Mikhl Likht: Processions II, translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross

"Protsesiyes" illustration by Evelyn Likht in Monatlakher zshurnal far literatur
"Protsesiyes" illustration by Evelyn Likht in Monatlakher zshurnal far literatur [Monthly Journal for Literature], 1925

[NOTE. The following marks the continuation of the recovery & translation into English of the experimental modernist masterwork Protsesiye (Processions) by the great & all but forgotten Yiddish poet Mikhl Likht, who was a younger contemporary of Pound and Williams & in some ways the forerunner of Zukofsky & other “Objectivist” & projectivist poets.  The ongoing effort by Resnikoff and Ross is to bring Likht’s complete poem into English & by doing so add a new dimension to the story of American poetry as well as that of Yiddish.  Toward that end I plan to give it coverage & assistance as the project proceeds, and I invite those who may have missed them to look back at the installments of the work from Resnikoff, Ross & Merle Bachman already posted on Poems and Poetics, & for the recently published Resnikoff/Ross translation of Procession One, along with the Yiddish original, check the eleveneleven web site. (J.R.)]

 

                        Time-Bloodied

 

Rusty and yellow

dusty all-barbarous brutes

dear tyrants

we come and go

with symmetrically-hasty steps

of gentle does 

 

an inveigling reproach

slung in Pan’s [[1]] moldy face

 

the schema is nearly consumed. 

 

So someone walks around

in the sun,

his fiery pale-faced eyes

shine delight and

are membranes of doubt concealed. 

 

(Once

many years ago

they murmured in my ear: 

 

strong with the strong

one-by-one the weak go down

with us

with us

won the bottom -- ) 

 

Legend 

 

Wandering in the wasteland

I saw the snakes smile

their dusty skins

in convulsions

of laughter. 

 

The Hammer of Luck 

 

Waves --

                        mountain on mountain

                        heap on heap --

                        waves 

mischievous tongues

flare and lick --

                        waves 

 

one of the waves: 

 

-- just so, brother, fall

-- that’s called a carnival

-- warmer warmer

-- feverish -- 

 

one of the waves: 

-- dance for joy, brother, fall

-- fine show

-- we are bathed

-- in a sunless sky

-- fire-hot red --  

 

shadows hang

half-extended 

 

sway

in the air --

                        waves. 

 

Hymn of Squandered Blood 

 

Tiny mouths

little lips

burn carmine

                        -- kiss me

                        -- kiss me

tiny creatures

fulfill

a ritual

                        -- take me

                        -- take me

something chained

with pliers

and sorrows

                        -- stop stop

                        -- your you your me. 

 

A Farewell to the Gods 

 

Lively and subtle,

great as a genie

you are great and holy

holy as a virgin’s breast -- 

 

offal of hate and love,

fallen to rust

fallen in dust. 

 

Movement from a Symphony 

 

Chameleon. Stretches that bring in unsuspiciously passive delight in their thought -- sunk in the colorless depths of somnambulism [[2]] -- chaotic rhythm immerses itself -- swims around in dewy blueness -- sea-waters sparkle like spectral diamonds -- leaden air melts into bubbly foam -- terrifying -- high -- cold -- it slips myriad-wise down the mantles of immobility -- lethargy -- calm -- hollow vibration comes --  

 

Ancient stone with pale-white belly up waits patiently: the magic hatchet should come and even it out -- grasses -- envy-green at season’s onset -- asymmetrically bent flat skewers with sharpened points perforate the swollen earth -- a different time, a sickly yellowness attacks them -- their hopes waste away like thin dust-colored hairs on dull later skulls -- at times bad air stirs up the endless empty place around -- sand borrows wings from the zephyr -- a pair in the vortex [[3]] live it up just above the plain  

 

Another stone.

Another stone.

 

Archipelagos of stones trade places -- never any deep-settling -- over the naked flanks of a mountain the mysterious peak lifts itself -- matter stays stoned -- petrified in great sadness -- the hatchet levels out the stones -- swelling that lets itself be hammered in remains a part of the house -- bellies that forget who is older get hacked off -- with Buddhist hearts they lie down with lowered hands before the foundation -- smooth proud timber (erstwhile free anarchic forest-scarecrows) -- the measure taken by sight -- lays down like a modest compromise under the cryptic feet on conquered earth -- glass looks two-sided -- in and out -- inside -- eyes squint in the  soft fragrance of shadow-light -- see the utensils -- rugs-- floor -- table -- chairs -- the inviting resting-place -- outside the Lilliputian window panes shine -- observing presumptuously the round scarlet-red fire-ring -- reflects the grotesque in it -- deaf walls -- to the right -- to the left -- across -- gazing in their opaque silence -- prick-up their ears in case a symbolic creature walks past with an open mouth and loses unconscious slander on the path --  recording it in their kinetic consciousness -- carrying it hidden in themselves until the day of judgment -- coolly-quiet the windows hold open the tired eyelids which constantly fall over them (strained from unbroken wakefulness) -- perhaps it will prove successful to notice whatever causes them to cheer up in their misanthropic non-sight -- the roof lies comfortably over the void of the attic -- waits in case the never-promised-to-anybody-by-anybody, which must come down from above, ever falls -- checks with his steel frame the creativity that seethes violation in the pipes of the whole house

 

Another house.                                                                                                                             

Another house. 

 

Daringly-agile like a snake, the clenched street coils rightward -- unsuccessfully --  a hateful parapet obstructs the way -- with a cascade of noise she sets out on her aeronautic trip over air-bridges leftward -- pummels herself through the crystal-clear prisms of air -- runs -- runs without stopping -- earlier just like a straightedge -- then somewhat bent into a crooked line -- down -- down -- the eyes closed -- all the energy concentrated in the chasing -- a wild abyss opens itself suddenly where snakes and scorpions amuse themselves with exotic dances -- keep jumping around – in no time slip in between them -- often in the middle of running takes a tremendous blow to the head literally sparks fly: another street runs as far as the way – slowly comes to -- catches one’s breath -- girds the loins -- scratches itself with broken ribs on the other side -- feels anew the merry impulse leave itself in God’s hands on the long treacherous way -- adventurous courage stirs -- pushes itself on again in an intersection -- 

 

Another street.                                                                                                                           

Another street. 

 

The yishuv. [4] Measured reflected rhythm of yesterday’s chaos -- long-necked lanterns wink silhouettes -- 

Another yishuv.                                                                                                                                  

 Another yishuv 

 

The world --


NOTES

[1] Pan: possibly a reference to the mythological god, or to the Slavic honorific, “pan,” a term of address sometimes found in Yiddish literature.

[2] Somnambulism: meaning uncertain: “Hin-her-plet” in original.

[3] Vortex: possibly a coinage: “shturem-karahod” in the original (literally “storm-circle”).

[4] Yishuv: “Settlement,” a Hebrew word also referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine, before the founding of the State of Israel