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Archive for the ‘Parisian Tableaus’ Category

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.

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Translated by Chris Schoen

Swarming city, drenched with dreams
Where ghosts grab you in plain day, defiant
Mystery coursing through canals and streams
Like sap through the veins of an ancient giant

One morning I was out walking in the sad streets
All the houses were stretched by the gloom
Looking like a sunken fleet
A set dressed for an actor’s doom

A yellow fog flooded around every lamp pole
I steeled my nerves and steadied my feet
I whispered calmly to my shaky soul
While carts rumbled in the cobbled streets

Suddenly, an old man whose yellow hue
Mimicked the color of the rainy sky
I nearly said to him “What can I do–?”
But for the menace which narrowed his eyes

He stood before me
His gaze just sharpening the frosty wind
His pointy beard as stiff as a sword
Jutting forward like Judas’s chin

His mangled back seemed less bent than broken
Against his leg it made a perfect crook
His walking stick completed the joke
Gave him the gait and the awkward look

Of a wounded animal
Through snow and mud he trampled along
His dirty moccasins stamped down the dead
Like all creation had done him wrong

His doppleganger followed behind him
His very double forged in the same hell
Two uncanny ancient twins
Processing together towards an unknown goal

What evil doings had I happened upon?
What mocking demon made what I had just spied?
I blinked seven times on this cursed dawn
Each time this wicked man had multiplied!

You might laugh at my coming unglued
Maybe you wouldn’t shiver in my stead
But notwithstanding their decrepitude
These seven phantoms were eternally undead

To have endured an eighth apparition
Might be the last thing I would ever do
So to escape my demolition
I turned my back upon this retinue

Exasperated like a drunk seeing double
I rushed home and barred my door against the city
Body in fever and my mind in trouble
Haunted by impossibility

My reason vainly tried to take command
But visions they would not abandon me
So like a mastless ship estranged from the land
My soul just danced on a borderless sea!

[Original poem here.]

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The great hearted maid that made you so jealous
Obligingly sleeps in the humble grass
I think that we should bring her some flowers
The sorrow of the dead is so much deeper than ours

And when October bares the trees to their bones
Blowing his somber wind around the headstones
The dead bear the living with such chagrin
To sleep, as we do, so snug in our linens

While they are consumed by black desolation
Without a bed partner, or soft conversation
These frozen old skeletons sculpted by the worm
Each winter snowmelt so keenly discerned

And the centuries pass without friend or kin
To replace the old tatters that flap in the wind

If some evening while the fire whistles and sings
I should see her sit, calm in her chair, placidly rocking
If on a blue and cold night in December
I found her by the fire, raking the embers

Solemnly returned from her eternal nowhere
To swaddle again the child raised under her care
What could I answer that pious soul in reply
When I saw the tears falling from her excavated eye?

–Translated by Chris Schoen

[View original poem here.]

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