TO MY OLD BROWN EARTH
by Pete Seeger
To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”
And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.
And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.
In memory of Pete 1919-2014.
I really like volunteer reader Lizzie Driver‘s voice and the way she creates the voices for the various characters. Here’s the first section:
“There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon one of the mountains, and was very grand and beautiful. The princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about half-way between its base and its peak.
The princess was a sweet little creature, and at the time my story begins was about eight years old, I think, but she got older very fast. Her face was fair and pretty, with eyes like two bits of night sky, each with a star dissolved in the blue. Those eyes you would have thought must have known they came from there, so often were they turned up in that direction. The ceiling of her nursery was blue, with stars in it, as like the sky as they could make it. But I doubt if ever she saw the real sky with the stars in it, for a reason which I had better mention at once.
These mountains were full of hollow places underneath; huge caverns, and winding ways, some with water running through them, and some shining with all colours of the rainbow when a light was taken in. There would not have been much known about them, had there not been mines there, great deep pits, with long galleries and passages running off from them, which had been dug to get at the ore of which the mountains were full. In the course of digging, the miners came upon many of these natural caverns. A few of them had far-off openings out on the side of a mountain, or into a ravine.
Now in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings, called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins…”
After Cyndi Lauper
I’m in the barricade hearing the clock thickening you.
Autumn encircles a confusion that’s nothing new.
Flash back to warring eyes almost letting me drown.
Out of which, a picture of me walking in a foreign head.
I can’t hear what you said. Then you say: Cold room,
the second that life unwinds. A tinctured vase returns
to grass. Secrets doled out deep inside a drum beat out
of time. Whatever you said was ghostly slow like
a second hand unwinding by match light. Lying back
to the wheel, I shirked confusion. You already knew.
Suitcases surround me. You picture me too far ahead.
Yet I can’t hear what you’ve said. You say: Doldrums,
some secondhand wine. Love, you knew my precincts.
The stone house turned out black, the scenic tunics
were deep inside. Who said home? Oh, I fall behind.
That very secret height blinds. Lying like a diamond,
the cock-thickening of you: hunchbacked arms, eyes
left behind. You’ll picture me walking far, far ahead.
I hear what you’ve done. You said: Go slow. I feebly
bleed out. Matthew’s sermon turned out to be glass.
I wander in windows soft as Sour Patch. No rewind.
But something is out of touch and you, you’re Sinbad.
That second date totally mine. Lying in a vacuum,
the thickening plot thinks of you. The future’s not new.
touchdown. Lights. All those celebrity behinds.
A suitcase full of weeds. You picture me coming to.
You: too close to me to hear what you’ve already said.
Then you say: The second wind unwinds. Doves whistle,
halving their dovely backs, watching out windows to see
if I’m okay. See it, the dulcet moment? I’m like thicket
tinkering for you. Fusion nothing you knew. Flash back
to seagull-beguiled eyes. Sometimes talking to a barren
lad. Such music so unbearably droll. The hand is mine.
Random picture frames off the darkness. A Turing machine?
Scotch-taping through windows, stolen from deep inside
rum-beaded thyme. You say also: Behind sequins & hinds . . .
And I’m in the barricade hearing the clock thickening you.
Clematis enclosures, walking with news, pollinated by a
secondary grief, while something reminds you of our love.
Audio (from the Poetry magazine January podcast):
This poem was written using mondegreens, or homophonic English-to-English translation. He purposely misheard the lyrics to Cindy Lauper’s song, that is. You can listen to the discussion of the poem and the poet’s technique on the Poetry podcast. (The discussion of this poem comes about 17 and a half minutes in, but the whole podcast is worth hearing, including another poem by Adam Fitzgerald.)
I’m left-handed. It’s been a source of pride since early childhood, and I tell you now that I love being left-handed and consider it to be superior to being right-handed. Not equal. Superior. Why? I’m not allowed to say; it’s a left-handed thing.
Leftys are singled out around first grade when we’re issued scissors. Your first teacher says, “I see you are left-handed,” and then hands you special scissors. If you didn’t know you were left-handed, by first grade you did.
I personally thought left-handed scissors were bogus, because the only difference seemed to be the word “lefty” stamped on them, and I had a hard time using scissors whether they were left-handed or right-handed. Perhaps my technique was wrong. It’s hard to know for sure because it was years ago, but as an adult I assume that left-handed scissors were simply bolted together in a manner opposite to right-handed scissors, and both kinds sucked.
Now I am a grown man, college educated, aware of both engineering and ergonomics, and I have strong opinions about scissors. Consider these two similar models, both from Fiskars:
Look closely at the fit of the lefty:
as opposed to the regular:
What, some may ask, is the big deal? Let me show you the results of a few short minutes of cutting using right-handed scissors (parents, please send your children to another room):
They say men can never know the pain of child birth (barring kidney stones), but I say you don’t know pain until you’re left-handed and are forced to use right-handed scissors.
The future is now, my friends. Happy New Year!
I really like the raised pattern on this pullover from McCall’s Needlework Treasury, published in 1964.
Now that it’s too late to make any Christmas presents, no matter how small they are, it might be a nice time to take on something a little bigger. I wonder how this would look in mohair.
Here’s the pattern:
A Wintry Walk, by L. Birge Harrison
For us northerners it just gets brighter and brighter from here.
Here is an exquisite half hour of Charpentier noels and motets for chorus and solo voice. There’s no real video here – it’s just for listening.
Christmassy, isn’t it?
“The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a lobster-pot of a book. It lures you in with an irresistibly quirky, witty opening and a huge Big Idea… It pays off, mostly due to an exquisite balance of suspense, precision-engineered structure and darkly playful humour… a unique vein of fantasy-realism unlike anything else you’ve ever read.” – SFX Magazine
“This wonderfully knotty novel… is a peculiar metafiction, a very grown-up fantasy masquerading as quirky fable. Unexpected, thrilling and absurd, it is primarily an irreverent exploration of the art of writing itself” – Daily Telegraph
“It’s hard to convey the peculiar atmosphere of this novel – absurd but believable, sinister but enjoyable, beautiful but disquieting. This is Jaaskerlainen’s first novel to be published in English (and hats off to Lola Rogers for an elegant, literary and readable translation). Let’s hope there are more to come” – The Independent
UK paper and ebooks and US ebooks are out now, US paper books will be released in May. Available for order and pre-order from all major vendors or your local bookstore.
Sarah Swett uses textiles to make what she calls “slow literature”.
Her amazing work includes facsimiles:
(click and zoom for a closer look)
as well as entire books in tapestry:
Visit her website for lots more pieces, most of it posted in huge image files that let you pore over every detail.
I was a bit annoyed recently by a post on Buzzfeed that made an unfavorable comparison between the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Taylor Swift. Not that I prefer Taylor Swift, or, like some commenters on the post, feel that the very act of comparing the two is an insult to the dignity of Pablo Neruda. What bothered me was that the quotes from Neruda were in English, with nary a mention of the translators of Neruda who had written the melodious lines in question.
I don’t feel that the translator must always be mentioned when discussing translated works, but in this case not mentioning the translator gives the impression that the authors at Buzzfeed have no idea that Neruda didn’t write in English.
To take one example, the post includes lines from Neruda’s Sonnet number eleven:
Tengo hambre de tu boca, de tu voz, de tu pelo
y por las calles voy sin nutrirme, callado,
no me sostiene el pan, el alba me desquicia,
busco el sonido líquido de tus pies en el día.
Estoy hambriento de tu risa resbalada,
de tus manos color de furioso granero,
tengo hambre de la pálida piedra de tus uñas,
quiero comer tu piel como una intacta almendra.
Quiero comer el rayo quemado en tu hermosura,
la nariz soberana del arrogante rostro,
quiero comer la sombra fugaz de tus pestañas
y hambriento vengo y voy olfateando el crepúsculo
buscándote, buscando tu corazón caliente
como un puma en la soledad de Quitratúe.
The lines that Buzzfeed quotes are from this exquisite translation by Stephen Tapscott:
I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me,
all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
These poems aren’t going to translate themselves, people.