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Rachel Blau DuPlessis: Draft 88: X-Posting

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)

wondering

whether any part of this is worth it.

Questioning

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,

is it?



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.

Almonds

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

idiomatic performance.

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

Pavlovianly

whenever someone bonged the bell

called “Poetry.”

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?



Angry

       Resigned

              Disempowered

                     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?

Hardly.



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

on crutches

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

no where.



Nevertheless.

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

Rachel Blau DuPlessis


Rachel Blau DuPlessis announces a new Draft, Draft 85: Hard Copy, mapped on "Of Being Numerous," by George Oppen.
http://www.conjunctions.com/webcon/duplessis07.htm
and announces her newest book, now available from
http://www.saltpublishing.com/books/smp/9781844713349.htm:
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

 
 
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