Piss, Etc. (Richard Hague)

January 26, 2010

Younger, among
lean Jesuits and
hard-knuckled
working Irish,
I was told time was
better spent than
in pissing around,
shooting the shit,
screwing off.
Now, reading a poem
by someone still as green
as I was then,
I pause and smile
over the word
“piss” in a line.

How homely
it is, how
loosely belted,
like snot on a pretty
girl. How it
stands along a road
somewhere hot and
distantly in country,
shaking itself dry,
swept up in a
blaze of daylilies,
nothing but
sky overhead,
nothing on its
schedule
but Now:
good work.

Way to go.

*

This comes from Richard Hague’s Public Hearings, sent to me early this morning by a friend, “Comic Relief” in the subject line. A reminder not just that word play is good fun, but that I have friends awake earlier than I with my own need for relief–of whatever kind–in mind.

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How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

Haiku (Matsuo Basho)

January 11, 2010

The temple bell stops —
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.

(trans. by Robert Bly)

Love (Robert Creeley)

January 11, 2010

There are words voluptuous
as the flesh
in its moisture,
its warmth.

Tangible, they tell
the reassurances,
the comforts,
of being human.

Not to speak them
makes abstract
all desire
and its death at las