Daily Poem: Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe ~ Tu Fu

January 23, 2018 | Filed Under Poem for Hela | No Comments

Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe
~ Tu Fu, China, 8th Century
Translated from Chinese by Carolyn Kizer
(I somehow doubt this was the original title of the piece, but the reference to Manet’s painting is an interesting choice.)

It’s pleasant to board the ferry in the sunscape
As the late light slants into the afternoon;
The faint wind ruffles the river, rimmed with foam.
We move through the aisles of bamboo
Towards the cool water lilies.

The young dandies drop ice into the drinks,
While the girls slice the succulent lotus root.
Above us, a patch of cloud spreads, darkening
Like a water-stain on silk.

Write this down quickly, before the rain!

Don’t sit there! The cushions were soaked by the shower.
Already the girls have drenched their crimson skirts.
Beauties, their powder streaked with mascara,
lament their ruined faces.

The wind batters our boat, the mooring-line
Has rubbed a wound in the willow bark.
The edges of the curtains are embroidered by the river foam,
Like a knife in a melon. Autumn slices Summer.

It will be cold, going back.

 

Antique Chinese Postcard

Antique Chinese Postcard

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Shopping at Afikomen Judaica

January 22, 2018 | Filed Under Reviews | No Comments

In search of metal candleholder inserts, I found myself at Afikomen Judaica in Claremont yesterday. Sure, I could buy them cheap from Amazon, but I’d rather not give Jeff Bezos the money. And I would have missed out on an amazing experience. How can you not love a place that has the slogan “Live. Shop. Shmooze.”?

Miriam greeted me as I entered the store, and showed me where the desired objects were to be found. But—off to the side—were BOOKS. SO.MANY.BOOKS.

I managed to exercise some amount of self-control, and came away with only four books—one on domestic rituals of the Israelite women, and three on grief and mourning (for personal use as well as preparation for hospice work).

And a set of lovely little glass oil holders and a box of tiny wicks to burn olive oil for light. (I checked to make sure I wasn’t appropriating a Shabbat item for mundane deco.)

And the aforementioned candleholder inserts.

A young woman was there with some family members to choose a Tallit for her bat mitzvah. She was trying on different ones and contemplating herself in the mirror, with the encouragement of parents and elders. It was a lovely and heartwarming thing to see.

I’ve made myself a deal that I have to read the books I bought today before I can go back to buy more.

But, really, go to this store. Even if you think there’s nothing there you want. Go. If nothing else, enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and the cheerful peace of the place.

But I guarantee that you will walk out with *something*.

Afikomen Judaica

Afikomen Judaica

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Daily Poem: Reply to a Marriage Proposal ~ Irihapeti Rangi te Apakura

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Reply to a Marriage Proposal
~ Irihapeti Rangi te Apakura
Translated from Maori by Roger Oppenheim and Allen Curnow

Don’t hand me over with a word, Toihau,
don’t give me to Te Keepa!
Isn’t it enough that people are talking
as far as the quicksands of Karewa?
I am a canoe cast up and broken in the big surf,
I am getting old, my love play days are done,
it will not be long before I dig my grave.

That is my path as it was yours, Paoa,
my ancestral path across Te Whakaurunga,
unbroken view of he burning island
Whaakari, the demon’s flames.
Here on the mainland, Hinehore’s lover—
She can forget her jealousy!
She shall have her husband,
I embrace him only for a while.

The lips are made to taste with
but the body is firmly held.

Image credit: BuzzerG.Com

Image credit: BuzzerG.Com

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Daily Poem: Wintering ~ Sylvia Plath

January 19, 2018 | Filed Under Poem for Hela | No Comments

Wintering
~ Sylvia Plath

This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.
I have whirled the midwife’s extractor,
I have my honey,
Six jars of it,
Six cat’s eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window
At the heart of the house
Next to the last tenant’s rancid jam
and the bottles of empty glitters–
Sir So-and-so’s gin.

This is the room I have never been in
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there like a bat,
No light
But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects–
Black asininity. Decay.
Possession.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.
This is the time of hanging on for the bees–the bees
So slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin

To make up for the honey I’ve taken.
Tate and Lyle keeps them going,
The refined snow.
It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.
They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,
Black
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women–
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanish walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.

Frostproof Bee By Qypchak (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Daily Poem: Remember I Love You ~ Anastasia Haysler

January 18, 2018 | Filed Under Poem for Hela | No Comments

I wrote the first draft of this in August 2017. We were in Helsinki for a conference the first time that P45 started a public argument with Kim Jong Un. Unable to sleep, I found myself wondering what we would do if the unthinkable happened, and there was no US to fly back to at the end of the week.  Having grown up in the 1970s and been through my share of “extreme event” drills, the old terrors resurfaced. I worked through them (as much as one can), but this past weekend, with the false alarm in Hawaii, brought it all right back, again. So I have polished this up, and present it in hopes it speaks to you.

Remember I Love You
~ Anastasia Haysler

If the missiles com
You’ll have 18 minutes.
Everyone will call someone.
I don’t expect we’ll be able to get through.

Remember I love you.
Remember our first date,
Laughing easily over plates of pasta.
“Thank you for such a fun evening.”

Remember I love you.
Remember our first trip to London,
Standing in front of the Rosetta Stone.
“I’ll love you even longer than this is old.”

Remember I love you.
Remember our first flat
Overlooking the park.
“This is a view of heaven.”

Remember I love you.
Remember walking hand in hand
Along sidewalks, by rivers, through museums.
“This is the perfect way to spend the day.”

Remember I love you.
Remember the books we read each other,
The music we played each other.
“That was wonderful, and new to me.”

Remember I love you.
Remember the hardware store,
The grocery store, the laundry, the dishes.
“This, too, is love.”

Remember I love you.
I hope you have a chance for
One last ice cream cone,
One last chorus of birdsong,
A field of flowers, or a forest to lie in.
One last moment of bliss.

As the final burst of light
Explodes across the sky,
And we are no more,
I hope you hear my voice.
“Remember I love you.”

Remember I love you.

Remember.

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