melting & burning

Amorgos, by Nikos Gatsos
December 6, 2013, 10:32 pm
Filed under: poem | Tags: ,

In the backyard of the embittered no sun rises
Only worms come out to deride the stars
Only horses are in bud on ant-hills
And bats are eating birds and pissing seed.

In the backyard of the embittered night is king
Only the throngs of leaves throw out a river of tears
When the devil goes by to ride on the backs of dogs
And the crows are diving in a well of blood.

In the backyard of the embittered the eye has run dry
The brain has turned to ice and the heart petrified
Frogs’ flesh hangs from the teeth of the spider
Crickets howl starving at the feet of vampires.

In the backyard of the embittered grass comes up black
Only, one May evening, a breeze went by
A light footstep like the movement of a meadow
A kiss of the foam-embroidered sea.

And if you are thirsty for water we shall milk a cloud
And if you are hungry for bread we shall slaughter a nightingale
Only hold out a moment for the bitter herb to open
For the dark heavens to flash, for the candlewick to blossom.

But it was a wind that went, a lark that perished
It was the face of May, the whiteness of the moon
A light footstep like the movement of a meadow
A kiss of the foam-embroidered sea.

Translated by Sally Purcell


Στου πικραμένου την αυλή ήλιος δεν ανατέλλει
Μόνο σκουλήκια βγαίνουνε να κοροϊδέψουν τ’ άστρα
Μόνο φυτρώνουν άλογα στις μυρμηγκοφωλιές
Και νυχτερίδες τρων πουλιά και κατουράνε σπέρμα.

Στου πικραμένου την αυλή δε βασιλεύει η νύχτα
Μόνο ξερνάν οι φυλλωσιές ένα ποτάμι δάκρυα
Όταν περνάει ο διάβολος να καβαλήσει τα σκυλιά
Και τα κοράκια κολυμπάν σ’ ένα πηγάδι μ’ αίμα.

Στου πικραμένου την αυλή το μάτι έχει στερέψει
Έχει παγώσει το μυαλό κι έχει η καρδιά πετρώσει
Κρέμονται σάρκες βατραχιών στα δόντια της αράχνης
Σκούζουν ακρίδες νηστικές σε βρυκολάκων πόδια.

Στου πικραμένου την αυλή βγαίνει χορτάρι μαύρο
Μόνο ένα βράδυ του Μαγιού πέρασε ένας αγέρας
Ένα περπάτημα ελαφρύ σα σκίρτημα του κάμπου
Ένα φιλί της θάλασσας της αφροστολισμένης.

Κι αν θα διψάσεις για νερό θα στύψουμε ένα σύννεφο
Κι αν θα πεινάσεις για ψωμί θα σφάξουμε ένα αηδόνι
Μόνο καρτέρει μία στιγμή ν’ ανοίξει ο πικραπήγανος
N’ αστράψει ο μαύρος ουρανός να λουλουδίσει ο φλόμος.

Μα είταν αγέρας κι έφυγε κορυδαλλός κι εχάθη
Είταν του Μάη το πρόσωπο του φεγγαριού η ασπράδα
Ένα περπάτημα ελαφρύ σα σκίρτημα του κάμπου
Ένα φιλί της θάλασσας της αφροστολισμένης.


full poem


last poem, Karl Kraus
August 31, 2013, 6:17 pm
Filed under: poem | Tags: , , ,

Don’t ask why all this time I never spoke.
Wordless am I,
and won’t say why.
And silence reigns because the bedrock broke.
No word redeems;
one only speaks in dreams.
A smiling sun the sleeper’s images evoke.
Time marches on;
the final difference is none.
The word expired when that world awoke.

Trans. Max Knight


Man frage nicht, was all die Zeit ich machte.
Ich bleibe stumm;
und sage nicht, warum.
Und Stille gibt es, da die Erde krachte.
Kein Wort, das traf;
man spricht nur aus dem Schlaf.
Und träumt von einer Sonne, welche lachte.
Es geht vorbei;
nachher war’s einerlei.
Das Wort entschlief, als jene Welt erwachte.

The Double – Dostoevsky
February 15, 2011, 10:27 pm
Filed under: quote | Tags: , ,

(a passage i loved when i read it on 30 Aug 2005)

