Barely softening the shock
Of his terrifying grace
An angel sets upon my table
The tender bread, the level milk;
With the twitch of an eyelid
He summons prayer to my sight:
- Calm now, calm, stay calm!
Consider the weight of the palm,
Bowed low in ponderous profusion!
While it sags beneath the gift
Of its abundance, its shape
Is a perfection and its burdensome fruits
Suffice to establish its connection.
Marvel how she quivers,
Like the unhurried filament
That subdivides the instants
And separates without mystery
The beckoning, come-hither earth
From the ponderous sky.
This lovely, swaying arbiter
Of shadow and sunlight
Emblems in the mind A Sybille’s wisdom,
A sibylline slumber;
Anchored to the spot,
The luxuriant waving palm will never weary
Of its greetings and farewells…
How noble she is, how tender!
How worthy, as she awaits the touch
Of nothing but the hand of gods.
She murmurs forth a shimmering gold
That rings upon the simple finger
Of the air, and with her silken armoury
Electrifies the desert’s soul.
She casts her undying voice
Upon the sand-filled breezes
That strip and scatter her seed,
Serving as an oracle unto herself,
And glorying in that miracle
That sorrows sing themselves.
Upright in her diffidence
Between sand and sky,
Her fragrant nectars concentrate
With every shining day
Through durations marked
By heaven’s clock alone, by a time
That does not count the days
But slowly coalesce
Within her hidden liquors
Every heady fragrance of desire.
Should you find yourself despairing,
Should the stern authority you revere
Spring forth despite your weeping
Just and only here, and nowhere else
But in this languorous shade,
Do not find this sagacious tree at fault
Who serves you up such hoarded gold
And such authority, that through
Her solemn sap a hope eternal
Rises into ripeness.
For these empty-seeming days,
Lost in the wide universe
All send thirsty root-hairs down
To labor through the desert floor.
Her heavy hypogean locks,
These proud patricians of the dark,
Never tire in their plumbing quest
Down through the bowels of the earth
To find those deepest aquifers
That feed such heights as hers.
Patience, patience, have patience,
Since rooted here Beneath the azure of these skies!
Each atom of silence bears
The possibility of ripened fruit!
The happy happenstance will soon arise:
Be it dove or breeze,
Or the gentlest rustling sound, the shape
Of a woman bending down; any of these
Might just as surely bring that rain
That brings us to our knees.
And should all at once
The proud world’s rectitude collapse
In climax, Palm! … irrisistably!
Just leave it rest upon the dust,
To writhe upon the fruits of sky!
And rest assured you haven’t squandered
All those hours should you rise weightless
In the wake of such sweet abandon,
Weightless as the thinker
In such accumulation,
In the nurture of the gifts he’s given.
Translation © D.B. Jonas