Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1815) Ancient one, I'm drunk with the voice
Ancient one, I'm drunk with the voice that comes out of your mouths when they open like green bells, then implode and dissolve. You know the house of my long-gone summers stood by you, there in the land where the sun bakes and mosquitoes cloud the air. Today as then I turn to stone in your presence, sea, but no longer feel worthy of the solemn admonition of your breathing. It was you who first told me the petty ferment of my heart was no more than a moment of yours; that deep in me was your hazardous law: to be vast and various yet fixed: and so empty myself of all uncleanliness like you who toss on the beaches among cork and seaweed and starfish the useless rubble of your abyss.
From "Mediterraneo" Translated by Jonathan Galassi I miss the sea. One of the disadvantages of living in a land-locked city is that you no longer have the murmuring presence of the ocean for a neighbour, no longer observe the ritual of turning that corner onto Marine Drive and having the Arabian Sea fling open its arms to greet you. Montale, elsewhere in Mediterraneo, speaks of being "dumbfounded / like a man deprived of memory / whose country come back to him" on hearing the sea again. That's the kind of nostalgia that the ocean demands. And who better to render that nostalgia but Montale (who remains, thus far, unrepresented on Minstrels) that most brooding of sea poets, whose relationship with the sea is one of endless return, as though the tide of his language, retreating, left little images of the sea behind like pools. What Montale captures beautifully here, I think, is the duality of the sea, the coming together of stillness and motion, of restlessness and an abiding sense of calm. "To be vast and various yet fixed". It's this dependability - this gift of constant surprise - that makes both Montale and the sea an object of potentially endless contemplation. Aseem Montale biography: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1975/montale-bio.html And for those who'd like the poem in the original (incidentally, I'd love to know how good the translation is - I'm a little suspicious): "Antico, sone ubriacato dall voce" Antico, sone ubriacato dall voce ch'esce dalle tue bocche quando si schiudono come verdi campane e si ributtano indietro e si disciolgono. La case dell mie estati lontane t'era accanto, lo sai, la nel paese dove il sole cuoce e annuvolano l'aria le zanzare. Come allora oggi in tua presenza impietro, mare, ma non piu degno mi credo del solenne ammonimento del tuo respiro. Tu m'hai detto primo che il piccino fermento del mio cuore non era che un momento del tuo; che mi era in fondo la tua legge rischiosa: esse vasto e diverso e insieme fisso: e svuotarmi cosi d'ogni lordura come tu fai che sbatti sulle sponde tra sugheri alghe asterie la inutili macerie del tuo abisso. -- Eugenio Montale