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The literary site of Jason Bentsman and Contributors. Entertainment, illumination, edification

My Grandparents

 

 

There are no photographs

of who they were

what they did

 

One was beautiful

with hair like the sun

setting in late August

but more pale

 

Another was slow, a third fat

with fingers so strong

they never let go

 

The last, a wanderer

who became lost searching

for work in Galicia

 

They come to me

as I sit after breakfast

in the kitchen

and I tell them

the truths I have found:

 

Time is a windmill

the world exhales each day

inhales each night

 

Friends come to us

when we are dying

or struggling with mysteries

or joyfully shedding our skin

in summer on a beach

somewhere

 

Don’t worry, I tell them,

we are never alone

 

And I tell them stories,

true ones, like this:

 

Once in an airport

while I sat alone, writing

a poem about Primo Levi’s

death in Turin

 

An Asian woman walked

back and forth near me

singing deep in her throat

  

de    de    tay

               de de     tay     tay

                             de      de      tay

 

and she stayed by me

singing

 

singing

 

until I finished

the lines about Levi’s

guilt and forgiveness

in the moment before

he threw himself down

to his death

on the stairs

in Turin

 

She did not see me

hearing her song

as she walked there

singing

 

her song

as deep in her throat

as Jesus or love

as deep in my throat

as it was in hers

 

de    de    tay

               de de     tay     tay

                             de      de      tay

 

And when I tell my grandparents

this story, they sit

in their brown suits

and dark babushkas, smiling

 

and nodding as if they

understood my words, as if

my English was their Polish

 

 

 

 

     —About the poet, John Guzlowski



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 It Is All Undone

 

 

       “Many and splendid are the works I have wrought”   
              —Adonai

 

 

I. 

 

A solitary bird traverses the blasted heath,

where life has been forsaken.

 

I dug myself in a hole,

and yet the Father reached down

with his hand to lift me.

I gouged holes into myself,

and yet the Son had mercy on me.

But now I have sinned against the Spirit

and cannot be forgiven.

 

I have learned to climb

out from hell after inviting its worst to try me.

I have traveled casually

through many-dimensional cities.

All the while I would slip

into the doing of unspeakable acts,

knowing full well God

is massive enough

to erase it all.

No cycle too cruel to jump

into and out of, no addiction

too abysmal for my visitation.

But now I have sinned against the Spirit

and cannot be forgiven.

 

Turn your head as I walk past—

you want no part of this

that I’ve become.

I draw my power from the darkness,

I would bring down all humans

with me— what is that to me?

For I have sinned against the Spirit

and cannot be forgiven.

 

 

II.

 

“Look!” A solitary bird traverses the blasted heath—

and sings.

 

Just then, he and I shared

our two souls.

He took what was turned in me

and let it into his heart,

and replaced it,

now a thing quite new.

No one could believe this. “Look!”

Over the blasted heath— the birds are

returning to the place that God had denied

life for three blackened years.

 

I once sinned against the Spirit

but I have been forgiven

because I sin no more.

I have returned from the waste and void.

 

 

 

          —By S.W. Whelan. From the poetry collection Holy Hell



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A new translation of the poem Corona by Paul Celan—

haunted examiner of the Holocaust, and one of the most renowned poets 

to emerge post World War II— from the German by Matthew Saks

 


 

 

 

Corona

 

Autumn eats a leaf from my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time, and we teach it to walk:
time returns to the shell.

 

In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in the dream there will be sleeping,
the mouth speaks the truth.

 

My eye descends to the sex of my lover:
we look at each other,
we speak darkly,
we love one another like the poppy flower and memory,
we sleep like wine does in mussels,
as the sea in the bloody light of the moon.

 

We stand embracing in the window, people see us from the street:
it is time that they knew!
It is time that the stone consented to bloom,
that a heart beat with restlessness.
It is time that the time come.

 

It is time.

  

 

* * * 

 

  

Corona

 

Aus der Hand frißt der Herbst mir sein Blatt: wir sind Freunde.
Wir schälen die Zeit aus den Nüssen und lehren sie gehn:
die Zeit kehrt zurück in die Schale.

 

Im Spiegel ist Sonntag,
im Traum wird geschlafen,
der Mund redet wahr.

