Two Poems by Tomaž Šalamun

Willow Springs 20
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The Cross


I'll draw a cross

Serpentines on my rocking chair

How pathetically the shirt hangs

Once the body has left it

Yet it's still a shirt

And here's what clinches our defeat for us

Both a suitcase and a T-bar

Have you ever seen a chair

Running from the bathroom towards the kitchen

Or vice-versa for it doesn't matter

Hysterically asking

What about my eternal life

Have you ever seen a balcony railing

Saying I've had enough

I've had enough

I've had enough

I too am fond of my modest life

I too must have my share

And if you've walked down Glagoljaska street

And seen an old boot lying

Between house number four and the well

Left there from that year when

The last nighttime regattas took place and Mario won

Did the boot ask you

Hello excuse me

For bothering you here on the street but

Doesn't it seem to you

Doesn't it seem to you

Doesn't it seem to you

Things are inscrutable in their craftiness

Unattainable to the rage of the living

Invulnerable in their endless flight

You can't catch up with them

You can't seize them

Motionless in their staring


The Boat


Its geneses are tiny silken

shifts, thinner than

the nail of one's littler finger. Are earthquakes and wars

the collapse of galaxies? A couple of swipes

with a brush at the earth's skin,

a diary?

What is minimal?

What proves

the madness of a bud opening,

of a deer grazing? The poet bestows

wreathes, lays on hands. Yet only he who

veils his vision survives.

He who has seen too much has his eyes

pecked out by crows, and

rightfully so. The poet

kills the deer.


Vertical Poetry by Robert Juarroz (Translated by W.S. Merwin)

Willow Springs 19
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Labyrinth of the bitter and the sweet,

of the ripe seasons before the harvest,

of the mistaken expressions in the exact forges,

of the dead sweetnesses around the fruit, of the depraved acids

the blockade the tactile strategems of the afternoon,

thick walls of a climate that should have been future,

more future than the weather of any future day.


Taste drives mad

like a thread of blood that misses its veins.


Even the central trunk falls outside of the forest.



If a thing changes form

it changes taste at the same time,

not only its taste to others

but also its taste to itself,

the flavor proper to its mode,

the relish of its unpeopled gut.


And if in the procession or dissipation of forms

this thing should find its own,

should meet it again in the sealed cloud of its origin,

its taste would be the same as before,

but only outwardly, never to itself again.



Crack of imminence in the heart,

while the foot of hope

dances its blue dance,

in love with its own shadow.


There is an expectant hymn

that cannot begin

as long as the dance has not finished

its cultivation of time.


It is a hymn backward,

and inverted imminence,

the last thread to tie the fountain

before its flow carries it away.


There are songs that sing,

there are others that are silent,

the deepest of all go backward

from the first letter.



The roads leading upward

never get there.

The roads leading downward

always get there.


Then there are the roads in between.


But sooner or later every road

leads up or down.



Interior deserts,

vague litanies for someone who died

leaving all the doors open.

A gray cloak over another cloak of no color.

Excessive densities.

Even the wind casts a shadow.

Mockery of the landscape.


Nothing left to call to

but a flat dark sun

or an endless rain.

Or wipe out the landscape

with the wind and its shadow.


And there is one further resort:

drive the desert mad

until it turns into water

and drinks itself.


It is better to madden the desert

than to live there.

Issue 89: Tom Wayman

thumbnail_Tom apple

About Tom Wayman

Tom Wayman's newest poetry collections are Built to Take It (Lynx House P, 2014) in the US, and Watching a Man Break a Dog’s Back: Poems For a Dark Time (Harbour, 2020) in Canada. His most recent book of essays are If You’re Not Free at Work and Where Are You Free: Literature and Social Change (Guernica, 2018), which was a finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s Pegasus Award for poetry criticism. In 2015 he was named a Vancouver, B.C. Literary Landmark with a plaque on the city’s Commercial Drive. This commemorates his efforts to foreground writing about people's daily employment and its effects on them both on and off the job.

News, videos, more detailed bio: 

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Winter Poems"

For reasons I try to understand, I find winter a powerfully inspirational season. I live north of Spokane just across the line in southeastern B.C.’s Selkirk Mountains, where our winters can be quite snowy even if the temperature seldom reaches many degrees below freezing. In 2013, I published a collection of poems, Winter’s Skin, which consists entirely of winter poems. These were all responses to lines or images in the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s Winter Garden, one of the Nobel laureate’s posthumous collections translated by William O’Daly.

