During my recent expedition to Scandinavia and the Baltic, I encountered perplexing signage which I admit, being American and not used to subtle European symbols, got me in more than a few sticky situations. Here are a few:
Do not give flowers.
The American dream (a car, house, and children) is strictly
Jump the shark.
Though dogs and cigarettes are not allowed. Pole dancing, on the
other hand, is fine.
Modern art this way.
Push button for inferno.
In 100 meters, run someone smaller than yourself down and punch
them in the armpit.
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remembered how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
Gertrude Petra Landrum
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)
We called you Gertrude as a placeholder before you were born and when you were taken from us after only a few minutes, it didn't seem right to call you anything else. It took me ages to be able to write anything about you but I finally did this January and wrote about naming you. There's so much I would like to say to you. But I'll say happy birthday for now. I miss you. I'll be seeing you.
And what should I call you, little daughter? Cartographer of
the blue veins beneath your translucent skin a map to the
branches of hope
and all its tributaries? Strong spear that shakes itself
loose from my grasp
and falls to earth without a sound, tight as I grip? Rock
against which will shatter
the future’s glassine dodecahedron? Repetition of my toes
and the toes of my maternal grandfather before me? Foxes run
in the vineyard. Sailors go down to the sea in ships.
across the sunburned veldt, faster than the fastest lion.
And you sleep
attended by my indelible wishes, by holding on and letting
by the instantaneity of pure affection, by love which is all
you’ll ever know.
Spring has overcome the dim days of April. I wake in the morning light, sure I've overslept, to find that it's still early. I haven't written in months, here or elsewhere. 30/30 drained me and there was nothing in the bleak months to speak of. But now the black days of winter all are through; life returns with the blossoms. I don't often post my own poetry; I don't often post here at all anymore. But here's a poem for the day, dear reader, something to break the silence between us.
MARGINAL NOTES FROM A BOOK OF HORACE
Let your hair down before you pull it back again. Time
passes like a river,
carries us to death’s great Atlantic. But for now, we have
of pretty insobriety –– pleasure boating, wine, and walks in
Raise your cup to the dusking light. Life isn’t always
and the pink moons of spring. But sometimes it is.
This translation from the Latin of my favorite Roman poet into the English of my favorite British poet is among the most beautiful I know. The snows are fled away here, dear reader, and the fashion of the earth is altered. Spring has brought the swans back to the lake. I wish you well and wish Housman a happy birthday.
Horace, Odes, iv, 7 (translated by A.E. Housman)
The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.
The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.
Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.
But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.
Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.
When thou descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.
Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leafves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away.