Groan like the brash ice, or hiss like the slush

Two poems by Judita Vaičiūnaitė translated by Rimas Uzgiris

Bevardė versmė

by Judita Vaičiūnaitė

Lyg bevardė versmė po katedra,

lyg iš rūko šviesos čiurkšlė

prasiverk, atgaivink dar kartą

ir be gailesčio širdį užliek.


Lyg dangus būk – šaltas ir žydras

lyg iš lango angos pily

dar išvysk virš Neries žuvėdras,

kai sparnai tau vėjų pilni.


Lyg ledonešis gausk, lyg ižas

atitirpusių gatvių tėkmėj,

nes tą balsą, į saulę grįžusi,

iš bevardės versmės ėmei.

A Nameless Source

by Judita Vaičiūnaitė

Like a nameless source below the cathedral,

like a spray of light within the pall of fog,

open yourself, and come to life once more.

Water your heart with no remorse.


Try to be like the sky – cold and blue,

or gaze at the gulls above the Neris as if

through an arrow-slit in the castle wall,

but only when their wings are full of wind for you.


Groan like the brash ice, or hiss like the slush

that melts in the flow of the street –

for this is the voice, returning to the sun,

the one you took from a nameless source.

translated from Lithuanian by Rimas Uzgiris

Trys lemtys

by Judita Vaičiūnaitė

1. Nikė


Citrinų žievės,

            cinamonų skonis,

            jau išgertas vynas iš Balkanų.

O rytas – toks švarus,

            kai, nepriklausanti

            nei dievui, nei žmonėms, nei velniui,

tokiam tuščiam bute,

            įkaitusios skardos ir stiklo blizgesy,


rate –

            birželio saulės beprotybėj –

            kryžiumi guliu, ir verksmas – veltui.

Už mano nudaužtus suskaldytus sparnus,

            tik dulkėm šviečiančius virš gatvių,

už mano nuogus krūpsinčius šviesoj pečius

            aš nekenčiu tavęs –

            bet burną atveriu

šiurpiam ir purpuriniam tavo viesului…



2. Raudona tunika


Moteris trumpa raudona tunika

            pasaulio aikštėse,

moteris prie mikrofono –

            sielvartas išdidina jos balsą,

ją, bežemių minioje klajojančią,

            mažytę ir išbalusią,

apteškia užlūžtančia banga,

            audringa, sūria ir šviesia…

Ji dainuoja.

            Ausys užkimštos vašku

            – juodi nakties yrėjai

jos negirdi.

            Graikija – didžiulis lageris.

            Ištrūkt turėjai

tu, prie stiebo pririštas…

            Rūdija nugalėtų ginklai – krūvos

skydų, iečių ir šalmų.

            Sirenos rankos – surištos ir kruvinos.



3. Ragana


Pusiaudienio aikštė – troški, triukšminga.

            (Kino salės – tuščios.)

Jie spiečias. Ir nuožmus, nežmoniškas smalsumas

            jungia tūkstančius.

Ir gėdos stulpas auga virš namų

            lyg sausas keistas medis.

Ir pilnas išdidumo mano žvilgsnis –

            kliedintis ir merdintis.

(Prigrūstos šiltinių palatos,

            pirtys, lagerių kirpyklos.

Raudonais viržiais gula kerpami plaukai.)

            Ir plūsta pyktis –

toks nesuprantamas,

            lyg būčiau kitoje planetoj gimus.

Ir plaka įsisiautėję balsai,

            nuo buko džiaugsmo kimūs.

Sunki grandinė trina mano kaklą.

            Nuobodžiauja budelis.

(Beprotišku trenksmu nusviedžia po stalu

            išgertus butelius.)

Tiesa – iš mano vaikiškos burnos,

            laukinės, neliestos.

Uždekit. Mano kūnas ilgisi

            nuplaunančios liepsnos.

Three Fates

by Judita Vaičiūnaitė

1. Nike


Lemon rinds,

            the taste of cinnamon,

            wine from the Balkans, drunk.

O morning – so clean,

            belonging not to God,

            nor people, nor the devil,

in such an empty apartment,

            in heated tin and glare of glass,

in a white

circle –

            in the madness of June’s sun –

            I lie like a cross, and tears are for naught.

For these broken, battered wings –

            this dust shining above the street,

for my naked, wincing shoulders in the light,

            I hate you –

            but open my mouth

to your ghastly purple gale…



2. Red Tunic


A woman with a red tunic

            in the plazas of the world,

a woman by a microphone –

            anguish augments her voice,

wandering among the landless crowds,

            pale and petite,

splashed by a breaking wave,

            stormy, salty and bright…

She sings.

            Ears stuffed with wax

            – the night’s black un-ravellers

can’t hear.

            Greece – a vast concentration camp.

            You had to leave,

tying yourself to the mast…

            The weapons of the vanquished rust:

stacks of shields, spears and helms.

            The Sirens’ hands – bound and bloodstained.



3. Witch


The midday square – stifling and loud.

            (Movie theaters – empty.)

They swarm. And a fierce, subhuman curiosity

            unites thousands.

A pillar of shame grows above houses

            like a strange, desiccated tree.

And my gaze is full of pride –

            delirious and dying.

(The typhus wards, saunas, gulag

            barbers are packed.

Cut hair lies in red bands.)

            And anger flows –


            as if I were born on a different planet.

And raving voices throb –

            hoarse from dull pleasure.

A heavy chain chafes my neck.

            The hangman grows bored.

(He tosses empty bottles under the table

            with a mad crash.)

Truth – from my childish mouth,

            wild, untouched.

Light it. My body longs

            for a cleansing flame. 

translated from Lithuanian by Rimas Uzgiris

One lives a long life in honor of another and counts the stars for him until dawn.

