Business, as Usual
When I worked for the Nobel Prize Committee,
times were hard.
The only thing to eat
One day I sat in my kitchen,
throwing playing cards into a fireman hat.
Roger Whitaker, my foreman,
bursts through the door!
I offer him water,
and he drinks it
like he's swallowing medicine.
"Your stock fell fifty-eight points!"
he says. "Oh, no!"
"Public relations thinks it's those one poems
that talk about the poem inside the poem."
"Oh, no," I say, dejectedly.
"At first the public ate them up,
but now they're getting boring."
"Okay," I say. "We can be beat this.
No need to panic."
"Sure," he says.
"But we've got to think of something quick!"
I pace the floor.
Then I snap my fingers.
"Have the boys in product development
come up with anything lately?"
"Well…" he says. "Oh, yeah!"
He snaps his fingers.
"Nobody's tried this yet —
just this morning —
well, anyhow the concept is,
to write a poem
and make it sound like it's a translation
of a poem — not the real poem."
"Wow," I say. "Yeah," he says.
"Like, somehow, the words — the sentences —
don't sound right, somehow.
Know what I'm saying?"
"Yeah, I like it," I say.
"Call me a cab."
I grab my rain-slicker.
"There's not a moment to spare."
"Do you think it will work?"
"I don't know." I wink my right eye.
"But this is the only chance we've got."
· · ·
Day and Night (Translation A)
Why is the night
so much different from the day?
This maybe sounds
like a strange and easy question,
but I mean it sincerely.
One answer lies in darkness,
but I don't know. Because, say,
I can close my eyes in the daylight
and I am not amused.
It is the same.
The answer lies in loneliness,
because, in the daylight,
one can become preoccupied
and pass the time with people or events,
but then, one must go home.
And even if you lie beside
a woman in the evening,
it is nothing.
Hold her to your body as close as you can
and still, within minutes,
you will be apart
for approximately eight hours,
give or take an hour.
It is like the pirate ship's plank.
You must walk it alone.
And, suddenly, you are weightless,
detached from all things,
Your toes sprawl out for the ground.
And then you are underwater,
so cold and deep, it doesn't seem fair.
And, of course, you can't breathe.
And there are sea creatures and algae,
entangling your feet.
You are Pinocchio or Jonah,
in the belly of the whale.
No one can hear your pleas for help,
unless there is a Geppeto or God,
riding the waves, like a sleek dolphin.
· · ·
Day and Night (Translation B)
Why is it that the night
is different from the day?
This seems, perhaps,
like an awkward question,
but I am curious.
One possible solution is darkness,
but I am skeptical,
because I can close my eyes in daytime —
but that is unconvincing.
It is not the same.
The real solution is loneliness,
because, in the daytime,
one can be distracted with people
and places, and time goes on,
but then it is time to leave.
Even if you lie in the arms of a woman
in the nighttime —
that makes no difference.
Hold her as near to you as possible,
without suffocating her,
and still — give it time,
and she will be gone from you
for eight hours at least.
It is like walking
off a pirate ship's plank.
You must go it alone,
and then, you are free-falling,
not attached to anything,
falling through thin air.
Your toes grope for solid ground.
And then you are beneath the water
so cold and deep, you can have no regrets.
Your time has come.
And there are leviathans and seaweed
entangling your feet.
You are Pinocchio and Jonah
in the mouth of the great deep,
with no one to hear your cries for help,
unless it be Gieppeto or God,
courageously riding the waves, like a dolphin.