Sunday, August 17, 2008

Poems and Translations by Yvette Gottshall

Poems and translations from the German by Yvette Gottshall, an excellent poet we will be hearing more from. These are from her manuscript, The Damage Done To Certain Souls Is Proof.


The city on the hill makes for little light,
for all its claim of liberated bushels it gives
off little burning. The eight-hundred block
turning left off Seminary Drive smacks you
with the fried-chicken smell of the cotton
gins and mills over on Main. This smell
overhangs the 65 dollars-by-the-week
roomers across from Our Lady of Victory
School, settles on your shoulders as you
pass that Chinese vacuum repair and rental
place between the school’s empty dodgeball courts
and merry-go-round and the Gospel Truth
Mission. What is the truth? What is
the mission? Do you accept the poured out
fragrance of La Tortilla Ria, Tienda
and Restaurante, the Forty-Ten Club and
the yellow-eyed smokers gathered on its stoop?
What would you witness as you walk
quickly past the convenience store’s grilled
windows, the liquor stores, the check-cashing
storefronts. What will you give for the new
world smelting in the knocked out windows
and black crow rafters of the cotton-seed
mills and the barely up to code gins on Main?


I will gather my people into myself,
gather them into that coliseum cloud of witnesses.
I will be room enough for all of us,
and a room for each of us. I will be
the places of honor seating thousands
come to bear witness, come to cheer me on.
I will be the gladiator.
I will be the lion.
I will be the runner fleet of foot.
I will be, too, the one who falters,
the one who trips.
I will be the chariots and
the chariot’s wheels,
and the spoiling of enthrallment - calamity.
I will be the bread that is broken,
the good word spoken,
the banners of allegiances and alliances
blowing in the breeze and I will be the breeze.
I will be the dust the breeze stirs up,
the broken cup, the wheel, the potter and
the clay. I will be the fresh light of each new day.
I will be a few stars lost along Orion’s belt.
I will be the bruises and the welts
upon the bodies of the slaves
brought forth to be consumed for our little play.
I will be the slaves, the salve for which they pray,
the cells, and the doors and the doors’ lifting - Let
the offerings begin. Let us pray. I will be
the offerings, and the gods to be
appeased. I will be appeased.
I will be the banquet, and
the wine, and its lack, and I will
be the wine’s miraculous flowing
back. I will be the new wine in old skins –
and too, the new skins expanding to
encompass aromas -
unattainable, the grafting into the vine
to make a new line. I will be the chaff gathered
up and burned, the wheat that wisdom has learned
to gather and to store in the coming lean-cow years.
Sickly lean cows, seven will I be, and the fat cows -
seven will I be - the famine and the feast.
My people are crying. My people are laughing – their cups
are running over with wisdom-gathering, with dying.
Those virgins waiting in the darkness by the door?
I will be the virgins trimming their wicks, and I
will be the wicks. I will be the thorns
which prick the brow, and the vinegar
-soaked cloth to draw out the How,
the innate death, the spear piercing the side,
and the collapsing of the breath. I will be the cock
crowing thrice to deny all these things I will be.
I will be the table, and the dogs sprawling beneath
the table for the crumbs which are falling
from my people’s hands, I will be the one crawling
to touch the hems of holy garments, the one
who will be healed by my faith. I will
be the anointing, the anointed one.
I will not be healed; I will be dead.


Your mouth on mine.
I lost everything outlined.
Thousand small blooms
their cups opened
on my body.

You kissed me tenderly
and went.

Dry shame like a fire
stood red for me
on belly and chests.

(Translation of poem by Hilde Domin)


We have a bed, we have a child,
My wife!
We also have work - work for two,
and have the sun and rain and wind;
and we lack just one little thing
to be as free as the birds are:
only time.

When on Sundays we go through the fields,
My child,
and over the corn, far and wide,
the blue swallows can be seen darting,
Oh, then, we want not for slight clothes
to be as fine as the birds are:
only time.

Only time! We sense a thundering wind,
we people.
Just one small forever;
We lack nothing, my wife, my child,
but all that blossoms in us,
to be as bold as the birds are:
only time.

(Translation of a poem by Richard Dehmel)

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