Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Friday, June 22, 2012
My mouth is frozen cold—
my skin is shivering,
but the sky dances gold,
commanding me to sing:
Weep, suffer love, know it,
and don’t drop the frail ball,
you tormented poet,
that I’ve lightly let fall.
So this is the real tie
to heaven’s secret realms,
in this heavy, dark sky—
the sadness overwhelms.
What if, above that shop,
this star shining so hard
were suddenly to drop
through my heart like a shard?
translated by Holly Woodward
Thursday, May 3, 2012
My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Woodward, wrote poems as a girl growing up in Brooklyn. Her ten children left her with little time to write, but some of her childhood verse was published in the New York papers. This poem in memory of her mother she kept to herself. Into this page of her journal she slipped a tiny wild daisy from her mother’s grave in Green-Wood Cemetery.
To a Daisy from my Mother’s Grave, 1852
When hills and meads were brown and bare
And wintry winds swept chilly by
This little daisy blossomed fair
Beneath a cold and foreign sky.
Sweet little flower, it raised its head
Within the Greenwood’s hallowed ground
And smiled above the lovely dead
The last which graced that quiet mound.
In youth the hand of her now cold
Beneath the spot that marked thy smile,
Oft plucked the daisy from the mould
In her and thine own native isle.
Yet like thee from the English shore
Transplanted neath the western sky
She passed away life’s transient hour
Midst peaceful scenes at last to die.
Tis thine to boast no colors gay
Tis thine no stately green to wear
So would affection stoop to pay
A tribute to the one so dear.
I doubly prize the little gem
Since blooming on my mother’s grave
My father snipped thy tender stem
To me this simple flower gave.
Sweet daisy we would learn from thee
To scorn no power that we may hold
The humblest offering that may be
Is oft more dear than gems or gold.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
L'anneau de Moebius
Le chemin sur lequel je cours
Ne sera pas le même quand je ferai demi-tour
J'ai beau le suivre tout droit
Il me ramène à un autre endroit
Je tourne en rond mais le ciel change
Hier j'étais un enfant
Je suis un homme maintenent
Le monde est une drôle de chose
Et la rose parmi les roses
Ne ressemble pas à une autre rose.
The road I run along
today is not the same one
I set out upon, and went straight on
it takes me back beyond where I’d begun
I've come round but the sky
is not the same. Yesterday I
was a child now I am a man
the world grows, a shifting design
and every single rose, you’ll find
is different than the rose in mind.
Translated by Holly Woodward
Robert Desnos was a French surrealist poet who fought in the Résistance during the Nazi occupation. The Gestapo arrested and deported him to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald, Flossenburg, and Terezin.
One day, Desnos and other prisoners were taken in the back of a flatbed truck; they knew the truck was going to the gas chamber; no one spoke. Soon the truck stopped and the guards ordered them off. When they began to move toward the gas chamber, suddenly Desnos jumped out of line and grabbed the hand of the woman in front of him. He was animated and he began to read her palm. He told her that she would have a long life, many grandchildren, abundant joy. A person nearby offered his palm to Desnos. Here, too, Desnos foresaw a long life filled with happiness and success. The other prisoners came to life, eagerly thrusting their palms toward Desnos and, in each case, he foresaw long and joyous lives.
The guards became visibly disoriented. Minutes before, they were on a routine mission the outcome of which seemed inevitable, but now they became tentative. Desnos was so effective in creating a new reality that the guards were unable to go through with the executions. They ordered the prisoners back onto the truck and took them back to the barracks. Desnos never was executed.
Desnos died in "Malá pevnost", which was an inner part of Terezín used only for political prisoners, from typhoid, only weeks after the camp's liberation. The poems he wrote during his imprisonment were accidentally destroyed after his death.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
On his birthday, three decades after his death,
my father’s soul feels so far off—lost.
I wrote his other child, though we rarely met.
She said she thought of him too, on Ayers Rock—
his memory still encircled the earth
a hundred years after his birth.
The one gift I know his two daughters share,
the one light that reaches from here to there,
he taught me at night on our back lawn,
great Orion, killed by his own love.
Dad showed me the nova where new stars form,
his blue knee, Rigel, and Betelgeuse above—
it’s dying, but the emptiness is so vast
we will feel nothing of its shattering blast.
If I could grasp the distance of that star,
would the dark years between us feel so far?