From this bleak hotel, & at the bored
little forest, someone looks at me with the eyes
of a wolf—domes shine out their darkgold—
but I’m just tired
like dead bees or numbers.
All sleeping is a sinking down, all waking
another sinking. Sometimes a door is opened
that opening, letting in, lets out no more.
You have survived not so that you might live
as there is no light—only a honey-thick stain
& your flesh has no more stories. When you feel a gun
in your mouth, your eyes will be a useless word.
Here, the only guests—red dogs & trouble.
They say: no one will console you.
[Sándor Csoóri, Vasko Popa, Pablo Neruda, Roberto Juarroz, Anna Hajnal, Christina Rossetti, Zbigniew Herbert, W. C. Williams, Margaret Atwood, Miguel Hernandez, Cesare Pavese, Pier Pasolini, Lucian Blaga]
Out of this traceless time, every house becomes
the fragment of a sentence spoken through,
& united mouths become foam.
Wolf is on the island. I on another coast
& on the plain, the condor & the snow
seem immutable. Here by the sea
that’s like marble, I mutter: forgive us,
but we have just lost someone.
I go out to watch the troubling lights;
I’ll go on indefinitely gazing at that far off
ghost, boat & mist. Smoke blurs gray across
the constellations. The shadow eats the orange.
[Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Enrique Lihn, Sándor Csoóri, Sara de Ibanez, Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, Joseph Brodsky, Marcos Konder Reis, Coral Bracho, Vinicius de Moraes]
The day’s long madness has drained
our bright homeland the color of milk.
Someone, still faceless, waits for us there,
where wolves lick at the fever of the banished.
This is an old song that will not declare itself—
you & I immobile through the centuries
hunt sleep, vows burning like constellations
of drunken fireflies. Below the bloodline
there are subterranean disturbances, the savage
lamp of the setting sun. The whole sky mute
above the fields like a burning
disregarded word. Moonlight shines through
the bones of the lizard, breathless in the river.
Waters close over us, a name lasts but an instant.
That’s it. Something licks us up.
Let the birds drum on black bark again.
[Joseph Brodsky, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Sándor Csoóri, Maria Baranda, Wallace Stevens, J.V. Foix, Paul Eluard, Olga Orozco, Maria Luise Kaschnitz, Henri Micheaux, Juana de Ibarbourou, Denise Levertov, Tymoteusz Karpowicz, Efrain Huerta, Rafael Alberti, Ingeborg Bachmann, Czeslaw Milosz, Charles Wright]
Shrewd wolf of dark innocence,
rouse us from blur. Call us.
I have been dead. Not fallen, hunted,
my life a succession of winter
voices in the worn-out suburbs.
My hands have undressed
ghosts in sweet erection while snow
falls in the center of the bedroom.
I have called. I have called.
In the mists of the wolfpacks
a voice answered back:
you don’t have to be human.
To take the wrong road is to arrive
between chaos & star
in your luminous body’s bay
where you taste every horizon.
[Sara de Ibanez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bei Dao, Carlos Drummond De Andrade, Alain Delahaye, N. Scott Momaday, Marie Luise Kaschnitz, Henri Michaux, Juana de Ibarbourou, Alejandra Pizarnik, Robert Desnos, Roberto Bolano, O.V. de L. Milosz, Oscar Hahn, Olga Orozco, Nicanor Parra, Wislawa Szymborska, Federico Garcia Lorca, Alice Notley, Luis Pales Matos, Jules Supervielle]
I have lost my being in so many beings:
travelers passing by night, the great wolf
who goes wounded & bleeding through the snows.
Someone has closed the door, someone
heavy with the rain of all eyes. His muzzle
has rummaged my shoulders.
Thorns illuminate. Owls swell
the shadows. The last poppy, the last
galaxy of the red dress illuminates
& scatters the opaque weight of the flesh.
That strange beneficent geography
where fingers probe the desert
of two lips, a wound where soured sugar flows,
where the landscape begins its adulthood of dust.
All is near & can’t be touched.
(Anthologized in Apocalypse Now: Poems & Prose from the End of Days Anthology)
[Sophia de Mello Breyner, Yves Bonnefoy, Miklos Radnoti, Octavio Paz, Ingeborg Bachmann, Robert Marteau, Jules Supervielle, Claire Malroux, Paul Eluard, Larry Levis]
Simone Muench is the author of The Air Lost in Breathing (Marianne Moore Prize for Poetry; Helicon Nine, 2000), Lampblack & Ash (Kathryn A. Morton Prize for Poetry; Sarabande, 2005), Orange Crush (Sarabande, 2010), Disappearing Address, co-written with Philip Jenks (BlazeVOX, 2010), and Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014). Additionally, her chapbook Trace is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2014. She is a recipient of a 2013 NEA fellowship, a Yaddo residency, two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships, two Vermont Studio Center Fellowships, the 49th Parallel Poetry Award, the PSA’s Fine Lines Contest, the PSA’s Bright Lights/Big Verse Contest, and others. She received her Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now directs the writing program at Lewis University where she teaches creative writing and film studies. She currently serves on the advisory board for Switchback Books, and is chief faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review.
The cento is a kind of collage poem, composed of lines and phrases from other poets, named here at the end of each of Muench’s poems. The visual art is by Amy Guidry.