Flood

Water flowing down the sidewalk

like in a creek bed

ripples and currents flow

into the parking lot

and out on the street

pile up around the tires

into the floor boards

now it is floating a car

and pushes it past shops

and houses

trying to drive on the water

as it deepens and you sink

the only thing left to do

is climb out the window

into the rain drenched night

onto the roof exposed to lightening

impossible to hold on for long

you let go and swim

while I am safe in my bed

watching the lightening strikes

for over an hour not thinking

of your dilemma

or how you became a casualty

of the flood

Advertisements
Flood

Translation

Learning to translate, language to language, thought and rhythm, mood and sentiment. At a Centrum class with Robert Bly the students helped to translate Francis Ponge’s The Oyster. I still struggle with that poem. I have read many translations, the one that Bly published, my own, and others. Ponge compares the oyster to a heavenly world. It is closed up tight. That reminds me of God’s Kingdom. It is here (Jesus said it is upon us), only some will enter it (the oyster is very hard to open), and when opened it reveals a heavenly vision (the mother of pearl interlining of the shell is only seen when it is opened). The Apostle Paul talked of the mystery of the Kingdom and inside of the oyster is the mystery of its salty brine ebbing and flowing like a whole world. There are circles like halos that are marks on the shell, remnants of the people’s attempt to open it. A world, a mystery and a heavenly vision, and inside is the whiteness of the clouds and the sea creating something beautiful with a special formula that only the oyster knows. The pearl is created and becomes a thing that all want to adorn themselves with.


THE OYSTER

by Francis Ponge, translated by Jane Swanson

The oyster is the size of an average stone yet rougher in appearance and less in color, brilliantly white. It is a world tightly closed.

Yet it can be opened and it must be held in the hollow of a cloth, using a knife and slightly chipped open, you try several times. Curious fingers cut into it, breaks nails, such a crude work. The blows are marks on the door of the shell, white and round, making a kind of halos.

Inside we find a whole world to eat and to drink under a pearly sky with heavens from both above and heavens from below, while forming a pond, and a viscous green bag which ebbs and flows with smell and sight, fringed on the edges with black lace.

Sometimes a very rare formula for pearl is deep in the throat of pearliness, which we immediately adorn ourselves with.


Francis Ponge was a French poet who wrote prose poetry, usually a paragraph in length, and describing everyday objects.

Translation

Memorial Day Weekend

My sister called saying Dad is in the hospital and probably not going to make it. I fly home the next day, well not really home, but back to Iowa, flying into Waterloo airport on a prop plane and feeling nausea. My sister meets me and we go straight to the hospital. It is late at night and quiet, only the beep beep beep of monitors, smell of tubes and clean linens, Dad on his back and breathing. I take his hand or does he take mine, either way, he has my hand and holds it up and far away from himself just like he did in life. I was never good at making small talk whether people were alive or dying and now is no different.

Years before when Mother called me from the heart patient ward of the hospital, probably the same one Dad was in, she wanted to talk about dying, how people around her would die in the night, and she was losing her faith and I couldn’t help her with what little faith I had. I only could listen to her voice as it fell further and further from the hope she had always carried with her. I often regret that I did not have the Word to give her strength, that I did not know God to help her be strong in her faith. Now Dad was dying, Dad who never wanted God. Dad, who said, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” Dad who never talked about Jesus or told Bible stories like his mother did. Who went to church twice that I know of, once when I was baptized and when mom died. Now he was dying, and no one really had anything to say.

My sister and I left the hospital and slept at her place. Dad died on Memorial Day. I regret I didn’t have more to say.

Memorial Day Weekend