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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mikhl Likht: Processions II, translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross

"Protsesiyes" illustration by Evelyn Likht;
Monatlakher zshurnal far literatur. [Monthly Journal for Literature] Vol. 1, no. 1 (Bronx, NY: Mar. 1925).
[The following marks the continuation of the recovery & translation into English of the experimental modernist masterwork Protsesiye (Processions) by the great & all but forgotten Yiddish poet Mikhl Likht, who was a younger contemporary of Pound and Williams & in some ways the forerunner of Zukofsky & other “Objectivist” & projectivist poets.  The ongoing effort by Resnikoff and Ross is to bring Likht’s complete poem into English & by doing so add a new dimension to the story of American poetry as well as that of Yiddish.  Toward that end I plan to give it coverage & assistance as the project proceeds, and I invite those who may have missed them to look back at the installments of the work from Resnikoff, Ross & Merle Bachman already posted on Poems and Poetics; & for the recently published Resnikoff/Ross translation of Procession One, along with the Yiddish original, check the eleveneleven web site.  (J.R.)]  

Rusty and yellow
dusty all-barbarous brutes
dear tyrants

we come and go
with symmetrically-hasty steps
of gentle does 

an inveigling reproach
slung in Pan’s [1] moldy face

the schema is nearly consumed. 

So someone walks around
in the sun,
his fiery pale-faced eyes
shine delight and
are membranes of doubt concealed. 

many years ago
they murmured in my ear: 

strong with the strong
one-by-one the weak go down
with us
with us
won the bottom -- ) 


Wandering in the wasteland
I saw the snakes smile
their dusty skins
in convulsions
of laughter. 

The Hammer of Luck 

Waves --
                              mountain on mountain
                              heap on heap --

mischievous tongues
flare and lick --

one of the waves: 

-- just so, brother, fall
-- that’s called a carnival
-- warmer warmer
-- feverish -- 

one of the waves: 
-- dance for joy, brother, fall
-- fine show
-- we are bathed
-- in a sunless sky
-- fire-hot red --  

shadows hang

in the air --

Hymn of Squandered Blood 

Tiny mouths
little lips
burn carmine
                              -- kiss me
                              -- kiss me
tiny creatures
a ritual
                              -- take me
                              -- take me
something chained
with pliers
and sorrows
                              -- stop stop
                              -- your you your me. 

A Farewell to the Gods 

Lively and subtle,
great as a genie
you are great and holy
holy as a virgin’s breast -- 

offal of hate and love,
fallen to rust
fallen in dust. 

Movement from a Symphony 

Chameleon. Stretches that bring in unsuspiciously passive delight in their thought -- sunk in the colorless depths of somnambulism [2] -- chaotic rhythm immerses itself -- swims around in dewy blueness -- sea-waters sparkle like spectral diamonds -- leaden air melts into bubbly foam -- terrifying -- high -- cold -- it slips myriad-wise down the mantles of immobility -- lethargy -- calm -- hollow vibration comes --  

Ancient stone with pale-white belly up waits patiently: the magic hatchet should come and even it out -- grasses -- envy-green at season’s onset -- asymmetrically bent flat skewers with sharpened points perforate the swollen earth -- a different time, a sickly yellowness attacks them -- their hopes waste away like thin dust-colored hairs on dull later skulls -- at times bad air stirs up the endless empty place around -- sand borrows wings from the zephyr -- a pair in the vortex [3] live it up just above the plain  

Another stone.
Another stone.

Archipelagos of stones trade places -- never any deep-settling -- over the naked flanks of a mountain the mysterious peak lifts itself -- matter stays stoned -- petrified in great sadness -- the hatchet levels out the stones -- swelling that lets itself be hammered in remains a part of the house -- bellies that forget who is older get hacked off -- with Buddhist hearts they lie down with lowered hands before the foundation -- smooth proud timber (erstwhile free anarchic forest-scarecrows) -- the measure taken by sight -- lays down like a modest compromise under the cryptic feet on conquered earth -- glass looks two-sided -- in and out -- inside -- eyes squint in the  soft fragrance of shadow-light -- see the utensils -- rugs-- floor -- table -- chairs -- the inviting resting-place -- outside the Lilliputian window panes shine -- observing presumptuously the round scarlet-red fire-ring -- reflects the grotesque in it -- deaf walls -- to the right -- to the left -- across -- gazing in their opaque silence -- prick-up their ears in case a symbolic creature walks past with an open mouth and loses unconscious slander on the path --  recording it in their kinetic consciousness -- carrying it hidden in themselves until the day of judgment -- coolly-quiet the windows hold open the tired eyelids which constantly fall over them (strained from unbroken wakefulness) -- perhaps it will prove successful to notice whatever causes them to cheer up in their misanthropic non-sight -- the roof lies comfortably over the void of the attic -- waits in case the never-promised-to-anybody-by-anybody, which must come down from above, ever falls -- checks with his steel frame the creativity that seethes violation in the pipes of the whole house 

Another house.
Another house. 

Daringly-agile like a snake, the clenched street coils rightward -- unsuccessfully --  a hateful parapet obstructs the way -- with a cascade of noise she sets out on her aeronautic trip over air-bridges leftward -- pummels herself through the crystal-clear prisms of air -- runs -- runs without stopping -- earlier just like a straightedge -- then somewhat bent into a crooked line -- down -- down -- the eyes closed -- all the energy concentrated in the chasing -- a wild abyss opens itself suddenly where snakes and scorpions amuse themselves with exotic dances -- keep jumping around – in no time slip in between them -- often in the middle of running takes a tremendous blow to the head literally sparks fly: another street runs as far as the way – slowly comes to -- catches one’s breath -- girds the loins -- scratches itself with broken ribs on the other side -- feels anew the merry impulse leave itself in God’s hands on the long treacherous way -- adventurous courage stirs -- pushes itself on again in an intersection -- 

Another street.
Another street. 

The yishuv.[4] Measured reflected rhythm of yesterday’s chaos -- long-necked lanterns wink silhouettes -- 

Another yishuv.
Another yishuv. 

The world --


[1] Pan: possibly a reference to the mythological god, or to the Slavic honorific, “pan,” a term of address sometimes found in Yiddish literature.
[2] Somnambulism: meaning uncertain: “Hin-her-plet” in original.
[3] Vortex: possibly a coinage: “shturem-karahod” in the original (literally “storm-circle”)
[4] Yishuv: “Settlement,” a Hebrew word also referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine, before the founding of the State of Israel.

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