When I die I shall go to May.
It will be green, the colour green
in all its thousand shining faces.

Every day will feel like Christmas Eve
when I was ten. Every green leaf
will be perfection exactly

as it is and yet will grow and change
every time I turn my eyes to it.
Every moment will be like the arc

of a diver breaking the waters
of a green lake. I know this because
this is what May is like

here and now. Almost unbearable.
It does not hold for half an hour.
Yet in the shifting, growing hymn

of light and colour and leaf
is the still, simple reason that I garden.

(Monty Don in The Ivington Diaries, 2010)

The sun keeps climbing

Even nature wants to pay homage
to the mothers who feel unhappy
because they can’t realize
the desires of their children.

Dona Teresinha came to visit me.
She gave me 15 cruzeiros and said
it was for Vera to go to the circus.
I’m going to use the money to buy bread.

Yesterday I got half a pig’s head.
We ate the meat and saved the bones.
Today I put the bones on to boil
and into the broth I put some potatoes.

Night came. The stars are hidden.
The shack is filled with mosquitoes.
I lit a page from a newspaper
and ran it over the walls.

This is the way the favela dwellers kill
mosquitoes. My children are always hungry.

(From Carolina Maria de Jesus’ diary, Mothers’ Day 1958)

Catching color

In the afternoon, he took us to the mosque.
The sun darted through, and how!
We rode a while on the donkey.

In the evening, through the streets.
A café decorated with pictures.
Beautiful watercolors.

We ransacked the place buying.
A street scene around a mouse.
Finally someone killed it with a shoe.

We landed at a sidewalk café.
An evening of colors as tender
as they were clear.

Virtuosos at checkers. Happy hour.
Louis found exquisite color tidbits
and I — was to catch them.

(From Paul Klee’s diary, April 1914)

God help me

What I will bring to that altar
is this nauseating sack of guts—

selfish, small, lecherous,
a mind like a whorehouse,
a tongue like a longshoreman’s,
a soft mousy body that seeks
always its own comforts,

a will deluded by hyperactive desires.
Poor wreck that I am.

Can I give over to God’s service
only so little,
and that so badly damaged,
so in and out
of sin and desire?

(John L’Heureux’s diary, April 1966)

A magnificent fire

“Last night the English Opera House was burnt down — a magnificent fire.” 

Charles Greville

All the gentility of London was there
from Princess Esterhazy’s ball and all
the clubs; gentlemen in their fur cloaks, pumps,
and velvet waistcoats mixed with objects like

the sans-culottes in the French Revolution —
men and women half-dressed, covered with rags
and dirt, some with nightcaps or handkerchief
round their heads — then the soldiers, the firemen,

and the engines, and the new police running
and bustling, clearing the way, clattering
along, with that intense interest and restless
curiosity, which received fresh stimulus

at every renewed burst of the flames as
they rose in a shower of sparks like gold dust.

(From The Greville Memoirs, January 1830)

The empty room

I dreamt of you again last night. 
And when I woke up it was as if 
you had died afresh. I read 
all your letters this afternoon.

I feel as if we had collected all 
our wheat into a barn to make bread 
and beer for the rest of our lives 
and now our barn has been burnt down 

and we stand on a cold winter morning 
looking at the charred ruins. For this 
little room was the gleanings of our life. 
All our happiness was over this fire 

and with these books. Voltaire blessing us 
with up-raised hand on the wall. No one 
to talk to about my pleasures. I write in 
an empty book. I cry in an empty room.

(Dora Carrington’s diary, February 1932)


Two feet of snow fell last evening.  
It lies in largest masses on the flat 

fronded branches of firs and the mounded 
close foliage of the live-oaks, and it 

bends and welds together the tassels 
of the pines. The ouzel heeds not the roar 

of avalanches, the heavy masses 
of snow from banks and trees, and the constant 

upspringing of pines. He would not cease 
singing or feeding for an earthquake. 

(From John Muir’s journal, February 1873)

Burn him!

If ya have to ask, you don’t belong there.

The lake bed is a Euclidean plane 
with zillions of dry fractal cracks. 
The parched Nevada mountains of the Black
Rock Desert rise on three sides. Point the front 
of the vehicle into emptiness and launch. 
Gaseous tails of flying white dust spurt up 
like jet exhaust. Cars and trucks leave huge wakes 
on the horizon, like white prairie fires. 
The place feels like the afterlife. When you 
walk across it, you just drift over 
endless cracked whiteness, lifting your feet 
maybe a quarter inch from the surface. 
The alkali dust is like a fine and 
bitter talcum. Just throw off your clothes. 

Colored strings of chemglow out in the desert, 
woven through the spokes of bicycles and 
mysteriously revolving. Huge dramatic
bowl of desert stars overhead. Fireworks 
and flying flares casting a lurid trench-
warfare glow above the massive camp.
Pagan hierophants in tall headdresses 
and silver lamé march in slow step,
toting flaming standards of arcane device.
Swarms of nude dancers caper up in
bizarre sword-and-sorcery bondage gear. 
The soundtrack switches to repeated, insane,
bestial screaming. An awe-inspiring insect 
goddess – a hunchbacked bug on red stilts – comes 
towering and toppling into the firelight. 
Amy is an imaginative child. This 
is awful! It’s like a living nightmare! 
They go at it hot and heavy, booming-

A guy got killed last night.
He rear-ended a truck while zooming 
along the darkened playa on a blacked-
out motorcycle. At night somebody
constructs a fake constellation. Faking
the stars, cutting-and-pasting the desert
sky. Flat on his back, he looks like a giant 
abandoned packing crate, but when he’s 
catapulted into standing position, 
he becomes a striking neon symbol 
of pretty much everything that matters.
It’s time to finally burn the Man. 
They fire up the guy, and he explodes 
in sheets of colored fireworks and giant 
livid gouts of flames. Burn him!
Amy is screaming, wriggling like an eel.

(From Greetings from Burning Man! August 1996)