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Poetry Habitat-I



I hear the voice of time in poems, 
in the touch of hands, here, there, 
in eyes that ask me 
if the eglantine shall shut 
the door of its hut 
or open another. 

A touch of hands, here, there, 
and the gap from infancy 
to immolation disappears 
as if a star emerged 
at once 
from nowhere 
and returned the world 
to innocence. 

Allen Ginsberg 

Excerpt from 

O fellow travellers I write you a poem 
in Amsterdam in the Cosmos 
where Spinoza ground his magic lenses long ago 
I write you a poem long ago 
already my feet are washed in death 
Here I am naked without identity 
with no more body than the fine black tracery 
of pen mark on soft paper 
as star talks to star multiple beams of sunlight 
all the same myriad thought 
in one fold of the universe where Whitman was 
and Blake and Shelly saw Milton dwelling 
as in a starry temple 
brooding in his blindness seeing all- 
Now at last I can speak to you 
beloved brothers 
of an unknown moon 
real Yous squatting in whatever form 
amidst Platonic Vapors of Eternity 
I am another star. 
Will you eat my poems or read them 
or gaze with aluminium blind plates 
on sunless pages? 
Do you dream or translate and accept data 
with indifferent droopings of antennae? 
Do I make sense to your flowery green receptor eyesockets? 
Do you have visions of God? 
Which way will the sunflower turn 
surrounded by millions of suns? 
This is my rocket my personal rocket 
I send up my message 
someone to hear me there 
My immortality 
without steel or cobalt basalt or diamond 
gold or mercurial fire 
without passports filing cabinets 
bits of paper warheads 
without myself finally 
pure thought 
message all and everywhere the same 
I send up my rocket to land 
on whatever planet awaits it 
preferably religious sweet planets no money 
fourth dimensional planets 
where Death shows movies 
plants speak [courteously] of ancient physics 
and poetry itself is manufactured 
by the trees 
the final Planet where 
the Great Brain of the Universe sits 
waiting for a poem to land 
in His golden pocket 
joining the other notes mash-notes 
love-sighs complaints-musical shrieks of despair 
and the million unutterable thoughts of frogs 
I send you my rocket of amazing chemical 
more than my hair my sperm 
or the cells of my body 
the speeding thought that flies upward with my desire 
as instantaneous as the universe 
and faster than light 
and leave all other questions 
unfinished for the moment 
to turn back to sleep 
in my dark bed on earth. 

Bella Akhmadulina 


What pull did that leaping flame 
exert over the Snow Maiden? 
Rather a death by drowning, 
or under horses' hooves. 

Yet in a blue swirl of skirts, 
a flash of legs, up she soared 
and was no more converted 
instantly into so much thawed water. 

How often has her life 
merged thus with air and ended. 
It is our fool's infancy to play with fire 
it is our age-old sport. 

The vivid color draws us to it, 
gives us so little space to pass,
and the body once it has surrendered 
ceases to be a body, melts. 

And yet we are always lighting fires, 
playing this dangerous game, 
and risking our very lives 
in the bonfire's flame. 

Our fate is still unresolved, obscure, 
still hidden in the bunching smoke, 
whether we bring our skins out whole 
or melt into the flames for ever. 

Brian Patten 


When in public poetry should take off its clothes and wave to the nearest person in sight; it should be seen in the company of thieves and lovers rather than that of journalists and publishers. On sighting mathematicians it should unhook the algebra from their minds and replace it with poetry; on sighting poets it should unhook poetry from their minds and replace it with algebra; it should fall in love with children and woo them with fairytales; it should wait on the landing for 2 years for its mate to come home then go outside and find them all dead. 

When the electricity fails it should wear dark glasses and pretend to be blind. It should guide all those who are safe into the middle of busy roads and leave them there. It should scatter woodworms into the bedrooms of all peglegged men not being afraid to hurt the innocent or make such differences. It should shout EVIL! EVIL! from the roofs of the world's stock exchanges. It should not pretend to be a clerk or a librarian. It should be kind, it is the eventual sameness of contradictions. It should never weep until it is alone and only after it has covered the mirrors and sealed up the cracks. 

Poetry should seek out pale and lyrical couples and wander with them into stables neglected bedrooms and engineless cars for a final Good Time. It should enter burning factories too late to save anyone. It should pay no attention to its real name. 

Poetry should be seen lying by the side of road accidents, hissing from unlit gass-rings. It should scrawl the nymphomaniac' secret on her teacher's blackboard; offer her a worm saying: Inside this is a tiny apple. Poetry should play hopscotch in the 6pm streets and look for jinks in other people's dustbins. At dawn it should leave the bedroom and catch the first bus home to its wife. At dusk it should chatup a girl nobody wants. It should be seen standing on the ledge of a skyscraper, on a bridge with a brick tied around its heart. It is the monster hiding in a child's dark room, it is the scar on a beautiful man's face. It is the last blade of grass being picked from the city park. 

