7 Aug 2014 09:08 pm
lotesse: (Default)
here is a poem that I read years ago as a little girl when Cicada magazine published it, that has rattled half-forgotten around in my head ever since, and that I have only just now bothered to look up:

Joyce Sidman, "An Evening Among Peach Blossoms"

(Ts'ai Lun developed the method of making true paper in A.D. 105)

Dawn comes silently
like a lover's embrace
My Lady Who Writes,
in a few short hours I will present you
with your heart's desire.
But in this soft light
I think of the past,
when we bent our heads together.

I can still see you,
new to the court as I was,
slim and plain as a nightingale.
You turned away jewels and bright robes
for scrolls and ink.
You were a great scholar, even then.
The words you painted on silk
glimmered like the dawning sun
that rises, in time,
to its true power.

I, for my cleverness,
caught your eye.
"Ts'ai Lun!" you called
in your bird's voice.
"I must write, yet silk is costly.
There is never enough.
Find me something I can write upon!"

Sixteen years I labored.
Searching the countryside,
mixing and scraping and stretching
anything I could find.
I lived for the moment
I could bring my humble offerings
to your sight, watch your white hand
move over the page.
"No," you would say softly,
"it is not good enough, Ts'ai Lun.
Keep working."
And I would bow, joyful
that the task was still before me.

The sun, which rises now
above the garden, dries and cures my work.
Smooth and perfect,
the paper awaits your brush.
Soon I will see your hand
fly like the white breast of a swallow
across the page.
Sixteen years was like an eventing
spent among peach blossoms.
I, clever Ts'ai Lun,
lament that my task is done.
lotesse: (laputa_fallingstar)
William Carlos Williams

Brother Paul! look!
—but he rushes to a different
The moon!

I heard shrieks and thought:
What's that?

That's just Suzanne
talking to the moon!
Pounding on the window
with both fists:

Paul! Paul!

—and talking to the moon.
and pounding the glass
with both fists!

Brother Paul! the moon!

(a story to go with the poem: I had this wild anthology of poems, ostensibly "for children," that was the gruesomest, wrenchingest, weirdest, most intense thing ever, and I pored over it like a postulate with her sacred text as a wee thing. Bits of poems from this anthology are lodged all the way back at my backbrain. Just now, I remembered pounding at the window and brother Paul and the moon, and lo and behold of course the poem is by William Carlos Williams. Besos, baby!)
lotesse: (thetimeisnow)
God, god, nothing ever changes. Audre Lorde from 1978:

A Woman/Dirge for Wasted Children
Audre Lorde

rumors of the necessity for your death
are spread by persistent screaming flickers
in the morning light
I lie
knowing it is past time for sacrifice
I burn
like the hungry tongue of an ochre fire
like the benediction of fury
pushed before the heel of the hand
of the thunder goddess
parting earth's folds with a searching finger
I yield
one drop of blood
which I know instantly
is lost.

A man has had himself
legal guardian of fetuses.
Centuries of wasted children
warred and whored and slaughtered
anoint me guardian
for life.

But in the early light
another sacrifice is taken
a small dark shape rolls down
a hilly slope
dragging its trail of wasted blood
upon the ground
I am broken
into clefts of screaming
that sound like the drilling flickers
in treacherous morning air
on murderous sidewalks
I am bent
wiping up blood
that should be
lotesse: (fairylights)
MY own heart let me have more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst ’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
’s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins
lotesse: (art_cezanne)
Archaic Torso of Apollo

by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
lotesse: (narnia_lucy)
You made the world a more beautiful, truer, better place - thank you for leaving your words & your knowledge for all of us who came after.

Snaptshots of a Daughter-in-Law

Adrienne Rich


You, once a belle in Shreveport,
with henna-colored hair, skin like a peachbud,
still have your dresses copied from that time,
and play a Chopin prelude
called by Cortot: "Delicious recollections
float like perfume through the memory."

Your mind now, moldering like wedding-cake
heavy with useless experience, rich
with suspicion, rumor, fantasy,
crumbling to pieces under the knife-edge
of mere fact. In the prime of your life.

Nervy, glowering, your daughter
wipes the teaspoons, grows another way.


Banging the coffee-pot into the sink
she hears the angels chiding, and looks out
past the raked gardens to the sloppy sky.
Only a week since They said: Have no patience.

The next time it was: Be insatiable.
Then: Save yourself; others you cannot save.
Sometimes she's let the tapstream scald her arm,
a match burn to her thumbnail,

or held her hand above the kettle's snout
right in the woolly steam. They are probably angels,
since nothing hurts her anymore, except
each morning's grit blowing into her eyes.


