Late Spring Improvisation by Yu Xuanji

Very few visitors or lovers
come through this alley to this hidden door

and as for someone I can really cherish
I meet him only in dreams

perfumed gauze and damask–
whose empty seat at the banquet?

songs carried on the wind–
coming from what pavilion?

around here it’s mostly army drums
disrupting morning sleep

nothing but magpies in the courtyard
clattering through spring sorrow

how could I hope to have any part
in the world of grand events

my own life at such a distance
and no place to tie up my boat?

translated  by David Yooung & Jiann I. Lin

from Ode to the violin in California by Pablo Neruda

Leonard Durso

I sought that violin in the night.
I searched street by pitch-black street,
went house by weathered house,
star by star.
It faded
and fell silent
then suddenly surged,
. . . . . . . . . . .a flare
in the brackish night.
It was a pattern of incendiary sound,
a spiral of musical contours,
and I went on searching
street by street
for the dark violin’s
the source submerged in silence.
Finally, there
he was,
at the entrance to a bar:
a man and his
. . . . . .hungry violin.

The last drunk
weaved homeward
to a bunk on board a ship,
and violated tables
shrugged off empty glasses.
Nobody was left waiting,
and nobody was on the way.
The wine had left for home,
the beer was sound asleep,
and in the doorway
the violin with its ragged
it soared

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on the other side of the world: for Thanksgiving absent again

there are voices calling my name
on the other side of the world
an empty chair
a glass not filled with wine
dark meat with gravy
stuffing with mushrooms
and Robert’s famous meatballs and gravy
hot and sweet sausage
broccoli with garlic, lemon and oil
Johnny bought blueberry pie
only I’m not getting a piece
’cause I’m over here
on the other side of the world
quietly finishing a bottle of wine
trying not to think of your voice
the sorrow in the air
fresh flowers don’t quite kill the smell
of disappointment
another year gone by
that empty chair
that bottle of wine unopened
ice cream melting on a plate
Al Martino singing love songs
George serving salad
and you sliding food onto my plate
the cat under the table
my hand reaching across
grabbing nothing
grabbing air
on the other side
of the world


what was that all about

Leonard Durso

there are those moments
in life
when someone says
or does
something so astounding
either in brilliance or ignorance
that you go
what was that all about
and today
of all days
as I was out wandering
on these ancient streets
I had such a moment
and thought
they follow me
these people
halfway around the world
to keep me on my metaphoric toes
no sleepwalking here
for this long island kid
you can’t let your guard down
not for a moment
even if you think it’s safe
no sharks in sight
the water warm and inviting
uh huh
sure right
Norman Rockwell country
here in Turkey
but there is no safe harbor
no sign of relief
and no matter how hard you try
you just won’t get
what that was all about

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The Sharks by Denise Levertov

Leonard Durso

Well, then, the last day the sharks appeared.
Dark fins appear, innocent
as if in fair warning. The sea becomes
sinister, are they everywhere?
I tell you, they break six feet of water.
Isn’t it the same sea, and won’t we
play in it any more?
I liked it clear and not
too calm, enough waves
to fly in on. For the first time
I dared to swim out of my depth.
It was sundown when they came, the time
when a sheen of copper stills the sea,
not dark enough for moonlight, clear enough
to see them easily. Dark
the sharp lift of the fins.

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