Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How Quickly the Somber Line Lengthens

—C.P. Cavafy

The days of our future stand before us
like a row of little lighted candles—
golden, warm, and lively little candles.

The days gone by remain behind us,
a mournful line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest ones are still smoking,
cold candles, melted and bent.

I do not want to look at them; their form saddens me,
and it saddens me to recall their first light.
I look ahead at my lighted candles.

I do not want to turn back, lest I see and shudder—
how quickly the somber line lengthens,
how quickly the burnt-out candles multiply.


Are you aging? I'm not, of course, but Constantine Cavafy, like many poets, seemed to be somewhat obsessed by it...

—C.P. Cavafy

In the inner room of the noisy
an old man sits bent over a table;
a newspaper before him, no companion beside him.

And in the scorn of his miserable old age,
he meditates how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, the art of the word, and good looks.

He knows he has aged much; he is aware of it, he sees it,
and yet the time when he was young seems like
yesterday. How short a time, how short a time.

And he ponders how Wisdom had deceived him;
and how he always trusted her—what folly!—
the liar who would say, "Tomorrow. You have ample time."

He recalls impulses he curbed; and how much
joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance
now mocks his senseless prudence.

...But with so much thinking and remember
the old man reels. And he dozes off
bent over the table of the


Meanwhile, aging or not, you've got some Snake business to attend to:

•••Tonight (Wednesday, 8/9), 7:30 PM: Irene Lipshin will be releasing her chapbook, Shadowlines, from Rattlesnake Press. Irene is a member of the Red Fox Underground Poetry Workshop in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Come hear her read, and celebrate with us the release of her chapbook, along with the release of Norma Kohout's littlesnake broadside, Out the Train Window, at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac. Refreshments and a read-around will follow; bring your own poems or somebody else's. Info: 916-442-9295. And see last week's posts for bios and poetry from these two wonderful poets.

•••And the next deadline for submissions to the September Rattlesnake Review is next Tuesday, August 15; that’s less than one week away! Send 3-5 of your dandiest poems, art, photos, or article ideas to or POBox 1647, Orangevale, CA 95662. No cover letters, no bios, no prev-pubs or simul-subs, pleez…

•••Also tonight (Wed., 8/9), 10 PM-Midnight: Mahogany Poets presents Mics and Moods at Capitol Garage, 1500 K St., Sac. Features & Open Mic hosted by Khiry Malik. Info: or 916-492-9336. Ages 21 and over; $5 cover.

Stockton Art Walk:

Friday, August 11, in downtown Stockton at locations such as the Bob Hope Theatre from 5-8 PM, there will be an Art Walk. Also that evening, WOW (With Our Words) will be participating in the Downtown Artwalk. This Friday (and Sept. 8) they will be featuring some of Stockton's youth poets, and a couple of friends from Modesto, from 6:30-8 PM in the Lobby of the Hotel Stockton. Info: Donald Anderson:

Vic Selinsky Retrospective:

As you know, Vic Selinsky passed away earlier this year. A retrospective of his art is currently showing at the 20th St. Art Gallery, 911 20th St., Sacramento. Last day will be Friday, Sept. 1. Gallery hours are Tues. through Sat., 12-5 PM, and by appointment, or see it this Saturday night, Aug. 12 at the Second Saturday Reception, 6-9:30 PM. Info: 916-930-0500.


—C.P. Cavafy

I should like to relate this memory...
but it is so faded now... scarcely anything is left—
because it lies far off, in the years of my early manhood.

A skin as if made of jasmine...
that night in August—was it August?—that night...
I can just barely remember the eyes; they were, I think, blue...
Ah yes, blue; a sapphire blue.


—C.P. Cavafy

The room was poor and squalid,
hidden above the dubious tavern.
From the window you could see the alley
filthy and narrow. From below
came the voices of some workmen
playing cards and carousing.

And there on the much-used, lowly bed
I had the body of love, I had the lips,
the voluptuous and rosy lips of ecstasy—
rosy lips of such ecstasy, that even now
as I write, after so many years!
in my solitary house, I am drunk again.

(Today's poetry was translated from the Greek by Rae Delven.)



Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their poetry and announcements of Northern California poetry events to for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)