More recently, in 2020 a Vancouver, B.C. micropress published a chapbook of mine called The House Dreaming in the Snow. Four of the nine poems included are set in the wintry mountain landscape I inhabit.

And I’ve continued to find the season a steady source for imagery in my poems. I used to explain it by saying my imagination is drawn to the starkness of being alive in winter: existing in a black-and-white world in which the elemental aspects of human survival are foregrounded: heat/cold, light/dark, having access to food and other sustenance/failure to prepare for lean times. Then, too, the rampant fundamentalisms of 21st Century politics across the political spectrum—You’re not just wrong, you’re evil—seems to have frozen the promise of a better life for everybody that was part of the experience of the 1960s, when I first became politically active and began to seriously write.

“Poems in Winter” attempts to explore why the season has come to have such a fierce influence on my writing. Instead of starting from possible reasons for my poems’ focus on winter, however, I proceed the other way around. What do winter poems reveal about my present life?


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

The food currently most meaningful to me are half a Clif Bar and some trail mix eaten beside the Clearwater Creek cross-country ski trail in the backcountry high above the Salmo River valley south of Nelson, B.C. Clearwater Creek is a tributary of the Salmo River, which in turn joins the Pend d’Oreille River which eventually flows into the Columbia River.

Food always tastes best outdoors during some recreational activity. I’ve always enjoyed cross-country skiing; living in the snowy mountains as I do, as a skier you look forward to snow’s arrival in December and are sorry to see it go in March. The alternative is to dread winter, with its worries about staying warm enough indoors and out, as well as potential dangers driving on winter roads, walking on icy sidewalks, etc. To someone without a winter sport, spring looks like it will never appear.

But as the pandemic has dragged on, cross-country skiing has also become vital for my mental health. Because of reduced in-person contact, I find myself prone to the catastrophic and/or depressive thinking that seems to accompany social isolation when combined with the endless stream of news revealing the irrationality now endemic in the political, social, academic and literary worlds. But navigating the Clearwater trail provides enough endorphins and inhaled pure cold air to restore my optimism and energy. The route is physically challenging: five miles of relentless uphill travel, before a return down the same track. (At the top, one can ring a small bell placed there to celebrate having achieved the summit.) The lift to my spirits skiing the trail grants lasts at least a couple of days. And an important part of the much-needed experience is a break near the top to savor that delicious and restorative snack.


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Homage to Faiz Ahmed Faiz by Agha Shahid Ali

Willow Springs 16
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Homage to Faiz Ahmed Faiz (d. 20 November 1984)

"You are welcome to make your
adaptations of my poems."



You wrote this from Beirut, two years before
the Sabra-Shatila massacres. That
city's refugee-air was open, torn
by jets and the voices of reporters. As
always you were witness to "rains of stones,"


though you were away from Pakistan, from
the laws of home which said that the hands of
thieves would be surgically amputated.
But the subcontinent always spoke to
you: in Ghalib's Urdu, and sometimes through


the old masters who sang of twilight but
didn't live, like Ghalib, to see the wind
rip the collars of the dawn: the summer
of 1857, the trees of
Delhi became scaffolds: 30,000


men were hanged. Wherever you were, Faiz, that
language spoke to you; and when you heard it,
you were alone-in Tunis, Beirut,
London, or Moscow. Those poets' laments
concealed, as yours revealed, the sorrows of


a broken time. You knew Ghalib was right:
blood musn't merely follow routine, musn't
just flow as the veins' uninterrupted
river. Sometimes it must flood the eyes,
surprise them by being clear as water.


I didn't listen when my father
recited your poems to us by
heart. What could it mean to a boy


that you had redefined the cruel
beloved, that figure who already
was Friend, Woman, God? In your hands


she was Revolution. You gave
her silver hands, her lips were red.
Impoverished lovers waited all


night every night, but she
remained only a glimpse behind
light. When I learned of her I was


no longer a boy, and Urdu
a silhouette traced by
the voices of singers, by


Begum Akhtar who wove your couplets
into ragas: both language and music
were sharpened. I listened:


and you became, like memory,
necessary. Dast-e-Saba,
I said to myself. And quietly


the wind opened its palms: I read
there of the night: the secrets
of lovers, the secrets of prisons.



