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The Long Boat

Stanley Kunitz

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

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fugues aren’t just for music.

Death Fugue

Paul Celan, translated from German by Michael Hamburger

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink in the morning at noon we drink you at sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon in the morning we drink you at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in the air
he plays with the serpents and daydreams death is a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

The originial German here.

I love how Margarete and Shulamith are the cadence. And the different “voices” – ahhh beautifully done in a powerful poem. thank you to André Aciman for an introduction to Celan!

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what I need to do in the next two days:

  1. Prepare for my final two final exams (US history and French)
  2. Read Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
  3. Return a fiction book, a French textbook, an English textbook (opened once), and a US history textbook
  4. Finish a painting
  5. Go to work
  6. Pack for a trip to Chicago
  7. Memorize two piano pieces
  8. Sight read a Schubert string quartet; this also means I have to find a recording so I know what it’s supposed to sound like
  9. Clean my room
  10. Check out a biology textbook and a nonfiction book that I’m supposed to read over the summer; I’m assured nobody ever does this assignment and the teacher goes over the notes at the beginning of the next school year
  11. Find my Best Buy gift card (this follows naturally from #9) so I can get Narrow Stairs without spending my own money
  12. There is no #12

The end. (Actually, I should read Lies My Teacher Told Me and then return it to the person I borrowed it from. That’ll be my #12.)

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in which the universe does not care.

A Man Said to the Universe

Stephen Crane

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”

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growing older.

The Dug-Out

Siegfried Sassoon

WHY do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,
And one arm bent across your sullen, cold,
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you,
Deep-shadow’d from the candle’s guttering gold;
And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder;
Drowsy, you mumble and sigh and turn your head…
You are too young to fall asleep for ever;
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.

St Venant, July 1918.

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for a rainy day.

Faure’s Second Piano Quartet

James Schuyler

On a day like this the rain comes
down in fat and random drops among
the ailanthus leaves—“the tree
of Heaven”—the leaves that on moon-
lit nights shimmer black and blade-
shaped at this third-floor window.
And there are bunches of small green
knobs, buds, crowded together. The
rapid music fills in the spaces of
the leaves. And the piano comes in,
like an extra heartbeat, dangerous
and lovely. Slower now, less like
the leaves, more like the rain which
almost isn’t rain, more like thawed-
out hail. All this beauty in the
mess of this small apartment on
West 20th in Chelsea, New York.
Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,
more slowly still, fat rain falls.

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Father, the gate is open.

William Blake moved to Felpham and loved the place. In a letter, he wrote:

…the sweet air & the voices of winds trees & birds & the odours of the happy ground makes it a dwelling for immortals. Work will go on here with God speed–…. I met a plow on my first going out at my gate the first morning after my arrival & the Plowboy said to the Plowman. “Father The Gate is Open”–I have begun to Work & find that I can work with greater pleasure than ever.

A Poison Tree

William Blake

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine –

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

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