stealing sugar from the castle

I have some latent dubiety about Robert Bly as both a translator and a poet, but this poem — specifically this poem declaimed in his voice on the radio (turned up very very high so that he almost shouted) as I drove too fast down the 580 late to meeting a friend, nervous jittery chainsmoking, drinking a quadruple-shot coffee — made me very happy for a few minutes, was a glorious beginning to a tough day.

Stealing Sugar From the Castle – by Robert Bly

We are poor students who stay after school to study joy.
We are like those birds in the India mountains.
I am a widow whose child is her only joy.

The only thing I hold in my ant-like head
Is the builder’s plan of the castle of sugar.
just to steal one grain of sugar is a joy!

Like a bird, we fly out of darkness into the hall,
Which is lit with singing, then fly out again.
Being shut out of the warm hall is also a joy.

I am a laggard, a loafer, and an idiot. But I love
To read about those who caught one glimpse
Of the Face, and died twenty years later in joy.

I don’t mind your saying I will die soon.
Even in the sound of the word soon, I hear
The word you which begins every sentence of joy.

“You’re a thief!” the judge said. “Let’s see
Your hands!” I showed my callused hands in court.
My sentence was a thousand years of joy.

I don’t know, I can’t tell. Maybe it’s only good in his voice. If you want, you too can experience the poem in his voice, if you wish–not quite as good in terms of force and movement as the one I caught, as he digresses a lot, but his comments are really delightful–here. I’d love to see him read…


~ by Not Alice on May 4, 2008.

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