He is affection and the present since he opened the house to foaming winter and the hum of summer, he who purified drink and food, he who is the charm of fleeting places and the superhuman deliciousness of staying still. He is affection and the future, strength and love that we, standing amid rage and troubles, see passing in the storm-rent sky and on banners of ecstasy.
He is love, perfect and reinvented measurement, wonderful and unforeseen reason, and eternity: machine beloved for its fatal qualities. We have all experienced the terror of his yielding and of our own: O enjoyment of our health, surge of our faculties, egoistic affection and passion for him, he who loves us for his infinite life
And we remember him and he travels. . . And if the Adoration goes away, resounds, its promise resounds: “Away with those superstitions, those old bodies, those couples and those ages. It’s this age that has sunk!”
He won’t go away, nor descend from a heaven again, he won’t accomplish the redemption of women’s anger and the gaiety of men and of all that sin: for it is now accomplished, with him being, and being loved.
O his breaths, his heads, his racing; the terrible swiftness of the perfection of forms and of action.
O fecundity of the spirit and immensity of the universe!
His body! The dreamed-of release, the shattering of grace crossed with new violence!
The sight, the sight of him! all the ancient kneeling and suffering lifted in his wake.
His day! the abolition of all resonant and surging suffering in more intense music.
His footstep! migrations more vast than ancient invasions.
O him and us! pride more benevolent than wasted charities.
O world! and the clear song of new misfortunes!
He has known us all and loved us all. Let us, on this winter night, from cape to cape, from the tumultuous pole to the castle, from the crowd to the beach, from glance to glance, our strengths and feelings numb, learn to hail him and see him, and send him back, and under the tides and at the summit of snowy deserts, follow his seeing, his breathing, his body, his day.
(Tr. by John Ashbery)
To give is to love,
To give prodigiously:
For every drop of water
To return a torrent.
We were made that way,
Made to scatter
Seeds in the furrow
And stars in the ocean.
Woe to him, Lord,
who doesn’t exhaust his supply,
And, on returning, tells you:
"Like an empty satchel
Is my heart.”
Dar es amar,
por cada gota de agua
devolver un torrente.
Fuimos hechos asi,
hechos para botar
semillas en el surco
y estrellas en el mar
Y ¿ay! del que no agote,
Señor, su provisión Y al regresar te diga:
¿Como alforja vacía
está mi corazón!
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos | Les Liaisons dangereuses
She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensitivity that few retain past early adolescence. Sometimes she seemed to see all men as boys, children with immediate needs that it was her place in nature to fulfill; meanwhile her adult self stood aside observing the game. Men were their need, imperious and somehow sacred. She might tell about being held down at a party by two of the guests in a rape attempt from which she said she had escaped, but the truth of the account was far less important than its strange remoteness from her personally. And ultimately something nearly godlike would emerge from this depersonalization. She was at this point incapable of condemning or even of judging people who had damaged her, and to be with her was to be accepted, like moving out into a kid of sanctifying light from a life where suspicions was common sense. She had no common sense, but what she did have was something holier, a long-reaching vision of which she herself was only fitfully aware: humans were all need, all wound. What she wanted most was not to judged but to win recognition from a sentimentally cruel profession, and from men blinded to her humanity by her perfect beauty. She was part queen, part waif, sometimes on her knees before her own body and sometimes despairing because of it — “Oh, there’s lots of beautiful girls,” she would say to some expression of awed amazement, as though her beauty betrayed her quest for a more enduring acceptance.
My homeland, I bring you
Of many lands
Ashes of old minds, passions of young hearts
My empty hands
Don’t look at them thus, ashamed
In my heart, a thousand gifts
Some sadness, joys, odd people
Somewhere, thrills, somewhere, pain
A desert traveler lifts them
They won’t fit in sacks, in suitcases
Parted from you, several strange countries
Embraced me, consoled me
Told me the secrets of the dark and mysterious nights
Taught my body a thousand delights
The sun and the moon came to me
I thought for a time that the touch of the body
Was the only joy, from the beginning to eternity
Everything a lie, only my body the truth
So that my loneliness
After clinging to the seas and colliding with the wind
Sometimes pulling me together in new islands
Sometimes scattering me like the waters of a mountain stream
Sometimes raising me parallel to the skies
Sometimes spreading me out in the roots at the bottom of the earth
Has merged with my senses so
That it has taken me out of my self
Such a dream, such a sleeplessness spread
That even shadows were heavy, not to mention the body
My homeland, where were your spectators
Of the celebration of my blistered feet, a sight worth seeing?
In a foreign city I met a few friends
Who reminded me of some angelic enemies
There must be few such crazies
Who have neither respect, nor infamy
The icy wind of the north could not blow me away
The depths of the Red Sea could not drown me
What sort of planet was I
That the earth spun round me?
I met Egyptian pharaohs
Searching for the lost treasures in graves
Those speaking the language of the stones
I met such people in old statues
The same artists were in lofty churches
Whom I found in the domes of decaying mosques
My exhausted sleep lamented
Nights spent in the tossing and turning over puzzles
For which clues were found in stories
Guides were found in the margins
After telling me their tales
Everyone asked me my story
After showing me the season of snow my elders
Asked about the fiery time of their youth
My lowered eyes kept searching
For an accent of conscience, for a mention of principle
The sleepless night sped before my eyelashes
The sweat of shame burst on my face
Your name came to my tongue and silenced it
Accept this shame for in this sweat’s
Every drop are molds of sparks
Accept the wrinkles in my face in which
There are the imprints of passion and culture
Hold my delicate gift of the sadness of perception
Which I found after drinking the poisons of the seven seas
After living in every volcano of the arts
I was summoned by the gods of Greece
Deities sprang to life in my breast
Steered me away from every fraudulent road
And then left me at the supermarket
Where a lone measure of humanity
A mob of men and women absorbed in its barbarism
The beauty of the watch, the aesthetics of a new radio
Plastic lotuses, a tie of nylon
New boots from Italy, necklaces from Hong Kong
The new line from Chrysler, cosmetics from Tokyo
Every body desired ease
Every eye worshipped things
Such devotion is not even in politics
Such satisfaction is not even in self-worship
My homeland, there is nothing in my luggage
Just a dream and the ramparts of a dream
Accept the gift of my dirty shirt
For in its dirt are the lands of prayers
This robe cannot be washed for on its breast
Are the sacred bloodstains of Biafra
This is the dirt from Vietnam and in its specks
Are the shining faces of prophets
(Singapore, 2 February 1969)
—Translated by Laurel Steele