These horrifying mutations brought about the Age of Permanent Safety, when the Blue Death was, the health experts informed us, still very little understood. They arranged their data to present, nonetheless, a frightening image of a steadily rising mortality rate, which helped persuade the public that the virus had evolved to attack not the immune system anymore, but the emotional and reasoning centers of the brain.
It all begins here with an utterance, a scrambled item of speech requiring brain time to reconstruct: “Two metres.” Grumbled and garbled, the words issue from a mask. A figure cocks its head autistically sideways. The manner resembles that of a bird, the way it jerks its little skull to look at you with just one eye. Picture that gull eyeing you as you take your lunch on a park bench, the way it indirectly sidles in your direction while you eat. Picture Norman Bates.
Gary Snyder’s lively translations of Hanshan (Cold Mountain), along with their fictional account in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, have since inspired numerous poets and translators to mimic Hanshan’s raw poetic style. Most are unaware, however, of their participation in a millennium-old tradition of composing Cold Mountain verses.
Bring me the sunflower so I can plant / it in my salt-scorched patch of earth, so it can throw / back to the day’s reflecting blue / the anguish of its upturned, yellow face.
We were seduced, Madame, by /
mutual machinations, duped, /
you and I, by summer’s mayhem /
pounding on our overheated craniums.
Incandescent, gold and red, / the world vibrates and hums / with the last of the autumn. / Carmel and rust, / sable, tan and chocolate leaves ornament the ground, / while necklaces of green and gold / twist down off the sturdy trees.
The systematic suppression and oppression of society’s shamans and prophets by the priestcraft of psychiatry, has not only been a catastrophe for these gifted individuals—
Approaching a poem written in another time and/or place, the translator faces a literal dilemma, a double problem of conflicting loyalties. . .
I set off walking south on the shoulder / Of these high cliffs, through kissing gates and over stiles, when summer / Was a crude suggestion yet among the broom and gorse.
An excerpt from Marc di Saverio’s epic poem Crito Di Volta. Here, after some introductory material, Crito delivers his sermon on the mount, as it were. . .