Friday, February 19, 2016

For the moment I am sitting quietly at someone else's kitchen table. Outside, there is an undifferentiated growl of traffic. An ambulance wails and dies away. The voices of foot passengers are muffled by bursts of sparrow chatter in the tiny front garden. Grey daylight filters through white curtains, and an upstairs neighbor treads back and forth over a squeaky floor. Cats meow in the stairwell.

Paul Eluard writes, "The clear mirror of the human body makes of it all a banquet."

Yehuda Amichai writes, "Motor car, bomb, God."

The tug of old and new, strange and familiar. Streetlamp swallowing darkness. A rat, in silhouette, scuttling across a sidewalk and vanishing down a grate. Merle Haggard pleading in a French bakery.

"Two nights and two days he floundered in massive seas," mourns Homer.

Buses blur and sigh. The room trembles, lightly, lightly, over the catacombs yawning below. A bouquet of rosebuds rots in a vase. Ashtrays, empty, reveal the moral of the story. Outside, on the street, a furious toddler screams and is carried off by eagles.

"O fold me away between blankets," wails Mario de Sa Carneiro, "And leave me alone."

Or rise, rise, and walk into the river of walkers.

[All extracts translated by Ted Hughes, or Ted Hughes and Assia Gutman]

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