Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

SPRING 2009 International/Translation Issue
"Poetry Is My Language"

Adoración de los Pastores

Escena Galante /Francisco Chiwantito

Una maraña de nubes cubre
la constelación del colibrí

de la tropilla de llamas

en celo

En el pesebre ¿tambo de Rayampata?
cunde la quietud, la tensa calma
que precede a un combate
a una tormenta

de poses muelles y reposadas

Sobre un pellejo de cabra
el Niño-Dios retoza
¿...y estito?
los troperos de Lucre, los sendeadores
los llameros de la nación Paruro
los arrieros de la pampa de Anta
los leñateros, las hilanderas
los salineros de Maras

El Buen Pastor carga
un corderillo, y el conjunto
es guiado por un ángel
con la trompeta de la predicación

En la canasta de retama los Reyes Magos han dejado
jenjibre de Malabar, sándalo de Timor
clavo de Molucas, alcanfor de Borneo
canela de Ceylan

            La Virgen
el Niño y los ángeles lucen
esa belleza dulce y boba:

uno de los encantos
de la pintura cusqueña

Cordero de Dios
Hijo del Hombre
el recién nacido tiene
dos remolinos en la testa:

de que será obstinado

—Odi Gonzales, New York, NY

Adoration of the Shepherds

A PastoPastoral Scene/Francisco Chiwantito

A thicket of clouds covers
the constellations of the hummingbird

and the flock of llamas

in heat

In the manger … could that be the cave of Rayampata?
a transcendent calm extends, like the feeling of anticipation
that comes before a battle
or a storm

in softened and relaxed postures

On a goatskin pelt
the God-Child wiggles in delight

and who is this little one?

                              the onlookers inquire

the crowds from Lucre, the trekkers
the llama herders from the Paruro nation
the drovers from the plains of Anta
the wood cutters, the women who spin wool
the salt miners from Maras

The Good Shepherd charges after
a little lamb, and the congregation
is guided by an angel
with a herald's trumpet

In the reed basket
the Kings of Orient have left
ginger from Malabar, sandalwood from Timor,
cloves from the Moluccas, camphor from Borneo
cinnamon from Ceylon

            The Virgin
the Child and the angels glow
this is a sweet and simple beauty

one of the delights
of Cusqueñan art

Lamb of God
Son of Man
the newborn has
two curls upon his brow

                  the mark

of one who will be stubborn

—Lynn Levin, Southampton, PA

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Kulenin Balkonu

"Ölmekten korkmuyorum" dedi adam. "Hiçlik :
yazin etine siçrayan çekirge, apansiz bastiran yagmur,
tasin gölgesinde kirmizi karinca sirki.
Daha çok sözcüklerin olmayisi korkutuyor
beni. Bu yüzden yaziyorum, hiç durmadan
yaziyorum. Nasil yaptiysam bu kuleyi
eskiden durdugu yere kuyunun -babamin
düsüp boynunu, kirdigi o ugursuz kuyunun-"

(Kar yagiyordu. Isli bir gaz lambasi sisesinden bembeyaz bir tülbent
gibi geçiyordu ovadan tren. Vagonlarin camlarindan sarkmisti
cepheye götürülen askerler, migferlerini sallamak için katarla
yarisan yaban ati sürüsüne. Kara saplanan erzak kamyonu, avluda
odun kiran çocuklar ve kulenin balkonunda adama sarilip "gitmek
zorundasin" diyen kadinin sesindeki bun. Yani
kisin gündelik isleri.)

Ertesi gün kuleden düsüp boynunu kirdi adam
ve her zamanki saatte kulenin kapisini çalip durdu kadin
Bir elinde fener, bir elinde semsiye
ve dislerinin arasinda -islatmamaya çalistigi-
adamin siir dosyasi.

Korku, rüzgâra sinmis kokluyordu kadini

—Gökçenur Çelebioglu, Istanbul, Turkey

Balcony of the Tower

"I'm not afraid of the dead," the man said. "Nothingness,
the locust leaping onto the flesh of the summer, sudden rain,
the red-ant circus in the shadow of a stone—
Absence of words makes me far more afraid.
So I write. Endlessly I write. I write the same way I build this tower
in the place of the old well, that damned well
into which my father fell and broke his neck."

(It was winter. A train was passing across the lowlands like a
snow-white gauze inside a sooty oil-lamp bottle. Soldiers brought
to the front were hanging out of the wagon windows waving
their helmets at the herd of wild horses racing alongside the train.
Children were chopping wood in the courtyard. A provisions lorry
sunk into snow and boredom yawned in the voice of the woman
embracing the man on the balcony of the tower, saying "You must go."
I mean, the usual events of winter.)

