Thus you, my eyes, have taken much delight
In being the lucky objects of his sight:
But you, my heart, seeing my eyes’ pleasure,

The more you envy, the more you despair:
Let none believe that I’m ease, aware
My heart & eyes are out of measure.

– Louise Labé

translated by Richard Sieburth




– Ezra Pound. excerpt from Canto II



Lord, the woman who
committed so many sins:
as soon as she became aware of Your divinity
she assumed the trappings of a myrrh-bearer,
and weeping brought You
myrrh before Your funeral.
“Woe that I am shrouded
in darkness,” she says,
“in the mad fury of lechery,
in the gloomy and moonless
lust for sin.
Accept my streams of tears,
You who mingle the waters of the ocean
with the clouds.
Bow to the moans of my heart,
You who made the heavens bow
when You poured Yourself into a human body
in a way that defies description.
I will shower kisses on Your immaculate feet,
and I will wipe them
with the locks of my hair.
It was the sound of those feet
that evening in Paradise
that struck terror in Eve
—she hid herself in fear.
Who will track down
the multitude of my sins
and the abyss of my crimes,
Lord, savior of souls?
Do not reject me, Your servant,
in Your great, unfathomable mercy.”

– Kassia

translated by Vayos Liapis


We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

– Rainer Maria Rilke. Archaic Torso of Apollo

translated by Stephen Mitchell


They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
—nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfilment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples,
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before
Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe
of shimmer—would you want

to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed
to be lost? They’d prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even now
they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.

– Mark Doty. A Display of Mackerel