Jan 112016
 

presentación jtJavier Taboada

.
IMG-20151210-WA0024

JAVIER TABOADA (Mexico City, 1982) is a translator and poet. He has translated the work of Alcaeus of Mytilene (Alceo, Poemas y Fragmentos, 2010) and Jerome Rothenberg (A Poem of Miracles and A Further Witness, forthcoming in 2016) amongst others. He is the author of a remarkable first collection of poetry, Poemas de Botica (La Cuadrilla de la Langosta, Mexico City, 2014). Dylan Brennan conducted this interview with Javier via email correspondence from October-December 2015.

DB: Tell us a bit about your early life, where you grew up, what you studied, how you first discovered poetry.

JT: I was born in Mexico City and grew up there. I studied at religious schools from primary through secondary before beginning a B.A. in Classical Literature at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where I also completed my M.A.

I suppose that my first contact with poetry was similar to that of most middle class children at that time. What I mean by that is, with rare exceptions, in every house you could find certain books by certain poets such as: Neruda (his 20 poemas de amor almost always featured), León Felipe, Sor Juana, San Juan de la Cruz, Amado Nervo, García Lorca, Jaime Sabines anthologies, amongst others. But there were also plenty of anthologies of what we call poemas de declamación (recital poems): in my house we had the Álbum de Oro del Declamador (The Orator’s Golden Album), I still have it now. It’s a collection of occasional poems, ready to be opened for a mother’s birthday (or for the anniversary of her death), poems that speak of heartbreak, lost loves, poems to scorn vices, to exalt familial and Christian love etc., all tinged with a moral outlook and an unbearable sentimentality. However, in the final section of this book, I found poems like Eliot’s Hollow Men, Lermontov’s The Cross on the Rock, Pasternak’s Night, The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter by Ezra Pound, Quasimodo’s Auschwitz, to mention just a few. The one I liked best from this book was Antonio Plaza’s A una ramera (To a Harlot) because the use of language made me laugh.

The other contact with poetry came from a source less bookish (for want of a better word), I mean popular Mexican music, especially the bolero. Then later, during puberty, rock music.

Beyond what I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t very interested in reading poetry until the age of about 16 or 17. And that had quite a bit to do with the so-called Contemporáneos poets. Xavier Villaurrutia, Salvador Novo, some of Carlos Pellicer’s stuff, José Gorostiza, Jorge Cuesta (his sonnets, of course, not his Canto a un Dios Mineral, which I could only begin to comprehend—years later—via an extraordinary book by Evodio Escalante). They astounded me. After a certain amount of time, I then began to buy poetry books or to read them in the school library, whenever I’d been kicked out of physics or mathematics class. My reading is completely disordered. I’m a trained Hellenist and I haven’t even been able to follow any kind of order with the Ancient Greeks.

DB: I know you translate quite a bit. Tell us about that. Does translation affect how you write, how you read? Do the poets you translate influence you much? Which poets have influenced you? How did you come into contact with them?

JT: Nowadays I read as a translator and this has become beneficial to me. In my current state of disorder I’m reading and translating Rosmarie Waldrop, Federico María Sardelli, Claudia Rankine and John Wilmot. I read them, then I attempt to translate a certain fragment, then I read them again, etc., until the job is done. Whether the translations get published or not, this permits me to be influenced in a way by their work, to assimilate something of their poetics, and, in some way, to redesign my own, to become re-moulded. I am in no way scared of continual influences (I don’t think they ever end) nor of revealing them to others. It is obvious that translation, as reading or as a constant act, not only modifies one’s own voice, but also changes literary traditions. One day, those who study the national poetry of certain regions will pay more attention to the translated works that their poets have read as opposed to the original versions. For example, I read Eliot translated by Ángel Flores and, in my memory, The Waste Land (La Tierra Baldía) is the one that Flores translated.

As I mentioned, I’ve been greatly influenced by the Contemporáneos. My reading of the classics, which I did almost exclusively for a period of about seven or eight years, has also left its mark. Fundamentally, the ancient lyrics: Alcaeus (whose work I translated almost in its entirety in 2010) but also Sappho and Alcman; and also Archilochus and Hipponax. The latter I consider the most modern due to his use of language and humour. His pugilistic poems are raw, his sexual references, explicit. For example, there is one poem in which the “poetic voice” attempts to cure his impotence with the assistance of a Lydian witch. Frankly, it’s hilarious, vulgar and ingenious. Among the Greek Classics I should also mention that I read Euripides and Aristophanes thoroughly.

There are common names such like Pound, Eliot, Wordsworth, Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Pessoa, Hölderlin, Yeats. Of course, they have influenced me. More specifically, I can mention poets like Blake, H.D., Charles Wright, David Meltzer, William Carlos Williams, Lee Masters, Efraín Huerta, Rubén Bonifaz Nuño (I regards his Fuego de Pobres as a gem of Mexican literature) and Nicanor Parra.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to the influence of Jerome Rothenberg. This is due, in part, to the fact that, in the last year and a half I have worked a lot with him. I’ve finished translating A Further Witness and A Poem of Miracles, two of his most recent collections. It looks like they’ll be published in bilingual editions this year (2016). I’ve also translated to Spanish and to Ladino (the language of the Sephardic Jews) his poem Cokboy which is, as you may know, written in a mixture of English and made-up Yiddish. This proximity (admirably generous) has transformed my understanding of his poetry. I will remain forever grateful to him.

DB: Is there a Mexican poetic tradition? Are there various? With which, if any, do you identify? What about the Mexico City cronistas (non-fiction chroniclers like Carlos Monsiváis or, most recently, Valeria Luiselli)? I ask because your book Poemas de Botica (Apothecary Poems) is very much steeped in the sights, smells, sounds of a particular part of the city.

JT: Everywhere, particularly during these years of globalisation, the borders between “national” literatures have begun to dissolve: they begin to respond to different stimuli and contact with other poetic tasks become more immediate. In Mexico right now I can see a conceptual growth as well as a turn towards new technologies. On the other hand I see an emerging interest in ethnopoetry, ecopoetry and colloquial poetry. Much of this owes to the incorporation of the North American poetic tradition or English language poetry in general.

As a tradition, I would have to mention the baroque. It’s still alive and has continued to adapt (in some instances, in other instances, frankly, it has not) to the times. In its use of language, for example, can be derived part of the metaphysical or mystical poetry that is composed in Mexico.

I don’t know to what extent I can associate myself with any “tradition”. It seems to me that that should be decided by others. I can only recognize some influences that are present in this book, but I cannot talk about belonging. Sophocles says that nobody should consider a person as being “happy” until the moment of his/her death. Other work will come, I hope. Then the time will come for me to cash out. Time will take care of putting everyone in their place. What I mean is, to answer your question, there are a wide variety of poetic traditions in this country. I’m sure there are others which I’ve forgotten, or am yet to have discovered.

Of the cronistas that you mention, I haven’t read Luiselli. I’ve read very little Monsiváis and a bit more of Novo. Honestly, the Mexico City chroniclers had very little influence in Poemas de Botica. I think that a much greater debt is owed to the Lyrical Ballads, to Huerta, Parra, Salvador Novo’s Poemas Proletarios, Fuego de Pobres by Bonifaz and Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology. After the collection had been published I was introduced to Chetumal Bay Anthology—a very interesting collection by Luis Miguel Aguilar (winner of the 2014 Ramón López Velarde Prize)—and noted the similarities between my book and his (the focus on just one place, the style of language etc. which in turn is fed by the work of Masters). A fortunate coincidence.

Mexico City has a great deal of problems: brutal inequalities, violence, organized crime (though they claim it’s not there), racism and discrimination, misery belts, inefficient transport, unstoppable pollution etc. On the other hand there are the personal oases, those places that transform the city into your city, though you will always need to pass through chaos to get there. A bit like Milton’s Lucifer. This dichotomy is experienced by anyone who has lived in the D.F. In my case, I couldn’t stand it any more so I left.

DB: Tell us about how you write. Where does it all come from?

JT: I don’t have any particular schedule or discipline for writing. In reality, all my writing springs from obsession. After investigating a certain theme for a while, disposing of material, etc., ideas emerge. And then begins a process that is long. As you well know, there are texts that just jump onto the page and others that take forever. Then, when I believe that a certain text is speaking, I correct it, edit it. I throw away or erase what is no longer of use, without restraint. Usually, what I leave behind is the poem’s skeleton. When I’ve found—sometimes it’s just a few verses—the idea, the tone, the form of what I want to say, I begin to re-write it. In the end, I share it with some writers that I know and trust to be objective. Then, if the text passes this test, I think it’s ready. In general, I mistrust my own opinion. With regard to form, the form is dictated by the contents of the poem.

portada

DB: Poemas de Botica is an admirably solid collection. By that I mean that it possesses a wonderful unity, all the poems revolve around your grandfather’s apothecary and it’s a collection that feels more like a place than a book to me. I mean that in a good way, it’s remarkably vibrant, alive. Where did it come from? Did you always know how it would be structured?

JT: Poemas de Botica emerged from the Guerrero neighbourhood, one of the oldest and dodgiest in the city. But, to be more precise, from the area immediately surrounding the Dr. Medina pharmacy which was the property of my grandfather for almost 65 years. The pharmacy also operated as an old-style apothecary. I had to work there for about 4 or 5 years, selling medicines and mixing remedies (not many, in reality), while I studied at university. The apothecary is still open, even today.

No, actually, it’s strange. Some of those poems (which were then called de Botica in 2003), were more or less finished. But I didn’t know what to do with them. I thought they’d never be published. You know, I didn’t have any more material. There were 4 or 5 poems and that was it. Then, I stopped working there, and I stopped writing poetry and focused on my studies. I submitted, like we all do, to that sterile prose of academia. And, while it gave me other positive things, it dried up my literary work.

I found it really very difficult to start writing again. A few years later, I’d say it was around 2012, I started to re-write those poems, now with the readings I mentioned above in my mind. The key to the collection arrived with the (Homeric) Cantos del Señor Olivares: I glimpsed the possibility of orchestrating the whole book with an array of different voices: the historical voice of the city (Olivares), the lyrical voice (the Apothecary), the testimonial voices of the characters, all mixed up: humour, violence, colloquialisms, music and refrains. In other words, everything that I learned in Guerrero. And then I quickly discovered that the book was finished. Leticia Luna, the editor, insisted that the tone was not lost.

Finally came the business of unifying the collection. All the poems revolve around an apothecary. I understood that it was about the day-to-day running of the business. Working at an apothecary, you end up having to deal with the clients, with yourself, with those who promote the merchandise, with anything that was going on in the barrio. Outside and inside. And almost everything that happened in that small world is portrayed in the book. ‘The world is an apothecary of the depraved’ (El mundo es una botica de viciosos) says the book’s epigraph. The world or purgatory in which we all find ourselves. In fact, the first poem gives the physical location, the address of the pharmacy, but this also functions as a cosmic location of the Counter-Earth, according to an astronomy book by Giorgio Abetti, I think. That’s what the botica was for me.

DB: What do you think of contemporary Mexican poetry?

JT: Honestly, and this has a lot to do with my formative period, I’ve attempted to immerse myself in contemporary Mexican poetry only recently, in the last three or four years. For example, I have discovered fantastic works such as those of Francisco Hernández (Moneda de Tres Caras, La Isla de las Breves Ausencias), Elsa Cross (Bomarzo, Bacantes, Canto Malabar), Myriam Moscona (Negro Marfil and Ansina), Coral Bracho (Si ríe el emperador), José Vicente Anaya (Híkuri), Ernesto Lumbreras (Lo que dijeron las estrellas en el ojo de un sapo), Tedi López Mills (Muerte en la Rúa Augusta and Parafrasear) Gerardo Deniz (who had already passed away but his Cuatronarices was a major discovery for me), Luis Miguel Aguilar, as I already mentioned, the Mazateco poet Juan Gregorio Regino (No es eterna la muerte), Víctor Sosa (Nagasakipanema), amongst others.

There are some writers, a bit younger than the ones I just mentioned—often younger than I am—whose work I admire. Amongst these I can mention Alejandro Tarrab, Hugo García Manríquez, Balam Rodrigo, Inti García Santamaría, Heriberto Yépez, Hernán Bravo, Yuri Herrera, Óscar David López, Sara Uribe, Paula Abramo, Marian Pipitone, Eva Castañeda, Zazil Collins. So far. I know of many other names due to the renown they have earned but I haven’t read them, and that is a source of minor embarrassment. But that work is pending. The list will certainly grow.

DB: Personally, in Mexico, I’ve noticed a fair amount of literary cliques. As if the on-going feuds like the ones documented so memorably by Bolaño in his Savage Detectives are continuing today. Do you notice any of this? Does it hold interest?

JT: Yes, I suppose that, like everywhere else, there are. Regional, local, national, transnational. In general, I have very little time for personal disputes that always seem to mutate into group disputes. I read, ignoring the affiliations or ascriptions of an author. I’m only interested in the text. I can still identify the conflicts generated by the aesthetical (and political) differences between the Stridentists (Estridentistas) and the Contemporáneos or between the Infrarrealistas (the “Visceral Realists” from Bolaño’s Savage Detectives) and group of poets headed by Octavio Paz. Or the ongoing arguments between nationalism (whether that be criollo or mestizo) of Mexican poetry against its francophilia (afrancesamiento as Cuesta called it, extending the term to mean a sort of universalist ambition).

DB: There seems to be plenty of political poetry being written and disseminated in Mexico of late. What do you think of this? Should poetry be political?

JT: Yes, it is normal to see this emergence of political poetry. We live in tragic times. Some of these poems I simply don’t like: particularly those that seek to mythologize or ritualize that which has happened in Mexico. By so doing, they seem to engender a justification (myths and rites that outline a psychic, hegemonic and social mechanism a posteriori) in order to suggest some sense of destiny. Furthermore, I think that political poetry (as always) is at risk of turning into a simple instrument of affiliation, an occasional militancy that is of more benefit to the poet than to society.

A work that stands apart from these is Antígona González by Sara Uribe. Though she recycles the figure of Antigone, she refuses to justify suffering through the notion of myth.

DB: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

JT: Well this year (2016), as I mentioned, I hope to see the Rothenberg collections published. I also hope to publish Nacencia, a long poem dedicated to my son, which focuses on the processes of translation. It’s about the impossibility of translation. It’s also a unified piece, from the eve of his birth up until an event that seemed astonishing to me, which occurred when he was about four months old. He reached out to touch the shadow of his own hand on the wall. In other words he carried out his own process of translation: in four months he had interpreted the world, his surroundings, passing through a long phase of discovery and an awakening of the senses, until he could see that hand and touch it. From that point, everything became clear, the light of the allegory of Plato’s Cave. Nacencia is a poem that has nothing to do with, with regard to subject matter or form, Poemas de Botica. Which is something that pleases me greatly.

Furthermore, I want to continue with my translations of Claudia Rankine (her multi-prizewinning Citizen) and of Rosmarie Waldrop (The Ambition of Ghosts). I’d also like to keep translating some of Federico Maria Sardelli, who is real character (Vivaldi scholar, director of Modo Antiquo, painter, poet).

—Javier Taboada & Dylan Brennan

.

taboada2

From Poemas de Botica (Apothecary Poems)
By Javier Taboada
Selected and translated by Jack Little.

.

Visión

Aquí
las rameras
……….se canonizan en nueve meses
el diente de oro
es tatuaje de honor por las migajas
y el rito de la madre
es zumbarse al niño
y llevarlo a la escuela
cubriendo el látigo del marido.

Los boticarios
son los nuevos curas
que redimen
por menos del tostón.

La borracha canta
soy la Magdalena
revolcada en mierda
……….hay viejos oraculares
……….héroes y padrotes
y hasta los boxeadores rezan
que con la Virgen basta
y la piedra sosiega.

Aquí
la camisa de fuerza
espera por la señal de la cruz.

.

Juanito

Nadie sabe que soy un súper héroe.

Piensan que estoy loco
pero en las noches vuelo
……….aunque todavía
no aprendo bien
y me azoto en la banqueta.

De día
enjuago los carros
que llevan a los reyes actuales.

Mas luego oscurece
……….y no sé quién
le sube el switch
a mis rosas eléctricas.

Ahí me da por encimarme
……….los calzones
……….la capa
mis botas negras de hule
y entonces VUELO

por la quijada brillante
del burro
la tripa de cristal
que se hace rollo
y se alarga.

Eso que dicen
que es la epilepsia.

Y con mi lengua
en la banqueta
me quedo dormido
……….como una coca de vidrio
vacía de la furia del mar.

.

Crac

Un joven de quince años
pidió un gotero de cristal
para bajarle a su bebé la temperatura.

…………Mejor uno de plástico
…………que el vidrio es peligroso
…………si el niño tiene dientes.

No lo quiebra  no lo rompe.
Y besó una cruz
que hizo con los dedos.

………….Fui por su jarabe
y me dejó hablando solo
con la medicina.

Nunca había visto a un tipo tan flaco.

***

La piedra
el fumado
…………en papel
…………en lata de refresco
…………o gotero de cristal
es un tizón de sesenta pesos
…………llaga que arde viva
…………entre labios y garganta.

Hay que jalarle duro
…………fumarse hasta las burbujas
…………oír el crac en la piedra
y sentir cómo pega en putiza.

***

Pasadas las diez de la noche
chupando la mugre de las uñas
…………por si algo sobra
los muchachos del crac
…………ángeles de cera sobre una flama
salen a la calle
con todas las palabras
…………………en la manguera de la lengua
el sexo de fuera y erecto.

El barrio cierra sus ventanas
…………tapia sus puertas
porque los muchachos del crac
…………aúllan
y se rascan para quitarse los piojos
…………que inundan su piel
……………….pues es mejor dejarla en carne viva
…………a que se la coman los gusanos.

Los muchachos del crac
…………ejército de cadáveres sin camisa
…………pubertas embarazadas
caminan a ninguna parte
…………juegan volados o rayuela
…………cantan  bajo la pequeña luz del encendedor
y miran de reojo
buscándose el cuchillo.

Luego caen
uno por uno
bajo los dedos del alba.

***

Al abrirse las puertas del metro
los muchachos yacen en el piso
………………como pan con hongos
……………………..arcada del ebrio
……………………..viejo al que chupó el diablo.

—Javier Taboada

§

Vision

Here
the whores
………….are canonized in nine months
the gold tooth
a tattoo to honour crumbs
and the rite of the mother
is to hit her child
and to take him to school
to cover up her husband’s lash.

The apothecaries
are the new curates
redeeming
for less than fifty cents.

The drunk lass sings
I am Mary Magdalene
wallowing in shit
…………here old oracles
…………heroes and pimps

and even the boxers pray
that the Virgin alone will suffice
and the crack rock soothes.

Here
the straitjacket
waits for the sign of the cross.

.

Juanito

Nobody knows that I am super hero.

They think I’m crazy
but at night I fly
……………even though still
I don’t learn all that well
and crash into the sidewalk.

By day
I wash the cars
that carry today’s kings.

After dark
………….I don’t know who
flicks the switch
on my electric roses.

I turn myself out in
……………underpants
……………the cape
my black rubber boots
and then I FLY
by the brilliant jawbone
of the donkey
the glassy guts
that roll
and lengthen.

That they say
……………is epilepsy.

And with my tongue
on the sidewalk
I sleep
……………like a glass bottle of coke
empty of the fury of the sea.

.

Crack

A fifteen year old guy
asked for a glass dropper
to bring his baby’s temperature down.

……….Better a plastic one
……….glass is dangerous
……….if the kid already has teeth.

He won’t crack it won’t break it
and he kissed a crucifix
made with his fingers.

……….I went for the syrup
and he left me talking alone
with the medicine.

I had never seen such a skinny fella.

***

The stone
devilsmoke
……….on paper
……….in a can of pop
……….or a glass dropper
it’s a three buck ember
……….a sore that burns alive
……….between the lips and throat.

You have to pull hard
……….toke until it bubbles
……….hear the crack in the rock
and feel it like the smack in a brawl.

***

Past ten at night
sucking the muck on their nails
……….just in case there’s something left
the crack boys
……….wax angels over the flame
go out into the street
with all the words
…………..on the tube of their tongue
sex outside and erect.

The neighborhood closes its doors
……….shuts its windows
because the crack boys
……….howl
and scratch to get rid of the nits
……….that fill their skin
……………for it’s better to leave it raw
……….than let it be eaten by worms.

The crack boys
……….army of shirtless corpses
……….pregnant adolescents
walk nowhere
……….play coin toss or hopscotch
……….sing under the dim glow of a lighter
and gaze askance
looking for a knife.

Then they fall
one by one
under the fingers of dawn.

***

As the metro doors are opened
the boys are lying on the floor
………………..like moldy bread
…………………….drunk’s retch
…………………….an old man made rotten by the five-second rule.

—Javier Taboada translated by Jack Little

.
Javier Taboada (Distrito Federal, 1982) traductor y poeta. Ha traducido a Alceo de Mitilene (Poemas y Fragmentos, 2010) y a Jerome Rothenberg (A Poem of Miracles y A Further Witness, de próxima aparición), entre otros. Es autor de Poemas de Botica (2014).

Jack Little Photo

Jack Little (b. 1987) is a British-Mexican poet, editor and translator based in Mexico City. He is the author of ‘Elsewhere’ (Eyewear, 2015) and the founding editor of The Ofi Press: www.ofipress.com

Dylan Brennan

Dylan Brennan is an Irish writer currently based in Mexico. His poetry, essays and memoirs have been published in a range of international journals, in English and Spanish. His debut poetry collection, Blood Oranges, for which he received the runner-up prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Award, is available now from The Dreadful Press. Twitter: @DylanJBrennan

.
.

Jan 102016
 
Portrait of George Herbert in Bemerton by William Dyce

Portrait of George Herbert in Bemerton by William Dyce

.

Some poems you read once, maybe twice. You like or dislike them, you share them – or you mean to share them but never get around to it. Sooner or later – for me, lately, it’s sooner – you can’t remember much about them. The striking features you were drawn to – the metaphors that stopped you in your tracks, the music of the words, the phrases you never imagined bumping up against each other – fade from your memory, though you know you liked many of them when you first read them. You have only a vague sense of what the poem was about – An animal, I think? A duck? You have only an inkling as to the author. Female poet, early 20th-century…British? Canadian?  Down the line you hear the poet’s name and it sounds familiar to you – I read something by her not too long ago and liked it.  You try to find the poem in a book, but you can’t find it – Maybe it was in a book from the library. Or maybe in the New Yorker? The Threepenny Review? – so you look through old copies of your magazines, you try to track the poem down online, but it’s gone. The poem was liked but, as  the salesman Willy Loman would warn us, it wasn’t well-liked.

Of course, any kind of “liked” is better than “disliked,” but a poem of that kind – forgettable – is not going down on your list of Poems to Memorize In Case of Shipwreck on a Desert Island. Imagine the circumstances of that shipwreck: all you end up with is your body and what rests securely in your mind – no boat, no matches, no clothes, no shelter, no food. no friends, no wireless connection, no social media, no phone, no pen, no paper, and no books to read. What keeps you going? I mean, besides the coconut-laden palm trees and the sun up in the blue sky, the bright turquoise water, the waves breaking on warm, white sand….Sorry, where was I? (I have an excuse – it’s winter in Seattle. Enough said.) Ah, yes. The question is this: What keeps you going?

Well, maybe, like me, you remember a few movies and much of the dialogue in them, so acting them out could keep you going for awhile. I, for one, have seen the six-part BBC production of Pride and Prejudice often enough to let it loop scene-by-scene through my head while I wait to be rescued from my island. Fiction turned into film script turned into a one-woman performance, minus an audience. Ditto quite a few Jerry Seinfeld shows, though those scripts don’t deepen or change on each re-construction.

For further entertainment, I would have a boatload of songs to sing – Beatles, Dylan, Beach Boys, Motown, Aretha Franklin, The Letterman, Tony Bennett. It’s step-by-step on this beach, and with songs I move closer to poetry; lyrics are, after all, a subset of poetry. So sooner or later – definitely sooner – the memorized poems, the well-liked poems, rise to the surface during times of stress (see: shipwreck, above.) They comfort me, make me smile, make me cry, make me wonder.  They connect me with people and places I love, they challenge me to question something, they engage my imagination – and they please me on most days at least as much as fresh coconuts and a blue sky.

robinson-crusoe

Did Crusoe recite poetry to a parrot or two? (illustration: N.C. Wyeth)

Pleasure. That’s what great poetry is all about, isn’t it? Especially if ambiguity resides within the circle of what you find pleasurable. You’ll do well with poetry then, because ambiguity lies at the heart of most great poems. We read and re-read; the poem stays the same, but we change, and we read with those changes exerting their new influence. What puzzles me, though, is not the what, where, when or why of pleasure but the how.  How does a well-loved poem actually work on us?

To help readers answer similar questions, Mark Yakich (editor of The New Orleans Review and Professor of Creative Writing at Loyola) offered up “Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies” in the December issue of The Atlantic. His”guide for the perplexed” addresses anyone struggling to understand where the pleasure in a certain poem resides. Basically, Yakich offers up twenty modest proposals in an attempt to steer poetry-phobes away from panic and toward pleasure, with a “step-by-step guide.”

Mark Yakich

Professor Mark Yakich

His twenty suggestions are good ones: Don’t wait for a poem to change your life, don’t force it to”relate” to your life, but do meet it on its own terms and pay close attention to how it says things; do read poems aloud, do approach them with a Buddha-like patience, don’t try to paraphrase, do look for subtleties, don’t forget the poet is not always the speaker of the poem, don’t avoid marginalia (it’s fun), do try to understand what “irony” means (it doesn’t mean disbelief), and don’t worry if you don’t understand it at first – usually, understanding comes, but reading a poem doesn’t take much time or energy, so little is lost. Meanwhile,  there is potential for growth, for new thoughts or “an old thought seen anew.” In other words, what can it hurt? And it might actually help.

Of the twenty suggestions, I like #12 best: “A poem can feel like a locked safe in which the combination is hidden inside. In other words, it’s okay if you don’t understand a poem. Sometimes it takes dozens of readings to come to the slightest understanding. And sometimes understanding never comes. It’s the same with being alive: Wonder and confusion mostly prevail.”

As an experiment, let’s look at George Herbert’s Love (III) with Yakich’s suggestions in mind.

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
……….Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
……….From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
………If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
………Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
………I cannot look on thee.”
.Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
…….“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
………Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
………“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
……….So I did sit and eat.

……………………………………George Herbert (1593-1633)

It’s a poem which pleases me every time I read it. I memorized it years ago, mostly due to the last line – “So I did sit and eat.” That grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go; it has played in my head like birdsong during many odd, sexy, delicate, memorable moments of my life, none of them relating to food, none of them religious, at least, not in the institutional sense.  Ditto the line “Who made the eyes but I?” And that’s what I often want from a poem – to have a line of it come to me under surprising circumstances.  When I first read it at nineteen, I was in love and I liked the sexiness of the poem. Almost fifty years later, I still do. But I’m a little more aware of the pressure Love is putting on her guest.

Look at that Roman numeral in the title – “(III)”. It announces to the world that Herbert has tried before to tackle this topic and never managed to nail it down. But he’s not a quitter. He keeps trying, and don’t we all, or almost all, when it comes to figuring out love? It’s a big topic, a mighty one, so no wonder the poet keeps working at it. Pleasure from a Roman numeral? Yes.

Of course, George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote almost entirely as a religious poet, so a savvy reader might read this poem as one more of the poet’s many examinations of religious devotion. Love (I) can be read either way, and Love (II) can, too. But Love (III) – well, I don’t see or hear God in it. I prefer to think the speaker in the poem turns from Heaven to Home this time (as the Impressionist painters did – from myth to the picnic table, from Venus on a clam shell to the artist’s sister sitting at a window) and he writes a love poem to celebrate the fact that he is welcomed in.

