Posts from — March 2012
Editor’s note: On March 24th, at the Know Theater in Binghamton, N.Y., a group of poets, writers and kindred spirits came together for a multi-national, multi-lingual session to read and discuss their impressions of life at the beginning of the 21st Century. From about noon Saturday until after ten that evening, dozens of presenters, family, friends and students shared viewpoints, ideas and work, in exchange for the opportunity to be both listened to and heard. This special mid-issue post opens the window on an experience that will not soon be forgotten by its participants. It’s also an invitation to be there when this nucleus of hope that people from all corners can co-exist gracefully blossoms again next spring for a third Binghamton International Literature Festival.
The following work appeared in the Crossroads program and is published with permission of the organizer (Mario Moroni) and participants. The poem by Diego Trelles Paz appears in another online magazine, and is not available for reprinting. Two original poems you see below were sent scanned in PDF because of the language format (Hakak’s in Persian and Hassanal’s in Bengali).
POETRY AND FICTION
WITH A LITTLE CASH
If I have a little cash, I will open an art shop
My modernist call
Will raise echo and journey
To corners of places not reached before.
Let a few days pass by
If I have a little cash, I will wash your
soft feet with spring water.
If I have some money, I will buy the giant sky –
Wandering all day on its floor
Birds will wake me up
And they will again put me easily to asleep.
The world will find my hands in its own
If the crooked line of restlessness
Is wiped away. With some money
I will spend my time listening to the bees.
No longer talking from wire-to-wire
No more wasting of sinew.
Bangladesh, take not of it,
I will rest my head upon your breast
And sleep all night in tranquility
When I have just a little cash.
Translated from Bengali by Nazrul Islam Naz
Hassanal Abdullah, an author of 23 books including 12 collections of poetry, was born in Gopalgonj, Bangladesh. He immigrated to New York in 1990, and earned his Bachelor and Masters in mathematics at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is now a high school math teacher and the Coordinator of the Union Square Business Academy at Washington Irving High School. He edits a bilingual poetry quarterly, Shabdaguchha. His poetry, in original Bengali text and in English translation, has been published in many countries of the world. Abdullah has introduced a new way of writing sonnets, where the rhyming scheme is abcdabc efgdefg, with a seven-line stanza pattern. He calls them “Swatantra Sonnets.” A poet of the post-modern era, Hassanal Abdullah, also wrote a 314-page epic, Nakhatra O Manusar Prochhad (Anyana, 2007), where he illustrated relations between Human Beings and the Universe. His Selected Poems (Anyana, 2010) in Bengali was published in Dhaka. In addition, he translated Charles Baudelaire, Stanley Kunitz, Anna Akmatova, Nicanor Parra, Wislawa Szymborska, Gerald Stern, and many other poets from all over the world into Bengali and 32 Bangladeshi poets into English.
STANLEY H. BARKAN/U.S.A.
NAMING THE BIRDS
Tired of naming cattle & fish,
Adam turned to the birds.
“Raven,” he said;
these first creatures of the air
who’d be symbols in a later time
of rain and flood and rainbow.
Of the birds who would
sing at dawn and dusk
he had little interest;
so Eve decided to try
her onomastic skill.
“Nightingale,” she whispered.
“Ibis, heron, flamingo,
parrot, peacock, tanager,”
mystery, grace, magnificence
of thought, motion, and design.
It took a woman
to properly name
the birds of Paradise.
Stanley H. Barkan is the editor/publisher of the Cross-Cultural Review Series of World Literature and Art, that has, to date, produced some 400 titles in 50 different languages. His own work has been published in 15 collections, several of them bilingual (Bulgarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, Sicilian). His latest are, Strange Seasons, a poetry and photoart collaboration with Russian artist, Mark Polyakov (2007) and ABC of Fruits and Vegetables (2012), both published by AngoBoy in Sofia, Bulgaria. He was the 1991 New York City’s Poetry Teacher of the Year (awarded by Poets House and the Board of Education) and the 1996 winner of the Poor Richard’s Award, “The Best of the Small Presses” (awarded by the Small Press Center), for “25 years of high quality publishing.” In May 2006, he was invited by Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry, to be the first solo featured poet at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, Wales. He lives and works with his artist wife, Bebe, in Merrick, Long Island.
Uyumamıştı. Susuz ve aç olan gözleri
uzun zamandır zerre kadar uyku tatmamışlardı.
Kendini bir Mısır mumyası gibi hisseden kız
iki bin senedir gözleri açık bekliyordu.
Uykusuz geçen saatlerini bir
‘quipu’nun düğümleriyle sayıyordu.
Kafası formullerle dolu, formül batağına dönmüş,
oradan oraya, ellerinde ağırlıklarla,
hislerini kayaların ağırlıklarıyla karşılaştırıyordu.
Geceler avuç içlerinde yanıyordu.
tutkulu ateşler kalbinde parıldıyordu.
Natchez insanlarının topraklarındaki ebediyen yanan
tükenmek bilmeyen ateş gibi.
Ruhundaki şiddetli rüzgarlar
yel değirmenlerini harekete geçirmişti.
Sessizlikle başlayan her şey
şimdi bir boşluğa doğru sürükleniyordu.
Onun için hiç bir anlam ifade etmiyordu büyüyen evren.
Cevaplar, çözümler istiyordu.
Hemen şimdi bir son vermek istiyordu bu genişlemeye.
Vücudundaki damar sayısı kadar olan
altmış iki yerde sabitlenecek şekilde
kozmolojik sürekliliği durdurmuştu.
Akordu bozulmuş, sorunlu bir enstrümandı bugün.
Artık bütün dünyası iki kelimenin arasında öylece asılı duruyordu.
Kendisi, aradaki boşluktu. Dile gelmemiş her şeydi.
Bir kedinin mırıltısıydı. Sıcak bir süttü.
Bir dere kadar okunaksızdı.
Sapsarı lamalar onun altın sarısı otlağında otlanıyorlardı.
İki rakam arasındaki sessizlikti o,
Onları birbirine bağlayan, sorularla dolu, apağır,
yıkılıp altındaki sulara dökülmek üzere olan saydam bir köprüydü.
Rakamlara kollarını açmış bir şekilde kenetlenmişti.
Rakamlar arasındaki aşktı.
Onları bırakıp gitmeden önce kanatlarını açmaya ihtiyacı vardı.
Kanatlarını açmadan önce,
ilk kez uçan bir kuşun ne düşündüğü üzerine kafa yordu.
Tekrarlayan ritmler ve ahenksiz sesler
kafasında uyuşturucu bir duruma sebep oluyordu.
Ruhu dans ediyordu.
Vücudunda yüksek derecede,
kimyasal bileşimleri bileşenlerine ayrılıyordu.
Ruhunun dökük duvarlarında asılmış resimlerde yağmur yağıyordu.
Hafif yağmur damlaları yüzüne vurdukça titriyordu.
Gözlerimin önünde çoğalıyordu.
Sağ el bileğinde bir lastik bant vardı,
üzerine hemen ince bir gömlek geçirdi
ve zihnimin derinliklerinden dışarı doğru adım attı.
Bir bahar rüyası gibi zihninde canlanan düşünceler,
dünyasından bir çiğ tanesi gibi, hiç iz bırakmadan
yok olup gidiyordu.
Kanatları açılmaya başlamıştı.
Bir kereviz tohumuydu.
Eczacının biri onu bir sakinleştirici olarak veya
diğer ilaçlarının tadını gizlemek için kullanabilirdi.
Hem de çok.
Camdan ruhum yüksek derecelerde erimek yerine
kristal porselene dönüşüyordu.
