[big round building in the neighborhood. I confess to endless fascination with how its appearance changes in various lights]
Before I say anything else today, I want to thank David and Stacey for inviting me to spend some time here this week. It's been a lot of fun, and I hope it's been as enjoyable for you to read as it has been for me to write. Grazie mille!
So, it seems that my constant reflection on "translation" this week has begun to influence all of my thinking. Isn't it funny the way life imitates art when you have an idea like that buzzing around in your brain? We've just had our pranzo, which was a simple frittata made with potatoes, onions, and red peppers. But as I was cooking, and thinking about what I was going to write today, I realized that our lunch was really just a translation into Italian of many of the egg dishes I've learned to cook along the way. To wash it down, we had a pretty decent Hungarian wine (a tokaji), which Damiano bought as part of his ongoing but temporary quest to find good, reasonable wines at one nearby supermarket that's actually OPEN during these last days of August. He uncorked it, we sniffed, a nice light flowery thing going on, so far so good. After the first sip, I said, "ah, an immodest little white wine," yet another sign that our work on translating John Ashbery will likely continue to influence our synaptic activity for quite some time. But that, as they say, couldn't be better!
In spite of the truism that jokes don't always translate, I laughed harder last night than I have in months, or maybe even years. We were invited to dinner at the lovely house of my dear friend Gina; comparatively speaking, she lives way out in the countryside, which will become relevant in just a second. We were telling jokes, all of us taking turns, the grown-ups, her two sons: some jokes in Italian, some in English. I have this fill-in-the-blank joke that still makes me laugh, the one that goes like this:
A priest, a rabbi, a donkey, and an Italian guy walk into a bar.
The bartender says, What is this, some kind of joke?
So, last night, just as I was delivering the set-up line, a donkey started braying, repeatedly and vehemently, off in the distance. This example of life imitating "art" turned it into what must be the funniest telling ever in the history of that goofy joke.
To move the idea back into the realm of poems, I'm going to end with one of my favorites by Mark Strand, whose work Damiano has been translating for many years now. This is the second section of "What It Was":
It was the beginning of a chair;
It was the gray couch; it was the walls,
The garden, the gravel road; it was the way
The ruined moonlight fell across her hair.
It was that, and it was more. It was the wind that tore
At the trees; it was the fuss and clutter of clouds, the shore
Littered with stars. It was the hour which seemed to say
That if you knew what time it really was, you would not
Ask for anything again. It was that. It was certainly that.
It was also what never happened - a moment so full
That when it went, as it had to, no grief was large enough
To contain it. It was the room that appeared unchanged
After so many years. It was that. It was the hat
She'd forgotten to take, the pen she left on the table.
It was the sun on my hand. It was the sun's heat. It was the way
I sat, the way I waited for hours, for days. It was that. Just that.
* * *
Era l’inizio di una sedia;
era il divano grigio; era i muri,
il giardino, la strada di ghiaia; era il modo in cui
i ruderi di luna le crollavano sulla chioma.
Era quello, ed era altro ancora; era il vento che azzannava
alberi; era la congerie confusa di nubi, la bava
di stelle sulla riva. Era l’ora che pareva dire
che se sapevi in che punto esatto del tempo si era, non avresti
mai più chiesto nulla. Era quello. Senz’altro era quello.
Era anche l’evento mai avvenuto—un momento tanto pieno
che quando se ne andò, come doveva, nessun dolore riusciva
a contenerlo. Era la stanza che pareva la stessa
dopo tanti anni. Era quello. Era il cappello
dimenticato da lei, la penna che lei lasciò sul tavolo.
Era il sole sulla mia mano. Era il caldo del sole. Era come
sedevo, come attendevo ore, giorni. Era quello. Solo quello.
Ciao for now! But please feel free to visit me at moiraegan.com