Who does the welcoming in? It’s Love. Is she flirtatious? Gentle? Fierce? Lusty? Passionate? Tremulous? How would she have said the word “Welcome” to him when he appeared at her door? Would it have been throaty? Intimate? Whispered? Is it gestural and unvoiced – a bit of body language? After many readings, I don’t know yet, but when saying the poem aloud I can make her sound any way I imagine, as long as her voice builds up honestly to the adverb “sweetly” in Line 5. So the tone – especially for the modern reader – can be sweetly tongue in cheek, sweetly seductive, sweetly insistent, sweetly tender, sweetly concerned. It can be all of the above.

In any case, the soul of the speaker in the poem draws back from Love, since he is “guilty of dust and sin.” To be guilty of sin, that’s common. But to be “guilty of dust”? I have no real idea what the phrase means – dust as in dust-to-dust, as in mortality, the way “dust” is used in Love (I and II)? Dust as in metaphorical dustiness – age, timidity, priggishness, repression? Not knowing the answer isn’t a problem. I don’t need to understand completely, because I love the mystery of the phrase: guilty of dust.

There is something fluid to how a poem seeps into a reader – and as Yakich says, “wonder and confusion prevail.” To recall being guilty of sin under these circumstances – Love inviting you into her house to eat – certainly hints at a history of physical passion. Lady Love on the other hand is “quick-eyed” and doesn’t miss a thing, not even the fact that the speaker has gone “slack” as he enters in. Am I just imagining how embodied – how physical – this poem is? I don’t think so. Almost like a geisha, Love approaches, raises her eyes,  presses herself up against the speaker – well, that’s my imagination –  and asks whether he needs anything.

Frank Bidart once wrote a poem using the phrase “guilty of dust” as its title; there is no hint of religion in Bidart’s poem either, unless you believe that Fate is an aspect of religious belief. Instead, Bidart addresses a man’s many “baffled infatuations.” The voice in the speaker’s head claims with some certainty that “WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE.” But the speaker considers “the parade of my loves” and thinks of that parade as one full of “PERFORMERS comics actors singers.” The “love and fury and guilt / and sweetness” they produce seems to be in “DIVIDED CEASELESS / REVOLT AGAINST IT.” There’s no doubt Bidart took the phrase from Herbert’s poem, and Bidart is equally nonplussed by the way love insists itself upon the choices we think we make freely.

As I begin with Herbert’s poem, I’m aware there’s a rhyme scheme, I’m aware of the meter, I’m simultaneously thinking about form and content. Those formal elements march along –  left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. My English professor might have asked us to scan the poem metrically and to look up the biblical reference: Luke, Chapter 12, Verse 37: “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Someone suggests the same approach for teachers at The Poetry Foundation website. So a new reader might be encouraged to read the poem with certain formalities and inspirations in mind. But six lines in to this particular poem, don’t most readers put formalities and sources aside? By the time the eyes are mentioned, aren’t we aware only of the man’s nervous breathing, his protestations about being unworthy, and the woman’s warm invitations?

In the last stanza, I’m not sure why Love asks who bears the blame, nor why the speaker offers at that point to serve.  Does he mean he’ll serve the metaphorical meal? Or does he mean “I will serve,” meaning “I’ll do.” I have to engage my Buddhist-monk patience for those lines. As Yakich says in the Atlantic article, “A poem has no hidden meaning, only ‘meanings’ you’ve not yet realized are right in front of you. Discerning subtleties takes practice.” I am still trying to discern the subtleties of those lines. But then we arrive at the remarkable final couplet, ” ‘You must sit down,’  said Love, ‘and taste my meat.’ / So I did sit and eat.”  Perfect ending. In the penultimate line, the first stress falls on the word “must”  – she insists! – and the final stress of the line on the word “meat.” Love, in other words, is going to get her way. That man is going to sit down. He’s going to eat (the gulf between “my meat” in the biblical Book of Luke and the more suggestive “my meat” for a contemporary reader is wide and deep.)

Bonnard Table

The Checkered Tablecloth by Pierre Bonnard

The poem ends with a thought which allows the iambic pattern of the shorter line to fall apart, just like the man surrenders to Love –  “So I did sit…..[hear the pause?]….and eat.” Following the regular iambic pattern, the line would sound like this: “So I / did SIT / and EAT.”  But doesn’t that “did” beg to receive the stress?  “So I / DID sit…/and EAT.” In that booby trapped space, we fall into the caesura – the long pause between  “sit” and “and eat.” Formalities takes a tumble.  We take a tumble. And Love triumphs.

It’s an exciting poem and, to the ear of a 21st-century reader, undeniably erotic. Whether its author meant it to be – whether his religious nerve endings vibrated to something suggestive or not – is another question, but once the poem comes into me, it belongs to me. “Love (III)”  – third times a charm, George Herbert. I have the poem memorized, just in case Fate takes me to that desert island and I find a parrot or two to share it with.

—Julie Larios

 

HeadsJulie Larios contributes her Undersung essays to the pages of Numero Cinq, along with an occasional review and poem or two. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and her work has been chosen twice for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series. This is her first “Closer Look” essay for NC. A full bio and links to all reviews, poems and essays for Numero Cinq can be seen here. You can find more of her thoughts about poetry (for children and adults) at her blog, The Drift Record.

.
.

Jan 062016
 

George Fetherling

.

Travel

Back there our cheeks were
gouged by tears that rinsed our face of knowing.
Eyes weak from pleading, ears grown deaf to sirens,
earth overrun with data while here
the sky is full of context and clouds
provide perspective.

We had to go when things got skewed.
Gin was all we had for washing.
We cleaned our teeth with ashes
but the ashes being yours were sweet.

This is not departure but refusal to remain
not a leaving but an uncoming.

Best keep unread what was printed.
What the recto said to the verso is no one else’s business.
Write it down and salt it well.
The proverbs lack the verbs they chaperone.

We’re heading for that line beyond which
there is no more statute only case law
whenever events break one way and not another.

Ours is a haphazard journey to places
more random than I’m making them sound.

We’ll travel till the country runs out of space
and all the witnesses have died.

This sensation of movement gives me
a dangerous confidence that stretches
noon all the way to midnight and unsolves old crimes.

History neatly tucked away, the splatter patterns
and the long trail of debris.

Stage fright? don’t be silly. The audience
is afraid of me.

J’ai grandi en pleine cambrousse but no more
defiant acts of belonging.

I know a man who deals in second-hand names
and works both sides of the river.

The morgue is decorated for halloween.

Give me a number where I can reach you.

.

Reply to Closing Arguments

Your dreams were far more grotesque than mine and they came true.

You took the world by subterfuge thinking your insults would
protect you from the vulnerabilities you lack.
All the while you professed a new approach to nightmare abatement.
But don’t some problems heal themselves if we refrain from taunting?
This is a yes or no question Your Honour.
I hope the court will instruct the plaintiff to choose one or the other.

Was progress a requirement when you stepped onstage,
perpetuating stereotypes of those old twin lusts: to live the
embassy life but also despair of it?

My sorrow in this matter runs the risk of infection.

You can’t address this as you did those partnerships annulled
in flashes of ceremony in distant jurisdictions
where the streets are forever leafy and the sun luminous
once springtime returns to the Liberated Zone.

.

The File Clerk

You update the files with facts you forget
have already been inserted.

The less life remaining, the less patience too
yet the greater your urgency to classify
and betray.

To claim the reward is not reward enough.

It’s all about time, isn’t it?
Another block of days crossed off the calendar
as the user fees nickel-and-dime us to death.

.

Sunrise

This morning I met a one-armed priest who spread his motto selflessly
and lost an argument with the security cameras down by
the meditation pond.

That first sunrise scarred me for life with its fake urges
and level-one secrets and claims that can’t be verified
even now.

I’ve never forgotten the promise of relief implicit in the dusk
though the trees looked a bit uncertain.
What I mistook for thunder was simply the transit
of day to night that left confusion in the space between.

I can sense when one phase is ending, but who knows what happens next?
Events have numbed us. Ambiguity everywhere.
We, all of us, depart the centre for our separate corners.-
Hijinks, mild explosives, blacked-out trains feeling their way
cross-country in the dark.

—George Fetherling

.

George Fetherling is a poet, novelist and cultural commentator. He has published 50 books of poetry, fiction, criticism, history and biography. Some of the more recent are The Sylvia Hotel Poems, the novel Walt Whitman’s Secret and a revised 20th anniversary edition of the memoir Travels by Night. He lives in Toronto and Vancouver. Xtra described him as “something of a national literary treasure” and the Toronto Star called him a “legendary” figure in Canadian writing.

.
.

Jan 032016
 

Afric high res bio pic

.

A River of Familiars

I have a cat that sharpens her scent on men.
……………I netted her from the river, called her mother.

Perhaps there’s a cat-flap in the sky,
……………because sometimes my mother’s a golden owl.

I have a memory cat that in a past life
……………knew the taste of golden whiskey.

My cat has a curiosity about the whiskey-crazy
……………wish for public nudity.

I have a crazy city cat with a lightning dart
……………across her lazy eye.

And my lightning cat has an earring, just the one,
……………mother-of-pearl. Call it intuition.

And seven secret positions, the last
……………a chanting lotus. I have a cat that doesn’t exist.

I have a penchant for jumping trains, inhaling
……………with each knock. I have a sister cat who inhales too.

I have a lover who becomes a lion under the glassy moon.
……………And the cat exhales her wail, like an accordion.

One cat is a grand, glass-lidded, gleaming ivory,
……………the light, not yet put out.

First-born, I am, of a cat who cycles lightly
……………inside his mansion full of stories, war and music.

My cat and I wear twenty masks when singing
……………out in rain, take it, like a wafer, on the tongue.

I have a cat that purrs in white and black
……………or foggy smoke rings, belly up.

As a foggy curtain rises, a missing cat
……………runs rings around the time inside a clock.

.

Confluence

His manner is reserved,
a little secretive.
He scours the room, which also pines
for colour; moves
to the window’s blazing snap of light.

Her age depends on the light,
especially the collarbone’s
slight hollow at the V,
a wishbone, which gives luck
only when broken.

He is both still and moving,
like a tree in the trembling
haul of spring,
building up its nests
and growing puddles.

She spends the water
with spread fingers.
He is afraid of loss –
it’s easier to have nothing.
No way in for the water; no way out.

It’s herself she’s in danger from,
seizing a handful of electric wire,
as though clutching-
for-dear-life
a hank of drowning hair.

He paints what’s left behind.
A thought-ghost grieves,
disturbed by mutation;
like seeing the bones of tiny,
once-swimming fish.

She notes there’s no
fountain swishing,
only light.
Weightlessness
encloses her.

They share a reading
of each other’s bodies
among the hung-up coats,
mud-sucked boots;
the track.

They look up to find
the sky wiped free
of the drench;
his voice shifting
to a minor key.

.

Contact

God and the Devil are one – Karen Blixen

I

Chopper’s genuflection;
a whoomph disturbs the air.

Clansmen and women offer fruit;
a whoomph disturbs

a calabash, spills water;
a whoomph: white walls, a flare.

II

A mob; Kalashnikovs and rocks.
He cowers in a corner.

Hands seize
on splintered glass.

A looming face, teeth yellow-
stained from chewing khat

spring-loaded spittle
screaming hate.

III

The sea receives more bodies,
lays them on a beach.

Crossings lead
to razor wire, new fences.

IV

Boycotts and defences dance
like pirouettes, a paintbrush.

V

At an army base: ‘I believe
he had no faith.’

The chaplain’s agitated. ‘But
we’ve got to say a prayer

before we zip the bag.
It’s always been the way.’

.

Blink

They stream invisibly,
like phantom-birds past
a tarred window,

all the houses.
The first African one,
a hammerkop, all messy crest;

another, a paradise fly-catcher;
a third, a heron.
Sometimes they brushed

the edge of wild bush,
or a silvery river,
warming their tails

in the sun, till the vanishing.
One for each year
of a migratory childhood.

Long corridors, tall steps,
cold rooms, glass roofs.
Across a hemisphere,

some stood on lawns,
bright as sugar.
We dressed them up,

like mannequins, knowing
them to be temporary playthings
before another re-crossing.

Tucked at the end of a long cul-de-sac,
one comes close
to what you’d call home:

close enough to look into the glossy
pellet of a sun-struck eye,
see the malachite-amber blur.

But it slips through my fingers,
and once again I am left with another
feather-gold flickering.

.

Portrait of the Other

Like art (an addiction,
not a cure), you’re

the moonlit flit from
silk to gold, to wings

to glass; light as cats,
and sniper-accurate;

a heliotropic paradox
facing five horizons.

You’re a pack of jokers,
deuces, three-eyed queens;

the immensity of an
ocean or inferno;

you’re a shadow-grue,
sunlight and lawn,

and all the time
in the world.

.

—Afric McGlinchey

 

Afric McGlinchey was born in Ireland. She grew up in Southern Africa, moving frequently between countries, and received degrees from Rhodes University and the University of Cape Town, where she was tutored by the Nobel prize-winner, JM Coetzee. She has also lived in London, Paris, Dublin and Spain. She returned to Ireland in 1999 and currently lives in West Cork. Her début poetry collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, was published in 2012 by Salmon Poetry. The poems featured above are from her second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat, which is forthcoming in February 2016 (Salmon Poetry).

.
.

Dec 142015
 

k. a. Moritz

.

Proof

There’s so much snow
it swallows the hems of the wind chimes
and our fingers split
and they never seem to heal.
Blood seeps out when we’re excited.

As with Odysseus,
you will recognize me
by the scar on my thigh.

We give pain.
We take it with us,
carry it, too.

.

If Francesca Woodman Were My Taxidermist

Amazed she is alive, my childhood cat.
Her markings as oiled and flaked as cod (cooked).
Black, brown, and white.
A jagged line runs down her forehead
Stitching her face in half
As she stands on her elbows
And mouths to me,
About forgetting her under the steps.

When the memory drags itself back
I want to
throw
myself
through
walls.

It comes randomly:
Driving along the interstate,
As I drift through the shadow of the overpass.
Or,
When I’m on a street,
Passing cafes and people laughing,
Their wine glasses held high,
Their arms as thin as the necks of birds.

Somewhere, the door to a display case opens:
Ashy phosphenes blur
The camera’s eye.
Through a broken window
Long-nailed air strokes whiskers and feathers,
Her underarm hair.
She lifts her hands, her face blurred into
Pixels on a page.
Unlike her, I wake.
My fingers searching for fur.

.

D_ _ r  

The driveway is punctuated with grain.
Although April is in a matter of days,
Apples aren’t enough.
There’s still so much snow,
Still the nights clear their way into the negatives.

You can tell the deer are hungry.
They sashay down the dirt road,
And flip their ears and flip their tails, unafraid.
Even the blue jays look thin and muddy.
The black moles that burrow beneath the birdfeeder,
Come out and charge me when I walk by.

We’re all living with a need now:
Last night I dreamt I saw you at a party,
Amidst the lights, I saw embroidered on your sweater,
your name, missing all the vowels.

.

The Callous

The liquid inside is gone.
The yellow dome,
Thick and rubbery,
That too is gone.

When you sit, with your legs crossed
Lotus style,
You can see in a very simple
And clean way,
That your heel is missing
A hunk of flesh.

You may want to figure it out:
Why the hole reminds you of a past lover
Or maybe a current one.
When you place the tip of your finger
Into it and feel the new pink skin inside,
Why it feels erotic and sad
At the same time.

If you were smaller,
The size of a child’s toy,
You could count the rings of skin
That you had to cut away.

.

Soiled

Where is your placenta buried?
I’ve been thinking
About my own
Place-ment.

Means to place, meant to place me
There. Or here. Wherever.

Under the covers
Wombmanmade
I used to sleep next to you
As close as I could get
Our beds pushed together
My body pressed into the crack
As if I were digging against the trench
Between two tectonic plates
That slowly drift apart:

You?
Me?
(no!)

I told you about this idea
Asked about my placenta
And you had cried, saying

You had buried my placenta
In your dead mother’s backyard.

.

Clean

I dream I leave the burner on,
that your Altoids turn to car keys,
that in the middle of saying I love
you
bury your face in my breasts and huff the skin like a drug.

The next morning, you pack up your things: your t-shirt, your socks.
I’m awkward as I drink my coffee.
Did you use the toothbrush from last time?
Is it still wrapped in its napkin?

Saying goodbye is as sad as
seeing a Schwan’s meal delivery truck on Thanksgiving.

.

After you go,

………………….I run past homes

 .

……………………………………….. …..and I smell laundry

……………………………………………………………………………..being cleaned.

.

Punctum

I was alone and I was cold when I fell asleep with Roland Barthes.
Some stupid television show on in the background
The blue of the TV climbing up the walls like mold.
This old motor-inn smells like abandonment.
A sort of loneliness that settles over you
After you sleep with someone
You don’t understand
Let alone love.

Earlier I took a shower in the dark
The light kept buzzing, like a fly.
I was afraid it would fall out of the ceiling, into the water
And kill me.
Dead on the fake plastic floor.
My arm and hand unfurling out of the bathroom
Out onto the green shag carpet.

I wake up in between commercials, Camera Lucida on my breasts
I’m dreaming in segments
My mind a community of photographs
The image repertoire always a thought out of reach
But I try to grasp it
I close my eyes but the faces and bodies fade
A micro death?
And what of love? Of grief? Of dreaming?
Maybe I’m just getting my connotations all mixed up

Moving from X to Z, stuck at Y
Y am I here? Y an inevitable death? Y is it taking so long for the heat
To move a few degrees?

—k. a. Moritz

.

Currently residing in Vermont’s rural Northeast Kingdom, k.a. Moritz has begun work on her latest project, the NEcK, a publication that will showcase the gritty and rugged landscapes of life, both internally and externally. Aside from writing, she runs, eats, and juggles a variety of jobs. Moritz lives with her two cats, Fish and Fearless Marble.

.
.

Dec 112015
 

lescarbot2

.

This poem in Alexandrine verses was written by a Parisian lawyer, Marc Lescarbot, who had joined the early French settlement at Port-Royal, near present-day Annapolis Royal on the Annapolis Basin of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. After a year of active engagement in its development he was obliged to leave again in July 1607, at which time he composed this extraordinary description of the country’s resources as an inducement for continued investment in the venture he so ardently supported. The reason for his departure and the abandonment of Port-Royal was the financial difficulty of Pierre du Gua, Sieur De Monts, and his associates, whose monopoly on the fur trade had been abruptly canceled by the King of France, Henry IV. The poem appears in a collection of similar occasional verse entitled Les Muses de la Nouvelle-France that was added to Lescarbot’s Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, written after his return to France. The writing of the poem was started just before departing the Port-Royal and continued at sea. It is, in effect, the first extensive poetic description of Canada. Whilst there are translations of the Histoire, I have yet to discover an English translation of this poem. The text of this translation is based on the third edition of the Histoire de la Nouvelle-France of 1617, published electronically in 2007 by the Gutenberg Project at www.gutenberg and produced by Rénald Lévesque.

champlain detail3Detail from Champlain map, Nova Scotia, Bay of Fundy, etc.

Why did Lescarbot decide to go overseas in the first place? The reason he gives for wanting to go to New-France is a set-back he suffered as a lawyer in court due to a corrupt judge. He was, therefore, personally predisposed to find a better, uncorrupted world.

The start of the poem (1-12) is highly rhetorical and polemical, with an expression of Lescarbot’s personal regret at having to leave this beautiful place (1, cf. 25, 33, 47, 59) and three indignant rhetorical questions intended to shame his compatriots for their lack of constancy in abandoning the new settlement and the investment and efforts already expended, as well as chiding them for their dishonorable failure in establishing a new province of France (2-12), combining personal, aesthetic, moral, economic, patriotic and imperial motives. The polemical element is raised to the highest level later on, when Lescarbot reminds the King of his duty as a Christian monarch to spread the faith (167-176); he even questions the Lord God directly as to why he left the Native peoples out of his divine plan (293-304). These are themes of the highest order in literature, the duty of Kings and the ways of God to man, typically treated in epic and drama, but here combined with the profit motive. Significantly, the religious mission of the King is linked directly to the bounty of the land specifically created by God, he maintains, to motivate the King and to attract the French to the exploitation of its resources (177-180), thus connecting commerce with the spread of the Christian faith. Moreover, Lescarbot expresses regret that his intended audience, i.e. the French generally but specifically present and potential investors, do not know the attractions of the country (13-16). The actual phrase used in line 14, the “attractive lures”, serves to whet the appetite by introducing the lure of profit to be gained from the exploitation of its resources. Admittedly, these investors had just suffered a great loss due to a Fleming (Flamen = Flamand, 15), who had acquired furs along the St. Lawrence ahead of the French and robbed theirs as well, along with their canon. Lescarbot suggests that the investors will make good on their losses with compound interest (usure, 16). These are the addressees referred as vous in lines 9, 10 and 13, whereas nous in lines 3, 5, and 7 refer to the French collectively, with all of them being accused of a lack of steadfastness (3).

After this highly charged opening aimed at the main addressees of the poem, and following a prayer for safe passage back to France that emphasises the danger of the journey and the physical as well as spiritual distance of the “new peoples”(19-24), Lescarbot launches into a description detailing all the attractive and productive features of Port-Royal and its topography: a secure harbour, protected on both sides by hills and mountains (25-26), alluvial flats along the shoreline providing grazing for the plentiful game (27-30), and springs and streams making for well-watered valleys (31-32), with plenty of rain mentioned later(351-354). The emphasis on the presence of water is significant, suggesting a frame of reference based on the Mediterranean, with a climate perennially short of sufficient moisture in summer. Significant also is the mention of an unnamed island hyperbolically said to be worthy of the greatest king on earth (54-55) and whose commanding role is foreseen through an epic simile (37-41) in that its elevated headland dominates the surrounding plain, again a Mediterranean and, more generally, European ideal for the location of a fortified city or citadel. This city is ready to be built from the rocks supplied by the sea shore (43-44). Lescarbot introduces here (53-56) and throughout a prospective element of development and a potential for growth seen in terms of urbanization and permanent occupation by married settlers (57-58), the physical, economic and social cornerstones of European society.

Next, he invokes the fertility of the place, based on his own experience in developing gardens and working the fields at Port-Royal (61-62). Working the soil seems to have endeared the country to him as well as giving him a sense of –collective- ownership. It is also rather unique for an early visitor-explorer to have actually mixed his sweat with the soil in this way to test its fertility. At the same time, there is an idyllic element in the description (47-52) of a lovely little stream amidst the young greenery of a little valley in the hollow of the island’s bosom to which he “has lent his side” many times because of its beauty. This is a gratuitous detail that escapes the preoccupation with turning nature into culture: it introduces, not just the literary commonplace of the locus amoenus, or plaisance, ultimately based on the description of the Vale of Tempe in ancient Greece, but also a personal and, in fact, sensuous experience. Lescarbot’s originality in this has been noted by the critics. Paolo Carile has pointed out that, whereas in Champlain, beauty of nature is identified with utility, in Lescarbot the natural environment is estheticised from personal experience. He notes other literary innovations as well. The Farewell poem was a known genre restricted to a sentimental good-bye to a woman loved: in Lescarbot’s version, the object of desire changes to a colony in North America, here personified by the lovely island. Similarly, regret at leaving a place is a known literary theme, usually combined with praise of its various features; Lescarbot extends this to the resources of the country and the profit to be gained from them. The new context, colonialism and mercantile capitalism, occasioned a novel and hybrid genre along with a new purpose. In terms of point of view, we may add here the novelty of a poetic eyewitness account based on first-hand experience, rather than an imaginary description of the New World with many fantastic features as we have them in earlier literature. The systematic observation of flora, fauna, and the four seasons, adds a scientific element.

After mentioning the products of nature that grow spontaneously (65-66) he starts his elaborate praise (los= laus in Latin, 63) of the natural resources with a catalogue of the countless types of fish providing nourishment in Spring (73-106), including well-known varieties such as herring (77-79), so plentiful, it alone could make a people rich (78) and, of course, cod, so abundant that it is said to provide sustenance for almost the entire universe (101-108). In all, 27 types are mentioned but there are a thousand more unknown varieties (99). Lescarbot’s catalogues have been linked by past commentators with the Natural History of Pliny the Elder and, more generally, with the encyclopedic tradition of Antiquity, Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with the enumeration of curiosities found in travel narratives, and with the scientific poets of the 16th Century. The catalogues can also be linked to Adam’s naming of God’s creatures (Gen. 2.19) as a form of appropriation, of taking possession of the earth and having dominion “over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air”(Gen. 1. 26, 28). I would like to suggest yet another connection. We are now solidly in the territory of hyperbole and idealisation, recurring stylistic features that elevate this potentially pedestrian description of resources into the realm of the epic paragon or nul-pareil, ultimately serving the promotional purpose of the poem. The association with the epic is suggested as well by Lescarbot’s use of Alexandrine verse which is typically associated with elevated diction and grand and dramatic themes. The poet chose the same verse form for his heroicising account of the raid of the Micmac chief Membertou against the Armouchiquois across the Bay of Fundy also found in Les Muses de la Nouvelle-France.

All the desirable natural wealth enumerated here will make the future settler of this other (promised) land more blessed with a miraculous food supply than the manna of the Hebrews in the desert or the nectar of the blessed spirits of Greek myth (106-12). Throughout, Lescarbot easily mixes mythologies, pagan with Christian, as in lines 167-172 where he invokes the eagles of Jupiter to bring the decree of the King of Kings to the French Monarch, commanding him to spread the Christian faith. God’s omnipotence is demonstrated by the presence of the biggest sea creature of all, the whale (113-119) that comes into the bay daily. Winter provides shellfish, giving nourishment even to the poor and the improvident (125-128), as well as an opportunity for hunting large game and fur-bearing animals, especially the beaver, whose dens Lescarbot finds a thousand times more admirable in their construction than European palaces (135-140). It is remarkable, though, that Lescarbot does not make more of the fur trade at this point. It was the most profitable enterprise, but also the most contentious and problematic because of the competition from the English and the Dutch as well as the opposition from other French merchants to the monopoly of De Monts and his associates. In the final analysis, Lescarbot personally preferred agriculture over trade. This is followed by a catalogue of 37 birds (184-232), including a description of the previously unknown humming bird, seen as another example of God’s omnipotence in creating the smallest bird of all (205-232).

It is not only in his creatures that Lescarbot sees the hand of God. The very bounty of nature and its pleasures have been created by God to attract the French to this land where their labours will be rewarded in proportion to their desires (177-180), in order to propagate the faith which, moreover, is the God-given duty of the French King (173-176). Colonisation is ultimately justified by the religious imperative. Lescarbot himself gave religious instruction on Sundays to le petit peuple, the French workers and artisans of the colony; the leader of the colony, Poutrincourt, likewise instructed the Micmac (305-310). Autumn brings the harvest of the fields and gardens, in particular corn (blé d’Inde) that grows to prodigious heights (251-256), a harvest Lescarbot regrets not seeing because of his premature departure (257-266). Surprisingly, the climate is said to be not as cold as that of NW Europe (269-274), mainly because Lescarbot happened to experience only one mild winter (no snow until December 31, 1606 which promptly melted, and continuous snow cover only in February) and because of the varied impact of the Little Ice Age which saw the river Thames frozen over during the winter of 1607. Incidentally, there is a detailed and delightful recent description of the seasons on Annapolis Basin by Harold Horwood, a Newfoundlander who took up residence there and who mentions surprisingly mild winters, entitled Dancing on the Shore.

