Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Nephew and His Wife
by Jane Mayhall

Some riders when they've done
with them, throw their horses away.
Who galloped the grassy sward, brisk on
a summer's day, buckles and saddles quoting
castanets in the sun.

My nephew and his wife, stern lovers
of the equine, when their gallants died,
buried them gently in the front yard.
But other amatuer horse-trainers in Alabama
just cancelled their beau-cheval,

once they'd either broken their
spirit, or let expire. And (incidentally,
against the law) carted their sleek beauties
off to the dump. But my nephew
and his wife, crack riders

and young at heart, had a sense of
the morning light. And picked up their flickering
shovels. Like hooves clopping through
the dark, did their immortal,
solemn work.

From *Sleeping Late on Judgment Day*

Healing and Light
by Jane Mayhall

Lying in wait, the undersoul,
when something hurts, you
can't heal it with descriptive passages
or wise guy quips,

or human sacrifice. Like the satellite true
feature story on Rio de Janeiro and
the massacre of homeless children,
no double talk.

Holding back the mismatch, misunderstanding
is the lonliest paradox, far seeing
with only faith to build on-- life's belittling
pathos, digging out.

When this lunar thing, notoriously
expired, in the swamp ditch of
the night, a moon of transfigured light
goes up, that would be dark

too, except filling the whole meadow,
so radiant, you could read
a newspaper by.

From *Sleeping Late on Judgment Day*

Waiting for the Barbarians
by Constantine P. Cavafy

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What laws can the Senators pass any more?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sits at the greatest gate of the city,
on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
many titles and names of honor.

Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas;
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
wonderfully carved with silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
and such things dazzle the barbarians.

Why don't the worthy orators come as always
to make their speeches, to have their say?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1904)