“I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think of my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at the stars!’”
I think I see her sitting bowed and black,
Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars,
Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet
Still looking at the stars.
Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,
Still visioning the stars!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Again, as always, when the shadows fall,
In that sweet space between the dark and day,
I leave the present and its fretful claims
And seek the dim past where my memories stay.
I dream an old, forgotten, far-off dream,
And think old thoughts and live old scenes anew,
Till suddenly I reach the heart of Spring—
The spring that brought me you!
I see again a little woody lane,
The moonlight rifting golden through the trees;
I hear the plaintive chirp of drowsy bird
Lulled dreamward by a tender, vagrant breeze;
I hold your hand, I look into your eyes,
I touch your lips,—oh, peerless, matchless dower!
Oh, Memory thwarting Time and Space and Death!
Oh, Little Perfect Hour!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Some say thronging cavalry, some say foot soldiers, others call a fleet the most beautiful of sights the dark earth offers, but I say it's what- ever you love best. And it's easy to make this understood by everyone, for she who surpassed all human kind in beauty, Helen, abandoning her husband—that best of men—went sailing off to the shores of Troy and never spent a thought on her child or loving parents: when the goddess seduced her wits and left her to wander, she forgot them all, she could not remember anything but longing, and lightly straying aside, lost her way. But that reminds me now: Anactória, she's not here, and I'd rather see her lovely step, her sparkling glance and her face than gaze on all the troops in Lydia in their chariots and glittering armor.
From The Poetry of Sappho (Oxford University Press 2007), translated by Jim Powell. Copyright © 2007 by Jim Powell. Reprinted by permission of the author.
translated by Chenxin Jiang
as a door-nail
and gone to the world
air broke drop
nothing is certain but and taxes
mask knell grip
blow metal rattle
food for worms sticky end brown bread
or alive valiant to the la la la
wish I were yeah right you wish
不能復生視 如歸 而無憾
出生入 一線間 生契濶
寧 不屈 鳴不默
憂患不終無安樂 啦 啦啦
© 2020 Yau Ching and Chenxin Jiang. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on September 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.