Diana Gilliland Wright
. . . a Lady whom time hath surprised.

a work in progress with the intent of increasing the ratio of signal to sound



Jacopo Bellini - IRIS








I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes
that I hadde,
As thre of hem were goode,
and two were badde . . . . . .
Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,
It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote.
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
That I have had my world as in my tyme .
- Alisoun
of Bath






Brigit Pegeen Kelly

It was not a scorpion I asked for, I asked for a fish, but
maybe God misheard my request, maybe God thought
I said not “some sort of fish,” but a “scorpion fish,” a
request he would surely have granted, being a goodly
God, but then he forgot the “fish” attached to the
“scorpion” (because God, too, forgets, everything
forgets); so instead of an edible fish, any small fish,
sweet or sour, or even the grotesque buffoonery of the
striped scorpion fish, crowned with spines and
followed by many tails, a veritable sideshow of a fish;
instead of these, I was given an insect, a peculiar
prehistoric creature, part lobster, part spider, part
bell-ringer, part son of a fallen star, something like a
disfigured armored dog, not a thing you can eat, or
even take on a meaningful walk, so ugly is it, so stiffly
does it step, as if on ice, freezing again and again in
mid-air like a listening ear, and then scuttling
backwards or leaping madly forward, its deadly tail
doing a St. Vitus jig. God gave me a scorpion, a
venomous creature, to be sure, a bug with the bite of
Cleopatra’s asp, but not, as I soon found out, despite
the dark gossip, a lover of violence or a hater of men.
In truth, it is shy, the scorpion, a creature with eight
eyes and almost no sight, who shuns the daylight, and
is driven mad by fire, who favors the lonely spot, and
feeds on nothing much, and only throws out its poison
barb when backed against a wall — a thing like me,
but not the thing I asked for, a thing, by accident or
design, I am now attached to. And so I draw the
curtains, and so I lay out strange dishes, and so I step
softly, and so I do not speak, and only twice, in many
years, have I been stung, both times because,
unthinking, I let in the terrible light. And sometimes
now, when I watch the scorpion sleep, I see how fine he
is, how rare, this creature called Lung Book or Mortal
Book because of his strange organs of breath. His
lungs are holes in his body, which open and close. And
inside the holes are stiffened membranes, arranged
like the pages of a book — imagine that! And when the
holes open, the pages rise up and unfold, and the blood
that circles through them touches the air, and by this
bath of air the blood is made pure . . . He is a house of
books, my shy scorpion, carrying in his belly all the
perishable manuscripts — a little mirror of the library
at Alexandria, which burned.

A god could. But tell me how a man
shall track him, follow him through the lyre’s straits?
His mind is split. And at the heart’s red gates
where veins divide, Apollo has no temple.

Song, you tell us, is not a thing like want,
an urgent chase of quarry to be caught.
Song is being. It’s easy for a god.
But when shall we be? When will he present

the earth and constellations to our Being?
It isn’t Being, youth, is in your mouth,
although your head is bursting with your singing.

Forget your song, ignore it. It will end.
True singing needs a very different breath.
An airless breath. A breath within the god. A wind.

Rilke. Orpheus I.3 (Norris/Keele)



I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas


Jacob Polley

Vessel of water, vessel of wind:
old yellow eye
lost in the fall, lost in the mind
where the other leaves lie
as leaf by leaf the trees go blind.

TLS Feb.1, 2008

Lisel Mueller

After the kill, there is the feast.
And toward the end, when the dancing subsides
and the young have sneaked off somewhere,
the hounds, drunk on the blood of the hares,
begin to talk of how soft
were their pelts, how graceful their leaps,
how lovely their scared gentle eyes.


I saw the wolf in winter watching on the raw hill
I stood at night on top of the black tower and sang
I saw my mouth in spring float away on the river
I was a child in rooms where the furs were climbing
and each was alone and they had no eyes no faces
nothing inside them any more but the stories
they never breathed as they waved in their dreams of grass
and I sang the best songs that were sung in the world
as long as a song lasts they came by themselves to me
and I loved blades and boasting and shouting as I rode
as though I was the bright day flashing from everything
I loved being with women and their breath and their skin
and the thought of them carried me like a wind
I uttered terrible things about other men
in a time when tongues were cut out to pay for kissing
but I set my sail for the island of Venus
and a niece of the Emperor in Constantinople
and I could have become the Emperor myself

W. S. Merwin


I won and I won and all the women in the world
were in love with me and they wanted what I wanted
so I thought and every one of them deceived me
I was the greatest fool in the world I was the world’s fool
I have been forgiven and came home as I dreamed
and have seen them all dancing and singing as the ship came in
and I have watched friends die and have worn black and cut off
the tails and ears of all my horses in mourning
and have shaved my head and the heads of my followers
I have been a poor man living in a rich man’s house
and I have gone back to the mountains and for one woman
I have worn the fur of a wolf and the shepherd’s dogs
have run me to earth and I have been left for dead
and have come back hearing them laughing and the furs
were hanging in the same places and I have seen
what is not there I have sung its song I have breathed
its day and it was nothing to you where were you.

. . .all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. John Donne, Meditations XVII