After this elaborate praise of the natural resources and the proven potential for agriculture, Lescarbot turns to the native inhabitants, the Micmac, whom he presents as in many respects superior to the French morally (329-340), while asserting their common humanity (297-298). He also makes an argument based on cultural relativism comparing the culture of the native population with that of nations of antiquity elaborated in Bk. 6 of his Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, entitled “Description des Moeurs Souriquoises Comparées A Celles d’Autres Peuples” (M.-C Pioffet, Marc Lescarbot: Voyages 2007, pp. 241-471) and comparing Micmac hospitality with that of the ancestors of the French themselves, the Gaulois. (321-322, 339-340). This comparative approach and the implicit transfer of the prestige of antiquity culminate in the work of the Jesuit Lafitau comparing the Iroquois with the early Greeks, Romans and Hebrews. Lescarbot’s cultural relativism even extends to language when he chooses to retain a Micmac word rather than imposing a “foreign” French name on a creature unknown to him (223-224). And he actually makes the now familiar ethnological distinction between hunter-gatherers and (semi-)sedentary cultivators of the earth, while privileging the latter way of life, as all Europeans did (285-290). The only respect in which their condition is deplorable is the fact that they lack the faith which –he maintains- they are eager to receive (291-314, cf. 166; by contrast, the first Jesuit missionary, Pierre Biard, relates a few years later that the Micmac listened to him politely but did not change their views one iota. The native people he has come into contact with (321-328), in particular the Micmac, are “subtle,” skillful or intelligent, possess good judgement, and are not lacking in understanding (321-324). They only require a “father” to teach them to cultivate the earth and the vine, and to live civilly in permanent habitations(321-328; cf. 287-290), thus combining paternalism with agriculture, viticulture and urbanism, the basis of Mediterranean culture. The main vice that he attributes to them is the desire for vengeance (341-342), a vice actually shared by the poet himself (390-393), and he criticises them for being improvident when it comes to securing an adequate food supply (125-131; 327). Clearly, the hunter-gathers’ apparent pattern of feast or famine appears to him as a moral failing: Lafontaine’s fable of the ant and the cricket comes to mind here. Overall Lescarbot’s presentation reflects, on the one hand, Montaigne’s notion of the bon sauvage unspoilt by civilisation, and, on the other, the largely positive first encounter between the French and the Micmac. It also serves the promotional discourse by stressing the duty of the French king and higher clergy to introduce the faith to these model catechumens. In fact, Lescarbot sees conversion not as a side benefit of colonisation; rather, the prospective harvest of souls is the ultimate goal (162-166), supported by the mercantile venture and the country’s resources. His religious and utopian motives, focused on an agricultural community of French settlers flanked by Native agriculturalists (287-290), become increasingly evident through sheer repetition as the poem progresses ( 59-64; 181-183; 251-264; 287-290; 321-329; 396-411), culminating at its conclusion in lines 423-426.

Significantly, mineral resources are only introduced briefly toward the end of the poem (385-388).   Clearly none of these had been developed (Lescarbot speaks of nurseries or breeding grounds of mines, 385) and the poet only gives a sketchy account of them, mentioning bronze (actually an alloy as he probably meant copper), iron, steel (a man-made product) and silver as well as coal. In an earlier farewell poem, he still expresses the hope that silver and gold will be discovered (Adieu aux François, August 25, 1606), the two most desirable get-rich- quick minerals universally sought after by European rulers and their explorers in the Americas. In the original charter issued by Henry IV in 1603, De Monts was specifically charged to bring home any gold and silver. Clearly, Lescarbot has given up on this prospect, hence the emphasis on agricultural produce and the potential for settlement of French colonists. As if to compensate, he does add, at the very end (412-422), almost as an afterthought, a luxury product, the high quality “silk” worthy of kings and produced by local hemp which could lead to a textile industry manned by Native(?) workers who have chosen to become sedentary.

On balance we can assume that French investors would not have been impressed by this prospectus that mainly emphasises agriculture and settlement. The cod fishery was already established in Newfoundland waters, a location much closer to Europe, and De Monts’ monopoly on the fur trade had been cancelled by the King, although a final one-year extension was granted after the colonists’ return. Lescarbot must have sensed the weakness of his case as he finished his poem by extolling, in compensation, the moral superiority of agriculture as a pure, untroubled way of life far from poverty, the madding crowd of his French homeland, and its deceit (423-426), possibly reflecting his own motives for leaving France in the first place and recalling the idealisation of the simple farmer by the Roman poet Virgil. And the “victory” attributed by Lescarbot to De Monts (363-384) is therefore only a moral victory to compensate for the failure of the enterprise as well as its disastrous first winter on the Ile de Sainte-Croix off the coast of New Brunswick, saluted by Lescarbot in passing on his return journey (363-384).

The Church did not rush in either to fund missionaries. The first Jesuit missionary, Pierre Biard, had to wait for years before he could sail for Port-Royal in 1611, not until a private sponsor was found in the Marquise de Guercheville, who raised funds through a subscription and had to buy into the commercial enterprise in order to secure passage for Biard and his companion, Énemond Massé. She actually had to buy out the two Huguenot merchants from Dieppe who were unwilling to take the two Jesuits on board; similarly Maria de Medici, the widow of the late King Henry, assisted financially in bringing about this first Jesuit mission to Canada. However, financial support was to remain problematic. The actual practice of supporting the missionary activity through profits from the fur trade made the Jesuit missionaries into competitors and led to conflict, in France and in Port-Royal. The whole concept of directly supporting religion through commerce was misguided.

In essence, Lescarbot’s account idealizes Port-Royal, but occasionally, less attractive aspects of the colony do make an appearance: its distance from France (21-22, 381), loneliness (162), the absence of female company (57), the need to improve the agricultural land (249-250), and the dangers of the North Atlantic (6, 21, 358, 380), in particular fog (349-350). Yet, despite these drawbacks, the poem testifies frequently to his profound personal disappointment at its abandonment (1-2, 160-161, 164, 170, 257-264, 344) arising from his own involvement and labour (61-62). The poet is a convert to his own cause. As such, the poem represents a final, almost desperate attempt to “sell” Port-Royal to his fellow Frenchmen by appealing at one and the same time to their financial, patriotic, imperial, as well their esthetic, moral and religious instincts, enhanced by the affective quality of his poetry and carried by the poetic licence of hyperbole in a variety of voices: from lament to praise, and from prayer to adhortation. The purpose is rhetorical, to persuade others of the lawyer’s cause. In terms of genre, we can add polemic, commercial prospectus, natural history and ethnography to the epic and idyllic elements already mentioned. Pioffet and Lachance speak of a “hymn to diversity and abundance” (cf. 106-108, 110-113, 158-159). The modification of the poetic genre of the Adieu from animate to inanimate addressee entails the figure of personification in the direct address of the island (55-57, 61, 109, 111, 158) and of the Earth itself (403-411), suggesting the pronounced symbolic value of the “New World”.

Lescarbot never returned to Canada but his little-known poem marks a unique text in comparison with other French explorers to Canada who all wrote in prose and hence, by definition, are far more prosaic in their ideas and expression, all the more so since they regarded the land purely in terms of its utility, as Carile has pointed out. At the same time, Lescarbot’s text throws into high relief a period of early European colonisation when the motives of imperialism, early mercantile capitalism, religion, and utopian idealism were joined uneasily. What is not unique is the fact that ownership of the land and its resources is not brought up in the poem. Lescarbot does address contemporary criticism of the appropriation of Native land at the end of the chapter “À la France” in the Introduction to the third edition of his Histoire de la Nouvelle-France where he provides the following theological justification: God has created the earth for man to possess; the Natives have not fulfilled this mission; Christians are the privileged children of God and hence, presumably, entitled to take possession. In other words, Native land use is seen as an underutilisation of its resources, creating a God-given opportunity for European colonists. Land and sea are presented as virtually crying out to be exploited. The underlying pattern is one of undervaluing Native culture and overvaluing one’s own claim, along with the local resources, which, even where modest, are presented as fabulous and there for the taking. One is reminded how persistent these attitudes are and how recent the realisation of their consequences.

—Haijo Westra

§

NOTES ON THE TRANSLATION

Only a verse translation would do justice to the rapturous tone and persuasive impact of the French original. The prose translation presented here inevitably falls short in these respects but makes available a unique text that offers some surprises in terms of its own conceptions of language, translation, and authenticity. Specifically, Lescarbot makes a point of maintaining the Micmac words of creatures he is unfamiliar with: Poulamou (= tomcod, line 89); Nibachés (raccoon, 155); and Niridau (=hummingbird, l. 223). In the last case he even considers the imposition of a French name to be inauthentic and he is able to conceive of his own language as foreign in this context (223-4). It should be kept in mind that the French names Lescarbot gives to native plants, birds and fishes derive from the other side of the Atlantic and are not necessarily accurate. For example, the laurier (laurel) of line 67 is not native to North America. The Joubar of line 95 is not a fish but the fin(back) whale, according to Ganong. See also Saunders, Speck, and Wallis in Deal’s bibliography for nomenclature. The Rivière de l’Équille (Sand Eel River, 91-92) already had its name changed to Rivière du Dauphin by Champlain; today, it is called Annapolis River. For a running commentary on all matters of translation, see the footnotes to the edition by Pioffet and Lachance.

§

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carile, Paolo.   Le Regard entravé. Littérature et anthropologie dans les premiers textes sur la Nouvelle-France. Septentrion, Sillery (Québec) 2000, pp. 68-82.

Deal, Michael. “ Paleoethnobotanical Research in the Maritime Provinces.” North Atlantic Archaeology 1 (2008) 1-23.

Ganong, W.F.   “The Identity of the Animals and Plants mentioned by the early Voyagers to Eastern Canada and Newfoundland.” Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Series 3, vol. 4, section 2 (1909) 197-242.

Lachance, Isabelle.   La Rhétorique des origines dans l’Histoire de la Nouvelle-France de Marc Lescarbot. Thèse de Ph.D. Université de McGill 2004.

Pioffet, Marie-Christine and Isabelle Lachance.   Marc Lescarbot. Poésies et opuscules sur la Nouvelle-France. Editions Nota Bene 2014, pp. 27-37, 99-120.

Pioffet, Marie-Christine.   Marc Lescarbot. Voyages en Acadie (1604-1607) suivis de La Description des moeurs souriquoises compares à celles d’autres peuples. Presses de l’Université Laval, 2007.

§

champlain detail4Detail from Champlain map

MARC LESCARBOT, A-DIEU A LA NOUVELLE-FRANCE du 30 Juillet 1607/ Farewell to New France, July 30, 1607: English translation

  1. Must we abandon <all> the beauties of this place
  2. And bid Port-Royal an eternal farewell?
  3. Shall we then forever be accused of inconstancy
  4. In the founding of [a] New France?
  5. What use is it to us to have borne so many labours
  6. To have battled the assault of the vexed waves
  7. If our hope is in vain, and if this province
  8. Does not bend under the laws of Henry, our Prince?
  9. What use is it to you to have
  10. Incurred useless costs, if you take no care
  11. To harvest the fruit of a long-term expenditure
  12. And the immortal honour of your patience?
  13. Ah! How I regret that you do not know
  14. The attractive lures of this land
  15. And even though the Fleming has caused you damage,
  16. Loss is often made good with compound interest.
  17. So that is why we must leave and get ready <to sail>
  18. And go to drop anchor in the harbour of Saint-Malo.

.

  1. FATHER OF THE UNIVERSE, who commands the waves,
  2. And who can cause the deepest sea to dry up
  3. Grant us to cross the watery abyss
  4. By which you have separated all these new<found> peoples
  5. From those who are baptized, and without shipwreck
  6. To soon see the shore of France’s Kingdom.

.

  1. Farewell, thus, beautiful coasts and mountains as well
  2. Which, with a double rampart, gird this harbor here.
  3. Farewell grassy glens which Neptune’s flood
  4. Bathes generously, twice with every moon,
  5. And to the <wild> game as well, which in order to find pasture
  6. Comes hither from all sides, there is so much vegetation.
  7. Farewell my sweet pleasure, springs and brooks
  8. Which water the valleys and the mountains with your moisture.
  9. How can I forget you, beautiful forested isle
  10. Rich ornament of this place and its basin?
  11. I prize all the sweet beauties of your sister
  12. Yet I prize even more your outstanding features.
  13. For, just as it is fitting for him who holds command
  14. To display a majesty more august and grand
  15. Than his subordinate; just so, to command
  16. You have an elevated headland which allows you oversight.
  17. Around you is an undulating plain,
  18. And the land in the vicinity <is> subject to your dominion.
  19. Your shores consist of rocks <suitable> for your buildings
  20. Or for laying the foundations of a city.
  21. In other places there is a little beach,
  22. Where a thousand times a day my spirit abides.
  23. But amidst <all> your beauties I admire a little stream
  24. Which presses gently the fresh herbage
  25. Of a little valley that descends in the hollow of your breast
  26. Plunging its course into the waves of the sea:
  27. Little stream that has tempted me a hundred times with its waters,
  28. Its charm forcing me to lie down beside it.
  29. Having all that, Island high and deep,
  30. Island worthy dwelling place of the greatest King on earth,
  31. Having all that, I say, what more can be lacking
  32. To create over there the city we need
  33. Except for every man to have his sweetheart by his side
  34. In the manner which God and the Church command?
  35. For your soil is good and fertile and pleasing
  36. And never its cultivator will be displeased with it.
  37. We <ourselves> are in a position to speak of it who, of many seeds
  38. Sown there have had first-hand experience.
  39. What else can I say worthy of the praise of your beauty?
  40. What shall I add here than that inside your domain
  41. One finds in great measure products of Nature:
  42. Raspberries, strawberries, peas, without any cultivation?
  43. Or shall I mention as well your verdant laurel bushes
  44. Your unknown medicinal herbs, your red currant bushes?
  45. No, but without leaving your bounds,
  46. I will touch upon the numerous armies
  47. Of the scaly creatures that come every day
  48. Following the tidal flow to bid you good day.

.

  1. As soon as the season of Spring returns
  2. The Smelt comes in abundance, bringing news
  3. That Phoebus, risen above your horizon
  4. Has chased far from you the wintry season.
  5. The Herring follows after with such multitude
  6. That it alone can make a people rich.
  7. My <own> eyes have witnessed this, and yours as well
  8. Who have had the care of our nourishment
  9. When, occupied elsewhere, your diligent hands
  10. Were unable to cope with the pleasing catch
  11. That the sluice of a mill sent into your nets.
  12. The Bass follows in the wake of the Herring
  13. And at the same time the little Sardine,
  14. The Crab, <and> the Lobster follow the sea shore
  15. With a similar result; the Dolphin, <and> the Sturgeon
  16. Arrive among the multitude together with the Salmon
  17. As do the Turbot, the Tomcod, <and> the Eel,
  18. The Shad, the Halibut, the Loach, and the Sand Eel:
  19. You, Sand Eel, although little, have impressed your name
  20. On that river whose renown I sing.
  21. But that is not all, for you have more
  22. Multitudes that pay you homage every day,
  23. The Pollock, the Finback Whale and the Squid and the Angler Fish,
  24. The Porpoise, The Blower Dolphin, the Sea Urchin, the Mackerel,
  25. You have the Grey Seal which, in a large pod
  26. Wallow in the light of day on your muddy bottom,
  27. You have the Dogfish, the Plaice , and a thousand other fish
  28. Which I do not know, nurselings of your waters.

 .

  1. Shall I not mention the happily fecund Cod
  2. Which abound throughout that sea everywhere.
  3. Cod, <even> if you are not one of those delicate dishes
  4. With which gourmets spice their plates,
  5. I will say nevertheless that by you is sustained
  6. Almost the entire universe. O, how content will be
  7. That person one day who will have at his doorstep
  8. That which a distant world will come to seek from it!
  9. Beautiful Isle, You therefore have that manna aplenty
  10. Which I love more than Taprobane’s
  11. Beauties that they deem worthy of the blessed ones
  12. Who go about drinking the fragrant nectar of the Gods.
  13. And to demonstrate one more time your supreme power
  14. Whales honour you daily, and come of their own accord
  15. To salute you every day, until the ebb leads them
  16. Into the wide Ocean where they have their pleasure.
  17. Of this I will render faithful testimony,
  18. Having seen them many times visit this shore
  19. And consort at their leisure inside this harbor.

.

  1. But all these animals, all these creatures <from> here
  2. Depart when Phebus is about to approach the boundary
  3. Of the celestial mansion, where dwells Capricorn,
  4. And go in search of the shelter of Thetys’s depth
  5. Or often seek out a milder region for their pasture.
  6. In this harsh season there only remain close to you
  7. Clams, Cockles, and Mussels
  8. To sustain the one who will not, in a timely fashion,
  9. (Either poor, or lazy) have done any harvesting,
  10. Such as the people here who take no care to hunt
  11. Until hunger constrains and pursues them,
  12. And the weather is not always favorable for the hunter
  13. Who actually does not wish for the mildness of good weather
  14. But strong ice, or deep snow
  15. When the Sauvage wants to catch from the watery depths
  16. The industrious Beaver (that builds its home
  17. On the lakeshore, where it fashions its lair
  18. Vaulted in a way incredible to man,
  19. And a thousand times more admirable than our palaces
  20. Leaving it only one exit towards the lake
  21. To cheer itself down in the watery element)
  22. Or when he wants to spy in the woods the lair
  23. Either of the Royal Moose or the fleet-footed Deer,
  24. Of the Rabbit, Fox, Caribou, Bear,
  25. Of the Squirrel, the Otter with its silken fur,
  26. Of the Porcupine, <and> the so-called wild Cat
  27. (Which rather has the body of a leopard)
  28. Of the Mink with its soft fur in which Kings clothe themselves
  29. Or the musk Rat, all dwellers of these woods,
  30. Or of that animal which, loaded with fat,
  31. Has the cunning skill to climb on high
  32. Building its lodge on an elevated branch
  33. To discourage the one who goes in pursuit of it
  34. And lives, by that ruse, in the greatest security
  35. Not fearing (as it seems) any violence:
  36. Nibachés <raccoon> is its name. Not that in spring
  37. He does not have occasion for that hunt
  38. But the catch from fishing is more reliable then.

.

  1. Farewell, therefore, I say unto you, Isle of abundant beauty,
  2. And you birds, too, of water and forest
  3. That will be the witnesses of my sad regrets.
  4. For it is with great regret, and I cannot pass over it in silence,
  5. That I leave this place, although rather solitary.
  6. For it is with great regret that now I see
  7. Shaken the subject of introducing our Faith here
  8. And the Name of our Great God hidden in silence,
  9. Who had touched the conscience of this people.
  10. Eagles that inhabit the tops of high pines
  11. Since Jupiter has entrusted his secrets to you,
  12. Go up to the heavens to announce this matter
  13. And how much suffering I have of this inside my soul,
  14. Then return swiftly to the French Monarch of France
  15. To relate to him the decree of the mighty King of Kings.
  16. For to him is given this inheritance from heaven
  17. In order that in his name hereafter <and> forever
  18. The Everlasting One be worshipped in a holy manner
  19. And that his great name be revered by a hundred nations.
  20. And to motivate him more to do this thing
  21. <God> has wanted to attract him by a hundred kinds of profit
  22. Having made our labours commensurate with our desires
  23. And having completed them with ten thousand pleasures.
  24. For the earth here is not as a fool would guess,
  25. <As> she produces copiously for him who has experience
  26. Of the pleasures of gardening and the labour of the fields.

.

  1. And if you want the sweet song of birds as well,
  2. <This land> has the Nightingale, the Blackbird, the Linnet,
  3. And many another not known that sings pleasantly
  4. In Spring. If you want fowl
  5. That go and feed on the water’s edge
  6. <This land> has the Cormorant, the Mallow, the Seagull,
  7. The Canada Goose, the Heron, the Crane, the Lark,
  8. And the Goose , and the Duck. Six types of Duck,
  9. Whose many colours make as many lures
  10. That rivet my eyes. Do you want also
  11. Those birds of prey with which the Nobleman distinguishes himself?
  12. <This land> has the Eagle, the Owl, the Falcon, the Vulture,
  13. The Saker Falcon, the Sparrow Hawk, the Merlin, the Goshawk,
  14. And, in short, all the birds of noble hawking
  15. And beyond these yet another infinite multitude
  16. Which we do not have in common. But <this land> has the Curlew
  17. The Egret, the Cuckoo, the Woodcock, and the Redwing,
  18. The Dove, the Jay, the Owl, the Swallow,
  19. The Woodpigeon, the Green Finch, with the Turtledove,
  20. The Hoopoe, the lascivious Sparrow,
  21. The multi-coloured Ptarmigan, and also the Crow.
  22. What more shall I say? Will someone <at least> be able to believe
  23. That God himself has wanted to manifest his glory
  24. By creating a little bird similar to a butterfly
  25. (That does not exceed the size of a cricket)
  26. Displaying on its back a green-golden plumage
  27. And a red and white colour on the rest of its chest.
  28. Amazing little bird, why then, <as if> envious,
  29. Have you made yourself invisible to my eyes a hundred times,
  30. While passing lightly by my ear
  31. You only left the marvel of a soft sound?
  32. I would not have been cruel to your rare beauty
  33. <Un>like others who have treated you fatally
  34. If you had deemed me worthy to come and portray you.
  35. But although you did not want to hear my wish
  36. I will not give up celebrating your name nevertheless
  37. And make that you be of great renown among us.
  38. For I admire you as much in your smallness
  39. As I do the elephant in its vast size.
  40. Niridau is your name which I do not wish to change
  41. In order to impose one that would be foreign:
  42. Niridau, delicate little bird by nature,
  43. That takes the sweet nourishment of bees
  44. Syphoning the fragrant flowers of our gardens,
  45. And the rarest sweets from the forest edge.

.

  1. To these dwellers of the sky may I add, without offending,
  2. The excellence of a tiny winged folk?
  3. These are fireflies, which at nightfall
  4. Shine with brilliant clarity among the trees
  5. Darting here and there in such great throngs
  6. That the luminous band of starry sky
  7. Itself seems to hold no greater wonder.
  8. Therefore, commemorating here
  9. <All> the beauties of this place, it is indeed reasonable
  10. That you be included and hold a fitting place among them.

.

  1. But since our sails are already set
  2. And <we> are going to see again those who believe us perished
  3. I say Farewell once more to your beautiful gardens
  4. That have nourished us with your medicinal herbs,
  5. Nay also relieved our need
  6. <And> more than the art of Paean have kept us healthy.
  7. You have certainly given back to us in abundance
  8. The fruit of our labours in accordance with our sowing.
  9. So what does it matter if it ever happens
  10. (And which it necessarily will do in the future)
  11. That the soil here needs to be made more appealing
  12. And improved sometimes by human labour?
  13. Who will believe that the rye, and the hemp, and the peas
  14. Have surpassed twice the height of a young man?
  15. Who will believe that the so-called Indian corn
  16. Rises up so high in this season
  17. That it seems to be carried by insufferable pride
  18. To make itself, haughty, resemble a woodland?
  19. Ah! What great sadness it is for me not to be able to wait for
  20. The fruit that in little time you promise to render!
  21. How disturbing it is for me not to see the season
  22. When the squash and the melon will ripen
  23. And the cucumber as well: And <I> also grieve
  24. At not seeing at all come to fruition my wheat, my oats,
  25. And my barley and my millet, since the Sovereign
  26. Has blessed me in this modest effort with his hand.
  27. And yet, here it is the thirtieth day of the
  28. Month that once used to be the fifth in rank.

.

  1. Nations of all parts far away from here
  2. Do not marvel at this
  3. And do not at all consider us as being in a cold region,
  4. <As> this is not at all <like> Flanders, Scotland, nor Sweden,
  5. The sea here does not freeze over, and the cold seasons
  6. Have never forced me to save the half-burnt firewood.
  7. And if in your country summer arrives earlier than here
  8. You experience winter’s inclemency earlier.
  9. But you are staying yet, Poutrincourt, waiting
  10. Until your harvest is ready: And we, nevertheless,
  11. We set sail for Canso where the ship awaits you
  12. Which from there is due to convey all of us to France.
  13. For now, beautiful ears of grain, ripen quickly,
  14. May God the Almighty give you growth
  15. In order that one day his glory may resound
  16. When we shall commemorate his blessings
  17. Among which we will count as well
  18. The care which he will have taken to gather into his mercy
  19. These vagabond peoples one calls Sauvages,
  20. Dwellers of these forests and marine shores,
  21. And a hundred peoples more who are located on all sides
  22. To the south, West and North settled in one place
  23. Who love to work and who cultivate the soil
  24. And who, in freedom, live more contentedly from their produce than we
  25. But their condition is deplorable in this respect
  26. That they have not been instructed about the world to come.

.

  1. Why, o Almighty one, why then have you
  2. Rejected this race from your face until now
  3. And why do you leave to hell to devour,
  4. So many human beings who ought to triumph over it,
  5. Seeing that they are, like us, <of> your work and making
  6. And have from you received our fragile nature?
  7. Open therefore the treasuries of your compassion[s]
  8. And pour out onto them your blessings
  9. In order that soon they may be your blessed heritage
  10. And intone aloud your goodness throughout all the ages.
  11. As soon as your sun will shine on them
  12. Just as soon we will see this people worship you.
  13. Witness be the true conversations
  14. Poutrincourt held with these pitiful people
  15. When he taught them our Religion
  16. And often showed them the ardent desire
  17. He had to see them inside the fold
  18. Which Christ has redeemed by the price of his life.
  19. Clearly moved, they on their part gave witness
  20. With their mouths and hearts of the desire they had
  21. To be more amply instructed in the teaching
  22. Within which it is proper for the faithful make their way.

.

  1. Where are you, Prelates, that you do not pity
  2. This people that makes up half the world?
  3. <Why> don’t you at least give aid to those whose zeal
  4. Transports them so far as if under His wing
  5. To establish here God’s holy law
  6. With so much hardship, care and emotion?
  7. These peoples are not brutal, barbaric or savage,
  8. If you <choose> not to call by such names the men of yore,
  9. They are subtle, clever and of very sound judgment
  10. And <I> have not known a single one who lacked understanding
  11. Only they need a father to teach them
  12. To cultivate the earth, to cultivate the vine,
  13. To live in an organized fashion, to be economical
  14. And to dwell in fixed habitations from here on.
  15. For the rest, in our opinion, they are full of innocence
  16. If <only> they had knowledge of their creator.
  17. <But> because they do not know Him, neither mouth nor heart
  18. Ravishes God’s honour through blasphemy.
  19. They do not know the work of the amorous potion
  20. Nor have they knowledge of the use of aconite,
  21. Their mouths do not vomit forth our curses
  22. Their spirits are not given over to our inventions
  23. For oppressing the other, <and> the cruel avarice
  24. of an all-consuming preoccupation does not torment their souls.
  25. But they have the hospitality of the Gaulois,
  26. Who valued it so highly in their days of old.
  27. Their greatest vice is the love of vengeance
  28. When their enemy has offended them in some way.

.

  1. Farewell unto you, then, poor people, and <I> am incapable
  2. To express the sadness I feel
  3. In leaving you thus, without having seen as yet
  4. One of you made to truly worship God.

.

  1. Let us depart, then, from this harbor, the East wind permitting,
  2. For on these coasts the West wind is prevalent
  3. <And> moreover, this sea is often covered by fog
  4. Which causes the total loss of incautious men.

.

  1. Farewell for the last time, Rocks rearing high,
  2. Proudly raising up your caverns
  3. From whence pour forth without end abundant showers
  4. Which are supplied by the waters coursing down the mountains.
  5. Farewell, then, to you as well, Caves, that have pleased me
  6. When beneath your halls in bright daylight I have seen outlined
  7. The attractive colours of the Rainbow.

.

  1. Now that we are in sight of the awesome waves
  2. Of the Ocean deep, will I be able to pass by
  3. Without saluting from afar, or leaving <without> a Farewell
  4. To the land that received our <country> France
  5. When she first came to establish herself here?
  6. Island, I salute you, Isle of Saint Croix,
  7. Island that was the first dwelling place of our poor <fellow> French
  8. Who suffered major hardships while dwelling with you,
  9. But <it is> our bad habits that often cause us these injuries.
  10. I revere, however, your pure antiquity,
  11. The scented cedars on your side
  12. Your workshops, your lodgings, your superb warehouse,
  13. Your gardens choked by new weeds:
  14. But I honour above all on account of our dead
  15. The place that holds their bodies in its keeping
  16. Which I have not been able to behold without a power of tears
  17. So much did these terrible exploits sadden my heart.
  18. Be at peace, then, and may you one day
  19. Find yourselves in glory in the heavenly mansion.
  20. But nevertheless, DE MONTS, you take with you the glory
  21. Of having obtained victory over a thousand deaths,
  22. A true witness to your great courage,
  23. Be it when you battled the fury of the waves
  24. While coming to visit this faraway province
  25. In order to follow the will of HENRY, our Prince,
  26. Or when in front of your eyes you watched <them> die
  27. Those <buried> there who followed you to that fateful location.

