You put on your gorgeous
wear it like a tiger
wears its pounce.
I dig in your wound
toward the capsule of morphine
splash in the gorgeous plague
squirt meta-pain sparks
into the inflamed frame,
bounce from trampoline of skies
taut to the limit–
a last rain
a long shot
roams the nebulas of flesh;
now it is permissible
to fold the skies
break the frame
Like a tiger its pounce
I take off your gorgeous
When I selected this particular poem, Asher Reich‘s “The History of My Heart”, I had only read the translation by Tsipi Keller but when doing a bit of background research found another translation by Vivian Eden. As always, I was struck by how different the meaning can be depending on the interpretation of the translator. I have included both translations here (but cannot find the original Hebrew, and I would not be able to read the original anyway, so I don’t know which translation best reflects the closest literal meaning versus which best reflects intent/figurative meaning).
A good example here of what I mean is that in the Keller translation, it’s a line is translated: “dark ages of humiliating defeats” while the Eden translation cites “dark ages of shameful defeats”. Personally I feel that there is a vast difference between the meaning and nuance of these two word choices: humiliating versus shameful. Shame seems so much stronger, imbued with a much deeper sense of self-blame and guilt, while humiliating does not make me feel the same sense of ongoing ‘defeat’, i.e. humiliation will embarrass you in the moment but shame will stick with you and even alter the course of your actions, possibly even your life? What do you think? I prefer Keller’s version (shown below first), but I like both.
The History of My Heart
A second opinion:
If things were tailored
tonight to fit my size
I’d put on a frock
weaved of raw lust
like the scent of unruly chrysanthemum
harboring a promise
Whomever I meet this evening
on my way
will be small for my size
and when I return I’ll be an old hag
and lust will turn
Every day the sun like a groom
and until night
I waited for you clad in white —
who is it tottering up the stairs
the voice of my love
your arms closed on me
in a robotic clasp
With love, for J
Look, as we promised each other,
we changed nothing and the world
is as wonderful as it was, the rain
tarries this year, but it will come:
it will come as long as we’re still here.
Look, as we agreed,
I am in one place, you in another.
We didn’t become one, which is also natural,
and in your weakness and in mine
there looms a promise, too:
after memory forgetfulness is all.
And if the road already may incline downward
in the famed sloping print of life’s curve,
it does, in some sense, aspire upward,
and aspiration is a great thing in life,
on this, too, we agreed, you surely remember.
And if now I’m alone and aching and ailing more than ever,
this, too, was a choice,
if not always conscious. And if you too are alone,
it makes my loneliness less just
and this should sustain you as well.
How fortunate that we’ve agreed on so little:
on parting, on loneliness and fear, the basic certainties,
and there’s always something to return to,
you will see how young we will be in the end,
and the end, when it comes, will be almost just.
And everything, you will see, will be almost welcome.
Another example of a poem that could be translated so very differently.
–Ágnes Nemes Nagy
The shapelessness, the endlessness.
I almost fall before I cut away
My statement from the timelessness.
With sand I wall a bucketful of sea
Against a waste of nothingness.
Perpetual indifference should be
Intolerable to consciousness.
A formátlan, a véghetetlen.
Belepusztulok, míg mondatomat
a végtelenből elrekesztem._
Homokkal egy vödörnyi óceánt
kerítek el a semmi ellen.
Ez a viszonylagos öröklét
ép ésszel elviselhetetlen.