When you permitted my hands to
turn to stone, as must happen to a translator's


hands, I thought of you writing Zindan-Nama
on prison-walls, on cigarette-packages,


on torn envelopes. Your lines were measured
so carefully to become in our veins


the blood of prisoners. In the free verse
of another language I imprisoned


each line-but I touched my own exile.
This hush, while your ghazals lay in my palms,


was accurate, as is this hush which falls
at news of your death over Pakistan


and India and over all of us no
longer there to whom you spoke in Urdu.


Twenty days before your death you finally
wrote, this time from Lahore, that after the sack


of Beirut you had no address... I
had gone from poem to poem, and found


you once terribly alone, speaking
to yourself: "Bolt your doors, Sad heart! Put out


the candles, break all cups of wine. No one,
now no one will ever return." But you


still waited, Faiz, for that God, that Woman,
that Friend, that Revolution, to come at


last. And because you waited, I
listen as you pass with some song,


A memory of musk, the rebel face of hope.

from La Rosa Separada by Pablo Neruda

Willow Springs 15
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We are the clumsy passersby, we push past each other with elbows,
with feet, with trousers, with suitcases,
we get off the train, the jet plane, the ship, we step down
in our wrinkled suits and sinister hats.
We are all guilty, we are all sinners,
We come from dead-end hotels or industrial peace,
this might be our last clean shirt,
we have misplaced our tie,
yet even so, on the edge of panic, pompous,
sons of bitches who move in the highest circles
or quiet types who don't owe anything to anybody,
we are one and the same, the same in time's eyes,
or in solitude's: we are the poor devils
who earn a living and a death working
beaurotragically or in the usual ways,
sitting down or packed together in subway stations,
boats, mines, research centers, jails,
universities, breweries,
(under our clothes the same thirsty skin),
(the hair, the same hair, only in different colors).


Three Poems by Al Young

Willow Springs 14
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for Ann Hinkel

At Ann's place, even before you arrive
everything's OK, everything's peaceful.
The apartment air is impregnated with peace
particles. Picture her smiling as she looks
into the mirror to your soul: the eyes,
beam to beam, as she explains why thoughts
are  things and  how they work. Or picture
her giddiness when she walks into the living­
room, carrying a tray of tea and cookies,
saying, "This is called yerba mate; it's pretty
good." Then, lighting candles and putting on
Paul Horn's solo flute musings, she laughs.
Inside the Pyramid is where our meditation
begins this time around. Later she laughs again
and explains why she's limping, says,
"I took a fall, a double somersault night
before last on my way up to Glenn's house.
You know that wobbly wood railing that leads
up to his front door-well, I slipped
on the steps and-whew!-Glenn told me
I missed my calling, said I shoulda been
an acrobat!" So she's hobbling tonight.
Last month it was her knee that got knocked
out of joint. This is the woman who teaches
the Star Exercise and other yogic stances;
who's teaching us about the limitless powers
of mind and soul and who we really are
deep within this pyramid of body, mind and soul.
She leans back in her chair, pats her short
coiffed hair and listens to everything
each of us says, even when we all talk at once.
Often she feels our thoughts as they circle
the steam-heated room, before they pass
through the prisms of her lighted windows
to whirl around the world and hover there
either as sunshine or clouds in the endless
sky. O the roof of true, infinite love
is so vast it can only be housing eternity!


Once we walked from her place on Powell Street
to a Taoist vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown.
I held Ann's hand as we managed a worldly hill.
She huffed, puffing great frosty rings
of breath in the chilled San Francisco twilight,
but all the way her fingers pulsed with warmth.
For the very first time it occurred to me
how this beautiful woman was approaching
her 75th year on earth with wit and with humor
and knowledge; still years younger than us.
"I sometimes enjoy a good hamburger," she
said when I asked if she were strictly vegetarian.
And the light, it pours from her heart of hearts
and spills upon children like us who keep seeking
her out. It's the same light that plays
around her peaceful visage when she speaks
or sighs or sits to breathe in silence, or breathe
the glowing sound of warm bamboo in easy repose.
She's the very mother we've all always wanted.


