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This piece is about 8 printed pages long. It is copyright © Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Jacket magazine 2008.
The Internet address of this page is http://jacketmagazine.com/35/duplessis-draft88.shtml
A free variation on “Keine Delikatessen”
by Ingeborg Bachmann
X at that place where there
are long tables and platters of food.
Some throwing selves eagerly
into the banquet of engorgement.
There was patent appetite, was simply
wanting more, as if innocently,
were self-fed patches of avidity,
fashions of hysterical attraction
to largesse. To largeness.
Ate through that buffet, falling
on the array as if we’d never eaten.
Plate after plate — such fancy things,
smoky, salt or sweetened,
crunchy, costly, lavish.
Because this did not nourish
we stuffed and ate the more. Oh yes.
And then the shock.
To have ingested this as such
To have swallowed it down.
Without delicacies, without delicacy,
no rhetoric either
and certainly without refinement
I stand before you
foreign and distant,
(although near and constant)
whether any part of this is worth it.
whether I feel anything
I can talk about, and
whether thinking about feeling,
were I to bring myself to “do” it,
to make that effort,
is particularly worth it.
What is the force of my conviction?
I have no appeal in the court
in which I am standing.
I seem to be sentenced by the sentence.
So what’s the compulsion makes me
begin this debate yet again,
either to stuff it to Metaphor
forever, or to stuff it full
of Metaphor, tinkering around
with such skill in finding likenesses
as once I might have gotten praised for.
Who was that self?
It isn’t as if this “I” had gotten nowhere,
Should I dabble onto easy easels
all the pretty little pictures
that used to give such pleasure,
almond blossom petals as my brush?
Mandel-baum, Mandel-stam, Mandel-stein, Mandel-brot.
are motivated by the names of people I remember.
Once I was malleable as marzipan — or
rather, I let them think so.
But Who are you? I said to me.
What do you do it for?
Should I continue bending Syntax
to these uses? What uses? Such scintillation
I could certainly still produce:
with all the skill in my sparkle kit
so you may admire
my hyper-sensitive yet completely
What a showing I used to make!
But what could I do with it?
What should I do about it?
Who is that self that ever wanted to?
Am I the one making the work
that seemed endlessly
to flow, bubbling, babbling
whenever someone bonged the bell
Who cares about “Poetry”
after hours at the bus stop
when the dragged-out, dogged ones
with their bulky shopping bags and swollen legs
have the bus lowered for them?
Making do amid this Schande
Murky near and murky far.
Disruption, Hopelessness, Malfeasance, Fear.
Isn’t it plausible to feel
impure, baffled, resistant to “the literary,”
ensnared and burdened, split
into resistance and identification,
with chronic entrapment, panic, the incurable,
with fixed-income poverty, terminated benefits, with all the
Costs of Living revealed to me?
So should I consider
that the Words I was called to write
help others? Was I going to be a Helper?
This thought seemed as bad as all the others.
Was this some Rhetorical Bureaucracy of
Social Worker tasks?
It was costing me an arm and a leg,
an eye and an ear, precisely that
eye I suddenly saw with,
that ear they all said I had
my beautiful pitch
(but my ears actually hurt), that
leg, that broken leg (and spent eight weeks
and was disabled instead of being “normal”)
whatever means “normal” with its mouthful of Words —
— should I try to do some good?
There are plenty more pleasurable paths
for me to take in writing,
But these seem to be ploys only,
defensive, decorative, deflecting.
No sentences can be made this way.
Sound founders, kitschy gabble.
So do I have to continue?
I feel shelterless,
I feel that the stakes have changed
and I can’t catch up.
And then I could not say one little word.
And felt compelled
to rip up the page and turn from these pronouns:
I? you? we? Who cares about them!
Who cares how they are linked!
Push them over a cliff!
Which then would leave me with nothing
and with no one
in this reckless space called
What is the consequence of responsibility?
Where is mine?
My side of it all, this itself,
you could gloss,
has made me overwhelmingly forlorn.
I’m torn on these barbed questions.
Whatever I’ve said —
take it all as a Loss.
June-July, October-December 2007
Notes to Draft 88: X-Posting. This Draft is based on Ingeborg Bachmann’s important poem “Keine Delikatessen.” The parts directly using her words are in italics here. In this poem, she wonders about the adequacy of poetry and of her poetry. Finding this poem — needing it and looking for it — I then began trans-interpreting it, transposing it, elaborating, extending, varying it, working homophonically with the German, and creating my variation of it by writing a poem that started with hers and that in large measure tracks her argument. While at the beginning I conceptualized this as a kind of translation, I now would say it is a free variation on Bachmann. Hence it has changed in concept at least once. I offer many thanks to Marion Faber for her courtesy in sending me a translation by Mark Anderson when I was without library resources. His translation, which I saw after I had well begun on this variation, is from In the Storm of Roses: Selected Poems by Ingeborg Bachmann. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986, 186-189. While working on this poem, I also received commentary from the poet Anne Blonstein, whose queries, sympathy with Bachmann’s text, and help with certain moments of the German were of great importance to what I have done even though they have mainly disappeared in this version. This is now hardly a translation; “X-Posting” makes specific and acknowledged use of Bachmann. But if I am in any sense “translating” Bachmann’s poem here, this occurs only along the lines that Walter Benjamin suggests when he says: “as regards the meaning, the language of a translation can — in fact, must — let itself go, so that it gives voice to the intentio of the original not as reproduction but as harmony, as a supplement to the language in which it expresses itself, as its own kind of intentio.” (“The Task of the Translator,” Illuminations,78-79). This Draft is on the “line of 12.”
You can read a companion piece, ‘Draft 89: Interrogation’, in this issue of Jacket here.
Rachel Blau DuPlessis announces a new Draft, Draft 85: Hard Copy, mapped on "Of Being Numerous," by George Oppen.
and announces her newest book, now available from
Torques: Drafts 58-76. Cambridge, UK: Salt Publishing, 2007. She has new work read on PennSound and both new work and some translations of Drafts into French on http://www.alligatorzine.be/ Her website is http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/duplessis