the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




SEVEN WORKS
BY JONATHAN MAYHEW

QUELQUES-UNS DES MOTS QUI JUSQU'ICI M'ÉTAIENT MYSTÉRIEUSEMENT INTERDITS

Mots que j'écris ici
Contre toute évidence
Avec le grand souci
De tout dire.

--Paul Eluard


Parte Primera/Part One


Quelques-uns des mots qui, jusqu'ici, m'étaient mystérieusement interdits

Paul Eluard juega a los dados con Blaise Pascal

en Madriz debaten la Línea Clara y la Línea Chunga

los cantautores se vuelven más narcisistas que la rana de Basho

Heriberto Yépez enciende la radio y oye la voz de Jack Spicer

(mizu no oto)

===


Quelques-uns mots qui, jusqu'ici, m'étaient mystérieusement interdits

Paul Eluard plays at dice with Blaise Pascal

in Madriz they're debating the Clear Line and the Fuzzy Line

singer-songwriters grow as narcissist as Basho's frog

Heriberto Yépez turns on his radio and hears Jack Spicer's voice

(mizu no oto)


Cómo he escrito ciertos de mis libros

mi cencerro yace abandonado junto a un platillo de China

le pido prestado una frase a un amigo

algo para la solapa de un libro que aún no he escrito

mis reticencias, que no me salvan del insulto

de todo lo que es a la vez previsible e incoherente

===

How I wrote certain of my books

my cowbell lies abandoned next to a China cymbal


I ask to borrow a phrase from a friend

a blurb for a book I have not yet written

my reticences, that won't save me from insult

from everything that is at the same time predictable and incoherent

Nieva como si esto fuera un poema cubano

los funiculares no permiten apóstrofes

desperdicios de un día de febrero

toco en batería los días de absoluta quietud

la andadura imprevisible de unas botellas


aquí no hay nombres propios

===

It's snowing like a Cuban poem

apostrophes are forbidden on the funicular

residue of a February day

I play drums on days of absolute quietude

the unpredictable gait of some bottles


here there are no proper nouns

Discutía el ripio de la noche con el ripio de la mañana

après moi la déluge


me encuentro superior a cualquier eufemismo al uso

después de la muerte del forjador Zildjian

y veinte años en tierra de Castilla


===


The doggerel of night was arguing with the doggerel of morning

après moi la déluge


I find that I am superior to the usual euphemisms

after the death of Zildjian the cymbalsmith


y veinte años en tierra de Castilla

Suponga que a un hombre drogado se le presentara un falso alfabeto

me decía Ludwig en un falso sueño

y lo leyera de manera contundente

profiriendo una palabra por cada letra falsa

con todas las señas de estar leyendo

realmente el texto inexistente

pues algunos dirían que está leyendo de veras

otros que no

(antepenúltimo plagio de Wittgenstein)

===

Suppose a drugged man were given a false alphabet

Ludwig explained to me in a false dream

and read from it in a convincing way

uttering a word for each false letter

with all the signs of reading

for real the non-existent text

well some might say he is really reading

others not

(next-to-last plagiarism of Wittgenstein)


Seis grados de separación me separan de mí mismo

valga la redundancia

brillo por mi ausencia, como quien dice

ya no hay Crepúsculo para Nellie

el gran Johnny Mercer está de vacaciones

de ahí que la canción carezca de letra

===

Six degrees of separation separate me from myself

let the redundancy stand

I shine by my absence, like they say

there's no longer a Crepuscule for Nellie

Johnny friggin' Mercer is on vacation

that's why the song has no lyrics


Imperan los seguidores de Parménides

como si el mundo tuviera solidez


los de Heráclito se refugian en oscuros sótanos

las bombillas se funden, hélas


como si el mundo careciera de solidez

===

The followers of Parmenides are in charge

as though the world possessed solidity

those of Heraclitus take refuge in dank basements

lightbulbs burn out, hélas

as though the world lacked solidity


No soy ningún erudito

los pájaros me superan en el arte del vuelo

no levanto sospechas en las fronteras

rilkeo a gusto de los rioplatenses

los pájaros me superan en el arte del vuelo

llamo idiotas a los que se atreven a dirigir orquestas

respeto a los que se limitan a discutir de métrica

los verbos defectuosos no me causan espanto

los pájaros me superan en el arte del vuelo

(Falso poema de Jack Spicer)
===

I'm not an erudite guy

birds surpass me in the art of flight

I don't raise eyebrows at border crossings

I Rilke in a way that goes over well in Buenos Aires

birds surpass me in the art of flight

I think people who aspire to conduct orchestras are cretins

I respect those who merely argue over metrics

defective verbs, for me, are no big deal

birds surpass me in the art of flight

(False poem of Jack Spicer)

Autoría de las obras del malogrado autor

infamia de la historia sin esquilas

no exactamente la mejor recomendación

la de una palabra cuyo significado se me escapa

esquivez del momento realmente adverbial

coñac de la mañana los paraísos demasiado reales

endecasilábos del miedo, de los lugares comunes

hasta aquí todo perfecto en el grito del pavo real

===

Authorship of the works of the ill-fated author

infamy of a history without warning bells

not exactly the best recommendation

considering I don't know what the word means

fleetingness of a truly adverbial moment

cognac of morning the all too real paradises

pentameters of fear, of clichés

up until now everything is perfect in the cry of the peacock

Grafómano en el gramófono, la voz del maestro David Shapiro

¿dónde tengo el tocadiscos?

falso poema cibernétic, escrito o leído al revés

al compás del gran Tony Williams

para traducírselo luego al pobre Mayhew

===

Graphomaniac on the gramophone, the voice of the maestro David Shapiro
where is my record player?
a fake cybernetic poem, written or read backwards
to the beat of the great Tony Williams
to be translated later for poor Mayhew

Parte Segunda/Part Two


¿Por qué la sal preserva el pescado pero corroe el asfalto?

Why does salt preserve fish but corrupt asphalt?

Prohibida la invectiva

en un mundo donde los niños no fueran cínicos enanos


ecos que llegan con 25 años de retraso

lo cual es física y metafísica-

mente imposible, polvo en los tambores

===

Invective is banned

in any world where children would not resemble cynical midgets


echoes that arrive 25 years after the fact

which is physically and metaphysical-

ly impossible, dust on the drums


El futuro perfecto es el tiempo de la imposibilidad
ya lo habrás notado

un comentario indigno de Blanchot

===

The future perfect is the tense of impossibility
as I'm sure you will have already noticed

a comment unworthy of Blanchot

Entrometámonos, impliquémonos en las conversaciones ajenas
no, mantengámonos aparte en el silencio de las bestias
compremos y vendamos las acciones de la intermitencia
no, no hay apuro todavía, refugiémonos en la extrañeza
"donde nada vales, nada quieras"

===

Let us interfere, interject ourseves into others' conversations
no, let's remain aloof in the silence of the beasts
we should buy and sell the stocks of intermittence
no, there is no rush yet, let's take refuge in strangeness
"where you have no value, want nothing"

Genero documentos, me muerden el muslo
el yo sobrevive los epitafios, se ahoga
en la nitidez de la separación, la brevedad
que no se resiente en un mundo donde los más reticentes se vuelven gárrulos

===

I generate documents, which bite me in the thigh
the I survives epitaphs, drowns
in the sharpness of separation, the brevity
not resented in a world where the most reticent turn garrulous

El susurro de unos cepillos de alambre sobre la piel del recuerdo
converso con las sombras, boxeo, gesticulo en las sombras
el recuerdo ya no es esa piel de tambor
ya no es de piel, podría ser el "cincuentón obeso"
de Cernuda, el "conviene percutir" de José Angel
es un aforismo ingente, atrabiliario, repetido hacia la saciedad
en la compulsión de hurgar en las sombras de alambre

===

The whisper of wire brushes on the skin of memory
I converse, shadow box, I gesticulate in the shadows
a memory is no longer that drum-skin
it is not longer made of skin, it might be the Cernuda's
"obese fifty-year old man," José Angel's "we must percuss"
it is an oversized, aggressive aphorism, repeated to the point of nausea
in the compulsion to root around in these shadows of wire

Epilogue:

This excercise in self-translation, written and published sporadically on "Jonathan Mayhew's Blog," is filled with obscure allusions, along with some relatively obvious ones. I will not explain any of them here. The Spanish poems were written in order to be translated in English, but I attempted not to "anticipate" the translation as I composed the original. I translated as freely and carelessly as possible, revising at times to create the impression of an even greater carelessness. My aim was to create a text in between the two languages, with all the attending uncertainty of result and judgment. I used a French title, from a poem of Paul Eluard, so that I would not have to translate the title of the book.

