The Art of Translation (audio only)

- 1929-2012

 

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More by Adrienne Rich

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb    disgraced    goes on doing

now diagram the sentence


2007

Gabriel

There are no angels       yet
here comes an angel       one
with a man's face         young
shut-off         the dark
side of the moon         turning to me
and saying:        I am the plumed
                            serpent       the beast
                            with fangs of fire   and a gentle
                            heart

But he doesn't say that       His message
drenches his body
he'd want to kill me
for using words to name him

I sit in the bare apartment
reading
words stream past me        poetry
twentieth-century rivers
disturbed surfaces        reflecting clouds
reflecting wrinkled neon
but clogged        and mostly
nothing alive left
in their depths

The angel is barely
speaking        to me
Once in a horn of light
he stood       or someone like him
salutations in gold-leaf
ribboning from his lips

Today again        the hair streams
to his shoulders
the eyes reflect      something
like a lost country       or so I think
but the ribbon has reeled itself
up
    he isn't giving
or taking any shit
We glance miserably
across the room       at each other

It's true       there are moments
closer and closer together
when words stick       in my throat
                                          'the art of love'
                                          'the art of words'
I get your message Gabriel
just        will you stay looking
straight at me
awhile longer