Three poems by Abraham Sutzkever translated by Maia Evrona   

Sutzkever imageI’m grateful for the opportunity to publish my translations of Abraham Sutzkever, now, at this fraught moment for the treatment of refugees in the United States and larger world, as Abraham Sutzkever was something of a double, or even triple refugee. Born in what is now Belarus in 1913, he was forced to flee World War I with his family as a toddler, going, of all places, to Siberia. These days, we primarily associate Siberia with the Gulag, but for Sutzkever, it was a magical place, particularly when seen through the resilient eyes of a child, though his father passed away during the years his family sought refuge there.  

Later, Sutzkever survived the Holocaust in Vilna, first as a prisoner in the Vilna Ghetto, along with the rest of Vilna’s Jewish community, and then as a partisan in the forests, before he and his wife were finally rescued and brought to Moscow at the urging of the Russian poets Ilya Ehrenberg and Boris Pasternak. Following WWII, with violent anti-semitism still very much alive in Poland, and repression in the Soviet Union, Sutzkever understood that he could not remain in Eastern Europe and he and his wife immigrated, illegally, to Mandatory Palestine, just on the eve of the founding of the State of Israel and subsequent war. There, he had a brother (his only remaining immediate family, apart from his wife and newborn daughter). In Tel Aviv, Sutzkever continued to write in Yiddish, despite significant prejudice toward the language within Israel, and a worldwide Yiddish readership now drastically smaller due to the Holocaust. These three poems were published in the expand15078895_10157779449600013_5340291117786455502_ned edition of his collection Poems from My Diary, published in 1985. 

Today’s refugee crisis is certainly not identical to the experience of the Jewish people during WWII, but I hope that won’t stop readers from drawing on Sutzkever’s memories of being a child refugee, his experience as the survivor of a catastrophe in which most perished, and his reflections on what we lose when we close ourselves off to the travelers outside, when addressing the crises of our time.

— Maia Evrona


Two in One

by Abraham Sutzkever

Two in One

Two in One

by Abraham Sutzkever

I am two in one. One lives a long life in honor

of another and counts the stars for him until dawn.

I am two in one. One forged to the other forever,

if forever will allow Russian cubits to be its measure.


An enemy and a friend in one. And sometimes two enemies

who challenge one another to old-fashioned duels. And it turns out

that both get away with wounds and are left on the ground

riddled with bullets, until they lick the blood from themselves with a song.


And again a black cat may spring up or a frog,

we’ll stay, unintentionally, two in one from now on.

We know the double-hatred will not divide us,

that two-as-one are beating on the gate to heaven.


I am two in one. One dreams for the other. Let us free

our two-ness peacefully from the bars. And drink up

the summer sun to its last drop, let’s do that, as Socrates

drank all the way to the bitter end his poisoned cup.

translated from Yiddish by Maia Evrona

“Now, Why is it That You Never Mention Your Siberian Father in This Diary?”

by Abraham Sutzkever

Your Siberian Father

“Now, Why is it That You Never Mention Your Siberian Father in This Diary?”

by Abraham Sutzkever

“Now, why is it that you never mention your Siberian father in this diary?”

A question came. And instead of an answer, just see:

Before my eyes his skin has grown over mine,

and his beard has ripened on me, before my eyes.


Now your son has wholly become that reclusive being—his father,

with his fingers I roll soft tobacco in cigarette paper,

the night sits on a sparkling polishing wheel, rose colored and pure.

Where did I learn page after page of Gemora by heart?


Where did I learn to play the violin? With his fingers, I play

on otherworldly strings with the memory of the Garden of Eden.

Filled with sparkling ice, whose is this shovel?

With his big-boned fingers I’m playing his fiddle.


We exist eternally in the same mass,

the old snow has young strength, both to be covered in snow,

no guns nor artillery can separate us now.


“Now, why is it that you never mention your Siberian father in the diary?”

translated from Yiddish by Maia Evrona

Gone the Window And Through it the Poor Sabbath Guest, the Cherry Tree

by Abraham Sutzkever

Cherry Tree

Gone the Window And Through it the Poor Sabbath Guest, the Cherry Tree

by Abraham Sutzkever

Gone the window and through it the poor Sabbath guest, the cherry tree,

who came to stay the night with me along its journey.

Gone the cherry tree made of stars, they have all been stolen

by cosmic thieves.


This drilled hole has only left me as a vestige

a token amount of heavenly air, which had come in through that window,


and four-sided.


That token of heavenly air, which had drifted in through that window

has been stolen by no one, nor shot to pieces.

The vision of my life owns a spacious home

inside four slender, slender lines.


And the greatest wonder of all: the cherry tree drifts in

to spend the night with me as it did then, that guest,

and the cherry tree made of stars, too, finds its way inside

through those same sweet slender, slender lines.

translated from Yiddish by Maia Evrona

They were a horse perhaps

A poem by Dionisio Cañas translated by Orlando Hernández. 

Foto de Dionisio Cañas _Cruz CantónHernández_author-photo






Caballo ahogado en un lago

by Dionisio Cañas

Fueron un caballo quizás aquellos huesos

bruñidos por el barro y así restituidos

por la fuerza feroz de la lluvia en primavera

Bien pudimos haber pensado que era el azar

pero fue cierto designio tentación o tortura

que crecía tenaz entre nosotros

Era el lago un espacio entregado al silencio

sólo surcado por el bulto de algún ave

red mortal para un caballo en su carrera

y para nosotros turbio espejo donde mirar el tiempo

Fuimos así el reverso de una escena de caza

donde un caballo huía

perseguido por su sombra

y atrapado quedaba por las aguas

Vimos su cadáver alzado sobre un espeso cielo

y corrimos perseguidos por el miedo

de sentirnos desposeídos de repente

de aquel amor que hoy estamos reescribiendo.

