Blackbox Manifold

Issue 13: Geoff Gilbert

are translators

I am comfortable to be here,

doubly attached – doubly

in love and so here, grown

with two languages, fleeing

and speaking them early,

tiny with these words squeezed

just in my left hand, which holds

what I have forgotten as I grew. Tap

the hand to rhyme me as I go.

Children when they hate,

when they resist

the world they do not know,

are translators.

I do not get it,

sewage from me flowing

channeled to the se

and its treasures, grimed

down there with our ships,

over to our shore.

Take me across, tap me over

the street to the slab glued

on the worms. When the borders

were closed there were zones, where

flowers might not know

how pollination comes.

I cannot breathe without a thought,

sewage from me flowing

exhaled out and low

into the flat earth with the worms. How

empty might we be? How would our ego

think its images, why

those that chase it as its own,

delay against their coming home.

I cling to you, and speak that

sewage only as a joke,

I slip in it, while it flows on.

But the text is there so voice can be

against the page and me,

we purge along the lines

that we are shown, by gutters

worn deep by flowing

salted water, filthy waters flushing

down and forcing us to cling.

Toys when men are old are

not part objects;

we play with what is poison to us,

tapping on our left hands the song

that is not sung. Use tiptoes

as a term when heels are stolen.

Heels after a disaster, abandoned

by a different life, robes like

glorious swathes, the

clothes that never fit,

for there is no present fit,

just the shame of ill-made clothes.

Handed down or tiptoed up, a fish

now tickled which is how

you catch a fish,

now naked on a sheet, fucked

before I even got to gut

and eat it, too soon

after it had been a shoe,

a sharkskin suit.

I think that this is nude,

the halo just slapped on,

a shoddy restoration.

Guile me, talk again

he said it once again, the mundane

which is speaking to a concrete person

in the living of the person,

hearing slides the ear

into the mouth, and all my face

has flattened there, sucked in by

the absence of a living.

You could have sex, or kiss,

or even smoke together,

but better to forget. Metaphor is

holding breath and written words together.

If there is rhythm, if

there was music when

my wife is brushed up, face

sucked in by the absence of or by

too much of living there, birdhouse before

birdhouse, both too small,

both filled already up with words

so each is just translation, and the name

has no where there to live.

The reader wants the voice to flow,

a bed has folded in on me,

opening access to the zone, and

german coming out

like it would be Paul Celan

and pickled foetus,

and this is venom

he says, or kitsch, I might say, or

here is a story which comes back to me all the same

through the languages

saying mine all the time

with some of the

venom of fantasy

protecting himself against

knowing what he means. Saying

me again and running the bee

through thread,

only two in a bed,

with some of the venom of fantasy.

Geoff Gilbert is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris, where he also directs the MA in Cultural Translation. He writes on modern and contemporary fiction and poetry.