by Chus Pato
the Erín Moure translation
by Erín Moure
her Chus Pato echolation
BookThug · 2014
A biopoetics by Chus Pato, Galician poet from Ourense, Galicia
in the green Atlantic climate of the northwest of Spain, Europe.
Translated from the Galician
into Canadian English
in Montreal and Kelowna
by Erín Moure
An echolation-homage and biopoetics by Erín Moure, Montreal poet
born the same year as Chus Pato,
in a city traversed by two rivers, just east of the Canadian Rockies.
Each text in Canadian English responds to a Pato text,
with one added Chinook wind.
Erín Moure thanks Chus Pato and Jay MillAr
A readerly text is one I cannot rewrite (can I write today like Balzac?); a writerly text is one I read with difficulty, unless I completely transform my reading regime. I now conceive that there may be a third text: alongside the readerly and the writerly, there would be something like the receivable. The receivable is the unreaderly text which catches hold, the red-hot text, a product continuously outside any likelihood, whose function – visibly assumed by its scripter – would be to contest the mercantile constraint of what is written; this text, guided, armed by a notion of the unpublishable, would elicit the following response: I can neither read nor write what you produce, but I receive it, like a fire, a drug, an enigmatic disorganization.
Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes
Richard Howard translation
A readerly text is one I cannot re-produce (today I cannot write like Atwood); a writerly text is one I can read only if I utterly transform my reading regime. I now recognize a third text alongside the readerly and the writerly: let’s call it the intranslatable. The intranslatable is the unreaderly text which catches fire, burns in the mouth, an instance continuously outside any likelihood, whose function – ardently assumed by its scripter – is to contest the mercantile constraints on what is written. This text, guided, armed by a notion of material, prompts me to redact the following words: Dear Chus, I can neither read nor write what you produce, but I can intranslate it, like a conflagration, a drug, an insecession, an e(ri)nigmatic disorganization.
Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes
Richard Howard translation,
altered by Ruin E. Rome
We recognize altitude from elevation, we call the most extensive prairie: Ocean
Literature is based on the word – as the visual arts are on the gaze – this word that is not ours makes us feel, commits us… a painter’s eyes, a filmmaker’s, are authentic mutations, and thus their works ring true
the word that sustains Literature does not disdain or push away what rejects it and must not be confused with silence, it touches animality and machines, magnetizes the stars of the language, polarizes meaning
because of this, lovers lie in the hugest of intervals
—the lovers are in the circle?
—the circle marks where they had lain
—when you make love, where are you?
—in the unexpected, in what will never occur: being a trapeze artist, for example
—and when you write?
—in what occurs, in what continually takes place
so, words are free to be extreme figures and unjudgeable, irreparable
We recognize altitude as we ascend, we call the ocean that unfolds below: Canadian Rockies
Translation pivots on the word – as painting does on paint – this word that is not ours makes us feel, infects us… a translator’s gaze, a painter’s, are authentic mutations, and thus their works can cross the gap between word and meaning, paint and gaze
translation, to sustain Literature, does not disdain or push away what rejects it and never disguises silence, it touches our interior, the machine of our organs, magnetizes the black holes of the language, potentates meaning
because of this, the deer lie in a space of light and murmurs
—the deer are in the aspens?
—circles mark the grass amid the aspens where they have lain
—did they die?
—no, they awoke to glean
—when you translate Chus Pato, where are you?
—in the startling air, in the no-event: on Air Galicia, for example
—and when you write your own poems?
—in the continual fold of the event
where words are ecstatic figures and unjudgeable, marred and irretrievable, which is to say, amid the aspens
WHERE THE CAVERNS SING
Letter from Tangiers
The Distant Carpathians
FACE AND MOUNTAINS
This I, Mountain
Fragments of an ABC
The House, Which is Not Extension but the Body Itself
This Dead Woman Who Can’t Stop Talking
WHILE I’M WRITING
THOUGHTS, BEHAVE YOURSELVES!