Horse Drowned in a Lake

by Dionisio Cañas

They were a horse perhaps, those bones

burnished by the mud and in that way restored

by spring rain’s fierce force

We could have easily thought it was chance

but it was a certain design, temptation, or torture

that was growing between us

The lake was a space handed over to silence

furrowed only by the swell of a single bird

fatal net, for a horse in its step and for us

a muddy mirror we watched time in

So were we a chase scene, reversed

in which a horse fled

pursued by its shadow

and stayed snared in the waters

We saw its corpse raised over a thick sky

and we ran, pursued by fear

of feeling suddenly stripped

of the love that today we’re rewriting.

translated from Spanish by Orlando Hernández

a bright disc
without contour in the haze of summer night.

 Three poems by Joachim Sartorius translated by Pauline Fan










by Joachim Sartorius


sieht der Mond aus

durch das lange Rohr

auf wackligem Stativ,

aufgestellt am Rand des Taksim-Platzes;

aber der Blick kostet nur 500 Lira,

der Mann dreht an Rädern,

du beugst dich über eine kleine Linse

und siehst ihn, nah,

weiß und kühl, Krater und Täler,

selbst den schwarzen Fleck de beauté –

heruntergekommen etwas,

aber nicht halb so schäbig und wirklich

wie der Taksim mit seinem Verkehr,

den verwelkten Büchern auf staubigen Ständern

und klingelnden Mandelverkäufern.

Du gehst in den Menschen über den Platz.

Die Oleanderbüsche stehen

in ihrem runden Schatten

unter dem Neonlicht.

Der Mond ist klein, eine helle Scheibe

ohne Relief im Dunst der Sommernacht.

Nur du weißt, wie er aussieht,

ohne Leben,

präzis weiß und kühl, fast blau.


by Joachim Sartorius

The moon looks

the worse for wear

through the long cylinder

on a shaky frame

set up at the edge of Taksim Square;

but the view costs just 500 lira,

the man swivels the wheels,

you bend over a small lens

and see it, near,

white and cool, craters and valleys,

even its black mark de beauté–

somewhat the worse for wear,

yet not nearly as shabby or real

as Taksim and its traffic,

the withered books on dusty racks,

the noisy almond vendors.

You walk across the square through the crowd.

Oleander bushes bask

in circular shadows

under halos of neon.

The moon is small: a bright disc

without contour in the haze of summer night.

You alone know what it looks like,


precisely white and cool, almost blue.

translated from German by Pauline Fan


by Joachim Sartorius

Vor dem Hotelfenster der Dnjepr,

ein Meer mit weißen Sandbänken.

                                    Im Hotelzimmer

über akkurat durchgeschlagenen Kissen

eine Birkenallee im Winter, in Öl,

wie ich sie heute hundertmal gesehen habe,

ohne zu ermüden,

in einem flachen, rückständigen Land,

von Kriegen heimgesucht, friedlich heute,

von einer Stille, die die Sprache der Frösche

und der Störche noch stiller macht.


Keine Schiffe auf dem Dnjepr. Ich

führe so gerne hinunter nach Odessa,

wo es fröhlich ist, pontisch hell,

mit Frauen und anderen Alleen

und irrenden Wolken, spiritblau.


by Joachim Sartorius

Outside the hotel window the Dnieper,

a sea with white sandbanks.

                        In the hotel room,

above accurately disheveled pillows

a birch-lined boulevard in winter, in oil,

as I have seen today a hundred times

without tiring,

in a flat, backward land

plagued by war, peaceful today

with a silence that renders the language of frogs

and storks more silent still.


No ships on the Dnieper. How I

would like to go down to Odessa,

where it is cheerful, Pontic-bright,

with women and other boulevards

and errant clouds, spirit-blue.

translated from German by Pauline Fan


by Joachim Sartorius

Zuerst sterben die Augen, dann die Hand

in diesem Sommerherbst, dann der übrige Körper.

An der linken Hüfte nun tiefere Muskellagen,

feinkörnige Schichten, papierähnlich.

Darüber die eingesunkene Brust,

darüber ein Zimmervoll Zähne.


Ruinös alles, Dreck und Skelett.

Aber die Haut zart noch, wie Blütenblatt von Mohn.

Nur nicht der Sonne aussetzen, den Schirm

aufspannen, plötzlich besorgt.


Dreizehn Granatäpfel rollen auf dich zu.

Warum auch nicht? Wir wollen Fruchtfleisch,

Rubine, die ganze Fülle vor dem Stoßgebet.

Fruit Pulp

by Joachim Sartorius

The eyes are the first to die in this summer-autumn,

then the hand, then the rest of the body.

At the left hip now deeper layers of muscle,

Fine-grained strata, paper-like.

Above it the chest, caved in,

above it a room full of teeth.


Everything ruinous – filth and skeleton.

But the skin delicate still, like petals of poppy.

Above all, don’t expose it to the sun: spread open

the parasol, suddenly anxious.


Thirteen pomegranates rolling towards you.

And what of it? We want fruit pulp, rubies,

abundance before the fervent, final prayer.

translated from German by Pauline Fan


The furnished globe of the earth is spinning

Two poems by Osip Mandelstam translated by Alistair Noon

mandelstamThese translations are of two poems from Osip Mandelstam’s Voronezh Notebooks, written during his internal exile in the Soviet city of Voronezh, 300 miles south of Moscow, largely isolated from metropolitan literary life. Like the rest of the Notebooks, they were unpublished during his lifetime and preserved by his widow Nadezhda Mandelstam, among others. One of those others was Natatsha Stempel, a Voronezh schoolteacher whose memoirs comment on the verisimilitude of the streets described in “January. Where can I go in this open / city…” to a set of confusing lanes close to the river that Voronezh is located on.

