In Memoriam (two translations from the English)

Dear reader, I’m curious: of the versions below, which do you prefer (if either), and why?

3079020212_8fb47a5326_b

I.

They built a grand monument to the dead
And the place where the stone was quarried
Soon filled up with rainwater
And the young couples would meet there.

II.

Built to commemorate the dead
This palace stands, untenanted.

By the still pool in the quarry pit
The lovers sometimes come to sit.

 

Continue reading

I Wrestled Fire

Full Moon Forest Fire

I had wrestled fire the day long
But now the sun was gone
And as the night came on, fire grew.
The full moon watched to see what I would do.

And nothing went as I had planned.
The element of fire was out of hand
And hungered for the earth, and ate the air.
The full moon watched to see how I would fare.

I made a wish for rain to fall;
The smutted sky ignored my call.
The flames ate trees and darkness, and grew tall.
The full moon watched above it all

Until the fire was brought complete
To perfect light and perfect heat:
All that was left to gain was my defeat.

I fed the flames myself, and was consumed
Under the gaze of the curious moon.

 

Continue reading

Para el Día de los Inocentes

504769422_7f6b03f977_oYou did not recognize that small things grow;
Before you could, the sickness in your bones
Grew large in hunger, swallowing you whole.

Should it be said you lived, who never tasted breath?
I cannot know; perhaps you can,
Who are so intimate with Death.

In Her dry land where all must come at last,
I cannot know, but hope you are at rest.

 

Continue reading

The Poet’s Lament for His Mother’s Death Has Won Another Prize

6476191927_5279b75285_bMost get an afterlife that isn’t much
for having had one’s soul pried out and kissed by death.
Oh, yes, it’s heady for a while, everyone suddenly
so sympathetic to one’s finished life,
so seeking lessons from one’s progress, or
so plucking-out-the-moral from one’s last decline.

It’s not bad while it lasts,
and everyone makes nice, but honestly
it’s mostly straight from gravestones and condolence cards:
“Beloved mother, Loving wife,” and how
she loved her kids, her husband, animals,
was pleasant always, liked to dance…

Most dead folk get that taste of it.
But later, after the tepid food and drives back home,
after some hours or months of reminisce,
one’s absences become less notable; one starts to fade.
And then what’s left of one? A nice obit, scrapbooked;
a stray memorial card stuck in a dresser drawer somewhere.

But this!
If there’s a heaven, oh! She’s gloating there for sure,
knowing she’s in it for the long haul now;
the mortification of her outraged privacy
is nothing to such pride! Such an I-knew-it!
Her own death, the source of his triumph!

 

Continue reading

Death by Drowning

15489091955_e001bc2798_k

(for Theodore Roethke)

We die of love, or anything at all.
I drew a million breaths, but could not sing.
My bones are of the earth, and heed its call;
I’ll dream a sun, and feed myself on ink.

Be still, be still: a color’s in my eyes.
What’s sleeping? Will I wake? Have I a soul?
This water’s cold. A stone does what it likes.
My breath is gone. The sea’s song fills me whole.

 

Continue reading