.

  1. Far behind I leave you, mines to be
  2. Which the massive rocks lodge deep in their veins,
  3. Mines of bronze, iron and steel, and of silver,
  4. And of pit coal, in order to salute the people
  5. Who cultivate their land by hand, the Armouchiquois.
  6. I salute you, then, quarrelsome nation
  7. (For you have failed us on account of treason)
  8. To say unto you that one day we will obtain satisfaction
  9. And with greater effect, of your presumptuousness,
  10. Just as your offspring will be accursed among us.
  11. But your earth I want to salute in all its goodness
  12. For she is sure to give us an ample return
  13. When she will experience French cultivation.
  14. For in her provident Nature has already
  15. Implanted the vine so copiously
  16. And with such beauty, that Bacchus himself,
  17. If invoked, would not know how to improve on it.
  18. But its people, unaware, do not know the use of its fruit.
  19. Earth, you also have, with beans and grain,
  20. Your subterranean silos filled in harvest time.
  21. But although you give your produce abundantly
  22. Producing other fruits without human assistance
  23. Such as the hemp, squash and nuts we have seen,
  24. Your beans, nor your grain, in any case, you do not
  25. Produce without work, but your populace, in great number,
  26. <Already> breaks you with a sharp cutting timber, and turns you over
  27. To plant its seed there, in the Spring.

.

  1. But one more thing I must mention
  2. Which obliges me to write about it because of its rarity,
  3. <And> that is the product produced by the stalk of the hemp plant
  4. <A> product worthy of being held precious by Kings
  5. <And> most delicious for the repose of the body:
  6. It is a white, thin and fine silk
  7. Which Nature produces in the hollow of a shell,
  8. Silk which one will be able to employ for many a use
  9. And which workers will turn into cotton
  10. When you <Earth>, inhabited by good artisans,
  11. Will be controlled by a willed sedentarism.

.

  1. May I see that thing arrive soon,
  2. And careful Frenchmen cultivate your fields,
  3. Away from the cares of a life of hardship
  4. Far from the noise of the common crowd, and from deceit.

.

  1. Seeking on Neptune’s bosom rest without rest,
  2. I have fashioned these verses on the swell of his waves.
  3. LESCARBOT

—Translated by Haijo Westra

Based on the Histoire de la Nouvelle-France, 1617 edition, produced by Rénald Lévesque and published by the Gutenberg Project (2007) at www. gutenberg

 §

champlain detail2Detail from Champlain map

A-DIEU A LA NOUVELLE-FRANCE
Du 30 Juillet 1607.

FAUT-il abandonner les beautez de ce lieu,
Et dire au Port Royal un eternel Adieu?
Serons-nous donc toujours accusez d’inconstance
En l’établissement d’une Nouvelle-France?
Que nous sert-il d’avoir porté tant de travaux,
Et des flots irritez combattu les assaux,
Si notre espoir est vain, & si cette province
Ne flechit souz les loix de HENRY notre Prince?
Que vous servit-il d’avoir jusques ici
Fait des frais inutils, si vous n’avez souci
de recuillir le fruit d’une longue depense,
Et l’honneur immortel de votre patience?
Ha que j’ay de regrets que ne sçavez pas
De cette terre ici les attrayans appas.
Et bien que le Flamen vous ait fait une injure,
L’injure bien souvent se rend avec usure.
Il faut doncques partir, il faut appareiller,
Et au port Sainct-Malo aller l’ancre mouiller.

PERE DE L’UNIVERS, qui commandes aux ondes,
Et qui peux assecher les mers les plus profondes,
Donne nous de franchir les abymes des eaux
Dont tu as separé tous ces peuples nouveaux
Des peuples baptizés, & sans aucun naufrage
Du royaume François voir bien-tot le rivage.

Adieu donc beaux coteaux & montagnes aussi,
Qui d’un double rempar ceignez ce Port ici.
Adieu vallons herbus que le flot de Neptune
Va baignant largement deux fois à chaque lune,
Et au gibier aussi, qui pour trouver pâture
Y vient de tous cotez tant qu’il y a verdure.
Adieu mon doux plaisir fonteines & ruisseaux,
Qui les vaux & les monts arrousez de vos eaux.
Pourray-je t’oublier belle ile forètiere
Riche honneur de ce lieu & de cette riviere?
Je prise de ta soeur les aimables beautés,
Mais je prise encor plus tes singularités.
Car comme il est séant que celui qui commande
Porte une Majesté plus auguste & plus grande
Que son inferieur; ainsi pour commander
Tu as le front haussé qui te fait regarder.
A l’environ de toy une ondoyante plaine,
Et la terre alentour sujette à ton domaine
Tes rives sont des rocs, soit pour tes batimens,
Soit pour d’une cité jetter les fondemens.
Ce sont en autres parts une menuë arene,
Où mille fois le jour mon esprit se pourmene.
Mais parmi tes beautés j’admire un ruisselet
Qui foule doucement l’herbage nouvelet
D’un vallon que se baisse au creux de ta poitrine,
Precipitant son cours dedans l’onde marine.
Ruisselet qui cent fois de ses eaux m’a tenté,
Sa grace me forçant lui prèter le côté.
Ayant dont tout cela, Ile haute & profonde,
Ile digne sejour du plus grand Roy du monde,
Ayant di-je, cela, qu’est-ce que te defaut.
A former pardeça la cité qu’il nous faut,
Sinon d’avoir prés soy un chacun sa mignone
En la sorte que Dieu & l’Eglise l’ordonne?
Car ton terroir est bon & fertile & plaisant,
Et oncques son culteur n’en sera deplaisant.
Nous en pouvons parler, qui de mainte semence
Y jettée, en avons certaine experience.
Que puis-je dire encor digne de ton beau los?
Qu’adjouteray-je ici que dedans ton enclos
Se trouvent largement produits par la Nature
Framboises, fraises, pois, sans aucune culture?
Ou bien diray-je encor tes verdoyans lauriers,
Tes Simples inconus, tes rouges grozeliers?
Non, mais tant seulement sans sortir tes limites,
Ici je toucheray les nombreux exercices
Des peuples écaillez qui viennent chaque jour,
Suivans le train du flot te donner le bon-jour.

Si-tot que du Printemps la saison renouvelle
L’Eplan vient à foison, qui t’apporte nouvelle
Que Phoebus elevé dessus ton horizon
A chassé loin de toy l’hivernale saison.
Le Haren vient apres avecque telle presse
Que seul il peut remplir un peuple de richesse.
Mes yeux en sont témoins, & les vostres aussi
Qui de nôtre pature avés eu le souci,
Quand, ailleurs occupez, vôtre main diligente
Ne pouvoit satisfaire à la chasse plaisante
Qu’envoyoit en voz rets l’ecluse d’un moulin.
Le Bar suit par-apres du Haren le chemin.
Et en un méme temps la petite Sardine,
La Crappe, & le Houmar, suit la côte marine
Pour un semblable effect; le Dauphin, l’Eturgeon
Y vient parmi la foule avecque le Saumon,
Comme font le Turbot, le Pounamou, l’Anguille,
L’Alose, le Fletan, & la Loche, & l’Equille:
Equille qui, petite, as imposé le nom
A ce fleuve de qui je chante le renom.
Mais ce n’est ici tout, car tu as davantage
De peuples qui te font par chacun jour homage,
Le Colin, le Joubar, l’Encornet, le Crapau,
Le Marsoin, le Souffleur, l’Oursin le Macreau,
Tu as le Loup-marin, qui en troupe nombreuse
Se vautre au clair du jour sur ta vase bourbeuse,
Tu as le Chien, la Plie, & mille autres poissons
Que je ne conoy point, de tes eaux nourrisons.
Tairay-je la Moruë heureusement feconde,
Qui par tout cette mer en toutes parts abonde?
Moruë si tu n’es de ces mets delicats
Dont les hommes frians assaisonnent leurs plats,
Je diray toutefois que de toy se sustente
Prèque tout l’Univers. O que sera contente
Celle personne un jour, qui à sa porte aura
Ce qu’un monde eloigné d’elle recherchera!
Belle ile tu as donc à foison cette manne,
Laquelle j’ayme mieux que de la Taprobane
Les beautez que lon feint dignes des bien-heureux
Qui vont buvans des Dieux le Nectar savoureux.
Et pour montrer encor ta puissance supreme,
La Baleine t’honore & te vient elle-méme
Saluer chacun jour, puis l’ebe la conduit
Dans le vague Ocean où elle a son deduit.
De ceci je rendray fidele temoignage,
L’ayant veu mainte fois voisiner ce rivage,
Et à l’aise nouer parmi ce port ici.

Mais tous ces animaux, mais tous ces peuples ci
S’écartent quand Phoebus veut approcher la borne
Du celeste manoir, où git le Capricorne,
Et vont chercher l’abri du profond de Thetys,
Ou d’un terroir plus doux vont souvans le pâtis.
Seulement pres de toy en cette saison dure
La Palourde, la Coque, & la Moule demeure
Pour sustenter celui qui n’aura de saison
(Ou pauvre, ou paresseux) fait aucune moisson,
Tel que ce peuple ici qui n’a cure de chasse
Jusqu’à ce que la faim le contraigne& pourchasse,
Et le temps n’est toujours favorable au chasseur.
Qui ne souhaite point d’un beau temps la douceur,
Mais une forte glace, ou des neges profondes,
Quand le Sauvage veut tirer du fond des ondes
L’industrieux Castor (qui sa maison batit
Sur la rive d’un lac, où il dresse son lict
Vouté d’une façon aux hommes incroyable,
Et plus que noz palais mille fois admirable,
Y laissant vers le lac un conduit seulement
Pour s’aller égayer souz l’humide element)
Ou quand il veut quéter parmi les bois le gite
Soit du Royal Ellan, soit du Cerf au pié vite,
Du Lapin, du Renart, du Caribou, de l’Ours,
De l’Ecureu, du loutre à peau-de-velours
Du Porc-epic du Chat qu’on appelle sauvage,
(Mais qui du Leopart ha plustot le corpsage)
De la Martre au doux poil dont se vétent les Rois,
Ou du Rat porte-muse, tous hôtes de ces bois,
Ou de cet animal qui tout chargé de graisse
De hautement grimper ha la subtile addresse,
Sur un arbre elevé sa loge batissant
Pour decevoir celui qui le va pourchassant,
Et vit par cette ruse en meilleure asseurance
Ne craignant (ce lui semble) aucune violence,
Nibachés est son nom. Non que sur le printemps
Il n’ait à cette chasse aussi son passe-temps.
Mais alors du poisson la peche est plus certaine.

Adieu donc je te dis, ile de beauté pleine,
Et vous oiseaux aussi des eaux & des forêts
Qui serez les témoins de mes tristes regrets.
Car c’est à grand regret, & je ne le puis taire,
Que je quitte ce lieu, quoy qu’assez solitaire.
Car c’est à grand regret qu’ores ici je voy
Ebranlé le sujet d’y entrer nôtre Foy,
Et du grand Dieu le nom caché souz le silence,
Qui à ce peuple avoit touché la conscience.

Aigles qui des hauts pins habitez les sommets,
Puis qu’à vous Jupiter a commis ses secrets,
Allez dedans les cieux annoncer cette chose,
Et combien de douleur j’en ay en l’ame enclose,
Puis revenez soudain au Monarque François
Lui dire le decret du puissant Roy des Roys.
Car à lui est du ciel donné cet heritage,
Afin que souz son nom ci-aprés en tout âge
L’Eternel soit ici sainctement adoré,
Et de cent nations son grand nom reveré:
Et pour mieux l’emouvoir à cette chose faire,
Par cent sortes de biens il l’a voulu attraire,
Ayant à noz labeurs fait selon noz désirs,
Et iceux terminé de dix mille plaisirs.
Car la terre ici n’est telle qu’un fol l’estime,
Elle y est plantureuse à cil qui sçait l’escrime
Du plaisant jardinage & du labeur des champs.

Et si tu veux encor des oiseaux les doux chants,
Elle a le Rossignol, le Merle, la Linote,
Et maint autre inconu, qui plaisamment gringote
En la jeune saison. Si tu veux des oiseaux
Qui se vont repaissans sur les rives des eaux,
Elle a le Cormorant, la Mauve, Ma Mouette,
L’Outarde, le Heron, la Gruë, l’Alouette,
Et l’Oye, et le Canart. Canart de six façons,
Dont autant de couleurs sont autant d’hameçons
Qui ravissent mes yeux. Desires-tu encore
De ces oiseaux chasseurs dont le Noble s’honore?
Elle a l’Aigle, le Duc, le Faucon, le Vautour,
Le Sacre, l’Epervier, l’Emerillon, l’Autour,
Et bref tous les oiseaux de haute volerie
Et outre iceux encore une bende infinie
Qui ne nous sont communs. Mais elle a le Courlis
L’Aigrette, le Coucou, la Becasse & Mauvis,
La Palombe, le Geay, le Hibou, l’Hirondelle,
Le Ramier, la Verdier, avec la Tourterelle,
Le Beche-bois huppé, le lascif Passereau,
La perdris bigarrée, & aussi le Corbeau.

Que diray-je plus? Quelqu’un pourra-il croire
Que Dieu méme ait voulu manifester sa gloire
Creant un oiselet semblable au papillon
(Du moins n’excede point la grosseur d’un grillon)
Portant dessus son dos un vert-doré plumage,
Et un teint rouge-blanc au surplus du corps-sage?
Admirable oiselet, pourquoy donc, envieux,
T’es-tu cent fois rendu invisible à mes ieux,
Lors que legerement me passant à l’aureille
Tu laissois seulement d’un doux bruit la merveille?
Je n’eusse esté cruel à ta rare beauté,
Comme d’autres qui t’ont mortellement traité,
Si tu eusses à moy daigné te venir rendre.
Mais quoy tu n’as voulu à mon desir entendre.
Je ne lairray pourtant de celebrer ton nom,
Et faire qu’entre nous tu sois de grand renom.
Car je t’admire autant en cette petitesse
Que je fay l’Elephant en sa vaste hautesse.
Niridau c’est ton nom que je ne veux changer
Pour t’en imposer un qui seroit étranger.
Niridau oiselet delicat de nature,
Qui de l’abeille prent la tendre nourriture
Pillant de noz jardins les odorantes fleurs,
Et des rives des bois les plus rares douceurs.

A ces hotes de l’air pourray-je sans offense
D’un petit peuple ailé adjouter l’excellence?
Ce sont mouches, de qui sur le point de la nuit
La brillante clarté parmi les bois reluit
Voletans ça & là d’une presse si grande,
Que du ciel etoilé la lumineuse bende
Semble n’avoir en soy plus d’admiration.
Faisant doncques ici commemoration
Des beautez de ce lieu, il est bien raisonnable
Que vous y teniez rang & place convenable.

Mais puis que ja desja noz voiles sont tendus,
Et allons revoir ceux qui nous cuident perdus,
Je dis encore Adieu à vous beaux jardinages,
Qui nous avez cet an repeu de vos herbages,
Voire aussi soulagé nôtre necessité
Plus que l’art de Pæon n’a fait nôtre santé.
Vous nous avez rendu certes en abondance
Le fruit de noz labeurs selon notre semence.
Hé que sera-ce donc s’il arrive jamais
(Ce qu’il est de besoin qu’on face desormais)
Que la terre ici soit un petit mignardée,
Et par humain travail quelquefois amendée?
Qui croira que le segle,& la chanve, & le pois,
Le chef d’un jeune gars ait surpassé deux fois?
Qui croira que le blé que l’on appelle d’Inde
En cette saison-ci si hautement se guinde
Qu’il semble estre porté d’insupportable orgueil
Pour se rendre, hautain, aux arbrisseaux pareil?
Ha que ce m’est grand deuil de ne pouvoir attendre
Le fruit qu’en peu de temps vous promettiez nous rendre!
Que ce m’est grand émoy de ne voir la saison
Quand ici meuriront la Courge, le Melon,
Et le Cocombre aussi: & suis en méme peine
De ne voir point meuri mon Froment, mon Aveine
Et mon Orge & mon Mil, pois que le Souverain
En ce petit travail m’a beni de sa main.
Et toutefois voici de ce mois le trentieme,
Mois qui jadis estoit en ordre le cinquième

Peuples de toutes parts qui estes loin d’ici
Ne vous emerveillez de cette chose ci,
Et ne nous tenez point comme en region froide,
Ce n’est point ici Flandre, Ecosse, ni Suede,
La mer ici ne gele, & les froides saisons
Ne m’ont oncques forcé d’y garder les tisons.
Et si chez vous l’eté plustot qu’ici commence,
Plustot vous ressentez de l’hiver l’inclemence.
Mais tu restes encor, Poutrincourt attendant
Que ta moisson soit préte: & nous nous cependant
Faisons voile à Campseau où t’attent le navire
Que de là doit tous en la France conduire.
Cependant beaux epics meurissez vitement,
Dieu le Dieu tout-puissant vous doint accroissement,
Afin qu’un jour ici retentisse sa gloire
Lors que de ses bien-faits nous ferons la memoire.
Entre lesquelz bien-faits nous conterons aussi
Le soin qu’il aura eu de prendre à sa merci
Ces peuples vagabons qu’on appelle Sauvages
Hotes de ces forèts & des marins rivages,
Et cent peuples encor qui sont de tous côtez
Au Su, à l’Oest au Nort de pié-ferme arretez
Qui aiment le travail, qui la terre cultivent,
Et libres, de ses fruits plus contens que nous vivent,
Mais en ce deplorable est leur condition,
Que du siecle futur ilz n’ont l’instruction.

Pourquoy, ô Tout-puissant, pourquoy donc cette race
As-tu jusques ici rejetté de ta face,
Et pourquoy laisses tu devorer à l’enfer,
Tant d’humains qui devroient dessus lui triompher
Veu qu’ilz sont comme nous ton oeuvre & ta facture,
Et ont de toy receu nôtre fraile nature?
Ouvre donc les thresors de tes compassions,
Et verse dessus eux tes benedictions,
Afin qu’ilz soient bien-tot ton sacré heritage,
Et chantent hautement tes bontés en tout âge.
Si-tot que ton Soleil sur eux éclairera,
Aussi-tot cet gent d’adorer on verra.
Temoins soient de ceci les propos veritables
Que Poutrincourt tenoit avec ces miserables
Quand il leur enseignoit notre Religion,
Et souvent leur montroit l’ardente affection
Qu’il avoit de les voir dedans la bergerie
Que Christ a racheté par le pris de sa vie.
Eux d’autre part emeus clairement temoignoient
Et de bouche & de coeur le desir qu’ilz avoient
D’estre plus amplement instruits en la doctrine
En laquelle il convient qu’un fidele chemine.

Où estes vous Prelats, que vous n’avez pitié
De ce peuple qui fait du monde la moitié?
Du moins que n’aidez-vous à ceux de qui le zele
Les transporte si loin comme dessus son aile
Pour établir ici de Dieu la saincte loy
Avecque tant de peine, & de soin & d’émoy
Ce peuple n’est brutal, barbare ni sauvage,
Si vous n’appellez tels les hommes du vieil âge,
Il est subtile, habile, & plein de jugement,
Et n’en ay conu un manquer d’entendement,
Seulement il demande un pere qui l’enseigne
A cultiver la terre, à façonner la vigne,
A vivre par police, à estre menager,
Et souz des fermes toicts ci-apres heberger.
Au reste à nôtre égare il est plein d’innocence
Si de son createur il avoit la science.
Que s’il ne le conoit, sa bouche ni son coeur
Ne ravit point à Dieu par blaspheme l’honneur.
Il ne sçait le metier de l’amoureux bruvage,
De l’aconite aussi il ne sçait point l’usage,
Sa bouche ne vomit nos imprecations,
Son esprit ne s’adonne à nos inventions
Pour opprimer autrui, l’avarice cruelle
D’un souci devorant son ame ne bourrelle
Mais il a du Gaullois cette hospitalité
Qui tant l’a fait priser en son antiquité.
Son vice le plus grand est qu’il aime vengeance
Lors que son ennemi lui a fait quelque offense.

Je vous di donc Adieu, pauvre peuple, & ne puis
Exprimer la douleur en laquelle je suis
De vous laisser ainsi sans voir qu’on ait encore
Fait que quelqu’un de vous son Dieu vrayment adore

Sortons donc de ce Port à la faveur de l’Est,
Car en ces côtes ci est ordinaire l’Ouest,
Puis, souvent cette mer est de brumes couverte
Qui des hommes peu cauts cause l’extreme perte.

Adieu pour un dernier Rochers haut elevés,
Qui orgueilleusement voz grottes soulevés,
D’où distillent sans fin des pluies abondantes
Que leur versent les eaux des montagnes coulantes.
Adieu doncques aussi Grottes qui m’avez pleu
Quand souz votre lambris au clair du jour j’ay veu
Figurées d’Iris les couleurs agreables.

Ores que nous voyons les flots épouvantables
Du profond Ocean, pourray-je bien passer
Sans saluer de loin, ou quelque Adieu laisser
A la terre que a receuë notre France
Quand elle vint ici faire sa demeurance?
Ile, je te saluë, ile de Saincte Croix,
Ile premier sejour de noz pauvres François,
Qui souffrirent chez toy des choses vrayment dures,
Mais noz vices souvent nous causent ces injures.
Je revere pourtant ta freche antiquité
Les Cedres odorans qui sont à ton côté,
Tes Loges, tes Maisons, ton Magazin superbe,
Tes jardins étouffez parmi la nouvelle herbe:
Mais j’honore sur tout à-cause de noz morts
Le lieu qui sainctement tient en depost leurs corps,
Lequel je n’ay pu voir sans un effort de larmes,
Tant mon navré le coeur ces violentes armes.
Soyez doncques en paix, & puissiez vous un jour,
Vous trouver glorieux au celeste sejour.
Mais cependant, DE MONTS, tu emportes la gloire
D’avoir sur mille morts obtenu la victoire,
Témoignage certain de ta grande vertu,
Soit quand tu as des flots la fureur combattu
En venant visiter cette étrange province
Pour suivre le vouloir de HENRY nôtre Prince
Soit lors que tu voiois mourir devant tes yeux
Ceux-là qui t’ont suivi en ces funestes lieux.

Je vous laisse bien loin, pepinieres de Mines
Que les rochers massifs logent dedans leurs veines,
Mines d’airain, de fer, & d’acier, & d’argent,
Et de charbon pierreux, pour saluer la gent
Qui cultive à la main la terre Armouchiquoise.
Je te saluë donc nation porte-noise
(Car tu as envers nous forfait par trahison)
Pour te dire qu’un jour nous aurons la raison
Avecque plus d’effect de ton outrecuidance,
Si qu’entre nous sera maudite ta semence.
Mais ta terre je veux saluer en tout bien,
Car un ample rapport elle nous fera bien
Quand elle sentira du François la culture.
Car en elle desja la provide Nature
A le raisin semé si plantureusement,
Et en telle beauté, que Bacchus mémement
Ne sçauroit invoqué lui faire davantage.
Mais son peuple ignorant ne sçait du fruit l’usage.
Terre, tu as encor de féves & de blés
Tes greniers souz-terrains en la moisson comblés.
Mais quoy que tes biens tu donnes abondance
Produisant d’autres fruits sans l’humaine assistance
Tes qu’avons veu la Chanve & la Courge & la Noix,
Tes féves tu ne veux ni tes blez toutefois
Produire sans travail, mais ta grand’ populace
D’un bois coupant ta brise, & en mottes t’amasse
Pour (sur le renouveau) sa semence y planter,

Mais une chose encor il me faut reciter
Qui pour sa rareté à l’écrire m’oblige,
C’est le fruit que produit la Chanve la tige,
Fruit digne que les Rois le tiennent precieux
Pour le repos du corps le plus delicieux:
C’est une soye blanche & menuë & subtile
Que la Nature pousse au creux d’une coquille,
Soye qu’en maint usage employer on pourra,
Et laquelle en cotton l’ouvrier façonnera,
Quand de bons artisans tu seras habitée
Par une volonté de pié-ferme arretée.

Puisse-je voir bien-tot cette chose arriver,
Et le François soigneux à tes champs cultiver,
Arriere des soucis d’une peineuse vie,
Loin des bruits du commun, & de la piperie.

Cherchant dessus Neptune un repos sans repos
J’ay façonné ces vers au branle de ses flots.

—M. LESCARBOT.

(This eBook excerpt is from Project Gutenberg’s Les Muses de la Nouvelle France by Marc L’escarbot produced by Rénald Lévesque. This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org.)

champlain detail1Champlain map detail

.

haijo-sailing

Haijo Westra has taught Classics at the University of Calgary and wrote about topics in Greek and Latin literature. More recently, he has turned to the early accounts of the East Coast written in Latin by the Jesuit Pierre Biard and the role of classical ethnography in the description of Native peoples, in particular the Micmac. The present article is his first venture into a French text of the period.

.
.

Dec 082015
 
Timothy Ogene

Author Photo by Clare Mackenzie.

.

Lead me, psychopompos, through my found
City, down into the underground.
– George Szirtes, “Metro”

A roar sucks them under
The wheels of a darkness without pain.
Off in the distance
There is someone
Like a signalman swinging a lantern.
– Frank Stanford, “The Light the Dead See”

December

An empty bench in the open, frosted over,
A naked tree pregnant with time stuffed
In its widening trunk,

Boughs bent by violent icicles bunched
Like unlit chandeliers on winter’s x-axis,
A river exiled from its state,

Currents curtailed at both terminals,
Rendered dry after much hammering
In winter’s metal works.

In the view ahead,
Gothic structures argue with the skyline,
Bored by the absence of the be-goggled ogler.

There’s beauty here, I say to myself,
In this isolated patch stripped of the stench of gutters
After a downpour.

There is a type of beauty here,
In this absence of motion,
In this giddy absence of flirtatious fruits on trees,

In this glorious absence of paraded Polaroid
Swung as crumbs are hauled at native ducks,
In this relieving absence of poachers

Making passes at passengers on the same tour.
There is beauty in absence,
When trees,

Holding time in absent leaves,
Await winter’s worst
And the delayed return of summer.

.

Erratic Notes Left on a Trail

1

A bridge emerges from the remains of fog,
Imposing itself on my sight.

Its arch beautifully humped,
And I’m reminded of lumps on cow back,

The meaty spot a murderous blade
Must be thrilled to hack.

Underneath the bridge the river ebbs
And murmurs

As it journeys with a terminus in mind,
An infinite end

Albeit sure to empty
And rethread the loop.

A clearer view.
A carpet of algae wraps the bridge,

Draining its prehistoric strength,
Probing its intestines with roots we wish we had.

2

For those we love
We refrain from easy paths

And restrain the
Urge to run.

3

A note written in fog, on clear glass
Is memory erased at noon;

Falling and dipping in love
Left to fade in the face of light.

4

Home is where the umbilical cord lies
Buried between gnarled shrubs half-dead,

Overgrown and coated in shame,
A lie too crass to smear.

5

A dog follows its owner over the river,
Across the algae-covered bridge,
To the stare of sailing ducks.

May we return as geese and sailing ducks:
Humble, instinctual, without the tact to shell schools elsewhere,
To click the tongue at the remains of others.

6

The landscape is an apparition of a master’s piece
Discarded, rediscovered to great acclaim:
Fields of gold-colored leaves in fourteen stations of death
Lie to give depth, individually crisp,
The sky defaced with V-shaped strokes
Left for critics to name as birds.

There’s a swoosh of blue turning green,
An illusion of a nearby sea,
And ducks paddling between surfaces,
Sailing towards the sun in salutation,
Sailing towards a perennial ritual,
To a ritual that tethers us against our will.

7

There’s a girl running up the bridge,
Her polyester coat is making a sideway sweep
Against the wind.
A guardian in fur follows from behind,
Her eyes on the young.

