Claude McKay: The Flame Heart

Red Poinsettia

Claude McKay (Jamaica/U.S.A., 1889-1948)
The Flame Heart
SO much have I forgotten in ten years,
So much in ten brief years! I have forgot
What time the purple apples come to juice,
And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.
I have forgot the special, startling season
Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting;
What time of year the ground doves brown the fields
And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.
I have forgotten much, but still remember
The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.
I still recall the honey-fever grass,
But cannot recollect the high days when
We rooted them out of the ping-wing path
To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.
I often try to think in what sweet month
The languid painted ladies used to dapple
The yellow by-road mazing from the main,
Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.
I have forgotten–strange–but quite remember
The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.
What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year
We cheated school to have our fling at tops?
What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy
Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?
Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days
Even the sacred moments when we played,
All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,
At noon and evening in the flame-heart’s shade.
We were so happy, happy, I remember,
Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.
. . . . .


International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers: December 17th


December 17th

Jorge Antonio Vallejos a.k.a. ‘Black Coffee Poet’ (Toronto, Canada)
White Van: A Poem for Sex Workers (2011)
White van rolls around town like PacMan, lookin’ for prey:
women to gobble up.
Ladies of the Night stand around, whether they’re hot or cold, wet or dry,
waiting for a paying guy, tools of their trade on display:
high heels, tights, low-cut tops, purse carrying rubbers to cover his cock.
The will to work, a hard job seen as easy, often times called sleazy
– by those who don’t know.
Hyper-masculine music getting out violent labels: Bitch, Ho;
really, they should all know: the streets are Ground Zero.
Working Girls vilified, seen as the enemy;
bullshit “stings” and arrests wasting peoples’ time and money.
Street-Walkers dehumanized, portrayed as there for the taking;
cabbies, cops, politicians, talking service – bullshit faking –
often times forcing Working Girls – yes, that’s called “breaking”.
White van rolling, patrolling…

looking for that one single Worker who’s strolling…
Tools of their shade: vehicle with a sliding door and no windows;
rope, bags, needles, coke and a shovel.
They avoid the girls who stand at corners like hooker Harvey’s;
who stand around in support and warmth – in a huddle.

Remote spots are the key to their sick victory;

Moss Park and St. James Cathedral
are the beginning for many acts of unforgiveable evil.
Bagged and shoved in the back by one man, two man, god-damn.
Drugged and driven out of town is the plan;
gang-raped in her front and in her back, cigarette burning ends the attack.
Stops of corn hide the assault, the hours of misery, the trauma for life.
The final words: I forgot the shovel.
Middle-age Man and his Right Hand walk back to white van;
it’s do or die, her one chance to scram.
Running, hiding, laying with the corn…
Crying on Mother Earth, bleeding on her, nails digging in her;
holding on till dawn; staying put long enough till white van is gone.
Thumbing her way back home to smalltown Ontario…
It’s over: this sad reality has always been a scary scenario.
Stitched, bruised, burned, scarred

– reminders of a life and job that’s always hard.
White van, two man, All Man – when the fuck we gonna change, man?!
. . .

Visit Black Coffee Poet’s site:

. . . . .

Antonio Valeriano: Nican mopohua and Mexico’s Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 1531: Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin’s encounter with Santa Maria Totlaconantzin (Our Lady of Guadalupe):


