Sunday, April 19, 2009

Two versions of heaven


It's a book
full of ghost children,

safely dead,

where dead means

or wanting
or not wanting

to be known


Heaven is symmetric
with respect to rotation.

It's beautiful
when one thing changes

while another thing
remains the same


Fading redundancies.

Feathery runs.

Alternate wisps.


sprung striations

"Imaginary" meaning
"seen by humans"

- Rae Armantrout, 'Heaven' from Versed

(Have I mentioned how much I envy Armantrout? I mean, the woman just published a new collection, Next Life, in 2007 for FSM's sake, she's not supposed to be turning out another collection in 2009. That's 120 pages of finely tuned poetry in under two years. Aargh!)


Minds that can only function
with sense data as their point of departure
have dreamed up a zoomorphic heaven
without a structure of its own
a simple transposition of earthly fauna
to a place where angels and cherubim run around
as if they were barnyard fowl
no matter how you look at it it's unacceptable
I suspect that heaven resembles
a treatise on symbolic logic
more than an animal fair.

- Nicanor Parra, from 'The Sermons and Preachings of the Christ of Elqui' (translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman)

and, as a bonus:

Rest in Peace

sure - rest in peace
but what about the damp?
and the moss?
and the weight of the tombstone?
and the drunken gravediggers?
and the people who steal the flowerpots?
and the rats gnawing at the coffin?
and the damned worms
crawling in everywhere
they make death impossible for us
or do you really think
we don't know what's going on...

fine for you to say rest in peace
when you know damn well that's impossible
you just like running off at the mouth

well for your information
we know what's going on
the spiders scurrying up our legs
make damn sure of that

let's cut the crap
when you stand at a wide open grave
it's time to call a spade a spade:
you can drown your sorrows at the wake
we're stuck at the bottom of the pit.

- Nicanor Parra (translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman)

1 comment:

Sue said...

Ugh. Powerful poem, this.