Our girl has crossed the bridge,
Beckoning the fur to make real haste.
The fur has stopped to stare,
Holding the journey to a standstill,
Holding the future to an ambivalent past.

8

A tear is heavier than a severed leaf,
A sigh lighter than the crash of cymbals.

When asked my home address,
I respond with a sigh,
And watch severed leaves land on dormant grounds.

I left without a lover’s smell in my hair,
Without memories of my mother’s hug.
The passage home is burnt and that I regret.

9

A kiss recalled is adolescence restored,
Life remounted for another flight.

Amnesia is the burden of growth,
Of which I am a square instance.

Memory is a pinch and not the whole,
An aftertaste without a meal.

I remember the tongue and not the kiss,
The resistance of breasts and not the hug.

I write this day in fog,
Knowing it will fade to not return.

10

Dear Mother, it’s another day here,
Another night, I mean to say.

It’s a dance of darkness, Mother,
And it takes two to do the bleak waltz,

Hips grinding blindly, legs leisurely shuffling
Until sweat breaks forth;

Until the cheer of gloom, the shrouded daylight,
Is shredded in forgettable bits.

11

May this silence unease you, Mother,
May those absent calls,

The phone hanging obese on the wall,
Unease you.

But I prefer this to a thousand funerals.
Or which is best, Mother?

This, or the confused colors
Of spiteful mourners?

12

I come from a place where roads lead nowhere, to graves,
The wind an impractical joke that blows askance,
Rising from the soles of our feet,

Uprooting us before our first human steps;
Where children run homes and plough the fields,
And dogs walk the living through death’s orchard.

These we mention in passing:
At the wedding of a thrice-removed niece,
At a dance for abandoned gods.

The world hangs by the toes, dangling,
And its head bulges with blood, a burst as imminent
As the next shot in daylight.

13

We are told he stopped at twenty-one,
Our Rimbaud, having gathered what we all envy.
Then he left his home and invaded mine,
That adventurer I begrudge not.

Ash and Ashbery shared a stand,
Catalogued and shelved as one,
A minor logistic that assumed significance
As I hunted the latter but fell for both,

A treat I shindiged with a loud sucking
Of Turkish delight, recontexting
Myself in Ash’s words:

“Think of yourself as open. Equally hard.
Usually your gestures seem to take place
[Behind] a glass partition, fogged with steam”

14

A pony is purchased for a lad who hasn’t said a word
Since his tongue lay itself for normal speech.

I see him galloping through green earth,
His smile a cover for speech,

His dimples as deep as mine.
But here’s the deal as I’m told:

Dreams are embers in a December night,
Dying into senseless flakes at the hearth,

Useless save the past they color when we sleep.
The coloring is grim at times:

Constipated nights and all,
The peristaltic push and passage painfully hindered,

The hinds of a horse stuck to a haunted carriage,
And dawn dispiritingly delayed.

15

“I have a lover of flesh,” Day-Lewis says.
Mine used to be fresh, I say, but is now no more,
A country with boundaries made of straw,
A loveless sprawl dispersed by the wind,
Her seeds sprinkled away for birds to pick.

There is a Whitman in everyone, I say.
Rebellion relies on language, I say,
And so does a joke that falls on all,
Including the bystander whose isolation
Is geographic and linguistic.

Power resides in the pinny of a maid:
Fanon in the polish of the master’s shoe,
And Foucault in the politics of his son’s stare.
They will survive this flare,
And the boil will blister into a new brew,

For a stone tossed in a lake must be left to tumble down
To the bottom, and there, patted by currents,
It will fathom its float to shore,
Or waltz its way to a safe corner to rise again,
Or stay beneath, contented with death.

16

Mother, keep your hands on the plough.
Study the stars for signs and songs.
Keep away from the thalassic trader,
Away from his vessel and gunpowder.

Guard your borders and be bothered by unusual winds.
Dance when aroused by wine,
The trance thereafter enjoy.
Set forth and set sail in your own vessel.

Write your sights and handshakes afar.
Leave me nothing but a chest-load of papyrus.

.

Sub-surface Condition

1

In my sleep I float near sooted chimneys
And smell smoke rising from the mass
Of idle bodies, from the hoof
Of roaming nomads kicking and stomping
Through this land.

In the leprous hands of a life I once lived.
Cradled, I smell the crisp rise
Of smoke, an ascendance
That becomes me leaving the scale
Of memory, leaving the shell that cocoons me

From where waters run against pebbles,
Upstream, washing up against my umbilical cord
Long buried between shrubs
Where weeds spring daily,
Waiting for dawn-dew that never comes,

Waiting for sunlight obscured by an August cloud.

2

In this colossal space, curled up between posts,
My bed and I, the panes bleed the slime
Of winter, dribbling down like okra whisked for effect.

I recoil between posts, my bed and I,
As nothing here, in this novel patch,
Equals the roast of corncobs at home.

3

It is now threatening to snow, and this greyness,
The utter blankness of haze and leafless trees
Removes me from me, layer after layer,
To where the marrows yield

And the shivers begin.
I rattle like gongs in Ogume,
The ancestral home I cannot reclaim,
That’s now a farfetched note I pluck for effect.

4

The flakes are visible from here.
God must be at work.
The spaces without are rather concealed
And made dark by the utter whiteness
Of grains descending in place
Of rain.

God must be at work as they say
In a place I once lived,
Where the daily ritual
Of cocks at dawn,
And the heroic leap
Of lizards from treetops,

Are God’s fingers reaching down
To stroke our thighs.

5

A silhouette is taking shape
On my window pane,
The shape is surprisingly sensual,
With smooth suggestive lines,

With arousing curves.
And this pervasion I could not have conjured
Without those fingers that descend
To stroke my thighs.

.—Timothy Ogene

.
Timothy Ogene is the author of a collection of poems (Descent: Deerbrook Editions, 2016) and has recently completed his first novel. His poems and stories have appeared in One Throne Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review, The Missing Slate, Stirring, Kin Poetry Journal, Mad Swirl, Blue Rock Review, and other places. He holds degrees from St. Edwards and Oxford Universities, and currently lives in Boston.

.
.

Dec 052015
 

Dennis

Dennis O’Driscoll’s abrupt and untimely death on December 24th 2012 was a huge shock to the poetry world. He was an acclaimed poet (considered one of the best European poets of his time) and critic who was selfless in his generosity towards his fellow poets. His remarkable series of interviews with Seamus Heaney, Stepping Stones : Interviews with Seamus Heaney, was published in 2008 – a book-length portrait of the famous poet. And, perhaps, it was Heaney who when speaking of his friend, Dennis, put it best:

“Not only was he constant in his dedication to his own work, he also acted as mentor and sounding board to beginners and established figures alike. Modest to a fault, he would have shrugged off the hero word. Yet there was heroic virtue in the man, in the way he answered the demands of his day job as a civil servant and then devoted what ought to have been free time for his own work to responding to the work of others. He was like Yeats‘s “man of a passionate serving kind”, never self-promoting or seeking the limelight but constantly being sought.”

On this, the third anniversary of his death, I am tremendously grateful to his sister Marie for sharing her memories of Dennis, her personal photographs and her vibrant artwork.

—Gerard Beirne

 

Though Dennis will be remembered by many through the treasured words he left behind, I will always be filled with the memories of growing up together, our childhood days.

I filled the garden with skipping rhymes, Dennis sat and read. He was the one who introduced me to the joy of reading, the first of many books.

He was a great instigator of much of the mischief which occurred in the household of six siblings.

He took me on my first trip without our parents, on the train to Dublin, where he quickly reached the top of the large queue in the train’s restaurant, with the use of my “magic slate” to announce to all that he was deaf and dumb. But he soon found his voice… when we were sympathetically ushered to the counter much to the annoyance of our fellow passengers!!

He created “pop up” art exhibitions of his ‘Abstract artwork” on the front wall of our home (which were worth a fortune!!). My parents were only alerted to the event by the sound of the odd car slowing down to take a peek as they traveled along the road.

Our annual holidays by the sea, embracing his anonymity, he could be a French tourist with little ability to communicate in English, seeking directions from exasperated, though helpful, locals. Convince people they were being interviewed live on the radio on topics of great interest, these interviews which we would listen back to on his tape recorder later in the day.

Our family’s Christmas will be forever tinged with sadness now,
his books and the many cards and letters he sent me
lie huddled together on my shelves,
where with the flick of a page,
I can feel his heart pouring out,
read his thoughts,
see visions through his words

Though it’s no easy task.

 

childDennis back in our childhood days.

 .

Christmas Eve 2012

My heart sunk as I caught a glimpse of the postal van, on its last round, as it headed for home on that cold Christmas eve 2012. The parcel from my brother Dennis wrapped with care, filled with thoughtful treasures, was now lost I feared. My present had always arrived well before the Christmas celebrations began and was often the first gift to be placed unopened beneath my Christmas tree.

Little did I know what lay ahead or that Christmas day would be spent in a cloud of unbelievable sorrow as we booked unexpected flights home. Or that I would find myself sitting by Dennis’s fireplace with my family a few days later where his painful absence was truly felt after that dreadful phone call late on the night of Christmas eve.

On my return to Holland with my heart filled with sorrow following the painful task of bidding him farewell…

…on the eve of his birthday, beneath a winter sky, in the midst of twinkling lights of Christmas.

It was then… that I discovered that the precious package had in fact arrived… and awaited me in my neighbor’s house.

There it was in all its glory with the so familiar handwriting looking as fresh as though the ink was barely dry.

I held it close to me as though it contained life…
With trembling hands, I peered inside,
then I carefully
placed it beneath
my darkened Christmas tree…

as gently as a coffin lowered
to its
Place of rest…

§

marie and dennisDennis & Marie

While Dennis used words to create images, I use paints and brushes… So one Christmas I decided to combine our work and send him a painting as a gift from me, a welcome break from the endless ties, I hoped. I wondered which poem I should choose, and as I read through “A Christmas Night”, it created visions for me. And so with great ease, his words emerged upon my canvas with each brush stroke.

christmas night

§

After he passed away, Evie our niece, then aged ten, would bravely stand up at a number of his tributes to do a reading of one of her Uncle Dennis’s favorite poems.

eviePortrait of Evie aged four

 §

Misunderstanding And Muzak

You are in the Super Value supermarket
expecting to meet me at 6.15.

I am in the Extra Value supermarket
expecting to meet you at 6.15.

Danny boy is calling you down special-offer aisles.
Johann Strauss is waltzing me down special-offer aisles.

I weigh mushrooms and broccoli and beans.
You weigh beans and mushrooms and broccoli.

It is 6.45 sign of you.
It is 6.45 no sign of me.

You may have had a puncture.
I may have been held up at work.

It is 6.55. You may have been murdered.
It is 6.55. I may have been flattened by a truck.

Danny Boy starts crooning all over you again.
Johann Strauss starts dancing all over me again.

Everything that’s needed for our Sunday lunch
is heaped up in my trolley, your trolley

We hope to meet, somewhere to eat it.

§

Since we lost Dennis, I continue to paint, and there are times when some of my work seems to be reflected in his words as in his poems Home and Time Sharing.

Home

when all is said and done
what counts is having someone
you can phone home at five

to ask for the immersion heater
to be switched to “bath”
and the pizza taken from the deepfreeze.

unnamed.

Time Sharing

In our time together
we are travelling in the heated car,
a violin concerto playing on the radio
hills streaming with winter cold,
year – end fields worn down to seams,
a blazing quiff of distant dogwood,
burned meringue of snow on mountain tops.
We blurt past farms and cottages;
those whose era we share
are staring from net curtains
at a morning chill for milking
or are setting off to factories in the town,
their segments of road deserted.
It is like a childhood journey
of sleep and open-eyed surprise,
of hermetically sealed life
in the eternal present
before the final destination is reached
We hold hands on the gear stick
and, at this moment,
fear for nothing except the future.

§

Though it is not intentional, my sister Eithne once remarked to me that she can see a bit of us all in some of my paintings…on reflection, I had to agree. I can indeed see something of our very stylish Mother in this vintage style painting.

mother.

Years After

And yet we managed fine.

We missed your baking for a time.
And yet we were not better off
without cream-hearted sponges cakes,
flaky, rhubarb-oozing pies.

Linoleum-tiled rooms could no longer
presume on your thoroughgoing scrub;
and yet me made up for our neglect,
laid hardwood timber floors.

Windows shimmered less often.
And yet we got around to
elbow-greasing them eventually.
Your daily sheet-and-blanket

rituals of bed making were more
than we could hope to emulate
And yet the duvets we bought
brought us gradually to sleep,

Declan and Eithne (eleven
and nine respectively at the time)
had to survive without your packed
banana sandwiches, wooden spoon

deterrent, hugs, multivitamins.
And yet they both grew strong;
you have unmet grandchildren
in-laws you never knew.

Yes, we managed fine, made
breakfasts and made love,
took on jobs and mortgages,
set ourselves up for life.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

—Poems by Dennis O’Driscoll; Text & Paintings by Marie O’Driscoll

We are grateful to Anvil Press and Carcanet Press for permission to reprint the poems “Christmas Night,” “Misunderstanding And Muzak,” “Home,” “Time Sharing,” and “Years After.”

.

Dennis O’Driscoll (1954–2012) was born in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Apart from nine collections of poetry, books published during his lifetime included a selection of essays and reviews, Troubled Thoughts, Majestic Dreams(2001), two collections of literary quotations and Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney(2008). Among his awards were a Lannan Literary Award in 1999, the 2005 E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the 2006 O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the Center for Irish Studies (Minnesota). A member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of artists, he worked for almost forty years in Ireland’s Revenue and Customs service. He died on Christmas Eve, 2012.

A second collection of his essays, The Outnumbered Poet, was published by Gallery Press in 2013. His selection from the works of Michael Hamburger, A Michael Hamburger Reader, will be published by Anvil in December 2015.  dennisodriscoll.com

IMG_9980

Marie O’Driscoll was born in Thurles, Co.Tipperary in 1957, one of a family of six siblings. She was educated in the Ursuline Convent Thurles, and it was there that she had the only art classes, that she would ever attend. Both Art and English were her greatest passion throughout her school life.  In her final year  at school, the family were struck with tragedy following the death of their mother, Kitty, and five years later their father Jimmy also died. The shock of the term “orphan” became a reality in their young lives.

She spent a number of years living in Dublin, where she attended a secretarial college, followed by a move to the west of Ireland where she met her  husband to be. A number of years later they emigrated to Holland with their  two daughters. She began teaching English to adults and children, and eventually created a method of combining her two favorite passions together by setting up classes for children using art as a medium to teach English to them. Although she been painting for as long as she can remember, it took her many years to reveal her work to others. Since then her art has found its way to many corners of the world. www.marieodriscoll.com

.
.

Nov 012015
 

wang ping 2

.

What Is Magic? Raul Asked

The bird sings because it has a song in its throat
We move because we have a dance in our spirits
The wind blows to play with the rivers and valleys
The raindrops fall as messengers upon the earth
The fish swim because it has an ocean in its belly
The children run because they have the world under their feet

This is the secret of magic
Hidden in our minds
The people and their small things
If all taken, what would we miss?
The rustle of oak trees at dusk
The foaming river from the window
The smell of the children running home
Cheeks red from the snow
The little thing you say that’s not funny
But I laugh anyway just because…

The birds can’t be imitated
The flowers can’t be colored
The sea can’t be dammed
The mountains can’t be spoken

This is the sound of magic
Running in our veins
Moving the sky and earth
Passing through us like rivers
All the noise on earth will die
But not this silence of faith
This innocence persisting to believe
To see more than what can be seen

.

Our River Temple

At sunrise, I row. This morning the river is choppy. Behind me in the bow seat, Master K is silent. I feel his patience, my own frustrations. My body is slow, slowing down to the change of the season, a dam of dampness and heat building to shore against the oncoming of a cold front.

I’ll give myself needles tonight, I tell myself, to dredge the damp and alleviate the stagnation along the liver and gallbladder meridians.

Master K has a grand piano in his grand living room that makes its own music when a key is played. He bought it after his wife left with their two children. When snow falls on the Mississippi, he goes to Thailand, meeting the local women, fighting with the local men. When the river thaws, he comes home to row and carves. Master K is also a master carpenter. He eats vegetables only and raw, for thirty years.

The river heaves. Our boat cuts the waves…

Along the riverbank, jeweled weeds stand next to stinging nettles and poison ivy, an antidote for the burnt skin. Their translucent stems look like human bones and joints. Plants resembling human organs will heal those organs, I learned from my herb master, like strawberries for the heart inflammations, pears for cooling the lungs, and avocados to warm and moist the uterus. Will the jeweled weeds ease the pain in joints, and connect a torn tendon or ligament?

Master K sprinkles a seed into my palm. It’s tiny, a period at the end of a sentence.

“Touch it, gently, with your fingertip,” he says.

It explodes in the center of my palm and flies off.

“The seed contains so much energy. Just a touch, and it takes off.”

We come out of the water drenched with the river.

“How did I do this morning, Master?

“You didn’t do worse,” says Master K, smiling.

Later I learn from my friend that in Philippine, it’s called Makahiya, the shy one, the reticent one; their nerve endings open to the slightest suggestion.

In my herb class, I learn that the seed is called touch-me-not. It soothes inflamed hearts and heals scattered spirits.

.

Sonnet I

The geese are painting the sky with a V, my lord
The Mississippi laughs with its white teeth
How fast winter flees from the lowland, my lord
And how’s the highland where songs forever seethe?

At the confluence, I sing of the prairie, my lord
My joy and sorrow soar with rolling spring
Its thunder half bird, half mermaid, my lord
No poppies on hills, only ghost warriors’ calling

Today is chunfeng—we say shared spring, you equinox
Two spirits, one on phoenix wings, one on lion’s seat
Across the sea, kindred spirits, my lord
Prayer through breaths, laughing children on the street

Let’s open our gift, acorn of small things
Let river move us without wants or needs

.

Sonnet IX

No one claims rivers at the end of game
Swans trumpet from Head of the Mississippi
Along the trails—snow, dogs, woodpeckers–same
Difference as children slide with whoopee
Laugh, and rivers rumble like summer nights
On sandstone bluffs, lovers watch crew boats dart
Like insects. Walking on water is not a sleight
Of hands but an instinct, echoes of distant stars
And sturgeons charging without food or sleep
Keep going, says the master, one stroke at a time
Breathe between waves…his voice steep
from tumors, yet he stands, furious and sublime

What arrow points us to grace, here and now?
A swan’s touch, neck bending into a bow

.

Sonnet XIII

For Chen Guangcheng, the Blind Lawyer from China

This is my eye—blindly—in the river wild and fast
Through the steely gaze, towards a promised freedom

Rumors storm, back and forth, between ocean currents
Machines clank to grind a small man’s plea for freedom

Not for asylum or paradise, not for money or fame
All I want is a room in this giant country, a freedom

To take children to school, to guide my sisters out
Of the maze, free to be mothers again, free

To raise the young, grow old in peace, a place where
Hunger, prison or death can’t blackmail freedom

Where the poor, the blind, the small and defeated
Can live in dignity and joy. Freedom is never free

Must pave with eyes, ears, hands…brick by brick
With a heart willing to bleed till it breaks free

—Wang Ping

.

Wang Ping was born in Shanghai and came to USA in 1986. She is the founder and director of the Kinship of Rivers project, a five-year project that builds a sense of kinship among the people who live along the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers through exchanging gifts of art, poetry, stories, music, dance and food. She paddles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, giving poetry and art workshops along the river communities, making thousands of flags as gifts and peace ambassadors between the Mississippi and the Yangtze Rivers.

Her publications include Flying: Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi, memoir (forthcoming from Calumet Press), Ten Thousand Waves, poetry book from Wings Press, 2014, American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), The Magic Whip (poetry, 2003), The Last Communist Virgin (stories, 2007), all from Coffee House, New Generation: Poetry from China Today, 1999 from Hanging Loose Press, Flash Cards: Poems by Yu Jian, co-translation with Ron Padgett, 2010 from Zephyr Press. Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000, University of Minnesota Press, 2002 paperback by Random House) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities. The Last Communist Virgin won 2008 Minnesota Book Award and Asian American Studies Award.

She had many multi-media solo exhibitions: “We Are Water: Kinship of Rivers” a one-month exhibition that brought 100 artists from the Yangtze and Mississippi Rivers to celebrate water (Soap Factory, 2014), “Behind the Gate: After the Flooding of the Three Gorges” at Janet Fine Art Gallery(2007), “All Roads to Lhasa” at Banfill-Lock Cultural Center(2008), “Kinship of Rivers” at the Soap Factory(2011, 12), Great River Museum in Illinois(2012), Fireworks Press at St. Louis(2012), Great River Road Center at Prescott (2012), Wisconsin, Emily Carr University in Vancouver (2013), University of California Santa Barbara(2013), and many other places.

She collaborated with the British filmmaker Isaac Julien on Ten Thousand Waves, a film installation about the illegal Chinese immigration in London, the composer and musician Bruce Bolon, Alex Wand (Grammy award winner), Gao Hong, etc..

She is the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council of the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Artist Fellowship, Lannan Foundation Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, and the McKnight Artist Fellowship. She received her Distinct Immigrant Award 2014.

www.wangping.com

www.behindthegateexhibit.wangping.com

www.kinshipofrivers.org

 

.
.

Oct 052015
 

pre and beach 7 11 092

 

Book A:  Nominative part one:  israël (from Genealogy of the First Person)

iii.       israël             To begin without a book: the eye of all reversals caved into nothing. long walked the I beneath this name, its banners. Not this name; the voice is cavernous, leads into an underworld, an invisible place. The voice speaks another one, a son of a father who never departed. I am not that one. The voice speaks another one in whom the future blossoms as stars upon heaven’s abyss. Whither the name of another self, a self before the event of g-d’s hands on a thigh of perishing? If only the wind would smite one self that the other comes to light. To light in shadow: the self out of names, rekindled to ashes. a future. Future without writing, without the book; a future less vivid.

 .

*                                                          *                                                          *

 .

the song breaks
over the genealogy
of the first person

illumined places

between two rivers
of satisfaction
& desire

.

a song of crisis

………..two futures coiled
…………………within you
………..two forces rend
………………..the unbroken wheel

………..one holds one

………..the greater shall serve the lesser [25.23]

 

.

*                                                          *                                                          *
.

I am bound to another.                   I am a self                  divided. The other self
walks ever ahead, walks                              apart                           from my walk, strikes

fire on ragged skin                           is a grip upon the heel and ankle

 

 

            *                                                          *                                                          *

 

 

(his grip was light on the river’s meander                      light on the distant mountain)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

another self
that I am
not
I am behind
the other
turning self
that I
am not

.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

someone forbade my father, saying

……………………………………….do not go under
                                                …..here     remain upon this
                                                     ….. .      land.    [26.2]

and my father was laid open to all seeing and blessings
and oaths of old washed over him, over me

and the lord appeared and the lord spoke, saying

………………………………………do not go under

….                                                into the west, emblem
     ……                                                       of down-going,

                                                ….a river cleaves
                                                ….sunder desert
                                                ….sands untold.

 …                                                I will overflow
     …                                           the stars of heaven
         …                                       within you

 ..                                                a sacred land                 

                                               ….a          garden
                                                   ….         from
                                                     .  ..     my voice a great
                                                …tree of intricate
                                                    .  ..      design

                                                 a law of signs & things to come        [26.4-6]

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

I
am the living
inheritance
of dissemblance: I

make an
other self

as my father
&
his father
before him.

I am the other self    that                 I           am not.

a tide of promise
drifts me
among herds
and beasts
of burden.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

……*the second fourth day*

twin lights rose out of the g-d’s poetic hand

one light pursues the first
first light of first beginning
caught by the heel

a second light disseminates
itself as stars

a fractured light to overcome
the principality
of day

and so it was, the fourth day                      [1:16]

 

 

            *                                                          *                                                          *

 

(his grip was light on the sea          on the desert sands)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

(every moment

I was                                                                                       I was

 already
……….not)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

In the dream I am a lapsing cave. From the scree a boulder tumbles slowly, alights
upon a spring and I am the water and the rock.

The spring is quiet.

The boulder rests.

A voice opens from beneath the spring and the rock is split and I am not the voice. I
am not
the voice.

I am the unsounded echo on the cusp of the voice’s word.

Across a land of bone and sand like stars the echo’s course flows: the echo is the un-
open spring, the quiet spring; containment is a destiny of beginning.

A generation not yet arrived.

In the dream I am not yet myself.

In the dream is no self but the future self. The echo of a word                        formed
in the distant past (another life) not yet sounded.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

a name is not a conclusion not a thing accomplished

a name is that toward which one strives. a locus
of yearning.

a future.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

 

I begin in another name, a name
clung to wings of flame, to
a body of fire.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

I am the other self    that                 I           am not.

 

 

            *                                                          *                                                          *

(his grip was light on the wind-swept cedars       light on the dome of heaven)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

(In the dream I am at the edge of a broad ford. A fortress is carved into the sandstone beyond the river. The mountains are the horizon, the sky is the cradle of my self.   The river is red. I am the edge of the river, its bank. There is a man of light, a man of voluted noise. A trumpet sounds from his face which is no face—emptiness recedes beneath his hood. My leg dies.)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

 

master of all appearance
like unto the one lord
and g-d           I cloak my-

-self in the skin of an-
-other

I am interior
(dis-)
(-) guised ever
in the other
self                  the torn
self from first
beginning

mantle of hearth
put aside, don mantle
of one who is ever shorn

just as the g-d edged
over the surge, the
heaving deep of oblivion, edged,
guised as the breath
gathers itself towards
speech & the word & the alienation
of making

I vanish          as a self
into another & another & another

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

(his grip was light on the riverstones        on the bulge of my thigh)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

My father spoke, I heard through the tent slit; another self faced him, clothed in ruddy, bristled hair :

………Summer was on the face of your mother and the men of a strange land
            enclosed her in desire. Fear pulled itself over me–

                        “she is my sister.”

            And the Lord blessed me, then, in the formation of dissonance.
            And I was increased & I grew abundant and I was exalted
            unto the Lord and I was sent away.

            In a canyon I settled and there I dug my wells and I named them with the names
            my father had named them. I sank a well in the canyon floor and I found
            there the spring of living water.        And we did battle over the well
            and we named it a different name:               Injustice.         [26.7-20]

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

(his grip was light on the canyon rim       on the villages far away)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

closed selves in
search of other
selves, a garden
of concealment:

………..piety.

………..righteousness.

what is
closed
in

the quietus
of self.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

every moment                       I was                           I was               already                       not.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

I           was     alone.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

veil of night, before
me my people

ford the great waters

solitude
exposes me

 

 

strife
descends—blessing
of another life—
from everywhere
crests out
of the swift
waters
rises
from the dust

 

face before
my face

 

turbulent
in its
endless
blossoming—

 

poised, sway
in ancient gripe &
strain
against, against

strove beneath
the wheeling night
torn from its roots

immanent daybreak un-
-closes
force that is undone
a force that is
no force

without my
force, my
opposition

the flattened thigh
the grasp
of the divine

I wrest a fate
from its
cavern of oblivion

electrocuted, a
deadened thigh
a light
ascendant, jerked
free from
night’s hold

a voice, a handle
on my whole soul—

 

daybreak
broke from
his word

his word broke the night, opened
day—

……….you are night & day, you
            are earth & water, you are
            cloven self:      image of g-d.              [32:25-26]

I spoke into
the daybreak
of the other voice—

……….give the night & day
            unto me, give me stars                      [32:27]

and the other voice
at once
spread over
the canyon of self
and self

another name
a blessing

the voice rises

……….among g-d, among
            men, their faces blooming
            for an instant

            another name, name
            of struggle—  no longer Iakob—      Israël

            among g-d, among
            men, their faces
            blooming for an
            instant            your grasp encloses
                        a destiny, the force
                        of all down-going
                        the broken night within your
            ……                                                          self                  [32:29]

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

I am alone in the brittle morning  my people before me
beyond the river. The day shears words from my doubled
self:

………………………..this place

I hear the words
grist the
fractured earth

………………………..this crossing
                                    of gods & man:

 

words fallen
to the fractured
earth, scuttled
over red earth
just above the
ford

.

