– Lucille Clifton. leda 3



My heart:
A she falcon
With broken eggs
Whose yolk has vanished:
Nothing left but the shell.
O my companion!
Hunter of the fleet gazelle
With long eyelashes,
This passion of his
Brought on each night.

By God! Were not the desert path
So rugged and impassable
I’d jump like a heedless one
Startled by a slithering snake
Dreading its sharp-toothed sting.

– Harbiyah al-Ghuwayri

translated by Moneera al-Ghadeer


What a furnace! What a battle!
To this day, I tell you, down my
spine there goes an icy shiver:
how she fought beside your father –
tautening her bow – with her own sinew? –
with her own womanly will – so wondrous
was her bow its upsurge seemed, to
gods and humans both, a doubled
female breast, an airy outline,
like a wave against a galleon! –
Taking aim, not just with eye and
elbow but with every pulsing
vein, aiming her whole, aimed,
body, equal of men – no: equal
of gods (her never-used-up quiver
fuller than a horn of plenty),
radiant under the foe’s arrows,
there she stood – afraid of nothing.
Bowstring taunting tauter bowstrings,
fleshless bosom turned aside and
merging with the chest-tight bow so
close the arrows seemed to fly
not from the string but from the heart! Those
arrows passionate for destruction,
so thick and fast, in endless sequence,
that they could have been (but was it
war or thread she span?) a single
arrow flying from the string.
Was that a lion fighting beside her?
No, for in that cruel battle
even a god would have seemed timid.
Facing arrows, spurning pleasures,
thus she fought beside your father.

– Marina Tsvetaeva. excerpt from Phaedra

translated by Angela Livingstone


for Stephen Hawking

When we wake up brushed by panic in the dark
our pupils grope for the shape of things we know.

Photons loosed from slits like greyhounds at the track
reveal light’s doubleness in their cast shadows

that stripe a dimmed lab’s wall—particles no more—
and with a wave bid all certainties goodbye.

For what’s sure in a universe that dopplers
away like a siren’s midnight cry? They say

a flash seen from on and off a hurtling train
will explain why time dilates like a perfect

afternoon; predicts black holes where parallel lines
will meet, whose stark horizon even starlight,

bent in its tracks, can’t resist. If we can think
this far, might not our eyes adjust to the dark?

– Sarah Howe. Relativity