Featured Poet: J. Kates, Fitzwilliam
J. Kates is a poet and literary translator, whose latest book, The Briar Patch, will be published by Hobblebush Books in 2012. “Words” can be found in Metes and Bounds (Accents Publishing, 2010).
“Words” began as a translation from a language (Ukrainian) I am able to read only through a glass darkly. It took on a life of its own at about the same time I recognized my own incompetence to make proper English sense of the original. The animal schematics I devised (earth, air, water) led inevitably to the last stanza, which alludes to an afternoon I spent fishing on the Yuzhny Bug River with the Ukrainian poet whose own poem had started these “Words.”
after V. S. Rabenchuk
I write. I command. The word is an animal
to the truth — sometimes a flower or stone
or star, you say? — no, always a beast, and one
it's up to each of us to bring to heel.
I track words through their laughter and their tears.
I crack my whip and order them: Be divine!
Love one another! They snarl and pace the line
and ravage a carrion meal when it appears.
I watch them fly in chevrons overhead,
looking for quiet waters. I set out
decoys to bring them close enough to shoot.
After the first, even the last has fled.
I lie in wait among the quiet reeds
for a word to swallow the hook, come flashing up
like sunrise and flap gasping in the scupper.
Dying, the scales turn gray; a small mouth bleeds.
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