…..Auh in acico in inahuac tepetzintli in itocayocan Tepeyacac,
ye tlatlalchipahua…..
Concac in icpac tepetzintli cuicoa, yuhquin nepapan tlazototome cuica;
cacahuani in intozqui, iuhquin quinananquilia tepetl, huel cenca teyolquima,
tehuellamachti in incuic; quicenpanahuia in coyoltotl in tzinitzcan ihuan in
occequin tlazototome ic cuica…..
“Canin ye nica? Canin ye ninotta? Cuix ye oncan in quitotehuaque huehuetque
tachtohuan tococolhuan, in xochitlalpan in tonacatlalpan,
cuix ye oncan ilhuicatlalpan?”…..
In oyuhceuhtiquiz in cuicatl, inomocactimoman in yeequicaqui
hualnotzalo inicpac tepetzintli, quilhuia: “Juantzin, Juan Diegotzin”…..
Auh in ye acitiuh in icpac tepetzintli, in ye oquimottili ce Cihuapilli
oncanmoquetzinoticac, quihualmonochili inic onyaz in inahuactzinco…..
Auh in tetl, in texcalli in ic itech moquetza, inic quimina…..
Auh in mizquitl, in nopalli ihuan occequin nepapan xiuhtotontin
oncan mochichihuani yuhquin quetzaliztli. Yuhqui in teoxihuitl in
iatlapalio neci. Auh in icuauhyo, in ihuitzyo, in iahuayo yuhqui in
cozticteocuitlatl in pepetlaca…..
Quimolhuili:  “Tlaxiccaqui noxocoyotl Juantzin, campa in timohuica?”
Auh in yehuatl quimonanquilili: “Notecuiyoé, Cihuapillé, Nochpochtziné!
Ca ompa nonaciz mochantzinco México-Tlatilolco,
nocontepotztoca in Teyotl…..”
…..And as he drew near the little hill called Tepeyac
it was beginning to dawn…..
He heard singing on the little hill, like the song of many precious birds;
when their voices would stop, it was as if the hill were answering them;
extremely soft and delightful; their songs exceeded the songs of the
coyoltotl and the tzinitzcan and other precious birds…..
“Where am I? Where do I find myself? Is it possible that I am in the
place our ancient ancestors, our grandparents, told about, in the
land of the flowers, in the land of corn, of our flesh, of our sustenance,
possibly in the land of heaven?”…..
And then when the singing suddenly stopped, when it could no longer
be heard, he heard someone calling him, from the top of the hill, someone
was saying to him: “Juan, Dearest Juan Diego”…..
And when he reached the top of the hill, a Maiden who was standing there,
who spoke to him, who called to him to come close to her…..
And the stone, the crag on which she stood, seemed to be giving out rays…..
And the mesquites and nopales and the other little plants that are up there
seemed like emeralds. Their leaves, like turquoise. And their trunks, their
thorns, their prickles, were shining like gold…..
She said to him, “Listen, my dearest-and-youngest son, Juan,
Where are you going?”
And he answered her: “My Lady, my Queen, my Beloved Maiden!
I am going as far as your little house in Mexico-Tlatilolco,
to follow the things of God…..”
*   *   *   *   *

On December 9th, 1531, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548)

encountered a radiant native-Mexican woman at Tepeyac Hill

(site of a former temple to the Aztec Earth-Mother goddess Tonantzin).

He knew her to be Santa María Totlaconantzin – Mary, Our

Precious Mother – and she spoke to him in his own language – Náhuatl.


Tepeyac is now the location of the largest shrine in Latin America –

La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe / The Basilica of

Our Lady of Guadalupe – the name by which Juan Diego’s

Virgin Mary is known in México today…

Popularly, she is also called The Mother of All México.

And December 12th is Our Lady of Guadalupe’s “santo” or feast/saint’s day.


The above text – in the original Náhuatl (language of the Aztecs)

plus English translation by D. K. Jordan – is taken from

Nican mopohua (“Here is recounted…”)

by Antonio Valeriano (1556),  and is the first chapter in the

written telling of the miraculous life of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.

Valeriano was a native-Mexican scholar in three languages

– his birth-language, Náhuatl, plus Spanish and Latin.

Nican mopohua forms part of a larger volume,

Huei tlamahuiçoltica (“The Great Happening”),

published by Luis Laso de la Vega in 1649.   The book is a

crucial Náhuatl text from the 16th and 17th centuries

– a period of immense trauma during which a new race

el Mestizo – and a new nationality – Mexican – were being forged.

Pro-Sex Poems of Love and Desire: Lenore, Nikki, Olga, Maxine

Lenore Kandel_The Love Book_published in 1966

Excerpts from Antoinette May’s 1967 interview with Lenore Kandel in Les Gals magazine, Summer 1967 issue, volume 2, number 3:

Late last year (1966) Lenore and her poetic description of the love act [using the word FUCK (ZP editor)] made headlines.
Lenore’s new book, published by Grove Press, is called, “Word Alchemy”.
“Word” is a four letter word, but hardly controversial. Alchemy might be more promising. With this in mind Les Gals editor Antoinette May climbed the three steep winding flights of stairs to Lenore’s apartment situated above a North Beach laundry.
The rooms that Lenore shares with her husband are musty, dusty and dark. “I don’t worry about inanimate things,” she explained unnecessarily. Once the latent housewife in Antoinette overcame the desire to tidy up, she became aware of the casual comfort of the place. Indian hangings and tapestries dominated the decor which definitely inclined one to recline for repose or anything else. The place had a definite lived-in, loved-in look that seemed pleasant and appropriate.
Lenore’s “Love Book” provoked numerous individuals (including the San Francisco pornography squad) not so much because of its subject matter, but, rather, by its choice of words.
Many people took offence when they found words heretofore confined to sidewalks and school desks suddenly appearing in printed books. Their outrage resulted in a lengthy court trial and the conviction of three booksellers. Lenore herself was not on trial, although everyone, including the judge, had difficulty remembering the fact.

