Steven's Poetry/Writing: March 2008 Archives

Nighttime Series


Shades of Night

I: Cornflower

Flat cornflower sky at the edge of dusk
the buildings, telephone towers, trees, and traffic
pressed hard against it, only their overlap
providing perspective. Behind a light
winks out and shadow deepens--the shadows
on the ground and pressed against the sky.


They took it out of the spectrum
because no one could quite say what
it was. They had stopped watching
nightfall, when cornflower
mixes with star black
until neither blue, nor black, nor
purple, nor any other color
but indigo rings the world with purpose
before starlight shatters it.

[cayo hueso]

First two of what I hope will be a subsequence in the larger work.

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The Quantum of Desire

I discovered the quantum of desire:
the exact measure
of how much a prize
is treasured, how much
a woman is prized,
how much you will spend
to get what you think
you want. I have made
a measure, a pure
geometry of lust--
with my machine I
can measure what you
want against what I
want and will always
find that my desire
is greater. No one
can want as I want.

[cayo hueso!!!]

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Last for Today

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She spoke and the world melted with her words;
what was green turned brown, and white became clear
streams flowing to the sea. Of what she said,
no sense or meaning. Simple word simply
spoken, no promise, no threat, no intent
beyond the magic of language.

Who knew how powerful a single word?

[cayo hueso]

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And More


[Chained Fragments]

I have said one thing too many
times, so the words have worn smooth as
pebbles on the shingle and some
have worn away completely.

The eyes I see with today have transformed
the world for me, coloring it with shades
that have taken a lifetime to form.

What we wait for, what we dream, never comes
never because no matter how close
some difference remains.

Three lines are enough to say what needs said,
more lines are just more lines.

[cayo hueso]

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Yet More


Chained to Dust
you'd think the spirit
would move easily
like a wind weaving
through the spaces between
motes setting them dancing.

But it may as well be whistling
between electron cloud and nucleus
for all the motion it makes in this
relentless sedentary waste.

If the spirit moves the earthly shell
contains and constrains it
so that at times a hollow moaning
sounds--a whirlwind echoing in the void.

How could the All-Knowing
make such a marriage of eternal
and ephemeral?

[cayo hueso]

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Cayo Hueso??

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Without offering more:

A Litany of Miracles

Take a look at the hand
that holds the pen or floats over keyboard
as though not attached to your humanity.
Ghost pale in glowing light, flex it, fingers
move in ways at once simple, beautiful,
light, impossible. Who would have thought such a
stretch was mere bone in flesh and not the pure
motion of the divine?
____________________What could be more
perfect, a better pointer to what is
beyond motion? No sign you can see shows
at the surface of skin, and yet it moves
the hand, powered by a stream of human
current, the shocks and jolts of jumping nerve
impulses across a chemical sea--
a distance so vast and so perfectly
spaced that everything moves together, so
a jazz-hand dancer, then a fist, then what?
Whatever the hand has been trained to do,
whenever it has been shown to move--all
motion not its own.

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A Poem


At the End of the Road

What will happen
will. There's no need
to cover plants
in the cold, if
they cannot make
it through the night,
they don't belong
here anyway.

[cayo hueso?]

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mon ami, Charles Baudelaire.

And while I'm not saying the intent is my intent, the capitalization of Toi allows me to read it in a way that perhaps M. Baudelaire did not intend. (Almost certainly did not intend given the title of his chief work--Les Fleurs du Mal.)

De profundis clamavi
Charles Baudelaire

J'implore ta pitié, Toi, l'unique que j'aime,
Du fond du gouffre obscur où mon coeur est tombé.
C'est un univers morne à l'horizon plombé,
Où nagent dans la nuit l'horreur et le blasphème;

Un soleil sans chaleur plane au-dessus six mois,
Et les six autres mois la nuit couvre la terre;
C'est un pays plus nu que la terre polaire
— Ni bêtes, ni ruisseaux, ni verdure, ni bois!

Or il n'est pas d'horreur au monde qui surpasse
La froide cruauté de ce soleil de glace
Et cette immense nuit semblable au vieux Chaos;

Je jalouse le sort des plus vils animaux
Qui peuvent se plonger dans un sommeil stupide,
Tant l'écheveau du temps lentement se dévide!

A translation, more poetic than accurate, but aiming at the spirit:

De Profundis Clamavi
Roy Campbell

Have pity, my one love and sole delight!
Down to a dark abyss my heart has sounded,
A mournful world, by grey horizons bounded,
Where blasphemy and horror swim by night.

For half the year a heatless sun gives light,
The other half the night obscures the earth.
The arctic regions never knew such dearth.
No woods, nor streams, nor creatures meet the sight.

No horror in the world could match in dread
The cruelty of that dire sun of frost,
And that huge night like primal chaos spread.

I envy creatures of the vilest kind
That they in stupid slumber can be lost —
So slowly does the skein of time unwind!

And another, again, poetic, not literal

Out of the Depths
Jacques LeClercq

Sole Being I love, Your mercy I implore
Out of the bitter pit of my heart's night,
With leaden skyscapes on a dismal shore,
Peopled only by blasphemy and fright;
For six months frigid suns float overhead,
For six months more darkness and solitude.
No polar wastes are bleaker and more dead,
With never beast nor stream nor plant nor wood.

No horror in this world but is outdone
By the cold razor of this glacial sun
And this chaotic night's immensities.
I envy the most humble beast that ease
Which brings dull slumber to his brutish soul
So slowly does my skein of time unroll.

And then this, which comes from the same hand that gave us the delights of The Importance of Being Earnest

from De Profundis
Oscar Wilde

Prosperity, pleasure and success, may be rough of grain and common in fibre, but sorrow is the most sensitive of all created things. There is nothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to which sorrow does not vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation. The thin beaten-out leaf of tremulous gold that chronicles the direction of forces the eye cannot see is in comparison coarse. It is a wound that bleeds when any hand but that of love touches it, and even then must bleed again, though not in pain.

Which leads us to:

Psalm 129/130

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;

Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes in vocem deprecationis meæ.

Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine,
Domine, quis sustinebit?

Quia apud te propitiatio est;
et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:

speravit anima mea in Domino.

A custodia matutina usque ad noctem,
speret Israël in Domino.

Quia apud Dominum misericordia,
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.

Et ipse redimet Israël
ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

Which, in those most magnificent of translations are:

Psalm 130

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.

Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

1662 BOCP

OUT of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord : Lord, hear my voice.

O let thine ears consider well : the voice of my complaint.

If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss : O Lord, who may abide it?

For there is mercy with thee : therefore shalt thou be feared.

I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him : in his word is my trust.

My soul fleeth unto the Lord : before the morning watch, I say, before the morning watch.

O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy : and with him is plenteous redemption.

And he shall redeem Israel : from all his sins.

To which I append,

[temp title] The Cloud of Unknowing

And so I move from knowing
to unknowing--not merely ignorance
but undoing the knowing I have
untying the knots and staring underneath
at what cannot be known once it is known.

Later: Upon review I discovered that I was remiss in citing my sources. This very fine site presents the original poems from Les Fleurs du Mals with several different English translations. I took the poem and the translations from that site.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Steven's Poetry/Writing category from March 2008.

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