Chong Hyon-jong 


I plant an exclamation mark by a tree, 
I have an exclamation mark bloom by a flower, 
I pronounce an exclamation mark by a bird, 
I bare an exclamation mark by a woman. 

I let an exclamation mark cry by sorrow, 
I let an exclamation mark laugh by joy, 
and I go my way nonchalantly 
Like an exclamation mark upside down. 

Czeslaw Milosz 


The first movement is singing, 
a free voice, filling mountains and valleys. 
The first movement is joy, 
but it is taken away. 

And now that the years 
have transformed my blood 
and thousands of planetary systems 
have been born and died in my flesh, 
I sit, a sly and angry poet 
with malevolently squinted eyes, 
and, weighing a pen in my hand, 
I plot revenge. 

I poise the pen 
and it puts forth twigs and leaves, 
it is covered with blossoms 
and the scent of that tree is impudent, 
for there, on the real earth, 
such trees do not grow, and like an insult 
to suffering humanity 
is the scent of that tree. 

Some take refuge in despair, which is sweet 
like strong tobacco, like a glass of vodka 
drunk in the hour of annihilation. 
Others have the hope of fools, 
rosy as erotic dreams. 

Still others find peace 
in the idolatry of country, 
which can last for a long time, 
although little longer 
than the nineteenth century lasts. 

But to me a cynical hope is given, 
for since I opened my eyes I have seen 
only the glow of fires, massacres, 
only injustice, humiliation, 
and the laughable shame of braggarts. 
To me is given the hope of revenge 
on others and on myself, 
for I was he who knew 
And took from it no profit for myself. 

Dennis Brutus 


I must speak 
[this is my desire] 
in the channels of your ear 
in your silent moments, 
or when your heart answers 
and, seeking words, 
hears echoes rise 
in the tunnels of the mind 

I must speak 
so plangently 
[ this is my desire ] 
in the channels of your ear 
that in your silent moments 
my words will reverberate: 

or when your heart answers 
some strong assertion of the truth 
in blood, or action or belief 
and seeks for words 
let then my echoes rise 
in the tunnels of your mind. 

Ernesto Cardenal 


Behind the monastery, down by the road, 
there is a cemetery of worn-out things 
where lie smashed china, rusty metal, 
cracked pipes and twisted bits of wire, 
empty cigarette packs, sawdust, 
corrugated iron, 
old plastic, tyres beyond repair: 
all waiting for the Resurrection, 
like ourselves. 

Ferenc Juhasz 

Excerpts from 

There he stood on the renewing crags of time, 
stood on the ringed summit 
of the sublime universe, 
there stood the boy at the gate of secrets, 
his antler prongs were playing with the stars, 
with a stag's voice 
down the world's lost paths 
he called back to his life-giving mother: 
mother, my mother, I cannot go back, 
pure gold seethes in my hundred wounds, 
day by day 
a hundred bullets knock me from my feet 
and day by day I rise again, 
a hundred times more complete, 
day by day I die three billion times, 
each branch of my antlers 
is a dual-based pylon, 
each prong of my antlers a high-tension wire, 
my eyes are ports for ocean-going merchantmen 
my veins are tarry cables, 
these teeth are iron bridges, 
and in my heart surge 
the monster-infested seas, 
each vertebra is a teeming metropolis, 
for a spleen I have a smoke-puffing barge, 
each of my cells is a factory, 
my atoms are solar systems, 
sun and moon swing in my testicles, 
the Milky Way is my bone marrow, 
each point in space is one part of my body, 
my brain's impulse is out in the curling galaxies. 

Lost son of mine, come back for all that, 
your libellula-eyed mother watches for you still. 

Only to die will I return, only to die come back, 
yes, I will come, will come to die, 
and when I have come--but to die--my mother, 
then may you lay me in the parental house, 
with your marbled hands 
you may wash my body, 
my glandulous eyelids close with a kiss. 
And then, when my flesh falls apart 
and lies in its own stench, yet deep in flowers, 
then shall I feed on your blood, 
be your body's fruit, 
then shall I be your own small son again, 
and this shall give pain to you alone, mother, 
to you alone, O my mother. 

Gabriel Okara 


Your song is celestial song 
and so in 'different plane' 
mine is terrestial song 
and so is vain 
vain, but it seeks ceaselessly 
like rushing water the sea. 
Let yours come down in drips 
in crystal drips of starry light 
to illumine the approaching night. 

