Centos for the Millennium


(Milosz, Ashbery, Ammons, Bell, Bly,
Doherty, Ummel, Notley, Waldman)


Under a linden tree, as before, daylight.
At some point in the pageant, there is a moment
whose point of equipoise might miss matter
altogether. The things I did, I did because
of trees. The mourning dove's call woke me
in terms of a few colors lying in the sun.
And then there was the man in white with white wings
who sang, "Don't you know I'm caught in a trap?
I can't walk out because I love you. I love you
too much, baby." Endless and shapeless living
one thing. A red parrot lights on his shoulder.
A chaos of place. I hope to see otherwise.



(Dao, Mang Ke, Seiden, Ummel,
Milosz, Ammons, Bell, Blumenthal)


The exile of words has begun.
Debasement is the password of the base.
The golden coffin lid hangs high,
and fattened crops have a human taste.
A neighbor warns passers-by, "Beware
of the yellow footprints." The golden house, the word is,
collapses. The first cool spell has cracked white
asters open. The invisible repeats itself
brazenly among carefully arranged candles.
Desire, in the end, is hardly ever amorous.



(Merwin, Bly, Lorca, Milosz, George Eliot,
Shu Ting, Yang Lian, Gu Cheng, Joris)


This is the bridge where at dawn they hear voices.
Books don't want to remain in the same room with us
anymore. If a child came by burning, would you
dance on your lawn with the tree of amputated limbs
which does not sing? Treasure the skills acquired
in the hour of terror, for we all of us, grave or light,
get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act
fatally on the strength of them. In the dark blue night
the old wounds burst open all at once. And still the bed
is a very patient lover. In sending others to death
you again kill yourself. An Englishman lying
in the middle of the road, smiling—orchids and tender
leaves sprouting from his ears—what did that mean?
Howl this alphabet. Don't hurl this relapse into bone!



(Plath, Merwin, T.S. Eliot,
Koch, Pankey, Graham)


Elsewhere the landscape is more frank.
The only tractor in the village rumbles
out of the roofer's barn into the cow pats
and the shadow of the lime tree. Here
the crow starves, here the patient
stag breeds for the rifle.
Wisteria-reaches clutch the wood railing of the porch.
How easily romance turns to logic.
Nothing again will ever be this easy.



(Plath, Merwin, T.S. Eliot, Koch,
Ashbery, Pankey, Graham)


Hands reach back to relics of nippled moons.
Wheat whitens in the cracked fields.
The lost heart stiffens and rejoices.
Green moss scabs the sides of trees.
Tulips yawn, crack open, and fall apart
where blue paint has cracked and chipped
away from the Madonna's skirt. Imagine
the body they were all once a part of.



(Berryman, Simic, Elytis tr. Broumas,
Graham, Paz)


Languid the songs I wish I had willed.
A bird calls from an apple tree.
From the rise and fall of her nude breasts,
a scent of garden and of sea arrives—
a deep unevenness of everything like the sun.
O to see, to touch lovely, diurnal forms.



(Simic, Elytis tr. Broumas,
Ashbery, Graham, Paz)


She had nothing under her dress.
A breeze of bruised violet and lemon rounded the door.
The wedding was enchanted; everyone was glad to be in it.
A man and a woman on the terrace floor—
two gold currents wrapping round and round each other.
Appearances are beautiful in this, their temporary truth.



(Elytis tr. Broumas, Ashbery,
Graham, Sabines)


The voice turns elsewhere—
as the luckless describe love
in glowing terms to strangers
in taverns. Every argument
has something to do with pleasure—
each time your flesh more like your suit,
your bones more wood, the boards more bone.


Ed Orr