A couple of, I hope, non-essential references to save you a google. In “January…”, “blackdamp” is a miningAlistair Noon photo by Karl Hurst please credit hazard, “an asphyxiant, reducing the available oxygen content of air to a level incapable of sustaining human or animal life” (wikipedia). In “St. Isaac’s freezes to each dead eyelash,” St. Isaac’s is St. Petersburg’s most important cathedral. The job of the “whipper-in” in a fox hunt, for example, is to keep the pack of dogs together. The poem recalls a relationship Mandelstam had with Olga Vaksel in 1925, during which they would meet in a hotel room with a view of the cathedral. Vaksel died in Oslo in 1932.

The translations are from a full-length selection of Mandelstam’s poetry currently in preparation.

—Alistair Noon

Photo credit: Karl Hurst

[На мертвых ресницах Исакий замерз]

by Osip Mandelstam

На мертвых ресницах Исакий замерз

И барские улицы сини –

Шарманщика смерть, и медведицы ворс,

И чужие поленья в камине…


Уже выгоняет выжлятник-пожар

Линеек раскидистых стайку,

Несется земля — меблированный шар,–

И зеркало корчит всезнайку.


Площадками лестниц — разлад и туман,

Дыханье, дыханье и пенье,

И Шуберта в шубе застыл талисман –

Движенье, движенье, движенье…


3 июня 1935

[St. Isaac's freezes to each dead eyelash]

by Osip Mandelstam

St. Isaac’s freezes to each dead eyelash

on the aristocratic blue streets:

there’s a grate of strangers’ logs, and ash,

an organ grinder’s death, bear fleece.


As if it were a pack on a leash, the whipper-in

whips out the fire, and it starts to sprawl.

The furnished globe of the earth is spinning,

and the face-pulling mirror plays the know-all.


The staircase landing’s all squabbles and mist,

breathing, breathing and song.

Schubert’s talisman’s cold and stiff

beneath the fur coat. Keep on, keep on…


3 June 1935

translated from Russian by Alistair Noon

[Куда мне деться в этом январе?]

by Osip Mandelstam

Куда мне деться в этом январе?

Открытый город сумасбродно цепок…

От замкнутых я, что ли, пьян дверей? –

И хочется мычать от всех замков и скрепок.


И переулков лающих чулки,

И улиц перекошенных чуланы –

И прячутся поспешно в уголки

И выбегают из углов угланы…


И в яму, в бородавчатую темь

Скольжу к обледенелой водокачке

И, спотыкаясь, мертвый воздух ем,

И разлетаются грачи в горячке –


А я за ними ахаю, крича

В какой-то мерзлый деревянный короб:

– Читателя! советчика! врача!

На лестнице колючей разговора б!


1 февраля 1937

[January. Where can I go in this open]

by Osip Mandelstam

January. Where can I go in this open

city that clings like a psychotic?

I pass clamps and bolts and feel like lowing:

have the locked doors got me drunk or what?


These howling lanes take the form of tights,

the convoluted streets are storerooms,

places where hoodlums can hurriedly hide,

then leap like knights out of corners.


Into the warty gloom, its pit,

I stumble to the pump and find it frozen.

I feed on the blackdamp, skid

and scatter the feverish crows.


And into the planks of the iced-up box,

I sigh and call, the crows now airborne:

“Talk to me, readers, advisers, doctors,

on these steps that feel like thorns.”


1 February 1937

translated from Russian by Alistair Noon

Voilà: lacks a toe. Voilà: sing this hymn.

A poem by Hugo Ball in a false translation by Melissa Grey & David Morneau

Melissa_Grey_(credit_Marc_Fiaux)When we were invited to participate in a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dada, produced by Hans Tammen, we knew quickly that we wanted to incorporate an Oulipian technique in our composition process. Oulipo (short for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) was founded in 1960 by the French author Raymond Queneau with a group of authors interested in exploring the potential of literature by applying constraints to the creative process, often rooted in mathematics. We are both attracted to the tight conceptual constraints of their techniques, and are deeply interested in translating their ideas to the process of music composition. This shared interest has fueled many conversations and has indelibly shaped our budding collaboration.

Gadget Berry Dimple uses the Oulipian technique of homophonic (or false) translation. The idea is to translate words from one language to another based on sound rather than meaning. For example:

Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui
“Levy urge, levy vassal, hale bell!” assured we.


We began the process by taking Hugo Ball’s Gadji beri bimba (1916) and breaking it out into an alphabetical list of every word within. Then we created false translations for each word in the list, so that affalo became “a fellow”, brussala became “bruised salad”, katalominai became “cat and lonely mice”, and so on. Once finished, we reassembled Ball’s poem using our translations. The result (which is published here) was immediately captivating. We are planning to explore it further, using it as the basis for more music by applying additional Oulipian transformations to it.

For our performance on the 100th anniversary of Dada concert, we created a live sonic texture using a Benjolin synthesizer, a vintage Merlin toy, and a drum machine. Over that we read through our list of translated words as a glossary of false translation: Melissa recited the Ball’s original words and David recited our translations. A video of this performance can be seen here: 

– Melissa Grey & David Morneau (2016)

Sources: Oulipo Compendium (Harry Mathews & Alastair Brotchie), l’Artiste ordinaire (

 Photo credits: Marc Fiaux

Gadji beri bimba

by Hugo Ball

gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori

gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini

gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim

gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban

o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo

gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen

bluku terullala blaulala loooo


zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam

elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata

velo da bang band affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor

gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö

viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo


tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai bumbalo tuffm i zim

gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx

gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen

gaga di bling blong

gaga blung

Gadget Berry Dimple

by Hugo Ball

Gadget berry dimple; grand treaty. Louder, lonely tandoori.

Pajama gamma, buried home, timbales, grand tree. Melis-iss-sa: “Lolita longs for me.”

Gadget berry (gin blossom glossary). Louder, lonely cats or you, sad salad? Bim:

“Pajama toughen!” I, some olive, been banned. Glee club? Wow! only me (gin berry) banned.

