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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mikhl Likht: Processions V

Translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross

[The following is a continuation of the ongoing translation by Resnikoff & Ross of Processions,  the great epic work by Mikhl Likht (1893–1953), which, while written in Yiddish, can be seen now as an integral part of the American “Objectivists” moment, along with contemporaneous works by Pound, Zukofsky, Williams, & others.  Earlier translations from Likht have appeared on Poems and Poetics, along with several discussions by Ariel Resnikoff of the relation between Likht & Zukofsky, et al, both literary & personal.  Beyond that, “Processions V” will be coming out this week in a small collaborative chapbook Rothenberg//Resnikoff//Likht: Poems, Translations, Variations, published by The Operating System Press in Brooklyn, New York.  In the meantime the work continues as does the search for publishers & for magazines & journals in which to publish further installments.  Writes Resnikoff: “We invite all interested parties to be in touch.” (J.R.)]

 [ab ovo]

From the dark ways

From bare fidgetings

From the schematic tarantella-motifs
From sufficient machinations intoxicated by bright shimmershine
From the silent smoking modifications
From the cool blue hazes veiled in early morning light
From the rumbling motor cavalcades
From the elongated unimpeded zeppelins

From neutral genres in nature–painting
From sunken water-secrets swaying U-boats
From dumb hearing and pupil billy goat glances
From wilted tulips and sister-flowers in Long Island hothouses
From A-G minor concert piece
From entangled concept over godlessness, Chinese braid and pale financier
From pearly summer-storm onset

From hasty wagers over accidental yes’s and relative no’s
From spiritual germinations and material finishes (and vice versa)
From trolley-clanging violated through radio’s manifold hoo-ha
From the weariness of pedestrian city-street step
From the inertia and forced vivacity of the staff of clothing- and other stores
From bells angelus-chatter in church-spires
From nightwatchman’s burdened eye
From mother’s and wet-nurse’s mechanical chasings after childrens’ paths in squares, streets, parks
From seething howls of productive and destructive machinery
From blind cellars’ miasmic atmosphere
From forced bending from full height under flat, subterranean ceilings
From obscene creatures wheezing in little houses
From birds’ metatarsal altitudes
From complete aircraft signals
From patient waiting for something new

            Life shall live itself out
            Generated itself elderly energy:



[A Story with a Mouse]

Alone. Solitary, without anyone, without myself
am I
(to me). Someone should, who knows,
even thru a crack, a little gap the dimensions
try to turn a creature into a point, a little nail
from a threatening hand, -- throw a thinking cushion
to the shut in head like the majority
among bubbly girl friends the morning after sleep.
I Spring myself/covertly
the between-summerwinter-autumn. Hint:
My wife
is to me (what the world ought to be) the old Jewish catchall;
My mother --
the baker’s bread, farmer’s butter;
My palatial spacious house --
The museum of every bubble and squeak
that ostentationalizes the senses; pomposifies the brains. --

A shudder in a mouse’s cornerroom:
the full power of a god’s prompting.

[The Same: More To The Point]

Dovebosoms. Mine, yours, everyone’s --
no one’s.
God forbid!, I don’t begin to be alone
and sweeter than a worm in horseradish
is the duality (ours) to me: mouse’s
and mine. Oh people of lonely! Oh those
famous nikhbodim[1] who spin themselves
out from, into, events as if from-into flax a coarse fabric:
Sleep robs a hair from you
then comes to poetry-lore;
You take a little nap
You tear life (a supplement to prose) into itty-bitty pieces--
with dovebosoms one lives life out like oneself the zhmenke[2] years,
But this year the yarmulke diaspora-tree shall suffice:
in the coming year -- in Soviet Russia, in Mexico, in Galveston:
if necessary -- in Jerusalem.

[The Doves Do Not Want To Part from Their Bosoms]

The mouse will somewhere finally find rest with us
even if it costs us a thousand-and-one dumplings!
We will lead ourselves with a cow
a bull, with a nanny goat and ram.

For ourselves we will erect a house (a home?),
the livestock -- a stable. And for the sickly little mousey?
With holes we must devote ourselves to God
for our service in shul and shtibl.

We will as it suits us crawl from the skin
through all cracks to redemption: either as guards
of our own renewal -- sowing cabbage
with onion, becoming bakers, farmers;

or giving up corrupt “liberal” professions --
with that, draw in “The Internationale”; the handyman
becomes our beloved anew – industrious and new,
it will completely carry itself out song to God.

And the enemies of Israel will become the young Zionists,
and Allenby and Balfour -- Moses and Aaron,
and we will then, who knows, arrive where --
we’re off already -- we’re coming -- make way!

[1] Respectable people
[2] Zangberg, Bavaria

No comments: