Outside, the world is growing darker
counters clicking downwards to perdition.
Inside, the children bring me
cup-cakes, pizza, new and better clothes
all made from pure cheek
and six-year-old imagination.
I'm story-writing helper for today.
It's not too hard:
"What's that word? Let's sound it out."
"Nothing to write about? Let's see ...
what will you do tomorrow? What
would you rather do today?"
At the end we're smiling: a whole page written!
Teacher, give these children praise.
As they start on Printing
I'm taking my leave, walking
out of the enchanted wood
back to the world's long darkness.
Shutting out the torment and the fear
deep into the night's cold morning hours
I work on my translation.
Improbable, that in another tongue
such lines as these were born,
set down, are vivid on his page
and will not come across to mine.
Two ways to go: the forced rhyme
the flaccid filling phrase
or terse, unrhymed,
trying to capture the meaning
as if that could ever be known.
But something does translate -
a voice from bleak immensities
perfect for nights like these:
the wind's forgotten murmur,
the war that beggars language
speaking the creole of slaughter.