“Fiveness,” by Sibelan Forrester.
I speak of beauty sharpened to a point:
Da Vincian figures, angels in the sphere.
It’s Aphrodite’s number, lingering
code of the body – stretch from palm to heel.
I am so taken with the way you move,
no frozen image can approximate –
only wind in branches, only slow
and gracious rays through interrupting clouds…
A long elastic curve, but interspersed
with a moment’s hesitation – so.
Each line tends to the next one. Spread
your fingers wide so I can hand you this
sweet ripened fruit, and if you missed
its petals several weeks ago, we may
find the same mystery sliced from the side –
stars and roses, love. Apples and pears.
This one is by my college Russian professor! Isn’t it great? She was (and still is, of course) incredibly cool—she played the guitar and led Russian folksinging, and also taught a seminar about translation that I really enjoyed. Here are a few quotes from that class that I just found in an old notebook:
SIBELAN, ON MAKING CHOICES IN POETRY: “People read it, and they’re either moved or they’re kind of irritated.” This expresses my experience of poetry SO WELL.
DRYDEN, IN THE PREFACE TO HIS TRANSLATION OF CHAUCER: “Chaucer, I confess, is a rough diamond, and must first be polished before he shines. I deny not likewise, that, living in our early days of poetry, he writes not always of a piece, but sometimes mingles trivial things with those of greater moment.” This is exactly the sort of 18th and 19th century obsession with “good taste” and “elegance” and “speaking seriously on serious subjects” that kind of traumatized Penelope in In for a Penny.
WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT, INTRODUCTION TO HIS TRANSLATION OF AGAMEMNON, 1816: “And think how our nation has progressed, not just the well-educated among us but the masses as well—even women and children—since the Greeks have been available to our nation’s readers in an authentic and undistorted form.”
SOME SOVIET DIRECTOR, IN HIS MEMOIRS, AS REPEATED BY SIBELAN: “All I ever wanted in life was to have a horse. And do I have a horse? No.”
…Sibelan, if you read this, I also took useful notes, I promise! Anyway, gentle readers, you can find more of her poetry here.