………………………imago dei

.

the name
springs from my breathless face

.

…………………….imago dei.                   [32:31]

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

In the dream that is no dream I am dead in the thigh, I limp to the water, I peer
into the early light scattered on the other shore.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

image to image         seeing place against seeing place   seen and unseen

joined
(clutches the joint, handle
unbreakable—thigh
dead;
clutch the other
voice, I
grasp & grasp, ruined
on the leg, strife
guides me)

the place
is an origin

light of day
translated
from middle-
night

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

In the dream the g-d shapes a ladder of darkness, strikes it into the earth & into heaven. The g-d’s messengers, the angels rise & descend: they climb as light, as lesser shadows pass through & across a cloud of darkness. The g-d forbids the terror, avows protection

I am sand, numberless
as sand
& starlight.

 

& when wakefulness arose within me I spoke to the g-d, saying:

……….g-d in this place
            amidst my oblivion—a crisis
            of fear & wonder.

            here:    the g-d’s house.

            here:    the gate of heaven.”               [28:16-17]

 

I sink a tall stone upon the ladder’s lower end; I am an agent of dissemblance.

I encrypt the g-d’s house, the one path of up & down, the tether of shadow joining heaven & earth.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

(his grip was light in the lightning settled on my thigh
……………………………………………………………..in the circling wonder of my eyes)

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

altered gate
a step
unhinged

upon me the sun rose

 

—D. M. Spitzer

Read earlier portions of this poem:

Ishmaël: from Genealogy of the First Person

Isaak: from Genealogy of the First Person

.
After undertaking graduate studies in liberal arts, philosophy, and classics (each at different institutions), D. M. Spitzer completed a Master of Fine Arts in writing (poetry) at Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Mr. Spitzer’s first book, A Heaven Wrought of Iron, will be published by Etruscan Press in Spring/Summer 2016. Current poetic projects include:  the afterword to a collection called mousika, which presents transfigurations of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets & the Latin texts of the psalms used by Igor Stravinsky in his Symphony of Psalms; an essay to accompany a new transfiguration of the poem by the early Greek philosopher Parmenides, tentatively (re-) titled Figures of Being; and continued work on the large-scale hybrid project Genealogy of the First Person. Mr. Spitzer is currently a doctoral student in comparative literature at Binghamton University (SUNY), where he  concentrates on the relationship of poetry to philosophy as it occurs in early Greek thinking and the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and others. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with his wife & their three children.

.
.

Sep 132015
 

Dean city

 

Murder mile

I saw girls in ball gowns drinking wine on murder mile,
traffic passing,
the great round circus where we drank beer in your flat before
still there off the high street.

I crossed it holding hands with girls I can’t remember and
talked about my friend from Argentina.
The Caribbean men yelling by the chicken shop.

You never think of now til now,
one room begets another just the same,
one life itself, again
but something moves, things evolve
and we forget, thank god.

These streets all tapered into non-specific
City when I got here first, consulting maps. Houses and shops and sky beyond.
Stories tapered too / the known-tale-courtyard
and the end: flat shops shut up, painted onto wooden boards
The scenery of ending, hiding in the future from the now.

God that desperate lust to write won’t go until
you give up hope and then at last /can/ write, dispossessed
and outsidered, lost,
your legs take you, and what you hunted
is with you everywhere.

/

the city’s silvered-over to the skyline

We drive to Primrose Hill and walk over the hill

 

beneath the rain. You’re cold. Before a friend

 

was talking on and on about his money and

 

his records til I made him stop the car and I got out.

 

It rained then too, the wet boughs shining and

 

the grass soft underfoot, relieved. Soft pressure and percussion

 

overhead, I trespassed through the emptiness that

 

humans hate, the grey skies sighing sympathetic

 

and the telecom tower misted in a veil like memories of the

 

80s. You and I are imposters here I think

 

beside her, far away as

 

deserts and the sea, hand in cold hand,

 

the rain comes down around us like before

 

and the city’s silvered-over to the skyline.

/

Out of food and you

Out of food and you fading

we lay down dying

thin, white and weightless

as a breath.

The tumblers made tall

shapes in the mortuary

the cap-man peering down in

mock concern before

collapsing dash and

cry

              twists claps and

colour,

             they all lithe and well-fed.

Our windows then were

televisions to the

sorry east end pale

light and lost souls’ hustle

blue sirens bansheed by

and lorries stole

heavy cargo off like

rockets fresh from

Palestine, the passing pressure

tightening ribs in crushing waves.

I wanted you in your skirt and

satin knickers with your classic unwell

face straight from the 19th century

pneumonia days of sweats and worrying in waistcoats

but it felt too wrong

too happening elsewhere in

places we weren’t

and people we weren’t

and I didn’t want to

wake you.

              Where we were

the ashy sheet stretched

over the chipboard frame

     —like Heat tales of

anorexics’ faces tight stretched over bone —

stopped it wrinkling into

valleys as we slept.

My boots in the

kitchen, faced the oven

where had I

bacon, or money for the gas

I would stand.

I saw myself there

In them — weighted and

bright — missed him — felt

dead and old, alone and

jagged while you tossed

your head like black salad

               humming occasional

songs of drunk girls

glee and laughing Muslim

kids walking to mosque with

wizened grandfather kind and

slow-moving, the beggars and

hookers, pimps at the bus

stop picking out hotspots;

and here are we, lost as stories.

/

Empty City

When the use-everything drove there, the signs

 

it strangers breathing again. Moving, room-source: smashing garden,

woods gone to dead long town burn

 

               chosen the endless thought

the sad strange forwards

beginning through, outside (read: room)

imagine garden-thousands going home,

they wouldn’ how, or Why

/

[For Carolina]

From your room the windows bracket the city.

 

The light rises at dawn and falls like a sigh into night.

 

The wind blows and we shiver at the thought of outside,

 

rain is lost on the glass, the lightning flashes

 

and the thunder roars and rolls over us, fading into silence beyond.

 

In here time ceases, we cease it, it tries but can’t reach us.

 

You type and I smoke, you talk and I kiss you, we hide in the dark

 

And outside the city lights mark out their loneliness, great spaces between.

 

From your room the windows bracket the city.

 

The light rises at dawn and falls like a sigh into night.

/

Porcelain girl

Porcelain girl
………………..    my tiny pupil
slip
not
……….your foot into your
………………..gauze-purse all stuck through
with ashy silver
………foils pointed
through needle-tips drip run
……………………………in your ink into our lost infinities
………this dispersion space
and soft recovery sofa
………hospital bed
……………………………………. in that old room
………out where the shouting
and you safe and I safe and you
…………………take not the glittering edge
but of wit
…………………………………………………..to write with
………..nor do you

scrawl releasing air for safety’s sake
………..or stir my tea with that dark spoon taken
………………………………………for our cups of tea in prospectus
animate
…………………..conversation and mothers dress or curtain picking
and grandfathers shouting at the dog
……………………………………….in fond secure passion outburst
for tis a sad thing
………..my lost one

                            your deathbed power tools strewn across
some-open shirted sweating desk by candlelight on lakes we drowned in
………………………………………..       dreams
defeat all our childishness
and with their written purpose rule our loneliness

—Martin Dean

NC
Martin Dean

Martin Dean is a writer and Poetry Editor at Minor Literature[s] (@minorlits). Follow him on Twitter @martin_c_dean

Sep 102015
 

Rossend_Collage

Vibrantly alive with the ancient spirit of the Mediterranean world, Rossend Bonás Miró is a Catalan poet, traveler, and teacher. For decades he has worked as a translator, interpreter, and lecturer in many countries, including Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, and Spain’s Ebro Delta region. Bonás is also the cofounder—along with fellow Catalan poet Arnau d’Oms—the pen name of Joan Vernet i Ribes (1952-2014)—of the independent press Els llibres del Rif (Rif Books). This press has been the imprint for several volumes by both poets.

Bonás published his first book of poems Preuat ostatge de les ciutats d’Orient (A Precious Hostage from Eastern Cities) in Barcelona in 1975. Another book of his poems El Emir de Tortosa (The Emir of Tortosa) (2003) was printed in the southern Catalan city of the same name where he lives when he is not making one of his regular trips to villages in the Moroccan Rif and Atlas Mountains. In fact, Bonás says that each of his books has been printed in a different city. Other volumes of poetry over the years have included Tothom ho sabia (Everyone Knew It) (1986) and Mercader d’essències (Essence Merchant) (1992). Summertime 2015 finds Bonás in northern Morocco, editing his forthcoming book of poems Perdut en la gentada (Lost in the Crowd), due to be printed in Tangier.

An artist of eclectic interests whose mission is to help build bridges of cultural understanding, Bonás uses both his Catalan given name Rossend and his adopted Arabic name, Rashid––as well as its Catalan cognate, Raixid.

In addition to his numerous books of poetry, Bonás has also collaborated on the creation of an illustrated Spanish-Arabic vocabulary book for students, about which he and the other authors write: “We hope that this book can be another channel for improving communication and understanding to build with the inherent richness of diversity, a better world where respect and peace hold sway.”

His ideals and poems echo the compassionate spirit of the great medieval Sufi poet Ibn Arabi (1165 – 1240) of Murcia, who wrote:

My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
a temple for idols and the circling pilgrim’s Kaa’ba,
the tables of the Torah and the scrolls of the Quran.

I follow the religion of Love:
whichever way Love’s camels turn,
that is my belief and the faith I keep.

In addition to a body of poems fascinated with the human spiritual journey towards union and understanding, and the non-human life of creation and the natural environment, Bonás is also a student of art, history, and culture both traditional and contemporary. He publishes his articles regularly in Fotent’s Blog (https://fotent.wordpress.com/). A son of Iberia, he is naturally fascinated with the intersection of European and Arabic influences that informs Spanish history, as shown in recent posts about the aesthetic power of Islamic art; the Spanish outpost city of Tétouan on the shore of North Africa; and the powerful, geometric compositions of glazed tile work of al-Andalus, ancient decorative art that influences Spanish and Portuguese design sensibilities down to the present day. Other postings by Bonás have focused on such important Catalan artists as the painter Joachim Patinir (1480-1524) whose landscapes were influenced by Hieronymous Bosch; the photographer Francisco García Cortés (1901-1976) who was a correspondent for the EFE Agency in Tetuan, a graphic collaborator on Diari d’Àfrica and an official photographer for the Spanish High Commission in Morocco; the great artist Antoní Clavé (1913-2005), a master painter, printmaker, sculptor and stage designer; and the painter and poster artist Josep Renau (1907-1982). Bonás’ fascination with the specific personality of different cities is evident in a recent post he wrote about the poetic symbolism of windows, with photographs of the many beautiful and different styles of windows in his city of Tortosa. His love of people and places also inspires a keen, clear, critical voice concerned with the problems of multinational socioeconomic policies that degrade life for many and prevent cultures from living healthy, progressive lives: https://fotent.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/la-menaca-del-sistema-economic-neoliberal/

As his friend and collaborator Arnau d’Oms (Joan Vernet i Ribes) said about him:

“Rossend Bonás’s poetic work goes hand in hand with his life, and thus, he has written poetry in the same way that some trees drip sap, and others provide us with lovely shade, while others give elderflower to clear our sight.

His books, published outside of commercial circles, are like rare jewels. Unusual discoveries. Simple, yes, but illustrated or designed by other artists.

Bonás is Catalan from Catalonia, where most people are not of any single race, although he claims to be among those with the deepest roots in this small country of transitions and permanences, with Iberian, Roman, and Saracen roots.

In his own style, he again mixes the unimagined with the unthinkable, the sacred with the profane, and recreates that time when the southern lands of Catalonia were Muslim and the northern frontier of Al-Andalus.”

On the matter of poetic composition, Bonás himself states: “The first raw material of poetry is sound, and that sound causes the reaction in the human brain. Over time, the reader knows that poetry, to capture all its nuances, should be read aloud. Or rather, should be recited or declaimed.” However, he affirms, there are those who read silently and “delight in pure literary love of the word, of the prosodic devices, of onomatopoeia, repetition and polysyndeton.” Either way, as far as the poet’s role in this relationship goes, Bonás contends that “When you finish a poem, you lose it, it’s no longer yours, you relinquish your authority over it to whoever reads it.”

In that spirit this article presents a generous offering of Bonás poems, selected by the poet himself, in their original Catalan and translated into English, which should provide readers with a splendid introduction to the verses of this timeless, visionary seeker.

— Brendan Riley


Als seus ulls

veig pregoneses
que no sé si hi són
ni si altres les veuen.

I see her eyes
deep proclamations
so deep I doubt
nor know if others see them.

* * *

Aquest vent que apareix
i desapareix sense avisar,
com els mals moments arriba
i, al cap de poc, se’n va.

Però torna,
insistent i regular,
i un bon dia fa tombar
la fulla més resistent
de garrofer o d’alzinar.

This wind that appears
and disappears without warning
comes like the worst moments
stays a while, flows away

But it returns
regular, insistent
and on any good day
it comes to tumble
the most resilient leaves
off the oak and carob trees.

* * *

Ígnia cabellera.
Encesa torxa
de rulls en cascada.
Volcànica lava.
El foc, semblava
que el diua per fora.
Però no, i ara!
És dins que cremava.

Her igneous hair
a burning torch
curling cascade
Lava from the volcano.
Like she was dressed
in a mantle of fire
But no, the perfect inversion
She was burning from the inside out

.

* * *

Wadi Lau I

Sota les palmeres de fulles remoroses
voldríem desxifrar el missatge del vent.
I a l’aigua de les sèquies, silenciosa,
espurnes de llum treu la lluna creixent.

.

Wadi Lau I

Under the palm trees’ murmuring leaves
we try to discern the wind’s message
And from the silent water pools
sparks of light engender the rising moon

.

* * *

.

—Si som en el temps,
que és moviment,
consiència pura;
si som consciència
en el còsmic moviment
i si és aquesta consciència
un privilegi…
¿per a què el vull, Senyor,
què n’haig de fer?—
rumia el pastor
mentre es bressola el ramat
amb la lenta i greu monotonia
dels cicles naturals.
-¿I no haguera pogut ésser
consciència d’ase o d’ovella,
i no haguera pogut ésser
atzavara, poniol, insecte
o la primera figa
que l’estiu madura?

If we reside in time
which is motion,
if we are consciousness
in the cosmic movement
and if this consciousness itself
constitutes a privilege
Why do I desire it, Lord
What business is it of mine?
Thus wonders the shepherd
while the flock meanders
with the slow solemn monotony
of the natural cycles.
And would not have been possible
consciousness of donkey or sheep
and would not have been possible
agave, mint, and insect
or the first ripening
fig of summer?

.

* * *

.

El pecador, que no en tenio prou amb el perdó, demanava, a més a més, l’esperança.

¿O hauré de veure com m’apago,
trista, anònima i lentament,
sense tan sols el comfort plaent
de l’esperança, resignant-me,
com el ruc corbat sota sa càrrega?

.

The Sinner, Not Satisfied with Being Forgiven, Asked For Hope As Well

Or will I have to pretend how I fade,
sad, anonymous, and slowly,
without even the pleasant comfort
of hope, resigned like the donkey
plodding beneath its heavy load?

.

* * *

.

Exposició col•lectiva d’Art basada en poemes de R. Bonàs

Aquesta exposició és el resultat d’una proposta en la que 12 artistes fan una lectura gràfica dels poemes de Raixid Bonàs.

1

Seguim en aquest món serè
enduts per remolins de passions
banals i no gens descabellades,
en un estiu accelerat que,
tot just començat, ja és ple.

2

La ment, ¿pot fer avinent
l’oblit de mi mateix
amb el ‘jo’ treballat
tan àrduament?

3

Seguint els cagallons
de les cabres de l’Olimp
pujàvem pels camins
flanquejats de margallons
baladres, atzavares i pins.

4

La realitat dels fets tossuts i quotidians
desafia, il•lògica, candor i fantasia.

5

Si simple titelles som
de la gran representació
al Teatre Universal…

moveu-nos els fils, Senyor,
que puguem representar
moltes funcions
en Vostre Honor
i per a satisfacció de tots!

6

Com descriure el dolor tens i larvat
després d’una separació definitiva?

S’endu el vent el lent treball dels anys
i l’íntim plaer de la mútua companyia.

.

Collective Art Exhibit based on the poems of R. Bonás

This exhibit is the result of a proposal in which twelve artists perform a graphic reading of the poems of Rossend Bonás.

1

We endure in this serene world
driven by whirlwinds of banal passions
still sane not at all hare-brained,
in an accelerated summer,
one freshly inaugurated
yet already teeming full

2

Can my mind be called
to recall my self-inflected
oblivion with the oh-so
arduously overwrought “I”?

3

Following the dark pellets dropped
behind by the goats from Olympus,
we pushed upwards along the paths
flanked closely by palmettos
oleander, agaves, and pines.

4

The reality of all
our stubborn daily deeds
illogically defies
candor and fantasy.

5

If we are merely marionettes
of the great representation
at the Universal Theater…

move our threads, Lord,
so we might mirror
a purposeful multitude
of movements
in Your Honor
meant to satisfy all!

6

How to describe the tense
and tightly wrapped pain
a dark cocoon
after a definitive separation?

The wind carries away the work of years
and the intimate pleasure of mutual company.

— Susana Fabrés Díaz & Brendan Riley

 

Rossend Bonas3

A native of Barcelona, Spain, Susana Fabrés Díaz is a teacher and artist. She wrote the first, working draft of these translations from the Catalan.

Brendan Riley

Brendan Riley has worked for many years as a teacher and translator. He holds degrees in English from Santa Clara University and Rutgers University. In addition to being an ATA Certified Translator of Spanish to English, Riley has also earned certificates in Translation Studies and Applied Literary Translation from U.C. Berkeley and the University of Illinois, respectively. His translation of Eloy Tizón’s story “The Mercury in the Thermometers” was included in Best European Fiction 2013. Other translations in print include Massacre of the Dreamers by Juan Velasco, and Hypothermia by Álvaro Enrigue. Forthcoming translations include Caterva by Juan Filloy, and The Great Latin American Novel by Carlos Fuentes.

Sep 032015
 

Fledapubphotos.doc

 

Hair

Like light from the stars, all’s been decided,
nothing to do now but watch.
The time between stars is vast,
but the sky shows them all at once,
an impression, the spirit of the thing,
like a field of frail hair-stubs on the plain
urn of the head. An impression
of an ancient vessel with its slight fault-lines.
I peeled a golf ball, in the days
when it was rubber-bands all the way,
not gel in the center, down to
a marble-size ball near the end made of
only itself, fiercely spirited.
My golf-ball head, my memento mori.
Stay, I say to my head, looking back at me
in silence. Stay, I say to my love,
who runs his hand across his memories.
Always, he says, even though I am inside-out,
pink and surprising, burning
with the residue of past civilizations.

 

Rain

It is raining here. If we flew to Vegas
it might not be raining, but everything
would be so different, rain would be
the least of it. Water is dripping off
the roof right in front of our eyes,
repeating, as if we were idiots, “See,
it’s raining.” If it’s not raining where you
are, you can imagine our rain, individual
drops coming so fast they merge into
a pale roaring through the downspout.
While you’re at it, you might imagine
sheep in the field, wet but not soaking,
because of oil in the wool. Happy enough.
And lots of scattered rocks, because we’re
in Grasmere, in a B & B called “Raise View,”
with blue hills through the rain. We
don’t care if it’s raining because we’re in
Grasmere, and that’s part of the ambiance.
How nice that we’ve gone there, if only
for the moment: that morning with
the delicate teacups and scones, and rain.

 

Taxol

I was just thinking about the paradox of the word chemotherapy–that it’s healing/curing: therapy, a word whose root has very much to do with care also–ministering; in the Iliad and Odyssey even a squire could be called a therapon–
the one who administered to the hero, putting on and taking off his armor, etc…

And chemo is chemistry, potentially substances that aren’t normally
encountered in the body…But you know what? I thought a little further in my
nerdy little etymological brain, and I believe the “chem” part, taken from
alchemy, is originally the Egyptian [khem], which is the precious fertile earth
from the Nile flood, the black gold from which alchemists tried to derive the
metal gold.

So, that may be something. “Ministering to the body with precious black-gold
earth?”
…………………………………..–my student Ela

The molecule that oddly binds to a cell’s
hollow tubes, that holds them in paralysis, that stops
…………..their wild replication.

That requires all the bark from one rare yew
in the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest to save
…………..one person. Also the home

of the rare northern spotted owl.
Now you’re up against the press of need, of cost.
………….The bloody essence, the drug-war

of it. Everyone’s stake. Don’t sleep under the yew
if you don’t want bad dreams. In ancient English graveyards,
………….where the yew’s planted

over graves, rats die. Let the roots
talk to the dead, as the Druids did. There was the woman
…………..who only touched

the hem of Jesus’s robe and was cured.
Likewise, it turns out that simple needle-cells grown
……………in fermentation tanks,

a brew, an essence, is enough. But will this
life be saved? Won’t it? I ask this with reverent earnestness,
………….as the complicated foreignness

enters my small vein, chilly as a stream
through underbrush: Taxol, making a pressure, an ache
…………..farther down my arm,

where the nurse places a warm pack
to loosen the valves, the barriers, to keep death’s molecules
………….going where they’re meant,

into the deep forest of the body,
mine, mine, only one of me in existence. Who touched me?
…………..Jesus asked, so subtle the solution.

 

Blue Angels

………….When, for example, you’re running
the lint roller all over your black dress
before the party, up and down to the hem,
you may notice the grace in this preparation,
its turning and gathering,
the tiny flecks that look black against
the white but looked white against the black,
and that strangeness may make you smile,
a small thing, but it’s as if the sky cracked
open a bit, the sky that all your life
keeps trying to draw close,
like bedcovers.

Angels can come from anywhere,
a host from inscrutably high tearing straight down
toward your ice cream, your partially
melted scoops, one Dutch chocolate, one salted
caramel, before they turn and climb, leaving
the sky split open in their wake.

Angels can also nose-up and slide
as if they had no care in the world down
before they slowly right themselves, a sign
to you that righting is the proper
thing, really—the mundane engines, right to left,
left to right—the other an aberration.
Still, the one you cheer for. The steep climb,
the riotous splitting away
into a sky-flower of vapor trail.

 

Fawn

A fawn the size of a cat with long legs was left
in the tall grass in her yard. Mothers do that
until the fawns can keep up—they come back
and get them in early evening. M— knew it was there
because it stood up once. So sweet!
She waited all evening for the mother to come,
the reunion, the way they nuzzle and the baby nurses.
Around 9:30 a doe came and left. Then two more
came and sniffed. The fawn has no smell.
Usually it stands and they spot each other.
It got dark and then cold, cold rain,
even lightning. M— was in agony, truly.
She lived so far out of town, each event was hers,
only. How was the fawn to survive
without the mother’s warmth?
She felt she was in charge of life,
……………………..no, it was the weight
of watching, the inability to look away.
It was her country that had abandoned its delicate
balance, the armored tanks, the night-vision
goggles. Nothing but window-glass between her
and foreclosing darkness. Should she try
to warm the fawn in her studio?
What if the mother came? All night she lay,
worrying. She almost got up several times, as if
stirring and pacing would solve this.
At 6:30 a.m. she went out. The fawn was gone.
Mother? Coyotes? Then she saw
the mother’s hoof-prints with the tiniest hoof-
prints beside. For a moment she felt
shallow-rooted, with nothing, nothing in sight,
to show her how to withstand
such violent alternations, such grace.

— Fleda Brown

 

Fleda Brown’s eighth collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy, (BOA Editions, LTD) and her collection of essays, Growing Old in Poetry, with Sydney Lea (Autumn House Press) came out in 2013. Her memoir is Driving With Dvorak, (University of Nebraska Press, 2010). Professor emerita at the University of Delaware, past poet laureate of Delaware, she lives in Traverse City, Michigan, and is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Tacoma, Washington.

Aug 112015
 

Kate Fetherston paintingSpring: watercolor/oil pastel/graphite on paper 11”x15”.

.
OVERTURE

I dream we argue about money, which is to say, about toast
and how it should be made, if you really loved me. You

lobby for your birthright to pile striations of mail across
horizontally opportune surfaces. That is: everywhere. If I

loved you, I would see this. I would celebrate your scattershot
genius. The next night, I dream prime numbers in bad

moods bump shopping carts in the produce aisle and slam
bananas to the floor with a fury that says, I am

special. And you don’t love me enough for it. After
weeks of this, one evening around midnight, I slip

out of myself, a stranger to the usual
conflagrations, and dream we muscle

through buoyant water as seals slapping
backsides. Our flippers splash each

other’s whiskery snouts as we loll
in sunlight we didn’t earn. When I open

my eyes, there’s music again. I stroke your stubbly
beard and dream of the Sargasso sea.

.

IMG_1178Hidden Gold: oil on paper 22” x 30”.

.

BAR SCENE

Your pick up line, “What kind of farm animal are you?” could use some work, and you never said where you’re from. But I to you of a white goat am mothered, my manners dainty and feral. Don’t invite me to the company picnic. I’ll bat my eyes at your boss while nibbling his flip-flops. Senseless, these conventions. My beast-like heart has no strings. You could play me like an accordion. My lungs swell with the sharp air of not-yet spring. I have the kind of hope acquainted of a tin can, desiring nothing more than to remain shiny. I to you am fatherless, gotten of a wild boar, an 80’s punk rocker. See, my mouth filled with thyme and laurel. I can’t sing a lick but my braying is the talk of the county and there have been several offers for my hand. I would like a comfortable barn and an acre of mint for my wedding day. I would like to lie down in clover. You could know me real well, buddy, or keep pretending you don’t want it. Either way, baa–aaad boy—the tab’s on you.

.

IMG_1376Pieces of Self: collage on cardboard. 20”x 15”.

.

GOD’S INTERVIEW

Tell us how you successfully met past challenges
and why you’re applying for this job.

Weary of mere hallelujah, I held the moon’s dark
backside and lounged on my netherworld throne. People
yammered and I tried to listen. For awhile, to get my
attention, small burnt  animals smoldered on every
hillock, then my inbox burgeoned with cracks
about my outdated skill set.  They gave feedback
on my goals.  They wanted me to improve. They wanted
rules to break.  They wanted selves.  Expectations,
evaluations: a poverty of imagination for which I take
full responsibility.  I dressed for the job I had instead

of the gig Lucifer snatched, so I rocked it
invisible. I did vocalize my needs through burning
bushes, giant snakes, dragons,  unicorns, poets,
an Al Gore or two, but nothing slowed the bloodbaths,
pyramid schemes, political stupidity. People bludgeoned
each other no matter what. Praise and lambast
piled up like junk mail and the universe
became unmanageable Maybe I didn’t
have good boundaries.  I tried tough
love.  Leaked news of my death and hung

with Saturn for a while.  His party
presence relies on a few glum
syllables and splitting a can of Spotted
Dick, but at least he’s not
demanding. But, folks seemed
lonely so I packed a lunch and parked
outside Lincoln Center in a plastic
chair for a couple of weeks. Of course, that’s
the most quiet I’ve enjoyed in millennia. Only
psychotics stopped to schmooze. Maybe higher

intellectual pursuits were the ticket, so
I eavesdropped on philosophy:  If p = q, why
is there no water in the gorge? What
were they even talking about? I had to skidaddle
the hell out of there to make that refresher
course on how to be a supreme deity and still
have time for myself. It’s all about balancing self-
care with busting ass. But I knew this gig was toast
when I no longer loved tender acrospires busting
snow laden earth. Yes, when the moon’s white

thigh rose over spring fields I waited
for the sun to gutter out. So I’m available
to start immediately.  Or, since time
is my plaything, before.

The panel appreciates your detailed response. However, in light of your already overtaxed schedule, we feel you are not the ideal fit for us.  And—off the record, that was quite the bar rant, Mr. G. To promote your success in future interviews, might we suggest job coaching—or medication—or, for God’s sake—both?

