john taylor

from Decarceration by Charline Lambert, translated from the French by John Taylor

forehead of the sky
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You are a countable solitude.
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You are a light shattered
into beams.
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You are
a barely recognized
fire.
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*
You want to decarcerate the language from you,
decar—
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cerate these words from your plexus
and every day
you elucidate a knot.
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*
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In a single movement
you don’t know if you’re taking part
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in the pursuit
or
the reiteration.
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*
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You are full to the brim
with coagulated matter.
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Ever since, you counter
the slow work
of exsanguination.
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*
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Your great fervor to forget:
too great
this tumor where
can it be cut out, where
are the healthy tissues
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*
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Joy and the other
joy you hold out
.
drunk with it,
a latent
blow to the forehead
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of the sky.
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—from Désincarcération (©Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2017)
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French originals:

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Tu es une solitude à dénombrer.
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Tu es une lumière éclatée
en faisceaux.
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Tu es
un feu
à peine reconnu.
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*
Tu veux désincarcérer le langage de toi,
désincar-
.
cérer ces mots de ton plexus
et chaque jour
tu élucides un nœud.
.
*
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D’un seul mouvement
tu ne sais si tu en es
.
la poursuite
ou
la réitération.
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*
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Tu es une matière coagulée
parvenue à satiété.
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Depuis tu contres
un lent travail
d’exsanguination.
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*
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Ton ardeur à l’oubli trop
grande
.
trop grande
tumeur où découper
où sont les tissus sains
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*
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La joie et l’autre
joie que tu tends,
.
de tout ton soûl
latente
frappe à la tempe
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du ciel.
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Charline Lambert ((c) photo by Sadie von Paris)
Charline Lambert was born in 1989 in Liège, Belgium. She is the author of four books of poetry: Chanvre et lierre (“Hemp and Ivy,” Éditions Le Taillis Pré, 2016), Sous dialyses (“Dialyzing,” Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2016), Désincarcération (“Decarceration,” Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2017), and Une salve (“A Salvo,” Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2020). She is currently finishing her Ph.D. thesis on the relation between poetry and deafness.
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John Taylor’s most recent translations are, from the French, José-Flore Tappy’s Trás-os-Montes (The MadHat Press) and Philippe Jaccottet’s Ponge, Pastures, Prairies (Black Square Editions), as well as, from the Italian, Franca Mancinelli’s The Butterfly Cemetery: Selected Prose 2008-2021 (The Bitter Oleander Press). His most recent books of poetry are Transizioni, a bilingual volume published in Italy by LYRIKS Editore and illustrated by the Greek artist Alekos Fassianos, and Remembrance of Water & Twenty-Five Trees (The Bitter Oleander Press), illustrated by the French artist Caroline François-Rubino. He lives in France.
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The Butterfly Cemetery by Franca Mancinelli Translated by John Taylor

butterfly book

By g emil reutter

John Taylor has once again opened the door to the mind and works of Franca Mancinelli. The use of complex, creative metaphors throughout the collection encompasses the use of forms, of the here and now and the invisible.

We enter An Earthquake Story in a home with two young children playing, using the home as a playground and both are rather tranquil.  Mancinelli then brings us into the quake:

One afternoon, while they were playing in the room between the yellow floor tiles and the sofa, a dark silhouette sounded the alarm, shouting: “The children! The Children are here!” Wearing her black, flowered apron, their grandmother came back to utter these words in a tone that became more shrill, pleading. Following the wake of the call, the two siblings were drawn to the parallele-piped of the hallway, where vast movements were making the air shake and tilting the walls from one side to the other. The children stopped between the panels of a glass door that created a sort of anteroom, from which they could watch. At the other end of the hallway, their father and mother were fighting. Shaken at its foundations, the world was trembling. 

An amazing piece of writing. The peaceful beginning and then suddenly air shake, tilt, shaken foundations, world trembling in the world of the two children. A masterful presentation of the effect of domestic violence on young children.

In the piece, The Little Girl Who Learned to Fly, Mancinelli opens with:

A bird kept alighting on the windowsill and pecking the panes with its beak, brushing the glass with its wings, and then flying off. The rustling and the small beating sounds it made seemed letters of an alphabet to be deciphered. 

Beating sounds as letters of an alphabet to be deciphered is such a fresh image. Later in the piece Mancinelli writes of a beautiful transformation:

The hair bulbs had become bone: small feathers were popping up, like those of a sparrow fallen from its nest. 

And following the transformation:

She stopped to look down at the garden, the house where she had lived, and headed straight for the blue. 

Beats as an alphabet, transition as a sparrow, and then escape.

In Walls, Rubble, bird metaphor reemerges and in Central Station, the train station speaks to her. Mancinelli uses language, extreme metaphor and imagery as a master craftsperson.

The Boy among the Rocks opens with a powerful descriptor that brings the reader directly into the piece:

Near the seaport of Gouvia there is a small beach from which one can see the profile of the island all the way to the city of Corfu; opposite, uninhabited and barren, the mountains on the Greek-Albanian border rise from the blue of the sea, their yellow-ocher dotted with a few scattered woodsy spots. It is a sandy strip covered with dry seaweed to which no tourists come, only a few locals. 

Later in the collection we pay a visit with, Living in the Ideal City: Fragments in the Form of Vision. In her vision, Mancinelli leaves little doubt that there is not an Ideal City. The poet tells us:

The darkness beyond the door and a growing fear could have gripped my body and kept me from moving, but it was impossible: my steps continued towards the center while my terror was blooming like a black flower.

And what awaits in the darkness?

A beast looks at you with its hollow eyes, awaits you, pretending to sleep: six large square pupils in a clear mellow sky that tells you not to believe in the darkness, not to be afraid.

And of the life force of the city:

The city keeps changing before your eyes, half revealing figures that it removes without your noticing. You don’t even notice how, after staying here, your gaze has now become different. Behind these lines is a force field. One single point, like the one at which your eyes sometimes inadvertently stare. 

Simply a masterpiece by Franca Mancinelli translated by John Taylor. The collection changes before your eyes, strong metaphor, imagery and while you read it you will not know that you too are transforming for your gaze will now become different.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-Cemetery-Selected-Prose-2008-2021/dp/173465354X

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories and occasional literary criticism. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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