LES GALS: Was shock appeal what it’s all about?
LENORE: Certainly not. I used that particular verb [FUCK (ZP editor)] because our English vocabulary is very limited. To intercourse with love just doesn’t sound right . Fornicate and copulate seem so medical.
LES GALS: Yes, but the verb you chose is an offence to a vast number of people.
LENORE: That’s because a word with a beautiful meaning—for two bodies to join through passion and love—has become aggressive. It’s a put-down word now, not a love word.
LES GALS: But don’t you think that by using the word so freely in your book, you’ll detract even more from its very special power and intimacy?
LENORE: No, if everyone used it appropriately—as a love word—it would be heard less.
. . .
LES GALS: Were you surprised by the guilty verdict?
LENORE: I was surprised that it was unanimous. It’s frightening. Police censorship is disrespectful to people. People should be allowed to make up their own minds. For some reason it’s okay to to sell black garter magazines that depict sex as something to snigger over. The movie ads—no matter how vulgar—are allowed as well, because they’re admittedly ‘bad’. Where I got in trouble was in saying that sex and the spirit are both beautiful parts of nature and equally divine. I don’t think there has been a trial since Salem where the words blasphemy or sacrilege have been used.
LES GALS: In the introduction to your new book –“Word Alchemy”– you are quoted as saying your favourite word is “yes”. Do you believe in sex for sex’s sake”?
LENORE: Sexuality with someone you love is far more than a physical act—but that doesn’t mean I’m putting down the physical act. I just want something more than that.
LES GALS: One witness for the defence said that reading your book would help married couples perform the love act better. Do you believe this?
LENORE: Not necessarily perform better, but I do think it could help them communicate better. Married people have so many hassles because they can’t communicate. It’s a terrible thing that two people who should be closest to each other often aren’t. So many men get this good girl-bad girl hangup. They have certain desires that they should express to their wives but instead they fulfill themselves with someone else. This is wrong and unnecessary.
. . .
LES GALS: If you had children would you allow them to read “The Love Book”?
LENORE: I think the important thing is to tell the truth. If children grow up in the environment where truth is a part of life they won’t have dirty minds. There’s certainly nothing harmful in my book, but an honest parent might say to a very small child, “This is a book you’ll understand and enjoy when you are older.” Children mature at different levels. It really depends on the individual. I think it’s a strange thing in our culture that death and torture are acceptable—children can see it everywhere they look—yet the love and tenderness between a man and a woman is something to conceal and feel guilty about. I think this must be very confusing to children.

Lenore Kandel in 1967

Lenore Kandel in 1967

Lenore Kandel (1932-2009)
Invocation for Mitreya (from the collection Word Alchemy, 1967)
To invoke the divinity in man with the mutual gift of love
with love as animate and bright as death
the alchemical transfiguration of two separate entities
into one efflorescent deity made manifest in radiant human flesh
our bodies whirling through cosmos, the kiss of heartbeats
the subtle cognizance of hand for hand, and tongue for tongue
the warm moist fabric of the body opening into star-shot rose
the dewy cock effulgent as it bursts the star
sweet cunt-mouth of world serpent Ouroboros girding the
as it takes its own eternal cock, and cock and cunt united
join the circle
moving through realms of flesh made fantasy and fantasy made
love as a force that melts the skin so that our bodies join
one cell at a time
until there is nothing left but the radiant universe
the meteors of light flaming through wordless skies
until there is nothing left but the smell of love
but the taste of love, but the fact of love
until love lies dreaming in the crotch of god. . . .
. . .
Nikki Giovanni (born 1943)
one day
you gonna walk in this house
and i’m gonna have a long African
you’ll sit down and say “The Black…”
and i’m gonna take one arm out
then you – not noticing me at all – wil say “What about this brother…”
and i’m going to be slipping it over my head
and you’ll rap on about “The Revolution…”
while i rest your hand against my stomach
you’ll go on – as you always do – saying
“I just can’t dig…”
while i’m moving your hand up and down
and i’ll be taking your dashiki off
then you’ll say “What we really need…”
and taking your shorts off
the you’ll notice
your state of undress
and knowing you you’ll just say
isn’t this counterrevolutionary?”
. . .
Nikki GiovanniOlga Broumas in 1988_photograph by Lois Shelton
Olga Broumas (born 1949)
She Loves (1977)
Deep prolonged entry with the strong pink cock
the sit-ups it evokes from her, arms fast
on the climbing invisible rope to the sky,
clasping and unclasping the cosmic lorus *
Inside, the long breaths of lung and cunt
swell the vocal cords and a rasp a song
loud sudden overdrive into disintegrate,
spinal melt, video hologram in the belly.
Her tits are luminous and sway to the rhythm
and I grab them and exaggerate their orbs.
Shoulders above like loaves of heaven,
nutmeg-flecked, exuding light like violet diodes
closing circuit where the wall, its fuse box,
so stolidly stood. No room for fantasy.
We watch ourselves transform the past
with such disinterested fascination,
the only attitude that does not stall
the song by an outburst of consciousness
and still lets consciousness, loved and incurable
voyeur, peek in. I tap. I slap. I knee, thump, bellyroll.
Her song is hoarse and is taking me,
incoherent familiar path to that self we are all
cortical cells of. Every o in her body
beelines for her throat, locked on
a rising ski-lift up the mountain, no
grass, no mountaintop, no snow.
White belly folding, muscular as milk.
Pas de deux, pas de chat, spotlight
on the key of G, clef du roman, tour de force letting,
like the sunlight lets a sleeve worn against wind, go.


* umbilical cord
. . .
Poet Maxine Kumin_1925 to 2014
Maxine Kumin (1925-2014)
Together (1970)
The water closing
over us and the
going down is all.
Gills are given.
We convert in a
town of broken hulls
and green doubloons.
O you dead pirates
hear us! There is
no salvage. All
you know is the colour
of warm caramel. All
is salt. See how
our eyes have migrated
to the uphill side?
Now we are new round
mouths and no spines
letting the water cover.
It happens over
and over, me in
your body and you
in mine.
. . .
Maxine Kumin
After Love (1970)
Afterward, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries.
These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in.
Spoons of our fingers, lips
admit their ownership.
The bedding yawns, a door
blows aimlessly ajar
and overhead, a plane
singsongs coming down.
Nothing is changed, except
there was a moment when
the wolf, the mongering wolf
who stands outside the self
lay lightly down, and slept.
. . .
Maxine Kumin
Looking back on my Eighty-First Year (2008)
How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother’s job—when we
were the long-leggèd girls?
— Hilma Wolitzer


Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father’s arm as
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I’m not sure I want to do this,
I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine
the original manuscript
of Stendhal’s unfinished Lucien Leuwen,
I, who had never been west of the Mississippi,
should have crossed the ocean
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over
a fence line. How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.
Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked
till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .
Why didn’t I go? It was fated.
Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.
. . .

For more poems click on the following links:


Pro-Sex Poems of Love and Desire: Herrick and St.Vincent Millay

Edna St.Vincent Millay_1892-1950

Edna St.Vincent Millay_1892-1950

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Love Lightly Pleased
Let fair or foul my mistress be,
Or low, or tall, she pleaseth me;
Or let her walk, or stand, or sit,
The posture her’s, I’m pleased with it;
Or let her tongue be still, or stir
Graceful is every thing from her;
Or let her grant, or else deny,
My love will fit each history.
. . .
Delight in Disorder
A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility;–
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.
. . .
Upon the Nipples of Julia’s Breast
Have ye beheld (with much delight)
A red rose peeping through a white?
Or else a cherry (double graced)
Within a lily? Centre placed?
Or ever marked the pretty beam
A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?
Or seen rich rubies blushing through
A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?
So like to this, nay all the rest,
Is each neat niplet of her breast.
. . .
A Hymn to Love
I will confess
With cheerfulness,
Love is a thing so likes me,
That, let her lay
On me all day,
I’ll kiss the hand that strikes me.
I will not, I,
Now blubb’ring cry,
It, ah! too late repents me
That I did fall
To love at all–
Since love so much contents me.
No, no, I’ll be
In fetters free;
While others they sit wringing
Their hands for pain,
I’ll entertain
The wounds of love with singing.
With flowers and wine,
And cakes divine,
To strike me I will tempt thee;
Which done, no more
I’ll come before
Thee and thine altars empty.
17th century poet Robert Herrick

17th century poet Robert Herrick

Edna St.Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
I, being born a woman and distressed (1923)
I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.
. . .
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (1923)
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
. . .
I, too, beneath your moon, Almighty Sex (1939)
I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex,
Go forth at nightfall crying like a cat,
Leaving the lofty tower I laboured at
For birds to foul and boys and girls to vex
With tittering chalk; and you, and the long necks
Of neighbours sitting where their mothers sat
Are well aware of shadowy this and that
In me, that’s neither noble nor complex.
Such as I am, however, I have brought
To what it is, this tower; it is my own;
Though it was reared To Beauty, it was wrought
From what I had to build with: honest bone
Is there, and anguish; pride; and burning thought;
And lust is there, and nights not spent alone.
. . . . .


