June 2006

Joshua Mehigan


Joshua Mehigan Joshua Mehigan's first book, The Optimist: Poems (Ohio University Press, 2004), was a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry.
The Eel     Click to hear in real audio

English translation

The eel, the cold seas' siren,
abandoning the waters of the Baltic
to navigate our seas,
our estuaries, streams
in whose depths she rises, beneath the belligerent flood,
from branch to branch and then
runnel to hair-thin runnel, attenuated,
ever more inward, ever more toward the heart
of bedrock, an intruder
among ruts streaked with slime until one day
a light shot downward through the chestnut trees
touches off her flicker in deadwater pools,
in the catchbasins that slope
from Apennine escarpments to Romagna;
the eel, a torch, a whiplash,
Love's arrow on the earth,
which only our ravines or desiccated
Pyrenean creeks will channel back
to paradises of fecundity;
green spirit that seeks out
life where there are only
keen desolation and aridity,
the lone spark that declares
everything starts where everything appears
transmuted into charcoal, buried branch;
brief iridescence, twin
to that other framed by the lash of your eye, laid in
that it may shine inviolate there amid
the sons of men, foundering in your muddo you
not see in her a sister?


Original Italian

L'anguilla, la sirena,
dei mari freddi che lascia il Baltico
per giungere ai nostri mari,
ai nostri estuarî, ai fiumi
che risale in profondo, sotto la piena avversa,
di ramo in ramo e poi
di capello in capello, assottigliati,
sempre più addentro, sempre più nel cuore
del macigno, filtrando
tra gorielli di melma finché un giorno
una luce scoccata dai castagni
ne accende il guizzo in pozze d'acquamorta,
nei fossi che declinano
dai balzi d'Appennino alla Romagna;
l'anguilla, torcia, frusta,
freccia d'Amore in terra
che solo i nostri botri o i disseccati
ruscelli pirenaici riconducono
a paradisi di fecondazione;
l'anima verde che cerca
vita là dove solo
morde l'arsura e la desolazione,
la scintilla che dice
tutto comincia quando tutto pare
incarbonirsi, bronco seppellito;
l'iride breve, gemella
di quella che incastonano i tuoi cigli
e fai brillare intatta in mezzo ai figli
dell'uomo, immersi nel tuo fango, puoi tu
non crederla sorella?

Eugenio Montale
Joshua Mehigan, tr.


The Bee     Click to hear in real audio

English translation

Despite your sting, however fine,
However fatal, golden bee,
The merest dream of lacery
Covers these tender curves of mine.

Prick the breast's pretty gourd and in
That spot, where love nods off or dies,
Let miniature rubies rise
And fleck the plump and stubborn skin!

I hanker for a sudden sting:
Better the quick and well-marked bite
Than endless, sleepy suffering.

So flood my senses with the light
Of this small gold alarm, and keep
Love safe from death and safe from sleep!


Original French

Quelle, et si fine, et si mortelle,
Que soit ta pointe, blonde abeille,
Je n'ai, sur ma tendre corbeille,
Jeté qu'un songe de dentelle.

Pique du sein la gourde belle,
Sur qui l'Amour meurt ou sommeille,
Qu'un peu de moi-même vermeille
Vienne à la chair ronde et rebelle!

J'ai grand besoin d'un prompt tourment:
Un mal vif et bien terminé
Vaut mieux qu'un supplice dormant!

Soit donc mon sens illuminé
Par cette infime alerte d'or
Sans qui l'Amour meurt ou s'endort!

Paul Valéry
Joshua Mehigan, tr.



The Sleeper In The Valley    Click to hear in real audio

English translation

Here in this bosky pit a singing creek
Snags wildly on the grass with shreds of bright
Silver; the sun, behind some lordly peak,
Shines: here's a little valley bubbling light.

A young recruit, bare-headed and slack-jawed,
His nape bathed in the cool blue watercress,
Sleeps; spread beneath the cloud drifts, on the sod,
he pales as sunlight showers his bed of grass.

Feet in the flowers, he dozes. With a smile
Like a sick child's smile, he takes his rest.
He's cold. Ah, Nature, keep him warm awhile!

His nose won't quiver in the perfumed air.
He sleeps beneath the sun, and on his chest
His hand lies peaceful. Two red holes are there.

Le Dormeur Du Val

Original French

C'est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D'argent; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit: c'est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort; il est étendu dans l'herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme:
Nature, berce-le chaudement: il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissoner sa narine;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

Arthur Rimbaud
Joshua Mehigan, tr.



Joshua Mehigan: Poetry
Copyright ©2006 The Cortland Review Issue 32The Cortland Review