Mikhl Likht: 'Processions V'

Translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross

[The following is a continuation of the ongoing translation by Resnikoff & Ross of Processions,  the great epic work by Mikhl Likht (1893–1953), which, while written in Yiddish, can be seen now as an integral part of the American “Objectivists” moment, along with contemporaneous works by Pound, Zukofsky, Williams, & others.  Earlier translations from Likht have appeared on Poems and Poetics, along with several discussions by Ariel Resnikoff of the relation between Likht & Zukofsky, et al, both literary & personal.  Beyond that, “Processions V” will be coming out this week in a small collaborative chapbook Rothenberg//Resnikoff//Likht: Poems, Translations, Variations, published by The Operating System Press in Brooklyn, New York.  In the meantime the work continues as does the search for publishers & for magazines & journals in which to publish further installments.  Writes Resnikoff: “We invite all interested parties to be in touch.” (J.R.)]




From the dark ways


From bare fidgetings


From the schematic tarantella-motifs

From sufficient machinations intoxicated by bright shimmershine

From the silent smoking modifications

From the cool blue hazes veiled in early morning light

From the rumbling motor cavalcades

From the elongated unimpeded zeppelins


From neutral genres in nature–painting

From sunken water-secrets swaying U-boats

From dumb hearing and pupil billy goat glances

From wilted tulips and sister-flowers in Long Island hothouses

From A-G minor concert piece

From entangled concept over godlessness, Chinese braid and pale financier

From pearly summer-storm onset


From hasty wagers over accidental yes’s and relative no’s

From spiritual germinations and material finishes (and vice versa)

From trolley-clanging violated through radio’s manifold hoo-ha

From the weariness of pedestrian city-street step

From the inertia and forced vivacity of the staff of clothing- and other stores

From bells angelus-chatter in church-spires

From nightwatchman’s burdened eye

From mother’s and wet-nurse’s mechanical chasings after childrens’ paths in squares, streets, parks

From seething howls of productive and destructive machinery

From blind cellars’ miasmic atmosphere

From forced bending from full height under flat, subterranean ceilings

From obscene creatures wheezing in little houses

From birds’ metatarsal altitudes

From complete aircraft signals

From patient waiting for something new


            Life shall live itself out


            Generated itself elderly energy:








Alone. Solitary, without anyone, without myself

am I

(to me). Someone should, who knows,

even thru a crack, a little gap the dimensions

try to turn a creature into a point, a little nail

from a threatening hand, -- throw a thinking cushion

to the shut in head like the majority

among bubbly girl friends the morning after sleep.

I Spring myself/covertly

the between-summerwinter-autumn. Hint:

My wife

is to me (what the world ought to be) the old Jewish catchall;

My mother --

the baker’s bread, farmer’s butter;

My palatial spacious house --

The museum of every bubble and squeak

that ostentationalizes the senses; pomposifies the brains. --


A shudder in a mouse’s cornerroom:

the full power of a god’s prompting.





Dovebosoms. Mine, yours, everyone’s --

no one’s.

God forbid!, I don’t begin to be alone

and sweeter than a worm in horseradish

is the duality (ours) to me: mouse’s

and mine. Oh people of lonely! Oh those

famous nikhbodim[1] who spin themselves

out from, into, events as if from-into flax a coarse fabric:

Sleep robs a hair from you

then comes to poetry-lore;

You take a little nap

You tear life (a supplement to prose) into itty-bitty pieces--

with dovebosoms one lives life out like oneself the zhmenke[2] years,

But this year the yarmulke diaspora-tree shall suffice:

in the coming year -- in Soviet Russia, in Mexico, in Galveston:

if necessary -- in Jerusalem.





The mouse will somewhere finally find rest with us

even if it costs us a thousand-and-one dumplings!

We will lead ourselves with a cow

a bull, with a nanny goat and ram.

For ourselves we will erect a house (a home?),

the livestock -- a stable. And for the sickly little mousey?

With holes we must devote ourselves to God

for our service in shul and shtibl.


We will as it suits us crawl from the skin

through all cracks to redemption: either as guards

of our own renewal -- sowing cabbage

with onion, becoming bakers, farmers;


or giving up corrupt “liberal” professions --

with that, draw in “The Internationale”; the handyman

becomes our beloved anew – industrious and new,

it will completely carry itself our song to God.


And the enemies of Israel will become the young Zionists,

and Allenby and Balfour -- Moses and Aaron,

and we will then, who knows, arrive where --

we’re off already -- we’re coming -- make way!

[1] Respectable people

[2] Zangberg, Bavaria