The Poet's Lies | Here and Now A Summit-Meet
Habitat-I | Habitat-II | Pointblank |  Index

Poetry Habitat-II

Octavio Paz 


If it is real the white 
light from this lamp, real 
the writing hand, are they 
real, the eyes looking at what I write? 

From one word to the other 
what I say vanishes. 
I know that I am alive 
between two parentheses. 

Roberto Juarroz 


In the root of the word 
several loves are playing, 
but also a somber color 
like the flags of a lost battle. 

To speak is to live another way 
but also to die another way, 
as though to live were to die, 
to die were to live. 

In the root of the word 
every love goes beyond what it loves 
but comes back with a flower 
imprudently dark 
and knows that it can go no farther. 

That is why, after the word, 
in its root a space opens 
where there is 
neither passion nor sarcasm, 
a space out of which 
the most human absence 
that inhabits anyone 
can grow freely. 


Every silence is a magic space 
with a hidden rite, 
the womb of a summoning word, 
and an essential detail 
of antisilence. 

The hidden rite may be for example 
a death in winter. 
The word in the womb 
may be simply the word 'forget' 
and the detail of antisilence 
may be the sound of a few clods 
striking the earth. 

Or the rite the rocking of 
a tenderness in the night, 
the word a proper name drowning, 
and the indispensable detail 
of antisilence 
a little water 
flowing through the dream of the world. 

Or the rite 
may be the solitude of a poem, 
the word the sign that every poem hides, 
and the point of antisilence 
the sound of the hand 
calling from inside the poem. 

Silence is a temple 
that needs no god. 

Shuntaro Tanikawa 


Let your ears perk up 
to yesterday's 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
to the sounds 
that have continued 
for who knows 
for how long 
of people's footsteps 
let your ears perk up 
shut your eyes 
let your ears perk up 
the kotsu kotsu of high heels 
the dota dota of boots 
the poku poku of girl's geta 
let your ears perk up 
the karan koron of heavy clogs 
the zakku zakku of laced up boots 
the pata pata of zori 
let your ears perk up 
the saku saku of straw boots 
the koto koto of wooden shoes 
the suta suta of moccasins 
the teku teku of straw sandles 
and then 
the hita hita of naked feet... 
mingling with the suru suru of snakes 
the kasa koso of leaves of trees 
and as a smoldering fire 
is about to disappear 
there in the deep darkness 
the ringing in your ears. 

Let your ears perk up 
to the groan 
of dying dinosaur 
let your ears perk up 
to striking lightning 
and the shriek 
of a burning tree 
to the ceaseless 
sound of the sea 
to the soundless 
of plankton 
let your ears perk up, 
is something calling 
to your own crying 
at birth 
let your ears perk up 
to the night 
sounds of water 
to the creak of a door 
to the whispers 
to laughter 
let your ears perk up 
to the echoing 
of a mother's lullaby 
to a father's heart beat 
let your ears perk up 

A grandfather's 
far-off cough 
a grandmother's 
resounding loom 
a breeze blowing through bamboo 
and blown by the breeze 
some Amens and 
Glory to Buddhas 
in grade school 
a treadle organ, 
and having crossed oceans 
from an unknown land 
some old songs 
let your ears perk up 

Sound of cutting grass 
sound of beating iron 
sound of carving wood 
sound of playing a flute 
sound of cooking meat 
sound of pouring sake 
sound of pounding on a door 
sound of thinking aloud 

A complaining voice 
a teaching voice 
a commanding voice 
a rejecting voice 
a sneering voice 
a coaxing voice 
a battle cry 
let your ears perk up 
the neighing of horses 
the twang of bowstrings 
the sound of a spear 
thrust through armor 
and next to your ear 
the whine of a shot 
the dragging of chain 
the whack of a whip 
and damning 
and the sounds 
of gallows 
and mushroom clouds, 
the never ending 
of strife 
with loud snores 
and in time 
the chirping of sparrows 
and the unchanging stillness 
of morning 
let your ears perk up 

Now don't let perking up your ears 
to one sound 
to one voice 
shutting up your ears 
to another sound 
to another voice 

Let your ears perk up 
to ten years ago 
and a young girl 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
to a hundred years ago 
and a farmer 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
to a thousand years ago 
and someone lame 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
to ten thousand years ago 
and a baby 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
to a hundred thousand years ago 
and the cry of a fawn 
to a million years ago 
and the flutter of ferns 
to ten million years ago 
and an avalanche of snow 
to one hundred million years ago 
and the sigh of stars 
to a trillion years ago 
and the roar of the universe 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
to roadside 
let your ears perk up 
to the mild moan 
of a computer 
let your ears perk up 
to the mumbling 
of a neighbor 
let your ears perk up 
to the strum of a guitar somewhere 
to the breaking of dishes somewhere 
to "AEIOU"s somewhere 
to the NOW 
at the bottom of this commotion 
let your ears perk up 

Let your ears perk up 
for flowing towards today 
is tomorrow's 
still unheard 
murmur of small streams 
let your ears perk up 

Tadeusz Rozewicz 


He came to us 
and said 

you are not responsible 
either for the world 
or for the end of the world 
the burden is taken 
from your shoulders 
you are like birds and children 

and they play 

they forget 
that modern poetry 
is a struggle for breath 

Ted Hughes 


Stare at the monster: remark 
how difficult it is to define just what 
amounts to monstrosity in that 
very ordinary appearance. 
Neither thin or fat, 
hair between light and dark, 

And the general air 
of an apprentice-say, an apprentice house-- 
painter amid an assembly of famous 
architects: the demeanour is of mouse, 
Yet is he monster. 