.

IMG_0679Field with Light: watercolor/oil pastel/sgraffito on paper 9” x 10”.

.

CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE

Grandma Dubie, day after day, hunched
splay legged over a bourbon glass balanced

on her chair’s cigarette-burned
arm and flicked cards with a loud

snap, each laid down with a private
purpose. Pastel squares on her

ancient rug functioned as a
game board for us kids. Made-

up crosswords: blue six down
by dusty pink three

across for a prize of burnt
toast. Once, unminded, my little

brother Sam gleefully pried
open the china cabinet, wrapped baby

fists around thin-skinned
teacups, and, determined as

a journeyman, dropped them
one by one on the dirty

floor. Without a word, she hammered
it shut. Shooed outside, we shadow-

boxed dust motes adrift in sour
apple trees, their rotten fruit

slippering bunchgrass that struggled
through what she didn’t

think of as neglect. We played with dead
Uncle Somebody’s toy soldiers. We hid

in the smelly basement, wiggling murky
Mason jars to see when, not if, they’d

explode. We tried climbing into the extra
fridge that, thank god, wouldn’t

shut. Eventually, nothing
else to do, we’d belly flop

back on the rug, singing tonelessly
while clicking Grandma’s jewel

clasped cigarette case. Finally, Grandma yelled
at Mom, I can’t take it—Bring

them back when they’re
housebroken or old enough

to drink. As if we could change
ourselves. As if that

would change us. Today, phone
held sideways, I swish virtual

cards with a finger—tick, tick—and my
fingers become my grandmother’s—now that I

too, lost in the cross hatching of love and irreparable
damage, need for something, anything to come out

all right. And the ache of blue shadow glides with winter
sun along walls of that other room I never left.

.

IMG_1360Navigating the Underworld: watercolor/oil pastel on paper. Four 9”x10” panels.

.

THE OLD YEAR IN JOHNSON, VERMONT

October hunkers on drab hindquarters
spattered with a few resonant

golds and rusty
oranges. She no longer cares to dress
for dinner or other occasions of vulgar

admiration; company is such
a bore. Spiny deciduous trees bristle

against a dirty palate
sky, and the old year lies down beside a mouse-
brown river.   To sleep she might say, if

she were speaking, but the truth
is colder and grief hardly

original. At the local coffee shop, I sift
some poetry through my early
morning confusion while at the next

table two mental health consumers-
slash-respite workers conduct a convo

with their payee. “That money
is coming to me,” says one. “I played
World of Warcraft all weekend. So don’t try

to play-sate me.” The caseworker
unrolls an I’m-Being

Very-Patient tone. In a small voice, guy number
two makes acquiescent I’m no
trouble noises, then says, “I’ve done

everything to lose
weight and it’s not my fault I hurt

my back. Can I get
some Oxy from anyone at your office?   Is anyone
hooked up?” The caseworker’s inaudible

response is sure to be
appropriate. We’re all in need

of respite, right? My seventeen year old
cat purrs and wants to sit close
but, thin to thinner, she’s disappearing. Her once

shiny black hair is drying to chick fluff. Where
is she going? The dwindling year

can’t be bothered for information. You’ll have
to go through channels, she’d say. If I asked
her to whisper god’s secret

name. Buttoning my coat against
a sharp wind coming off the railroad

tracks, I lean over the riverbank where
water is language enough. Red leaves circle
in widening ripples, then move on.

.

IMG_0555Summer Storm:  watercolor/oil pastel on paper 9” x 10”.

—Paintings & Poems by Kate Fetherston

.

Kate Fetherston

Kate Fetherston’s first book of poems, Until Nothing More Can Break, was released in 2012.  Her poems and essays in numerous journals including North American Review, Hunger Mountain, and Third Coast.   She’s received grants from the Vermont Council on the Arts and Vermont Studio Center.  Kate was twice a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry and has several Pushcart Prize nominations.

Kate’s visual art is inspired by the line between feeling and seeing.  In this series, she’s is interested in playing with process and form to reinterpret landscape as it connects with internal space.  Kate’s art has been shown in California and Vermont.

 

Aug 082015
 

Louise Bak

.

Restlessness

air smell washed, sidewalk’s shipping crate’s uncollected newspaper’s
high-ranking officials. a forecourt photo’s tousled abbey blouse in the
cart’s overstretched stocking of uncollected tea. a news portal’s picked
out simpler juk syun for “disgusting,” zip maai, broke up with slowed
forward, fingers indenting flat yoke of a dress, at palm molding’s atta,
at x eyes, worsted on lops around its hem. 5:15 a.m. cheep from leaf-
crumbled clump, green “pass” certificate more rigidly vertical than a
sandwich board’s “destiny reform” skill. stripped up sleeve as part of
sock runs down from knee, wind’s whup of glass panel set in wall, at
a cricket in a see-through tube, crosses into wet dab of cotton, where
it drinks. glancing across small hexagonal mirrors, i-ching coins, the
dry-pivot needle at centre of a diviner’s board, its line for north-south
dire, hooded by a lock charm. inscription of tian chang’s perpetuality

is worn, as waxing moon, flat-bottomed clouds rolled, when lurched
off, a watch’s claymore sword style hands, to inside of hand by egely
wheel, glass-boxed. surrounded with more of palm, sighed sensation
to clockwise flit, tensed legs respread at quavered turn, to more brisk
mincing on a redox ring. slid at fifth finger’s dip joint, cocked doubt-
fully, at contrition and defiance of a mayor, caught by cp24 reporter’s
“but … i … i …” appallingly told to newsroom, while uhn shrugged,
that atleast not toronto sensible, to pieds-à-terre towers underway, to
go up to 915 ft, perks of built-in speakers, forced-air heating, but the
scratches on some velux windows to overlook side elevation deemed
“those grandmas, thinned by the first week.” bumptious, timbre on ga
yull, to hurt the sale of units, remarking the walked direction at a few
khata scarves, that the ring musn’t stay on a finger without movement.

advancing warm front curdled the surface pitting of pomes, in swelter
formed within packages. separated husks of roasted watermelon seeds
from seizes of gold premolars, that handed over from long bus back, a
bottle’s semi-cola-colored water swished, bent stiffly, in heard versing
a younger generation’s “can give just 10 (or whatever) hours for free.”
by a stairwell’s tarpaulin, slither of alu foil paper, where the extension
ladder weighted it, leaking “hiraeth,” at blown sauveteur sticker, stuck
on cigarette butts on steps, to more metallic candy wrappers, cornering
the entrance. tpl tee still draped on boxes stacked against the wall, from
hardly picked detritus of a branch’s vhs titles. lust for life’s outstretched
razor on cobbled path, in static-lined chase. sticking drawer opened for
twist-tied villous amomum fruit, pericarps’ longitudinal cracks marked,
in which negatives were under such compression, that some coursed to

floor and off a bowl of liang pi’s starch paste formed at the bottom of it,
water risen to the top, cupped with a polymer note of 100 yuan, china’s
century temple on its backside dampened more, from lain on boxed rice
and in way of slammed gemel bottle, blots ambroxan, like pervading of
men’s aisles. tongue’s stagger to inside of cheek, to noodles-thickness as
a pen’s coating, braided and lashed on a table, without arresting forward
motion, ungained run skips. cordoned outside, steps’ cascading of blood,
after stabbed female, without vital signs taken to hospital, relayed by the
entering of road restrictions and area resurfacing on a keyboard. the okay
asked in writing, so it could be known what to be meted, while a queased
quiet, ambled crossing a tank’s sanddab. its maxillary reaching below the
anterior part of a lower eye, reported borne franticly, splashes from cloth.
bony ridge mid eyes, twained on one side, cam border’s hanged seriatum

.

.

.

.

zip maai, conceal, bury (Cantonese)
tian chang in phrase tian chang di jiu, everlasting
ga yull, (to add oil) – to cheer someone on by saying “go, go go”!
hiraeth, homesickness (Welsh)
liang pi, literally “cold skin,” a noodle like Chinese dish

.

Immuring

the red one-button gleaming in the semi-darkness, dropped with
the bracket. in her securing it on the chair, it thwacks blinking at
the half rail. taps at the concentrated liner, melted down a corner
of an eye, on a faint swelling at the lateral canthus. she stretches
from scoop neck to roomy sleeve, for the pressured itch, finding
bands of smooth skin in the sanitized blandness. reaching for the
blouson sweatshirt, she pulls it towards her, making it taut at the
neck hole, only to have it weighted like grain jar with ruyi heads,
while its endless knots circling its shoulder nears temporal ridge,
she feels an overall push outwards, to waist ties undone with the
raglan flopped. uncrumpling the sweatshirt to its inset, the mesh
with garlands surrounded by gimps, that’d go across the sides of
arms is more torn to the “sashou” with the scrape on outer thigh,
red-anemone shaped, punctate with black-blue dots, lappet at its
margin. fingers oilier from being rubbed together to pressing for

the bandeau. the upended nip of elastane, rather the snapping up
just under her sturnum, she sees a girl with a long lilac fringe on
the side of her short hair, who retrieves the arcuate bottom glued
scoop, on the bed lined on the other side of the hallway. tugging
on its pre-assembled paper to a convexity with fried oil luctance,
“pmt 5 worstever” said so dryly, with the anodyne account of the
1 baked potato = fist, heard to her more earnest. a turn diagonally
with pulling at integrated thumb hole, few inches along the index
comes away like a puberlous stipe. smarting in the dark garment,
clasped at its upper medium area, the rest of it bunched at her left
underarm. drawing her cheeks back, so that her lips aren’t smiling
to gingival tissue, correspondingly shaped to upper lip’s overlying
skin, slightly tender, seeing the setting off toward the stray ribbon
and the barge on its positioned “gewt,” close together in iridescent
spring pea. the moving the wrist downward while facing the palm,

while an aide steps from a room ahead of her, fidgeting with a slot
behind the finger tab of a magazine holder. the wrist leaned across
the lovatt’s crossword section at the extra page holder. chain marks
blanchable are indicated and got from the sculpey of kagura, while
there’s the turning to a subsequent page, murmuring at just 9 down,
hued “thicko,” old au pair from latvia. a reproving riffle, in tucking
fingers down, but the index raised, to the flexing of airy fabric with
its full 66” sweep, the right arm craned over head, at the reinforced
twill tape, sliding from the slumped bustle, byakuei’s aching crenate
without let-down, voicing “schutt.” a sidelong glance at her leaning
her torso back on a forearm, her knees drawn toward her chest, as if
a pealing heart. edges of the cabinetwork’s minimal nursing supplies
appears with iritis shadows, brief jerks like the contractile tails of t4
bacteriophage, mnemic length-wise pieces of polygonatum rhizome
in the clip note organizer, separated from the receipts and the mom-

and pop cards, with sections like actions, indications and symptoms
adhoc staffed minutes, sturdied fingered extended ketai strap with a
orbicular rehmannia. lined with irregular transverse curves, pressed
to dust grains fluorescing in a pallor, in a tachyonic stretch, neurons
misfiring, radiations on cell membranes, vacuity breakpoints, while
suddenly, a mid-sentence sprung, smoky of “no uniforms -no flags –
and no medals when we are brave.” sheets stripped back, feeling the
blue scalloped thread design of the blanket, from the inside surfaces
of her knees to shoulders drawn together, head and chest lifted, half-
seating to the set back tightened sound that you’ll get out in about an
hour. inclining to discern, there’s a shot where a barer dietrich arrives
at a small sand rise, taking the rope around a donkey’s neck from one
of the other women. they slowly disappear down the other side, while
her eyes closes in on rouched detailing of her faint teal bra, crammed
between a lady palm and greeting cards also on the footwall. glancing

on the evenness of the vct flooring, the aide carrying a folder moves it
in pulling some dented drop solution from a side pocket, grappling the
other, with brows relaxed but slightly raised, that something’s missing.
striding a step back from the door’s frame, she states “get ready to go,”
sweeping her hand about, to straightening the notice, with its phase of
reorganization, often going on for years -mumbles “shmeed’s charger,”
in turning back. leaning the back strap on the legwarmer, its gunmetal
studs, to the desquamation of her lips, pressed back from the kneaded,
slack of under stomach. the flyby of striped nylon brace, the half of its
clasp’s edges, pushed askance, shortly injected upon left scaphoid fold.
crawling on the reticulate wrinkles of psoralea seeds, said to be able to
expand coronary arteries, while scattered in the rattan chair, light, open
vine stitches of the glove’s pom pom, straight-cut, speckled with pieces
of soft root. rushed from from the double-handled herb knife, the straps
fallen of undershirt, in leaning in toward her of mimosa bark, clasped at

her wrist, used for hundreds of years to soothe emotions. tenebrous, the
bands on each nail on the right, slipped over to the left, curled at the top
edge of the package’s knobby contents, balanced on the outside edge of
left inset, shy of exaggerated frill running at sleeve hem, in the apology
for being so juk maa, fil coupé detail of a looped bow, reddened filmily,
wrackful, like a psc cloud. a leaflet is jounced with her grieved sling of
blue slippers. looking up, lumbering with the identification bracelet and
the emitted “erdbeer” on the gauze compress over a cart, pausing by the
wall to watch that she isn’t on her way back. the dull coated paper seems
malleable in her unfurling, as if it was creased and folded numerously to
a hexagonal star, from its starting in a zig zag. hearing the shuffle of one
just assigned and leaving a room, the “bleats” from the oversized pencil,
halting like it’d take an hour to go down the lines just for her coordinates.
“cuttings,” “smears,” scanned in an order that could only be hers, before
mottled burgundy “smaug,” at the afterward’s “statistically insignificant.”

.

.

.

.

sashou, trifling, little (Japanese)
kagura, the heroine of the story Ga-rei, who controls byakuei, a white dragon, from the seal on her back and a long chain that connects her soul to his. any damage the dragon receives also damages her as well.
schutt, rubbish, debris (German)
juk maa, disgusting, ugly (Cantonese)
erdbeer, strawberry (German)

.

Whine

arm clutched higher on side of a lecturn, with hand hung from
tickling midst yarn of a balloon, mylar airship drifted, stopped
when bumped at start of greimas square’s actants of turdsinker
squeezed in larynx, where it opponent chalked, whoudi, while
slumping far over opened textbook’s bragg lines on a brillouin
lattice that shoulders rose above, jerked wheeze, flicking over
by cover edges more bumped to a division house, age spots in
outer margin. dripped from choana, greyish gob pliable across
but not obscuring a few words, liquid of eyes knotted, bai zhu
it can’t be helped demurred. pitch in seat, rounded tip end of a

pencil stilled, midscratch forearm. bled hazed “sus,” glancing
up, as if raisiny touch like kokuto, poster’s headphoned pullip
arm’s seaming of differing lace swung. “datu thing is,” began
as inadequate breath, to a louder “moe,” at hiki-room’s hetalia
kite, peeled neath cos-hop conveyed with cresset points, burst
in stamp shaped seal pricks on sternum, dessicated coconut of
candy listed, where scratched inkless, stratus clouds’ openings.
tap of calendar, masses of ink caps, darker in stems’ exudance
as squared cat’s eye glasses stared at space mid desks’ smocks
tiered, vacuumformed armor. briskly pitched 1” pin button of

“i ❤ terror” with lagged tacks by marks of dupe opi polish on
front of shirt. stood at desk frame’s epoxy coated tubing, with
lean where knee and end of pant straight, meager grinned are
you sure you want to do this? fingers halfway in open face of
metallic getup up wagged, peered in eyelid twitches adjusted
as calla lily bead cap repinned in false moustache’s tip pulled
down more, below end of lip on side of turned strides. quake
wirier beneath nose, rubbed and shook of head, in three time
rows, as “tha fat” lapped by “loid,” neared third in umbonate
cut, stood over encamped amoeba table’s inaba rabbit mask’s

painted acrylic scraped, from couldn’t help it slaps of umami
bag, cranium’s gold crown cake topper. gruff uptick of don’t
deserve to be around. seated closed fist with balalala craned
had already coursed past hand’s wound-up ovals, contracted
to hip pocket’s water caltrop hitting casing of cell, rearward
spun, while pustule more pressurized below lips, pressed on
poly bag’s several spine creases of chew comic. cover’s kind
of cyber-luchadore rooster, got free at some clothing $6 bag
bag wednesday. indentation at faceplated crest, palm facing
just short of straight up, el santo y blue demon hood’s luster

midst mid-weight socks, puckeringly sour chaw of suan mei
at back of throat. brass stamping of belt buckles declivity at
upper back, photo of burnout jersey back of vest, press-stud
detail at collar, shoulder hair like straggly cat ear flaps, with
having been wbv patter. haste of next posted image, drag of
drop sleeve of jumper, pregnant-looking temp, as girl across
two way rack of joggers, pointed beneath elbow pit, shirttail
hem wrenched, chewed breccia-hued gelate, flim of kleenex
tossed , its lower cursive on-wee dabbed, as bandage square
unasked of why she had such, muffled breaking wind thuds

in steps, as elasticated side of plimsoll pulled, kicked out in
cotton of polo shirts. sections arranged by apparel type with
halting mid-colors of glassed re-ment minis, several sprouts
on teapot and croquembouche’s thin threads, finding cordial
lined, implying pieced together, gone to several-days-starch
syruped haws, glister from tug of coated skin, teeth motions
on sides of zipper match ups in good condition, as shuffling
over sesame rong bag, stacked heel bumped on loose pieces
of gravel, from snagging of display shelves. quickly dashed
left choppings of peanut coating, snagged mǎzai crag gooed

shudders, arched lower back up, felt droop of harness vest’s
block shaped hood, repeated with waist traced rotating from
right to left, in circular motions. screwed round gaze, string
lit near tang suit hat on banh tiêus, layout of silk’s longevity
signs with panels of vinyl’s printed mesembs, sections hand
sewn, moments of even stitches midst “you closing eyes in
that photo? can never tell with you,” inattention settings on
their over/under offs. shirt’s shawl collar of pliable tissue in
dragon garland wouldn’t pass muster, pulling a voucher out
of handbag’s packets of dispensed kari-out lady, as twisted

red cloth of cord hurtled, dimmed sockets whined, to wave
of arm ended wagged in air, turned at window’s scrabbling
with a paw at fur missing half-way up a cat’s torso. noticed
too at base of tail, disappearing to tetra pak bottle’s caramel
shake shell, slanting neck’s dipping of angostura in a shrub,
limply dribbling, further extruded rings of cheez-it, judged
liquidy-ish sick down front column linen shirt. avoided the
ignoring eyes’ moving of oval hook clear plastic of glasses’
“either that,” to snagging on lego tie tack. golden laminate
bumps sped off ear of crooked sack cloth double crescents.

middle fingers crossed over, pointer fingers hunched overs
of random tut waded at nonpareil rack’s highschool jackets,
a sailor moon dress, by sparse “medic” smocks and apron’s
long neck tie unlaced from a tubular hanger’s holster garter
and tried out foam latex galaxina mask, stretched out, as in
mouth moved apart. grasped cotton drill by underline at its
knee, shook at upper its knee’s solid fibrefill, as the not too
ott lace at sides of male zentai suit left, it lain on bale of no
longer suitable for reuse. waist down to the vent area where
back of the thighs hitched lower body’s quality of miniscule

marquise galloons on card, with longdashed globe. pouter’s
heta uma at weight of breath near to bangle’s ballchain and
adhesive streaked, a cut more inside the edge of a glass tile
over wicking of donut bail’s not fabricated to be repeatedly
opened and closed on below ear hair, in press on square of
agloe, made-up map trap. adjustment of centring hold with
town labels, route lines, to pleated details on shoulder of a
shirt, lain in a used hide-a-bed’s straightening of three way
zip through crotch, in who else was looking and what was
being seen, smooths of agglomerated cork, willable sound

.

.

.

.

bai zhu, a chinese herb, with a rhizome clenched like a fist
kokuto, black sugar candy
moe, a slang term referring to the sexual attraction to idealized people
hikikomori, a social phenomenon, involving withdrawal, reclusive patterns of adolescents or adults in Japan
inaba, in Japanese mythology, there’s a tale of coming upon a rabbit stripped of its skin and crying. It was told it’d recover, by washing off in seawater, but doing so, things got worse
wbv, refers to weight-based victimization
mazai, chinese pastry made of strands of fried batter, with a sticky syrup, with historical associations, including “[I’d like to] kill that guy on the horse.”
zentai, a term for skin-tight garments that cover the entire body
heta uma, concept of bad technique, good sense (Japanese)

—Louise Bak

.
Louise Bak is the author of Syzygy (DC Books), Tulpa (Coach House Books) and Gingko Kitchen (Coach House Books). She’s the co-host of Sex City, Toronto’s only radio show focused on intersections between sexuality and culture. She also curates/hosts a salon series called The Box, which encourages communication across literary and artistic borders.

.
.

 

 

Aug 022015
 

Amber Homeniuk

.

Raccoon

1.  the one who takes everything in its hands[1]

fat and downy, wee washer-bear descends head-
first, back feet backwards, bushy-ringed
champion omnivore, incognito i.d.,
tactile thinker in the night,
haunchy smartypants
unlocking memory,
destroyer
douser
thief

.

2.fmy brother’s kits

our uncle shot their mother,
gave us three chimney cubs
with needle teeth, teddy ears,
and bottle-gripping hands

milk-whiskered, growing,
they tumbled in a row
after Tom, marching barefoot in pyjamas,
his grinning jammy mouth

imprinted

.

3.fmascot

stuck in Scarberia, I hated campus on sight—
dank concrete bunker hulked over dim valley
up the creek, too many trees, and posters
plastered every door: missing, Elizabeth Bain
staring, dark-eyed

Rocky Raccoon, the ubiquitous totem,
charmless hail-fellow in a stuffed suit,
handsy caricature, button-nosed buffoon,
his big-headed bump and grind

tie-dyed frosh, the Purple Jesus party, packed
picnic tables, Tanya playing Three Man with fuzzy dice,
bedsheets strung from crowded dens, there was Jodi
her frizzies and braces and I drank eight beer!
and Ramona always barfing, needed carrying upstairs

skeevers from The ‘Shwa, pedophiles of Pickering,
rapists in the Guild, so bushy-tailed
and boys who saw me only halfway home—
we all wore shoes we could run in

our grads Bernardo, Williams
years too late unmasked:
who else did that asshole Rocky cheer
with his eerie plush leer?

.

4.ffoaming at the mouth

on the grounds crew in the valley, 1993
clearing winter-damaged trees, notching trunks and
chipping limbs, still looking for Liz in the forest

the skull was in a stand of cedar,
bottom of Old Kingston Road
near Highland Creek—
a young raccoon, smooth cap of yellow bone,
all of her biters and elegant arches
cupped in my hands

that morning in the parking lot
a masked mother, fierce and frantic,
her babies trapped in a dumpster
’til from the safety of the truck bed
we slid a long branch in

at break, we read in the paper over bagels
how Karla and Dirty Debbie went dancing
when Karly Curls met her Paul—
in the photo, dark roots and frosted tips
feathered stiff, framed bludgeoned black eyes,
the horrors inside her drooping disguise

.

5.froadkill

late for work again, I flew the near-empty concessions,
burned past farms behind a cherry SUV I couldn’t pass,
dogs lolling out both its rear windows, sweltering
coats flat black against back window decal,
a baby on board

noon, three raccoons hopped out of the deep ditch
gallumphed across the road, day-blind
tangled with those fat tires up ahead, terrible timing
thump rolling chaos I braked hard, swerved clear
and two bandits ran from disaster
but striped fur whipped circles in my rear-view
while the road hog with the dogs drove on,
turned a corner beyond the stop

shimmers hovered above hot pavement
I reversed fast, braced myself, missed
last bits of life ticked, I worked the transmission
and long back feet kicked, clenched and spread little toes,
black velvet pads in thick cream
paddling the air like an infant’s
offered up, soft belly,
that helicopter tail

.

6.  mentor

Oh old boy

you’ve taught me all you can,
your dousing days are done.

Lie down with your snout at the stream
to rest in woods behind my brother’s house.

Let season’s green weave through your nest of sticks,
set age along the top of your white brow
with sutures fused, full sagittal crest

and quiet
those sore worn teeth.

.

Them Apples

1.  Pick

among the ghosts of September
are days emphatic as egg-calling hens
tilting on their pegs like cotton candy

I stretch to haul the red-cheeked harvest down
and smears of mealy rot and crumbled bark-
stained fingers poke through

your old gloves: with how many holes
can they still be good?
which rungs do ladders need?

lips grip curves and woodsmoke
suck the sour near the core
green stems slide, catch between uneven teeth—

I cast off the not-worth-its, the stingy and gnarled
save the bird-bitten and the bug-holed
with their healed-over tough-skinned hearts

truth rolls under my ankle
fills buckets
its roundnesses bobbing in water

.

2. Cut

slice and cone
dig for twisting brown tracks
free jagged curls of skin

grinding knuckles wrap the knife
work wet wood, erode bone
brass tacks emerging

think of swords

notch out the cores
open them like mouths
break their silence

.

3. Stir

bruises surface from the rosy deeps,
flesh wounds seep, sticky black grains in wrinkles,
peelings divine a cidery stink

my mill churns all afternoon, spits out pith
into steam: blisters, jars, rings, lids
counted by feather-layered light

arms loaded, feet worm into moccasins
heated by back room sun,
another half-wheelbarrow

I also carry your knotted fist, a spot
just here at the back of my hip
folded like a wing

.

4.  Keep

afterwards, heart-queasy and acidic,
my hands are wizened little mummies
helpless as when our girl stopped eating

last pot off the stove and cooling,
joints squeak like dry flakes of paint
jarred by every lid-popping echo

sealing up sauce in glass like myths, in this
odd season of double yolks, northern lights
and doorknobs falling off, mixed in with rattling

stars, fruit still dropping from the branches,
the thuds of celestial shot putt
tremor loose small yelps and toads

I’ve gathered the burrs and the catkins of you
caught in my clothes with memory and cinnamon
pockets full of seeds

at the edge of the field
deer pause, chewing,
bone chips hiding in their meat

.

Late Bloomer

1.  Born Late

I am past due
the days already gone to seed
know it in the bass-heavy pulsing of myself
all throbbing aorta

this old jacket shrunk and wilted to the touch
me and last year’s apples and the quiet ground
and shine-worn split trousers—lived hard in, discarded
I have outgrown even my shoes
done with these thrift store threads

I will ease grief from my throat

heat calls me up from the earth
grave-risen all the way through the rotting roots
come to moult
I hook myself on and haul away at the tendons
braced against light, working

all the doors from their hinges
cracked open, oh my frail and soggy new self
herniating out through the tender razor-scraping edges

I will shed my skin, busting raw and wet
climb right out of my hide and fly away, drop it
gently as cicada shells from bark

.

2.  Cicada

diving head-first and backward into deep air
my eyes without their lenses
I am sawn in half, kicking my legs out
shoulders up around my head

I will breathe open glass-paned wings to the next life
leaving behind gravity
and my clawed digging arms

just one entomological Rapture
your deserted hands
pinching crisp brown casings

trees all heaving and veiny lungs, my work half-done
distension rocking the sky
with songs of rods, reels, and muted brass
cooking, casting, and resonant monks rattling distant joy

I will bring warm and sticky life from my humming pockets

you think it won’t end—the pain or the singing—then it does
borne late into the season
my belly tympanic in the empty
our whole selves arched, hairy with need and
fast unhooking days from the year

.

3.  The Singing Season

with each wing-click, I flip this mirror
trading dark packed dirt for dusty leaves

these vibrating voices turn tall cliffs to liquid
richer than sap from the source

when sound soars shaking so far
over creaking crevices and lines of vicious little ants
I will remember that I could be somewhere else

you may yet hear me keening in the branches
or hollering downhill with my feet lifting off the pedals
back-slit like coffin clothes, the living gone on from here

—Amber Homeniuk

.

.

