Poems for Earth Day + A Meditation on Extinction by Duane Taylor

Passenger Pigeons by James John Audubon (1785-1851)

Passenger Pigeons by James John Audubon (1785-1851)

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Duane Taylor, a Health Sciences student in Toronto, is our Zócalo Poets Guest Editor for Earth Day 2014.  He sent us the following “contemplation” (with poems):

.     .     .
In the poem, ‘In Memoriam, AHH’, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) memorializes his dear friend, Arthur Hallam. Tennyson questions what the loss of a single life or a whole species means to God and Nature. Like many of his contemporaries, Tennyson spoke of a conflict between his faith and the then-novel idea of Evolution – though it had not yet been named as that.
Tennyson’s conflict was somewhat different than the one we’d likely find today—there was no question of God’s place in the universe. The being whose place was being called into question was Man’s.

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Alfred Tennyson
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1849)
[ excerpt ]
.
LV
The wish, that of the living whole
No life may fail beyond the grave,
Derives it not from what we have
The likest God within the soul?

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,

I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar-stairs
That slope thro’ darkness up to God,

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope.

LVI
‘So careful of the type?’ but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go.

‘Thou makest thine appeal to me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does but mean the breath:
I know no more.’ And he, shall he,

Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law?
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed?

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal’d within the iron hills?

No more? A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match’d with him.
.
O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil.

.     .     .

In Christian theology, mankind is the pinnacle of Creation, the one who has been given dominion over all living things and the Earth, the one to whom, after God, all must bow.
But the theory of Evolution tells us, as it told Tennyson, that mankind is just one of countless species, or ‘types’, that has existed and will die and be replaced. Man’s time at the pinnacle is fleeting; after he is gone the earth will endure and more types will follow.
We see this truth set literally in stone; fossils speak of animals that no longer live. Moreover, they tell us of species so entirely absent that all of the species related to them, all of the species they saw, lived with and ate, are gone too. Entire worlds replaced at the rate of a few types at a time.
So little does Nature care for the type that it is estimated that 99.9% of all of the species that have ever existed are extinct.
One of these species was the Passenger Pigeon.

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Prior to the 20th century, the Passenger Pigeon was a familiar sight, much like the Rock Dove (the ‘pigeons’ which are found in cities worldwide) is today. On their own, they were somewhat unremarkable birds. However, with a single exception, Passenger Pigeons were never on their own.
They existed in numbers that are impossible to conceive for us now. Billions of birds blackened the skies as they migrated across the North American continent.
They were so numerous that giant trees, overloaded with roosting birds, splintered and broke under the weight. A flock once took three days to pass overhead. In one grouping, the naturalist Alexander Wilson estimated there were 2,230,272,000 individuals – approximately eight times the total population of Rock Pigeons in the world.
And yet, as with all living things, they went.

Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan_Where is that Vanished Bird? (The Passenger Pigeon)_photomontage, 2007

Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan_Where is that Vanished Bird? (The Passenger Pigeon)_photomontage, 2007

.     .     .

Jenny McBride (Chicago, USA)
Nature is Dying
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“Nature is dying,” said the doctor.
I already knew
About the huge flocks of birds
There used to be,
He said prothonotaries filling a tree
In the city where he grew up.
One of his friends
Told of Dakota blackbird flocks
Miles long, took hours to pass
“A long time ago.” said the doctor
But he’s less than 80.
.
But I hadn’t even heard about monarchs
Thick, even coming smack through the city
Sheets of orange butterflies.
“Nature is dying,” said the doctor.
“We’re trying to save her but…
“I’m not sure how good a job we’re doing.”
.
Even I’ve seen eternal lights go out
And I’m not half his age.
Those who are half my age, teens now
May mark the last phase of the change.
“Nature is dying,” said the doctor.
Nothing I didn’t know
Except that monarchs used to migrate
Right through Chicago
As if it weren’t even there.
We’re trying to save her
But it’s a struggle of attrition.

.     .     .