O cat and lonely mice. [rhinoceros solo] Hans Tammen: “Lolita longs for me.” Who?

Pajama Rhinoceros. [solo: Hans Tammen]

Blue queue tarantula; blue lager low.


Chin, chin, you rule a lot. Chin, chin, you rule a lot. Chin, chin, sandwich bar. (Some olive sham!) 

Elephant totem, bruised salad. Pillow men: “Bruised salad.” Pillow men: “drum louder.” 

Hell, no! Ha! Pang bland. A fellow purse of mine, a fellow purse of mine. [legato: tire]

Pajama bee’s halo. Grand treaty glossary. Zinc starter, pimp! Alone ogre grow. 

Voilà: lacks a toe. Voilà: sing this hymn. Voilà: Oulipo Fallujah Morneau. 


Toughen, ein sing this hymn? No, not mine. Bungalow? No, not mine. Bungalow toughen—I shim.

Pajama timbales. Oh, berry pajama. “Dada the pajama,” a fellow pins.

“Dada the bungalow, bungalow,” god of men. 

Dada the bring blonde?

Dada brung!

translated from German by Melissa Grey, David Morneau, & l’Artiste ordinaire

we will wait there
for eternity to end

Two poems by Guido Cupani translated by Patrick Williamson








In paradiso arriveremo scalzi

by Guido Cupani

passeremo il confine nella notte

verremo sbalzati dal treno in corsa


pagheremo sangue

per un posto su uno scafo di latta


Approderemo sfatti per il viaggio

ci getteranno una coperta sulle spalle


Ci chiederanno i documenti 

da dove veniamo, dove vogliamo andare


e non sapremo dire, udremo voci 

intravedremo visi stranieri


aldilà di una porta a vetri

di chi una volta era fuori dalla porta


e scuoterà per noi la testa, le carte

non sono in regola


sarebbe bastato un sì a suo tempo

il caso non è più di nostra competenza


E ci impacchetteranno, 

destineranno, recapiteranno


oppure passeremo per misericordia

fra le maglie della nostra stessa rete


troveremo un angolo di marciapiede

dove nessuno ci veda clandestini


attenderemo lì

che l’eternità abbia fine

We will arrive in paradise barefoot

by Guido Cupani

we will cross the border at night

we will be thrown out of the moving train


we will pay blood

to cram on a makeshift boat


We will arrive haggard from the trip

they will throw a blanket over our shoulders


They will ask us for documents

where we come from, where we want to go


and we won’t know how to say, we will hear voices

catch sight of foreign faces


beyond a glass door

of those once out the door


and they will shake their heads at us, the ID

is not in order


a simple yes is all that was needed

the case is not within our competence


And we will be packaged,

we will be addressed, delivered


or we will get through out of mercy

through the links of our own network


we will find a corner of the sidewalk

where no one sees you as clandestine


we will wait there

for eternity to end 

translated from Italian by Patrick Williamson

Fotografia di Alan Kurdi, bambino

by Guido Cupani



Vieni, hai la scarpa slacciata, infilati il maglione, farà freddo,


che cos’hai in tasca, dove l’hai raccolto, svuota, via, come ti senti, 


guardami negli occhi, la mamma ti vuol bene, Galip, vieni anche tu,


la mamma vi vuol bene, papà è fiero di voi, solo un’ora di mare, di là conosceremo altri bambini, domani dormiremo


in un letto nuovo, l’Europa, il Canada, letti più grandi,


ma certo, un sorso d’acqua, bevi, attento a non bagnarti, sei già tutto sporco di sabbia, laviamo le manine,


così, perfetto, ora saliamo




È permessa l’immagine.


È permesso vedere l’immagine. È permesso non vedere l’immagine. Dire di non aver visto. Di non aver potuto. Di non aver dovuto.


È permesso pubblicare l’immagine. È permesso oscurare l’immagine. Condividere. Dire mi piace. Dire non mi piace.


È permesso parlare di inquadrature. Di discrezione e riserbo. È permesso parlare di immagini.


È permesso rivedere l’immagine a mente. In altri vestitini così gettati. Nella riva più fortunata di un copriletto.


È permesso, davanti all’immagine, dire sì, ma. Rimanere coi piedi piantati nella sabbia. Non muovere un passo. Affondare.


È permesso dimenticare l’immagine. Chiudere gli occhi. Negare. Mentre ancora


quello che nell’immagine accade


(è accaduto, accadrà)


è permesso




Lo stato di salute o malattia della cosiddetta fede non è tale per cui


un padre costretto a portare a casa in braccio i tre quarti di quella che era la sua famiglia


un padre precedentemente costretto a portare via da casa per mano la stessa famiglia (moglie e due figli


di cui resta una foto scattata sulla poltrona dei giochi al centro esatto di un doppio largo sorriso


nonostante la bufera (in abiti non dissimili da quelli che avrebbero presto restituito)


contro l’onda montante della storia) all’ultima spiaggia


(egli stesso accusato di aver rovesciato la barca per)


un padre che ancora prega mentre seppellisce sé stesso assieme a


dicevo, lo stato di conservazione di questa inaspettatamente tenace


fede che intanto a Kobanî è sull’orlo di inghiottire sé stessa una volta per tutte


dicevo, non è tale per cui


requiem aeternam dona eis




non lo so cosa stavo dicendo

Photograph of Alan Kurdi, child

by Guido Cupani



Come on, your laces are undone, tuck your sweater in, it will be cold,


what’s in your pocket, where did you pick it up, chuck it, go, how do you feel


look into my eyes, Mum loves you, Galip, you come here too,


Mum loves you, Dad is proud of you, just one hour of sea, and then you will meet other children, tomorrow we will sleep


in a new bed, Europe, Canada, bigger beds,


of course, a sip of water, drink, be careful not to get wet, you’re all covered with sand, we’ll wash our hands,


that’s it, perfect, let’s go




The picture is permitted.


