Who, if I screamed out, would hear me among the hierarchies
of angels? And if one suddenly did take
me to his heart: I would perish from his
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the onset of terror we’re still just able to bear,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.

– Rainer Maria Rilke. excerpt from First Duino Elegy

translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann



My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

– William Shakespeare. Sonnet 130


Blessed are they who sow and do not reap —
they shall wander in extremity.

Blessed are the generous
whose glory in youth has enhanced the extravagant
             brightness of days —
who shed their accoutrements at the crossroads.

Blessed are the proud whose pride overflows
               the banks of their souls                              
to become the modesty of whiteness
in the wake of a rainbow’s ascent through a cloud.        

Blessed are they who know                    
their hearts will cry out from the wilderness                           
               and that quiet will blossom from their lips.                    

Blessed are these
for they will be gathered to the heart of the world,
               wrapped in the mantle of oblivion  
— their destiny’s offering unuttered to the end. 

– Avraham Ben Yitzhak. Blessed are They Who Sow and Do Not Reap

translated by Peter Cole


Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
Bedevil me.
– Audre Lorde. excerpt from Coal

Wave after wave came, gliding in surrender over the pebbles,
melting into them, kissing the graves and the earth
A light shroud was woven from the thick foam of the water,
and the glow of the night formed letters there.

– Ilyas Abu Shabaka. excerpt from Ghalwā’

Bright Spring has come to you, so proudly strutting,
laughing in its beauty, that it almost speaks.

New Year has woken, in the dark before the dawn,
the early roses that, last night, were still asleep.

The coolness of the dew has opened them: as if
to let them hear some news, suppressed until today.

Many a tree, its clothes restored by spring
as one unfolds embroidered, multicolored cloth,

Has donned its proper dress, appearing joyously,
eyesore no longer, as it was in pilgrim’s gear.

So softly blows the gentle breeze you’d think
it brings the tender breaths of those you love.

So what is holding back the wine, whose friend you are,
and what forbids the strings to sing?

For you remain a sun for drunken boon companions, when
they have become full moons, urging on stars.

But you were generous to them before the cups;
those could not make you more so than you are!

– al-Buhturi. excerpt from What Else Was Youth if Not a Phantom

translated by Geert Jan van Gelder