The next day the man fell from the tower and broke his neck.
The woman repeatedly knocked on the tower door at the usual time,
a lantern in one hand, an umbrella in the other
the manuscript of the man's poems which she could not keep dry
between her teeth.

Behind the wind, fear was hiding, sniffing at the woman.

—Alexandra Büchler, Manchester, England

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Due madrigali per la Duchessa d'Aosta


Cosí giovane sei, cosí leggera
cammini incontro alla dubbia fortuna,
che se non fossi una
principessa, saresti una ragazza.

Trieste, 1934


Penso le mani, le tue belle mani.
Sono passati per farle duemila
anni di storia di Francia. Le fila
del destino il destino rompe. Ostaggio
sei – dicono – al Tedesco dalla pancia
deforme, dallo scheletro odioso.
Forse appena ti regge un mesto orgoglio.

Altro di te no so, né saper voglio.

Firenze, 1944

—Umberto Saba

Two Madrigals for the Duchess of Aosta


You are so young, so light-hearted and slight
as you journey towards an unknown fate,
for if you weren't a princess, blood royal,
you would be a mere slip of a girl.


I think of your hands, such lovely
hands. Two thousand years of French history
have passed away to weave them. But destiny's
threads have raveled up your destiny.
You are a hostage, they say, to the German
with the gross, misshapen gut, the skeleton
everyone hates. Perhaps he finds it hard
to govern your downtrodden self-regard.

I know nothing else of you,
nor do I want to.

—Will Wells, Lima, OH

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In Mozart's Liquid Mind This Afternoon

In Mozart's liquid mind this afternoon
light happens on a little girl caught in the act
of flinging shoes and stockings (he kisses them adieu)
and jumping in the fountain. He sees her through
his window, her bare toes loosing ocean's tune
in an ecstatic human cataract

of broken rules—her native shrewdness, muses
Mozart, Eve's—then, dear God! off come her pantaloons,
the darling squats to pee! O heaven, don't you love it,
the yellow trickle merging as she stands above it,
and she all eyes on where it goes, diffuses
and (if she but knew) disappears so soon

within the lucid everlasting. A cloud throws
shadows on the pool. She shivers. To be alone
is not her doing now. It's guilt's. It's fear of Neptune's
marble anger up there, it's sacrilege, deception,
(palpably, profoundly, yes, she knows, she knows).
These, her wet belongings, weep abandon.

Mozart's heart melts. His red coat cost a fortune.
Moments later sun breaks through. At first a whirr,
now once again the fountain's all aflutter, spray flies,
the child is full of sparrows. Sweetness crucifies
him. He reaches for a macaroon
chokes up with tears and spits it on the floor.

—Ellen Kirvin Dudis, Pocomoke City, MD

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Euler's Identity

contains only five assumptions—
zero, one, pi, the base of natural logarithms,
a single imaginary unit.
The greatest equation in mathematics proves

the sum of the nth roots of unity
equals emptiness. Simple, austere,
cold as a circle's vacant heart, it links
geometry with symbolic math.

He wrote it
amid the clamor of twelve children
noisily playing around his desk while he rocked
his baby in one arm, sick with fever.

But eight of his children died. His wife died.
He worked for days at the chalkboard,
turning x's and y's into a family of vertical
stripes aligned like flutes of a panpipe.

When he lost his sight to cataracts,
Russia's royal exchequer tightened
his purse strings, leaving Euler
bankrupt, unable to pay for surgery.

Still, he computed long and difficult problems
in his head—sometimes to fifty places—
dictating elegant formulae to an aide
who'd graph his equations on a large slate—

skeletal octaves, bone-white, cogent.

—Michael Steffen, Roseto, PA

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Salto de San Antón

Cuernavaca, Morelos, México

I'm not dead yet. Listen to my voice
In this trashed-out canyon where I abide.
And this spirit's wild plunge filters inside
That part of the mind where sometimes you rejoice
And changes you forever in half-forgotten ways
So that the feathery neurons of your nervous being
See this cascade in their very act of seeing,
And quake, at times, at the phantoms I raise.
No, I'm not dead yet. My voice will be here
Forever, whatever else happens; these forces
Will operate; these irresistible courses
Will flow where they must, rushing dark or clear.
This song drives its melodious spell into
Droplets the Cuernavacan atoms renew.

—R.W. Haynes, Laredo, Texas

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