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15 May 2019updated 09 Sep 2021 3:14pm

The Song of the One Who Pours the Wine

A new poem by Clara Janés, translated by Lavinia Greenlaw.

By Lavinia Greenlaw

The roses of Shiraz still climb through this page
as does the song of the holy fool who stands at dusk by the well.
The decorated cup of the poet appears in my hands.
Like the cup of Jamshid, it contains worlds
within the depths of its wine.
The ripple of submerged constellations reveals a pattern
shared by flora and fauna, what is human and what is stone.
You see it in the palm leaves in the botanical garden at Padua,
a famous illustration of metamorphosis.

There is a formula chimed in the caravan’s tiny bells:
all must change, time must pass. Even so
the mind of one who contemplates must fix it all in place
(A word’s a fan!) and strings together prayer beads of science,
of love.

Pour me another cup! I want to see in detail
All that swims in reflection. I will read the cosmos
as a sacred text – accepting that what I see, I have to believe.

Like electrons held in the dance around an atom’s
positive charge
or the endless extension and connection of the wave,
the deep secret of this circuitry reveals the link
between all that exists, collapsing space between subject
and object.

All this is held in the perfume exhaled by the roses of Shiraz,
a perfume that is love, that is the writing of the first alphabet
which in Persepolis declares our human grace.

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Yes, as dusk falls and the holy fool sings by the well,
the poet places a flicker from the blaze of all that is known in
my hands
and together we repeat his invocation: Nature, my one joy is to

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This poem, based on a literal translation from the Spanish by Catherine Mansfield, is included in A New Divan (Gingko), published to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Goethe’s poem sequence the West-Eastern Divan.