My song vainly climbs 
like smoke from humble hearths. 
It rises from lowly depths 
to reach up to your song 
but it is muffled by racing clouds. 
So let yours come down in drips 
just in drips, drips of starry song 
To strengthen my trembly feet. 

Giovanni Raboni 


Just a few words, 
just a notice on the backside of the bill 
miscalculated by the owner. 
Perhaps it's too late, perhaps the wheel 
turns too much for something to remain: 
eyes quartered, horse heads, 
nice days of Guernica. 
Splinters turn to pulp here. 
And even I who write to you 
from this unchanged place-- 
I have no sentences for you, I have no 
voice for this faith I still have, 
for the symmetrical flasks, the rectangular 
crude chairs of straw. 
I no longer have any sight or certainty; 
it's as though 
all of a sudden the pen 
had slipped from my hand 
and I were writing with my elbow or my nose. 

Gunter Kunert 


Purposeless and meaningful 
it should be 
purposeless and meaningful 
it should emerge from the mud 
out of which the bricks 
of great palaces are made-- 
to crumble again into mud-- 
one very fine day 

purposeless and meaningful 
it should be 
what an unseemly work 
it would be 
not serviceable for oppression 
not controvertible for oppression 
therefore purposeless 
therefore meaningful 

like poetry 

Helmut Zenker 


in poems 
i hide behind 
barricades made of words 
because i'm speechless 

Henrik Nordbrandt 


I saw a child sitting 
on the shore of a sea 

and thought it was my child 
and wanted to go up to it 

when it turned around 
and shook its head 

as if wishing to say: 
Do not use me again 

in your dreams: You are 
dead and have no right 

to murder yourself once more 
by appearing here. 

Jacques Dupin 


Endlessly to watch 
a second night coming on 
through this sluggish lucid pyre 
mitigated by no production of ashes. 

But the mouth at the end, 
the mouth full of earth and rage, 
that it itself is burning 
and guides the cradles 
on the river. 

John Ashbery 


Some things we do take up a lot more time 
and are considered a fruitful, 
natural thing to do. 
I am coming out of one way to behave 
into a plowed cornfield. On my left, gulls, 
on an inland vacation. 
They seem to mind the way I write. 

Or, to take another example: last month 
I vowed to write more. What is writing? 
Well, in my case, it's getting down on paper 
not thoughts, exactly, but ideas, maybe: 
ideas about thoughts. 
Thoughts is too grand a word. 
Ideas is better, though not precisely what I mean. 
Someday I'll explain. Not today though. 

I feel as though someone had made me a vest 
which I was wearing out of doors 
into the countryside. 
Out of loyalty to the person, although 
there is no one to see, except me 
with my inner vision of what I look like. 
The wearing is both a duty and a pleasure 
because it absorbs me, absorbs me too much. 

One horse stands out irregularly against 
the land over there. And am I receiving 
this vision ? Is it mine, or do I already owe it 
for other visions, unnoticed and unrecorded 
on the great, relaxed curve of time, 
all the forgotten springs, dropped pebbles, 
songs once heard that then passed out of light 
into everyday oblivion? He moves away slowly, 
looks up and pumps the sky, a lingering 
question. Him too we can sacrifice 
to the end progress, for we must, 
we must be moving on. 

Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor 


Go and tell them that I crossed the river 
while the canoes were still empty 
and the boatman had gone away. 
My god of songs was ill 
and I was taking him to be cured. 
When I went the fetish priest was away 
so I waited outside the hut. 
My god of songs was groaning 
I gathered courage 
I knocked on the fetish hut 
and the cure god said in my tongue 
'come' in with your backside. 
So I walked in with my backside 
with my god of songs crying on my head 
I placed him on the stool. 
Then the bells rang 
and my name was called thrice. 
My god groaned amidst the many voices. 
The cure god said I had violated my god 
'Take' him to your father's gods. 
But before they opened the hut 
my god burst into songs, new strong songs 
that I am still singing with him. 

Leopold Sedar Senghor 


Nude woman, black woman, 
clothed in your color which is life, 
in your form which is beauty! 
I have grown in your shadow 
while the sweetness of your hands 
cradled my eyes. 
And high on the fiery pass, 
I find you, Earth's promise, 
in the heart of summer and the noon, 
And your beauty blasts me full-heart 
like the flash of an eagle 
in the sun. 

Nude mother, black mother, 
ripe fruit of firm flesh, 
deep rapture of dark wine, 
lips whose song is my song, 
Savanna of pure horizons, savanna trembling 
at the East Wind's eager kisses, 
carved tom-tom, tight tom-tom, 
groaning under the hands of the conqueror, 
Your heavy contralto 
is the spirit-song of the loved. 

