Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunday Surprise

Sunday Surprise

On Sundays, I would accompany my father on long walks.  We’d dress up in our best clothes and head out, hand in hand, to St Mary’s Church.  Once there, we’d circle the church grounds while the mass went on inside. We’d walk around casually, strolling without a care in the world, and he’d be telling me stories about Christ and the lives of the Apostles, and how the Roman FBI had an inside man who had betrayed God.  He explained how Christ got hung on the cross and then in three days his body disappeared and floated into the sky.  He told me Christ was the greatest person that had ever lived. 

Last Sunday, we met a handsome couple on the sidewalk on the way home.  My father and I stood before them, I’m holding his hand, and he’s getting ready to address the pair.  He gave me a quick comforting look and patted the top of my head like he might flick dust from my hair.  He smiled, and then nodded before beginning to speak:  “Excuse me,” he said, ”I can’t help but admire the cut of your jacket; that silk tie, those patent leather shoes,” and turning to the woman ”and the fine workmanship in that dress, those pearls and earrings, among the best I have ever  seen.” 

The couple separate slightly, parted, glancing at one another, then smiling at me, the cutest thing they had ever seen. 

“I think that watch is fabulous.  How much would you take for it?  My son would love it—turning to me: wouldn’t you love to have it?”  I said yes, and agreed inside to love it.  The gentleman smiled, but had no intention of turning over his watch.  “Those pearls would be a fine gift, and an investment in my son’s future.  How much would you take for them?”

The man spoke for the woman: “We’re not interested, thank you, have a nice day.”

My father then asked about the woman’s bracelet, made of interwoven gold chains as thin as thread.  I thought it was beautiful, glinting in the sunlight, it was alive. 

“We have no intention of selling it, or anything else for any price,” said the man; “it was nice to have met you and your son, we’ll be moving along now, thank you.  Please, have a nice day?”

My father stepped left to block their departure.  “Let’s hear from the woman, let’s hear how she feels about it?” 

The woman immediately spoke up: “I agree with him.” 

“I don’t want to say this before my son, but it may be necessary.  Are you really happy with this man, this lady in drag, this peacock who can give you nothing but trinkets, who carries you on his arm like a handbag?  Do you really believe he takes you seriously?”  I didn’t understand any of this.  I noticed the woman’s face went from pink to gray.  “I don’t want the pearls or bracelet so much as I want the watch.  The kid wants the bracelet, what kid wouldn’t, but the watch will make him soon forget it.  Let’s say I buy the watch—say for 20 bucks—and you can keep the pearls and bracelet?  That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?”  My father always prided himself on being a reasonable man.

The couple traded sour faces, and then the man said: “20 bucks?  You must be joking?  I wouldn’t sell it for a thousand, and definitely not to the likes of you.  Now beat it!”  I couldn’t understand why the man was getting so upset.  My father looked down, and scratched his chin, and with his other hand he pulled a pistol from his coat pocket. 

“Okay, either the watch for twenty, or all for nothing.  You left me no choice.  Please, decide.”

The man, his face in shock, lunged at my father.  The pistol went off, and the man’s wrist was shattered, the remnants of his hand hanging from a sliver of pink flesh, and the watch my father wanted to give me suddenly returned to gold-dust, glass, and little gears on the ground at my feet.  The woman jumped like a cat, several steps back.  The man was screaming in pain while my father and I looked on.  The woman began unsnapping her jewelry; ears, neck, wrist, all of which she stuffed in her purse, and then she plunged its embroidered purple leather into my hands.  I was thinking about purple cows, purple pigs, purple snakes.  My father took the purse, and I scrunched down to pick the gold bits out of the blood and flesh recently the man’s hand.  The man had never stopped screaming, holding his forearm below the elbow, dancing on one foot then the other, rocking and screaming.  My father told the woman to help the man, to get him to a hospital, or something: “he’s likely to bleed to death on the street.”  The woman jumped into action, placed one hand on the man’s shoulder, and with the other she gently held up his handless arm.  My father pocketed his pistol, handed me the purse, and with my other hand warmly engulfed by his, we walked off toward home, where my mother waited for her Sunday surprise, which in all those years my father had never failed to bring home.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Transcreation vs. Translation

My trancreation puts itself against John Kinsella’s translation of the French.
I’ll put mine last as is only fair.  First, Baudelaire’s sonnet:

La Musique

La musique souvent me prend comme une mer!
Vers ma pâle étoile,
Sous un plafond de brume ou dans un vaste éther,
Je mets à la voile;

La poitrine en avant et les poumons gonflés
Comme de la toile
J'escalade le dos des flots amoncelés
Que la nuit me voile;

Je sens vibrer en moi toutes les passions
D'un vaisseau qui souffre;
Le bon vent, la tempête et ses convulsions

Sur l'immense gouffre
Me bercent. D'autres fois, calme plat, grand miroir
De mon désespoir!

