Thursday, October 6, 2011

A poem by Robert Desnos in my translation from the French

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.

Mobius Ring

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

Adapted fromWikipedia:

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

In memory of my father

Blue Hunter

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?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In Memory of My Mother, ten years after.

My mother died ten years ago, but she still comes to my dreams.


The white ibis glides overhead

to the far side of Turnball Bay—

the distance between what was said

and all I wished I could say.

Before me, the muscled tides flow,

and sharp winds cut back at the waves

so I can’t see what lies below—

those secrets the dark water saves.

The sea grass curves in question marks

around my searching, submerged hand.

Blue, broken shells like heaven shards

lie on the narrow strip of sand.

Whichever shoreline I walk to,

the wild birds fly to the other.

This morning divides me from you,

but the birdcalls echo over.

In Memory of September 11th, 2001

This was written in September 2002, in NYC,

when there was a sense of waiting for the next catastrophe.

But nothing happened, not even the leaves fell that month.

There’s a little homage to Philippe Petit, who walked a wire between the twin towers.

September, 2002, NYC

What Memory Leaves

They quiver in the breeze

and cling, and try to stall—

this year the city leaves

do not want to fall.

They cannot join the rest,

the ones who fell last year—

all trace of them is swept.

The hard concrete lies clear.

Like walkers on a wire,

they shiver in the wind—

where are the cloaks of fire

we look to see them in?

Can the green leaves recall

what passed before their birth?

Don’t they know all must fall?

The sole rest lies in earth.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Melville on Growing Old

"Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Slim Chants

The heart makes a fickle grave,

always letting ghosts crawl out.

The mind makes a flighty cage—

often fledgling hopes fall out.

The soul is a nest of fire,

time is a deepening spark.

The world is a net of wire,

love is a leap in the dark.