Poem and a Translation
Brand us exiles, emigrants if you like.
It may make your life easier, may buttress
You, shield you, maybe even help hike
Your spirits up, help you feel superior to us.
You will need it as you traverse streets
That you brag you can walk blindfold on.
But where's that shop, that bar? No one greets
You any more; so many are dead, or, like us, gone.
Perhaps we were shrewder, wiser, more cunning.
Perhaps not. What's certain is that more
And more your city is abandoning you, forgetting
You, as if the city itself is crossing to another shore,
Leaving you nothing and no one, an immigrant
In your own place, the oblivious emigrant.
... It is a meaningful vision I had last night. If you give me a break I'll go on. Manchin, the king's right hand man, said "No way", but the incorrigible poet continued with what the angel made manifest to him anyway:
What a mind-blowing, mouth-watering trip,
what a feast for the eyes, what a vision
I had, let me tell you.
A boat of solid suet
was moored in a creamy cove
above the world's calm ocean.
We boarded that cog, charged out
to sea on the choppy surface,
pulling hard on the oars
across the milky plains,
leaving a wake of seaweed,
a spume of honey-colored sand.
We reached a fabulous fort
with ramparts of thick custard
on the other side of the water.
A drawbridge made of fresh butter,
the embankment of harvest wheat,
the palisades of juicy rashers.
The whole structure was spot on,
rising mighty there.
I entered under
the stringy drapes of dry meat,
over a threshold of croutons.
Its wall was made of cottage cheese.
Its pillars of moldy blue
were set in boiled crubeens
—trotters trotting one after the other.
Joists of thick curd,
rafters of frozen yogurt
supported the whole show.
There was a well of wine at the back
and a stream of mead and mulled ale.
No tastier watering hole.
There were hops for brewing stout.
On top of all that was a spring of malt
brimming from the floor.
A pool of colcannon
under a thick batter
lay between that and the ocean.
It was bordered by wedges of butter
glazed with lard
on the outer wall.
Rows of aromatic apple trees,
a rosy orchard in full bloom,
flourished between it and the hill.
A garden of veggies—leeks,
cabbages, carrots, and onions—
grew at the back as well.
It was a warm, bright household
full of foxy, well-fed men
lounging around the hearth.
Seven torcs and collars
of cheese, tripe and drisheen
adorned each man's neck.
The lord of the manor,
dressed in a corn-beef cloak,
stood next to his elegant wife.
The head chef was there also
at the sizzling spit,
a huge fork strapped to his back.
The good king would appreciate
a bard reciting at the dinner table,
an enjoyable performance,
a real treat
to hear that lay of the boat
voyaging Milky Sea.
Manchin wised up as it dawned on him that the reciting of such a corker, psychedelic vision would coax the demon of gluttony from the king's swollen belly and save their world....
GREG DELANTY's latest book of poems is The Greek Anthology, Book XVII, from Carcanet, and due in the United States from LSU in 2015. Other recent books are Loosestrife (Fomite); The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation (Norton); and his Collected Poems 1986-2006 (Carcanet). He has received many awards, most recently a Guggenheim for poetry.He teaches at Saint Michael's College, Vermont. He is a Past President of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers.