Catullus at the bar

A liberal translation of Catullus XIII

A friend caught me at the bar the other night and introduced me to his new woman. She was underdressed but, though a little desperate, had some good conversation. We ordered drinks, sat down and started chatting.

 Hows your job going, Ed? Not bad, I said. You made any money yet? I replied truthfully that the bossman, not the lackeys make the good money; especially if theyre so crooked as to sell their own ass sitting down, or at least that of the next intern.

 But you must be making quite a bit now; didnt you say you were going to buy a car?

 Now, to appear bigger than I am in front of this beautiful woman, I said: Fortune hasnt been so unkind to me in the private world that I am not able to buy a Mercedes.

 (Let alone a car, sometimes I cant afford a metro ticket and have to squeeze strangers asses just to get a ride)

 Wow, thats fantastic, this woman said. Can you give me a ride to the Rasputin night bar tomorrow evening? Im going with some friends.

 Wait a second, I spat my drink, what I said then – I didnt mean to say Porsche or Mercedes or whatever it was – but its my friends – Jason, no Geo, or someones. Basically, its like my own, and what do I care, I get around just fine. Anyway, woman, who are you to call out my charm? Dont you see that this is the privilege of being a poet?

 

 

A Syrian Prophecy

A free translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI Lines 83 to 97

You are finally freed from the terrors of the sea, but greater troublers wait for you on the land. The sons of Syria will reach the land of the free – you have no reason to worry, though you should be careful what you wish for.

I see wars, terrible wars and rivers foaming with blood. Damascus and Palmyra will come around again and you will see your minarets fall once more. Another enemy has already be born in the land and the weight of Western aggression will never be absent, even when you are on your knees, with nothing left, begging in European capitals to feed your own children.

A popular vote, distorted by the will of the elite, will add to the misery, once more. Do not yield, but go ever more bravely to meet the conflicts. Your destiny foretells it.

Invocation to the Gods

A translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI, Lines 264 to 267

You gods, who have power over souls, tacit shadows, Chaos, the Styx, and all those silent spaces of the dark night; grant it to me to speak of the things I have heard and to reveal with your blessing knowledge submerged in the gloomy underworld

Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes et Chaos et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late, sit mihi fas audita loqui, sit numine vestro pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas.

 

Sounds of Evening

A tattered lamp shade projects light into the ageing night.

An airplane roars in the sky—way above where my head could ever reach.

It passes. The feeling fades.

I am alone with the muffled shouts from outside.

If I were to tell you that any cathedral outlives the wildest of Western spires,

You would laugh and say ‘stick to writing of gentle folk’.

With new light comes new eyes.

The room I inhabit is empty and the bird cage door is ajar—

Red velvet lies careless on the floor.

        Where have you flown, little bird?

        You are far from the babbling brook, singing on unheard.

        You are far from ancient wood that knows the step of mortal man.

        You are far from your Northern soil, that warmed you as a child in winter.

The final drops from the water dispenser, when you wonder—

Will you ever know home?

Repetition: You see now the cage is too big for you.

Difference: You will regret the benefit.

 

An aphorism on friendship

Written by the Louvre.

 

In this world, you will meet people who will try to shape you to how they want you to be and they will see what they want to see.

—You shouldn’t care for them.

Those who see you for who you really are could either be your best friends or your worst enemies, and sometimes both at the same time!

—Trust them like snakes.

100 years ago

While some sardonic pianist plays on in the corner, uninvited, I did not see the star.

Did you clench the throbbing atom,

The clod of dirt that once was our world?

Classical times enter from a hundred years ago, like an inflamed goose-step.

‘But they weren’t doing the goose-step them.’

‘Were they not?’

 

Cars drive past and you realise that cities have walls too.

Brutal sounds of slick mechanics,

And now biology, body, blood.

Some have given their body to free us all;

We have given our own — but for what?

‘It isn’t the time for foresight.’

 

Is it not?

 

Some aphorisms on a winter night

  • Man is the most creative of liars.
  • Be weary of people who say their formative years are behind them.
  • Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets.
  • Authority without experience is fraud.
  • We are what we say we are not.
  • Achieve unconscious competence or don’t bother.
  • Si j’avais l’occasion, je ne te ferais jamais aucun mal.

Surf and sound

Je vois les nacres nuant sur la nuit et,

Le nectar nébuleux d’un temps rêvé,

Qui nourrit le néant au fond de mes pensées.

La mer maudite mélange

Les longs mugissements de mon âme

Avec les martèlements maléfiques.

Le frappement de la marée

Encage mon esprit,

Envoûte mon cœur,

Enlace mes souvenirs teintés.

A Hot Summer Night

The summer heat was weighing in on the apartment, as the sun beat down all day and warmed the interior. Anthony came running up the stairs, hardly breaking a sweat, taking the steps two at a time. He didn’t stop to look at the numbers as he wound his way to the fifth floor.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he said, banging his fist against the cold wood of the door. He rang the bell, tried the lock and searched for his phone in his pocket. Not one neighbour came to see what the fuss was about. He sent a quickly drafted message: ‘parle-moi en, je t’en prie’. No response. “Please,” he took to the door, “I didn’t mean to do it. It didn’t mean anything.”

Inside the apartment, Janet was carefully opening a bottle of wine. She could feel Anthony’s voice in the apartment, she could see his message on her phone, she knew they had to talk. She drank some wine, sat down and thought about men and their innocent cruelty.

‘Si je dois partir, je comprends. Je suis désolé, mais au moins parlons-en,’ he sent another text. He heard the phone ring inside, a silence and then footsteps calmly coming towards the door. Anthony stood back, ran a hand through his hair and readied himself. The latch came off and a small streak of light spilled onto the landing floor. She didn’t care to open the door fully; he could let himself in.

***

He left the apartment, his head feeling fuzzy, confused—relieved. He almost stumbled on the last few steps, but managed to grab onto the handrail. He walked down to the bar just around the corner, where he and Janet had smiled so often over the past year and a half. He sank a beer, and then another one. Then remembered he had some friends going out that night.

Forty-five minutes later he’s necking shots at a bar just by Pigalle. The wallet is out—fuck it, he says, it’s a Friday night. You know the feeling he’s going through. The moment you just want to forget that you are actually alive in a body; you want to become that cloud in trousers again, not just another sack of meat caught in the trap that Father Time left out in woods.

Was that man looking at him a bit funny? He’ll have to see to that, as he drained his glass before setting himself to confront a rival. ‘Tu regardes quoi, mec?’ ’T’es bourré, mec’. ‘J’suis pas bourré, mec.’ ‘Nique ta mère,’ came the blow. In an instant, Anthony launched a fist in his interlocutor’s direction, who ducked it and swung one in his ribs, standing back to see what his opponent would do next. Anthony was not satisfied. Trusting in the backing from his friends – who had already left for the next bar – he threw himself at the stranger. They wrestled around the tables for a moment, before the bouncer came over and separated them, threatening to call the police.