National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6th 2014_25th Anniversary of The Montreal Massacre

On December 6th, 1989, fourteen female engineering students attending École Polytechnique in Montréal were singled out and murdered in a brutal act of gender violence by Marc Lépine, a profoundly disturbed yet articulate young man intent on revenge against “The Feminists”. At the time Lépine was regarded as psychotic yet his very specific killing programme and his enaction of it was not judged to be a hate crime – which it very much was.  But in 1991, this date – December 6th – was officially recognized by the Parliament of Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women – to honour those women whose lives were ended due to gender-based violence.
Sadly, violence against women remains very much the reality it was when the “Montreal Massacre” took place twenty-five years ago.
Gender-based discrimination and violence are too common in Canadian workplaces and communities, with Aboriginal women and girls suffering at rates three times higher than for other female groups in our society. And a recent example – the August murder of 15-year-old foster-care child Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in a garbage bag in the Red River in Winnipeg – highlights the ugly intersection of racism and colonialism with anti-woman violence.
As well, new federal legislation – Bill C-36 – puts the lives of sex workers (prostitutes) at risk by reproducing and legitimizing the negative anti-sex-work laws that had been declared earlier by the Supreme Court of Canada as unconstitutional; Bill C-36 is most definitely a step backwards. Nothing but the full de-criminalization of sex work must be sought in order to put decision-making power in women’s hands, where it belongs; the Criminal Code does not protect the rights (labour/human/legal) of such women.
.     .     .
The following three poems, each in their own tangential or direct way, address the theme of violence in women’s lives:
Margaret Atwood (born 1939)
The Rest
The rest of us watch from beyond the fence
as the woman moves with her jagged stride
into her pain as if into a slow race.
We see her body in motion
but hear no sounds, or we hear
sounds but no language; or we know
it is not a language we know
We can see her clearly
but for her it is running in black smoke.
The cluster of cells in her swelling
like porridge boiling, and bursting,
like grapes, we think.
Or we think of
explosions in mud; but we know nothing.
All around us the trees
and the grasses light up with forgiveness,
so green and at this time
of the year healthy.
We would like to call something
out to her.
Some form of cheering.
There is pain but no arrival at anything.
. . .
Pat Lowther (1935-1975)
Random Interview
1, the fear


the fear is of everything
staying the way it is
and only i changing
the fear is
of everything changing
and i staying the same
the world expanding
branch tunnel cell
more and more
precious and terrible
while i grow only more
fragile and confused
the fear is my own
hands beating
like moths
my eyelids stuttering
light breaking into
meaningless phrases
the fear is of you
patiently elsewhere growing
a blood shape
of all my wishes
2, i am tired


i am tired of pain
i am tired of my own pain
i am tired of
the pain of others
i am tired of lives
unwinding like a roll
of bloody bandage
i shall roll up
the sky, pinch the sun
i go out to the cliff pours
of stars, the tall
volumes of stars
i go down
to the grains of soil
to bacteria
to viruses
to the neat mechanics of molecules
to escape the pain
to escape the pain


