“Poet as Housewife,” Elisabeth Eybers

Always a broom leaned against a wall,
meals never on time, if they come at all.

Days without dates through which she moves
empty and stubborn, slightly confused.

Ironing hung dejectedly over a chair,
gestures that come from who-knows-where.

Old letters unanswered, piled together,
papers and pills stuffed deep in a drawer.

Thankful to be part of your heart’s great whole
yet devoted to the limits of her own small skull.

O orderly biped, take heed,
leave her alone—let her read.

 — “Poet as Housewife,” Elisabeth Eybers, translated from the Afrikaans by Jacquelyn Pope

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The Baburnama

 

“Hindustan is a place of little charm.  There is no beauty in its people, no graceful social intercourse, no poetic talent or understanding, no etiquette, nobility, or manliness.  The arts and crafts have no harmony or symmetry.  There are no good horses, meat, grapes, melons, or other fruit.  There is no ice, cold water, good food or bread in the markets.  There are no baths and no madrasas [Islamic schools].

Aside from the streams and still waters that flow in ravines and hollows, there is no running water in their gardens or palaces, and in their buildings no pleasing harmony or regularity.

The peasantry and common people parade around stark naked with something like a loin cloth tied around themselves and hanging down two spans below their navels.  Under this rag is another piece of cloth, which they pass between their legs and fasten to the loincloth string.  Women fasten around themselves one long piece of cloth, half of which they tie to their waists and the other half of which they throw over their heads.

The one nice aspect of Hindustan is that it is a large country with lots of gold and money. . . .”

The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, translated by Wheeler M. Thackston (1996)

Felisberto Hernández

felisberto-hernandez-at-the-piano

“In 1964, just before he died, he was told he had a form of leukemia known colloquially in Spanish as purpura—purple. Death interested him; his only fear was that the disease would turn his body purple and render it unfit for display at his wake. When he died, his body was so large it wouldn’t fit through the door but had to be taken out the window, like a piano.”

— “Prologue”, Lands of Memory, Felisberto Hernández, translated by Esther Allen (2002)

“Perhaps,” Wen Yiduo

Perhaps you have wept and wept, and can weep no more.
Perhaps. Perhaps you ought to sleep a bit;
then don’t let the night hawk cough, the frogs
croak, or the bats fly.

Don’t let the sunlight open the curtain onto your eyes.
Don’t let a cool breeze brush your eyebrows.
Ah, no one will be able to startle you awake:
I will open an umbrella of dark pines to shelter your sleep.

Perhaps you hear earthworms digging in the mud,
or listen to the root hairs of small grasses sucking up water.
Perhaps this music you are listening to is lovelier
than the swearing and cursing noises of men.

Then close your eyelids, and shut them tight.
I will let you sleep, I will let you sleep.
I will cover you lightly, lightly with yellow earth.
I will slowly, slowly let the ashes of paper money fly.

— “Perhaps,” Wen Yiduo, translated by Arthur Sze (2001)