To Marcus Aurelius

Good night, Marcus. Blow out the light
and close your book. Where Ursa runs
the stars’ alarm now fills the night.
Heaven speaks to us in tongues,
a barbarian’s fear-stricken shriek
your Latin cannot understand.
Eternal terror, dark and bleak,
reigns over our frail mortal land.

You hear the babble of waterfalls.
Relentless elements will drown
your letters until the world’s four walls
collapse and then come tumbling down.
What can we do? Shake in the air,
blow in the ashes, stir the sky,
bite our nails, seek words, despair
for shadows like us left to die?

Marcus, forget your stoic poise.
Give me your hand beyond the dark.
May it tremble as the world toys,
blind, with each sense as on a harp.
Astronomy, the wisdom of grass,
the calculus of stars—deceive
us—and your greatness all too vast,
and, Marcus, my unguarded grief.

after Zbigniew Herbert





avatar

Leo Yankevich’s latest books are The Last Silesian (The Mandrake Press, 2005) Tikkun Olam & Other Poems (Second Expanded Edition), (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), Journey Late at Night: Poems & Translations (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013) & The Hypocrisies of Heaven: Poems New & Old (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2016). His poems have appeared in Amelia, American Jones Building & Maintenance, Artword Quarterly, Beauty for Ashes Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Candelabrum, Cedar Hill Review, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, CounterPunch, Disquieting Muses, Edge City Review, Electric Acorn, Envoi, FutureCycle Poetry, Harpstrings, Iambs & Trochees, Iota, Ironwood, Kimera, Lite: Baltimore’s Literary Newspaper, Lucid Rhythms, Mr. Cogito, New Hope International, Nostoc, Parnassus Literary Journal, Pennine Platform, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poetry Nottingham, Psychopoetica, Raintown Review, Riverrun, Romantics Quarterly, Ship of Fools, Snakeskin, Sonnet Scroll, Staple, Sulphur River Literary Review, Tennessee Quarterly, The Barefoot Muse, The East River Review, The Eclectic Muse, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The London Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Monongahela Review, The Neovictorian/Cochlea, thehypertexts.com, The Pennsylvania Review, The Sarmatian Review, The Tennessee Review, Tucumcari Literary Review, Trinacria, Visions International, Weyfarers, Whelks Walk Review, Windsor Review, inter alia. He is editor of The New Formalist. More of his work can be found at Leo Yankevich.com.