3, what i want


what i want is to be blessed
what i want is a cloak of air
the light entering my lungs
my love entering my body
the blessing descending
like the sky
sliding down the spectrum
what i want is to be
aware of the spaces between stars, to breathe
continuously the sources of sky,
a veined sail moving,
my love never setting
foot to the dark
anvil of earth.
. . .
Elizabeth Bachinsky (born 1976)
Wolf Lake
It was down that road he brought me, still
in the trunk of his car. I won’t say it felt right,
but it did feel expected. The way you know
your blood can spring like a hydrant.
That September, the horseflies were murder
in the valley. I’d come home to visit the family,
get in a couple of weeks of free food, hooked up
with a guy I’d known when I was a kid and things
went bad. When he cut me, I remember
looking down, my blood surprising as paper
snakes leaping from a tin. He danced me
around his basement apartment, dumped me
on the chesterfield, sat down beside me, and lit
a smoke. He seemed a black bear in the gloam,
shoulders rounded under his clothes,
so I tried to remember everything I knew
about black bears: whistle while you walk… carry bells…
if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you…
play dead. Everything slowed. I’ll tell you a secret.
It’s hard to kill a girl. You’ve got to cut her bad
and you’ve got to cut her right, and the boy had done neither,
Pain rose along the side of my body, like light.
I lay very still while he smoked beside me: this boy
I’d camped with every summer since we were twelve,
the lake so quiet you could hear the sound
of a heron skim the water at dusk, or the sound
of a boy’s breathing. I came-to in the trunk of his car,
gravel kicking up against the frame, dust coming in
through the cracks. It was dark. I was thirsty.
I couldn’t move my hands or legs,
The pain was still around. I think I was tied.
We drove that way for a long time before
the Chrysler finally slowed, then stopped. Sound
of gravel crunching under tires. I could smell the lake,
a place where, as kids, we’d come to swim
and know we’d never be seen. Logs grew
up from that lakebed. All those black bones
rising from black water. I remember,
we’d always smelled of lake water and of sex
by the end of the day, and there was a tape of Patsy
Cline we always liked to sing to on our way out —
which is what I thought we’d be doing that September
afternoon. That, or smoking up in his garage.
You know, you hear about the Body
all the time: They found the Body…
the Body was found… and then you are one.
Someone once told me the place had been
a valley, before the dam, before the town.
But that was a long time ago. When the engine stopped,
I heard the silver sound of keys in the lock
and then I was up on his shoulders, tasting blood.
I think he said my name. I think he walked
toward the woods.
. . . . .

