And this is where the abyss begins

For this year’s World Poetry Day, I share with you the haunting words of Argentinian poet Roberto Juarroz (1925-1995). It seems especially fitting on this day to remember how vital it is for all of us to think of, and write about, each other…and how essential poetry is to imagining–and saving–the untold selves inhabiting this universe.

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from First Vertical Poetry (1958)

I think that at this moment
maybe nobody in the universe is thinking about me,
I’m the only one who’s thinking me,
and if I were to die now
nobody, not even I, would think me.

And this is where the abyss begins,
as when I go to sleep.
I’m my own support and I take it away from me.
I help to curtain everything with absence.

That may be why
when you think of someone
it’s like saving them.

translated by W.S. Merwin

For us, all that’s left is kisses

From one of my favorite Russian poets, Osip Mendelstam (1891-1938). If you enjoy this one, here’s another I posted two years ago.

“Take from my palm, to sooth your heart”

Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone’s bees.

You can’t untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.

For us, all that’s left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.

Deep in the transparent night they’re still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.

But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.”

translated from the Russian by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin