Translations from the Occitan

Geoffrey G. O'Brien

My body heads merrily toward death
Under a sky still empty and full
This how depth does or is
The many things posing as only a few
The opposite is also true

I resist death almost successfully
Even when living feels nature slain
Epitaphs for second chances
But is neither, even if it’s taken
Nearly half a century

To solve the problem of desiring
What isn’t as though it were
What they used to call misplaced
Concreteness: simply enjamb it
Then head out through self-congratulation

Till it’s no longer embarrassing
To praise the towns for their distance
How tolerable distance makes them
Makes the third person plural go
Both tiny and intimate until

The setting changes or is changed
By the planned obsolescence of vantage
Like crisis moving from city to town
I take you with me so you can’t become
Literature, which laughs at the world on which it is

Dependent, a problem as great as humidity.
In a language I can’t use with confidence
I’d meant to speak of something
Other than misery’s decoration, to use
The word “merrily” or at least get away

With using it, maybe more than once
Reach for the dark’s warm side
Speak from joy instead of mentioning it
Though that too has happened
Under a sky that rests without

Ever having worked, that just is
The source of both heat and rain
The blue of irresponsibility
Or the irresponsibility of blue
Carelessly mentioning joy

In the era of gun and blade
Joy that can’t oblige its adversaries
Knows no weekend and is ok with that
With how each moment depends
On crossing the loss of infinite worlds

The other things I could have said
If I had time under sky or skies
If I were we there and determined to
Write about my happiness
Those scattered slabs of Beuys in Berlin

A still life in motion
You could say at any point all
The others were severe forms of travel
Leading here, now requited and lying around
Like terracotta tiles or the clothes on the floor

Meaning I’m still awake in Provence
Translating dawn into wheatcolored stone
Where because it entered our bedroom
I had to kill the perfect scorpion now
Narrative in the bottom of a wine glass