In much the same way it would be inconceivable to us that the ubiquitous rock doves could ever disappear, it was inconceivable to the people of the time that their Passenger Pigeons could ever disappear.

But through hunting and habitat destruction, over the course of fifty years, the flocks of billions were winnowed down to a single life.

This single life, like Tennyson’s friend toward whom Nature was so careless, had a name: Martha. She was a 29-year old female, who spent her final years in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was an ‘endling’, the term given to the last known member of a species.  Martha died on September 1st, 1914. It’s sometimes said that the Passenger Pigeon is the only species whose exact time and place of extinction is known.
While the idea is poetic, it isn’t necessarily true.
For many species, prior to the final extinction, there is what’s known as a functional extinction. This is when a species has declined past any hope of recovery. This can happen when there are too few members of a species left, as it did with the Passenger Pigeon.  Martha may have been the last single life of her type in September of 1914 , but her type had met its true end some unknown years hence, when the last fifty, forty or ten birds were shot in some unknown forest, field or plain. No one but God or Nature will ever know.
Still, the simplicity of a species ending at a precise time and date, like the period at the end of a sentence rather than an ellipsis, is a beautiful idea.
We can’t know when our own functional extinction will come, but, as with “In Memoriam, A.H.H”, we find answers in verse.

Woolly Mammoth and Cro-Magnon Boy, a 21st-century "cave drawing"

Woolly Mammoth and Cro-Magnon Boy, a 21st-century “cave drawing”

.     .     .
Archibald Lampman (1861-1899) was one of the late 19th-century Canadian poets who would come to be known as The Confederation Poets.
He wrote “The City at the End of Things” as an elegy for a natural world that had been destroyed by urbanization. Mankind’s ‘endling’ makes an appearance, and the poem suggests that in destroying Nature we destroy ourselves.

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Archibald Lampman
The City at the End of Things (1899)
.
Beside the pounding cataracts
Of midnight streams unknown to us
‘Tis builded in the leafless tracts
And valleys huge of Tartarus.
Lurid and lofty and vast it seems;
It hath no rounded name that rings,
But I have heard it called in dreams
The City of the End of Things.
Its roofs and iron towers have grown
None knoweth how high within the night,
But in its murky streets far down
A flaming terrible and bright
Shakes all the stalking shadows there,
Across the walls, across the floors,
And shifts upon the upper air
From out a thousand furnace doors;
And all the while an awful sound
Keeps roaring on continually,
And crashes in the ceaseless round
Of a gigantic harmony.
Through its grim depths re-echoing
And all its weary height of walls,
With measured roar and iron ring,
The inhuman music lifts and falls.
Where no thing rests and no man is,
And only fire and night hold sway;
The beat, the thunder and the hiss
Cease not, and change not, night nor day.
And moving at unheard commands,
The abysses and vast fires between,
Flit figures that with clanking hands
Obey a hideous routine;
They are not flesh, they are not bone,
They see not with the human eye,
And from their iron lips is blown
A dreadful and monotonous cry;
And whoso of our mortal race
Should find that city unaware,
Lean Death would smite him face to face,
And blanch him with its venomed air:
Or caught by the terrific spell,
Each thread of memory snapt and cut,
His soul would shrivel and its shell
Go rattling like an empty nut.

It was not always so, but once,
In days that no man thinks upon,
Fair voices echoed from its stones,
The light above it leaped and shone:
Once there were multitudes of men,
That built that city in their pride,
Until its might was made, and then
They withered age by age and died.
But now of that prodigious race,
Three only in an iron tower,
Set like carved idols face to face,
Remain the masters of its power;
And at the city gate a fourth,
Gigantic and with dreadful eyes,
Sits looking toward the lightless north,
Beyond the reach of memories;
Fast rooted to the lurid floor,
A bulk that never moves a jot,
In his pale body dwells no more,
Or mind or soul – an idiot!
But sometime in the end those three
Shall perish and their hands be still,
And with the master’s touch shall flee
Their incommunicable skill.
A stillness absolute as death
Along the slacking wheels shall lie,
And, flagging at a single breath,
The fires shall moulder out and die.
The roar shall vanish at its height,
And over that tremendous town
The silence of eternal night
Shall gather close and settle down.
All its grim grandeur, tower and hall,
Shall be abandoned utterly,
And into rust and dust shall fall
From century to century;
Nor ever living thing shall grow,
Nor trunk of tree, nor blade of grass;
No drop shall fall, no wind shall blow,
Nor sound of any foot shall pass:
Alone of its accursèd state,
One thing the hand of Time shall spare,
For the grim Idiot at the gate
Is deathless and eternal there.

