All that's left


Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone's bees.

You can't untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.

For us, all that's left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.

Deep in the transparent night they're still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.

But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.

November 1920

The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam, trans. by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin [1973] (NYRB, 2004).

January 27, 2005 in Apiary | Comments (0)

Under the Elms

I like to have a man's knowledge comprehend more than one class of topics, one row of shelves.  I like a man who likes to see a fine barn as well as a good tragedy.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks, III, 137-38.

January 16, 2005 | Comments (0)



Barn. Maltby, Washington.

More nostalgia at "Remembering the Family Farm: 150 Years of American Prints," an online exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art (U. Kansas).

January 16, 2005 | Comments (0)



Orioles in the woods: length of vowels alone
makes the meter of the classic lines. No more
than once a year, though, nature pours out
the full-drawn length, the verse of Homer.

This day yawns like a caesura: a lull
beginning in the morning, difficult, going on and on:
the grazing oxen, the golden languor powerless
to call out of the reed the riches of one whole note.

The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam, translated by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin.

January 10, 2005 | Comments (0)

Gramineæ II

Guy Davenport (1927-2005)

[Leonardo] turned to the basket of flowering grasses, reaching for his silver pencil. Bracts and umbrels fine as a spider's legs! And in the thin green veins ran hairs of water, and down the hairs of water ran light, down into the dark, into the root. Light from the farthest stars flowed through these long leaves. He had seen the prints of leaves from the time of the flood in mountain rocks, and had seen there shells from the sea....    He drew with his left hand a silver eddy of grass. It was grace that he drew, perfection, frail leaves through which moved the whole power of God, and when a May fly lights on a green arc of grass the splendor of that conjunction is no less than San Gabriele touching down upon the great Dome at Byzantium, closing the crushed silver and spun glass of his four wings around the golden shaft of his height....

Did man know anything at all?

Guy Davenport, "The Richard Nixon Freisch├╝tz Rag"

January 7, 2005 | Comments (2)