Scott Cairns, Sharon Olds, Mark Harris, Karel van den Oever, Christoph Wilhelm Aigner, Alan Tate
The thing to remember is how
Tentative all of this really is.
You could wake up dead.
Or the woman you love
Could decide you’re ugly.
Maybe she’ll finally give up
Trying to ignore the way
You floss your teeth as you
Watch television. All I’m saying
Is that there are no sure things here.
I mean, you’ll probably wake up alive,
And she’ll probably keep putting off
Any actual decision about your looks.
Could be she’ll be glad your teeth
are so clean. The morning could
be full of all the love and kindness
you need. Just don’t go thinking
you deserve any of it.
Possible Answers to Prayer
Your petitions—though they continue to bear
just the one signature—have been duly recorded.
Your anxieties—despite their constant,
relatively narrow scope and inadvertent
entertainment value—nonetheless serve
to bring your person vividly to mind.
Your repentance—all but obscured beneath
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.
Your intermittent concern for the sick,
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes
recognizable to me, if not to them.
Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly
righteous indignation toward the many
whose habits and sympathies offend you—
these must burn away before you’ll apprehend
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.
Scott Cairns (Tacoma, 19 november 1954)
The Space Heater
On the then-below-zero day, it was on,
near the patients' chair, the old heater
kept by the analyst's couch, at the end,
like the infant's headstone that was added near the foot
of my father's grave. And it was hot, with the almost
laughing satire of a fire's heat,
the little coils like hairs in Hell.
And it was making a group of sick noises-
I wanted the doctor to turn it off
but I couldn't seem to ask, so I just
stared, but it did not budge. The doctor
turned his heavy, soft palm
outward, toward me, inviting me to speak, I
said, "If you're cold-are you cold? But if it's on
for me..." He held his palm out toward me,
I tried to ask, but I only muttered,
but he said, "Of course," as if I had asked,
and he stood up and approached the heater, and then
stood on one foot, and threw himself
toward the wall with one hand, and with the other hand
reached down, behind the couch, to pull
the plug out. I looked away,
I had not known he would have to bend
like that. And I was so moved, that he
would act undignified, to help me,
that I cried, not trying to stop, but as if
the moans made sentences which bore
some human message. If he would cast himself toward the
outlet for me, as if bending with me in my old
shame and horror, then I would rest
on his art-and the heater purred, like a creature
or the familiar of a creature, or the child of a familiar,
the father of a child, the spirit of a father,
the healing of a spirit, the vision of healing,
the heat of vision, the power of heat,
the pleasure of power.
Sharon Olds (San Francisco, 19 november 1942)
Uit: Lying in Bed
“I am hoping my parents will look on the matter in the same way, recognizing, as you do, the processes of fictional invention. However, that is a great deal to ask of people who have never given one moment's thought to the processes of anything except making money, fattening beef, grinding down children, and campaigning against the teaching of Darwinism in the schools of Arizona.
I suppose I should have known your attitude would be liberal and understanding. I know you don't like us to use superlatives, but you are the most sophisticated man I have ever met. As you can guess, most of the men I meet are boys. I feel so stupid about the wine in the restaurant, and I laugh with utmost admiration for your cosmopolitan wit when I remember your saying, "We should have ordered white wine with a white tablecloth." You amazed me. You never for a single instant looked at the wine; you just stood the glass up and placed a napkin over the scarlet pool and never took your eyes from mine. You are truly sophisticated. It was the nicest thing that has happened to me in a long time. You have told us time and again never to use the expression, "I have no words to express ..." because a writer should find the words to express whatever thoughts she wishes to express. Nevertheless, with many apologies for my error I must say, "I have no words to express my thrill of our luncheon."
You have given me self-confidence without which I could not have gone on. Last semester I was on the verge of leaving, feeling so victimized and put upon by so many people in this so-called institution, when one day you said to me, "O well, that's what we writers have to put up with." You were saying that I, too, was a writer. Nobody has ever said such a thing to me before. As far as I knew (know; I see that my tenses have fallen into inconsistency here) I was the only person in the world who viewed myself as a writer. I could not possibly have gone on without you. You opened every window for me.”
Mark Harris (19 november 1922 - 30 mei 2007)
Mijn handen rieken van uw reuk
waar ik uw steel en blaren kreuk,
o gulden Afrikaantjes,
en 'k hou van u zo veel en teer
als straks uw parkskens gloeien weer
saffraan-goud in de laantjes;
ik riek u dan zo bitter-fris,
onaards en vol geheimenis.
Het open luik
Het harde, houten luik is dicht
en daar achter is de dag
met zijn parel-gouden licht;
daarachter de bomen, de bergen, de wereld, de wind,
de mensheid: man, vrouw en het fijne kind;
daarachter de zon,
daarachter de maan,
daarachter de zilveren sterren;
ook Vlaanderen, nevel-blauw,
Het leven is nabij en verre;
het hart des levens weten wij slaan,
de kracht der dingen horen wij gaan
achter het harde, houten luik.
Toen hebben wij het luik opengedaan.
Karel van den Oever (19 november 1879 – 6 oktober 1926)
Vom Schwimmen im Glück
Sah zuletzt dass mein glücklich
schwimmender Körper sanft beschleunigt
gegen den Felsen gehoben wurde
Die Sonne floss ins Wasser zurück
Sie kostet alles unter deinen
Rippen. Dich friert wenn sie den Kopf
herauszwängt die Schnauze blutgeschminkt
dich ansieht mit dem herzzerreißenden
kleinen Tränengesicht des Geparden
Christoph Wilhelm Aigner (Wels, 18 november 1954)
Say never the strong heart
In the consuming breath
Cries out unto the dark
The skinny death.
Look! whirring on the rind
Of aether a white eagle,
Shot out of the mind,
The windy apple, burning,
Hears no more, past compass
In his topless flight,
The apple wormed, blown up
By shells of light;
So, faggot of the heart
On the cinder day
The woman and the man!
David and Sybil say
The world has a season
Under the world's might:
Now in deep autumn-
Black apple in the night.
Think not the world spins ever
(Only the world has a year)
Only the gaunt fierce bird
Flies, merciless with fear
Lest air hold him not,
Beats up the scaffold of space
Sick of the world's rot-
God's hideous face.
Allen Tate (19 november 1899 – 9 februari 1979)
De “Fugitive Poets”. Vlnr: Allen Tate, Merrill Moore, Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom en Donald Davidson, 1956.