Procession: I by Mikhl Likht translated by Ariel Resnikoff and Stephen Ross
What would be the use of a procession ...if people had all to lie down on their faces so that they couldn’t see it? “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
(p. 103, Med. Hib. Ed.)
Procession: I (Taedium Vitae) For Yankev Beri, a gift A Signs in space. Glimmer of puddles and rain. Silhouettes of streams spilling over the stone. Over again — A nightingale. Hums with little beak over a tin pan carved
to shrieking by gentile-zionist1 earthy hands. With bellies and petty-coats the bottomfeeders all six all twelve swim forward spiderlike in erotic garbage.2 Like and unlike. Strike the necessary which elefantn 3 seek and after which like the guests withdrawing into themselves one by one over the fence (like strings that snap into a cellist’s knee flick his nose —) B Hate is the bow. Dress him up on the head and laugh and leave — but don’t snap for laughter: the vacuo is elastic.
1 “Ivantsiyuniyes” in original. Meaning of word uncertain, but possibly a neologism pairing “Ivan” (Yiddish-slavic slang for “gentile”) and “Tsiyuni” (“zionist”). 2 Likht’s “erotishe mist” echoes Mina Loy’s “erotic garbage” from her “Love Songs to Joannes” (1915-1917): “Spawn of Fantasies / Sitting the appraisable / Pig Cupid / His rosy snout / Rooting erotic garbage. . .” The Last Lunar Baedeker (Manchester: Carcanet, 1982), 91. Likht’s “Procession I” is in dialogue with the work of a number of contemporary Anglophone poets, and Loy’s “Love Songs” seems particularly important to the structure and diction of this first “Procession.” 3 “Strike...after which”: meaning of these two lines is uncertain. “Elefantn” seems to be a variant of the standard Yiddish word for elephant, “helefand.” Here, and elsewhere, Likht lends his Yiddish text an English inflection.
C How many mountains do you know that grow with the pointedness of professorial prescription? Protoplasm relaxes everything: if only the dough ferments the leaven rises. The cells — gossamer of nothing — (yeah, yeah, matter, matter!) will pay attention to it the eye should observe that which lives forever and with the first glance annihilate it — that which lives forever — D Molten lava flows into where one shouldn’t go: my ego for example is upright an ego with all the flourishes: A classified index for extremes (a civilized ego)
senseless days serenade emotionless nights (a bloodless ego) gathers ‘’beads’’ pays debts parades through the streets fogs mirrors is partial to that which is not over that which is: (what is not — is problematic and provocative to egos —) E Do you really understand what I’m going to say? We are one and the same: you and I — Nirvana. Despondent forever out of the boundaries impersonated with lofty fountains from word-waves comes someone covers us up seals us off from everyone kicks us out strikes the veil
makes a clamor Cosmos.
and out it creeps:
F Cosmos brother. (Analogical — our equal. Pathological — our grandfather. Our child — ) Dear cosmos I will not charge you like someone who once had the nerve to name you: colorless onion.4 You go up the mountain raise your feet like thousand-year old oaks whose every ring5 implies death and structure. The dust your feet kick up chokes and blinds — and stuns: (expanded rose-colored mirages -hazy conceptions — ) your return is like this too: no more is down-the-mountain faster
4 A possible reference to Loy’s “Love Songs to Joannes”, part XI: “Dear one at your mercy / Our Universe / Is only / A colorless onion / You derobe / Sheath by sheath / Remaining / A disheartening odour / About your nervy hands.” Loy, Last Lunar Baedeker, 95. 5 “Vale” in original. Meaning uncertain.
only the Kotzker 6 was mistaken:
he will not I will not bring “the little earnings from the fair”. You are the cashier I will rob even kill without “hammered-silver” to vindicate: Homo homini…7 G A point of fire presents itself: I lie helpless on my back: diagonal. Is the velocity Einsteinian? (I wanted
to trash my “knowledge” to disrupt my ego’s canto: [and what’s more it shows an egotistical ego I failed to record in its right place.] — )
Fire-point points fires: Fires points on and on. A bow of fire-points points.
6 Possibly a reference to the Kotzker Rebbe (Menachem Mendel Morgensztern, 1787-1859). 7 “Homo homini lupus”: “Man is a wolf to man” (Latin)
Fire fires fire-fire points. Point-point fire. Points. Fire points. Fiery points point points — fire points — fire pointies fire: pointies fire; fire pointies: pint8 — pint — points of fire — — fire — — pint — — fire-pintn point pointies. A whole ring connected: locks: fired with fire on fire-pointies. Extinguishes itself where a point goes out: bare: Fire — point — bare. Bare fire. pint. Bare. Bare. Point. Bare. pint. Bare — — pint — — Bare. pint. Fire out. H And yet, I don’t feel the need to self-identify. I am tied to a sack of flesh into which I plunge my hands (a link to the sack) thin things fat dry and wet.
8 “Pint” rhymes with “squint”. In the original, Likht plays with a variety of words meaning “point” (pintl, pint, pintlekh, pintlen), which we have tried to render in English equivalents. The passage calls to mind the concept of the “Pintele Yid,” the indestructible point of Jewishness in every Jew, a concept in turn derived from the diacritical point below the letter “yud” in the word Yid.
I have a bloody gash in my face which deals with every thing like a successful businessman. The sack and the gash are doubled— or better yet: sacks and gashes: sacks carry and gashes swallow and lock-up as was said — to define the frames of existence. Yet, after all I can’t do anything: except give take name things lament cry laugh fill up the sack swallow through the gash fill up the sack swallow through the gash fill up the sack
I Do you love bobe-mayses?9 listen: listen to how it stirs breaks rants searches now in the fourth watch of the night. Cries (forget “the destruction of the Temple!”) Thunders (forget your grandfather’s “fingernail-water”10 at “midnight”!11) A new measurement heavier. A new use more profitable. (“Pragmatist!” sneer the yesterdays. — Shadows! Colorless dust! — the tomorrows dismiss with their hands) something clever in darkness — listen. Do you love bobe-mayses? so listen. Listen: Oh yeah: two? Another step and the distance between them vanishes. Another step. Closer. Closer.
9 Bobe-mayses: stories; old wive’s tales. 10 “Finger-nail water”: Negel-vaser in Yiddish, referring to the Jewish ritual of washing the hands upon arising in the morning. 11 “Midnight”: “khutsos” in Yiddish, referring to the Jewish custom of arising at midnight for study and prayer in memory of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
“Allegory” you say? “Night and day”? “Good and bad”? No. No. Man and wife. Man and wife. The eternal secret. Never was a secret. The Truth.
The eternal Truth. The eternal Truth. The eternal secret. Disappeared. As into a river. Hidden with a veil. Yesod12 (Do you love bobe-mayses? so listen: listen —)
12 Yesod: “foundation” (Hebrew), a Kabbalistic emanation (sefira) associated with the procreative organ (in the male; in the female, with the uterus). Likht’s also puns on “sod”, Hebrew for “secret”, and in doing so chimes with the preceding lines.
Translated from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff and Stephen Ross