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As the poet-in-residence at EcoHealth Alliance, my verse these days finds inspiration at the intersection of ecology and public health. For my dissertation at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, I'm reappraising the sonnets of E. A. Robinson. Additionally, I teach English at Münchner Volkshochschule, lead the literary circle at Amerikahaus, and tutor composition at LMU's Amerika-Institut, where I also curate its "Fortnightly Poem".


Love Song

for Laura

by Rainer Maria Rilke,
translated by Mark Olival-Bartley

How shall my soul be held up to yours yet
not come to agitate? And with what grace
to hoist it over you to other things?
O how I wish it were that we could get
lost in the dark, where no vibration rings
to stir that very still and still strange place
when your deepest-down depth takes breath and sings.
For all that touches us, both you and I,
takes us as when the swinging bow lets fly
two sounds together to make one voice strong.
Upon which instrument are we strings spanned?
And who is it that holds us in his hand?
O sweetest song.

von Rainer Maria Rilke

Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, daß
sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
Ach gerne möchte ich sie bei irgendetwas
Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
nicht weiterschwingt, wenn deine Tiefen schwingen.
Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
die aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Geiger hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied.


PSAL. IV. Aug. 10. 1653.

translated by John Milton

Answer me when I call
God of my righteousness;
In straights and in distress
Thou didst me disinthrall
And set at large; now spare, 
Now pity me, and hear my earnest prai'r.

Great ones how long will ye
My glory have in scorn?
How long be thus forborn
Still to love vanity,
To love, to seek, to prize
Things false and vain and nothing else but lies?

Yet know the Lord hath chose,
Chose to himself a part
The good and meek of heart
(For whom to chuse he knows)
Jehovah from on high
Will hear my voyce what time to him I crie.

Be aw'd, and do not sin,
Speak to your hearts alone,
Upon your beds, each one,
And be at peace within.
Offer the offerings just
Of righteousness and in Jehovah trust.

Many there be that say
Who yet will shew us good?
Talking like this worlds brood;
But Lord, thus let me pray,
On us lift up the light,
Lift up the favour of thy count'nance bright.

Into my heart more joy
And gladness thou hast put
Then when a year of glut
Their stores doth over-cloy
And from their plenteous grounds
With vast increase their corn and wine abounds.

In peace at once will I
Both lay me down and sleep
For thou alone dost keep
Me safe where ere I lie:
As in a rocky Cell
Thou Lord alone in safety mak'st me dwell.



by Theodore Roethke

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.


The Ship Pounding

by Donald Hall

Each morning I made my way  
among gangways, elevators,  
and nurses’ pods to Jane’s room  
to interrogate the grave helpers  
who tended her through the night  
while the ship’s massive engines  
kept its propellers turning. 
Week after week, I sat by her bed  
with black coffee and the Globe.  
The passengers on this voyage  
wore masks or cannulae 
or dangled devices that dripped  
chemicals into their wrists.  
I believed that the ship 
traveled to a harbor 
of breakfast, work, and love.  
I wrote: "When the infusions  
are infused entirely, bone 
marrow restored and lymphoblasts  
remitted, I will take my wife,  
bald as Michael Jordan, 
back to our dog and day." Today,  
months later at home, these  
words turned up on my desk  
as I listened in case Jane called  
for help, or spoke in delirium,  
ready to make the agitated 
drive to Emergency again 
for readmission to the huge 
vessel that heaves water month  
after month, without leaving  
port, without moving a knot,  
without arrival or destination,  
its great engines pounding. 

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.



  Ashamed sometimes, my lady, that I still
cannot express your beauty in my rhyme,
I wander to that sweet and distant time
when you alone gained power of my will.
  But even there I find no guiding skill,
no strength to scale a height I cannot climb,
for such a task demands a force sublime,
at whose attempt I fall back, mute and still.
  How often do I move my lips to speak,
and find my voice lies buried in my breast—
but then, what sound could ever rise so high?
  How often in my verses do I seek
to find the words my tongue cannot express,
but pen and hand are vanquished with each try.

Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere,
translated by Marion Shore.


One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; 
so many things seem filled with the intent 
to be lost that their loss is no disaster. 

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster 
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. 
The art of losing isn’t hard to master. 

Then practice losing farther, losing faster: 
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster. 

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or 
next-to-last, of three loved houses went. 
The art of losing isn’t hard to master. 

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, 
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. 
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. 

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture 
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident 
the art of losing’s not too hard to master 
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.