August Rodin_Le Penseur or The Thinker (seen here in the rain)_a 1904 bronze-cast sculpture at the Musée Rodin,  Paris_photograph by Innoxiuss

August Rodin_Le Penseur or The Thinker (seen here in the rain)_a 1904 bronze-cast sculpture at the Musée Rodin, Paris_photograph by Innoxiuss

And once that last grinning ‘endling’ is gone and mankind, like the Passenger Pigeon, is a memory of Nature, what remains?

T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”, and its final stanza, present us with one of our possible futures.

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T.S. Eliot
The Hollow Men (1925)

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Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

.     .     .     .     .


“Yo soy la resurrección y la vida”: imágenes para Domingo de Pascua / “I am the resurrection and the life”

 

The Face of Jesus drawn by a little boy named Ben_2011

The Face of Jesus drawn by a little boy named Ben_2011

 

Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas_pintor boliviano_Cristo aimará_Aymara Christ_1939

Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas_pintor boliviano_Cristo aimará_Aymara Christ_1939

 

Jesus as अवतार (avatāra) and guru_mosaic depiction from India

Jesus as अवतार (avatāra) and guru_mosaic depiction from India

 

Detail of a 1999 U.K. Easter poster designed to encourage people to go to church:  "Discover the real Jesus."  Jesus as Revolutionary - like Che Guevara

Detail of a 1999 U.K. Easter poster designed to encourage people to go to church: “Discover the real Jesus.” Jesus as Revolutionary – like Che Guevara

 

An old stained glass image of a Celtic Christ

An old stained glass image of a Celtic Christ

 

Jesus may be envisioned with many different faces for He is in every one of us.

Jesus may be envisioned with many different faces for He is in every one of us.

 

Pacino di Bonaguida_Christ Enthroned_14th century

Pacino di Bonaguida_Christ Enthroned_14th century

 

Christ the Saviour_Pantokrator_a 6th century icon from St. Catherine's Monastery_Mount Sinai, Egypt

Christ the Saviour_Pantokrator_a 6th century icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery_Mount Sinai, Egypt

 

Jamaican painter Osmond Watson_Jah Lives, 1984

Jamaican painter Osmond Watson_Jah Lives, 1984

 

John the Baptist baptizing Jesus_Chinese painting

John the Baptist baptizing Jesus_Chinese painting

 


La poesía bíblica: Mateo 11: 28-30 / The Good Book’s poetry: Matthew 11: 28-30

Footsteps to Jesus_Pisadas a Jesús

Footsteps to Jesus_Pisadas a Jesús

 

Matthew 11: 2830 (King James Version)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
. . .

Mateo 11: 2830 (Reina-Valera)
Venid a mí, todos los que estáis trabajados y cargados, y yo os haré descansar.
Llevad mi yugo sobre vosotros y aprended de mí, que soy manso y humilde de corazón, y hallaréis descanso para vuestras almas.
Porque mi yugo es fácil, y ligera mi carga.

.     .     .

Reina-Valera_primera página de la Biblia del Oso_ traducción al castellano de Casiodoro de Reyna_Basilea_1569

Reina-Valera_primera página de la Biblia del Oso_ traducción al castellano de Casiodoro de Reyna_Basilea_1569

.     .     .

.     .     .     .     .

