Sunday, March 13, 2016

We fall into the ditch: a homophonic translation of Rilke



after Rilke


we run away like deer
we make the world

wander and take
a long time to die

we die randomly like when
flowers halt

exhausted and their colours
suddenly become others

we become a heavenly
Fahrenheit of elms and fat
fall into the ditch

what is lost from us
we cannot know
how it is gained in bird time

night gains by dunking the house in darkness
night gains such that wigs flourish on our naked heads

what we know about stars, night games, and states
the less said is a kind of butter

our life bangs with the heft of reason and refrigeration
so what is bald begreened and bald beginning—

wait—stars are in the words that have snuck up behind me
we go unwisely to the worm


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I discovered this forgotten poem on my computer. It is a homophonic translation from Rilke, that is, I imagined reading the original German as if it were filtered English and tried to find the closest sounding English words. Of course, this required me to squint my ear somewhat, both to discover the English word, but also to try to hear something that might communicate and make some kind of poem. Then, this afternoon, I made this image. The face is from a photograph of Rilke. I've been thinking a lot about Walter Benjamin's Angel of History / Paul Klee's Angelus Novus and there is certainly something of that earnest hopeful/hopeful figure here.
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Here a more direct riff off Benjamin where I construe the Angel of History as more like the Angel of the Future.

Future Pastoral

there are sheep
far from now

so distant it makes you
nostalgic for small

I know what happens
just not yet

but time and space
are the same

or that’s what my landlord said
renting me the room

there’s me and a star
one of us may already be gone

I turn my back

look toward the future
I would like to awaken

those who will be dead
make whole what will be smashed

but a storm propels me
toward the past

while the future grows
those who do not

learn the future
are doomed to repeat it

until it’s gone



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