Bazı muazzam bedenler gibi,
bendeki mevsim değişikliğini etkiliyordu.
Aklımı kaybetmek üzereydim.
Parabolik yörüngelerde yaşıyordum.
Yaşadığım dünya gibi ben de 13,7 milyar yıldır uyumamıştım.
Monet’i ressam yapan şey çiçeklerdi.
Peki ya benim mazeretim neydi?
WHAT WAS MY EXCUSE?
She was awake. Her eyes, thirsty and hungry,
had not tasted sleep in a long time.
Feeling like an Egyptian mummy,
she’s been waiting with open eyes for two thousand years.
She was counting the sleepless hours with knotted strings of quipu.
Her head filled with formulas, bed of formulas,
she was walking around with scales in her arms,
weighing her feelings against rocks.
Nights were burning in her palms. Fires were blazing in her heart,
like the perpetual fire forever burning in the temples of the Nachez people.
Prodigious winds in her soul had brought the windmills into motion.
Everything that had begun in silence was now moving towards the void.
Expanding universe was of no use to her. She wanted answers, solutions.
She wanted to put an end to that expansion now. She had mesmerized
the cosmological constant to be fixed to sixty-two places,
corresponding to the number of veins in her body.
She was a complicated instrument out of tune today.
Today her entire universe was suspended between two words.
She was the space in between. She was everything that had gone unsaid.
She was the cat’s murmur. She was the hot milk. She was as blind as a river.
Golden llamas were grazing on her golden grass.
She was the silence between two numbers, the transparent natural bridge tying them,
a bridge heavy with so many questions, about to collapse into waters below.
She was attached to them with extended arms.
She was the love in between.
Before she let go, she needed to grow wings.
Before growing wings, she was pondering, what does a bird flying for the first time think?
Repetitive rhythms and dissonant tones were inducing a hypnotic state in her.
Her soul was dancing.
She was hot. She was burning.
Chemical compounds were breaking up into their constituents
at high temperatures within her body.
It was raining in the pictures hanging on her soul’s peeling walls.
She was trembling as the soft rain was running down her face.
She was multiplying herself in my eyes. A rubber band on her right wrist,
she had just put on a light shirt and stepped out onto my mind’s terrace.
Thoughts that had come like a spring dream were slowly vanishing from her world,
like a morning dew, leaving no trace.
Her wings had started to grow.
She was the celery seed. A pharmacist would have used her as a sedative or
to disguise the flavor of other drugs. She was cool.
My glass soul, instead of melting, was converting to crystalline ceramic
at high temperatures.
Like certain astronomical bodies, she was affecting the changes of the seasons within me.
She was cool.
I was going nuts. I was living on parabolic paths. Like my universe,
I hadn’t slept in 13.7 billion years.
It was flowers that had made Monet a painter.
What was my excuse?
Translated from Turkish by Neslihan Tok
Sultan Catto is a professor of theoretical physics at the CUNY Graduate School and at the Rockefeller University, and was the Executive Officer of the PhD program at the City University of New York Graduate School. Together with internationally renowned scientists, Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalists in mathematics, he is on several international advisory boards. He has also been writing and giving poetry readings for several years. Some of his poems are published in literary journals, such as Yale Poets, The Seventh Quarry (Wales), Bhosphorus, (Turkey), Paterson Literary Review, and Long Island Sounds (USA), as well as in anthologies—Noches de Cornelia: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and (forthcoming in 2012) bilingually in Korean Expatriate Literature and Bridging the Water: An International Poetry Anthology. His first poetry book, Under the Shadows of Your Falling Words, was published bilingually by Editions Godot (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2008
FROM: “FORT LEE POEMS”
THINGS WITH SHARP EDGES
I woke up this morning and it was Tuesday.
The large pattern of loneliness settled in
On my head and body like a parachute
Snapped tight by four hands, and full of air.
I didn’t want to think about last night.
There are better things to do with money
Than bribe the gendarmes to give you back
Your car. By law it’s a flat fee for everyone,
But it’s a bigger hit to him who don’t have it.
The fog was lifting fast from the valley;
I could clearly hear the traffic on Route 4.
The mountains in the distance my wife
Said I couldn’t see were hidden in mist,
But later, when the sky turned silver, when
Some blue began to show through, they
Appeared, disappointingly dull and serrated,
Shadowy humps on the moveable ledge where
Heaven leaves off and earth begins.
Later on I took a walk around the block,
A quiet, peaceful walk in the park,
The stranger who just moved in
But didn’t really live there, quite yet.
Michael Foldes has a B.A. in anthropology from The Ohio State University. He has been an editor, contributor and publisher of magazines, newspapers and chapbooks since the early 1970s, including a stint as editor and columnist with Gannett’s newspapers in Binghamton, New York, for more than a decade. He is the founder (2004) and managing editor of Ragazine.CC, the online magazine of art, information and entertainment (http://old.ragazine.cc); was lead editor on the first edition of the PSMA’s “Handbook of Standardized Terminology for the Power Sources Industry”, and, for more than 25 years has worked as a sales executive in the electronics industry. Foldes and his wife Margot have three children. He commutes between metro New York and Greater Binghamton. His book “Sleeping Dogs: A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping”, is forthcoming from Split Oak Press, and is available online at Kindle, Nook, Apple and other e-book stores.
What will happen to you tomorrow?
Tomorrow when my friends and comrades
go with love
to decorate the cold earth
with their warm blood once again,
tomorrow when you paint your face
with blood from “Those who walk the path of love”*
so the eyes of betrayal and ignorance
do not glimpse fear
seeing your pale face,
tomorrow when my country’s dry earth
will be quenched
with the blood of its people,
tomorrow when again the hand of lies, deceit and vanity
of the senile, ugly, old man’s sleeve
shamelessly and unabashedly
your msooth, delicate throat
tomorow when in every back alleyway
men, women,young, old,
with heads bent to the ground
weeping tears of lost memories,
tomorrow at dawn without ad oub
from the alleyways of my childhood
blood will flood seeping allt he way to the desert.
will my brothers and sisters
executed long ago
awaken from twenty years of sleep
to receive your innocent bodies
in their embrace?
English translation by: Mahmood Karimi-Kakak and Bill Wolak
Mahmood Karimi-Hakak is a poet, author, translator, theatre and film artist who has created 50 stage and screen plays in U.S., Europe and his native Iran. He is the recipient of a number of awards including Outstanding Foreign Film (Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, 1995), Critics’ Choice (Fajr International Theatre Festival, 1999), Fulbright (2009-10) and Raymond Kennedy (2005). His literary credits include five plays, two books of poetry, numerous articles, interviews and translations in both English and Persian, including Your Lover’s Beloved: 51 Ghazals by Hafez and Love Emergencies (both with Bill Wolak). His latest Film, The Glass Wall documents a desired dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli artists. A Professor of Creative Arts at Siena College, Karimi-Hakak has taught at CCNY, SMU and TU as well as at universities in Europe and Iran. firstname.lastname@example.org
MARIA MAZZIOTTI GILLAN/U.S.A.
In the 1950s, I wore spike heels.
They were very high, but I was thin then,
didn’t wobble. I walked through hours
at my job, my high heels twinkly
as Dorothy’s red slippers with pointy toes,
heels in every possible color, sling-backs
and pumps, the clickety-clack of them
on pavement making me feel
as sophisticated as Marilyn Monroe. Older now,
my heels have gone lower and lower,
reduced to sandals with Velcro straps to hold
my triple E-feet. I still watch women
striding in their spike heels, and wish
for one minute that I could go back
to the days when I could walk
with such grace, look with longing
at this marker of beauty, as though
I were still sixteen and not this woman
I’ve become, pounding through life
on confident feet.
Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her book, All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions). Her latest book is What We Pass On: Collected Poems 1980-2009 (Guernica Editions, 2010), and she has a book forthcoming on September 15, 2012, The Place I Call Home (New York Quarterly Press). She is the Founder /Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY. She has published fourteen books of poetry and, with her daughter Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies.
IFEANY A. MENKITI/NIGERIA
THEY WILL RISE
the body of Europe
but an elongation
of the body of Africa
and you talk of ancestors
and I say: Lucy is
up there in heaven
smiling at all of us
that this business of the mitochondria,
it is not a tale by an old wife;
and the talk about a deoxy
in a ribonucleic merger
how can it be about an acid
when it has juju written
all over it?
some deep mystery sprung
from the soil of this Africa
& the mystery is not yet done-
how such a knowledge, it belongs
to a class of things not written down;
which it would make no sense
to write down;
the elders, did they not say
that there are things, a da na
ede ede na akwukwo?
things that will break the scribe’s pen
should the scribe insist
on writing them down?
that when we are born
there comes a time
when we see the end
of our earthly days
but that some among us
when they die
they appear to be
hence the meaning of that song:
mmuo-oma m’lolu n’obu ula
a maro-m n’obu onwu—
angel that you thought was asleep
not knowing it was death
Reprinted from Of Altair, the Bright Light
(Earthwinds Editions. 2005) by Ifeanyi A. Menkiti
Ifeanyi A. Menkiti was born in Onitsha, Nigeria. He has taught philosophy at Wellesley College for more than 35 years. He is the author of four collections of poetry, Affirmations (1971), The Jubilation of Falling Bodies (1978), and Of Altair, the Bright Light (2005), and Before a Common Soil (2007). Other poems have appeared in journals and periodicals, such as the Sewanee Review, Ploughshares, New Directions, The Massachusetts Review, Stony Brook, Southwest Review, and the African journals: Okike, Transition, and Nigeria Magazine. In 1975, he was honored with a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, followed in 1978 by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is presently the owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square, the oldest continuous all poetry bookstore in the United States. This year, 2012, the store celebrates its 85th anniversary, having been founded in 1927.
LA CASA DEL SOL NACIENTE
Billy Bill y Jo-jo crecieron juntos, tomados de la mano —la de ella pequeña, fría y traslúcida como una rana, la de él áspera y pétrea como un pegote de barro seco— mientras atravesaban un interminable campo de trigo. Todas las mañanas veían pasar el tren rumbo a las minas de oro y más tarde lo veían volver en dirección a los pozos de petróleo. Estos destinos, Billy Bill los conocía de oídas: era hijo del barbero del pueblo y en su terraza los clientes melenudos discutían sobre los dos extremos de la línea del tren. Vienen cargados de oro los vagones, le susurraba Billy Bill a Jo-jo cuando en la tarde se tumbaban en la colina a mirar el paso del tren hacia el Norte. Vienen cargados de petróleo los vagones, respondía Jo-jo cuando en la mañana se tumbaban en la colina a mirar el paso del tren hacia el Sur. Ella vivía con su padre en un chalet de madera a un extremo del pueblo, y su ocupación era recoger los huevos de una escuadra de diez ocas que marchaban todo el día con el cuello tieso, escandalizadas por cómo el padre alcohólico trataba a la hija. Jo-jo tenía un solo vestido y al ponerse el sol lo lavaba para que pareciera limpio al siguiente día, de modo que en la noche siempre andaba desnuda. Se cuidaba de no cruzarse con el padre al anochecer y pasaba todo el tiempo encerrada en su habitación, pero una primavera Jo-jo creció, custodiando sus ocas. He crecido, Billy Bill, le dijo al oído mientras despedían los vagones hacia el Sur. He crecido y mi padre me hará su mujer esta misma noche. Entonces Billy Bill con sus manos de barro le sacó el único vestido que le conocía, y Jo-jo comenzó a tantear con sus dedos húmedos los botones huidizos de la ropa de hombre. Sobre los rieles oxidados no cruzaron vagones. Una bandada de aves negras se escurrió por el cielo en silencio. Al llegar al chalet de madera el padre la esperaba, haciendo rodar sobre la mesa una botella vacía. Jo-jo intentó subir la escalera cuando él la siguió, la alcanzó y le rompió el vestido. Ella no gritó, apartó como pudo los brazos del padre y trató de llegar hasta su habitación. Lo más que logró fue abrir la puerta. Detrás de ésta aguardaba Billy Bill. He crecido, Jo-jo, le dijo antes de golpear al padre en el rostro. El borracho rodó escaleras abajo y cuando su cabeza alcanzó la madera del último peldaño murió. He crecido, Jo-jo, ya nadie podrá hacerte daño, dijo Billy Bill antes de arrastrar el cuerpo. Lo repitió por última vez antes de darle sepultura en el patio. Las gotas de lluvia perforaban en el barro y ellos volvieron a revolcarse en el suelo, desnudos y sucios. Las ocas, como paraguas amontonados, se guarecían de los espectros de la madrugada. Me marcharé en el próximo tren, dijo Billy Bill. Vienen cargados de petróleo los vagones, dijo ella. Haré una fortuna y regresaré por ti, Jo-jo. Te esperaré hasta que muera la última de las ocas, Billy Bill. Si no has vuelto para ese entonces quiere decir que no hay fortuna en las minas de oro ni en los pozos de petróleo, y yo iré a buscarte.
Las ocas, una por una, fueron muriendo.
La primera, atragantada con una espiga de trigo.
Una teja del establo cayó sobre la segunda y la mató al instante.
La tercera murió de un infarto que le abrió el corazón en dos mitades.
La cuarta amaneció con el pico surcado de hormigas rojas.
La quinta y la sexta fueron robadas.
La séptima oca puso un huevo negro y pesado como una roca antes de expirar.
La octava quedó atrapada en un mantel tendido, luego de dar tres vueltas ciegas se estranguló.
La novena oca aleteó en un extremo del patio, echó una corta carrera y alzó el vuelo hasta perderse en el cielo sin nubes.
Cuando alrededor del chalet se paseaba una sola oca, una mano de mujer se acerca y acaricia la cabeza del ave como si se apoyara en un bastón. Le extiende el cuello blanco y emplumado sobre el piso de madera de la terraza y lo cercena con un cuchillo de cocina. En la mañana, su silueta a lo lejos atraviesa los campos dorados, rumbo a un tren que no se detiene.
