With the One I Love

They say the light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.
The light that cannot burn wants to find a way to flare like the sun
Or become a wisp of smoke somewhere out of any sight.
God protects none of our stolen fires, and his eternal enmity
Confronts me in my sleep like an electric whip striking out.
I want every drop to the last breath, but thirst and fear
Can only mean that today hinges on tomorrow, life runs backward,
And love is a memory of something lost before it was found.
Let me find a way between the hunter and the hunted,
A way to be in this world with its sweetness, and leave late


Suddenly the house is cold and empty,
Quiet as stone, and the mountain road
Strung out like a constellation of stars
Before us has disappeared in the earth
Like a memory of light, a dead serpent,
And the fabled garden of ignorance.

Inside and out, everything is hard
And sharper than a needle, a silence
That goes deeper than it should, ice
In every vein, heart stilled and afraid.
This is no place to live, nowhere in
The midst of plenty, a desert of want.

The New Age

It’s here: the age of monsters, a brain of dwarf.
History’s back to a time without man.
Steel-hosed giants swing and shuffle and snout
through dust that their half-tracks flatten.

You want to talk about law to armor plate?
Better shut up — get down and walk on your eyes.
What you called good has a face like shame:
heart, and conscience, and words, and promises.

It’s be better to call everything off —
learn to forget your pride that you’re a man.
Be tricky, get wise — maybe a pack of lizards
or a herd of sheep will have room and let you in.

Laugh at us, who have fallen in the streets
and already every will shall have willed in vain.
It’s here: the age of monsters, a brain of dwarf.
History’s back to a time without man.


— Translated from Italian by Forrest Read

Ray, David, ed. From the Hungarian Revolution: A Collection of Poems. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966. Print.

Lupus in fabula

Rough, red, tooth and eye
Both ragged, raging, hot breath
Like the dead heart magically,
Manically pulsing out an end of
Reason, shame, love and life.
The last day of standing, last
Of giant shoulders, and the
Triumph of witless, soulless
Dwarfs and their wolf, their
Fat, ignorant and angry dog
Of the day of the dead, their
Final card and our losing hand.

For All

There was a dream of love that fell asleep
When the doors were flung open to lying,
Tongue-lolling beasts intent on devouring
The heart of the world itself when all the
Fruits are gone, digging deep in her veins
Like a wild and mad, murderous needle.
A brand new day born falling into night,
Under a dark moon dead in a black sky.
This is how it feels, like a happy marriage
Suddenly marred by violence, a spouse
Gone over the brink into babbling, blind
Stabbing, bruises and beatings, the signs
Were there but it’s much too late now.
Everything is out of control, all is lost, fire
In every open window and smoke thick
As tar numbing and dumbing every sense.
We know how to recover, perseverance,
Resistance, losses, rebuilding, the ashes
Of the Earth still fruitful enough to flower.
But we live in shrill and constant fear
Not knowing how long, how hard, and
Whether there will be fruit enough for all.

Despite (for Amy G.)

Despite the sunrise, the moon peacefully adrift,
And the matching slow swell of the deep ocean,
All of life is sometimes reduced to the little rituals
Of ends and darkness — burning, breaking, loss
In words and the gestures of a dance as old worlds
Long gone before this little one’s birthstone began.
Our lists are circular as the strings of mementos
Hung ’round our necks, every end returning to start,
Bell tolling like a sentinel at daybreak and nightfall.
Despite all this, despite even death, life swells,
Is warm and green and gold, and keeps its quiet promise.