An attempt at a poem in Spanish

El Norte Viento en la Primavera

Hoy no hay sol y el gran viento
desde el norte se niega
cualquier idea feliz
de primavera.  Escuchar,
en el viento frío que escucho
el desgarro de todas las flores
blancas de las magnolias.  Estarán
mañana magullado y morado.

[First draft:

No hay sol hoy y el gran viento
desde el norte se niega
cualquier feliz idea
de la primavera. Escuchar,
en el viento frio oigo
el desgarro de toda las flores
blancas de magnolias. Serán
magullados y el morado mañana.]

The North Wind in Spring

There is no sun today and the big wind
from the north refuses
any happy idea of spring. Listen,
in the cold wind I hear
the tearing of all the white
magnolia flowers. They will be
bruised and purple tomorrow.

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Strathgartney Park

Over at tankawanka, Andrew Griffin wrote a response to Wang Wei’s ancient poem Deer Park. As part of the process, he created a translation and a word-for-word translation of the original piece. I couldn’t resist working from the word-for-word to do my own version set in PEI.

Strathgartney Park


The steep hills are empty,
No one moves in the woods.

But there are faint murmurs,
Almost like human speech,

As spring sunlight draws sap
From deep in the tree roots,

Then drips golden down trunks
To gleam in green moss beds.

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April Snow

April Snow

April snow outside my window
And so I stare at the computer screen—
Old Japanese movies one by one—
All Kurosawa—full of smoke
And ruins and rain.

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When the Harbour Thaws


When the harbour thaws, I know that soon
I’ll leave my windows open, listen
All night long to the slow-falling rain
And to small birds moving on grapevines
Greening the telephone pole and wires.

Before the heat of summer demands
A window fan, the late May breeze will
Find me naked on the sheets; bring me
A memory of your hands and mouth
Moving in the night over my skin.

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March, After Midnight

It’s March already.
All month now I’ll lie awake
Listening for geese
After midnight—though I know
They’ll never bring back my heart.

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A Small House Near the Sea

0n the north shore you can build too close to
The sea. The Gulf over here is never
Your friend; year round it shifts its weight against
The shore, rasping sand over sandstone beds
And angling sandbars to form new channels
Where water never flows as you’d expect.
It undercuts soil banks leaving pale roots
Hanging out to dry, wither in the sun.

In the summer you can hope the warm, rock
Pools might hold mussels and crabs when the tide
Goes out. You believe if you cross the spit
To its leeward side of murky, lukewarm
Water edged with drifts of drying seaweed
You can watch the terns and gulls watch you while
They squabble and fish as you skirt clay beds
To dig razor and piss clams all day long.

On the north shore you want to build higher—
On a hill well back from the sea where you
Can plant a line of scraggly fir and spruce
To break autumn winds blowing off the Gulf.
Between you and the spruce, then, another
Line, perhaps of pine, and then one of larch
To glow orange above the wild rose bushes
Swinging their hips in the October sun.

Winter sees the dry, stovelength, hardwood stacked
In cords out in the yard. Winter hears
Chickens muttering always in their shed—
Except the one simmering with onions
And summer savory in the pot. Winter
Smells of tea and a ball of yeasty dough
Rising slow in a bowl under a cloth.
Through the window the Gulf shrugs under ice.

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Waiting for February Snow

I can not sleep and so I walk
Out after midnight under the few
Stars the city gives me. I know no
More about them than about you.

I do not know if what I hear
As a low buzz in my ears tonight
Might be stray radio waves of stars
Whispering to me about light.

Could I fall back in time tonight
To a February long ago
When it was after midnight the stars
Came out and found our tracks in snow?

The pine boughs swayed above our heads
White and heavy, threatening to shake
Snow down our necks as we ran to test
How thick the ice was on the lake.

We may have skated in the night,
Or tobogganed laughing down the hill.
We may have lain, later, warm in bed.
Some might swear to it. I never will.

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Diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy

Might not be the sort of thing to raise
An eyebrow in polite society.
Hell of a nerve it took for this nerve
To up and die in my face like that.

I guess it looks as if each word I speak
Tastes sour now; lips all pursed to the left—
But I’ll be back to sweet-talking out
The other side of my mouth soon enough.

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February Was No Time

Does the Iowa night imagine you
In snow on bare cottonwood trees?
February was no time of year
To die. You never liked the cold.

I know an Island night remembers
You by a quiet river in June.
Our quickening breath became laughter
When a startled blue heron took flight.

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Thinking of Geese in Winter

The geese are long gone
Snow blows where marsh meets the sea
At dawn the wind moves
Through ice channels and wavers
In hollow stems of cattails

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January in the City

When January
Snow falls outside my window
Here in the city
I can only hope to hear
Crows call before the plows come

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December Moon

I saw the moon climb
Last night as December died.
Here came the new year —
Same as the old year — I heard
Ice crystallize in puddles.

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The Long Grass on the Hill

Shadows on the wall
Show me the moon has crested
The hill—a wind stirs
In the long grass there tonight
As it once moved in your hair

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Sad Little Candidate Trump

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Low Overhead

The October sky
Moves slow and low overhead
All morning I hear
Calls of geese blue-skying
Above clouds grey as my hair

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The Wind Moves Towards Winter

You see the first yellow leaves
In these last lonely elms?

The wind moves towards winter,
The ice of northern seas.

All of the crows are silent.
I hear no raven’s cronk.

Let us not walk near water;
Our eyes have salt enough.

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I Know Less of Iowa

What little I know dwindles each day.
Perhaps this is why I embrace doubt
And wish to revisit every magnolia,
Linden, and wild rose I’ve ever known,
Every slow stream teadark with tannins
Where current and stones laugh in the shallows.

I know less of Iowa perhaps
Than I know of anything on this earth.
I have never strolled beside its creeks
Listening to how your laughter learned sound.

Time gets everything backwards, doesn’t it?
You are there under earth with a headstone
Unbroken by wind, rain, and tectonics
Into pebbles worn smoother every day.

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Linden Blossoms

Middle of July
After a night of cool rain
The wild roses drip
In the sunwarmed breeze bringing
A subtle musk of lindens

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How to Make a Love Song, 2020

Start with the shapes of all you have known
Scrawled upon yellowing paper;
These are studies for the ideals
Of slavery and genocide
You see preserved in bronze on squares
And on street corners waving flags
And swords and pistols and fingers
As they sit precariously
On the backs of their high horses
Rearing to trample human rights
Of all LGBTQ+ and non-whites:
Tear down those statues and set alight,
Rewrite, statutes holding you in despite:
Stand and sing. Your future grows bright.

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Trump Can’t Wither George Floyd’s Memory

June. This wind of hell
Blown across the continent
Out of the Southwest,
Out of a buffoon’s slack mouth,
Can’t wither forget-me-nots.

This wind cannot touch
These flowers, their blue petals,
Among leaves of grass—
Instead they shear it into
Cold and welcome winds of change.

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