This I is not a Murderer
The I That Writes is Not The I That Remembers
This I is Not Death
This I Folds and Unfolds Until a Last Fold Which Is a Dream
The I That Ponders is Not Consciousness
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The Bragg Creek Ice Cave
Quoth the Magpie
Litany from Cassandra
Northeast of the Carpathians
Face and Mountains
Fascination of an ABC
The House Which is Not Extension but Dispositio Itself
This Dead Woman is Not Much Quieter
While There’s Still Ink
Thoughts, Mind Your Manners!
This I is Not a Murderer
The I That Writes is… I Forget
This I is Hardly Death
This Fold Dreams and Undreams Until a Last...
Consciousness May Ponder but Does Not Mistake...
Ruin E. Rome
~ 48, OR 49
On This Book
WHERE THE CAVERNS SING
THE BRAGG CREEK ICE CAVE
CARRAL / Pato
For a long time, I didn’t know what the word meant but I still kept reading the pages where the philosopher repeated, always in English, daffodils; I realized from the context that for Rancière daffodils was emblematic of the poet’s writing; in the same way he used hummingbird for Mandelstam, he used daffodils for the author of the Prelude.
In my youth, in my childhood, there were no daffodils; at least I don’t remember them, not in the village nor in the flower shops. In the painter’s city, in the author’s city, I did visit one of those shops on the cobblers’ street with my mother; it was an enigmatic site, as if it hadn’t always been a florist’s but was an old-fashioned shop that had once needed many shelves, for shirts, to keep merchandise where people could see it, but obviously there were never flowers there.
Fog, this is what the shelves behind the counter held, an L-shaped counter, dark, of chestnut wood.
There were ghosts, I breathed ghosts, they were very warm.
There were two salesladies, surely the owners of the shop and related in some way, particularly beautiful, with taut faces, very pale and even back then they seemed from another era. Perhaps two sisters, two sisters-in-law, possibly widows, or not, maybe they were friends struck by misfortune, the death of some family member or beloved friend in the repression or at the front, perhaps… but there were places like this all over the city of Auria when I was a child, full of solitude and fog; Olga’s hat store, near the Lycée, the beauty salon of the two sisters – like a nightingale and a swallow (they didn’t sing). All these women were slow, somnolent, pleasant, very pleasant or at least they were with me. On the corner of the counter, refuting any baleful destiny, were roses in a zinc pot / hundreds / blood-red, green-leafed and with stems like yews.
There were no daffodils, not under the village trees nor in the marshes. Only after the death of the dictator did they appear in the florists’, the first blooms to appear as the days lengthened after Valentine’s Day, when small birds marry in the open cages of the chestnuts, of poplars stripped bare by winter; they grow beside the water, near birches, willows, beside rivers. They are a kind of optical band for the thundering Carnival figures – Peliqueiros, Devils, Cigarróns, Felos and other masks – that let the animal burst from the human, and together with the incessant cheeping of the birds, they configure, in the pounding of feet and the sound of cowbells, the algebra of the temperate zones of the planet.
We welcome the pulsation of the flowers, the force of the wild beings of the mountains, who awaken Persephone so that she will return and realize that, through her, we cry out for fecundity and spring, and to see the youth of April appear across the Earth.
The Spring of Peoples: daffodils, murmuring pines, hummingbirds, we’ll soon receive news of the revolution
and then… Carral.*
* On April 15, 1846, the Kingdom of Galicia declared itself independent from Spain. Eight days later, on April 23, this revolution against centralist Spanish dictatorship in Galicia was put down by forces from Madrid, and its leaders shot, three days later, after a summary trial at the town of Carral.
RIEL / Moure
I knew nothing more beautiful and I had no word for beauty. Standing at the stucco wall of the house, greeting with my arms the blooms that were my height and bore my name: Erin! Erin! Delicately veined purple flowers. They grew after the snow, when sun had warmed the stucco wall that in turn warmed the soil beneath. I did not discern the difference between my name and theirs until that day.
My mother squatted and her height went small beside me and she told me in her language: you are Erin; those are Irises. I remember her size and movement and one word, my name, becoming two words in the mouth of my mother.
So language comes clear in soft skulls. It is 1956. The anterior
fontanelle gradually ossifies, the last fontanelle to close.
