“The Empty House” by Marjorie Agosin

you return
to the empty house
you recognize yourself
diminished between
its thresholds
you remember that dawn and the
the captive gaze of the neighbors
in the perfidious ceremonies of an
unwelcome goodbye

now you return
in vain, you do not succeed
in finding yourself
the bushes in the garden
are like a love in ruins
bodies abandoned after
useless quarrels
or perhaps bodies of the disappeared
that you seek in vain in your night
in your language
in your memory

you visit your parents’ room
where your mischievous childhood entered
and surprised them in the darkness of their siestas
you are the child who watched over the
exigencies of love

now, the empty bed,
on the walls, stains, cracks,
the ugliness of abandonment

you return to the empty house
to a country at war
without sub machine guns
but still a war caused by forgetting
by the silence of the dead
by the dead hours
by gagged voices

you return in order to still believe in
or to feel that something in the wind
reminds you of what was once yours
perhaps the birch tree
swaying in front of the picture windows
on those rainy nights
when you believed in ghosts
their footprints, their laughter
and you let yourself be wrapped in the warmth of sleep
that sheltered your faith

that is why you return today

A nice poem .The poets family had left the country when the war was raging and now he returns to the empty house after all the devastation caused by the war. Two poignant thoughts of the poet have touched me deeply.

…perhaps bodies of the disappeared

That you seek in vain in your night

In your language

and in your memory..


The usage "that you seek in vain in your night/ in your language /and in your memory"  conveys  effectively the freshness of a gut-wrenching sorrow that the poet  experiences again and again as he takes a tour of the empty house .The second one which touches me deeply is the memory of his childhood when as  a mischievous child he surprised his parents in the darkness of their siestas in this very room which is now an empty room.


The poem has been translated from the Spanish by Roberta Gordenstein


“Words” by Anne Sexton

Words Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.
Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.

They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.
Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren’t good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.
But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

– Anne Sexton

It is worth taking a closer look at some very nice imagery. What I have particularly liked is the image of the doves falling out of the ceiling,an extremely original image. “Doves falling out of the ceiling” is  spectacularly beautiful. The other equally pretty image is “they are the trees , the legs of summer/ And the sun ,its passionate face”

“Your Worship” by Val Vinokur

Some times one wonders if the use of imagery alone is what makes for poetry.What about a good turn of phrase which upsets the scheme of things ,makes you think of something other than what comes out as the plain meaning.I don’t mean cleverness in phrasing which apparently does not appeal to you as poetry but as mere skill with words.Come to think of it,what is imagery but a purely representational device used to convey the poet’s private vision.A mere figure of speech is not poetic imagery.

I have come to like the use of the paradox in the following poem :
(Poetry Daily)

Your Worship

I am your pilgrim, who wanders
to stay home; your monk,
who keeps silent when you demand
confessions and theology.

You are too difficult to love
directly; you have no roof
or floor, and I am too pious
for your rain and mud.

So I keep your shrine, the best of you,
the clean, the smiling rest of you.

I am a stubborn priest, who knows himself
only in the dwindling oil of you,
the weeping and rebellious flame
about to die.

“I am a pilgrim ,who wanders/To stay home” is a pleasant expression ,a paradox which is not forced on us trying out our intellectual prowess. A soft gentle expression such as what an address to the Supreme Being would warrant. “I am too pious for rain and mud” is a paradox which does not unduly challenge your understanding.

“I am a stubborn priest,who knows himself only in the dwindling oil of you ” is another wonderful image which conveys so much to a Hindu believer.”Stubborn” is unwavering in faith ,a faith which allows the priest to see himself” only in the dwindling oil of you” .As the oil lamp flickers with the dwindling of the oil ,it weeps and at the same time rebels before it finally dies out. The poet is referring to the last burst of the flame before it dies out. It rebels because it refuses to be extinguished with the last drop of the oil fighting a hopeless battle to continue to live.

“And as in Alice” by Mary Jo Bang

Alice cannot be in the poem, she says, because
She’s only a metaphor for childhood
And a poem is a metaphor already
So we’d only have a metaphor

Inside a metaphor. Do you see?
They all nod. They see. Except for the girl
With her head in the rabbit hole. From this vantage,
Her bum looks like the flattened backside

Of a black and white panda. She actually has one
In the crook of her arm.
Of course it’s stuffed and not living.
Who would dare hold a real bear so near the outer ear?

She’s wondering what possible harm might come to her
If she fell all the way down the dark she’s looking through.
Would strange creatures sing songs
Where odd syllables came to a sibilant end at the end.

Perhaps the sounds would be a form of light hissing.
Like when a walrus blows air
Through two fractured front teeth. Perhaps it would
Take the form of a snake. But if a snake, it would need a tree.

Could she grow one from seed? Could one make a cat?
Make it sit on a branch and fade away again
The moment you told it that the rude noise it was hearing was
rational thought
With an axe beating on the forest door


Alice cannot be in the poem because she is not Alice but a mere metaphor.A metaphor for childhood. The problem is that the poem is itself a metaphor.So we have a metaphor within a metaphor.The problem is that a childhood is a metaphor for the beginning of life. So we have a metaphor within a metaphor within a metaphor etc., etc,.They all nod in agreement.They see but not the girl who has her head in the rabbit hole from whose vantage she sees her bum as a flattened backside of a black and white panda.The girl has a stuffed panda in the crook of her arm.If she falls in the abyss of the dark ,how would it feel like? She will hear strange creatures singing songs where odd syllables come to a sibilant end at the end.

Everything is like it was in that Alice.In that song .Odd syllables come to a sibilant end at the end.The sounds would be in the form of light hissing. Again a metaphor ? Another one within the Big Metaphor. The sounds would be a form of light hissing. Like a walrus blows air through two broken teeth. Or may be it would take the form of a snake , in which case it would need a tree. My God ,when will metaphors end and life begin?

There is confusion about what is it that all these are metaphors of . Let us therefore stop with that Alice and not unduly worry about this one,which is a metaphor.

“The Little Spring” by Ko Un

Without its little spring,
what would make Yongtun Village a village?
Endlessly, snowflakes fall
into the spring’s dark waters
and dissolve.
What still still stillness,
as Yang-sul’s wife,
covered in snow, goes out to draw water,
puts down her tiny little water jar
and picks up the gourd dipper but forgets to draw water,
watching snowflakes die:
that still still stillness.

(Taken from Wordwithoutborders)

A simple vignette from the life of a Korian villager,Yang-sul’s wife  .The act of her drawing water  in the morning from the spring covered by snow-flakes is exquisitely described in unpretentious poetry. The description is almost a painterly one .”..picks up the gourd dipper but forgets to draw water/watching slow-flakes die :” is delicious. “That still still stillness” is a beautiful description of still life.