Poetry Tuesday: The Maltese Dog

By Tymnes, somewhere in Greece, circa 300 BCE.

He came from Malta; and Eumelus says
He had no better dog in all his days,
He called him Bull; he went into the dark,
Along those roads we cannot hear him bark.



Poetry Tuesday: Battle on Blackbird’s Field

By Serbian Vasko Popa, from the late 1900s, which seem like so long ago. . .

Singing we ride over the field
To encounter the armored dragons
Our most lovely wolf-shepherd
His flowering staff in his hand
Flies through the air on his white steed
The crazed thirsty weapons
Savage each other alone in the field
From the mortally wounded iron
A river of our blood streams out
Flows upward and streams into the sun
The field stands up erect beneath us
We overtake the heavenly rider
And our betrothed stars
And together we fly through the blue
From below there follows
The blackbird’s farewell song.


Poetry Tuesday: A Hawk in a Painting

By Tu Fu—love that name!—sometime in the eight century, in China.

From white silk
A whiff of wind and frost
Grey goshawk
Of art extraordinary
Twitching body
Alert for wily hares
She glowers askance
Like a gloomy Sogdian
Swivel and jess
Their glitter I’d unleash
And from her lofty perch
Call down her power
How she would fall
Upon the pack of songsters
Blood and feathers across the plain.

{Fun fact: Sogdia was an ancient civilization in what is now Uzbekistan and Kazakstan.}


Poetry Tuesday: Three Short Finnish Poems

By Paavo Haavikko of Finland, who died only about ten years ago.

You can’t take with you
Even the little bit that’s been stolen from you
In Hell, small change
Is perfectly useless.

The soul against the state
The willow against the jail.
No, it grows by the wall,
A life sentence, with its roots,
Outside the walls,
A living shadow.
The soul against the state.
The willow against the jail.

The woman raises her garment,
Rain, wind, darkness rise,
When she is full, comes the child,
Children, and children bring poverty,
We have visitors: darkness, wind, poverty.


Poetry Tuesday: I Saw a Strange Creature

Anonymous ninth century Anglo-Saxon.

I saw a strange creature,
a bright ship of the air beautifully adorned,
bearing away plunder between her horns,
fetching it home from a foray.
She was minded to build a bower in her stronghold,
and construct it with cunning if she could do so.
But then a mighty creature appeared over the mountain
whose face is familiar to all dwellers on earth;
he seized on his treasure and sent home the wanderer
much against her will; she went westward
harboring hostility, hastening forth.
Dust lifted to heaven; dew fell on the earth,
night fled hence; and no man knew
thereafter, where the strange creature went.


Poetry Tuesday: Love Has Seven Names

By Hadewijch, a thirteenth century Belgian guy writing in Dutch.

Love has seven names.
Do you know what they are?
Rope, Light, Fire, Coal
make up its domain.

The others, also good,
more modest but alive:
Dew, Hell, the Living Water.
I name them here (for they
are in the Scriptures),
explaining every sign
for virtue and form.
I tell the truth in signs.
Love appears every day
for one who offers love.
That wisdom is enough.

Love is a ROPE, for it ties
and holds us in its yoke.
It can do all, nothing snaps it.
You who love must know.

The meaning of LIGHT
is known to those who
offer gifts of love,
approved or condemned.

The Scripture tell us
the symbol of COAL:
the one sublime gift
God gives the intimate soul.

Under the name of FIRE, luck,
bad luck, joy or no joy,
consumes. We are seized
by the same heat from both.

When everything is burnt
in its own violence, the DEW,
coming like a breeze, pauses
and brings the good.

LIVING WATER (its sixth name)
flows and ebbs
as my love grows
and disappears from sight.

HELL (I feel its torture)
damns, covering the world.
Nothing escapes. No one has grace
to see a way out.

Take care, you who wish
to deal with names
for love. Behind their sweetness
and wrath, nothing endures.
Nothing but wounds and kisses.

Though love appears far off,
you will move into its depth.


Poetry Tuesday: Written While Drunk

By T’ao Ch’ien, 365-427 China.
I have no idea about the context of the title, but it is intriguing. . . and funny.

I built my house near where others dwell,
And yet there is no clamor of carriages and horses.
You ask of me, “How can this be so?”
“When the heart is far the place of itself is distant.”
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
And gaze afar towards the southern mountains.
The mountain air is fine at evening of the day
And flying birds return together homewards.
Within these things there is a hint of Truth,
But when I start to tell it, I cannot find the words.


Poetry Tuesday: Spring Night at Bamboo Pavilion

By Wang Wei, eight century China.

BTW, the full title is “Spring night at bamboo pavilion, presenting a poem to Subprefect Qian about his staying for good in Blue Field Mountains.”

Night is quiet. All creatures are resting.
Beyond the forest, occasionally a dog barks.
I remember living here in the mountains,
My only neighbors far west of the ravine.
One morning you came here. I envy you.
Back there we have carriages and official hats.
You prefer picking ferns in the unknown place.


Poetry Tuesday: I’ve Plucked Every Bud

By Han-ch’ing Kuan, early 14th century.

I’ve plucked every bud hanging over the wall,
and picked every roadside branch of the willow.
The flowers I plucked had the softest red petals,
the willows I picked were the tenderest green.
A rogue and a lover, I’ll rely
on my picking and plucking dexterity
’til flowers are ruined and willows wrecked.
I’ve picked and plucked half the years of my life,
a generation entirely spent
lying with willows, sleeping with flowers.