News of the upcoming Cold Turkey Press publication of the last words of Arthur Rimbaud as imagined by the late Carl Weissner—which required translating Carl’s German text into English—drew this reply from a poet friend in Berlin.
THE TRANSLATOR’S COPY by William 'Cody' Maher Translators have given up on my work Is it simply because they can't find the originals Footsteps cast in doubt leave no prints behind Eyes cast down in shame can't see the road again Arms extended in vain are soon cast aside Threats in the dark are now cast in the light of day Flames on the horizon wait for a strong wind A soul casts a shadow that is mistaken for a man Take me in your arms at the risk of being seen Keep the distance we agreed upon and now give me your tongue What could he possibly mean says one? He's just playing with words says another He's playing with himself says one You can only have your guts kicked out once in a lifetime And still stomach the pain After that you're just vomiting up thin air We looked through his childhood records and we can't Find the evidence that excuses this language The important thing is we translate to the best of our knowledge Of our ability With all of our cunning deceptively displayed Translators meet over coffee and a shortage of breath Are they trying to intimidate me with their threadbare clothes? The wind is kicking up dust in the square Another source of inspiration for the town Translators down to my last crust of bread Suitcases packed and prepared to flee I love my translators For not waiting for the originals The work must begin Let's make no bones about it My texts belong to the world Even when they are forged copies My translators complain of climbing steps to attics They complain of sifting through the debris in basements They complain over the endless boxes stored In countries that don't even allow them entry A watchdog guards a box somewhere in Moscow An irate lover protects another box My translators complain of bad backs and dust One translator complained because of the food I understand the Russian translation is superior to the original The German translation however Has not lived up to the Polish translation And though attempts have been made at a Spanish translation There are claims that the original is actually From a Mexican author And that my texts aren't in fact my texts at all You just have to look at the lines on my forehead and you Can have no doubt that I am the author Yet there are experts that say these lines are forged as well Spies who have traced my lines to a plastic surgeon in Berlin I offer my back bent in vain as evidence Experts claim that a back chasing its tale is no proof of origin Do you think I got weak knees from standing on them I say? I have been leaping over borders since the day I was born One more claim that is widely disputed by the authorities My translators are sometimes overzealous They work on what I haven't yet written Is this some kind of intimidation? That I have to try and keep step Most of my translators have all of their teeth Some of my translators have varicose veins One of my translators had his eyes blinded by light One had his eyes blinded by sorrow One laughed herself to death One buried her head in my arms an fell silent One claims to have witnessed something between us that never happened There are currently no official translators working on my behalf And I can't get the words out of my mouth fast enough to please the censors.