Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stone

Go inside a stone 
That would be my way. 
Let somebody else become a dove 
Or gnash with a tiger's tooth. 
I am happy to be a stone. 

From the outside the stone is a riddle: 
No one knows how to answer it. 
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet 
Even though a cow steps on it full weight, 
Even though a child throws it in a river; 
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed 
To the river bottom 
Where the fishes come to knock on it 
And listen. 

I have seen sparks fly out 
When two stones are rubbed, 
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all; 
Perhaps there is a moon shining 
From somewhere, as though behind a hill— 
Just enough light to make out 
The strange writings, the star-charts 
On the inner walls. 

--Charles Simic

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Monody to the Sound of Zithers

I have wanted other things more than lovers …  
I have desired peace, intimately to know  
The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment,  
To learn by heart things beautiful and slow.

Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted; 
And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part;  
All dim things, layers of river-mist on river—  
To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart.  

I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids,  
Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth. 
I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion;  
And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south.  

These things have I wanted more than lovers …  
Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass—  
Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers. 
Friended thus, I have let nothing pass. 

--Kay Boyle

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When There Were Ghosts

On the Mexico side in the 1950s and 60s, 
There were movie houses everywhere 

And for the longest time people could smoke 
As they pleased in the comfort of the theaters. 

The smoke rose and the movie told itself 
On the screen and in the air both, 

The projection caught a little 
In the wavering mist of the cigarettes. 

In this way, every story was two stories 
And every character lived near its ghost. 

Looking up we knew what would happen next 
Before it did, as if it the movie were dreaming 

Itself, and we were part of it, part of the plot 
Itself, and not just the audience. 

And in that dream the actors’ faces bent 
A little, hard to make out exactly in the smoke, 

So that María Félix and Pedro Armendáriz
Looked a little like my aunt and one of my uncles— 

And so they were, and so were we all in the movies, 
Which is how I remember it: Popcorn in hand, 

Smoke in the air, gum on the floor— 
Those Saturday nights, we ourselves 

Were the story and the stuff and the stars. 
We ourselves were alive in the dance of the dream.

--Alberto Rios

Like a conscience

The Barnacle and the Gray Whale

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Poems are experiences

… Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a lone one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. 

For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars, and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that.  

You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge in The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

Enough

It's a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough for you to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. They rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you've never said circling inside you.

It's the rising wind that pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
swirling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and rising above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.

--Jeffrey Harrison