I had never heard of a flower shop. The enigmatic site for me was T. Eaton’s, the national department store where my mother led me on a harness lined with green felt (I don’t remember how we traversed the space between the wall and downtown, perhaps by bus), and I waited beneath a circular low rack of women’s clothes while she spoke with the sales clerks who were her height. Women only went out then wearing hats and white gloves.
Dief the Chief led our Nation’s Parliament. The Canadian Bill of Rights was passed, the law over all laws. First Nations peoples were “given” the vote. My mother had showed me how to read the news-paper that year; it held Facts and was delivered to the porch, folded in on itself. One day, agitated, she pointed at the ink and admonished: “You are never ever to say the words “Drunken Indian.” Thus the newspaper spoke not only truth but lies I was forbidden to utter.
When you keep moving, you gain strength. Words and world
coalesce, thanks to this strength.
There was a creek in the space behind the house (gurgle of waters I was too short to see, fenced with chicken wire) and one day the creek was filled in. The wire fence vanished. Yellow vehicles moved every earth. From this a flatland emerged, a plain of gravel and silence. And no more water running. Infill houses were soon built on the new flats.
Each summer, the Calgary Stampede gathered festive crowds at the Stampede Corral to honour ranchers who had fenced the prairies upon the vanishing of the buffalo. A small space by the wall held the Indian Village.
Here there had been no springtime of peoples. Just dry leaves, oil barons, railway and settlers, my mother’s family from Western Ukraine who settled where the Dane-zaa had been pushed north and west by the Cree, for the Cree had also been pushed west by settlement. In the south, others had signed Treaty 7, then starved.
It was only as an adult that I knew of Riel and the repressed
rebellions against the theft of land, and Riel’s voice gone wild and liquid as grass breathes in the white spring of
CENTRAL GALLERIES / Pato
(…) in fact, these galleries, through which I now take shortcuts to reach distant points quickly, serve nicely to illustrate what I wish to expound. Unveiled in my city as part of plans for development, they were, along with the Tower, a symbol of the comforts that the Regime offered to the urban middle classes. What I liked was how, after a short and spacious corridor, your steps could bifurcate toward the second floor or, descending wide staircases with white marble steps, arrive in a central courtyard of aquatic columns; this effect of water cascading from roof to floor came from the emerald green tessera that coated them like vegetal bark. It also pleased me that streets so different were connected by an inside passage that completely altered the urban landscape.
We walked there when it rained, on winter afternoons: the passages were interminable. Under artificial light and the dull darkness of the skies outside, we loitered, incomprehensible teenagers, rootless and non-technological, like shades in the circles of the Comedy, somewhere between the living and the dead. None of the articles displayed in shop windows fascinated us in the least. Once in awhile I’d venture up to the second floor; the nothingness was even more explicit there. In the nausea of those sessions, we learned inertia, submission and guilt. Childhood hell was, among other apprenticeships, those Sunday afternoons, fascist as only Sunday afternoons can be fascist under the government of a capitalist coup d’état and civil war.
Today completely abandoned, more than three thousand square metres, mostly behind glass – nightmares of the Regime, the dismembered bodies, as if by inexplicable chance our infant bodies had burst and been subjected to the most horrendous deformations in the narrow space inside these display windows, and they look at us as we pass with all their liquids and internal humours broken into minuscule coagulates that pass through the glass and darken the worn clay floor tiles in their planetary proliferation – they testify, as I said, to the failure of the dictatorship, to its degradation and downfall
(…) and thus, dictatorships in their modifications abandon public and private areas that then dismantle themselves. These zones are true historical voids and coincide with long periods of my personal existence.
They should stay in the head, where we know and want to know nothing.
Asphodels cover the most sheltered places, the narcissi are in flower but, alas! – news of the revolution does not arrive.