The Slots


The sane you watches
the insane you finally
recover the money you
prayed to get back
to get even & get out
at last. The you who
knows everything registers
this & stands or hovers
helplessly by the you buying
into your own dark dumbness.
This is Pinocchio's town;
as Italian as a scallion
chopped & minced into moments
& minutes of slow-falling
confetti. "Viola!" shrieks
the French lady across the aisle
as her sheik of a boyfriend pulls
$250 in coins with a smile.
Then it happens to you:
one last bleary pull of the handle
& you're richer than you started
out, you've come back. Silver
comes chattering down like
metal tumbleweed; your needs
have indeed been filled full
to the brim. You turn to him,
the sane you, that is, & you say:
"You blockhead, you fool on wheels,
you've done it again!" & the  sane
you says, "Scoop up what you got,
go take a shower, relax & catch
the next plane home!" But
the stupid you, triumphant,
smug in its captivity, can't wait
to start feeding it back.


Whatever Becomes of the Living?

for Kenneth Rexroth in memoriam

By the sea it was, the Pacific,
your eyes glazed with dream
& the sonorous Indiana of your voice­-
part ponderous, part invention-you
blinked & looked hard at me
the first & second times we met
at Asilomar then at Santa Cruz,
each setting the perfect location
for a moving star like you, like
the Santa Barbara that saw you
slip away into the blue of another home.

What happens? Whatever becomes
of the living? Your voice still graces
unaccountable passages of my rites
en route to poethood. I have as much
right to look on you as teacher
as anyone raising themselves
in the razor winds of my catch-all,
stormy era. But there is no sound
sharp enough to cut through the water
& the thunder of you flashing
in your own shrewd role as soul publicist,
as worldly Hoosier booster of the spirit-feel.


Four Poems by Jorge Carrera Andrade

Willow Springs 13
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My work is bartered between who windows

to the street, in ten meters of worldly ground,

every night in a dish of moon

and one yawn of empty pitchers.


All days for me are Mondays:

always beginning, pacing in circles

around myself, in the ten meters

of my rented tomb with its windows.


I forsake the world for a chair

eternal where I close

my work of bee and ghost

that changes sighs into money.


To buy the sun every Sunday

and keep my country in a closet,

find love in the stairs,

hold up an umbrella to the lightning.


My word is bartered in a street,

seller of snouts hung in rows,

between houses which remember well

the color of clothes and the clouds.


Inspectors of windows,

lost by myself on the street of signs:

everyday is a journey, going and returning

to anywhere, to the night.


The Infinite Trip


All begins travel

in distinct ways to their God:

the root walks down the stairs of water.

The leaves with sighs harness the cloud.

The birds use their wings

to reach the zone of eternal lights.


The slow mineral with invisible steps

crosses the stages of an infinite circle

that in dust begins and ends in the star,

and to the dust once more returns

remembering the passing, even dreaming

its successive lives and deaths.


The fish speaks to his God in the bubble

that is a trill in the water,

the shout of an angel, fallen, deprived of his feathers.

Only man keeps the word

to search for the light

or to travel to that country that lacks echoes of nothingness.


Odd Days


There are days that dawn very early

with your ox eyes and your forehead cloudy,

without remembering your name,

only mistakes of the week.


Days we can't find the streets and the dates,

they refuse us the light's pure guidance,

we forget the roses and the numbers,

the windows show us only gloomy images.


Lost is the key of treasure,

the watchword of love converted into a ring,

we struggle with letters and memories,

confusing the gloom and our garments.


Days of sand that make the clocks succumb,

days when we descend the steps of ash,

when all the walls of the house deny us

and we search in vain for the next.


Three Strophes of Dust


Your ashy touch wears away all forms,

brother to the night and the tide.

You wrap all objects in one anonymous death

like a return to their original earth.


Climb unseen on walls and galleries.

Clothes pale

on their shaded hangers, and clocks

cease suddenly to live at your passing.


Secret emissary of ruins,

you model on matter your terrestrial mask.

Nothing can escape dark conquest,

innumerable ally of death.


“Four Black Poplars by Octavio Paz

Willow Springs 13
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As this line follows after itself
through the horizontal boundaries pursuing it
and, eternal fugitive, in the declining west
in which it seeks itself it dissipates
- as this same line
through its raised glance
turns all its letters
a diaphonous column
resolved as one untouched
unheard untasted but meditated
flower of vowels and consonants
-as this line that will not finish writing itself
and before devouring itself draws itself up
without ceasing to flow but always upward:
the four black poplars.

for the empty heights and there below
in the sky choked with water, duplicated,
the four are a single black poplar
and are none.

