sing your own springtime song.
after the French of Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918). Excerpts from Apollinaire’s first book Le Bestiare ou Cortège d’Orphée (1911), which was illustrated with celebrated woodcuts by Raoul Dufy.
He cuts a powerful and fine
figure from a noble line.
He steps from the shade; he has no peer:
his voice shines Light upon the ear.
The beasts approached to hear me sing;
sure fingers danced upon the strings.
In magic Thrace, they knew me well,
loved songs I conjured up from shell.
Through the exercise of endless pains,
my formal dreams shall act as reins.
I’ll master you: my Will be done
—but we’ll save the gallop till we are one.
The days beat as fast as your little chest,
already the summer’s past its best.
You weight the corn, bend it to your paw,
pause a moment, then gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.
O Lion, once such a noble king,
your mane’s now got all mangy—Poor thing!
Cat got your tongue? Where is your roar, your rage?
Cut down to size. Born in a cage.
after “Le Crapaud” by Tristan Corbière (1845–1875)
Listen! There’s a song this airless night.
See that slice of shiny tin? Moonlight,
a cut-out backdrop of deep green dark.
A song: its vibrely creaky echo
from the rockery beyond the decking.
It’s shut its gob. Let’s have a dekko!
Toad! Why are you so scared of me?
I’m your faithful servant. Don’t you know it?
Just look at him: a baldy, wingless poet.
Junk-dump nightingale. Singing… horribly.
Well, is it really such an awful croak?
Can’t you see the bright glint in his eye?
No? He’s buggered off, crawled beneath his rock.
Old toady-boyo’s really me – Okey-Doke.
Cliff Forshaw’s collections include Trans and, most recently, Vandemonian, which pieces together a fragmentary history of Tasmania. A new collection, Pilgrim Tongues, is due in 2015.
I dream of it still,
even now, months after the deed
of sale and the transfer to other hands—
How the yard with its idle oars
and the rotting wood of rowboats
made of the bougainvillea a vivid sea.
How to this day
I do not know the other name
of the bush and the fruit
we called the tomberry,
its tapered waxy shape
and the leaves that beat
like wings upon the windowsill.
And I am often tired and want
to go and nap like I often did
in the sewing room, until I remember
it is also gone, and only the smell
of freshly laundered towels
or the newness of a single
postage stamp can bring me back—
And in the dream
I am always though no longer
a girl before the world
had its way with me,
always the one listening
for the sounds of hidden things.
I learned how the threshold flowing outward
with the grain of wood can take
one far away, but the heart is always
lost in an epidemic of return.
Because of the Rain
The rain doesn’t wait;
and the seed doesn’t fall
into the furrow to improve the night.
Some things merely are
for the joy of themselves,
for no reason.
Didn’t we do that too
when we were young: spit
the dark seeds out of the crimson
braid each other’s hair
before opening our faces
under a sky streaked with warm
is a word I’m wary of sometimes—
Bitter as a bird
that’s found no shelter from the elements,
shredding the leaves