Chocando con varias personas, como si no las viera, un hombre con sombrero de paño y enormes gafas entra en el bar. Se recuesta de medio lado en un tramo vacío de la barra. La canción resulta conocida, pero disimulada tras otra melodía, como descubrir The house of the rising sun en un registro aún más descorazonado. La cantante es una mujer estirada que muestra los pechos a su público, aunque estos no se le ven porque la luz sale del fondo y sólo es posible definir su contorno. También luce un sombrero de paño. Al terminar la canción alguien pide un aplauso para Jo-jo, que es ella. Se quita el sombrero y lo ajusta en sus pechos, de modo que queda suspendido y no deja ver mucho más. Otro grita que devuelva el sombrero a su sitio. Mientras se asoma al borde del escenario, donde le ofrecen billetes que ella permite deslizar en las ligas de sus muslos, responde que volverá a descubrirse cuando alguno sea capaz de adivinar la frase de la noche. Muchos vocean lo primero que les viene a la mente, otros encuentran la oportunidad de blasfemar contra Dios. El hombre de la barra bruñe un arrugado billete de un dólar y apartando a aquellos que ocupan la primera fila se acerca a Jo-jo. Ella le alarga una pierna cuando él exige: En el sombrero. Jo-jo silba: ¡Tenemos un ganador! ¿Cuál es tu nombre, ganador? Billy, dice el hombre. ¡Un aplauso para Billy, el ganador!, grita el mismo que ha pedido un aplauso para Jo-jo. Ella se saca el sombrero y se lo ofrece volteado. Billy, el ganador, suelta su billete, que cae lentamente como una pluma de oca. Mira el busto de Jo-jo y sonríe, y en sus gafas enormes se repiten los pechos de la cantante. Espérame al fondo, dice ella, hoy es tu noche de suerte. Billy, el ganador, sale del bar, echa a andar una camioneta amarilla y da un indeciso rodeo como si tardara en descubrir cuál es el fondo. Frena, por fin, levantando una polvareda con forma de anacrónico caballito de mar que no tarda en disiparse en el paisaje de neumáticos viejos, cajas de cerveza amontonadas, fantasmagóricos cactus sin pareja. Mientras espera improvisa una melodía con los dedos en el volante. Jo-jo asoma por la ventanilla, otra vez lleva los pechos atrapados en el sombrero. Billy, el ganador, se saca el suyo y lo cuelga en la cabeza de Jo-jo. Se quita las gafas y las larga en la guantera. El rostro de Billy, el ganador, hace juego con su camioneta. La barba mal recortada y dispersa, que no alcanza a ocultar las arrugas, una ceja incompleta, se le pueden contar más de doce cicatrices. ¿A quién le has prestado tu cara?, dice Jo-jo. Es el viento de la carretera. Vienes de muy lejos entonces. Vengo de cerca, pero hago el mismo recorrido varias veces al día. Billy, el ganador, dice ella, hace unos años llegué a este sitio buscando a un hombre como tú. Jo-jo, la cantante, tu historia me interesa menos que la posición de tu sombrero. Sube, te llevo hasta el pueblo. Todavía me quedan dos rondas de canciones tristes esta noche. ¿Sabes cuánto vale el sombrero que ahora cuelga en tu cabeza? No más que mis gemelas. Sólo son un par de tetas, Jo-jo, la cantante, no las sobrevalores, y tampoco les llames gemelas, las encontrarías bastante diferentes si pudieras observarlas desde otro ángulo. Vamos, prometo pasar el detector de mentiras durante el viaje y así sabrás si soy o no tu hombre. Iluminada por el único reflector que funciona, Jo-jo cruza por delante de la camioneta amarilla. Billy, el ganador, la ve sostener los dos sombreros como si paseara sobre una cuerda floja y cada uno le ofreciera equilibrio. La camioneta, trémula, avanza con su luz tuerta lijando la carretera. Cuando era joven, dice Jo-jo, vine hasta aquí detrás de un hombre. ¿Qué te hace pensar que puedo ser yo? No digo que seas tú, suelo premiar a todos los Billy que encuentro a mi paso. Pero Billy no es mi verdadero nombre, Jo-jo, la cantante. Me llamo William Moss, y créeme que hace un buen tiempo que no pronuncio ese nombre completo. Jo-jo aparta una lágrima mirando la oscuridad de su ventanilla donde palpita un viento devastador. ¿Cómo llegaste a este sitio, William Moss, alias Billy, el ganador? En tren, Jo-jo, como todo el mundo. ¿Creías que aquí estaban las minas de oro? Nunca oí hablar de eso, vine porque a los quince años un tren me envió de una sacudida. Pues yo llegué siguiendo al hombre que mató a mi padre. Me costó poco tiempo enterarme de que podía ganar algo en el bar, allí me bautizaron con el nombre de Jo-jo, como muchas otras Jo-jo que estuvieron antes y otras que estarán cuando mis gemelas cumplan su misión en este mundo. ¿Y cómo te llamas, Jo-jo? Kim, Kim Jones. Es un bonito nombre, Kim Jones. Lo es. Me encantaba usarlo antes. Y a este hombre, a Billy, ¿para qué lo buscas? Creo que para matarlo. Yo puedo ayudarte a buscarlo. Y qué pide a cambio, Billy, el ganador. Que me ayudes a dar con una mujer que dejé atrás, cuando era joven. Suena bastante parejo. Lo es, Jo-jo, la cantante, es muy parejo. Ambos miran la carretera, que parece no tener fin.
Vienen cargados de oro los vagones, Jo-jo.
Vienen cargados de petróleo los vagones, Billy Bill.
THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN
Billy Bill and Jo-Jo grew up together, holding hands (hers were small, cold and translucent like a frog; his, rough and stony like a clump of dry mud) as they walked through an endless wheat field. Every morning they would watch the train on its way to the gold mine and later watch it go back towards the oil well. Billy Bill had heard of these destinations —he was the son of the town’s barber and in his deck the long haired costumers discussed the two ends of the train line. They come back filled with gold, the wagons do, Billy Bill would whisper into Jo-Jo’s ear when in the afternoon they lay down on the hill to watch the passing of the train going North. They come back filled with oil, the wagons do, Jo-Jo would answer when in the morning they lay down on the hill to watch the passing of the train going South. She lived with her father in a wooden cottage at one end of the town, and her occupation consisted of picking up the eggs from a squad of geese that marched all day with their necks stiff, shocked at the way the alcoholic father treated his daughter. Jo-Jo had only one dress and when the sun set she would wash it so that it would seem clean the next day, therefore she was always naked at night. She took good care not to meet her father at nightfall and kept herself locked in her room, but one spring Jo-Jo grew up, watching over her geese. I’ve grown Billy Bill, she whispered into his ear while they waved the wagons goodbye heading South. I’ve grown and my father will make me his woman this very night. Then Billy Bill, using his muddy hands, tore the only dress he knew of hers, and Jo-Jo began to feel with her humid fingers the elusive buttons of men’s clothing. No wagon passed over the rusty rails. A flock of black birds slipped away in silence. When she got back to the wooden cottage her father was waiting for her, rolling an empty bottle on the table. Jo-Jo tried to climb the stairs when he followed her, caught her and split her dress. She did not scream, but moved away as best she could from her father’s arms and tried to reach her room. She only got as far as opening the door. Behind it awaited Billy Bill. I’ve grown, Jo-Jo, he said to her before hitting the father in the face. The drunkard rolled down the stairs, and when his head hit the wood of the last step he died. I’ve grown, Jo-Jo, no one will be able to harm you now, said Billy Bill before dragging the body. He repeated this one last time before burying it in the yard. Drops of rain perforated the mud and again they rolled around in the ground, naked and dirty. The geese, like piled up umbrellas, took shelter from the daybreak specters. I’ll leave on the next train, said Billy Bill. They come filled with oil, the wagons do, she said. I’ll make a fortune and come back for you, Jo-Jo. I’ll wait for you until the last one of the geese dies, Billy Bill. If you haven’t returned by then, it means that there’s no fortune in the gold mines nor in the oil wells, and I’ll go find you.
The geese began to die, one by one.
The first choked on an ear of wheat.
A tile from the stable fell on the second one and killed it instantly.
The third died of a heart attack and its heart was split into two halves.
The fourth was found with its beak furrowed with red ants.
The fifth and the sixth were stolen.
The seventh laid a black egg, heavy as a rock, before expiring.
The eighth was caught in a hanging tablecloth —after three blind spins it strangled itself.
The ninth goose flapped its wings at one end of the yard, ran a short race and took off until it disappeared in the cloudless sky.
When a single goose paced up and down the cottage, a female hand approaches and caresses the bird’s head as if it were leaning on a cane. It extends the white feathered neck on the deck’s wooden floor and cuts it off with a kitchen knife. In the morning, its silhouette traverses the golden fields in the distance, heading for a train that does not stop.
Bumping into several people, as if he were incapable of seeing them, a man with a cloth hat and an enormous pair of glasses walks into the bar. He leans halfway over an empty stretch of the bar. The song turns out to be familiar, but concealed behind a different tune, like discovering The House of the Rising Sun in an even more disheartened register. The singer is a tight woman who shows her breasts to the audience, although they can’t see them because the light is coming from the back and it is only possible to define their outline. She also wears a cloth hat. When the song ends someone shouts for a round of applause for Jo-Jo, which is her name. She takes the hat off and puts it on her breasts, so that the hat is left suspended and does not reveal much more. Someone else shouts that she return the hat to its original place. While she leans on the edge of the stage, where she is offered bills that she allows to be slipped in her garters, she answers that she will uncover herself again when one of them is able to find out tonight’s phrase. Many shout whatever comes to their minds; others find an opportunity to blaspheme against God. The man at the bar burnishes a crumpled dollar bill, and moving aside those in the front row, approaches Jo-Jo. She holds out a leg when he demands: In the hat. She whistles: We have a winner! What’s your name, winner? Billy, the man says. A round of applause for Billy the Winner!, shouts the same guy that asked for a round of applause for Jo-Jo. She takes off the hat and offers it to him turned around. Billy the Winner lets go of his bill, which falls slowly like a goose feather. He looks at Jo-Jo’s bust and smiles, and in his enormous glasses the singer’s breasts are duplicated. Wait for me at the back, she says, tonight’s your lucky night. Billy the Winner comes out of the bar, starts a yellow pickup truck, and makes an indecisive detour, as if he were taking a long time finding out where the back might be. At last he brakes, raising a cloud of dust that has the shape of an anachronistic seahorse that doesn’t take long to dissipate into the landscape of old tires, piled up cases of beer, phantasmagoric coupleless cactus. While he waits he improvises a tune with his fingers on the wheel. Jo-Jo appears at the window, again the breasts caught in the hat. Billy the Winner takes off his, and hangs it on Jo-Jo’s head. He takes off the glasses and puts them in the glove compartment. Billy the Winner’s face matches his pickup truck. The poorly trimmed and scattered beard, not enough to conceal the wrinkles; an incomplete eye brow; more than twelve scars to be counted. Who have you been lending your face to? says Jo-Jo. It is the wind from the highway. You’ve come a long way, then. I come from around, but I cover the same route several times a day. Billy the Winner, she says, a few years ago I came to this place looking for a man like you. Jo-Jo the Singer, I’m less interested in your story than I am in the position of your hat. Come on in, I’ll drive you into town. No, I still have two rounds of sad songs left tonight. The hat that hangs on your head, you know how much it’s worth? No more than my twins. They’re just a couple of tits, Jo-Jo the Singer, don’t overestimate them, and don’t call them twins either, you would find them quite different if you could observe them from another angle. Come on, I promise to pass the lie detector along the way and then you’ll know if I’m your man or not. Lit up by the only working headlight, Jo-Jo crosses in front of the yellow pickup truck. Billy the Winner sees her hold the two hats as if she were walking on a tightrope and each one offered her equilibrium. The pickup truck, trembling, advances with its one-eyed light, sanding down the highway. When I was young, says Jo-Jo, I came all the way here looking for a man. What makes you think that it can be me? I’m not saying it’s you, I usually reward all the Billies I find in my path. But Billy’s not my real name, Jo-Jo the Singer. My name is William Moss, and believe me when I tell you that it’s been a long time since I last pronounced that name fully. Jo-Jo removes a tear looking at the darkness of her window, where a devastating wind throbs. How did you get to this place, William Moss, aka Billy the Winner? On a train, Jo-Jo, like everyone else. Did you think that the gold mines were here? Never heard of that, I came here because when I was fifteen a train jerked me out. Well I got here following the man that killed my father. It took me little time to find out that I could earn something at the bar, where they gave me the name of Jo-Jo, like so many other Jo-Jo’s that were before me, and others that will be when my twins have carried out their mission in this world. And what’s your name, Jo-Jo? Kim, Kim Jones. That’s a pretty name, Kim Jones. It is. I loved to use it back then. And this man, this Billy, why are you looking him for him? To kill him, I think. I can help you find him. And what does Billy the Winner ask in return. That you help me find a woman that I left behind when I was young. Sounds fair enough. It is, Jo-Jo the singer; it’s quite fair. They both looked at the highway, which seemed endless.
They come filled with gold, the wagons do, Jo-Jo.
They come filled with oil, the wagons do, Billy Bill.
Translated from Spanish by Francisco Díaz Klaassen
Osdany Morales (Nueva Paz, 1981) is a Cuban author. His first book, a collection of short stories, Minucionas puertas estrechas (Ediciones Unión, 2007), earned the David award. In 2008 he won the International Prize for Fiction Casa de Teatro, in the Dominican Republic. In the fall of 2011 he finished his second book, Papyrus, which recently was awarded with the prestigious Alejo Carpentier Award 2012, in Cuba. His fiction works have been included in anthologies about new Cuban literature, such as Maneras de narrar (2006), Los que cuentan (2008) and La fiamma in boca (2009). His stories have appeared in magazines El Cuentero (Cuba), El Perro (Mexico) and Quimera (Spain). Currently, supported by a Banco de Santander Fellowship, he is doing an MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish at NYU.
SALUTARE UN PADRE
A volte il silenzio parla, pronuncia cose enormi, perfino qui dall’altra parte dell’Atlantico, in scene che sembrano familiari, ma che invece vanno guardate con gran riverenza, solennità. Come quando vènti leggeri rifiutano di tacere e riportano indietro lineamenti delle cose, delle mani. La vita di un uomo è segnata da linee confuse, gesti degli anni, ed ancora silenzi, altri silenzi, gesti tracciati nell’aria, anche qui dall’altra parte dell’Atlantico.
Non c’è mai abbastanza tempo per salutare un padre. Non bastano cartoline ed altri messaggi, non bastano le parole appena pronunciate, non bastano anni ed anni. Il semplice congedo è solo un attimo, è lo sprazzo mattutino, ma non basta, nemmeno quello basta. Soprattutto dopo il ventisette settembre, dopo che i pensieri sono andati e la bocca si chiude. La morte è un abbandono? E’ una forma di partenza? Qualcuno se lo chiede, anzi tutti se lo chiedono, anche se non lo ammettono. E’ una dispersione della materia, un ritorno alla terra? Anzi, è un allontanamento, ma da dove e per dove? Ma no, per molti invece è la fine di un inseguimento.
Prima o poi il silenzio ci raggiunge, ci tocca. Sai come avviene? Te lo confesso: c’e’ un mucchio di gente che parla in tono familiare, traffico intorno, rumore delle cose. Poi poco a poco si spengono le luci, si abbassano i volumi, il silenzio s’avvicina, arriva da lontano, da qualche punto che abbiamo lasciato indietro, nascosto. Poco a poco ci raggiunge, infine ci tocca. E’ lì che nasce un profondo rispetto per il silenzio, perché è la fase ultima, l’ultimo stadio: in silenzio e al buio, è la condizione più vicina a quella della morte. La vita è chiaroscuri, solarità, luci varie, intermittenti, alti e bassi, passioni e delusioni, ronzii, ma la morte, la morte no, è solo silenzio nel buio.
Ora la scena cambia, in una stanza, al buio, il silenzio è rotto da una voce, da due voci. Le due voci si cercano, s’intuiscono, un’aria calma nell’assenza di respiro. Ritornano luoghi amati, sfiorati dalle dita, ora un segnale:
Prima voce: “Verso l’unica morte si va instancabili, fatti per morire.”