 


Lewis Carroll: A Song of Love / Canción de Amor

Un Mundo Mejor_derechos de autor Marie Sabal- Lecco, artista de Camerún_Un Monde Meilleur_droit dauteur Marie Sabal- Lecco, artiste camerounais_A Better World_ copyright Cameroonian artist Marie Sabal-Lecco

Un Mundo Mejor_derechos de autor Marie Sabal- Lecco, artista de Camerún_Un Monde Meilleur_droit dauteur Marie Sabal- Lecco, artiste camerounais_A Better World_ copyright Cameroonian artist Marie Sabal-Lecco

John 13: 34
A new commandment I give unto you:  That ye love one another.  As I have loved you, so ye also are to love one another.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
A Song of Love
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Say, what is the spell, when her fledglings are cheeping,
That lures the bird home to her nest?
Or wakes the tired mother, whose infant is weeping,
To cuddle and croon it to rest?
What the magic that charms the glad babe in her arms,
Till it coos with the voice of a dove?
‘Tis a secret, and so let us whisper it low
– And the name of the secret is Love.
For I think it is Love,
For I feel it is Love,
For I’m sure it is nothing but Love.
.
Say, whence is the voice that when anger is burning,
Bids the whirl of the tempest to cease?
That stirs the vexed soul with an aching – a yearning
For the brotherly hand-grip of peace?
Whence the music that fills all our being – that thrills
Around us, beneath, and above?
‘Tis a secret: none knows how it comes, or it goes
– But the name of the secret is Love.
For I think it is Love,
For I feel it is Love,
For I’m sure it is nothing but Love.
.
Say, whose is the skill that paints valley and hill,
Like a picture so fair to the sight?
That flecks the green meadow with sunshine and shadow,
Till the little lambs leap with delight?
‘Tis a secret untold to hearts cruel and cold,
Though ’tis sung by the angels above,
In notes that ring clear for the ears that can hear
– And the name of the secret is Love.
For I think it is Love,
For I feel it is Love,
For I’m sure it is nothing but Love.

.     .     .

Juan 13: 34
Un mandamiento nuevo os doy:  Que os améis unos a otros;  como yo os he amado, que también os améis unos a otros.

Canción de Amor
.
Dîgame, ¿qué es la magia que atrae a su nido
el pájaro cuando están piando sus polluelos?
¿O lo que puede despertar a la madre soñolienta
para canturrear y acurrucarse a su bebé que llora?
¿Cuál es el encanto que fascina el niño contento en sus brazos
hasta que arrulla con la voz de una paloma?
Es un secreto, pues cuchicheémoslo en voz baja
– Y el nombre del secreto es Amor.
Porque pienso es Amor,
Me siento que es el Amor,
si, ‘stoy seguro que ES el Amor.
.
Dígame, ¿de dónde llega esa voz cuando quema el enojo,
ella que ordena cesar el tumulto del torbellino?
¿O qué conmueve el alma exaltada con un anhelo
por la mano fraternal de la Paz?
¿De dónde llega la música que llena todo nuestro ser –
que nos anima, alrededor, abajo y arriba?
Es un secreto, y nadie no entiende como llega o va
– Pero su nombre-secreto: Amor.
Porque pienso es Amor,
Me siento que es el Amor,
si, ‘stoy seguro que ES el Amor.
.

Dígame, ¿de quién viene esa habilidad que pinta valle y colina,
como un dibujo tan hermoso mirar?
¿Qué motea el campo con sol y con sombra,
hasta que los corderos saltan con deleite?
Es un secreto no dicho a los corazones fríos,
aunque está cantado por los angeles arriba,
con notas cristalinos para los oídos que pueden oírlas
– Y el nombre del secreto es Amor.
Porque pienso es Amor,
Me siento que es el Amor,
si, ‘stoy seguro que ES el Amor.

.     .     .
Marie Sabal-Lecco, the Paris-based Cameroonian artist whose work is featured above, tells us:  “Je représente sur mes toiles un éternel message de paix, de tolérance, du vivre ensemble, du respect de l’autre, de l’amour.  Bonnes fêtes de Pâques!” (I represent in my canvasses an eternal message of peace, tolerance, of living together, of respect for one another, of love.  A Happy Easter to you!)

