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Jeff Friedman’s translations (with Dzvinia Orlowsky) of Mieczysław Jastrun in this issue.

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Jeff Friedman's website

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Contributor Notes




Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman

 

 

 

Brokers

 

Brokers

 

If you want to know the future,

ask a broker. They glow with prophecy

like radioactive birds.

When they meet each other on the street,

they radiate the odor of wealth,

hugging like refugees who have just found

someone from their extinct village.

Money travels fast, so does bad news from brokers.

They steep themselves in oil, pipeline it to sealed tanks

and let it sit as they wait for the markets to crash

and the freeze to begin.  When they go home

there are no homes, only a palace or two

with electric gates and motion sensors that detect

even the slightest movement of the poor.

Brokers hum like bats emerging

at dusk, zinging through air

to snag their bloody bonuses. Numbers roll,

heads fly. Confetti rains over suits

as the skies light up with bombs and missiles

and countries disappear from screens.

Brokers win wars, empty

graves so they can fill them again.

They Fedex their packages of ash

to the bereaved and ask for a signature.

Their vaults grow larger than the equator.

 

 

 

 

Occupation

 

When you arrived, we blasted salvos in your honor,

hung tapestries from terraces and rooftops.

Our children gave you bouquets of wildflowers.

We celebrated your body and its many stinks.

We celebrated your sisters as saints, though they acted crudely.

We learned your language with all its paradoxes

and ironies, its contradictions. We combed

the words for your intention, for the truth.

Though we gave you everything we had,

you always found what was missing.

Though you claimed you wanted peace,

you went to war with the slightest provocation.

You emptied our houses as if they were bags of groceries.

No matter how much you destroyed,

now matter how much loss you inflicted,

you claimed the rights of the victim

and shed your tears and cried for revenge.

 

 

 

 

Regret

 

“There’s no profit in regret,”

a friend once told me,

a beautiful brunette recalling

the “not so pretty” details

of her numerous affairs.

But what is regret:

a long shadow falling on a sunny day?

a reflection in water?

smoke rising from all the

chimneys of the past?

a room whose objects keep changing?

a city empty except for you?

a scene in the mind

that plays out with infinite variations

but always ends the same?

Regret lives in the heat of the moon

the dark pages of the sun,

among the song of the crickets,

the cries of the cicadas

as they fling themselves toward the sky.

Regret lives in the open hand

reaching out for nothing

it can touch, in the blue

jar of air, in the flicker of light

that disappears before you can see

what you’ve come this far to see.

But the fox trotting through the ravine

in the early morning sun

regrets nothing

even though the crows

are there to remind him of his murders

and to cash in on the remains.

 

 

 

 

 
  Story of the World

 

The world’s beautiful with love,

so they say. A dog loves

his master’s feet, licking them

until the master puts on

a pair of wool sox; the master

loves the wool sox and his pipe

and the cherry smoke rising

from the pipe, and the cherry smoke

loves its own scent and loves

dust, feathers, shed skin,

gloves of air and the pretty

wind that sings to it while

lovers twist a white sheet

in love with how they love

touching each other until they plunge

into the shuddering sea surrounded

by tiny sea creatures grazing their legs,

and monarchs stream over waves

of breath, returning from South America

as the lovers’ bodies glisten

like streaks of fat sizzling in oil,

and their story multiplies for the listener

who waits for the ending

that will unveil the mystery, the truth,

blue flame eating the orange sky,

as the dog now bites the fur

from his legs and the lovers

float toward some conclusion

that neither will love, as the war

explodes on the horizon,

the world shimmering with

the beauty of love.