Beyond, fronds in flames
that extinguish themselves--the evening adrift­--
other black poplars now spectral tatters
undulate endlessly
endlessly immobile.
The yellow slips into rose,
the night twists itself into violet.
Between sky and water
- herbaceous calligraphy
traced over coals by the blowing wind-
is a blue and green fringe: earth.
It is one reflection hung within another.
Transitions: the winking eyes of the instant.
Each thing is its double, its phantasm;
the world disincorporates,
it is an apparition, it is four black poplars,
four violet melodies.
Fragile branches rise up from their trunks.
They are a bit of light and a bit of wind.
Immobile mooring-lines. With my eyes
I hear them murmur words of air.
Silence goes with the stream,
returns with the sky.

What I see is real:
four weightless black poplars
planted over a vortex.
A fixity that rushes
downward, upward,
toward the water of the sky of the pool
in a graceful toil that has no end
while the world weighs anchor in darkness.
Pulse of final clarities:
fifteen minutes under a siege
that Claude Monet observes from a rowboat.

The sky is destroyed in the water,
the water negates itself in itself,
the black poplar is an explosion in violet:
the world is not solid.
Between being and non-being the grasses waver,
the elements soften,
the contours darken,
aspects, reflections, reverberations,
sparkling of forms and presences,
fog of images, occultations,
I see what we are: hallucinations .

6 Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Willow Springs 10
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Victory is to return 

alive after death

              in one's palms

              the lines of martyrdom

I loiter in a lane 

bloody with executions


                by prisons

The guillotine holds 

the relics

                   of springtime

                   And I thank the executioner 

                   for these blossoms of fire

                   my dream lit up 

                   with galaxies

                   my eyes put out




The rebels

and those who've ceased to rebel

           They cry:

           Give your desolation 

           some perfect name

I search for one word 

to say

              without you

              roses are not scarlet 

              nor blood nor wine

Stained with ink

my shirts torn

               I walk the street of memory 

               Desire tells me to knock

               on your door

               You ask

               Who are you?

               Both worlds lost 

               I go to the tavern

               I praise the censor

               He condemned 

               the cup-bearers

               Now in my prayers 

               I ask only for wine



Sometimes when you almost smile, his heart breaks,

O don't ask, into what longing!


All night he wept. When dawn came, its collars ripped

by the sun, he'd lost both earth and eternity to you.


So brief: Life, this sensation of forgetting God.

Almighty God, Coward not to allow us more time on earth!


The world will somehow make him oblivious of you:

More enticing than you is the struggle to live.


The taverns are deserted, the glasses desolate: You left,

o thief, with springtime in your pocket.


My Visitors


The door of my sorrowing house opens against its will;

here come my visitors.

Here comes evening, to spread out before her

the carpet of nostalgia on all my streeis.

Here comes midnigiit, telling the story

of her broken heart to the moon and stars.

Here comes morning with her gleaming scalpel

to play with the wounds of memory.

Here comes noon,

whiplets of flame hidden in her sleeve.


Here come all my visitors, round the clock

they beat their way to my door.


But the heart and eye are not aware

of who comes, and when, or who leaves.

They are far away, on that journey

of the mind. galloping home,

hands holding tight to the ocean's mane,

shoulders crushed under their burden

of fears and forbidden questions.


In Your Eyes and Mine


In your eyes end  mine these thousand times of waiting

and, in your body and mine these thousands of murdered hearts.

In the listlessness of your fingers and mine

all the pens are mortally ill.

In every street of your city and mine

the ground down tombs of your fingers and mine.


All the stars of your midnight and mine

are riddled with wounds;

the flowers of your morning and mine

ripped to shreds.


-these desecrated stars, without balm-

-these torn flowers, and no solace-


Oil the stars; ashes of the moon.

On the flowers, blood of still wet dew.


Is all this really so?

Or is it the web spun by the spider called imagination?


If it is true, what can be done?

And if it is not true, what can be done?


Tell me. Tell me.


The Flowers Have Gone to Seed


All the flowers have gone to seed;

the sky cries down its unrelenting tears.

The lights cannot find their luster;

all the mirrors are broken to bits.

What music there was is played out and lost;

the ankle bells on feet that used to dance

are crushed to silence.

Far away, behind these clouds, the star of pain

advances and retreats.

Beloved of the night, it tinkles, it grins.