Marie Sabal-Lecco, un artista de Camerún que vive en París – (su pintura está arriba) – nos dice: “Quiero mostrar en mis lienzos el mensaje eternal de la Paz, de la tolerancia, de vivir juntos, del respeto del uno al otro, y del Amor. ¡Feliz Pascua!”

.     .     .     .     .


Poemas para Domingo de Pascua: Emily Dickinson: No es La Conclusión este Mundo / This World is not Conclusion + Octavio Paz: Hermandad / Brotherhood

God Love

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
This World is not Conclusion
.
This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—
It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don’t know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—
To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Strong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—
.     .     .

No es La Conclusión este Mundo (Traducción del inglés: Alexander Best)

.
No es La Conclusión este Mundo;
Un Especie se ubica más allá de aquí;
Como la Música, invisible,
Pero positivo como Sonido.
Atrae y confunde,
La Ética no lo entiende;
Y por Enigma, y al fin,
Debe cruzar la Sagacidad.
.
Advinarlo deja perplejo los sabios,
Ganarlo hay Hombres que han soportado
El Desprecio de Generaciones
– Y Crucifixión.
Fe resbala – y ríe y se reanima –
Y se sonroja (si alguien le mire);
Arranca una ramita de Inicio,
Y pregunta de una Veleta el camino.
Mucho Gesto del Púlpito,
Surgen Aleluyas fuertes;
Narcóticos no pueden calmar el Diente
Que mordisquea el Alma.

Dios Amor

Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
Hermandad: Homenaje a Claudio Ptolomeo
.
Soy hombre: duro poco
y es enorme la noche.
Pero miro hacia arriba:
las estrellas escriben.
Sin entender comprendo:
también soy escritura
y en este mismo instante
alguien me deletrea.

.     .     .
Brotherhood: an homage to Claudius Ptolemy
(translated from Spanish by Eliot Weinberger)
.
I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

.     .     .     .     .


Poemas para Domingo de Pascua: E.E. Cummings, Arthur Stringer / Poems for Easter Sunday

He Qi_Easter Morning_An angel announces that Christ Has Risen...but everyone is either groggy...or still lost in mourning.

E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
i thank you God for most this amazing
.
i thank you God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
.
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
.
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
.
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
.     .     .

te agradezco Dios por el más esta asombrosa

.

te agradezco Dios por el más esta asombrosa
mañana: por los brincandos verde-deramente espíritus de árboles
y un azul auténtico sueño de cielo; y por todo
lo que es natural que es infinito que es
.
(yo que he muerto estoy viviendo de nuevo hoy,
y ésto es el aniversario del sol; ésto es el nacimiento
día de la vida y del amor y de alas: y de la tierra
alegre-grande-ocurriendo-sin límites)
.
¿cómo es posible que tocando-oyendo-viendo
respirando alguien – elevado del no
del todo-nada – simplemente ser humano
dude Tú el inimaginable?
.
(ahora los oídos de mis oídos se despiertan y
ahora los ojos de mis ojos están abiertos)

.     .     .

Arthur Stringer (1874-1950)
The Final Lesson
.
I have sought Beauty through the dust of strife,
I have sought Meaning for the ancient ache,
And Music in the grinding wheels of Life;
Long have I sought, and little found as yet
Beyond this truth: that Love alone can make
Earth beautiful, and Life without regret.
.     .     .
La lección final
.
He buscado la Belleza por el polvo de lucha,
He buscado Significado por el anhelo antiguo,
Y Música en las ruedas que giran de la Vida;
Largo tiempo he estado buscando – y poco he descubierto hasta ahora
Excepto esta verdad: que sólo el Amor puede hacer bella
La Tierra – y una Vida sin arrepentimiento.

.