First scrutinize those eyes 
for the spark, the effulgence: nothing. 
nothing there 
but the haggard stony exhaustion of a near- 
finished variety artist. He slumps in his chain 
like a badly hurt man, half life size. 

Is it his dreg-boozed inner demon 
still tankarding from tissue and follicle 
The vital fire, the spirit electrical 
that puts the gloss on a normal hearty male 
or is it women? 

The truth--bring it on 
with black drapery, drums, and funeral thread 
Like a great man's coffin- 
no, no, he is not dead 
but in this truth surely half buried 
Once, the humiliation 

of youth and obscurity 
the autoclave of heady ambition trapped, 
the fermenting of a yeasty heart stopped- 
bust with such pyrotechnics 
the dull world gaped 
and 'Repeat that!' still they cry. 

But all his efforts to concoct 
the old heroic bang 
from their money and praise, 
from the parent's pointing finger 
and the child's maze, 
even from the burning 
of his wreathed bays 
have left him wrecked: wrecked 
and monstrous, so, 
as a steggosaurus, a lumbering obsolete 
arsenal of gigantic horn and plate 
from a time when half the world 
still burned, set 
to blink behind bars at the zoo. 

Tomas Transtromer 


He laid aside his pen. 
It rests still on the table. 
It rests still in the empty room. 
He laid aside his pen. 

Too much that can neither be written 
nor kept silent! 
He is paralysed 
by something happening far away 
although the wonderful travelling-bag 
throbs like a heart. 

Outside it is early summer. 
From the greenery come whistlings- 
men or birds ? 
And cherry trees in bloom 
embrace the lorries which have come home. 

Weeks go by. 
Night comes slowly. 
The moths settle on the window pane: 
small pale telegrams from the world. 

Vasko Popa 


After the poems have been read 
At a poetry evening in a factory 
The conversation begins 

A red-haired listener 
Freckles written all over his face 
Raises his hand 

Comrade poets 

If I were to put all my life 
Into verse for you 
The paper would go red at once 

And burst into flames 


Once upon a time 
there was an infinity of echoes 
They served one voice 
Built it arcades 

The arcades collapsed 
They?uilt them crooked 
The dust covered them 

They left the dangerous service 
Became petrified from hunger 

They flew off petrified 
To find to tear to pieces the mouth 
The voice had come out of 

They flew who knows how long 
And blind fools didn't see 
They were flying round 
the very edge of the mouth 
They were looking for 

W. S. Rendra 


The wet twilight calms the burning forest. 
Vampire bats descend 
from the dark grey sky. 
Smell of munitions in the air. 
Smell of corpses. And horseshit. 
A pack of wild dogs 
eat hundreds and thousands of human bodies 
the dead and the half dead. 
And among the scorched trees of the forest
puddles of blood form into a pool. 
Wide and calm. Ginger in colour. 
Twenty angels come down from heaven 
to purify those in their death throes 
but on earth 
are ambushed by the giant vampires 
and raped. 
A vital breeze which travels gently on 
moves away the ringlet curls of the corpses 
makes circles on the lake of blood 
and impassions the lust of angels and bats. 
Yes, my brothers, 
I know this is a view which satisfies you 
for you have worked so intently 
to create it. 

Yang Liuhong 


You always ask me 
Why don't you write love poems 
Love is a poem 
But far from being as simple 

You gaze hotly and eagerly at me 
But I always turn my eyes to look 
Out of the window 

There, there are two vines 
Plaited tightly together 
You can't tell one from the other 

Yevgeny Yevtushenko 


We are the dwarfed birches 
wedging like splinters 
under the fingernails of the frost. 
And the kingdom of the everlasting frost 
uses varied and disgusting means 
to crush us further. 
Does that sound odd to you, 
horse-chestnuts of Paris? 

Palm-groves of pride, does it pain you 
how terribly low we are? 
Fashion-watchers, does it embitter you 
we are Quasimodos? 

In that hot place our citizen boldness 
gives you some pleasure, 
sadly and self-importantly you send 
moral support. 

Colleagues, you decide 
as trees we are not your equals: 
but that a kind of green however ugly 
is progressive where frost is permanent. 

Thank you; we shall somehow endure 
ourselves, under the heavens 
and brutally contorted by the wind 
without moral support.