In Praise of Limestone (excerpt)

…”Come!” cried the granite wastes,
“How evasive is your humor, how accidental
Your kindest kiss, how permanent is death.” (Saints-to-be
Slipped away sighing.) “Come!” purred the clays and the gravels,
“On our plains there is room for armies to drill; rivers
Wait to be tamed and slaves to construct you a tomb
In the grand manner: soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.” (Intendant Caesars rose and
Left, slamming the door.) But the really reckless were fetched
By an older colder voice, the oceanic whisper:
“I am the solitude that asks and promises nothing;
That is how I shall set you free. There is no love;
There is only the various envies, all of them sad.”

They were right, my dear, all those voices were right
And still are; this land is not the sweet home that it looks,

—W.H Auden, “In Praise of Limestone,” (1948). Oxford University Press, New York: 2001.


Death Will Come and Look at Me with Your Eyes

Death will come and look at me with your
the death that follows us around
from morning to night, insomniac, deaf,
like some stale, now irreparable guilt
or ridiculous habit. Your eyes
will be empty words,
a suppressed cry, a silence—
the way you see them each morning
when you lean toward yourself alone
in the mirror.
And we, the silenced, go down into the abyss.

—Cesare Pavese, “Death Will Come and Look at Me with Your Eyes.” The American Poetry Review, Vol. 26, No. 5, 1997. Translated from Italian by Alan Williamson.

New Heart

Or shall I spread you over the pines
— suffering book of my love —
so you can learn about song
the nightingale offers the dawn?

—Federico García Lorca, “New Heart,” Selected Verse (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996)

Absent Soul (Excerpt)

No one knows you. No. But I sing to you.
I sing for the future your profile and your grace.
The ripe gleam of your wisdom.
Your appetite for death and the taste of its mouth.
The sadness borne in your valiant joy.

—Federico García Lorca, “Lament for the Death of Ignacio Sánchez Mejías.” The Literary Review, no. 2, 2013. Translated from Spanish by Pablo Medina.

Death and the Earth

You are like a country
that no one has ever named.
You wait for nothing
if not the word
that would gush from the depths
like a fruit between the boughs.
Like a wind, it reaches you
and the dry, twice-dead things
that encumber you fly away.
Ancient limbs, ancient words—
you tremble in summer.
—Cesare Pavese, “Death and the Earth.” The American Poetry Review, Vol 26, No. 5 (1997).