Not exactly a poem

But when I was thinking about what poem to post today, I remembered this as a poem and went searching for it:

heineMine is a most peaceable disposition. My wishes are: a humble cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees. Before death I shall, moved in my heart, forgive them all the wrong they did me in their lifetime. One must, it is true, forgive one’s enemies– but not before they have been hanged.

Heinrich Heine

Unfortunately, no one seems to list the translator, so they remain without credit


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Dorothy Parker

parkerShe was famous for her wit, and her boss at the New Yorker, Harold Ross, was famous for his penury.  Larry read me a quip Parker made when Ross was berating her  because one of her assignments was late:

“I’m sorry,” Parker said, “But someone else was using the pencil.”

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Fall garden

Because of the drought, I didn’t plant a summer garden, but everyone’s predicting massive rains this winter, so I turned on the irrigation and started seeds in flats. I use old plant holders or egg cartons, or anything that holds dirt. I set them in something that retains the water and keep them wet. I started these four days ago, and already I see little seed leaves from the lettuce and  zinnias.

2015-10-14 10.56.55

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Verde que te quiero verde

The first poet I read in translation who captured my imagination was Federico García Lorca (his full name is Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca, or Federico Sacred Heart of Jesus García Lorca!).  I knew nothing about Franco, the Falangists, the Guardia Civil, or the Spanish Civil War, and less about surrealism in poetry. Perhaps I knew that they existed, but had no sense of their weight or meaning. But somehow the slim bilingual volume of his selected poems (thanks to Donald Allen) found its way to me when I was 18. The music of these poems led me to learn about him, his execution, and the forces at play in Europe of the thirties.

Here is the poem I loved most in that volume, without trying to make sense of it.

lorcaBallad of the Sleepwalker

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Great stars of frost
appear with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

–My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
–If it were possible, my boy,
I’d help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if that’s possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don’t you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
–Your white shirt has grown
thirsty dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
–Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies.
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she–tell me–
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken “Guardias Civiles”
were pounding on the door.
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

For those of you who like to see the original language, here it is. I don’t think you have to know Spanish to enjoy it:

Romance Sonámbulo

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Grandes estrellas de escarcha
vienen con el pez de sombra
que abre el camino del alba.
La higuera frota su viento
con la lija de sus ramas,
y el monte, gato garduño,
eriza sus pitas agrias.
¿Pero quién vendra? ¿Y por dónde…?
Ella sigue en su baranda,
Verde carne, pelo verde,
soñando en la mar amarga.

–Compadre, quiero cambiar
mi caballo por su casa,
mi montura por su espejo,
mi cuchillo per su manta.
Compadre, vengo sangrando,
desde los puertos de Cabra.
–Si yo pudiera, mocito,
este trato se cerraba.
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
–Compadre, quiero morir
decentemente en mi cama.
De acero, si puede ser,
con las sábanas de holanda.
¿No ves la herida que tengo
desde el pecho a la garganta?
–Trescientas rosas morenas
lleva tu pechera blanca.
Tu sangre rezuma y huele
alrededor de tu faja.
Pero yo ya no soy yo,
ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
–Dejadme subir al menos
hasta las altas barandas;
¡dejadme subir!, dejadme,
hasta las verdes barandas.
Barandales de la luna
por donde retumba el agua.
Ya suben los dos compadres
hacia las altas barandas.
Dejando un rastro de sangre.
Dejando un rastro de lágrimas.
Temblaban en los tejados
farolillos de hojalata.
Mil panderos de cristal
herían la madrugada.
Verde que te quiero verde,
verde viento, verdes ramas.
Los dos compadres subieron.
El largo viento dejaba
en la boca un raro gusto
de hiel, de menta y de albahaca.
¡Compadre! ¿Donde está, díme?
¿Donde está tu niña amarga?
¡Cuántas veces te esperó!
¡Cuántas veces te esperara,
cara fresca, negro pelo,
en esta verde baranda!