 

Mein Aug steigt hinab zum Geschlecht der Geliebten:
wir sehen uns an,
wir sagen uns Dunkles,
wir lieben einander wie Mohn und Gedächtnis,
wir schlafen wie Wein in den Muscheln,
wie das Meer im Blutstrahl des Mondes.

 

Wir stehen umschlungen im Fenster, sie sehen uns zu von der Straße:
es ist Zeit, daß man weiß!
Es ist Zeit, daß der Stein sich zu blühen bequemt,
daß der Unrast ein Herz schlägt.
Es ist Zeit, daß es Zeit wird.

 

Es ist Zeit.

 

 

 


 

About the translator, Matthew Saks

About the poet, Paul Celan 



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A translation I did of the poem И это снилось мне, и это снится мнe…”  

by Arseny Tarkovsky, visionary 20th century Russian poet, 

and father of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky

 


 

 

 

And this I dreamt, and this I dream…

 

And this I dreamt, and this I dream,

And this I’ll dream again,

And all repeats, and all re-forms,

And what I dreamt you’ll dream.

 

There, estranged from us, from the world estranged,

Wave follows wave to crash against the shore,

And on the wave a star, a person, a bird,

And life, and dreams, and death – wave follows wave.

 

I don’t need numbers: I was, I am, I’ll be,

Life – wonder of wonders, and falling to my knees,

Alone, an orphan, I abandon myself,

Alone, among mirrors – bound among reflections,

Oceans and cities, luminous, deliquescent.

A mother in tears lifts the child to her knee.

 

 

*  *  *

 

 

И это снилось мне, и это снится мне…

 

И это снилось мне, и это снится мне,

И это мне еще когда-нибудь приснится,

И повторится все, и все довоплотится,

И вам приснится все, что видел я во сне.

 

Там, в стороне от нас, от мира в стороне

Волна идет вослед волне о берег биться,

А на волне звезда, и человек, и птица,

И явь, и сны, и смерть – волна вослед волне.

 

Не надо мне числа: я был, и есмь, и буду,

Жизнь – чудо из чудес, и на колени чуду

Один, как сирота, я сам себя кладу,

Один, среди зеркал – в ограде отражений

Морей и городов, лучащихся в чаду.

И мать в слезах берет ребенка на колени.

 

1974

 

 

 


 

Arseny Tarkovsky (1907-1989), along with his older contemporaries Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, is now generally considered one of the preeminent poets to come out of the Soviet era. Unable to publish his first collection until his mid-fifties due to Soviet censorship, he was known for many decades mainly as a translator of Asian poetry. His verse eventually received wider attention in part by appearing in the films of his son Andrei— arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Tarkovsky’s poetry is at once intensely personal and broadly metaphysical, often turning to the natural world and dreamlike imagery (some of which is evoked similarly in visual form by his son), drawing heavily on rhythm and allusion, and sprinkled with colloquialisms of the Elisavetgrad region (now Kirovohrad, central Ukraine) where he grew up.

 

 Appeared in Metamorphoses: Journal of Literary Translation, Spring 2012 issue (Five Colleges, Northampton, MA), and Denver Critic (now defunct and presence-less, as tends to happen to many online publications) 



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The Flood

 

Proud monument: 
this City we’ve created. 
A little lee against the cold.
How its aerie flag,
lit up with heart-swelling lights, 
ripples hypnotically in the winter heights. 
 
Estranged river,
moved by the same currents
as this flag on high, 
how you tolerate your feigned taming
by these brash, befouling mites
unaware they emerged from you.
Stretching out from the greater sea,
rippling with cool unrest, a potential energy
unleashed effortlessly,
you solemnly observe these deepening infractions,
assuaged as yet by how quickly they dissipate.
And brother air, stretching out to void, 
suffers the giddy metal insects
congesting his blowing emptiness. 

 

Proud species,
spreading their electric grid over
the course of the earth,
even claiming the sky, the water.
Faces of laughter, faces of mirth,
faces of sorrow, faces of woe,
as they skate around and around blindly—
buoyed in love like angels in stasis,
rapt in hate like uncontrollable wildfire,
each mental landscape a world entire:
the infinite in the particular—
unknowingly forming art
whose patterns reveal
the undetectable Laws.