Seconda voce:” Sì, programmati per morire, anzi nati per il preciso scopo di morire.”
Prima voce: “Sì, è buffo, verso l’unica morte possibile.”
Seconda voce: “E qual è l’unica morte possibile?”
Prima voce: “Ma è la morte stessa, ce n’è una sola, o sbaglio?”
Seconda voce: “Allora la vita è un progressivo allontanamento dalle cose della vita in direzione della morte?”
Prima voce: “Certo, ma ce ne sono di cose da vedere durante il tragitto, che poi è una lenta declinazione, sì che ce ne sono: suoni, voci di madri e gesti riflessi sull’acqua, azioni bloccate in una serie di fotografie, quelle del mare, della vacanza. Migliaia di foto che imprigionano il passato, è l’unico modo per non farlo scappare, tranne che poi le foto ingialliscono, come quelle dei vent’anni, le foto di gruppo, quelle dei parenti.”
Seconda voce: “Sì, le foto di gruppo, quelle della scuola, siamo vivi lì, guardiamo al futuro, anzi sembriamo volerci arrivare al più presto, quasi correre verso il futuro”.
Prima voce: “Certo rimangono vaghi ricordi, come quelli degli errori commessi, ma anche versi come questi:
danzare con i vestiti nuovi
danzare sul mare di sera
danzare, danzare e sognare
Seconda voce: “Che cosa sono, da dove vengono?”
Prima voce: “Sono canti, cantilene, cantari, cantate, in attesa di giovani donne. Senti, una volta a Bruxelles, con un dente cariato, al freddo, ho visto un’alba strana, alle otto di mattina era ancora buio, poi poco a poco è nata una luce. Era l’inverno nordico. Ma a che serve ricordarlo?”
Seconda voce: “Ma sì, a che serve? Ma allora a che serve tutto il resto, i destini incrociati, l’orgoglio giovanile, se poi ci si allontana, leggermente, ogni giorno di più, stabilmente, sai qual è l’unica cosa certa in tutta questa storia?
Prima voce: “No, qual è?”
Seconda voce: “E’ che il tempo passa, questo è certo, e continua a passare, come dire: trascorre, bella parola, sembra come in una vacanza: trascorrere giorni lieti in vacanza.”
Prima voce: “Ora è tardi, cambiamo scena, non so dove sei esattamente, ma ti sento stanco.”
Seconda voce: “Sì, spostiamoci da qui”.
Ora la scena è quella di un viaggio, viaggio attraverso varie lingue, forse paesi mai visti, in anni lontani. Ma senza bocca per chiamare, senza lingua per parlare. E’ un viaggio per mare? E’ un viaggio per terra? Senza occhi per vedere, senza orecchie per sentire. Che viaggio è? Che ora è? Me lo chiedo, se lo chiedono, nel corso dei vari destini, delle varie destinazioni. Partenze in anticipo, in orario, in ritardo, mezzi di trasporto appena arrivati, appena partiti. A volte si è in anticipo, a volte in ritardo, sulle cose, sugli sguardi degli altri, negli appuntamenti. Ma a volte si è in orario, ecco è quello il momento che segna l’equilibrio. Si è in orario con gli sguardi degli altri, si è arrivati al momento giusto: un figlio che guarda negli occhi suo padre, un padre che guarda negli occhi suo figlio. Si è appena in tempo per certi appuntamenti. Si è soli senza saperlo, si è in compagnia senza saperlo. Si parte sempre, alla fine, prima o poi. Una partenza è in attesa per tutti, chiuso ogni gesto, chiusa ogni memoria. Abbiamo avuto un padre, siamo diventati padri, i nostri figli diventeranno padri e madri, i figli dei loro figli diventeranno padri e madri. Sempre presenti, partiti per sempre.
FAREWELL TO A FATHER
Sometimes silence speaks, pronounces vast things, even here on the other side of the Atlantic, in scenes that seem familiar, but instead need to be viewed with great reverence, solemnity. As when light winds refuse to be hushed and bring back the outlines of things, of hands. A man’s life is marked by muddled lines, the years’ gestures, silences and more silences, gestures traced in the air, even here on the other side of the Atlantic.
There is never enough time to say good-bye to one’s father. Postcards and other messages aren’t enough, the words just spoken aren’t enough, years and years aren’t enough. The simple good-bye takes only a moment, it’s a morning cloudburst, but it’s not enough, not even that. Especially after September the twenty-seventh, after the thoughts have flown and the mouth closes. Is death a desertion? Is it a leave-taking? Someone wonders, indeed everyone wonders, even if they don’t admit it. Is it a dispersal of matter, a return to earth? It is, rather, a departure, but from where and to where? But no, for many it’s the end of a hunt.
Sooner or later silence reaches us, touches us. Do you know how it happens? I confess: a lot of people speak in familiar tones, traffic around them, the sounds of things. Then little by little the lights go out, the volume is lowered, silence draws near, arrives from far off, from some place we left behind, hidden. Little by little it reaches us, finally touches us. A deep respect for silence is born there, because it’s the last phase, the last stage: in silence and dark our condition is closest to death. Life is chiaroscuros, sunshine, changing lights, intermittent, high and low, passions and delusions, rumblings, but death, no, it’s only silence and darkness.
Now the scene changes to a room, in the dark, the silence is broken by a voice, by two voices. The two voices look for each other, intuit each other, a still air in the absence of breath. Beloved places come back, brushed by fingertips, then a signal:
First Voice: “Toward one death we go tirelessly, born to die.”
Second Voice: “Yes, born to die, even born for the very purpose of dying.”
First Voice: “Yes, it’s funny, toward the one possible death.”
Second Voice: “And what is the one possible death?”
First Voice: “It’s death itself, there is only one, isn’t there?”
Second Voice: “Then life is a progressive departure from living things in the direction of death?
First Voice: “Sure, but there are things to see on the trip, which is a slow path downward, yes, there are things to see: sounds, mothers’ voices, and gestures reflected in water, actions caught in a series of snapshots, scenes of the beach, of vacations. Thousands of photos imprisoning the past is the one way to keep it from getting away, except that the photos yellow, like those of one’s twenties, the group photos, one’s relatives.”
Second Voice: “Yes, the group photos, the school photos, we’re alive in them, we look toward the future, we seem to want to get there as fast as possible, almost running toward the future.”
First Voice: “Vague memories are left, like those of mistakes we made, but even verses like these:
dancing in new clothes
dancing on the sea in the evening
dancing, dancing and dreaming”
Second Voice: “What are they, where do they come from?”
First Voice: “They’re songs, lullabies, sung waiting for young women. Listen, once in Bruxelles, with an aching tooth, I saw a strange dawn, at eight in the morning it was still dark, then little by little the light was born. It was the northern winter. But what use is remembering it?”
Second Voice: “Yes, what use? But then what use is the rest, the crossed destinies, the youthful pride, if then everything goes off, lightly, further and further each day, steadily, do you know the only sure thing in this whole story?”
First Voice: “No, what is it?”
Second Voice: “That time passes, that’s for sure, and keeps passing, that is to say, elapses, nice word, like a vacation: happy days elapsed on vacation.”
First Voice: “Now it’s late, let’s change the scene; I don’t know where you are exactly, but you sound tired.”
Second Voice: “Yes, let’s get out of here.”
