for Joseph Joubert

The gardener of the day to-day
digs in and stays;
stays stuck, ground in the garden
in question.
Grows up
to hustle out
more than his own lot.
Raises cane of a first order
and nothing brassbound.
He sets it up even now,
and wants the idiom
of others to be
in attendance.
The hopper, the screen
poetic grain machine.
‹‹ One should see through
what one reads through ››.

There’s a good self
and a bad self,
one open shop, one on the shelf,
one mean and one that gives,
one that distends while one
(self-as-thrysus ?).
The sweet self
has pleasures to commend it;
the nasty self
its strictures
and trifles with little
to defend it.
Inside the nasty self
it’s all bad humor.
A good self
is a wind
or an instrument
with strings.
The chord: assembly required.
(Each one is distant.)
All nerves, it’s too high-strung,
though goes slack and sounds sour
with ease.
Please to tune him often
if he should sweeten his tune.

There are idle heads
and there are idle constitutions,
apathies of movement,
disabilities of concern,
care and attention,
of treatment
and wants of activity.
There are languors of conduct
that flow
from the body’s circuit.
Or tendons are too loose
or the head and the heart
are without animation.
We put up with either
the slowpoke
or the idler.
Sometimes lazybones
gets all shook up
and stirs up
a luminous muck.
In every man
is a brutal portion.
For some it’s keen,
but slight and quick
it easily takes its leave.
With others it’s coarse,
opaque and thick,
it doesn’t easily dry up
but instead sinks
and bears its own brunt.
A last alternative:
flared up and violent,
frightening and ardent:
like Joubert has it
of volcanoes, rather
gushing fire than water geyser.

(Erudition hid away:
thorns under leaves,
under flowers
or under glass;
knots beneath bark,
rough under polish.
Dry somehow.
And why not?
There’s a dryness of quality
about the world.)

We must act while we live.
But must we
keep struggling
at the end
as all the while
or from the start?
Do we rouse ourselves
for what escapes us
or for what finds us?
We must plant
and not build (as lords of old)
if old age is still to come,
and it comes.
Vanishing makes its point.

Translated by Andrew Maxwell