 

Nature frowns 
as it reclaims
these lost, insatiable
vessels. 
‘They’ve grown unaccountably
headstrong. 
They don’t see I in them
or them in I.
Their blind longing 
for the realization of my Mystery
is commendable,
and needfully— 
beyond me. 
But that which enlarges them
also makes them shackle me, 
and forget me, and condemn me. 
And so: they’ve had their fun. 
Their frissons. . . copulations
and decimations. 
The promise deferred. 
Inexorably, the deal
is done.’ 

 

A tiny manmade light flickering
in the black emptiness
of space,
a caltrop island, 
stretching outwards, 
in heartbeat. . . 

 

Breath dissolving on a windowpane.

 

Proud City, 
standing on a foundation
of impossible achievement, tears, 
and ignorance.
How you passed, for a moment, 
through the repeating dream.

 

 



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Somewhere a Lost City

 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re still awaiting word.

      Please be patient!”

 

      The ragged man reselling his goods

      The woman sucking her nails

      The child on the platform weary,

             rocking

 

                                 tin drums in the echoing

             corridors of the underground

 

       The people with faces like flowers in a vase of receding water

 

             —the rioting lights of Times Square

             —the nauseous tremors of the subway

                                                            with nervous tick

 

             —the sandwiches left half-consumed

             —the scalding coffee abandoned to cool and expire

                                                            on a table’s edge

             —the bagel smeared grotesquely with cream cheese

 

       The eyes upon you

             masturbate to your impression

             or         dislike you because

             or         see all they are and are not

             The people you’ll never meet, never love, never

                          see expire

             Hidden catacombs of thought

 

                    —pigeons flying somewhere                                             warmer

                    —footprints across crushed cardboard and cigarettes

                    —trashcans resigned to their scattered innards before them

 

             The rush to get somewhere and nowhere

                    for someone and nobody

             All the tired eye sockets, like bruises on week old fruit; heads of hair

                    wilted, and turned gray

 

       The taxi driver who talks himself out of loneliness

 

                    —a mother arguing with a daughter on the subway for everyone

                                                               to hear with silent distaste

 

                    —days wearing out like neglected pistons

                    —mornings when you can’t believe the face in the mirror

 

             The times you vow never to do this

                    again

 

                          The broken resolutions, forgotten promises

 

                          The women— the women!— who               slip by

 

                          Times       you say you’ll move away somewhere           warmer

 

                                           remember:

 

                                                           Colorado skyline, the Grand Canyon

                                                 Paris, Nice, Arles

                                                 the emerald forests of Klimt’s                   delight

                                                       (trees planted side by side like upright toothpicks)

                                                 the orange and pink rooftops of               (Florence)

                                                 the diamond beaches of                           (              )

                                                       (with a rainbow array of fish

                                                                like a handful of children’s trinkets)

 

                    —papers and cans rolling in the wind

                          sweeping along a time-worn current

 

                                                       Car horns and alarms

                                                                        Sirens              the sudden anxiety

                                                                                       of an             ambulance

                                                                                                              police car

                                                                                                           or firetruck

 

 

                                                       Sparklers and firecrackers

                                                                       hissing to death

                                                                                                         in Chinatown

 

                                                 Shadows of the evening

                                                         creeping                                       down telephone poles

 

                                                                      into

                                                                      gloaming

 

                                                                                       a propagation of bright,

                                                                                                                  illusive lights

 

                                                                                          tiny islands             blinking

 

 

                                                                                                                         in the dark

 

                                                                  somewhere—

                                                                                        the lost city

                                                                                                     of our prenatal fantasy

                                                                                                                       our darkness

 

 

                                                                              the crackle of rain                                 mist

                                                                                      in the pre-dawn grayness

                                                                                           that obscures everything

 

                                                                                                                 and makes us laugh

                                                                                                                               one more time

 

                                                                                                                        to be children

 
 

 

Appeared in FIRE: No. 26 (Oxford, UK), In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself Vol. 6 (MW Enterprises, Raleigh, NC), Looking Forward, Looking Back: Canonical Poetry and the Contemporary Response (PulpLit Press, Cambridge, MA), Under the Influence of Art (Portland, OR)



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Appeared in Wild Poets: Magazine No. 5 “Arson” (Seattle)



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