Now the scene is that of a journey, a trip through various languages, perhaps countries never seen, in distant years. But without a mouth for crying out, a tongue for speaking. Is it a sea voyage? Is it a land voyage? Without eyes for seeing, without ears for listening. What journey is it? What time is it? I wonder, they wonder, in the course of their various destinies, their various destinations. Early departures, on-time ones, late ones, the means of transport having just arrived, just departed. Sometimes we’re early, sometimes late, for things, for others’ gazes, for appointments. But sometimes we’re on time, okay, that’s the moment that signs the balance. We’re on time for the others’ gazes, we arrived at the right moment: a son who looks in his father’s eyes, a father who looks in his son’s eyes. We arrive just in time for some appointments. We are alone without knowing it, we are together without knowing it. We always leave in the end, sooner or later. A departure awaited by everyone, every gesture turned off, every memory closed. We had a father, we became fathers, our children become fathers and mothers, their children will become fathers and mothers. Having always arrived, always departed.
Translated from Italian by Olivia Holmes
Mario Moroni was born in Italy in 1955. He moved to the United States in 1989. He has taught at Yale University, the University of Memphis, Colby College, he currently teaches Italian at Binghamton University. Mario Moroni has published seven volumes of poetry, one of poetic prose, and a DVD of poems, images, and electronic music in collaboration with composer Jon Hallstrom. In 1989 he was awarded the Lorenzo Montano prize for poetry. His poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies of contemporary poetry. As a critic, Mario Moroni has published three volumes and has co-edited three collections of essays on modern and contemporary Italian and European literature and culture.
DIEGO TRELLES PAZ/PERU
Diego Trelles Paz was born in Lima, Perú, in 1977. He is the author of a short story collection, Hudson, el redentor [Hudson, the Redemeer] (Lima, 2001), and a novel, El círculo de los escritores asesinos [The Circle of the Murderous Writers] (Barcelona, 2005). His stories and articles have appeared in N+1, The White Review, Paterson Literary Review, Revista ñ, Babelia, Sibila, among others. He is a professor in Binghamton University, SUNY, and the editor of El futuro no es nuestro [The Future Is Not Ours] (2009) an anthology of short stories by young Latin American writers that has been published in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Panama, Hungary, Peru, and will be released in USA by University of Rochester’s Open Letter in 2012.
ПЪТУВАНИЯ до БИНГАМТЪН
Когато ми казаха, че ще пътувам до Бингамтън, на лицето ми грейна самодоволна усмивка. Ами да, аз бях посещавал градчето често. Или казано възторжено: „Аз съм горд спонсор на двама колежани на СУНИ!” От тези няколко пътувания първото и последното се откройват релефно спрямо останалите.
Бях сам родител на двама сина и пътувах с по-възрастния към щатския колеж в Бингамтън. Имахме само една кола. От къде пари за втора? Само преди година бях получил гражданство. Синът ми бе в първата десетка на „Уолтър Панас Скул” и бе получил 4 стипендии, но само една от тях, на СиБа Гайги му донесе 1500 долара. Бе приет и в Ню Йорк Университи и Фордам, но парите ми не стигаха, затова срещу разочарования му поглед изрекох най- силния си аргумент, с който разполагах: „Универитетът в Бингамтън е сред първите 10 от щатските в Америка! Виж, АйБиЕм е основана тука!”, а когато паркирахме в студенсткото градче възкликнах: ”Защо не мога да се върна в студентските години и да бъда тук!”. АрЕйа, студентка от по-горен курс, като разбра, че съм родител и ще се шляйкам безцелно из кемпъса, ме покани да вляза на подготвителната лекция, която изнасяше на новодошлите. Бях единственият родител. „Редът е такъв, изискванията са такива!”- редеше приспивателно АрЕйката, но когато от устата й се отрони думата „секс”, дрямката ми се изпари.
Наострих уши. „На таблото до вратата на моя офис има три презерватива: бял, син и розов! Не се смущавайте, елате и си поискайте, когато ви дотрябват! Не е задължително! Безопасният секс е препоръчителен!” Почуствах се неловко. Погледнах боязливо около мен: децата, да, наистина, те всичките можеха да бъдат мои деца, слушаха безразлично. „Правете секс само в собствените си стаи! Виждате ли скамейката на терасата отсреща?”- пръстът й сочеше една от терасите, разположени срещу офиса й. „Миналата година двойка студенти правиха представление! Изхвърлиха ги веднага!” Изби ме студена пот. Ставаше въпрос за …орал секс.
Неволно се върнах в мойта младост. Такъв кемпъс нямахме. Преподаваха ни в сгради на бивши казарми. АрЕй? Какво пък е това? В тийн-годините баща ми упорито ми натрапваше „Половият въпрос” на д-р Август Форел, където професорът настойчиво съветваше да не мастурбираме. После добави: „Има леки жени, които може да ти лепнат някоя венерическа болест!” И накрая оформи родителския си съвет по сексуалните въпроси:” Търси твоята любов! Не лъжи момичетата! Но не бързай да се жениш преди да си завършил!” Едно поколение разлика, през която през вратите на тайнството бе нахълтала публичност.
Нарекох това пътуване :”предпазители в три цвята като национален флаг”. Пътувах няколко пъти годишно до Бингамтън, първо заради моя син, после и за друг студент, който спонсорирах. Последното ми пътуване нарекох :”Няколко метра тоалетна хартия”. Не бе за добро и бе спешно. Сега ще ви разкажа защо.
Моят студент се бе озовал в затвора. Светкавично прекосяване на щата със стипчивия привкус на неприятно преживяване в устата, справка в полицията, копие от рапорта на полицията на ареста, бърза ориентация в адвокатския биснес на града, наемане на препоръчания адвокат, плащане на сумата за да бъде освободен под гаранция, пътуване до затвора и освобождаване!
В студентската му квартира изслушахме разказа му. Предишната вечер се бе отбил в някакъв бар, бе ударил няколко уискита на гладен стомах и прибирайки се по пътя към дома си, бе ритнал порта на частен дом. „Портата”- казваше полицейския рапорт – „е сериозно повредена и собствениците искат обезщетение от 3,000 долара.” Освен това нарушителят много често споменавал майка си. Много от детайлите не помнеше. Припомняше ги полицейският рапорт. Накрая, сконфузено, но с хитра усмивка извади малко роло тоалетна хартия. Разви го бавно. Разделени от перфорацията на страници, подобно на книга, отделните късове бяха запълнени със ситни букви, сякаш човекът, който бе ги изписал се бе стремял да не пропилее и най-малкото пространство. Затворът, условията, полицаите, охраната, разпитите, черното момче в съседната килия, затворено невинно. Всичко това бе записано на тия няколко ярда тоалетна хартия. Може би началото на една писателска кариера.
Адвокатът ни получи хонорара си, но остана разочарован, че не можа да разбере от полицейския рапорт защо клиентът му бе споменавал думата „майка”. Попита ме няколко пъти. Отговорих му, че моят студент не си спомня, но бях отгатнал, че той е крещял:”Мамка Ви капиталистическа!” Беше левичар. С оскъдните средства с които живееше, аз бих станал и ултра левичар.
Отидох да видя портата. Аз бих я поправил и за 200 долара.
И двамата ми студента завършиха успешно. Вторият се придвижва от ляво на дясно и е някъде по средата. Няма да се изненадам, ако някой ден прочета заглавие: „Записки от затвора върху тоалетна хартия”.
TRAVELS TO BINGHAMTON
When I was told that I would be traveling to Binghamton a smug smile came to my face. Oh yes, I had visited it often. Or to say it more enthusiastically: “I’m the proud sponsor of two college students of SUNY!”. Of these few trips the first and last separate themselves drastically from the rest. I myself, a single parent of two sons, was traveling with the older one to the campus of SUNY. We only had one car. Where would we get the money for a second one? I had just become a citizen a year before. My son was in the top ten graduates of Walter Panas High School and was the recipient of four scholarships, but only one of them, gave him $1,500. He was admitted by NYU and Fordham, but since I didn’t have enough money, I could only answer the look on his face, filled with disappointment, with the strongest argument I could come up with: “Binghamton is one of the top ten in The States! Look, even IBM was founded here.” And when we parked in the lot of the campus, I exclaimed: ”If only I could return to my college years and be here!” The resident assistant (RA), a student in an upper class, who discovered that I was the only parent and that I would walk around aimlessly on campus, invited me to participate in the lecture for freshmen that she was holding for them. “These are the rules, those are the requirements” uttered the RA-girl in a lulling voice. But, when the word “sex” came out of her mouth, my nap was disrupted. I pricked up my ears. “On the board, next to the door of my office, there are three condoms—a white one, a blue one, and a pink one. Don’t be embarrassed, come and ask for one when you need it. It’s not required! Safe sex is to be recommended!” I felt weird. I looked around me uneasily— the kids were listening with indifference. “Have sex only in your own rooms! Do you see the bench on the terrace over there?”— her finger was pointing to one of the terraces across from her office. “Last year a couple gave a show. They were thrown out immediately!”. I broke out in cold sweat . . . they were having oral sex.
Without meaning to, I went back to my youth. We didn’t have such a campus. They used to teach us in a former army barracks. Resident Assistant—What the hell is that? In my teens my father used to persistently push “The Topic of Sex” of Dr. August Forell, in which the Professor insisted in recommending that we should not masturbate. Then he added: “There are slutty women who can gift you with a venereal disease.” Afterwards, he formulated his parental advice on the topic of sex: “Look for your true love. Don’t fool girls. However, don’t rush to get married before you graduate.”
A generational difference, during which the doors of secrecy had opened to the eye of the public.
I called this trip “Condoms in Three Colors as a National Flag.” I traveled a few times a year to Binghamton, at first because of my son, then for a student, whom I already mentioned, whom I sponsored. I called my last trip “A Few Yards of Toilet Paper.” It wasn’t something positive, but it was urgent. I will now tell you why.
My student found himself in prison. Crossing the state like lightning, with a bad taste in the mouth, caused by an unpleasant experience, an inquiry in the police station, a copy of the police report of the arrest, a quick orientation of the available lawyers in the city, hiring of the recommended attorney, payment of the bail money so he could be freed under a guarantee, traveling to the prison, and finally getting him free.
We heard his story in his student apartment. He had gone to a bar the night before, had a couple of whiskeys on an empty stomach, and on his way home had kicked in the door of a private home. The police report said: ”The door is badly damaged and the owners are asking for retribution of $3,000. In addition, the perpetrator mentioned his mother very often. He didn’t remember many details. The police report was reminding him of some of them. At the end, embarrassed, but with a sly smile he took out a small roll of toilet paper. He unrolled it slowly. The separate sheets were full of small letters, as if the guy who had written them, had tried not to waste even the smallest space. The jail, the conditions, the policemen, the guard, the questioning, the black guy in the next cell who was put in jail even though innocent, all of these was written on these few yards of toilet paper. It was perhaps the beginning of a writer’s career.
The attorney got his fees, but he was disappointed that he couldn’t figure out from the police report why his client had been mentioning the word “mother.” He asked me a few times. I told him that my student didn’t remember, but I had guessed that he had been screaming, “You capitalist mother!” He was a leftist. If I lived on the limited means that he was living on, I would have become an extreme leftist!
I went to see the door. I could fix it for $200.
Both of my students graduated successfully. The second one moved from the left to the right and now is in the middle. I wouldn’t be surprised if some day I would read “Notes From Prison on a Toilet Paper.”
Translated from Bulgarian by the author
Vantzeti Vassilev, born in 1945 in Radomir, Bulgaria. He earned a PhD in chemical engineering in Sofia. He immigrated in 1988 and has lived in New York since 1989. He worked for the New York Department of Environmental Protection. He is the author of The Seeds of Fear (1991), a novel based on autobiographical data describing life in Bulgaria for the past 50 years and the absurdities that result from totalitarian society. A portion of the novel describes the lives of prisoners held without sentence in Belene, the infamous concentration camp in Bulgaria. These stories were told firsthand to the author by the prisoners. The novel was presented at the 20th Annual International Arts Festival 1991 of Cross-Cultural Communications in New York. His second novel, The Trains of Roma, was published in 2006. The book was presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2009. His third book, Short Stories from NYPL, was published in 2011.
You are nothing
nothing if not that bright glint
or is that seagull on the horizon?
Distinguished by the sibilants of excellence:
the bright ivory tusk that gores you
brings you down to mix the blood of your thigh
with the dust or is that some other story?
Oh yes. You were digressing.
It is another story: it will not fit in with the works published section
it comes out of the sun and makes you squint, makes you
vomit up your dead, as if you were a sea of
They will tell you this poem is too obscure.
You are angry. You never meant to be. There is
the grey man – over there
he is mistranslated, and the red woman over there
who is misread, and every one is guarded
as if the boar were already prowling the quad
it’s eloquent achievements skewered high up
on its tusks.
Joe Weil is currently a lecturer in the creative writing department at Binghamton University. He has published three full-length books of poetry as well as three chap books, the latest of which is The Plumber’s Apprentice, New York Quarterly press. He is also active as an editor (formerly editor of Ragazine, currently of MAggy), and promoter of poetry. For a year he was publisher of Monk books and produced three chaps, one by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Mark Strand. Weil has a book of poems and photographs done with his friend, the artist Marco Munoz, as well as an e book of sonnets. After a long break, he has begun to compose music again.
Crossroads included a special event, so to speak, the reading of Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers” in English, and then in several translations. Among the translations was one by Dr. John Smelcer in the native Ahtna, a disappearing native Alaskan language. Both the English original and Smelcer’s translation are reprinted here. Many thanks to “the other Stanley” (Barkan) for facilitating the multi-lingual reading of the poem.
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
Stanley Kunitz’s “The Layers” translated into
the Ahtna Athabaskan language of Alaska
by John E. Smelcer
Sii ghayaał dez’aan,
‘eł sii cic’uunen,
hwna eldaan’ ‘ida’
sii ‘estayteltaen stadelnen.
Sii ‘aen cit’aa’ak’e,
daak ‘aen sił’aa
tse tiye’ niłkanazilae
xuk’a t’uu yuuł,
sii ‘aen kayax kudghił’iitden
niłyihghatses ts’en yabaaghe
‘eł kon’ c’et’
c’aa kuk’tl’aa ninesk’ae,
k’edze’ tsiin ceyiige’
t’ak k’e ts’enla’ des.
Sii tsii gha denaey
yii sii gheli ts’aat,
‘eł denaey nadestaan!
Xaa c’asule’ ciz’aani uts’e kat’aen
ye dghos’itkay stadelnen?
kon’ laedze’ ‘iita latsiin,
uyiits’ kulaele da’a k’edze’,
ts’iic unaen ghizet.
Sii nakeltaen, sii nakeltaen,
neniic uyighiyaa duuhwk’etle,
kae łaltsicdze’ tiye’
ndaa sii daetl’,
‘eł ‘aal ts’es k’e ten caax.
Yii tets t’uut’,
hwna yanlaey na’aay
‘el sii ghayaał tah tlaegge’,
yanlaey naes zaegge’ yanihwdinitaan:
“Ikae zdaa nen’tah dzi, c’eye’ ke’ łaets.”
Sii hwyaa lae ts’aan,
cu gutse eldaan’
yii giligak cu’ts’endze’
lae da’a stsesi.
Sii c’eye’ tl’aa cu’ts’endze’.
March 31, 2012 Comments Off on CROSSROADS/Literary