Janet McCann is a Texas poet and writer whose work has appeared in popular and literary journals including Southern Poetry Review, Parnassus, Christian Century, Sou'wester, McCalls and others. She has won three chapbook contests, the most recent resulting in Afterword (Franciscan University Press, 1994). Her full-length collection, Looking for Buddha in the Barbed-Wire Garden (Avisson) appeared in 1996. She currently teaches at Texas A & M University.
This is Another Story
To be translating something, is to be
pulling it bit by bit
with hooks into my language,
through an invisible net,
and if it sticks here and there
one is not to cut, not to yank,
but rather to tease, with the hook,
not knowing what exactly you are coaxing
into the language, and if it will stay here,
curl up at your feet
like a pet, or if it will coil
and strike like a snake.
To be translating something is to be
running your hands through it, gently asking the words'
permission to violate them,
to allow their sounds and shapes to be transformed
in the service of a foreign leader,
not a dictator, exactly, but a director
who has to work from a script
that the writer genius died before completing.
Pull `er up, he said in California.
What did he say in Brussels?
What did he say in Braille?
there is a cloud of white nettles
whirling and stinging, and
the house where the scary people live
is innocent now, it has been acquitted.
a muffled man leads his black dog
to where the park used to be. tree sleep snow
you say experimentally. on the snow-crusted maple
red leaves hang like Christmas balls.
headlights, eyes of the machine
peer warily down alleys,
a bus making bussy noises
belches skreeks and tires whuush by.
scraping your windows you are very awake
there is a sudden clarity to the world
and you wonder should you go, really set forth
to do your work in the world
or be the one behind the window watching?