Amber Homeniuk works as an expressive arts therapist and sustains a variety of individual and collaborative arts practices. Her writing appears in The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, and here at Numéro Cinq, as well as in Windsor Review’s tribute to Alice Munro. Amber’s poems are anthologized in Beyond the Seventh Morning (SandCrab, 2013) and Window Fishing: The night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook, 2013). Her first chapbook is Product of Eden: Field of Mice (Norfolk Arts Centre, 2013). So far this year, she’s been a finalist in the PRISM International poetry contest and shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2015 Poem of the Year. Amber lives in rural southwestern Ontario, blogs groovy outfits at Butane Anvil, and is kept by a small flock of hens.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Holmgren, Virginia C. (1990). Raccoons: In Folklore, History & Today’s Backyards. Capra Press. p. 157.
Jul 082015
 

AUSSTELLUNG: DIE ERNST JANDL SHOWErnst Jandl  1925-2000

This is the pleasure of Jandl’s Reft and Light. Not only does it introduce us to Jandl’s originals, it goes on to show us how any poet trying to wake up tired words can do so by putting an improvisational spin on them… What Jandl’s wordplay accomplishes in general is a toning up of the poetic muscles. Over the years it has provided me with several good workouts, and it has been a reminder that recess is part of the kinesthetic education of a poet, too. — Julie Larios

reft and light

.

Ernst Jandl’s book Reft and Light opens with this word of warning from editor Rosemarie Waldrop: “Most of Ernst Jandl’s poems are so engrained in the German language that they are impossible to translate.” Notice that she doesn’t say “extremely difficult.” She says “impossible.” That doesn’t bode well for English-speaking readers who, like me, know only a few words in German – principally those used by fictional Nazis in old WWII movies – “Achtung! Verboten!” – or for readers who, also like me, have been puzzled by the long controversy over whether John Kennedy, in a 1963 speech, called himself a jelly donut or declared himself to be a citizen of Berlin (“Ich bin ein Berliner.”)

The jelly-donut controversy no doubt would have pleased Ernst Jandl, an Austrian poet and translator, whose work often explored the strange malleability of words. He was philosophically if not officially a member of  the Oulipo school of experimental poets (the moniker “Oulipo” formed from the French words Ouvroir  de Litterature Potentielle, meaning “Workshop of Potential Literature”) who played with formal constraints as a means of re-examining or re-awakening language. Inventive word-morphing, reconstructions, deconstructions and deliberately misdirected readings and soundings of words at the sentence, word and phoneme level – these were his strong suit, at least as far as Reft and Light is concerned. Waldrop’s note introducing the book helps explain why few people in the United States have heard of Jandl, despite his popularity among German-speaking readers. Reft and Light is one of only two collections translated into English (the other is Dingbat, translated by Michael Hamburger) and Jandl’s “poems” in this book are not lyrical in the traditional sense nor are they narrative. I’m not sure I would characterize most of them as poems; in fact, and I can’t recommend Jandl’s other work to you since I can’t speak German.  Reft and Light is not likely to satisfy people looking for poetry with a capital P. But for people looking at language at the word level and taking pleasure in innovation and experimentation, reading the book is like spending recess on a school playground.

I was handed Jandl’s book several years ago by Christine Deavel of Seattle’s poetry-only bookstore, Open Books. “You’re the perfect reader for this,” she told me, and she was right. I’m a recess junkie when it comes to poetry, which is not to say I can’t go back to the classroom and enjoy the quieter lessons when recess is over. But I admit to liking the dizziness of a ride on the dangerous Big Spinner, word-wise, especially if it creaks and groans at unnerving intervals, and even more so if I feel like I might just be thrown off by the G-forces at work, heels over head and away. Jandl’s book is for punsters, anagramists, riddlers, jumble solvers, Scrabble players, crossword addicts, and poets who respond to sound as much as they do to images and ideas. You get off the ride and don’t quite know which end is up.

So if his work is untranslatable, as Waldrop states, how successful is Reft and Light? The entirety of her Editor’s Note tries to explain:

Most of Ernst Jandl’s poems are so engrained in the German language that they are impossible to translate. But their procedures can be imitated. Here is an experiment: several American poets respond to each poem so that original is encircled by multiple English analogues. The responses (which range from close imitations to freewheeling versions that continue Jandl’s thinking into other semantic areas) form the first part of this book. The version that seems closest to Jandl’s text is usually the first to follow the German.

Part II presents, in roughly chronological order, poems by Ernst Jandl either left in their original form (including visual poems and poems that he wrote in English) or translated/adapted by Anselm Hollo or myself.

The characterization of the translations as “analogues” is a good one: they are comparable, but not equal to. They are not literal translations. They are re-interpretations; they “continue Jandl’s thinking” and find ways to express his thought-process in English. Take this short experiment (again, not what I would call a poem) where Jandl turns a simple counting list inside out:

reihe

eis
zweig
dreist
vieh
füllf
ächz
silben
ach
neu
zinc

The correct German numbers 1-10 would be ein, zwei, drei, vier, funf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn. Translated literally, the title means “series” and Jandl’s list reads (if I’ve got it right) ice, twig, fresh, cattle, fill, groan, syllables, oh, new, zinc. We hear the similarities in the German pairing – ein/eis, sieben/silben, etc.  But how to translate this into English when all the wordplay involves German sound variations? In Reft and Light, various poets try their best with a comparable English version of counting 1-10. The poet Keith Waldrop offers this basic possibility:

series

won
toot
treat
for
fife
sex
several
ate
nylon
tense

It’s a simple enough bit of play. I often asked my students at Vermont College of Fine Arts to give it a try, just to shake up the way they hear their own language (in the firm belief that we stop really hearing our own language because it’s too familiar – idiomatic speech is sometimes inaudible and metaphors are flattened by over-familiarity. Finding alternatives for the numbers is not hard. But if I asked my students to take it a step farther, to see if they could create a narrative of some kind out of the words, it became more difficult and more interesting. Here is an excerpt from Julie Patton’s extended variation on Jandl’s wordplay; her version incorporates both German and English equivalents and moves beyond sound imitation toward storytelling – it “sounds” like it could be counting from one to ten, but it’s not:

hide
wine
dry
for
fun
except
seepin’
out
‘nuf
said

Ray di Palma’s versions (five lists) even play with the title “series,” changing the title for each list to cherries, ceres, seers, jerries and cerise. This is the pleasure of Jandl’s Reft and Light. Not only does it introduce us to Jandl’s originals, it goes on to show us how any poet trying to wake up tired words can do so by putting an improvisational spin on them. In another example, “Otto Mops,” a univocalic, Jandl goes for the o’s to tie things together, sound-wise:

ottos mops trotzt
otto: fort mops fort
ottos mops hopst fort
otto: soso

otto holt koks
otto holt obst
otto horcht
otto: mops mops
otto hofft

ottos mops klopft
otto: komm mops komm
ottos mops kommt
ottos mops kotzt
otto: ogottogott

Okay: it’s not W.B. Yeats. But Jandl is not going for mystery and moonlight. He’s going for Abbot and Costello, in their classic skit, “Who’s on first?” He wants to make us sit up and make us notice how confusing and playful language is. With my meager German and a good dictionary, I can discern this loose story in the Otto poem: ottos pug defies / otto: away, pug, away / ottos pug hops away / otto: so so. // otto brings coke [can that be right?] / otto picks fruit / otto listens / otto: pug pug / otto hopes // ottos pug knocks / otto: come pug come / ottos pug comes / ottos pug throws up / otto: ohgodohgod.

Notice that the poem uses only the vowel “o.” And notice that the German words do more than rhyme, they morph in terms of sound: trotzt, fort, soso, koks, mops, obst, horcht, hofft, klopft, komm, kommt, kotzt, ogott. Elizabeth MacKiernan’s English version, below, uses only u’s and o’s, having changed Jandl’s o’s to ooh’s. Our Hero become Lulu rather than Otto – fair enough. MacKiernan loosely follows the narrative thrust of the original but her words rhyme a bit more, morph a bit less:

Lulu’s pooch droops
Lulu: scoot, pooch, scoot!
Lulu’s pooch soon scoots.
Lulu brooms room.

Lulu scoops food.
Lulu spoons roots.
Lulu croons: pooch, pooch.
Lulu broods.

Lulu’s pooch drools.
Lulu: poor fool pooch.
Lulu grooms pooch.

Lulu’s pooch poops.
Lulu: oops.

This play with vowels is typical of some of the best known work by Oulipo poets. The French writer Georges Perec made enough of a splash in 1969 with his 300-page lipogrammatic novel La disparition (in which the vowel “e” is never used) that a translation into English (The Void) was commissioned – the translator was Gilbert Adair.  This was followed three years later by a companion novel, Les revenentes in which no vowels other than “e” are used (it was translated by Ian Monk in 1996 and given the title The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex.) 

GeorgesPerecGeorges Perec

One of Jandl’s sound experiments is a little more haunting, less comedic; more zen, less Big Spinner:

canzone

ganz
ganz
……..ohne

völlig beraubt

canzone

ganz
ganz
……..ohne

völlig beraubt

Translated loosely, this says “all/ all / without // completely bereft // canzone // all / all / without // completely bereft.” Jandl arrives at this quiet moment by way of the original Italian word “canzone” (song, ballad) — to any German speaker, “canzone” sounds immediately like “ganz ohne,” which means “all without.” Gale Nelson offers up this English equivalent:

madrigal

sadly
sadly
………full

wholly undone

madrigal

sadly
sadly
……..full

wholly undone.

The English version doesn’t work quite as well because “sadly full” does not match “madrigal” quite as well as “canzone” matches “ganz ohne.” But it does continue Jandl’s thinking.  Jandl also offers up a form which changes how we see the relationship between two words when a single letter gets replaced by another. He places the words on the page so their similarity is clear (this isn’t rocket science: it’s easy to imagine a good elementary school language arts teacher having her students do the same):

….o
fr   sch
….i

In German, “frosh” means frog and “frisch” mean fresh. The Englsih translators do even better with this form:

…..i………………   is……………….o………………n…………..s
chmp   ||    poon   ||    str..ng   ||   bo   y ||  .re  . olve
….o……………….  ti……………….i……………….d…………..v

Occasionally, the serious side of play shines through, as in this poem:

tee……….:….ein stück
:
lieber…..:    tee
:
:
[egal]…..:
ich……….:   tee
:
:
fragt……:
[er nie].:tee

Craig Watson comes up with an excellent translation:

My…….:….T

:
liber…..:….tea
:
[fr]…….:
eterni:….tee
:
[equ]….:
all a…….:….tease

Is this a poem? I think this one is. Are some of the other, simpler experiments poems? Not in my opinion. What Jandl’s wordplay in Reft and Light accomplishes in general is a toning up of the poetic muscles. I was grateful that Christine Deavel put the book into my hands. Over the years it has provided me with several good workouts, and it has been a reminder that recess is part of the kinesthetic education of a poet, too.

Here’s one last Jandl poem, written in English late in his life and cited in the obituary the New York Times published when he died:

When born again
I want to be
a tenor saxophone
if it’s up to me,
theres gonna be
total promiscuity.

Ernst Jandl was born in Vienna in 1925 and died there seventy-five years later; he was called up into the German army during World War II but was strongly anti-Nazi and criticized the Austrian government for its cooperation with Germany during the war. I can’t tell you whether the majority of Jandl’s untranslated work consists of poems that play less and paint more. I’m only familiar with Reft and Light, which might be the sorbet in between other courses of a more substantial meal, serving to cleanse the palette. I do know that Jandl was voted one of the ten most important German-language poets of the 20th century by a group of 50 writers, scholars and critics; the fact that he has next to no name-recognition in this country makes him qualify as undersung by any standard.

As an experimental poet, Jandl is not to everyone’s taste – experimentation, by definition, is not mainstream, and to honor sound at the expense of image and meaning is dangerous. But an old-fashioned playground is dangerous, too.  At the very least, be brave, whether reader or writer or both: Climb up on the equipment and give it a spin. Try some of Jandl’s experiments: break up words, bend them. Above all, re-hear and re-fresh them. Meanwhile, keep the sound of that Abbot and Costello bit about “Who’s On First?” in your head. Why does that classic routine continue to appeal to us? Comedy is often located in miscommunication, and confusion makes us laugh, makes us wince, makes us listen more carefully and sends us new directions. Not a bad agenda for the creative spirit.

—Julie Larios

 

May 2011 - Jackson Fishing at Lake Commonwealth

Julie Larios  has contributed several Undersung essays to Numero Cinq over the last two years. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and a Pushcart Prize, and her work has been chosen twice for inclusion in The Best American Poetry series.

Jul 052015
 

Lynn Crosbie by Laura MeyerAuthor photo by Laura Meyer

.

Where Are My Teeth

Ou est mes dents? my father—whom I have never heard speak French, asks.
He is fluent, it turns out: he and Sofi, the blonde orderly, talk and listen to the same

50s hits CD: she holds his hand and spins around his chair.

His teeth go missing for two days.

I have his spare set, and send them express in a quilted jewelry box.

These are the ones he had made for him in Curacao, that turned out to be absurdly tiny, as if he had a necklace of seed pearls in his mouth.

He grew a mustache until he was able to replace them.

“Where did you put them, Dad?”

“I threw them under the railroad tracks.”

They turned up with the dirty sheets and towels.

In 1955, Elvis sings, “Train, train.”

He sings about a sixteen-coach monster that takes away his beloved.

And never will again.

.

Horticultural Savage

Is what my father calls Lily, whose roses are returned to me because “she will eat them.”

Every day in bright lime green, and beaming: we have all been called here, after he fell and would not wake up—

“His breathing is bad,” the nurse said, handing over the keys to the palliative room.

I made it there in a few hours, calling to him, “Don’t go, don’t go” and somewhere in mid-litany he sat straight up and asked for water.

We arrived on our mother’s birthday after all,

She looks wrung out and small as she opens card after card,

Holds up her sponge cake after the candles have been lighted.

The night I arrive, Jim has to get Mary and I clamber over the bars of his bed
And lie beside him.

Comme une singe, I later explain to the amused orderly.

I put on Motown hits and we talked as the sky changed from dead blue to
A rush of black,

And we talked about feeling badly for not doing enough; about little Michael being like an angel on loan and seeing the Temptations on a sunny day;

We talked until the others came back and Mary, so relieved, spun like a top and
Made up a song called “Papadoo,”

And we planned what we would do the next day, after tucking him under the fuzzy blankets he likes, with the snowflakes and stars.

We will get him 7-Up and a peanut butter sandwich, clean clothes and a board game.

And open the door a little nervously.

Still stuck between our shoulder blades the knife that says “Your father is almost dead,”

That holds in the blood of remorse and guilt, the vast stream comprised of all of the little losings so far and the red ocean to come.

.

Easter

Dad can see the grid of streets from his window, a slice of the Oratory.

Sometimes he sees my mother, on the balcony in just a light sweater, and worries.

Falling golf balls: they are birds, I tell him, and he is embarrassed.
“I’m just trying to figure things out,” he says.

What and when he sees is a mystery to us: suddenly, the bed screws are buttons that the cats might choke on;

The restraint on his wheelchair is one of his torturer’s devices.

One night, he must have spotted the enormous Laura Secord Easter egg my mom
Left on top of his closet.

She came at lunch and, seeing the empty box, asked if it was good.
“Yes,” he said, and smiled.

At Easter he would hide tiny foil-wrapped eggs everywhere.

For months I would find them in hampers and drawers; once, in the slot behind the telephone.

I dragged a chair to reach in the cupboard above the fridge and found one there.

This was proof to me of an Easter miracle. “My dad can’t reach that high,” I told one of my friends.

I had some problems with logic and magical thinking when I was a kid.

I ate paint chips, hearing only chips when my mother complained about the damaged ceiling.

I also slept lightly and cannot imagine how the big Bunny managed to hide so many eggs in our little apartment,

How the Bunny reached the top of that closet, how he stood up without help,

How his silken ears twitch, as he remembers the rush of yellow yolk then the sacred sweetness of the shell.

—Lynn Crosbie

 

Lynn Crosbie, father and brotherDouglas Crosbie, Lynn’s father, reading to her and her baby brother James.

.

These poems are from the collection The Corpses of the Future, which is being published by the House of Anansi in 2017. Lynn Crosbie‘s most recent novel, a post-punk mystery featuring Kurt Cobain, is called Where Did You Sleep Last Night.

Jun 182015
 

Sydney Lea

.
Aesthetics

Tuesday. Somewhere I’d guess around the 4000th
one of my life, and I’m washing my coffee pot
and putting it onto the dish rack, the way I’ve done
every Wednesday too, every Thursday, every Friday,
Saturday, Sunday, Monday for many years–

most of the 72 by now– so there’s nothing
that you’d call thought in the process, and then with a whoosh,
like thrilling cascade or comet, in broadest daylight
a broadwing hawk swoops in and scatters the finches
from the feeder, which, whatever we try, is a feeder

for squirrels as well, both red and gray. It’s a gray one
the hawk has his eye on, and the hawk seems big as a hog,
though he’s lithe and deft and unbelievably quick
in his stoop. Which misses, however. His quarry cartwheels
under a stunted pine I’ve meant again

and again to hew to better the view we have
through this same kitchen window. And now, as something you might
call thought returns after all, I’m pondering whether
I’m glad to have left it standing. The hawk was lordly,
as much as the eagle my wife reported seeing

last week, which started an almost identical dive
but flared up the ridge when he found no game out there
among spilled seeds, where the blood on wet March snow
would in either case have shown so gorgeous, so brilliant.
The look of the writhing squirrel would have been pathetic,

no doubt about that. The world’s a puzzling place.

/

Old Lessons

The metaphor struck me so quickly that it felt trite:
I wanted my son to depend on me forever,
But wanted him also to learn to ride a bike,

First phase of course of a first child’s setting out
Away from his father –farther, always farther.
Speed up. Please stop, I thought. Mixed feelings. Trite.

Knuckles pale, he clutched the hand-grips tight,
Cried Hold me! Hold me! Which of course I did
For week after week as he learned to ride a bike,

Until, while one June day slumped into night,
I took my hands away from fender and seat,
And he pedaled off into darkness and distance. Trite,

Looking back, to figure our future lives,
The changes that would come, the way he’d speed
Away on years, as I stood behind that bike.

It’s right, of course, that he no longer calls me to hold him–
Have confidence, I recall, was what I told him–
Though it never was really a question of riding a bike,
Nor were my sentiments ever entirely trite.

/

Gratitude

Our old dog threw up today
Nothing new nor convenient
I kept myself from cursing
She didn’t mean to do wrong
True some words pushed at my lips
But I recalled the Psalmist’s
Caution on the loosened tongue

To describe it too mildly
Wrath can be too enticing
That tongue harder to govern
Than any ship or blood horse
Says the scripture I summoned
I thought that of the seven
Deadliest anger might be worst

Though I leave room for pride which
Is kin but today my calm
Seemed to me a miracle
The poor dog looked so contrite
Nothing she had done her fault
Now I must go to the vet’s
The thawing wind came last night

Bringing other things to do
Snow slid off our metal roof
Into a mass on the drive
Which needs to be cleared away
A job of course I despise
But that is where duty lies
And there’s where I need to be

I always wanted to be
Somewhere else I don’t know where
Earth must be the place for me
Sometimes I must laugh at how
Coaches say they want their teams
To play one game at a time
What in hell else would they do

Play two or three at a time
But I’ve been likewise silly
In my crazy history
I take one day at a time
Look for an easy does it
Stance toward life on this planet
Death once beckoned me and I

Rushed there I won’t give detail
Opiate Cutter Gunfire
Mustard gas Sprint Infernal

These were some crossword problems
I pondered last night in bed
Of course they’re not connected
Except in that I saw them

Together I solved just three
Before sleep overcame me
I did not feel frustration
Nor too much inner protest
I know our dog will be fine
I know I’m a lucky man
I’m grateful for peace and rest

I spoke an awkward prayer
If that’s in fact what it was
I only spoke it within
And in ignorant belief
That it might just land somewhere
I thanked some hidden power
That I never carved my life

Quite to hell nor did I race
To needle blade pistol gas

—Sydney Lea

.
Sydney Lea is Poet Laureate of Vermont. He founded New England Review in 1977 and edited it till 1989. His poetry collection Pursuit of a Wound (University of Illinois Press, 2000) was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Another collection, To the Bone: New and Selected Poems, was co-winner of the 1998 Poets’ Prize. In 1989, Lea also published the novel A Place in Mind with Scribner. His 1994 collection of naturalist essays, Hunting the Whole Way Home, was re-issued in paper by the Lyons Press in 2003. Lea has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright and Guggenheim Foundations, and has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan, Vermont College of Fine Arts and Middlebury College, as well as at Franklin College in Switzerland and the National Hungarian University in Budapest. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and many other periodicals, as well as in more than forty anthologies. His selection of literary essays, A Hundred Himalayas, was published by the University of Michigan Press in September, and Skyhorse Publications just released A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife. His eleventh poetry collection, I Was Thinking of Beauty, was published in 2013 by Four Way Books.

.
.

Jun 162015
 

Lady Rojas Benevente

 

Lady Rojas Benavente’s poetry fuses her countless — and sometimes clashing — identities as a Peruvian-Québecoise woman, who immigrated to Canada in the seventies and has lived in the interstices of various nations ever since. While some of her poems evoke a certain nostalgia for an idyllic childhood in Peru or describe the country’s history and its Incan culture, others are starkly candid about the realities of the immigrant experience and existence as the proverbial “Other.” In the poems chosen for Numéro Cinq, Lady Rojas Benavente playfully depicts her upbringing, schooling and first teaching jobs. Her meticulous manipulation of the sounds of the Spanish language is difficult to render into English so the translations are instead instilled with a teasing tone. These poems come from Rojas Benavente’s collection L’Étoile d’eau/Estrella de Agua published in 2006 by France’s prestigious L’Harmattan in a bilingual (Spanish and French) edition translated by Nicole Barré.

—Sophie M. Lavoie

.

Monterrico

Encierro interior
biblioteca redonda
leo a Rilke,
y me imagino
a Beauvoir
encima de Sartre.

Pasadizos circulares
donde recorren
mozas detrás de los monjes
y se les agria la leche
entre las piernas.

Confesionario barroco
he pecado padre,
peco con mi hermano,
y pecaré hijo mío.

Comedor gigante
saciamos
los vientres
cuartos que engordan
mañana,
tarde
y noche.

Auditorio inmenso
lucimos
la fe
en la música
la esperanza
en la religión
y la caridad
no me acuerdo para quién.

Patio al aire libre
se anuncia
que tomaron
a los guerrilleros
que cayó Heraud en su río
y todos los comunistas.

A santiguarse,
a comulgar,
a rogar por todos los maleados
y en especial por mí
pecadora entre los hombres.

.

Monterrico

Interior seclusion
round library
I read Rilke,
and imagine
Beauvoir
on top of Sartre.

Circular alleys
where lasses
run behind the monks
and the milk turns sour
between their legs.

Baroque confessional
father I have sinned,
I sin with my brother,
and I will sin, my son.

Gigantic dining hall
we sated
our tummies
rooms that get fatter
morning,
afternoon
and night.

Immense auditorium
we show off
our faith
in the music
the hope
in religion
and charity
I don’t remember who for.

Open air courtyard
it is announced
that they caught
the guerrilla fighters
that Heraud fell in his river
with all the communists.

Off to cross yourself,
to take communion,
to pray
for all the degenerate
and especially for me
sinner amongst men.

(Note: Javier Heraud Pérez was a guerrilla fighter and poet who died at the age of 21 (1963), fighting with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) in Perú.)

.

Chorrillos

Atrás el malecón de Chorrillos
y las jóvenes
se hechizan en sus mareas.
Sus bustos se mecen
y en el vaivén del agua
giran sus cometas.

Leemos Trilce
Vallejo les guiña abiertamente
“Y hembra es el alma de la ausente.
Y hembra es el alma mía”
les hace cosquillas
“Lavandera del alma…
que sí puede…
azular y planchar todos los caos.”

Cerca el bramido alocado
de todos los suspiros
una se ahogó de pena
y se lanzó en el corazón de la ballena
con un grito hembra
de tres agonías.

Las monjas rezan,
callan,
anotan,
sepultan,
ríen,
Cristo continúa
en su cruz.

La primera espina ajena
se grava
en el pizarrón inmenso
de mis veintiún años.

.

Chorrillos

Beyond Chorrillo’s pier
young girls
become bewitched by the tides.
Their busts rock
and with the water’s swaying
their comets swirl about.

We read Trilce
Vallejo winks at them openly
“And female is the soul of the absent-she.
And female is my own soul.”
he tickles them
“laundress of the soul…
yes she can…
blue and iron all the chaoses.”[1]

Not far the wild roar
of all the sighs
one girl suffocated from sorrow
and threw herself into the belly of the whale
with a feminine shriek
of three agonies.

The nuns pray,
hush,
take notes,
bury,
laugh,
Christ remains
on his cross.

The first foreign thorn
damages
the immense blackboard
of my twenty-one years.

.

Río Rímac

Tu agua golpea los pedrones
y corre veloz
por tu cintura limeña.
Coqueteas
silbando entre la maleza.

Colegio del Rímac
tu vaho de letrinas
me revuelve
la papa a la huancaína.
Los muchachos duermen
sobre las carpetas.
No hay psicología
ni lógica
que los despierte
después de ocho jornadas.

Visto minifalda
y me pifean,
les crece el macho.
Señorita
qué quiere decir
polución
y sueño latente
y sexo?

En un instante eterno,
la sierra calla
te seca la matriz
ya no hay cauce
sino un basural inmenso
que como gangrena
va borrando tu “fina estampa”.

Los chicos giran alrededor
de la loca,
la acorralan,
la pellizcan, la manosean.
Un día se desaparece.
Se cuelga
del cable del televisor
que le regaló su mecenas.

Lloro al joven-niña
mirándote Rímac
con tu pus a cuestas.

.

Rímac River

Your water hits the pebbles
and runs quickly
skirting Lima.
You dillydally
swishing through the brush.

Rímac middle school
a whiff of your latrines
shakes up
my Huancayo-style potatoes.
The children sleep
on their binders.
There is no psychology
nor logic
that will wake them
after eight workdays.

I wear a miniskirt
and they jeer at me,
their manliness grows.
Miss
what do wet dream
and suppressed desire
and sex
mean?

In an eternal instant,
the mountains are speechless
your spring dries up
there is no longer any riverbed
but a huge heap of garbage
like gangrene
gradually expunges your “elegant fascia.”

The boys encircle
the crazy lady,
corral her,
pinch her, grope her.
One day she disappears.
She hangs herself
with the television cable,
a gift from her benefactor.

I weep for the young girl
watching you, Rímac,
burdened by your purulence.

—Lady Rojas translated by Sophie M. Lavoie

.

Lady Rojas Benavente is a Professor at Concordia University. Her PhD (1991) is in Hispanic Literature from Laval University and her current research on Peruvian Women’s Narratives: Violence, Racism and Gender in National Post-Independence was funded by SSHRC (2011 – 2014). She has published 8 books (2 of which are poetry) and over 50 articles in Latin American women’s literary work, especially on Peruvian and Mexican authors. She is president of the Society for Literary Criticism of Spanish American Women Writers’ work (CCLEH) and has served as a Board member of several publications such as Alba de América, a literary journal from the US, and Voces, a Peruvian cultural magazine. She lives in Laval, QC.

sophie lavoie

Sophie M. Lavoie conducts research in the areas of women’s writing and social change in Central America and the Caribbean. Her studies focus on women in contemporary Nicaragua during the first Sandinista era (1970-1990), but she is also interested in other revolutionary movements in the area, such as Cuba and El Salvador and in women’s writing in Latin America. Her current research project focuses on the link between women’s writing, empowerment, and revolutionary action during the Sandinista era in Nicaragua. She has published articles in Canadian Women’s Studies/les cahiers de la femme, Pandora, Centroamericana, Cahiers d’Etudes Romanes and Descant. She is Associate Professor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, NB where she teaches Spanish and Latin American Cinema.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Vallejo, César. The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition. Clayton Eshleman, Ed. & Trans. Berkely/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007.