Nude mother, black mother,
oil of no ripple or flow, 
calm oil on the flanks of the athlete, 
on the flanks of the princes of Mali, 
Gazelle of heavenly binding, 
pearls are stars on the night of your skin; 
delights of the playful mind, 
the red sun's glint on your glistening skin 
Under the shadow of your hair-- 
my cares are brightened 
by the neighbouring sun of your eyes. 

Nude woman, black woman 
I sing your passing beauty, 
your form I fix in the Ageless Night 
before old jealous Destiny 
brings you down in the fire and gathers 
your ashes for the suckling life. 

[for two trumpets and balafong

Listen to the barking bullet dogs 
in the night-thickets of my belly. 
Where are my yellow watchdogs 
with the hungry mouths? 
Alone my steel surrounded by sacred blood. 
I give you a whistle a charming cry, 
dogs of my arms dogs of my legs, 
for down in the cellars of a cabaret, 
I lost my heart at Montmartre. 

Listen to the barking bullet dogs 
in the night-thickets of my belly. 
I must tether my blood on a leash of vermillion,
Son of Man Son of Lion, 
who roars in the hollowing hills, 
burning one hundred villages all around 
with his dry, male voice of the desert wind. 

I will come bounding over hilltops, 
forcing the fear of steppe-winds, 
challenging sea-streams, 
where young virgin bodies 
drown in the lowlands of agony. 
I will climb the soft belly of dunes 
and the red gleaming thighs of day 
high to the gorge of shadows, 
where the deer streaked with dream 
is killed by the quick stroke of day. 

Miroslav Holub 


Albert Einstein, in conversation- 
[Knowledge is discovering 
what to say]-in conversation one day 
with Paul Valery, 
was asked: 

Mr Einstein, how do you work 
with your ideas? Do you note them down 
the moment they strike you? Or only 
at night? Or the morning? 

Albert Einstein replied: 
Monsieur Valery, in our business 
ideas are so rare that 
if a man hits upon one 
he certainly won't forget it. 

Not in a year. 


Certainly this thing exists. For 
on dark nights when, unseen, 
I walk through the snail-like windings 
of the street 
the sound of my own roar reaches me 
from a great distance. 

Yes. This thing exists. For surely 
even cicadas were once of gigantic stature 
and today you can find mammoths' nests 
under a pebble. The earth, of course, 
is lighter than it once was. 

Besides, evolution is nothing but 
a long string of false steps; 
and it may happen that a severed head 
will sing. 

And it's not due, as many believe, to 
the invention of words. Blood 
in the corners of the mouth is substantially 
more ancient 
and the cores of the rocky planets 
are heated by the grinding of teeth. 
Certainly this thing exists. 
a thousand bulls want to be 
And vice versa. 


Are you a poet? 

--Yes, I am. 

How do you know? 

--I've written poems. 

If you've written poems 
it means you were a poet. But now? 

--I'll write a poem again one day. 

In that case 
may be you'll be a poet again one day. 
But how will you know it is a poem? 

--It will be a poem just like the last one. 

Then of course it won't be a poem. 
A poem is only once 
and can never be the same a second time. 

--I believe it will be just as good. 

How can you be sure? 
Even the quality of a poem is for once only 
and depends not on you but on circumstances. 

--I believe that circumstances 
will be the same too. 

If you believe that then you won?e a poet 
and never were a poet. 
What then makes you think you are a poet? 

--Well, I don't rightly know. And who are you? 

Nancy Morejohn 


As in the age of Netzahualcoyotl 
this is no bed of roses. 
I know now that visions have been scorned. 
And festering roses seep 
from parchment leaves. 
So, the dream of my reason 
produces monsters: 
lull the dialectical shit of the mosquito. 
My beloved scorpion, squander 
your sensibility upon my act of poetry. 
Unite with the proletariat 
and its nuclear warhead 
Hare, stay in me; keep your secret, shark-fin. 
Coconut tree by the tinder-pile, 
unfurl your midnight flight. 
Let the sparrow snort. Let the snake hiss. 

Monsters of myself, 
you have the nobility the epoch 
requires. You've learned to be what you are 
not and what you are. 
You practice theory. 
Tell how Form and Beauty are privileged 
by the sweet psyche of reason 
made dream and spirit-spark. 

Let the mammoth and the stag I never knew 
enter, trumpeting, into my neighborhood. 

Nicanor Parra 


reads every word I write 
looking over my left shoulder 
he laughs at my problems with no shame 
a man with a swagger stick and tails 

I look but there's nobody there 
still I know someone is watching me