Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Three poems

Study for Salome Dancing Before Herod
by Eric Pankey

In the movement toward disappearance,
She is pulled by an undertow of ecstasy.
She wakes in a room where she never fell asleep.
A thousand starlings leaf-out a bare tree.
She wakes in a dusky, tenebrous zone.
Evening on the ridges and in the mountains,
But light still spills on the valley floor.
What transport brought her here?
The shape of gravity embodies a pear on the table.
Here time is the only sovereign.
She is like an arrow slipped from its quiver.

by Angie Estes

Each October the house beyond
the woods appears, then goes away

in May. The maple opens
to let the blue jay in, then

closes, while all
the trees keep pointing

in the same direction.
Every house is

a missionary
, claimed Frank Lloyd Wright,
but what is it they want

us to believe? Beside the house,
a road, and onto the road raccoon,

possum, ground hog, deer occasionally
stray: how the hind leg rises

at death, saluting
the sky, just as at the end

of Stravinsky's Rite of
, a girl steps onto

the stage and dances herself
to death. The ground keeps opening

but will not speak. To attract
birds, you must make sounds

like a bird dying. Begin
with alarm—psssshhtt—then

move on to the high-pitched
noises small birds make

when seized by a predator: loudly
kiss the back of your hand

or thumb. The origin of music was
grief: a dirge sung annually

in memory of Linos, ai Linon, alas for
Linos from the Phoenician ai lanu, alas

for us
, a harvest
song, lament for the death

of the year. In October, as in Wagner,
you can have the gold

but only by renouncing
love, the past can sometimes be

forgotten, and heaven go up
in flames. Wagner always loved to be

where he died, in Venice,
because he could hear music

only in the city's silence.

from Epitaphs
by Abraham Sutzkever
Translated By Jacqueline Osherow
Read the translator's notes

Written on a slat of a railway car:

If some time someone should find pearls
threaded on a blood-red string of silk
which, near the throat, runs all the thinner
like life’s own path until it’s gone
somewhere in a fog and can’t be seen—

If someone should find these pearls
let him know how—cool, aloof—they lit up
the eighteen-year-old, impatient heart
of the Paris dancing girl, Marie.

Now, dragged through unknown Poland—
I’m throwing my pearls through the grate.

If they’re found by a young man—
let these pearls adorn his girlfriend.
If they’re found by a girl—
let her wear them; they belong to her.
And if they’re found by an old man—
let him, for these pearls, recite a prayer.


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