I Taste a Liquor (Alingual Translations)


Simon Brown

Simon Brown (1979) is a self-taught translator, poet, & inter-disciplinary artist from the traditional territory of the Peskotomuhkati Nation, in southwestern New Brunswick, and now based in Abenaki traditional territory, in rural Québec. His texts have been presented in inter-disciplinary artworks & collaborative performances — and via platforms such as Lemon Hound, Train, Estuaire, Vallum, Poetry Is Dead, Watts, and filling Station. As a translator, he has adapted texts by Erin Robinsong, Maude Pilon, Angela Carr, Danielle LaFrance, and Alice Burdick, among others. His collections and artist’s books have been published in Québec, Canada, and France by Vanloo, Moult, Le laps, squint press, and Paper Pusher. His This Mud, A Word was recently released in Frog Hollow Press’s New Brunswick chapbook series.

“Using a contact speaker, I play a voice recording of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘I Taste a Liquor’ through different parts of my body. I simultaneously transcribe the results, with varying degrees of infidelity to the original. Once my ‘alingual translations’ are complete, I try to restore the basic form of the original poem so that it might remain vaguely recognizable through the noise, as a floating ghost-original, so to speak.”

         I Taste a Liquor (via my left ankle)

     Don’t drink the juice!
     Do not! Of Flowers pearly black,
     Shit! No Radiant Invalid
     Would brew such bitter Wine!

     Alas, I am but Air
     And Rates of Debt —
     Unblocked on Summer Days,
     Dissolved into Bluest Blue

     When groundwater runs through
     Cold Tubes, from door to door
     When Dead Garments give us Every Eye —
     I drink, and drink again!

     Tilled Surfaces dry out, Yes
     One more time — running Windows
     Looking to shiver slightly —
     Squinting into our Only Sun!


         I Taste a Liquor (via the small of my back)

     No, I don’t know this Earthly Stuff
     Pale and wrong in Bygone Tanks
     Where No News is No News —
     Come, drink it up!

     Oh, protect this Lake
     Of oft-corrupted Dew!
     Fly, fly — in days of Poverty —
     To mauve Discomfort all jacked up

     When every Lender under Toe is thrown —
     An anaesthetic Dance we’ll dance
     By the Thimble, by the Pond —
     To drink it up again!

     To protect these Seraphs from Ice Cream
     Dripping, from People — Sneaky People! —
     In small Circles Circling
     Around this Ever-Burning Star!

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