Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blog Exodus Day 14: Praise

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

By Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June's long days,

and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.

The nettles that methodically overgrow

the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

You must praise the mutilated world.

You watched the stylish yachts and ships;

one of them had a long trip ahead of it,

while salty oblivion awaited others.

You've seen the refugees going nowhere,

you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

Remember the moments when we were together

in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

You gathered acorns in the park in autumn

and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.

Praise the mutilated world

and the gray feather a thrush lost,

and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

and returns.

Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Link replaced with text due to brokenness.

Thanks for following my poetic exploration of the Exodus! A happy holiday to all who celebrate.

Blog Exodus Day 13: Accept

Brief Eden

Related Poem Content Details

For part of one strange year we lived 
in a small house at the edge of a wood. 
No neighbors, which suited us. Nobody 
to ask questions. Except 
for the one big question we went on 
asking ourselves.
                         That spring 
myriads of birds stopped over
briefly. Birds we’d never seen before, drawn 
to our leafy quiet and our brook and because, 
as we later learned, the place lay beneath 
a flyway. Flocks appeared overnight—birds 
brilliant or dull, with sharp beaks
or crossed bills, birds small 
and enormous, all of them pausing 
to gorge at the feeder, to rest their wings, 
and disappear. Each flock seemed surer than we 
of a destination. By the time we’d watched them 
wing north in spring, then make 
an anxious autumn return, 
we too had pulled it together and we too moved 
into what seemed to be our lives.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blog Exodus Day 12: Discover

Discovery Of The World

Your name has been entered in all the books.
The ticker-tape leaps, the orators
Flip coins for their first try at you.
The gamblers eye you as they would an ace.

They have heard of the hollow of your back
And of your recent discovery of the world,
How you have ten fingers, perfect if small,
And ten toes as agile as ten fingers.

And they are already standing on your doorstep.
They are dressed up to look like candy,
Their eyes can open and shut like dolls,
Their hands are cold, cold as cold cash.

What great plans they have for you,
For your questions and your spindling legs!
Your mind clack-clack and muscles clack-clack
Going and gone under the auctioneer's hammer!

So that your eyes, in which the sky could be lost,
Must at last narrow to scan the face of evil:
For early, so early, too early
The bargainers have seized upon your name.
--Naomi Replansky

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Blog Exodus Day 11: Rejoice

Wet-weather Talk

By James Whitcomb Riley

It hain't no use to grumble and complane;

It's jest as cheap and easy to rejoice.— 

When God sorts out the weather and sends rain, 

W'y rain's my choice. 

Men ginerly, to all intents— 

Although they're apt to grumble some— 

Puts most theyr trust in Providence, 

And takes things as they come— 

That is, the commonality 

Of men that's lived as long as me 

Has watched the world enugh to learn 

They're not the boss of this concern. 

With some, of course, it's different— 

I've saw young men that knowed it all, 

And didn't like the way things went 

On this terrestchul ball;— 

But all the same, the rain, some way, 

Rained jest as hard on picnic day; 

Er, when they railly wanted it, 

It mayby wouldn't rain a bit! 

In this existunce, dry and wet 

Will overtake the best of men— 

Some little skift o' clouds'll shet 

The sun off now and then.— 

And mayby, whilse you're wundern who 

You've fool-like lent your umbrell' to, 

And want it—out'll pop the sun, 

And you'll be glad you hain't got none! 

It aggervates the farmers, too— 

They's too much wet, er too much sun, 

Er work, er waitin' round to do 

Before the plowin' 's done: 

And mayby, like as not, the wheat, 

Jest as it's lookin' hard to beat, 

Will ketch the storm—and jest about 

The time the corn's a-jintin' out. 

These-here cy-clones a-foolin' round— 

And back'ard crops!—and wind and rain!— 

And yit the corn that's wallerd down 

May elbow up again!— 

They hain't no sense, as I can see, 

Fer mortuls, sech as us, to be 

A-faultin' Natchur's wise intents, 

And lockin' horns with Providence! 

It hain't no use to grumble and complane;

It's jest as cheap and easy to rejoice.— 

When God sorts out the weather and sends rain, 

W'y, rain's my choice

Blog Exodus Day 10 (late): Unite

Lo, I will send to you
The prophet Elijah 
The coming of The Eternal's Day
Awesome and Terrible!
Who shall reconcile parents with children 
And the hearts of children with their parents, 
So that, when I come, 
I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction.
Lo, I will send to you

The prophet Elijah 
The coming of God's Day

Awesome and Terrible!
-From Malachi 3:23ff

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Blog Exodus Day 9: Perplex

to the sea


You who cannot hear or cannot know

the terrible intricacies of our species, our minds,

the extent to which we have done

what we have done, & yet the depth to which

we have loved

what we have

loved — 

the hillside

at dawn, dark eyes

outlined with the dark

sentences of kohl,

the fūl we shared

beneath the lime tree at the general’s house

after visiting Goitom in prison for trying to leave

the country (the first time),

the apricot color of camels racing

on the floor of the world

as the fires blazed in celebration of Independence.

How dare I move into the dark space of your body

carrying my dreams, without an invitation, my dreams

wandering in ellipses, pet goats or chickens

devouring your yard & shirts.

Sea, my oblivious afterworld,

grant us entry, please, when we knock,

but do not keep us there, deliver

our flowers & himbasha bread.

Though we can’t imagine, now, what

our dead might need,

& above all can’t imagine it is over

& that they are, in fact, askless, are

needless, in fact, still hold somewhere

the smell of coffee smoking

in the house, please,

the memory of joy

fluttering like a curtain in an open window

somewhere inside the brain’s secret luster

where a woman, hands red with henna,

beats the carpet clean with the stick of a broom

& the children, in the distance, choose stones

for the competition of stones, & the summer

wears a crown of beles in her green hair & the tigadelti’s

white teeth & the beautiful bones of Massawa,

the gaping eyes & mouths of its arches

worn clean by the sea, your breath & your salt.

Please, you,

being water too,

find a way into the air & then

the river & the spring

so that your waters can wash the elders,

with the medicine of the dreaming of their children,

cold & clean.

Source: Poetry (April 2016)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Blog Exodus Day 8: Deepen

The cup of Eliyahu

In life you had a temper.
Your sarcasm was a whetted knife.
Sometimes you shuddered with fear
but you made yourself act no matter
how few stood with you.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
Now you return to us
in rough times, out of smoke
and dust that swirls blinding us.
You come in vision, you come
in lightning on blackness.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
In every generation you return
speaking what few want to hear
words that burn us, that cut
us loose so we rise and go again
over the sharp rocks upward.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
You come as a wild man,
as a homeless sidewalk orator,
you come as a woman taking the bima,
you come in prayer and song,
you come in a fierce rant.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that she may come in.
Prophecy is not a gift, but
sometimes a curse, Jonah
refusing. It is dangerous
to be right, to be righteous.
To stand against the wall of might.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
There are moments for each
of us when you summon, when
you call the whirlwind, when you
shake us like a rattle: then we
too must become you and rise.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that we may come in.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Blog Exodus Day 7 Part II: Examine

The So-called Singer of Nab

They have left behind the established cave
with its well-worn floor. Scholarship impels them
in hundreds, but generally one by one,
to find an unknown passage or scrape out their own.
Proto-Semitic linguistic theory,
Hittite stratigraphic anomalies,
microclimatic economics. "What do you see?"
invisible followers ask in their ears,
and they whisper "Wonderful things" as they quarry
a grain of rock at a time, or examine
a fleck of ore, or measure
the acidity of a trickle of water.
See! Behold! Look! Lo!
they cry in season, rapt, in love,
chipping away with their pocketknives,
pencils, rulers, fingernails,
but some have tunneled so narrowly and deep
that those behind see nothing but slivers of light
around an excavator's haunches.

A battered piece of a tablet is all that remains
of the so-called Singer of Nab.
Circa 1200 BCE,
he impressed, or had impressed, some words in clay.
He may have composed a religious hymn,
praise to the king, a poem of love,
an inventory of cattle. (He may have been she,
but this is unlikely.) The lines we have
could be the beginning or the middle;
there may have been ten more, or hundreds.
The word before this gap, in fact, means "hundreds."
Hundreds led in battle, hundreds slain?
A thousand times beloved, nine hundred sheep?
And the standard translation of this word, here,
is either "desire" or "need." But did he write
of a boundless yearning, or mercantile requirements?
Was he a "singer"? The scholars who care disagree.

Look at them, crouched in a long tunnel dug
by means of argument over an antique syntax,
warming their hands at a chunk of brick
baked maybe in the time of the Trojan War,
broken some moment between then and now—
peering at it with penlights, squandering eyesight.
They know they may crawl out hungry, mumbling,
aged and gray, clutching a secret message of small import
or nothing, nothing. They seem lost. They seem happy.

Blog Exodus Day 7: Examine

Matisse, Too


Matisse, too, when the fingers ceased to work,
Worked larger and bolder, his primary colors celebrating
The weddings of innocence and glory, innocence and glory

Monet when the cataracts blanketed his eyes
Painted swirls of rage, and when his sight recovered
Painted water lilies, Picasso claimed

I do not seek, I find, and stuck to that story
About himself, and made that story stick.
Damn the fathers. We are talking about defiance.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blog Elul Day 6: Recount

The Place for No Story

The coast hills at Sovranes Creek;
No trees, but dark scant pasture drawn thin
Over rock shaped like flame;
The old ocean at the land’s foot, the vast
Gray extension beyond the long white violence;
A herd of cows and the bull
Far distant, hardly apparent up the dark slope;
And the gray air haunted with hawks:
This place is the noblest thing I have ever seen. No imaginable
Human presence here could do anything
But dilute the lonely self-watchful passion.