RIVER PARK / Moure
(…) she wades nearly to her knees in the river. The current presses the gum boots against her legs and the girl slides one foot forward on the rocks, which are round and slippery. At times the water reaches the top of the boots and only surface tension keeps her feet dry. This future translator hopes the river won’t get deeper for she’s already halfway and doesn’t want to step back (or she’ll slip and fall) or turn around (or she’ll break the surface tension and flood the boots). Above her a wind nudges her downstream, behind her are cliffs she is forbidden to descend, and before her on the shore are the leafy trees in the yards of the rich, whose properties extend to the water. They come out to yell sometimes but she knows the riverbed is Crown Land and anyone can walk there as people have always walked.
To cut through River Park or play by the Elbow River was a return to the rurality that was mysteriously the translator’s first home. Muskeg in one corner, a spring where small runnels seeped through a sponge of trees until their trickles formed one stream that flowed beneath two wooden bridges and down a small canyon worn by children’s feet into the Elbow River right where storm sewers released fetid water. A large pool there held old tires, boots, a tipped-over grocery cart with three wheels, all covered in the fur of some dark plant that could thrive in such garbage water. She never walked in that water, only in the fresh current that lay further out.
At times older children played and smoked in the sand caves eroded high in the cliffs above the sewer outlet, and she had to watch out to see them from far off and run before they reached her.
If they reached her, they’d rough her up. Tomboy. Push her down and tear off her gum boots, cast them into the quicksand alongside the path, so she couldn’t retrieve them from the suck and had to tread the long road home in socks to bow her head to parental disappointment or rage.
Trout and whitefish lay in other pools but she was compelled by the rush of river and the leafy yards beyond. She played with her brothers, ignoring the lawn parties for dolls conducted by the neighbour girls. And yes, she did know why girls never went to the river.
DESERTS / Pato
The smallest angle, the biggest abyss.
Of the desert and, by emanation, the house.
Of memory, of spaces without limits, interstellar oceans… it’s crucial that the linear story (what I tell myself, what I tell you, what I tell no one, or tell to a doubled I; what I remember in keeping with the natural course of events, a confidential tone) be perforated by a linguistic image that impedes its continuation; this sign of interruption immediately attracts affects of language to itself which transmute it into desert (insofar as a desert island is a text); in spaces without limit, through contemplation, biographical history produces an eccentric memory that in fleeing itself coincides with what we try to understand (so I can communicate it to you, communicate it to no one, to a multiplied I).
The house – it’s the boxer’s house, my connection with the boxer. The lights are those of the boxer, “like seeing the world through Lorena’s glasses,” fossils of the north – the house, I said, surges from an emotion of language that perturbs memory; its detention makes real the complexity of events that happened long ago. The house is a apparition of writing and only linguistic ghosts can inhabit it.
Yes, it happened, all those things happened: my body without consciousness between bathroom and kitchen or when I wake up and feel the cathedral clock strike, the amber light, the white light of the Sertão and the turbulence that flattens bodies as they traverse it…
I never understood the boxer. His house had no entrance foyer, at one end of the hall was the kitchen, tiny and cluttered, at the other the gym, the wide and luminous bathroom, the dining room with French fireplace of marble and caryatids, then a room where sheets of glass were stored, finally the bedroom and the studio. The house had two facades, one with a balcony and the other with a long enclosed porch; it gave onto a square that, as usual in the author’s native city, was paved in cobbles with grass between them, which were hard on the gait of horses, especially on the slippery days of rain.
At some point, the partitions that separated the rooms from the hall were torn down, and light bent obliquely across unending darkness and serenity _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (…) over the fields.
This image, snow on the fields, falling in a buttress over the incommensurable spaces of the ruined house, should be the final point and end of the story. Clearly, I haven’t clarified a thing about my doings with the boxer, and I don’t think I will.
I often visited him in his house, but he rarely came to mine. I had a sunny office with a dark chestnut desk: the boxer, who sometimes wrote plays, dictated dialogue to me that I typed on a portable Olivetti Lettera. Back then, neither the boxer nor I were hypochondriacs, but I write from memory, accepting words that beckon other words; perhaps we were already ill. We never walked in the woods, or by the sea, or in the mountains. When I vanished into clandestinity all my belongings fit in the Olivetti case, and that tiny case was my entire baggage.
