as a large man crouches down
with a folded tissue, gently
wipes them away
revealing more to us
than bare shelves
and missing books.
When we can no longer
communicate in words
we’ll turn to them.
See how they line up
and march off
crying, waving, smiling
into the breach, armed only
with dots and dashes –
our last, best intentions.
— Eleanor Livingstone
“And spring brought the idiots’ frightful laughter…”
They’ve reinvented our gods at Saint Christopher Street.
The downtown side.
Funny, it all looks the same.
Saint Vincent stopped taking the damned,
the market will handle them now.
If I walk the street where I once loved Blondie,
she can no longer be found.
Instead: jackals who’ll swear they’ve seen
the face of the deity.
To love you I had to leave.
Funny, it all ‘looks’ the same
I made it there.
Now the love is genuine,
I can come and go.
The looks, a state of mind – funny.
— Martin Belk
*from a forthcoming collection by Red Squirrel Press of responses to
Elisabeth Smart’s novel, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
Why this crazy mindless passion
just to be in current fashion?
Why this craze: celebrity
by those who know no history?
Today…today is all they know
or want to know and where to go —
the discos, clubs and noisy bars —
thinking not of the many wars
that ring the world with pain and death;
they know them not! Their only breath
is for breathing in some silly drug
like marijuana in a fug.
No culture, art or thought is there
to make their simple minds aware
that life has depth and tragedy
that sooner or later they will see
when life will change because of age
and make them turn the final page.
When the telephone doesn’t answer
and you’re old so are all your friends,
the thought that comes first – perhaps they’re out,
but the mind another answer sends.
Perhaps they’re dead or in hospital.
It’s happened to so many others.
Perhaps they had a stroke or fall.
Perhaps it’s only you who bothers.
Tomorrow you will find the answer.
Good or bad, you’ll know it then.
But still, each time, there grows the worry
and you ask what and why and when.
I had a father whom I loved
who taught me games like chess
until I beat him, then there was
an awful family mess.
I knew a man called Bertrand Russell
whom I so admired I made him
my spiritual godfather
and of him never tired.
I knew a man called Samuel Beckett
a friend, a colleague, a guru.
I made him my spiritual father
and that relationship holds true.
For Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
The wall allows the window
the room admits the door
we enter & exit
in between being there’s our chore
perhaps in a chair or a bed
while time displaces our thought
till we’re immobile in dread
minding & reminding at random
what was done, what was said.
What humor therein to be found
we seize like a circus clown,
what hope we construe in jest
propelled by the heart’s oompah
neither sleep nor song can drown,
pursuing our quirky quest
to grasp, control, console.
Still the room proffers a choice:
spry leap from the window/
supine litter out the door:
departure made or delayed
either way we go out depressed
without footfall to sound our rest.
The flesh is sad, alas! And I’ve read all the books.
Flee! Over there, flee! I feel the birds are drunk
To be among the unknown foam and skies!
Nothing, not the old gardens reflected in eyes
Can hold back this heart which dips in the sea
O nights! not my deserted lamplight
On the blank page which the white defends
And not the young woman nursing her child.
I will leave! Steamer swaying your masts
Lift anchor for an exotic land!
An ennui, let down by cruel hopes,
Believes still in the supreme adieu of hankies!
And, perhaps the masts, tempting storms
Are those which a wind tilts toward shipwrecks
Lost, with no masts, no masts nor fertile islets…
But, o my heart, listen to the sailors’ song!
translated by Mary Folliet
La chair est triste, hélas! et j’ai lu tous les livres.
Fuir! là-bas fuir! Je sens que des oiseaux sont ivres
D’être parmi l’écume inconnue et les cieux!
Rien, ni les vieux jardins reflétés par les yeux
Ne retiendra ce coeur qui dans la mer se trempe
Ô nuits! ni la clarté déserte de ma lampe
Sur le vide papier que la blancheur défend
Et ni la jeune femme allaitant son enfant.
Je partirai! Steamer balançant ta mâture,
Lève l’ancre pour une exotique nature!
Un Ennui, désolé par les cruels espoirs,
Croit encore à l’adieu suprême des mouchoirs!
Et, peut-être, les mâts, invitant les orages
Sont-ils de ceux qu’un vent penche sur les naufrages
Perdus, sans mâts, sans mâts, ni fertiles îlots…
Mais, ô mon coeur, entends le chant des matelots!
—Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)