WandererÕs Nightsong


Over every hill

It is quiet,

In all the trees

You can hear

Hardly a breath:

Birds in the woods are silent.

Wait, soon

You too will rest.




Translated from he German of Johann Wolfgang Goethe

by Mark Irwin












With yellow pears

and full of wild roses

the land hangs toward water.

And beautiful swans

drunk with kisses

dip their heads

into that holy and lucid water.



But where will I find flowers

when winter comes, and where

the sunlight

and shadows of the earth?

The walls stand

speechless and cold, in wind

the weathervanes clatter.






Translated from the German of Friedrich Hšlderlin

by Mark Irwin








Two Poems by Philippe Denis


Moored to your blood,

the hollow

left by your sleep

now breathes

for you—


(wind between the last stars



rooster scruffs


in the coop—


before roads begin

to swell

--like the veins

of your wrists.





Translated from the French

by Mark Irwin





Dark halo,

rag of this lamp at midnight,

wick of the heart lowered.


( the plate

is a hole on the table



the thorn dilates

in the wind


(breathÕs foundation





Translated from the French

by Mark Irwin





Both poems from Notebook of Shadows,

Selected Poems of Philippe Denis (1974-1980).

New York: Globe Press, 1982.


First Published in France:

Cahiers dÕombres, Mercure de France, 1974.








Two Poems by Nichita Stanescu






Always a cupola,

another one always.

Taking on a halo like a saint,

or only a rainbow.

Your straight body, my straight body

as during a wedding.

A wise priest made of air

is facing us with two wedding bands.

You lift your left hand, I lift my left arm:

our smiles mirror each other.

Your friends and my friends are crying

syllabic tears like Christmas carols.

They take pictures as we kiss.

Lightning. Darkness. Lightning. Darkness.

I lower one knee and fall on my arms.

I kiss your ankle with sadness.

I take your shoulder, you take my waist,

and majestically we enter the winter.

Your friends and my friends step aside.

A ton of snow overturns on us.

We die freezing. And once again, only the locks of hair

adorn our skeletons in spring.






Translated from the Romanian

by Mark Irwin & Mariana Carpinisan










lesson on the circle



On the sand you draw a circle

which you divide in two,

with the same stick of almond you divide that in two.

Then you fall on your knees,

and then you fall on your arms.

And after that you strike your forehead on the sand

and ask the circle to forgive you.

So much.






Translated from the Romanian

by Mark Irwin & Mariana Carpinisan





Both poems from Ask the Circle to Forgive You,

Selected Poems of Nichita Stanescu ((1964-1979).

New York: Globe Press, 1984.


First Published in Romania:

Starea Poeziei, Editions Minerva, 1975.

Operele Imperfecte, Editions Albatros, 1979.






Le Bateau Ivre


Arthur Rimbaud






As I was going down wild Rivers

I lost guide of my deck hands.

Yelping Indians had targeted and nailed

Their naked bodies to colored stakes.


I cared little for any crew, whether those

Of Flemish wheat or English cottons.

And when the ruckus and confusion ended,

The rivers gave green wish to my descent.


I ran like winter itself, dumb and aloof

As any spacey kid into the furious

Lashing of tides. Loosened peninsulas

Never survived a more wild assault.


The storm blessed my sea-skills.

Lighter than a cork I danced on waves,

Those eternal wheels of the dead—for ten nights—

Without missing the lighthouse’s stupid eye.


Sweeter than the crisp flesh of apples

Is to children, green water soaked

My bark, rinsing me of blue wine and vomit

While loosing the rudder and grappling hook.



And from then I bathed in the Sea’s

Poem, bleeding with stars, and milky,

Devouring the azure-greens where sometimes

Pale flotsam resembles one who slowly drowns;


Where delirium, slow and rhythmical,

Stronger than wine, longer than a guitar’s held

Chord, suddenly bleeds through blue, streaking

Daylight, distilling love’s sour red.


I know the lightning-shattered sky, water

Spouts, reckless waves and currents. I know

Evening, and morning light lifted on wings

Of gulls, and sometimes I’ve glimpsed what many


Claim to’ve seen. I’ve seen the oblong sun, cloud-dusk-

Stained, illumined with long violet shades clotting

Like actors’ ancient purple robes, their waves

Shuddering back with those of the sea.


I have dreamed the night, green and snow-

Dazzled, lifting its kiss to eyes of waves,

The circling drift of unknown saps, phosphor’s

Waking call, singing its blues and yellows.


I’ve followed the sea-cycle’s pregnant swells

Hysterical as cows howling at reefs

Without dreaming that any Mary’s luminous feet

Could tame the ocean’s wheezing snout.


I’ve pitched against magnificent Floridas

Where flowers seem panther eyes with human

Skin, where rainbows arc their bridle reins

Beneath the sea’s horizon toward greenish herds.


I’ve seen great swamps ferment, fish-traps

Where a Leviathan rots among reeds!

Torrents of water splice a calm so-close;

The far-away cataract toward whirlpools!


Glaciers, silvered-suns, pearled waves, dusk-

Charred skies! Brown gulfs issuing toward

Impossible strands where giant serpents devoured

By bedbugs drop from gnarled, stinking trees!


I would’ve liked to show children those sun-

Struck fish of the blue wave, fish of gold, singing

Fish. Flowers of sea foam cradled me

And incomprehensible winds winged me at times.


Sometimes a martyr, vagrant, fed up with poles

And zones, the sea whose sob created my gentle roll

Brought me dusk-flowers with yellow suckers,

And I remained like a woman on her knees . . .


An island’s guess-work, tossing its sides

Among quarrels and the scat of noisy,

Yellow-eyed birds. Yet I sailed on while drowned

Men sank back to sleep through my fragile hold.


Tossed by storms into the birdless air,

I was lost in the foliage of coves, a boat

Whose drunk carcass would not have been rescued

By Monitors or the Merchant’s League.


Flame-doused, smoking, free, alive with the violet

Fog, it was I who pierced the red-blushing sky

Like a wall bearing delicious jam for poets,

Lichens of sunlight and drooling azure;


Who ran, spotted by small incandescent moons,

A plank, wild, escorted by black sea horses

When Julys rained down their hammers

And the skies, ultramarine, burned with funnels;


Who puppeted by fear heard rutting

Whales and spitting whirlpools from fifty leagues,

Who spins eternally heaven’s blue stance, and who

Misses Europe with its ancient parapets!


I’ve seen archipelagoes peppered like stars! and islands

Whose delicious skies open to the sea nomad: In these

Depthless nights do you sleep beautifully

Exiled—a Gold million birds—a Future’s pulse?


But really, I’ve wept too much. Dawns

Rip the heart, Moons devour. In suns I expire.

Love’s butchery has left me drunken and

Blue. That I might shatter and become the sea!


If I dream of water, it’s Europe’s, the black

Cold puddle where a child sadly squats

And releases into the twilight

A boat fragile as an insect’s wings.


Lazily draped in the sea’s waves, I can

No longer follow in the cotton boats’ wake,

Approach the swagger of flags and flame,

Swim under the awful eyes of prison ships.





Translated from the French of Arthur Rimbaud

by Mark Irwin


Originally appeared in The New England Review,

Fall, 2000.