by Pablo Neruda of Chile
And it was at that age... Poetry arrived in search of me.
I don΄t know,
I don΄t know where it came from, from winter or a river.
I don΄t know how or when,
no, they were not voices,
they were not words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I did not know what to say,
my mouth had no way with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure nonsense,
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw the heavens unfastened
and open planets, palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated, riddled with arrows,
fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry void,
likeness, image of mystery,
I felt myself a pure part of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars;
my heart broke loose on the wind.
To Old Age
by Kenneth Koch of the USA
You hurried through my twenties as if there were nowhere to look For what you were searching for, perhaps my first trip to China. You said, “I love that country because they love everything that’s old And they like things to look old – take the fortune cookie for example Or the dumplings or the universe’s shining face.” I said, “Chopsticks don’t look old,” but you were hurrying
Past me, past my love, my uncomprehended marriage, my
Nine or ten years nailed in the valley of fools, and still you were not there, Wouldn’t stop there. You disappeared for a year
That I spent in Paris, came back to me in my father’s face And later in my mother’s conversation. You seemed great in the palm trees During a storm and lessened by the boats’ preceding clops. Looking at a gun or a tiger I never thought I was standing to face you. You were elsewhere, rippling the sands or else making some boring conversation Among people who scarcely knew each other. You were left by Shelley to languish And by Byron and by Keats. Shakespeare never encountered you. What are you, old age,
That some do and some do not come to you?
Are you an old guru who won’t quit talking to us in time
For us to hang up the phone? You scare me half to death
And I suppose you will take me there, too. You are a companion Of green ivy and stumbling vines. If I could break away from you I would, but there is no light down in that gulch there. Walk with me, then Let’s not be falling . . . this fiery morning. Grand âge, nous voici!
Old age, here we are!
by Rainer Maria Rilke, an Austro-German
The bone-build of the eyebrows has a mule’s
or Pole’s noble and narrow steadfastness.
A scared blue child is peering through the eyes.
and there’s a kind of weakness, not a fool’s,
yet womanish––the gaze of one who serves.
The mouth is just a mouth . . . untidy curves,
quite unpersuasive, yet it says its yes,
when forced to act. The forehead cannot frown
and likes the shade of dumbly looking down.
A still life, nature morte––hardly a whole!
It has done nothing worked through or alive,
in spite of pain, in spite of comforting . . .
Out of this distant and disordered thing
something in earnest labors to unroll.
Black Stone Lying on a White Stone
by César Vallejo of Peru
I will die in Paris on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris––and don’t step aside––
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is a Thursday, in autumn.
It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.
César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him,
although he never does...