10

Sarah Tolmie

copyright ©2018



It continues fashionable to mourn the death of ritual.
We miss the Neolithic ochre, smoking censers, silly hats
Cthulhu and Harryhausen prayers, all the mystic flap.

No one has ever owned death much better than that.
Still, ours are not that bad.
Hospitals have strict norms,

Specific times and tricky forms,
Rotting fruit and flowers.
We say conventional things at canonical hours.

Untitled

Per Brask and Patrick Friesen, translated from the Danish written by Ulrikka S. Gernes

copyright ©2015



No More Now. Even Fear Has Fear. Even Of Itself.
I refuse to be lonely. No longer. It’s enough now.
Language contradicts itself, constantly producing
additions, disclaimers and footnotes. And the body
never gets ready, nails grow out, and hair, in the strangest
places. Here is the mountainside is black with lemons.
At the very moment I rest within my contour a dam
breaks. Maybe there’s a connection. I am someone
who…bounded by skin, is alone. I say it again, as loud
as I can: not another word! Maybe everything is connected.
Several thousand kilometers away you move your hand.
And here everything is instantly flooded.

Asphyxiation (Day Forty-Six)

Don Mee Choi

copyright ©2018



Hence breath
Then breath
Next breath
Subsequent breath
Because breath
Such breath
And breath
Same breath
Thereafter breath
Thus breath
Always breath
Eventually breath
Perpetually breath
Yet breath
However breath
Therefore breath
In spite of breath
Breath till the bitter end

Death breathes and you dream but
it’s time to remove the ventilator from death
it’s time to shatter the dream with a hammer

Bus Stops: Ars Poetica

Valzhyna Mort

copyright ©2020



Not books, but
a street opened my mouth like a doctor’s spatula.

One by one, streets introduced themselves
with the names of national
murderers.

In the State Archives, covers
hardened like scabs
over the ledgers.

*

Inside a tiny apartment
I built myself
into a separate room.

*
Inside a tiny apartment
I built myself
into a separate room,

peopled it
with the Calibans
of plans for the future.

Future that runs on the schedule of public buses,
from the zoo to the circus,
what future;
what is your alibi for these ledgers, these streets, this
apartment, this future?

*

In the purse which held—
through seven wars—
the birth certificates
of the dead, my grandmother
hid—from me—
chocolates. The purse opened like a screaming mouth.

*

The purse opened like a screaming mouth.
Its two shiny buckles watched me
through doors, through walls, through jazz.

Who has taught you to be a frightening face, purse?
I kiss your buckles, I swear myself your subject.

*

August. Apples. I have nobody.
August. For me, a ripe apple is a brother.

For me, a four-legged table is a pet.

*

In the temple of Supermarket
I stand
like a candle

in the line to the priestesses who preserve
the knowledge of sausage prices, the virginity
of milk cartons. My future, small
change.

*

Future that runs on the schedule of public buses.
Streets introduced themselves
with the names
of national murderers. I build myself
into a separate room,
where memory,
the illegal migrant in time, cleans up
after imagination.

*
Bus stops:
My future, an empty seat.

*

In a room where memory strips the beds—
linens that hardened like scabs
on the mattresses—I kiss

little apples—my brothers—I kiss the buckles
that watch us through walls,
through years,
through jazz,
chocolates from a purse that held—through seven wars—
birth certificates of the dead!

Hold me, brother-apple.

Soft Link 1

Robert Majzels and Erín Moure translated from the French written by Nicole Brossard

copyright ©2007



It’s fears slow and fascinating that enter life each morning at coffee time while she wonders if tomorrow there’ll be war and brusquely as she does each morning slices bread and cheese. It’s gestures of uncontrollable avidity that proliferate in the throng and its worldly febrility, its parquet fever on the trading floor and stage. It’s hesitations, heart cries that crisscross broad avenues full of shade and dust that attract and make us think of our legs and elbows, our knees too when desire bumps and bounces words and feelings upward, it’s simple things with prefixes like cyber or bio that hold thoughts fast, float them a moment till we believe them aquatic and marvellous. It’s certainties that in tiny increments of dust and light are soon mixed with our tears. It’s inexplicable feelings made of small hurts strung over long years and vast horizons, it’s blues ideas that settle in where the happiness of existing threatens to take the breath away or to lodge itself in the throat like an instrument of fervour. It’s glimmers of intoxications impossible to look at for long, thoughts so precise that engage us beyond shade and wind, far beyond crude words, so noisy so terribly close to silence that the world all around seems suddenly engulfed in high seas and continual rustling like the music in our heads that in one stroke of the bow dislodges all that resists torment. It’s underlined passages, fragments of happiness that traverse the body and raise bridges all around because elsewhere and in the wild blue yonder they say there’s euphoria. It’s written down with bruises, abundance of life burst to fullness in a world and its niches of worn paths that lick at the shadow of bones.

