Scott Cairns, Sharon Olds, Mark Harris, Karel van den Oever, Christoph Wilhelm Aigner, Alan Tate
She said God. He seems to be there
when I call on Him but calling
has been difficult too. Painful.
And as she quieted to find
another word, I was delivered
once more to my own long grappling
with that very angel here — still
here — at the base of the ancient
ladder of ascent, in foul dust
languishing yet at the very
bottom rung, letting go my grip
long before the blessing.
A psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath.
Master both invisible and notoriously
slow to act, should You incline to fix
Your generous attentions for the moment
to the narrow scene of this our appointed
tedium, should You—once our kindly
secretary has duly noted which of us
is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused,
You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say
about so little. Among these other mediocrities,
Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how
his slow and meager worship might appear
from where You endlessly attend our dreariness.
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off
from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here
amid the motions, the discussions, the several
questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots.
Scott Cairns (Tacoma, 19 november 1954)
The Mortal One
Three months after he lies dead, that
long yellow narrow body,
not like Christ but like one of his saints,
the naked ones in the paintings whose bodies are
done in gilt, all knees and raw ribs,
the ones who died of nettles, bile, the
one who died roasted over a slow fire—
three months later I take the pot of
tulip bulbs out of the closet
and set it on the table and take off the foil hood.
The shoots stand up like young green pencils,
and there in the room is the comfortable smell of rot,
the bulb that did not make it, marked with
ridges like an elephant's notched foot,
I walk down the hall as if I were moving through the
long stem of the tulip toward the closed sheath.
In the kitchen I throw a palmful of peppercorns into the
as if I would grow a black tree from the soup,
I throw out the rotten chicken part,
glad again that we burned my father
before one single bloom of mold could
out of him,
maybe it had begun in his bowels but we burned his
the way you burn the long blue
scarf of the dead, and all their clothing,
cleansing with fire. How fast time goes
now that I'm happy, now that I know how to
think of his dead body every day
without shock, almost without grief,
to take it into each part of the day the
way a loom parts the vertical threads,
half to the left half to the right like the Red Sea and you
throw the shuttle through with the warp-thread
attached to the feet, that small gold figure of my father—
how often I saw him in paintings and did not know him,
the tiny naked dead one in the corner,
the mortal one.
Sharon Olds (San Francisco, 19 november 1942)
Uit: Bang the Drum Slowly
“All we threw was one change of clothes in a bag because we naturally had no idea, plus my Arcturus kit, figuring if I done some business along the way we could call the whole trip deductible. “He would not be in Rochester, Minnesota, if it was not serious,” she said. “I do not like the look of it.”
“He has got North Pole coverage,” I said. When I am trying to sell a total policy I say, “This policy covers everything except sunstroke at the North Pole.” It is good for a laugh.
However, I never wrote such a total policy except the one I sold to Bruce, $50,000, the first I ever sold, and the fastest, selling it to him in 5 minutes flat in the hotel in Boston one night, not even trying to sell it to him but only just tuning my line you might say, the seal not yet even broke on my kit and my license scarcely dry because only that afternoon I polished off this course I took. I took the course bit by bit all that summer, every time we hit Boston. I said, “Leave me point out just a few advantages of protection of this type,” and he said, “Arthur, show me where I sign.” I did not write another policy for a month. I have sold about 70, all to ballplayers except one to Mr. Jacob Epstein, my former English teacher at Perkinsville High. The reason they call it “Arcturus” is because Arcturus is the nearest star, or else the brightest. I forget which. Maybe both. They told me in thecourse but I forget.
“Surely his coverage is not all you can think of,” she said.
“No,” said I, “naturally not,” though it was. First you think about money. I used to pee away money like wine until I got wise to myself."
Mark Harris (19 november 1922 - 30 mei 2007)
Heer, als ik sterf
op een december-dag;
in het ziek laken dat ruikt!
En mijn gezicht: geel als een raap,
mijn baard verwoest door het zweet,
terwijl mijn hand vol angst in het kussen plukt,
Heer, houd dan voor mij, arm schaap,
houd uw barmhartigheid gereed.
Want gedurig was ik lui en dom,
onkuis, hovaardig en zot,
ik was gulzig aan bier- en wijnpot
en mijn tanden bruin van de pijp.
Heer, als ik sterf
en mijn voeten zijn koud als glas,
de kaars druipt op mijn hand
en de dokter zegt: "'t Is gedaan",
als bij de kamer-wand
de priester bidt: "Heer, laat hem gaan",
dat ik dan bidde:
"Heer, neem mij in uw ontferming aan."
Rouw om mijn land
Aan mijn Eerw. Broeder
Kornel van den Oever,
op het slagveld.
Zoo dool ik weer eens weiflend loom door 't bosch
en zou er siddrend nu mijn tranen willen weenen...
Kan 't waar zijn, lief geluk, zijt gij uit 't hart verdwenen?
Ik staar ontzind op heikruid, zwam en mos...
Mijn God, is 't leven dan zoo bleek en bros
dat het om niet zijn milde klaarte heeft geschenen
en 't vrij geluk nu zwijgend wegsterft om ons henen
als liet Gij zelf ons hart nu hooploos los?
Toch bloedt daar ginds zoo heimlijk door de duistre twijgen
uw vreed'gen avond luistervol, door niets gestoord...
Helaas, mijn God, ik beef...Want zie, 'k heb 't weer gehoord:
daar bomt het ver kanon door 't heilig, plechtig zwijgen.
En 'k weet dat achter 't denbosch waardoor de avond gloort
heel wijd, mijn land, mijn arm, goed Vlaandren wordt vermoord.
God, hoe braambloedge stralen door de dennen zijgen...
Karel van den Oever (19 november 1879 – 6 oktober 1926)
Mitten im Land
Von den über Hänge
gleiten und in
wälzen sich Wind
Dort steh ich
dich seh ich
Herzschlag in meiner Zunge
Auf den Herrn mit Parapluie am Arm
beugen sich Wolken herab
und stricken ihm einen grauen Pullover
ganz aus nieselndem Garn
Stell die Kerze auf den Tisch
Ocker für den Mond der glimmt
Komm. Ich weiß es ganz bestimmt
daß er uns durchs Fenster findet
und uns aneinander bindet
wie der Fischer Fisch an Fisch
Christoph Wilhelm Aigner (Wels, 18 november 1954)
If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out
If your tired unspeaking head
Rivet the dark with linear sight,
Crazed by a warlock with his curse
Dreamed up in some loquacious bed,
And if the stage-dark head rehearse
The fifth act of the closing night,
Why, cut it off, piece after piece,
And throw the tough cortex away,
And when you've marvelled on the wars
That wove their interior smoke its way,
Tear out the close vermiculate crease
Where death crawled angrily at bay.
Last night I fled until I came
To streets where leaking casements dripped
Stale lamplight from the corpse of flame;
A nervous window bled.
The moon swagged in the air.
Out of the mist a girl tossed
Spittle of song; a hoarse light
Spattered the fog with heavy hair.
Damp bells in a remote tower
Sharply released the throat of God,
I leaned to the erect night
Dead as stiff turf in winter sod.
Then with the careless energy
Of a dream, the forward curse
Of a cold particular eye
In the headlong hearse.
Allen Tate (19 november 1899 – 9 februari 1979)