It is permitted to see the picture. Permitted not to see the picture. To say that you had not seen. That you could not. That you did not have to.


It is permitted to publish the picture. Permitted to blur the picture. To share. To say I like. To say I do not like.


It is permitted to talk of shots. Of discretion and confidentiality. It is permitted to talk of pictures.


It is permitted to see the picture again in your mind. In similarly-laid out clothes. On a bedspread that is a shore of better fortune.


It is permitted, in front of the picture, to say yes, but. Have both feet planted in the sand. Not move a step. Sink.


It is permitted to forget the image. To close your eyes. Deny. While still


what happens in the picture


(has happened, will happen)


is permitted




The state of health or disease of the so-called faith is not such that

a father forced to carry home three-quarters of what was his family

a father previously forced to take from home the same family by hand (wife and two sons

of whom a picture remains taken on the games chair at the exact center of a double-smile


despite the storm raised (in clothes not unlike those soon to be returned)

against the rising tide of history) towards the final shore

(himself accused of having overturned the boat)


a father who still prays while burying himself along with

I said, the state of preservation of this unexpectedly strong

faith that meanwhile in Kobanî is on the verge of swallowing itself once and for all


I said, it is not such that

requiem aeternam dona eis

I said

I do not know what I was saying

translated from Italian by Patrick Williamson

you who lured me for so long

Two poems by Raoul Ponchon translated by Mark Lager


Raoul Ponchon (Photo)

“Then [Ponchon] went alone, along the waterfront, pondering…he stopped at booksellers’ boxes…then the Boulevard Saint-Michel…where he fashioned his absinthe…he returned home to the Hotel des Grands Hommes, near the Sorbonne. He pulled out of an old trunk a green coat of an old-fashioned cut, too big for him, and whose embroideries were tarnished…donned an old gardener’s hat…all night he drank, reading the manuscripts of his unpublished works, which so few people know. They contain masterpieces…”

—Guillame Apollinaire







Fleur de Péché

by Raoul Ponchon

Comment, c’est encore toi, chiffon?         

Petite gringalette                

Grosse comme un quart de siphon,    

Ou deux liards de galette!          


Pour faire un corps comme le tien,                  

Statuette fragile,         

La recette est commode: rien             

Fournit d’abord l’argile;        


A force de pétrir ce rien,           

On obtient quelque chose:                          

Je ne distingue pas très bien,          

Mais cela paraît rose;             


On le barbouille de printemps,              

De champagne qui mousse,                         

De fanfreluche, on bat longtemps,                      

Et c’est là ta frimousse.                


O fleur qu’un souffle peut former,         

Qu’une risette éclaire,                  

Tu peux, à défaut d’art d’aimer,            

Avoir le don de plaire !     


Peach Blossom

by Raoul Ponchon

Why, it’s you again pretty young woman?

little slender lady

big as a quarter of a pipe

or two pennies of pancakes!


To make a body like yours                  

delicate statuette

the recipe is a tall order: nothing

rendered in clay


Has the strength to shape this nothing,

you obtained something:         

I can’t distinguish very well

but it seems pink


You a painting of spring

of foaming champagne

of fancy frills you bat a long time

and it’s your sweet little face


O flower a breath may form

a child’s smile illuminates

you have no lack of art of love

to possess the gift to please!

translated from French by Mark Lager

La Mort

by Raoul Ponchon

Un vieillard râlait sur sa couche          

Souffrant tous les maux d’ici-bas;  

Déjà bleuissaient sur sa bouche   

Les violettes du trépas.    


Cependant, d’aurore en aurore,   

Trahi par le cruel destin,      

Pour souffrir davantage encore    

Il s’éveillait chaque matin.     


“O mort! Abrège mon martyre,”        

– Criait l’infortuné vieillard. —       

Il ne t’importe que j’expire     

Un peu plus tôt, un peu plus tard?    


“Je n’ai vécu que trop d’années,       

Et j’aspire à l’éternel soir;     

Car dans mes prunelles fanées       

Le Monde se reflète en noir.        


“Je n’attends plus rien de la Vie.       

Compte, au lieu de me l’acquérir,               

A la Jeunesse inassouvie             

Le temps qu’il me reste à courir.”        


Et voilà que soudain, blafarde,         

Sous son masque de carnaval,        

Il vit l’effroyable camarde,     

Debout sur son seuil, à cheval!      


“Enfin! dit-il. Que tu m’es bonne,         

Toi, qui si longtemps me leurras!”       

Et tout ainsi qu’à la Madone,      

Il lui tendit ses maigres bras.     


Mais elle éperonna sa bête,    

Et continua son chemin,       

Sans seulement tourner la tête   

Vers ce vieillard en parchemin.     


Plus loin, au milieu des prairies,              

Deux amants, ceux-là bien vivants,                        

Couraient dans les herbes fleuries,    

Vous eussiez dit de deux enfants.     


Ils ne connaissaient de la Vie,        

Les pauvres petits! que l’Amour;     

Et leur âme était asservie      

L’une à l’autre, sans nul retour.   


Ils allaient, joyeux, par la plaine,         

Souriant de leurs yeux d’Avril;       

Le vent retenait son haleine        

Pour ne troubler point leur babil.         


Et voici que la Mort affreuse              

Rageusement fondit sur eux,          

Et d’un geste prit l’amoureuse                  

Dans les bras de son amoureux.


by Raoul Ponchon

Old man throat rattling on his bed

suffering all the ills here below

already turning blue at the mouth

violets of death


Dawn after dawn

betrayed by cruel destiny

to suffer further anew

he awoke every morning


O death! cut short my martyrdom

cried the unfortunate old man

does it matter to you

if I die a little earlier, a little later?


