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The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

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JUL-AUG 2019 Issue

I was having a flashback.

Silence, scent, omission, wholeness.
One cup of coffee, one abyss, or one blackness in an abyss.
There is some chasm and there is only one abyss.
One burrow. The word “hole.”
Cup, burrow, abyss, then trace in the mirror.
A hole on hiatus.
Pit in a pit, a hole in a hole.
Hole in the gap.
Or the other way around, a gap in the whole.
A “hole in a hole” creates deficiency, it’s a play on words.
By the way, what is the difference between the two?
A hole is just a hole. Either a black hole or a burrow in the ground.
A gap is a precipice and its meaning can be figurative.
Abyss in abyss?
Perhaps we can translate one of these abysses as a verb.
To disappear into an abyss.
пропасть в пропасть (propast’ v propast’).
A sip of coffee before the feeling of bitterness.
If I understand correctly, silence and coffee were before the sense of bitterness.
They ruined the poem! You know, like Derrida says, translation is ruin.
That’s what I do in my translation.
A hole is number one. As if the blackness were an all-encompassing unit.
About the blackness, is there a color component?
A gap is a property of a hole.
“Hiatus in abyss” is too metaphorical.
“Abyss on hiatus.” Tyutchev.
One of these words can be switched for something more human.
A collapse in a hole.
Two children in the mirror become enemies, now there are three of them.
Two kids or three?
Two children are walking on the street.
Two children come out into three.
Two roads. Two children become three… Don’t remember how that happened.
I wrote down that there was one path and inside it were three roads. Or maybe one path
   with three branches.
I don’t remember this line very well.
I don’t remember either. I just saw it as three possible ways to walk one path.
Three roads in one path.
Were there any other objects besides roads?
At night two fires light up.
It might have not happened. These memories might not have been.
Phantom retelling.
Okay, when the night comes, fires light up.
Two fires.
And what was after the fire?
Children. There were two children.
One of them is either an enemy or an accomplice.
They become enemies.
Through the mirror.
I’ve written “Two children exit into three.”
What about “they exit and see”?
I will write two variations with see and exit.
Two children see, the third one exits.
How do you say “accomplice” in Russian? I think it’s very important, connected to
I am not a huge fan of the word “accomplice.”
They are multiplying. From two, three.
Two children become three.
From two the third is visible.
There was a mirror. Two mirrors?
How many mirrors compose two mirrors?
The mirror is a medium that provides an opportunity for multiples.

There was just a mirror and its reflection, like a number, duality.
Why don’t we like “Two children see three children in the mirror?”
Two children are walking and seeing. Simply, the natural way.
When we take out the verbs, we are waiving some kind of…
In the poem itself we had more narration but for some reason we can’t recreate it.
So we have two mirrors, two roads, three roads in one path, two fires lit at night, and two
   children. Are we going to add some action here?
If we don’t remember, let’s leave it alone.
Let’s do this: “Two children are walking on a street.”
Why “on a street”?
There was a street.
And what is the next action?
The third one comes out.
Two children are walking on the street. They see the third one come out.
This is a very Russian version. Like detective fiction.
So we have three children seeing a real third person. But when I was listening to the
poem I thought they saw themselves as three people.
They just triple.
Two children are walking and tripling? The word “triple” in Russian is bad in this case.
They triple and get upset.
троятся, расстраиваются (troyatsya, rasstraivayutsya).
Three people, some kind of villain.
Three open books, three specks of salt.
Next event. Let’s keep going forward.
Four is the same as two. What do you think?
Four is also two.
Four is two.
Also, there was four of something, either four mares or four nightmares?
I’d like to have both because in English they’re almost the same.
There is doubt. Uncertainty.
Most likely we have nightmares since there is a bed further in the poem.
Let’s write “four mares slash nightmares.”
Next we have riders.
We’re forcing the rider and maybe he doesn’t exist.
And what’s up with the bed?
They burned their bed four times. Burn and cut.
Five ties you ask yourself, What am I doing here? Set your bed on fire, let it burn and
   fall apart.
If you ask yourself five times, What am I doing here? Set your bed on fire, let it burn. Break up!
Leave the building!
Everyone remembers the fifth one.
Everyone remembers a little different.
Five times question: What am I doing here?
If you ask five times.
And then the bed?
Burn the bed four times.
Oh, like the proverb.
Burn the bed four times. Does it really say “burn”?
Yeah, set it on fire.
Set the bed on fire four times. It’s calmer that way.
Depends on your temperament.
Of course people have different likes.
I think I heard an imperative.
This is a gendered moment.
We can use an infinitive as middle ground. So “to light on fire” four times?
No. “Let it burn.”
Is this the finale?
Then split. Let it fall apart.
Let it become ashes? It can’t fall apart after a bonfire.
I think “split” is not used in the sense of “walk away from each other” about two people.
In American English “split” might mean “to leave, to flee.”
Oh, so it’s not about two people?
Not “to smash to pieces” but “to leave.”
I nod as if I understand.
Is it happening with her?
Not “her.”
I mean the author. Someone is leaving.
Now we are just deciding whether the separation happens with the bed or these strange
   people. They come together and separate. There are two or three of them.
Maybe it will be more interesting even if it’s a deviation of the original.
After all, we are working from memory.
So “walk away” relates not only to this action but to the whole thing.
The equivalence. The concordance.
If you ask yourself five times, What am I doing here? Set your bed on fire four times, let
   it burn.
Completed action or incomplete action? сгорает or пусть горит (sgorayet or pust’
We are walking away from each other.
I’m back with divergence not because the title of the poem is also a noun but because
   some kind of process is taking place.
And at some stage the differences turn everything into ashes.
There is an end to the differences.
All into nothing.


Mónica de la Torre

Mónica de la Torre works with and between languages. Her latest book, The Happy End/All Welcome, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse, which also put out her translation of Defense of the Idol by Chilean modernist Omar Cáceres in 2018. Repetition Nineteen, her new book of poems, is forthcoming from Nightboat in 2020.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues