Archive for July, 2008

Parable of an Old Country

It is nighttime in Budapest.  The plates under
the land are moving again.  We wrinkle
down the face of Fisherman’s Bastion
where the tourist crowd, one long lens,
points toward the Danube and the bank
beyond.  At night, the riverboats wheel
west toward Vienna or against the current,
Sulina and the Black Sea.  They are tiny
shoes under the moon-tealed flow.  On my
new desk you lined up my muse elephants
like  clay Rockettes, at whose end you sat
the Ohio buckeye I carried in my pocket
for the last four years.  It seems as unusual
here as I do.  Sometimes I feel I have nothing
left to say.  Sometimes my heart panics,
an outdated translation, and your foreign
words are the only words that will do.
The past is the old country for everyone.

Jessica M. Jewell

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Zhu Tou

She calls me
zhu tou
and stares at me–
expecting an answer.
I blink,
lean closer.
“Zhu tou,” she says again,
pointing at me.
Am I supposed to know
what this means?
Did I learn it in class?
Did she teach it to me recently?
My smile is confusion.
I nod politely.
“You,” pointing at me,
“Zhu tou.”
What the fuck?
She explains:
It means
head of the pig.
I’m more confused.
Why is she
making fun of me?
She says it’s a cute name,
for very close friends
or more.
Well, that makes sense,
but I don’t like it.
It’s not a good name.
She looks confused now.
I explain:
I’m Jewish–
pigs aren’t kosher,
and “pig headed”
isn’t a good thing
in English.
She won’t call me
zhu tou again.

Matthew Lubin


Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

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