“I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me.” (Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text)
After a 17 mile bike ride down the Berke Gilman Trail to Open Books and back, I finally have Forrest Gander’s translations of Coral Bracho- Firefly Under the Tongue. I had the good fortune to see Gander and Bracho read at the Dodge Poetry Festival earlier this year, and Chris Abani was kind enough to introduce me to Gander afterwards. Surrounded by poets of much renown, Gander talked to me for a while and made me feel less lost. I decided then that once I came out to Seattle I’d find his books at Open Books, and though it was a bit confusing (my own mistakes) eventually the right text ended up in my hands. Both his work and his translations have my mind reeling a bit.
Again, I find myself wishing to be proficient in a language besides English. Bracho’s work in Spanish sounds lovely in my head, but my tongue won’t wrap around the letters quite right. Gander’s translations are wonderful, but I ache to read and understand the original text. Firefly Under the Tongue is an interesting counterpart to The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes. I’m beginning to lose boundaries between text, author, and reader. Reading Bracho, I am torn between wanting to be subject and wanting to be subject-er. Composer. Writer. The written and the writer. Or the text itself. I feel voyeuristic when reading :
Sé de tu cuerpo: los arrecifes,
la luz inquieta y deseable (en tus muslos candentes la lluvia incita),
de su oleaje:
Sé tus umbrales como dejarme al borde de esta holgada,
mezquita tibia; como urdirme (tu olor suavísimo, oscuro) al
calor de sus naves.
I know of your body: the reefs,
the scattering birds,
the light sought and unsettled (on your candescent thighs incited by rain),
of your surge:
I know your thresholds as though they let me go to the edge of this roomy,
tepid mosque; as though they wove me (your dark suave scent) into
the heat of its naves.
(From En esta oscura mezquita tibia/In This Dark Tepid Mosque)
Voyeuristic, and yet I can’t turn away. Don’t want to turn away. That this text is not about me, not by me, not including me: wounds. That this text intrigues me and pulls me: seduces. It pushes me.
Then, of course, there is the gaze. To be gazed at, to gaze back. Such a simple word, soft buzz sound. Not the glint of glance, but the steady vibration across skin of gaze. I am used to gaze in art (the Frye has an exhibit up right now actually) but I hadn’t put much thought into it in text. And yet, here I am gazing. And wanting the gaze. And naming it (voyeuristic) but finding surprise at the name.