Sobre el rostro del aljibe
se mecía la gitana.
Verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Un carámbano de luna
la sostiene sobre el agua.
La noche se puso íntima
como una pequeña plaza.
Guardias civiles borrachos
en la puerta golpeaban.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar.
Y el caballo en la montaña.

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Poets in translation

jimenezThe other day at lunch a friend and I were talking about the wealth of wonderful poems in translation. Here is one, for which we are indebted to Robert Bly:

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing….Silence….Waves….

—Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramón Jiménez
translated by Robert Bly

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Phil Woods

Optimized.philwoodIt seems to me I first heard of Phil Woods while in college. Now he’s gone, and Larry read me portions of his obituary over breakfast yesterday. According to Larry, who has seen him in person, he was a great story teller.

A story Larry told me was that Phil was playing his first paid gig at a burlesque show and at the break he felt there was something wrong with his saxophone, he wasn’t getting the sound he wanted–the mouthpiece wasn’t right, or the reed was too hard, or the action of keys wasn’t quite right. Continue reading

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Tomatoes, tomatoes

Romas, Early Girls, Heirlooms, they’re all at their peak. When I see them glistening in their red and orange and gold skins, I can’t resist them! I spent a whole day elbow deep in roasting, saucing, canning about 40 pounds of tomatoes, a lug of Romas, and about 8 pounds each of Early Girls and Heirlooms. I like to roast the Romas first with onion, garlic and basil. I spread the onion, garlic and basil on a cookie sheet, cover with Romas, and sprinkle with salt and olive oil.

readytoroastThen into the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes, till the tomatoes just start tot char.  I roasted some Heirlooms, too, but sliced them into regular slices instead of halves, like the Romas. Once roasted, you can eat them on toast, blend them up up into sauce, or add other types to the mix for a more complex flavor.

One new wrinkle: I read on Serious Eats that you can peel some of your best, ripest tomatoes and dry and crush the skins to add to sauce in the winter, so I did a bunch of that, too.

Here are the results. Continue reading

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From the past

goldfarbReading through old letters I found that in 1968 I went to a reading and was impressed by the poems of Sidney Goldfarb, who was also at Harvard then and probably looked like this.

I requested a book of his from storage at UC Berkeley to see what I thought was a good poem when I was 20.I was impressed by the easy humor of this kind of poem then, so new to me. I was studying Milton, Swinburne, Tennyson. I think I might have heard this poem that night:

Moving Breakfast

I get out of bed without breaking anything
I give my daughter Cheerios and bananas for breakfast
First I let her stand on the table
Then I let her put her foot into the cereal
I look into the mirror and say, “Sidney, you’re no criminal.”
I put on a necktie because I have one
I go outside and find myself in Chicago
I say, “Boston, you faker, cut that out!”
Then I see Lake Michigan boiling up at me like a billion white birds
And clouds of soot talking to one another above the skyscrapers
So I yell up to my daughter,
“Sara! Take your foot out of the cereal, you’re in Chicago now!”
And she answers back,
“Cher-i-ooos!” Continue reading

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Who designed that sign?

frutigerWhile I was gone, Larry saved a couple of obituaries for me. My favorite was for a man I’d never heard of, Adrian Frutiger. If you’ve ever followed an airport sign at JFK or Charles deGaulle Airports, used the Paris Metro or the London Underground, you’ve seen his exceptionally readable Univers or Frutiger fonts.

Born in Switzerland, he developed more than 40 unique typefaces, including the one at the bottom of checks that can be read by both people and machines. He focused on making the type itself inconspicuous, and his innovation was the square dot over the i in signage fonts, which made it more readable at a distance.fruit 1450

Here’s a quote: Continue reading

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Making apple cider

imageThis weekend I picked apples and made cider with my granddaughter, and then found this poem, a little darker than our thoughts, which were full of the fun of the process and the delicious sweetness of the fresh cider.


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