Pro-Sex Poems of Love and Desire: the exquisite verse of Constantine P. Cavafy

Constantine Cavafy in a photographic portrait taken in a studio in Alexandria Egypt_around 1900
C.P. Cavafy (Greek poet from Alexandria, Egypt: 1863-1933)
Body, Remember
Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds you lay on,
but also those desires that glowed openly
in eyes that looked at you,
trembled for you in the voices—
only some chance obstacle frustrated them.
Now that it’s all finally in the past,
it seems almost as if you gave yourself
to those desires too—how they glowed,
remember, in eyes that looked at you,
remember, body, how they trembled for you in those voices.
Body, Remember – in the original Greek:
Θυμήσου, Σώμα…
Σώμα, θυμήσου όχι μόνο το πόσο αγαπήθηκες,
όχι μονάχα τα κρεββάτια όπου πλάγιασες,
αλλά κ’ εκείνες τες επιθυμίες που για σένα
γυάλιζαν μες στα μάτια φανερά,
κ’ ετρέμανε μες στην φωνή —  και κάποιο
τυχαίον εμπόδιο τες ματαίωσε.
Τώρα που είναι όλα πια μέσα στο παρελθόν,
μοιάζει σχεδόν και στες επιθυμίες
εκείνες σαν να δόθηκες — πώς γυάλιζαν,
θυμήσου, μες στα μάτια που σε κύτταζαν·
πώς έτρεμαν μες στην φωνή, για σε, θυμήσου, σώμα.
. . .
He had come there to read…
He had come there to read. Two or three books lie open,
books by historians, by poets.
But he read for barely ten minutes,
then gave it up, falling half asleep on the sofa.
He’s completely devoted to books—
but he’s twenty-three, and very good-looking;
and this afternoon Eros entered
his ideal flesh, his lips.
An erotic warmth entered
his completely lovely flesh—
with no ridiculous shame about the form the pleasure took….
In the original Greek:
Ήλθε για να διαβάσει —
Ήλθε για να διαβάσει. Είν’ ανοιχτά
δυο, τρία βιβλία· ιστορικοί και ποιηταί.
Μα μόλις διάβασε δέκα λεπτά,
και τα παραίτησε. Στον καναπέ
μισοκοιμάται. Aνήκει πλήρως στα βιβλία —
αλλ’ είναι είκοσι τριώ ετών, κ’ είν’ έμορφος πολύ·
και σήμερα το απόγευμα πέρασ’ ο έρως
στην ιδεώδη σάρκα του, στα χείλη.
Στη σάρκα του που είναι όλο καλλονή
η θέρμη πέρασεν η ερωτική·
χωρίς αστείαν αιδώ για την μορφή της απολαύσεως …..
. . .
He asked about the quality
He left the office where he’d taken up
a trivial, poorly paid job
(eight pounds a month, including bonuses)—
left at the end of the dreary work
that kept him bent all afternoon,
came out at seven and walked off slowly,
idling his way down the street. Good-looking;
and interesting: showing as he did that he’d reached
his full sensual capacity.
He’d turned twenty-nine the month before.
He idled his way down the main street
and the poor side-streets that led to his home.
Passing in front of a small shop
that sold cheap and flimsy things for workers,
he saw a face inside there, saw a figure
that compelled him to go in, and he pretended
he wanted to look at some colored handkerchiefs.
He asked about the quality of the handkerchiefs
and how much they cost, his voice choking,
almost silenced by desire.
And the answers came back the same way,
distracted, the voice hushed,
offering hidden consent.
They kept on talking about the merchandise—but
the only purpose: that their hands might touch
over the handkerchiefs, that their faces, their lips,
might move close together as though by chance—
a moment’s meeting of limb against limb.
Quickly, secretly, so the shopowner sitting at the back
wouldn’t realize what was going on.
Ρωτούσε για την ποιότητα—
Aπ’ το γραφείον όπου είχε προσληφθεί
σε θέσι ασήμαντη και φθηνοπληρωμένη
(ώς οκτώ λίρες το μηνιάτικό του: με τα τυχερά)
βγήκε σαν τέλεψεν η έρημη δουλειά
που όλο το απόγευμα ήταν σκυμένος:
βγήκεν η ώρα επτά, και περπατούσε αργά
και χάζευε στον δρόμο.— Έμορφος·
κ’ ενδιαφέρων: έτσι που έδειχνε φθασμένος
στην πλήρη του αισθησιακήν απόδοσι.
Τα είκοσι εννιά, τον περασμένο μήνα τα είχε κλείσει.
Εχάζευε στον δρόμο, και στες πτωχικές
παρόδους που οδηγούσαν προς την κατοικία του.
Περνώντας εμπρός σ’ ένα μαγαζί μικρό
όπου πουλιούνταν κάτι πράγματα
ψεύτικα και φθηνά για εργατικούς,
είδ’ εκεί μέσα ένα πρόσωπο, είδε μια μορφή
όπου τον έσπρωξαν και εισήλθε, και ζητούσε
τάχα να δει χρωματιστά μαντήλια.
Pωτούσε για την ποιότητα των μαντηλιών
και τι κοστίζουν με φωνή πνιγμένη,
σχεδόν σβυσμένη απ’ την επιθυμία.
Κι ανάλογα ήλθαν η απαντήσεις,
αφηρημένες, με φωνή χαμηλωμένη,
με υπολανθάνουσα συναίνεσι.
Όλο και κάτι έλεγαν για την πραγμάτεια — αλλά
μόνος σκοπός: τα χέρια των ν’ αγγίζουν
επάνω απ’ τα μαντήλια· να πλησιάζουν
τα πρόσωπα, τα χείλη σαν τυχαίως·
μια στιγμιαία στα μέλη επαφή.
Γρήγορα και κρυφά, για να μη νοιώσει
ο καταστηματάρχης που στο βάθος κάθονταν.
. . .
Days of 1896
He became completely degraded. His erotic tendency,
condemned and strictly forbidden
(but innate for all that), was the cause of it:
society was totally prudish.
He gradually lost what little money he had,
then his social standing, then his reputation.
Nearly thirty, he had never worked a full year—
at least not at a legitimate job.
Sometimes he earned enough to get by
acting the go-between in deals considered shameful.
He ended up the type likely to compromise you thoroughly
if you were seen around with him often.
But this isn’t the whole story—that would not be fair.
The memory of his beauty deserves better.
There is another angle; seen from that
he appears attractive, appears
a simple, genuine child of love,
without hesitation putting,
above his honor and reputation,
the pure sensuality of his pure flesh.
Above his reputation? But society,
prudish and stupid, had it wrong.
Μέρες του 1896
Εξευτελίσθη πλήρως.         Μια ερωτική ροπή του
λίαν απαγορευμένη         και περιφρονημένη
(έμφυτη μολοντούτο)         υπήρξεν η αιτία:
ήταν η κοινωνία         σεμνότυφη πολύ.
Έχασε βαθμηδόν         το λιγοστό του χρήμα·
κατόπι τη σειρά,        και την υπόληψί του.
Πλησίαζε τα τριάντα         χωρίς ποτέ έναν χρόνο
να βγάλει σε δουλειά,         τουλάχιστον γνωστή.
Ενίοτε τα έξοδά του         τα κέρδιζεν από
μεσολαβήσεις που         θεωρούνται ντροπιασμένες.
Κατήντησ’ ένας τύπος         που αν σ’ έβλεπαν μαζύ του
συχνά, ήταν πιθανόν         μεγάλως να εκτεθείς.
Aλλ’ όχι μόνον τούτα.         Δεν θάτανε σωστό.
Aξίζει παραπάνω         της εμορφιάς του η μνήμη.
Μια άποψις άλλη υπάρχει         που αν ιδωθεί από αυτήν
φαντάζει, συμπαθής·         φαντάζει, απλό και γνήσιο
του έρωτος παιδί,         που άνω απ’ την τιμή,
και την υπόληψί του         έθεσε ανεξετάστως
της καθαρής σαρκός του         την καθαρή ηδονή.
Aπ’ την υπόληψί του;         Μα η κοινωνία που ήταν
σεμνότυφη πολύ         συσχέτιζε κουτά.
. . .
Comes to rest
It must have been one o’clock at night
or half past one.
A corner in the wine-shop
behind the wooden partition:
except for the two of us the place completely empty.
An oil lamp barely gave it light.
The waiter, on duty all day, was sleeping by the door.
No one could see us. But anyway,
we were already so aroused
we’d become incapable of caution.
Our clothes half opened—we weren’t wearing much:
a divine July was ablaze.
Delight of flesh between
those half-opened clothes;
quick baring of flesh—the vision of it
that has crossed twenty-six years
and comes to rest now in this poetry.
Να μείνει
Η ώρα μια την νύχτα θάτανε,
ή μιάμισυ.
Σε μια γωνιά του καπηλειού·
πίσω απ’ το ξύλινο το χώρισμα.
Εκτός ημών των δυο το μαγαζί όλως διόλου άδειο.
Μια λάμπα πετρελαίου μόλις το φώτιζε.
Κοιμούντανε, στην πόρτα, ο αγρυπνισμένος υπηρέτης.
Δεν θα μας έβλεπε κανείς. Μα κιόλας
είχαμεν εξαφθεί τόσο πολύ,
που γίναμε ακατάλληλοι για προφυλάξεις.
Τα ενδύματα μισοανοίχθηκαν — πολλά δεν ήσαν
γιατί επύρωνε θείος Ιούλιος μήνας.
Σάρκας απόλαυσις ανάμεσα
στα μισοανοιγμένα ενδύματα·
γρήγορο σάρκας γύμνωμα — που το ίνδαλμά του
είκοσι έξι χρόνους διάβηκε· και τώρα ήλθε
να μείνει μες στην ποίησιν αυτή.
. . .
One night
The room was cheap and sordid,
hidden above the suspect taverna.
From the window you could see the alley,
dirty and narrow. From below
came the voices of workmen
playing cards, enjoying themselves.
And there on that common, humble bed
I had love’s body, had those intoxicating lips,
red and sensual,
red lips of such intoxication
that now as I write, after so many years,
in my lonely house, I’m drunk with passion again.
Μια Νύχτα
Η κάμαρα ήταν πτωχική και πρόστυχη,
κρυμένη επάνω από την ύποπτη ταβέρνα.
Aπ’ το παράθυρο φαίνονταν το σοκάκι,
το ακάθαρτο και το στενό. Aπό κάτω
ήρχονταν η φωνές κάτι εργατών
που έπαιζαν χαρτιά και που γλεντούσαν.
Κ’ εκεί στο λαϊκό, το ταπεινό κρεββάτι
είχα το σώμα του έρωτος, είχα τα χείλη
τα ηδονικά και ρόδινα της μέθης —
τα ρόδινα μιας τέτοιας μέθης, που και τώρα
που γράφω, έπειτ’ από τόσα χρόνια!,
μες στο μονήρες σπίτι μου, μεθώ ξανά.
. . .
When they come alive
Try to keep them, poet,
those erotic visions of yours,
however few of them there are that can be stilled.
Put them, half-hidden, in your lines.
Try to hold them, poet,
when they come alive in your mind
at night or in the brightness of noon.
Όταν Διεγείρονται
Προσπάθησε να τα φυλάξεις, ποιητή,
όσο κι αν είναι λίγα αυτά που σταματιούνται.
Του ερωτισμού σου τα οράματα.
Βάλ’ τα, μισοκρυμένα, μες στες φράσεις σου.
Προσπάθησε να τα κρατήσεις, ποιητή,
όταν διεγείρονται μες στο μυαλό σου,
την νύχτα ή μες στην λάμψι του μεσημεριού.
. . . . .
All of the above poems:
from: C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992
. . . . .


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 135 other followers