Lake Michigan, Scene 1

Daniel Borzutzky

copyright ©2018



They beat me even though I did nothing

I don’t know what day it was

But they beat me on the beach

They beat me with iron paws

The mayor ordered the police superintendent to beat me

The police superintendent ordered an officer to beat me

The officer ordered his dogs to attack me

Then someone beat me with iron paws

Then someone kicked me with iron boots

Then someone shot me

Then someone buried me in the sand

Then someone scooped me out of the sand and dumped me
somewhere

And I was dead

But I could feel the sand on my body

I could feel the sand filling my mouth

I could feel the sand in my eyes

There was an earthquake in my eyes

There was a tornado in my mouth

But after the storms passed it was peaceful and I was dead

And they beat me even though I did nothing

They said I was illegal

They said I was an immigrant

They said I was an illegal immigrant who roamed the streets in a gang

They said I raped people

They said I killed people

They said I smuggled drugs in my gastrointestinal tract

They said I didn’t speak the right language

They said my boss exploited me and I tried to kill him

They said my boss treated me well and I tried to kill him

They said my heart was dark

They said I peddled in blood

They said this is only war and that I had the audacity to think
my body could resist the state

Let death come quickly    I asked

Let death be easy

But I did not know how long it would take

I did not know I would be under the sand forever

I did not know that in Chicago the bodies do not die when they
have been strangled or riddled with bullets

A journalist asked the mayor why they killed us

I am not responsible     said the mayor

There will be an inquest    said the mayor

We will bring the perpetrators to justice     said the mayor

He was wearing a slim fitting suit and he looked handsome as
the hurricane entered his mouth

He was wearing a slim fitting suit and he looked handsome as he
pretended he did not live in a city of state-killed cadavers

He had gel in his hair and his shoes were nicely polished

I died and I died again and a voice said something about hope

Another voice said you pay a big price for hope

I dragged myself around the sand and I tried to make it to the
water because I thought the water might carry me away but each
time I took a step closer to the water the water moved farther
from my body and there were faces in the water and they were
calling to me and I was trying to get to them

It’s what you do when you are dead

But every time I took a step toward the water the water drew
farther away

And the faces in the water were murmuring and their murmurs
grew louder and louder as I moved nearer and farther

And it is only war     a voice said      by way of explanation     as
he photographed my dead body on the sand

And I was dead though I was still breathing when I finally made
it to the water

And in the water there was another war going on in the waves

It was only the beginning of the war that would kill me again
and again

Found in Translation

Elaine Equi

copyright ©2007



I’ve always liked reading poetry in translation. In fact, I prefer it that way.

Poetry is the sound one language makes when it escapes into another.

Whatever you think you’ve missed is, as the saying goes, better left to the imagination.

It gives even a mediocre poem an ineffable essence.

Greater involvement on the part of the reader leads to greater enjoyment.

A bad translation, a clumsy one, is especially charming.

The poem is whatever cannot be killed by the translator.

Its will to survive, its willingness to be uprooted and flee its homeland is admirable. I almost want to say virile.

An untranslated poem is too attached to its author. It’s too raw.

An untranslatable poem that hordes its meaning, whose borders are too guarded, is better unsaid.

For years, I copied authors from around the world. Then one day it occurred to me, perhaps it’s the translator I imitate, not the poet. This idea pleases me and makes me want to write more.

It would be great to learn French in order to read William Carlos Williams.

Translators are the true transcendentalists.

What’s new?

Elizabeth Winslow, translated from the Arabic written by Dunya Mikhail

copyright ©2006



I saw a Ghost pass in the mirror.
Someone whispered something in my ear.
I said a word, and left.
Graves were scattered with mandrake seeds.
A bleating sound entered the assembly.
Gardens remained hanging.
Straw was scattered with the words.
No fruit is left.
Someone climbed on the shoulders of another.
Someone descended into the netherworld.
Other things are happening
in secret.
I don’t know what they are—
This is everything.

At 2 PM in the Afternoon (Excerpts)

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French written by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019



the sun came out at night
to go for a stroll and the divine crossed
the room. the windows
opened

writing comes from a dialogue
with time: it’s made
of a mirror in which thought
is stripped and no longer knows
itself

in Palermo men are as
strictly trained as horses; or
else they have the shining violence of
flowers

*

it’s more bearable to think of
death than of love

Greek thought explored
all things the way it
explored the islands

when men no longer have
power over women, over whom
will they have it?

*
all Sicily is painted
by the planting
of vines

the shards of grief that a teapot
transforms into inexpressible joy

the Barbary figs ripen
on brilliant mornings, with firm flesh,
with certain steps

Black Horses

Fady Joudah translated from the Arabic written by Ghassan Zaqtan

copyright ©2012



The enemy’s dead think mercilessly of me in their eternal sleep
while ghosts take to the stairs and house corners
the ghosts that I picked off the road and gathered like necklaces
from others’ necks and sins.

Sin goes to the neck… there I raise my ghosts, feed them
and they swim like black horses in my sleep.

With the energy of a dead person the last blues song rises
while I think of jealousy
the door is a slit open and breath enters through the cracks, the river’s
respiration, the drunks
and the woman who wakes to her past in the public garden

and when I fall asleep
I find a horse grazing grass
whenever I fall asleep
a horse comes to graze my dreams.

On my desk in Ramallah there are unfinished letters and photos of
old friends,
a poetry manuscript of a young man from Gaza, a sand hourglass,
and poem beginnings that flap like wings in my head.

I want to memorize you like that song in elementary school
the one I carry whole without errors
with my lisp and tilted head and dissonance
the little feet that stomp the concrete ground with fervor
the open hands that bang on the desks

All died in war, my friends and classmates…
and their little feet, their excited hands, remained
stomping the classroom floors, the dining tables and sidewalks,
The backs and shoulders of pedestrians…
Wherever I go
I hear them
I see them.