Elizabeth Bishop, De Mot-Minske

 
De Mot-Minske*

                          Hjirre, boppe,
binne skuorren yn it gebou opfolle mei knoeid moanneljocht.
It hiele skaad fan de Minske is mar sa grut as syn hoed.
It leit oan syn fuotten as in skiif dêr’t in pop op stean kin
en hy is in omklapte nulle, de punt magnetisearre nei de moanne.
Hy sjocht de moanne net; nimt inkeld har grûngebiet waar
en fielt it frjemde ljocht op syn hannen, waarm noch kâld,
fan in temperatuer dy’t mei gjin termometer te mjitten is.

                          Mar as de Mot-Minske
by gelegenheid syn seldsume besites oan it oerflak ôfleit,
komt him de moanne hiel oars foar. Hy ferskynt
út in iepening ûnder de râne fan ien fan de trottoirs
en begjint ûnrêstich tsjin de gevels op te krûpen.
Hy tinkt dat de moanne in lyts gat is boppeyn de himel,
wat de himel nutteleas makket foar beskerming.
Hy trillet, mar moat speure sa heech as er klimme kin.

                          En wylst syn skaad
as de achterdoek fan in fotograaf achter him oan sljurket,
klimt er bang by de fasades op, tinkt dat er it diskear oprêde sil
en stek syn kopke troch dy geefrûne iepening, om as út in tube
dertrochhinne prest te wurden, yn swarte slierten op it ljocht.
(De Minske, dy’t ûnder him stiet, hat sokke yllúzjes net.)
Mar de Mot-Minske moat dwaan wat him it bangst makket,
ek al faalt er, út soarte, en falt er achteroer, kjel mar net ferwûne.

                          Dan giet er werom
nei it feale seminten gongestelsel dat er syn thús neamt.
Hy fljocht, fladderet, kin sa fluch net as him noaskje soe
yn de lûdleaze treinen komme. De doarren slute rap.
De Mot-Minske nimt altiten achterstefoaren plak
en de trein set daalk útein op folle, skriklike snelheid,
sûnder te skeakeljen of wat foar oergong ek.
Hy wit net yn hokker tempo oft er tebek reizget.

                          Nachts moat er troch
keunstmjittige tunnels ferfierd wurde en dreamen werhelje.
Sa’t de bylzen harsels werhelje ûnder syn trein, sa lizze sy
de grûn foar syn hastige brein. Hy doart net út it raam te sjen,
want it tredde spoar, de ûnûnderbrutsen swolch fergif,
rint dêr nêst him. Hy beskôget it as in sykte dêr’t er
in fetberens foar oerurven hat. Hy moat syn hannen
yn ’e bûsen hâlde, sa’t oaren sjalen drage moatte.

                          Asto him fangst,
hâld dan in bûslampe by syn each. ’t Is ien en al swarte pupil,
ja in folsleine nacht, mei in bewimpere kime dy’t strak lûkt
as er werom stoarret en it each slút. Dan glydt der fan de lidden
ien trien, syn iennichste besit, as de angel fan in bij.
Temûk ferberget er dy, en ast der even net by bist
slokt er him yn. Sjochst lykwols ta, dan langet er him oer,
koel as út ûndergrûnske wellen en suver genôch om te drinken.

 
* Printflater yn in krante foar ‘rotminske’.

 

The Man-Moth*

                          Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

                          But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

                          Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him,
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

                          Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

                          Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

                          If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

 
* Newspaper misprint for “mammoth.”

 

Ut North & South, 1946.

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