I never brought the boxer to the Limia either, to show him the land of my grandmothers, nor to Viñoás, Almorfe or Labuzaxe, their villages. Sometimes we fled to Egypt, but that might not be true, though I was on a mule and carried a baby in my arms; other times we lived amid dunes, but this might not be true either because we were never at the ocean together.
We lived in an outer fold and were swifter than death. In autumn we stocked up on wood (we continually moved the furniture—furniture? Really: desks and punching bag), we lived in riverain forests, it was a sublime landscape and geese flew over the river, or we lived with beggars at the Burgas hot springs when roses flowered in April and poets levitated from the stone.
I could go on to tell you how I met the boxer and how I went with my lovers to his house, and how we made love (my lovers and I) in the boxer’s bed, and how in that house which is not really the house of the boxer I first met a member of the Resistance: he spoke the language of my grandmothers, was tall, slim, missing fingers on one hand and all the doors, all the shutters, all the windows were covered with photos taken by the boxer, they held his metamorphoses: port musicians, the port accordion, seven-bladed knives, pistols, the old farm labourers and European seamen, the cats, cows, chickens with human gestures, boxing rings; a masculine world of boxers and gambling dens, and the backdrops were all intensely vermillion, figures profiled in filigree silver.
By dawn we fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, in the house there was never anything for breakfast, I didn’t have time anyway, I listened to the cathedral clock strike the hour, gathered my clothes, in the end it reminded me of a Dürer engraving: Knight, Death and the Devil.
I don’t think the boxer was ever aware of me: the last time we saw each other he asked if I was me, I answered yes, I was me.
Our situation was an argument of the flesh. I remember (without mentioning that this was always a perplexed memory; the distraction of this and of all memories in general is taken as a given) a red kerchief tied at his neck, his shirt with tropical birds, a painting of an armed robbery, tavern and jealousy: at the bottom the corpse, a tiny figure with a dagger in his heart, near the horizon, looming tall, an uphill path, we vanished there, while a swing in the centre of the studio obeyed the laws of fossils.
Recently the house had filled with rats, we slept on a mattress on the floor, the building tottered and they’d already ordered it demolished, the boxer stopped using the toilet and urinated against the walls of the gym; it was time for me to head to the hills.
I abandoned this house one morning at dawn all dressed in green.
—do you like this place?
—it’s the most impressive café I’ve ever seen
—will you remember it?
—I’ll remember the desperation, the patios, the concrete cracked by lemon blossoms
—why did you marry so young?
—I wanted a family to live in
—what were you seeking?
—you found it?
—yes, I recovered my daughters
—do you have more questions?
—are you your own rival?
—for some time, I considered my texts to be hybrids, but writing is a mutant, a territory
—what does sex mean to you?
—sex is a love of flesh and a friendship of intelligence, a sigh in the face of the logos
—was that why your relationship with the boxer failed?
—I lived in the body of Felix, my father, even long before I was born. I never needed another man until he’d dissolved in the humus of the earth
—isn’t it impossible to live in the body of a dead person?
—for me it didn’t work, but you sir, who are you?
—you don’t recognize me?
—this is amazing, I’m calling a taxi
—I’d rather walk.
That voice was capable of destroying the landscape, it usurped the senses and didn’t allow the smallest thought to open; while that journey lasted I never knew where we were, not when we rolled down the highway, nor at the gas and rest stops, all of them identical. From time to time a cork tree indicated we were heading south.
The hotel room faced an esplanade lined with air-conditioning grilles; at times their noise, along with that of commuter trains heading to a nearby station, masked and hushed the sound of voices though I still couldn’t shut my eyes. In the morning some relief and hope came from contemplating an enormous triumphal arch in marble or limestone, white in any case, eaten by some kind of black fungus, which led to a colossal square whose staircases vanished in the waters of an estuary.
The light was a perpetual bolt of lightning. The room where we found ourselves was entirely walled in mirrors and four chandeliers hanging from the ceiling emitted the kind of radiance that blinds. There – she went on – we had to read our dissertations. In reciting mine as slowly as possible, I was conscious of its monstrous being and of the shock felt by those who heard it ...