Kinsella’s translation of the above


Music often carries me away like a sea!
Toward my pale star,
Beneath a ceiling of mist or in a vast sky,
I cast anchor;

My chest a bowsprit and lungs billowing
Like sails,
I scale the back of waves gathering
As night drops its veil;

I feel all the passions of a stricken
Vessel vibrating inside me;
The fair wind, the tempest and its convulsions

Upon the immense gulf rock me.
At other times, becalmed, great mirror
Of my despair!

My trancreation of the above French and English

by Charles Baudelaire

Music often like the sea lifts me high
Toward my dimlit star
Under a mistthick ceiling, or beneath sky
Unending, I throw anchor;

Bowsprit-chest cresting, lungs brave
As open sails,
I surf the scales of schooling waves
As night drops its veil.

I sense all its vibrations,
A doomed vessel’s passions inside me;
Nice wind, the storm’s convulsions,

The infinite gulf’s rock-a-by. 
Otherwise, calmed, still
It shines with my despair.

Now I ask, what is more exciting, more true
To the spirit of Baudelaire but the transcreation
Of moi?

Saturday, August 20, 2011


The greatest poet of his generation
Reaches out for validation
Like a little boy saying, look, look, look
And you can hear the applause of a book

In the wind.  Assholes are born, not made.
They live in their own perpetual shade.
When others breathe deeply with sun on their lips
They lose their grip.  They grade

Themselves higher than the rest.  They test
Our capacity for forgiveness,
For empathy with the worst of the worst.
I think I have that, and it's for the best

When dealing with the greatest poet
Of his generation.  After all, he's not
Only an asshole.  Something in his verse
Redeems his petty space on earth.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quartrain for Obama

Can't wait for Obama's memoir.
All his hopes and the way things are.
Sly, apologetic light's on the pond;
A faint ripple in a god's song.

Friday, June 3, 2011

(Sappho: translated from the 7000 plus versions in all known human languages)

He is More than a Hero

Obviously he’s with the gods, that one
Facing you, leaning over the festive table to feast
On that voice and that sweet spellbinding
Laughter of yours—that’s why the caged

Bird beats its wings against my breast
At the sight of you.  Only silence makes sense
With my tongue a sacked temple—a quick
Burning cooks me from the inside out— 

I’m blind; and my ears drone like shrine
Gongs hammer-struck.  I’m pouring sweat,
Shaking in my seat; my skin’s pale as grass.
And, it seems, this close to death.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


God-fearing Crew

Imagine it’s 1492.  The homeland has vanished
Into the blue.  You’re hungry and thirsty, angry
With everyone else on board.  You’ve worked
The rigging for over a month as if playing chess
On a tightrope in a Barcelona wind.  By the time
You reach the Bahamas you can’t even stand up
On the beach without swaying side to side.  When
You recover from the journey, and the shy locals
Show up as naked and loving as the day of their birth,
You can’t help but want to fuck everyone in sight. 
And you do before killing them.  In between, you eat
Fruit, fish and sleep in hammocks.  You make rum
And fun and long for the broiled hams of Granada.
You’re not the Captain, not the 2nd in command: this
Bloody sex is all you’re likely to get of the enterprise.
In the end, it’s the Captain who gets the blame and fame.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bury it and forget it

Soldier On

It’s forbidden to say they were stupid
Or to use a synonym, that they didn’t know
Our leaders were lying, that their henchman
Had conned the nation. It’s forbidden
To say they sought thrills, young men
Out to discover killing a human being,
To be in righteous battles like in movies.
You can’t say these men were thinking
About becoming heroes to their loved ones,
About getting the one-up on schoolyard
Friends when they get home, about landing
A job as security guard or a policeman
When no one else is getting any kind.
You can’t say that they killed foreign kids
And women, blew families away just for
Vanity.  You can’t even say however one’s
Tempted country right or wrong was the idea.
Only families can say that, which is why
I told my brother just bury it somewhere
And try to forget she ever happened.