I’ve lived too many years

and I long for the eternal night

for in my faded pupils

the world is reflected in black


I expect nothing of life

account instead of acquiring me

a youth unsatisfied

the rest of my time to run


And now suddenly pale

under his carnival mask

he saw the frightful snub nose

standing at his doorstep on horseback!


At last! he said. You’re good to me

you who lured me for so long

and so like the Madonna

he held out his thin arms


But he spurred his beast

and continued on his path

without even turning his head

towards this old parchment


Farther in the meadows

two lovers living well             

running in the flowering herbs

you would have said two children


They did not know life

poor children! what love

and their soul was enslaved

one to the other with no return


Joyously going through open country

smiling with their April eyes

the wind holding its breath

not to ruffle their babble


And now dreadful death

violently descended upon them

and a gesture took the lover

in the arms of her sweetheart

translated from French by Mark Lager

sparrows and glimmers and syllables lost

Four poems by Alain Lance translated by Erika Luckert

Lance Headshot      IMG_1117(1) 

[Comme j’en ai traversé de ces villes opaques]

by Alain Lance
Comme j’en ai traversé de ces villes opaques froissant les signes inconnus des journaux il y avait des saisons des oiseaux des lueurs des paroles perdues autour des braseros

Je longeais opéras perdant peluche


Ah oui j’ai marché dans neige et fournaise sans désir de la fin de la parenthèse échouant vingt fois sur le delta du soir donnant à mon sang toute sa plaine

Parmi les débris la mémoire les rumeurs


Alors je m’endormais aux cicatrices des villes

Long sommeil d’une seule rivière

Lèvre posée à la lézarde du temps.

[As I passed through these opaque cities]

by Alain Lance

As I passed through these opaque cities crumpling the newspaper’s strange signs there were seasons and sparrows and glimmers and syllables lost all around the brazier’s coals

I wandered past opera houses losing threads


Ah yes I walked in snow and inferno having no need for a closing parenthesis run aground twenty times on the silt of the night delta giving my blood its plain

And in the debris the remembrance the rumours


So I dozed in the scars of cities

Long repose of a river alone

Lip touching the crevice of time.

translated from French by Erika Luckert

[Sortant d’une page blanche]

by Alain Lance

Sortant d’une page blanche un faux

Marchand de poules m’offre des bocks

Des cigares quand le papier des

Figures est mâché de boulevards

Le bout de la grève vient naviguer

Entre le musée de cire et le

Festin nappé d’une crème austère

L’organiste de la transparence

Met en scène le ramage à brouiller

Goutte à goutte un géant pétrolier

Dans le noir bleuissant vers la foule

[Leaping from a blank page]

by Alain Lance

Leaping from a blank page a false

Chicken seller offers me a mug of beer

A cigar when a chain of cutout

Figures is paper-mâchéd down the boulevard

The end of the strike threads its way

Between the wax museum and the 

Feast tableclothed in an austere cream

The organist of transparency

Performs a birdsong to muddle

Drop by drop a giant oil tanker

In the blueing black toward the crowd 

translated from French by Erika Luckert


by Alain Lance


Ruelles de rats

Rares les étoiles


Nuit du mal respire

Je crie je

Rêve que j’écris

Entre lointain fracas

Et l’étroite querelle


by Alain Lance


Cul-de-sacs of rats

Scattered stars


Night of shortened breath

I call I

Dream I scrawl

Between distant clamour

And this quarrel closer by

translated from French by Erika Luckert

[Ma grand-mère se promenait]

by Alain Lance

Ma grand-mère se promenait dans un petit bois jaune crissant encore de je ne sais plus quel automne lorsqu’un braconnier en fuite la fit tomber au sol Quand je me penchai je ne trouvai qu’un vieux livre ouvert dont les pages ne bougeaient plus sous mon oreille appliquée J’ai pris le livre et je suis rentré au village abandonné par ses chardonnerets Un photographe sous sa cagoule pétrifiait d’un geste toute une famille de Boulanger Le ciel lui aussi était jaune et au bout de la rue il n’y avait pas encore de monument aux morts.

[My grandmother walked]

by Alain Lance

My grandmother walked in a little yellow wood crunching in an autumn I no longer recall till a poacher on the run knocked her down to the ground When I leaned in and pressed close my ear I only found an ancient book whose open pages moved no more Lifting the book I was taken back to a town abandoned by its orioles With one gesture a photographer beneath his hood turned a baker’s entire family to stone The sky itself was yellow too and the end of the road did not yet have any monument to the dead.

translated from French by Erika Luckert

A flame of your breath rises

Three poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz translated by Umair Kazi

 Ahfaz_with_Faiz_Ahmad_FaizI can’t remember when I first encountered Faiz’s poetry, which is to say, I can’t think of a time when Faiz wasn’t a part of my world. The idiom I grew up with in Pakistan was suffused with his words. I knew them before I understood them and I’d heard the music before I could feel its pathos. Iqbal Bano’s renditions of Yaad (Memory) and Hum Dekhenge—without which no mention of Faiz’s poetry is complete—rang out unceasingly from my grandfather’s tape player; as did Begum Akhtar’s Sham-i-fiaq ab na pooch and Mehdi Hassan’s Gulon mein rang bhare, songs that immortalized Faiz’s words beyond the page.

UmairBut what is a song other than a marriage of the language of music with the music of language? If you listen closely to Iqbal Bano singing “Memory”, you’ll hear how the melody swells when she intones, uth rahi hai…(“it” rises); her voice crackles at the incidence of aanch (“it” the flame); then gets softer and scanter at mudham, mudham (“dimly, softly”) and, finally, at qatra, qatra (“drop by drop”), the barely perceptible, heavy silence between the repetition of these words brings to the listener’s mind an image of tiny plumes of dew forming on the nib of a leaf, dropping, and then forming again.

