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I Was Made Small

Translated by Chris Schoen

I had never stooped or bent backwards
Or feared of falling
Now I bow and scrape with pretty words
When she comes calling

I was a nasty dog, till she had me eat
From her lace-gloved hands
I had wolfen teeth, but now I chew my meat
At her command

I’ve become so small before a baby doll
Who shuts its eyes when it’s too much
I’ve become so small before a baby doll
Who cries for mama when she feels my touch

I was hard to cook, but she cooked me through
From north to south
I fell delicate, like tender stew
Into her mouth

A mouth just like a child’s when she was all smiles
Or sweetly singing
But it’s like the coldest crocodile
When she starts swinging

I obey her law, I step in line
Her constant caller
Though she is suspicious of every stain
Upon my collar

There’s a purple flower more fair than she
And you could tell her
Or spare the periwinkle from tragedy
At her umbrella

All the oracles and sages
Foretold without malice
That in her embrace I’ll breath my last
Lips at her chalice

There are better ways to go, and bad and worse
Whimper or bang
But though we hang here, or somewhere else
We all must hang

From “Je me suis fait tout petit,” by Georges Brassens.

 

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The Pagan’s Prayer

Translated by Jeffrey Dorchen

Don’t turn your heat down, the fire must start
Relight the pilot in my swollen heart
Torture of souls and souls’ delight
Goddess hear my hymn tonight
Torture of souls and souls’ delight
Goddess hear my hymn tonight
Phaedra is your name

Phaedra who spreads out through all of sound
Illuminate our cavern temple underground
Spark in us our dormant prayer
Bless this brazen bowl we bear
Spark in us our dormant prayer
Bless this brazen bowl we bear
Phaedra is your name

Pleasure queen of time and space
Wear for us the siren’s face
Made of flesh and velvet cloth
Or drench us in your heavy sloth
In the mystic, ghostly wine
Ghost expanding and divine
In the mystic, ghostly wine
Ghost expanding and divine
Phaedra is your name

[Original poem here.]

Posthumous Remorse

Translated by Troy Martin

Rest, my love –
Your bland expression fixed and sculpted as your hair
Severe as the black marble of this monument.
The one plunked down to mark your dripping pit,
Hemmed in by gravel, clay, and grit,
Can you be unaware that it’s your final dwelling?

Your breast, my love –
It couldn’t move if there were space or there was air.
No travel, only shifting with the continents.
Is pressure from the walls against your thighs
Relief compared to when those guys
Wrung out your guts and dried your eyes to ease the swelling?

Your tomb it tells me everything forever
(For a tomb knows best a poet’s heart).
Your tomb nags at your spirit as to whether
Your mastery of the unfaithful arts

Aided in negotiating terms
For your foul afterlife? As worms
Devour your flesh for every course,
Your soul is meat for your remorse.

[Original poem here.]

Translated by Troy Martin

Who arranged the dressing table
Placed the various bottles in their glorious array?
The portraits turned their eyes unable,
Positioned as they are to ever look away.

The room is still and damp and fatal
And ends in darkness past the barely open door.
Tulips brown-tipped droop and wait like the
Water in the vase could evaporate and they’ll absorb no more.

In the bed the linens soaked in red
The pillow’s crease as empty as Christ’s tomb.
And the sun is spared the curtains block the glare
And loose the shadows in the room.

Oh the head is on the nightstand
By its folded reading glasses and
An unlit lead-glass lamp with gold-leaf orchid blooms

And what of the decapitated body
Lying naked, incomplete, inert and all alone?
Posed, it lies meticulously shoddy
As if tossed aside by children tired of games with sticks and stones.

One stocking torn and hanging off the mattress
The other limply grips the skin of the left leg below the knee.
A cross hung on a gold-braid necklace
Dangles tangled in her hand a bribe, a disregarded plea.

The endless days in studied disarray
Forever frozen, now routine.
Rejoicing unseen demons
Seem as real as objects placed inside the scene.

Yet a flicker of defiance
Lingers in one open eye it’s
Unextinguished by some rashly fashioned guillotine.

Was her spirit freed when racked with boredom,
Boredom-driven to divine forbidding ways?
Did demons tempt her did she ignore them?
Was she rebuking hypocrites as she was betrayed?

And what foul murderer discharged this sentence?
A lover scorned by righteous words to earthly deeds?
Beastial impulse and defied repentance.
When the work was done did he fulfill his needs?

