it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay,
But thus, thus, keeping endlesse Holy-day,
Let us together closely lie, and kisse,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleas'd, doth please, and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

The Bandaged Shoulder by Constantine Cavafy
8:04 PM

He said he'd hurt himself against a wall or had fallen down.
But there was probably some other reason
for the wounded, the bandaged shoulder. 

With a rather abrupt gesture,
as he reached for a shelf to bring down
some photographs he wanted to look at,
the bandage came undone and a little blood ran. 

I did it up again, taking my time
over the binding; he wasn't in pain
and I liked looking at the blood.
It was a thing of my love, that blood. 

When he left, I found, in front of his chair,
a bloody rag, part of the dressing,
a rag to be thrown straight into the garbage;
and I put it to my lips
and kept it there a long while—
the blood of love against my lips.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps

The Burning Boy
9:14 PM

Young Casabianca, a boy about thirteen years old, son of the admiral of the Orient, remained at his post (in the Battle of the Nile), after the ship had taken fire, and all the guns had been abandoned; and perished in the explosion of the vessel, when the flames had reached the powder. 

Casabianca by Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form.

The flames roll'd on...he would not go
Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He call'd aloud..."Say, father,say
If yet my task is done!"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

"Speak, father!" once again he cried
"If I may yet be gone!"
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames roll'd on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death,
In still yet brave despair;

And shouted but one more aloud,
"My father, must I stay?"
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud
The wreathing fires made way,

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And stream'd above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound...
The boy-oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea.

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part;
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.

Casabianca by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite "The boy stood on
the burning deck." Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.
Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolboy platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy.


tea with sugar gives me the cramps