“I tell you what is it is, madam, if you care to know. Nowadays, madam, nobody lives in a hut, or anything of that sort. No, indeed. And in our industrial age there’s no getting on without morality, a fact of which you are a fatal example, madam . . . You say we must get a job as a register clerk and live in a hut on the sea-shore. In the first place, madam, there are no register clerks on the sea-shore, and in the second place we can’t get a job as a register clerk. For supposing, for example, I send in a petition, present myself – saying a register clerk’s place or something of the sort . . . and defend me from my enemy . . . they’ll tell you, madam, they’ll say, to be sure . . . we’ve lots of register clerks, and here you are not at Madame Falbalas’, where you learnt the rules of good behaviour of which you are a fatal example. Good behaviour, madam, means staying at home, honouring your father and not thinking about suitors prematurely. Suitors will come in good time, madam, that’s so! Of course, you are bound to have some accomplishments, such as playing the piano sometimes, speaking French, history, geography, scripture and arithmetic, that’s the truth of it! And that’s all you need. Cooking, too, cooking certainly forms part of the education of a well-behaved girl! But as it is, in the first place, my fine lady, they won’t let you go, they’ll raise a hue and cry after you, and then they’ll lock you up in a nunnery. How will it be then, madam? What will you have me do then? Would you have me, madam, follow the example of some stupid novels, and melt into tears on a neighbouring hillock, gazing at the cold walls of your prison house, and finally die, following the example of some wretched German poets and novelists. Is that it, madam? But, to begin with, allow me to tell you, as a friend, that things are not done like that, and in the second place I would have given you and your parents, too, a good thrashing for letting you read French books; for French books teach you no good. There’s a poison in them . . . a pernicious poison, madam! Or do you imagine, allow me to ask you, or do you imagine that we shall elope with impunity, or something of that sort . . . that was shall have a hut on the shore of the sea and so on; and that we shall begin billing and cooing and talking about our feelings, and that so we shall spend our lives in happiness and content; and then there would be little ones – so then we shall . . . shall go to our father, the civil councillor, Olsufy Ivanovitch, and say, ‘we’ve got a little one, and so, on this propitious occasion remove your curse, and bless the couple.’ No, madam, I tell you again, that’s not the way to do things, and for the first thing there’ll be no billing and cooing and please don’t reckon on it. Nowadays, madam, the husband is the master and a good, well-brought-up wife should try and please him in every way. And endearments, madam, are not in favour, nowadays, in our industrial age; the day of Jean Jacques Rousseau is over. The husband comes home, for instance, hungry from the office, and asks, ‘Isn’t there something to eat, my love, a drop of vodka to drink, a bit of salt fish to eat?’ So then, madam, you must have the vodka and the herring ready. Your husband will eat it with relish, and he won’t so much as look at you, he’ll only say ‘Run into the kitchen, kitten,’ he’ll say, ‘and look after the dinner, and at most, once a week, he’ll kiss you, even then rather indifferently . . . That’s how it will be with us, my young lady! Yes, even then indifferently. . . . That’s how it will be, if one considers it, if it has come to one’s looking at the thing in that way. . . . And how do I come in? Why have you mixed me up in your caprices? ‘The noble man who is suffering for your sake and will be dear to your heart for ever,’ and so on. but in the first place, madam, I am not suited to you, you know yourself, I’m not a great hand at compliments, I’m not fond of uttering perfumed trifles for the ladies. I’m not fond of lady-killers, and I must own I’ve never been a beauty to look at. You won’t find any swagger or false shame in me, and I tell you so now in all sincerity. This is the fact of the matter: we can boast of nothing but a straightforward, open character and common sense; we have nothing to do with intrigues. I am not one to intrigue, I say so and I’m proud of it – that’s the fact of the matter! . . . I wear no mask among straightforward people, and to tell you the whole truth. . . .”

Goodbye proud world – Emerson
February 15, 2011, 10:24 pm
Filed under: poem | Tags: , ,

Good-by, proud world, I’m going home,
Thou’rt not my friend, and I’m not thine;
Long through thy weary crowds I roam;
A river-ark on the ocean brine,
Long I’ve been tossed like the driven foam,
But now, proud world, I’m going home.

Good-by to Flattery’s fawning face,
To Grandeur, with his wise grimace,
To upstart Wealth’s averted eye,
To supple Office low and high,
To crowded halls, to court, and street,
To frozen hearts, and hasting feet,
To those who go, and those who come,
Good-by, proud world, I’m going home.

I’m going to my own hearth-stone
Bosomed in yon green hills, alone,
A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned;
Where arches green the livelong day
Echo the blackbird’s roundelay,
And vulgar feet have never trod
A spot that is sacred to thought and God.

Oh, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools, and the learned clan;
For what are they all in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet.

– R. W. Emerson

Through a Glass Darkly, by Ingmar Bergman
January 30, 2011, 8:16 pm
Filed under: film | Tags: , , , , ,

scene is called “Certainty achieved”
-Papa, I’m scared papa. When I sat holding Karin down there in the wreck reality burst open. Do you know what I mean?
-Yes I know.
-Reality…burst open… and I tumbled out. Almost like in a dream. Anything can happen papa. Anything.
-I know.
-I don’t think I can live in this new world papa.
-Yes you can, but you must have something to hold on to.
-Like what papa. God? Give me proof of that god? …you can’t.
-Yes I can. But you have to listen carefully.
-Yes, I need to listen.
-I can only give you a hint of my own hope. It’s knowing that love exists for real in the human world.

// I have omitted about 6 lines of dialogue

-So…so then love is a proof of god’s existence?
-I don’t know if love is the proof of god’s existence or whether love is god itself.
-For you…for you love and god are the same thing then?
-That thought helps my emptiness and my dirty despair.
-Tell me more, papa.
-Suddenly the emptiness turns into abundance, and despair into life. It’s like a reprieve, Minus, from a death sentence.