To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jorge Santiago Perednik: "The Great Skidder" (from Shock of the Lenders)

Translation from Spanish by Molly Weigel
Three little birds up on a wire
were singing "tu amor, tu amor"
or maybe "tu est mort"
the one on the left holding some grass in its beak
the one in the middle saying this is the real wire
the one on the right asking what happens when the wire

I thought they were the three stooges
and also the holy trinity
the crackbrained father and son and the crackbrained

in the nest the mother is the only absolute
therefore the son doesn't exist,
or the son is the only absolute
therefore the mother dissolves into
unreachable certainty
the bark, the mud, the twigs
dissolve beyond the temporal the storm
the poem incompletes itself
if death is feminine and life neutral, nothing is…?
Eve, the poem, had no mother; do I erase her?
either the nest is not a nest,
or I never saw the eyes of a mother,
I always shut the windows on this comedy of errors
I skid
I skid
I skid
nest unmessed
there's nobody in the place
the cars brake and look
the naked woman who draws attention
drives the penultimate word
gets distracted and lost

flags flutter by rote in the decorated wind         
flap flap flap
whatever its colors be
they're the sure summer:              
they wear as the last word
in the upper left corner
the molesting item
a sickle and a roulette wheel
the diabolical definition declaims
to skid is to escape the kid            
to skip the id
the bourgeois delirium over the rotten apples of the great
the inferno is the contrary of the ferno and the ferno is
the dream of all flags with the eternity of
the desert is the negation of the sert and the sert is
this lumpen mammal that never manages to exist
outside of dreams and deliriums
when the evidence that there's no death dies
wham!  the prison sentence to the instant is reborn
the handsome brother was wounded by my hand
the hand that I severed and that is now hers
politely I persevere:  it's the world not us
that's landed belly up
could it be otherwise?
my son abandoned me to look at me
lying belly up
from far, far away
he abandoned me because he was scared
does that mean I abandoned him?
I read
why did I abandon him
why have you forsaken me, why have you forsaken me
I skid
I skid
I remember the anecdote:
why did you abandon me
I put a bandoneon on the bar
so as not to play it
an amulet
so as not to mull it
so mulish
I listened to the murmurs and shouted, no, no, no!
Saint Peter's question:
how do you tell it to a little pore
and to an even smaller one?
is there anything smaller than the smallest pore?
and I said there wasn't, no,
and smiling
I had to cover my mouth:
I had contracted doubt
I had negated infamous infinity
I drive back
answering the trinitary question:
I've been dead for quite a while
I leave
the three birds on a wire:
gone:  they flew:
there is no eternity:
there's accident:
a prayer and an order:
if nothing comes to pass everything comes to pass
I said no, that had not, that
is to say, that no
and I said no, no, no
I said:  no
I said:  no

[note.  The Shock of the Lenders (Action Books, 2012), from which this poem is taken, is the first major attempt to bring Jorge Perednik’s poetry into English.  Before his death in 2011 he was known to many of us as an active & powerful presence in Latin American & world poetry, both through his always surprising & eruptive poetry & through his direction of two key experimental journals, Xul and Deriva, both published from his writing base in Buenos Aires.  My own chance to be with him came during a visit to South America in 2004, when he dazzled me both with his own poetry & with a translation of “Cokboy,” a poem of mine with features like pseudo-dialect & related word play that make it difficult to translate into most other languages.  For the record, then, the following is the opening of Cokboy along with Jorge’s attempt at a transcreation of my partially yiddishized English into a similarly yiddishized Spanish:
     saddlesore I came
     a jew among
     the indians
     vot em I doink in dis strange place
     mit deez pipple mit strange eyes
     could be it's trouble
     could be       could be
     (he says) a shadow
     ariseth from his buckwheat
     has tomahawk in hand
     shadow of an axe inside his right eye
     of a fountain pen inside his left
llegué lastimado por la montura
un judío entre los indios
quié hague yo en este lugar extrañe
mit este gente mi ojes extrañes
poide ser sea problema
poide ser    poide ser
una sombra surge de su trigo sarraceno
tiene en la mano un tomahawk
en su ojo derecho la sombra de un hacha
en el izquierdo la de una pluma fuente 

My admiration & pleasure in what he’s done here & elsewhere are as great as I can make them.  (J.R.)]

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