A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.
The beak that grips her, she becomes. And Nature,
that sprung-lidded, still commodious
steamer-trunk of tempora and mores
gets stuffed with it all: the mildewd orange-flowers,
the female pills, the terrible breasts
of Boadicea beneath flat foxes' heads and orchids.

Two handsome women, gripped in argument,
each proud. acute, subtle, I hear scream
across the cut glass and majolica
like Furies cornered from their prey:
The argument ad feminam, all the old knives
that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours
ma semblable, ma soeur!


Knowing themselves too well in one another:
their gifts no pure fruition, but a thorn,
the prick filed sharp against a hint of scorn . . .
Reading while waiting
for the iron to heat,
writing, My Life had stood---a Loaded Gun---
in that Amherst pantry while the jellies boil and scum
or, more often,
iron-eyed and beaked and purposed as a bird,
dusting everything on the whatnot every day of life.


Dulce ridens, dulce loguens,
she shaves her legs until they gleam
like petrified mammoth-tusk.


When to her lute Corinna sings
neither words nor music are her own;
only the long hair dripping
over her cheek, only the song
of silk against her knees
and thesea
djusted in reflection of an eye.

Poised, trembling and unsatisfied, before
an unlocked door, that cage of cages,
tell us, you bird, you tragical machine---
is this fertilisante douleur? Pinned down
by love, for you the only natural action,
are you edged more keen
to prise the secrets of the vault? has Nature shown
her household books to you, daughter-in-law,
that her sons never saw?


"To have in this uncertain world some stay
which cannot be undermined, is
of the utmost consequence."
Thus wrote
a woman, partly brave and partly good,
who fought with what she partly understood.
Few men about her would or could do more,
hence she was labeled harpy, shrew and whore.


"You all die at fifteen," said Diderot,
and turn part legend, part convention.
Still, eyes inaccurately dream
behind closed window blankening with steam.
Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were---fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition---
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.


Not that it is done well, but
that it is done at all? Yes, think
of the odds! or shrug them off forever.
This luxury of the precocious child,
Time's precious chronic invalid,---
would we, darlings, resign it if we could?
Our blight has been our sinecure:
mere talent was enough for us---
glitter in fragments and rough drafts.

Sigh no more, ladies.
Time is male
and in his cups drinks to the fair.
Bemused by gallantry, we hear
our mediocrities over-praised,
indolence read as abnegation,
slattern thought styled intuition,
every lapse forgiven, our crime
only to cast too bold a shadow
or smash the mold straight off.

For that, solitary confinement,
tear gas, attrition shelling.
Few applicants for that honor.


she's long about her coming, who must be
more merciless to herself than history.
Her mind full to the wind, I see her plunge
breasted and glancing through the currents,
taking the light upon her
at least as beautiful as any boy
or helicopter,
poised, still coming,
her fine blades making the air wince
but her cargo
no promise then:

Adrienne Rich
(1929 - 2012)
lotesse: (btvs_wishverse)
love meme over at [personal profile] mockingbird's:

Happy Galentine's Day
my thread

and, just beause:
Years ago when I
~Bertolt Brecht

Years ago when I was studying the ways of the Chicago Wheat Exchange
I suddenly grasped how they managed the whole world’s wheat there
And yet I did not grasp it either and lowered the book
I knew at once: you’ve run
Into bad trouble.

There was no feeling of enmity in me and it was not the injustice
Frightened me, only the thought that
Their way of going about it won’t do
Filled me completely.

These people, I saw, lived by the harm
Which they did, not by the good.
This was a situation, I saw, that could only be maintained
By crime because too bad for most people.
In this way every
Achievement of reason, invention or discovery
Must lead only to still greater wretchedness.

Such and suchlike I thought at the moment
Far from anger or lamenting, as I lowered the book
With its description of the Chicago wheat market and exchange.

Much trouble and tribulation
Awaited me.
lotesse: (Default)
From "Sonnets From an Ungrafted Tree," Edna St. Vincent Millay:


Not over-kind nor over-quick in study
Nor skilled in sports nor beautiful was he,
Who had come into her life when anybody
Would have been welcome, so in need was she.
They had become acquainted in this way:
He flashed a mirror in her eyes at school;
By which he was distinguished; from that day
They went about together, as a rule.
She told, in secret and with whispering,
How he had flashed a mirror in her eyes;
And as she told, it struck her with surprise
That this was not so wonderful a thing.
But what's the odds? — It's pretty nice to know
You've got a friend to keep you company everywhere you go.
lotesse: (falling)
Dirge without Music
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
lotesse: (woods)
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."