 

Image:  He Qi is a contemporary painter of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Our Redeemer Liveth. The women are not especially awake yet, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel tells them that the time of grief is over. Instead of a military-style banner often held by Christ in such triumphal depictions, He Qi has his angel bearing a luminous lily – symbol of purity and peace.

 

.     .     .     .     .


Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: The Messiah after The Crucifixion

A painting by Guity Novin_artist poet and translator_visit her site at Artreact. blogspot

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab (Iraqi “modernist” poet, 1926-1964)
The Messiah after The Crucifixion
(translated from Arabic by B.M. Bennani)
.
After I was brought down, I heard the winds
Whip the palm trees with wild laments;
Footsteps receded into infinity. Wounds
And the cross I was nailed to all afternoon
Didn’t kill me. I listened. A cry of grief
Crossed the plain between me and the city
Like a hawser pulling a ship
Destined to sink. The cry
Was a thread of light between morning
And night in a sad winter sky.
Despite all this, the city fell asleep.
.
When the orange and mulberry trees bloom,
When my village Jaykour reaches the limits of fantasy,
When grass grows green and sings with fragrance
And the sun suckles it with brilliance,
When even darkness grows green,
Warmth touches my heart and my blood flows into earth.
My heart becomes sun, when sun throbs with light,
My heart becomes earth, throbbing with wheat, blossom
and sweet water.
My heart is water, an ear of corn,
Its death is resurrection. It lives in him who eats
The dough, round as a little breast, life’s breast.
I died by fire. When I burned, the darkness of my clay
disappeared. Only God remained.
I was the beginning, and in the beginning was poverty.
I died so bread would be eaten in my name
So I would be sown in season.
.
Many are the lives I’ll live. In every soil
I’ll become a future, a seed, a generation of men
A drop of blood, or more, in every man’s heart.
Then I returned. When Judas saw me he turned pale:
I was his secret!
He was a shadow of mine, grown dark,
The frozen image of an idea
From which life was plucked.
He feared I might reveal death in his eyes
(his eyes were a rock
behind which he hid his death).
He feared my warmth. It was a threat to him
so he betrayed it.
“Is this you? Or is it my shadow grown white,
emitting light?
Men die only once! That’s what our fathers said.
That’s what they taught us. Or was it a lie?!”
That’s what he said when he saw me. His whole face spoke.
I hear footsteps, approaching and falling.
The tomb rumbles with their fall
Have they come again? Who else could it be?
Their falling footsteps follow me.
They lay rocks on my chest.
Didn’t they crucify me yesterday? Yet here I am!
Who could know that I . . . ? Who?
And as for Judas and his friends, no one will believe them.
Their footsteps follow me and fall.
Here I am now, naked in my dank tomb
Yesterday I curled up like a thought, a bud,
Beneath my shroud of snow. My blood bloomed from moisture.
I was then a thin shadow between night and day.
When I burst my soul into treasures and peeled it like fruit.
When I turned my pockets into swaddling clothes
and my sleeves into a cover,
When I kept the bones of little children
warm within my flesh
And stripped my wounds to dress the wound of another,
The wall between me and God disappeared.
.
The soldiers surprised even my wounds and my heartbeats.
They surprised all that wasn’t dead,
even if it was a tomb.
They took me by surprise the way a flock of starving birds
pluck the fruit of a palm tree in a deserted village.
The rifles are pointed and have eyes
with which they devour my road.
Their fire dreams of my crucifixion.
Their eyes are made of fire and iron.
The eyes of my people are a light in the skies;
they shine with memory and love.
The rifles relieve me of my burden;
my cross grows moist.
How small such death is! My death. And yet how great!
.
After I was nailed to the cross, I cast my eyes
toward the city; I could hardly recognize the plain, the wall, the cemetery.
Something, as far as my eyes could see, sprung forth
Like a forest in bloom.
Everywhere there was a cross and a mourning mother.
Blessed be the Lord!
Such are the pains of a city in labour, about to give birth.

.

Image:  a painting by Guity Novin:  artist, poet and translator.  Visit her site:  artreact.blogspot

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