I was motivated to translate these poems because I wanted to share with my non-Urdu speaking friends and readers the vision of a poet, whose language continues to shape me. For us migrants, Faiz’s poems and songs conjure the journey that is our destination, the placeleness that is our home. None of these is a first-time translation; however I do think that they capture some nuances of Faiz’s poems that other translators have either missed or foregone in order to accommodate for other—perhaps, in their judgment more important—elements of his poetry. Faiz’s use of colloquial language, for instance, is frequently sacrificed to stronger expressions of his images. Urdu is capable of generating noun combinations through the addition of nouns with nouns and with other parts of speech—the muted genitive “-i-”, obviating prepositions and articles, allows the poet to express layered images with an economy of syllables that is irreproducible in English; consequently, translators often translate those images as elaborated phrases. I have, when I could, avoided this practice in favor of creating new words in harmony with the original image, thought, and sentiment.

— Umair Kazi



by Faiz Ahmed Faiz



dasht-e-tanhā.ī meñ ai jaan-e-jahāñ larzāñ haiñ

terī āvāz ke saa.e tire hoñToñ ke sarāb

dasht-e-tanhā.ī meñ duurī ke khas o khaak tale

khil rahe haiñ tire pahlū ke saman aur gulāb


uTh rahī hai kahīñ qurbat se tirī saañs k aañch

apnī khushbū meñ sulagtī huī maddham maddham

duur ufuq paar chamaktī huī qatra qatra

gir rahī hai tirī dildār nazar kī shabnam


is qadar pyaar se ai jaan-e-jahāñ rakkhā hai

dil ke rukhsār pe is vaqt tirī yaad ne haat

yuuñ gumāñ hotā hai garche hai abhī sub.h-e-firāq

Dhal gayā hijr kā din aa bhiī ga.ī vasl kī raat


by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

In the desert of solitude, my love, are tremors

the shadows of your voice, mirages of your lips


In the desert of solitude, beneath the ash

and dust of distance, blossom the jasmines and roses

of your touch


A flame of your breath rises somewhere nearby,

smoldering          softly     in its own perfume


far beyond the horizon       your heartening eyes

drop shimmering dew


How lovingly, my love, your memory visits me,

lays her hand on my heart:

I surmise—though, this is the dawn of parting


—that the day of migration has waned

      and the night of our union, crested

translated from Urdu by Umair Kazi


by Faiz Ahmed Faiz



āsmāñ aaj ik bahr-e-pur-shor hai

jis meñ har-sū ravāñ bādaloñ ke jahāz

un ke arshe per kirnoñ ke mastūl haiñ

bādbānoñ kī pahne hue farġhaleñ

niil meñ gumbadoñ ke jazīre ka.ī

ek baazī meñ masrūf hai har koīī

vo abābīl koī nahātī huī

koī chiil ġhote meñ jaatī huī

koī tāqat nahīñ is meñ zor-aazmā

koī beDā nahīñ hai kisī mulk kā

is kī tah meñ koīābdozeñ nahīñ

koī rocket nahīñ koī topeñ nahīñ

yuuñ to saare anāsir haiñ yaañ zor meñ

amn kitnā hai is bahr-e-pur-shor meñ




by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The sky today is a sea-lane

busy with the ships of passing




whose decks are masted

with sunbeams draped in

diaphanous sails


The city’s domes are the islands

of this sea


where everyone is busy

risking it all:


see that blackbird swimming,

that eagle

    diving in…


There is no contest of power

here: no battleship fleets or flags;


no submarines creeping on the

seabed; no rockets or cannons


And, though, every element

here is bursting with charge—


just look how peaceful

these bustling waters are


Samarkand, 1978

translated from Urdu by Umair Kazi

kahāñ jāoge

by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

kahāñ jāoge


aur kuch der meñ luT jā.egā har baam pe chāñd

aks kho jā.eñge ā.īne taras jā.eñge

arsh ke diida-e-namnāk se baarī-baarī

sab sitāre sar-e-khāshāk baras jā.eñge

aas ke maare thake hare shabistānoñ meñ

apnī tanhāi.ī sameTegā, bichhā.egā koī

bevafā.ī kī ghaDī, tark-e-madārāt ka vaqt

is ghaDī apne sivā yaad na aa.egā koī

tark-e-duniyā kā samāñ khatm-e-mulāqāt ka vaqt

is ghaDī ai dil-e-āvāra kahāñ jāoge

is ghaDī koī kisi kā bhi nahīñ rahne do

koī is vaqt milegā hī nahīñ rahne do

aur mile gā bhī is taur ki pachtāoge

is ghaDī ai dil-e-āvāra kahāñ jāoge


aur kuchh der Tahar jaao ki phir nashtar-e-sub.h

zakhm kī tarah har ik aañkh ko bedār kare

aur har kushta-e-vāmāñdgī-e-ākhir-e-shab

bhuul karāndagī-e-ākhir-e-shab

jaan pahchān mulāqāt pe isrār kare



Where Will You Go?

by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

In a little while,

the moon will be

robbed on every



mirrors will thirst

for vanished reflections.


One by one, the stars will



exploding into

dust that will rain down


from heaven’s moist eyes.


Inside night-quarters

tired beyond hope


someone will gather his

loneliness, he will spread it



at this faithless hour,

at this time of turning away—


when every man is only for

himself without memory

of another,


at this hour of severance,

at the end of our tryst

with the world:


wild heart, where will you go

at this hour?


No one will recognize you, let it go.

Who will you find now? Let it go.


And whoever you come across

by chance, you’ll regret seeing:


wild heart, where will you go

at this hour?


Stay a little longer—


wait until morning’s fleam

has roused every eye once more

              like a wound;


then all the helpless slain

at the end of the night—


forgetting the destitute hour,

the end of the night—


will insist on meeting,

on being called by name

translated from Urdu by Umair Kazi