Answer tortured dead, horrific head!
Smile, wave your arm and say goodbye
To the filthy living so-and-so-s. As sinners gawk and pray
You rest, we’ll cry.

For that sweet ruler of your afterworld
Made you his eternal lover,
And you’re a haloed vision of the blessed way to die.

[Original poem here.]

The Cat

Translated by John Szymanski

Hear her prowling in my thoughts
louder than her silent mews
A beautiful, a charming cat
striding gentle beast so smooth

if her voice reveals her strife
tones both rich and growly deep
her tender timbre, secret smile
veers so quiet and discreet

her purring drone unlocks my heart
reveals a porthole to my soul
with notions turned to plangent verse
as if her potion made me whole

to hear her voice, she brings to me
a wordless vibrant strain
I hear her voice, I feel alive
no longer I feel pain

the finest bow, the softest pick
will never match her touch
the purest song from my heartstrings
she manages to coax
and gives it velvet harmonies
like angels from on high
this cat, a subtle mystery
sophisticated muse

From the gold and brownish strands
Making up her shiny coat
Her essence wrapped me in its hold
Even after just one touch

She holds court in her domain
Judges, presides and inspires
Maybe she’s a fairy
Or all knowing as a god

Her magnetic gaze attracts
My eyes to hers, and hers to mine
soon I’m drawn into myself
To ponder my collected life

reflecting her pale eyes of fire
I ‘m left in living wonder still
Of clearest beacons, living opals
fixed like targets on my frame

[Original poem here.]

Little Old Ladies

Translated by Joey Spilberg

I

If you see these decrepit monsters that used to be little girls,
Hobbling around the city,
They’re hunchbacked yet charming,
Broken and distorted, but remember that, they were once women long ago.

They creep along, slapped in the face by the wind,
Shaking as the buses pass them by,
Wounded animals made to dance like marionettes,
By a sadistic puppet master, Those poor old dolls, they’re all broken.

But despite it all, despite all that – those eyes,
Those eyes,
Those piercing gimlets,
They shine, like the deep dark holes where water sleeps at night.
Those eyes
The divine eyes of little girls,
That marvel and giggle at the sight of any shiny object.

II

Have you ever seen a coffin made for a little old lady?
It’s about the same size as a coffin made for child,
And Death knows the joke he’s setting up here, that sick fuck,
And don’t tell me you never thought of this neither,
That when you see one of those old geezers,
Making their way across the street, mmhmm
That they don’t look to you like they’re making their way to their second cradle,

You know the old story,
A man falls in love with a nun and tries to seduce her,
A fire ignites only to be extinguished by the mother superior,
And both of them are damned to hell for eternity. You know that story, right?
And you know the story of a woman who was body shamed
And you know the story of a woman who was the victim of rape
And you know the story of a woman who was consumed by her children
And you know the story of a woman who was beaten by her husband
And you know the story of a woman who made a river, with her own tears

III

Yes, I have stalked you little old lady, Once I followed you into the park,
And I watched you quietly sit on a bench as the sun went down
I lovingly surveillance you, I tenderly spy on you,
Like a loving father, I see your passion blooming,
You were once all grace and glory, Now no one recognizes you,
You are the leftovers of humanity, You are ripe for eternity,

But that’s not how it seems to me, You are my family,
And every night, I send my goodbyes, (goodbye)
Little old ladies— will you still be here tomorrow?

See original poem here.

Promises Of A Face

Translated by Diana Slickman

Oh mama, I love your eyebrows;
They grow so black and thick.
O sweet mama, I love your eyebrows;
Girl, they always do the trick.
Those eyes dark as the grave
Make me want to misbehave with you.

Inky eyes, black as a raven,
Like your great long mess of hair,
Your wild eyes, black as a raven,
Say “lover, how would you care
To come up to my place
And see more than my face tonight?

Just follow the thought of your naughty mind;
What is hinted above, below is what you’ll find

I’ve got two big and heavy tits
On which two bronze medallions sit;
I’ve got two sweet heavy tits
Hanging down above my hips;
Keep going past my belly
What my eyebrows are tellin’ is there

You’ll find a big fleecy bush
The sister to my tresses
See my wild, black, wooly bush
Dark as a night that no star blesses.
It should be no surprise
Lover, would this face lie?

Just follow the thought of your naughty mind
What is hinted above, below is what you’ll find.
It should be no surprise
Lover, would this face lie?”

[Original poem here.]