Strangers in the Night; Killing Me Softly

Among what make the world beautiful (despite itself) and life worth living is Frank Sinatra. His songs. His Strangers in the Night (among many of his other numbers) is one of my all-time favorites. This really makes my nights beautiful even when I spend them alone. Lyrics here.

And here is another version. From a live performance. Of course, as we know, most live performances by the singers themselves of already famous records have flavors slightly different from the originals. A concert performance is a different medium than a studio recording session.

Another number among my all-time favorites is his Killing Me Softly. O my! He is–I mean is–a singer. Such a singer. Lyrics here.

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Berry Picking

So you go on like history blasé
about the obsidian past black as your eyes
(set in a face crumpled from lack of sleep)
that, amid that sleepy creaky voice,
looked up from my “uncomfortable” arms
at my sleepless eyes from behind those
wispy locks tousled from rolling in the hay
we had just gathered from the sun,
the season’s last, that turned out a life’s.
And I will say the past is like your hair—
it’s dark and lost behind the absent wall,
though I often turn every speck of its dust
in the sunless time to scratch back up
the stains of my soul spilled all over
at a stumble—so ungraceful you’d wonder
how God makes things so slack!

I go on—a berry picker (when not dusting
dusty memory), a slow one, who loves berries
like the last thing left all in the world
too far and vast for tired eyes,
I am on my hands and knees in the soil
caring not to break the groping stems
or let the red-flesh fruits slip off
my crinkled hands with broad blunt fingers
or the basket when my used eyes comb
through the cold netty crouch of the lacy stems
and the serrate velvet leaves scratching
the black tightened soil that smells rawish sweet
under the green and yellow coiffure,
to look for spotty lady-bugs in meditation
and lovebugs set in bliss in the green
and semi-transparent worms measuring green miles,
while seeing the season breathing itself out,
and I would know I’ll have to prepare
the land for the next season—
carrot in the mulch, sunflowers in waves.
Seasons go on and on like history
that has nothing to do with the past.

To John Ashbery

John Askbery photo by Lynn Davis
Photograph by LYNN DAVIS

Poetry is ash, Ashbery—your dust has already scattered in the wind, been the breath of many who have turned into ashes and joined the dust, wind, fire, water and the sky. I don’t know where you came from, Ashbery, but I think you return where you came from, like all of us. We are ashes for a while and we fly and scatter when the home-bound wind comes.

John Ashbery, the beloved Ashbery, your death has let the hell loose in me again, and a sadist or joyist (who can tell them apart, if they aren’t one and the same thing?), I love it because there is a pleasure in all this. You are like me—guilt tasted pleasing, and it made you a poet, for which you have become the beloved.

Surviving the death of a loved one always accompanies a subtle (often acute) feeling of guilt. Life wants to live and death wants to go on, and unfortunately love cannot bridge the two, to our chagrin. If not bridge, love should be able to keep us together in life, through life, or in death, we petulantly demand. But we the warlike humans, who just don’t let it go without a fight but wage wars against and kill each other for whatever petty thing there can be, can’t possibly put ourselves into any action when death wrests our loved ones from our arms invisibly even as we see it, which is stabbingly painful. And life is such that in most of the cases we drag on (just out of nature, but for nothing obvious to live for—it really feels rather empty, unbearably heavily empty, and you just don’t commit suicide), feeling the fading pang of guilt—the survivor’s guilt fading into general sadness or general weakness that pervades the rest of our life, which gravitates toward and finally empties itself into death. Life with its apparent injustice ends well in ash, so it all seems well. Maybe, there will be a lingering after-life feeling of anger at having put through it that badly.

Ashbery, you go on. Your ash, a berry to home—it sucks you back. All the world is ash. I loved you. I love you. I love myself. Life and death. Living and dying. I don’t put myself to a final death maybe because that would deprive me of the (extended) pleasure of continual dying, the pleasure of hating life that in turn breeds love of life, the pleasure of feeling angry at being wronged or done out of something good. The sadism or joy of all this.

কনা-করিশু লৈজদ্রবী

লৈরাংবগি গারী চৎখ্রে মশা লূম্না
ওল্লদুনা নুং থাবা লম্বীদা চকা
লান্দুনা লম্বী চিদাইগি মোংশোঙসে৷

লৈরাংনা নীক-নীক, নোম-নোম
লম্বীগি অকূৎ-অতোঙ তান্থাদা৷

কনা-করিশু লৈজদ্রবীদো
ঙাইজবনি নুংতিগি খূঞ্জগে হায়না লৈরাং
য়েংদুনা লৈজহৌবনি চৎখিবদো গারিনা
লম্বীগি অকূৎ-অতোঙ তান্থাদা৷

Running away from Time

Those fingers—those—
The fingers of time—
They press me out of life.

The light from the stars—from ancient miles—
And the present glitter in my eyes—
They meet in a kiss—
Sucking the breath out of me—life.

I run away from time
From bodies of time creeping around,
and here in the dark
I struggle to plug every hole
with time-tight tissues
I have torn away from my heart
to keep myself warm
and untouched by decay
until I stop my breath.

Contents of the Night

Did a whiff just drift past the rock?
A faint life drenched in the grainy past ghosting around?
A swell of faded memory rolling over under the dark?
A forgotten smell reminding of ancient familiarity?

The footsteps clatter fainter down the lazy steps
winding down the rocky hill in the moon
with the rustle of a hand rubbing
against the rough walls hewn off the hill,
so clear like the night contains nothing else.

Sometimes at nights
slow whiffs would wax and wane,
and the rock in the hilltop wind
would soften to the contents of the night.