8 Feb 2011 11:15 am
lotesse: (jewel-boxes)
Emily Dickinson

’T is little I could care for pearls
Who own the ample sea;
Or brooches, when the Emperor
With rubies pelteth me;

Or gold, who am the Prince of Mines;
Or diamonds, when I see
A diadem to fit a dome
Continual crowning me.
lotesse: (academia)
Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
lotesse: (classic)
Writing yuletide today. I've got nearly a thousand words now, and I suspect this story's not going to get much longer. Due to various rl constraints, I've had to abandon my usual yuletide practice of producing huge sprawly ambitious work and go for small-but-lovely as a goal instead. Not reaching for more words, just trying to make the ones I've got as pleasurable as possible.

So have a poem:

Silent Poem
~Robert Francis

backroad leafmold stonewall chipmunk
underbrush grapevine woodchuck shadblow

woodsmoke cowbarn honeysuckle woodpile
sawhorse bucksaw outhouse wellsweep

backdoor flagstone bulkhead buttermilk
candlestick ragrug firedog brownbread

hilltop outcrop cowbell buttercup
whetstone thunderstorm pitchfork steeplebush

gristmill millstone cornmeal waterwheel
watercress buckwheat firefly jewelweed

gravestone groundpine windbreak bedrock
weathercock snowfall starlight cockcrow
lotesse: (jewel-boxes)
Somewhere on my dwircle last night there was a Billy Collins video, which reminded me of this thing I saw over the weekend that utterly broke me with adorable: a YouTube vid of a really absurdly cute 3-year-old reciting "Litany."

I mean - yes please?
lotesse: (shakespeare_pearls)
Warming Her Pearls (for Judith Radstone)
~Carol Ann Duffy

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I´ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She´s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit´s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head.... Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does.... And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.
lotesse: (myth)
notebook poem*

standardization, homogenization,
hygiene, urbanization

lack of anxiety about the
sybilline leaves

the stuff of ordinary being

but also orgasm denial

give me
a definition of summary

sexual love can be both embrace
and punishment

okay, I know this -

compassion requires violence: love
and conquest jammed together

the sadness of the story

I see a lot of chances to succeed
with this one

*all words taken from my notebook for this semester, ie the one that I started a month ago. Contains notes, drafts, lesson plans, and other unattached thoughts.
lotesse: (green)
too sleepy for any coherence today. have a poem instead:


Before she has her floor swept
Or her dishes done,
Any day you'll find her
A-sunning in the sun!

It's long after midnight
Her key's in the lock,
And you never see her chimney smoke
Till past ten o'clock!

She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon.

She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
And pays you back cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne's lace!

~Edna St. Vincent Millay
lotesse: (millay_spring)
Thank you so much, everyone, for the birthday wishes; you guys made my day. I've been surviving, I guess, in my Texas exile. Job training is too boring to be believed, but not particularly painful, and at any rate I'm halfway done now, and I've only got three more days until I'm home again.

I've been reading Adrienne Rich and watching Battlestar Galactica Classic and crying over the little girl from Detroit who was murdered by the cops and swallowing down sinking feelings over the Texas School Board's decision that slavery ought to be referred to as the Atlantic Triangle Trade, and I just. I'm having one of those evenings when the world is simultaneously too filled with good emotions and too jam-packed with horror.

Tomorrow will be another new day. Have a poem to end this one:

Cartographies of Silence (Adrienne Rich) )
lotesse: (jewel-boxes)
Audre Lorde, who I love passionately but cannot lay claim to:

Who Said It Was Simple

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
lotesse: (millay_spring)
Elegy Before Death, Edna St. Vincent Millay

There will be rose and rhododendron
When you are dead and under ground;
Still will be heard from white syringas
Heavy with bees, a sunny sound;

Still will the tamaracks be raining
After the rain has ceased, and still
Will there be robins in the stubble,
Brown sheep upon the warm green hill.

Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;
Nothing will know that you are gone,
Saving alone some sullen plough-land
None but yourself sets foot upon;

Saving the may-weed and the pig-weed
Nothing will know that you are dead,—
These, and perhaps a useless wagon
Standing beside some tumbled shed.

Oh, there will pass with your great passing
Little of beauty not your own,—
Only the light from common water,
Only the grace from simple stone!

daughter of the sea, oregano's first cousin


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