are translators

I am comfortable to be here,
doubly attached – doubly
in love and so here, grown
with two languages, fleeing
and speaking them early,
tiny with these words squeezed
just in my left hand, which holds
what I have forgotten as I grew. Tap
the hand to rhyme me as I go.
Children when they hate,
when they resist
the world they do not know,
are translators.

I do not get it,
sewage from me flowing
channeled to the se
and its treasures, grimed
down there with our ships,
over to our shore.

Take me across, tap me over
the street to the slab glued
on the worms. When the borders
were closed there were zones, where
flowers might not know
how pollination comes.

I cannot breathe without a thought,
sewage from me flowing
exhaled out and low
into the flat earth with the worms. How
empty might we be? How would our ego
think its images, why
those that chase it as its own,
delay against their coming home.

I cling to you, and speak that
sewage only as a joke,
I slip in it, while it flows on.
But the text is there so voice can be
against the page and me,
we purge along the lines
that we are shown, by gutters
worn deep by flowing
salted water, filthy waters flushing
down and forcing us to cling.

Toys when men are old are
not part objects;
we play with what is poison to us,
tapping on our left hands the song
that is not sung. Use tiptoes
as a term when heels are stolen.
Heels after a disaster, abandoned
by a different life, robes like
glorious swathes, the
clothes that never fit,
for there is no present fit,
just the shame of ill-made clothes.

Handed down or tiptoed up, a fish
now tickled which is how
you catch a fish,
now naked on a sheet, fucked
before I even got to gut
and eat it, too soon
after it had been a shoe,
a sharkskin suit.
I think that this is nude,
the halo just slapped on,
a shoddy restoration.

Guile me, talk again
he said it once again, the mundane
which is speaking to a concrete person
in the living of the person,
hearing slides the ear
into the mouth, and all my face
has flattened there, sucked in by
the absence of a living.

You could have sex, or kiss,
or even smoke together,
but better to forget. Metaphor is
holding breath and written words together.
If there is rhythm, if
there was music when
my wife is brushed up, face
sucked in by the absence of or by
too much of living there, birdhouse before
birdhouse, both too small,
both filled already up with words
so each is just translation, and the name
has no where there to live.

The reader wants the voice to flow,
a bed has folded in on me,
opening access to the zone, and
german coming out
like it would be Paul Celan
and pickled foetus,
and this is venom
he says, or kitsch, I might say, or
here is a story which comes back to me all the same
through the languages
saying mine all the time
with some of the
venom of fantasy
protecting himself against
knowing what he means. Saying
me again and running the bee
through thread,
only two in a bed,
with some of the venom of fantasy.





[Geoff Gilbert is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris, where he also directs the MA in Cultural Translation. He writes on modern and contemporary fiction and poetry.]

Copyright © 2014 by Geoff Gilbert, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.