================

AFTER DAVID SHAPIRO

French poetry spoke to American poetry.
"Je suis le veuf, l'inconsolé, le tenebreux."

The missed translation spoke to the accurate translation.
"You think you're better than me!

The violin case spoke to the hi-hat stand.
"I am to be emptied; you are to be loaded."

The karaoke machine spoke to the novel by Raymond Roussel.
"I live in smokey bar; you live in dusky shelves."

The dream-in-the-poem spoke to the dream-in-real-life.
"In me the father is still alive."

================

POEM OF WHITE THINGS

A saline solution, milky-looking, whitish.
The hum of a fluorescent bulb;
a rumbling in the intestines.
Transclucent things, that pair of plastic white brushes
lying on desk, to be scraped over
a white plastic drum-head,
later in the day; nausea, disgust,
is this white? No, clear or yellowing things
are not white. The "immaculate white bed"?
The one about the bathroom fixtures
translated into French? The other one
about the snow? The whitewashing of Andalusian houses
compared to the snow? How exactly are you defining it,
though? Cleanly separated rows of cans of
white paint, a "pious wish to whiteness,"
a restoration, a rant, a revocation...

================

SLIGHT, SEEMING

"See if you can't..."

        Slight, seeming illogic.

I listened to the winter air

        for signs of their return--

birdcalls,

        wind resonating through the pane;

tiny, invisible weights

        attached to each gesture

and object, shades of grey

        unbearable: a system.

Warmth will cheapen cold

        eventually. A sort of freedom to move.

================

SAM BECKETT'S RIDE CYMBAL

If quick decay short sustain. And so to conclude vice-versa. To conclude no. Too early. Just about begun. Again. Struck with authority with butt-end of stick near the bell it speaks out brightly. Then continues its dark rumbling. A long while. Unless stilled by hand. Still. Which cannot but feel the vibrations it stills. Again.

From a distance the rumbling inaudible. Visible perhaps to the naked eye the vibrating surface. Vice-versa again. Before little by little dying long sustain interrupted. Long interrupted. By glancing blows. When not the choking hand. Still or once again. In the wash and swell still be heard when not seen or felt blows. This time with stick's tip. Dog walk the dog walk the dog walk the dog walk the. How else affirm the undying pattern? Fading or about to fade again when struck again so never silent. Unless stilled. For several minutes thus. Then finally still. This time of own accord.

Held close to the surface the ear savors the undying roar. Not long after last blow struck. Untouched this time by hand or stick. As though measuring long relatively long decay. Sustain. Brighter voice gone in a flash. Roar outlasting it by a minute. A minute and a half. Except when stilled by impatient hand. Throttled! As this time not for worse or better. Or struck again therefore to begin again slow measuring of decay. From the top. The vibrations perhaps still visible to impatient eye. Palpable were the hand to grasp it again.

How long? The scene to hold attention or the surface to shimmer fainter and fainter till struck again? Both. Neither. Both or neither. To conclude again not having concluded from the top. Little to have concluded when not yet started. In haste now the bell ever brighter struck in same repeating pattern each stroke engulfed in its turn in ever less audible wash! Stilled again or still of its own accord. What difference?

================

AWASH IN THIS

Ornette a rocky path suddenly steeper amid thorns

Keats, fish's tails in sunlight

Basho, abandoned child at river crossing


Ceravolo, schoolyard, green in March

Eluard, punctual dreamer, lightning-flash on cloudless night

Frank O'Hara, a hip-hop beat never heard by Frank O'Hara


Elvin, tsunami of dry leaves

Clifford Brown ... a Joseph Ceravolo of wind!

Niedecker, water-fowl, broken glass near the dugout


Tony Williams, at the falls, grizzlies harvesting salmon

Miles, Basho's "sound of water"

Spicer a linguistics textbook devoured by worms


Barbara Guest, gravel thrown up at bedroom window, Schönberg

Ovid, a tenement turns to bronze

Kenneth Koch, cartoon correspondence course from beyond the grave

================

SALVAGEABLE MATERIALS

The device was layed bare, trembling in the breeze,

a transformation begun with surprising forcefulness and tact.

My worst ideas are better than your best ideas.


Well that was sure embarrassing,

but only for the people involved.

Importunating someone used to be my biggest fear.

Salvageable materials means just what you think it means.

What did you think it meant?