Susan Landers – 2 Translations from Dante’s Infern

Susan Landers

2 Translations from Dante’s Inferno

Inferno, Canto 1

/ in the middle of a lost road / forest gloomy / straight craft mislaid /

/ fuck /

/ how many wars /

/ sour wild /

/ thinking a-news fear / let me speak of loving     more than death / of finding /

/ nothing about this is funny / the way I come     to enter this place /
/ I am crowded by sleep and sleepy crowds crowding /
/ abandoning a way / at least one of them right /

/ I come to the foot of the hill in the fear valley /

SOMEWHERE A VOICE: I don’t care about that cause I’m gettin what I want.

/ planet shrug /

/ then     light lights     a new street / sparks a sense vigor / my fears quiet /
/ I’m not sure how this happens /

/ little waits in my heart lake /

/ like she of vigorous worry / skin between her teeth / who exits to turn round /
/ like this     my soul mine     my fugitive anchor     looks back /
/ to see what I have passed through / that     that     that others     more so than not /
/ don’t /

SOMEONE: Consider the legacy of paths.  The consequences of action or inaction.

/ I lapse /
/ lay a little body down /

VOICE: What do you want to do with your life?
VOICE: I don’t want to hurt anyone.

/ then resume / desert sore / one foot firm / low /

/ nearby then / cat err / leopard with thoughtless light / soon with slaughter /
/ in front of me / I turn / in front of me again /

/ then     light lights     a new morning /
/ the sun star climbs / yes / a good hope /
/ such a good hope     a cat fire fades /

/ like that / sight returns to me /
/ a lion     against me coming     with head tall and rabid hunger /
/ yes / air trembled /

SOMEWHERE A VOICE: I can’t honestly say I’m not afraid to die.

/ then worst yet /
/ that of all yearning     a he-wolf     carcass a wreck of it /
/ friction cry / blood dreg /

SOMEONE: How can you fault anyone for turning into a lunatic?  What else can you do when
pressed against a wall?

/ him coming against me / little by little / folding into me / where sun hushes /

/ ruining I /

/ I see ahead of me one / yes / one of long slow silence /

ME: Pity me.  Whatever you are.  Smell or shadow.

VOICE: I am of ditch.  I am of sense.

SOMEONE: Optimism plays a vital role in success.

VOICE: I sing of justice.  And you?  Do you delight in causes of delight?  You lucky you—elect?

ME: Are you who spill of speech a river torrent Dante?  I sift your bulk in search of love.  You are
my author.  The voice beauty I make horror.

See the beast that turns me.  Save me.  He shivers my vein and my pulse.

DANTE: Savage weep shouts will not pass him.  Your way he blocks to kill you.  His nature is
wicked.  Wrought of cruel yearning never to end.  Feeding on fear to breed fear.  Until one more
powerful sends him down to the flames that fired him up.  That one not of earth.  That one not of
silver.  That one of hope.  That one of love.  That one of nation between feeling and felt.

Follow me.  I will be your guide through this crazy little eternity.  You will hear screech despair.
You will see spirit pain.  Then color.  Those content in the fire because they will leave it.  With
hope, I a rebel, will leave you, happy elect.

ME: Poet with you I will move from the bad to the worse to the bold and the beautiful.

/ and so we keep / keeping on /

The Simoniacs: Pope on a Rope of Silver and Gold
Inferno, Canto 19

O simon maggot!  O misery follower!
Within whom the good things of God
become good money.  Gold and silver vulture.

I met this false ring.  This trumpet
in the third bulge.  We climbed
a sin curve.  Arch over plunge.

How cunning the Craftsman!  Crafting
in heaven on earth and in hell.  Virtue
or monstrosity.  Each to each his compartment.

I saw a deep flood.  Stone bruises
bearing puncture.  A large everything
and everything was round.

(Speak bluntly.)
Holes neither more wide nor great
than those of crazy local baptizings.

(And I should know
because I broke one once to save
a drowning child from its teeth.)

Outside the mouth a key or screw.
The feet of the sinner.
(Talk about taking to one’s heels.)

A plant of vivid burning.
Strong wallow.  Skin exhaust.
This must rind must grow back odd.

Soles blazing like things oily.
The blaze of the thing stuck to the sole.

Pure limit peel this heel.

“Who master who, who, yes, worries
more wriggles than the others of his syndicate?
Who, I say, who in this state does fire suck?”

And he to me: “You who
of greater carriage guides,
give him taste of his wrong cake.”

And I: “Such to me how pretty
you are.  You please me my sir sign
knowing all that I hush.”

We came to the dike turned with time
and fatigue and descended.
To my guide of the dregs I was anchored

until we reached the broken weeping.
“O whatever you, yes you, are, there below,
sad soul, eating shovelfulls of something,

say something.  Yes, a motto.”
I was like a friar confessing the treacherous
assassin driven thick in the pitch—alive—

speaking to forestall his certain death.
And she cried: “Is that you already
mister pretty face?  O poppy pope?

Ay Poppi!  I say by several years
the writ lied to me if you stand
up there upright.  Have you had more

than enough of the pretty lady
you tormented with no fear of reprisal?”
I was struck dumb as if humiliated

by a pigeon in its hole.
Then Virgil said: “Tell miss cheeky,
‘Never am I who you believe I am.’”

And I responded as taxed.
To this the spirit twisted.
And a voice from scratch

(from the sole) blew hard:
“Then who is it who asks for me?
I say if to know who I am

lowers you to this cooker,
know who I am was she
who was dressed by the best

dresser around.  Know who I am
was the daughter of the great
kangaroo and greedy to become

the greatest kangaroo of them all.
As such I filled my pouch above
to fill my pouch below.

Under my head is another stuck
in this our slit.  I too will slip
further when he who I believed

you were comes to this ditch.
But already I’ve stood not on my feet
longer than those feet that I believed

were yours will blush.
Then a most resistant thief
will come from the west.

A Jason he will be.
Pliant for a king and his purse.”
Maybe I was crazy to respond,

but respond I did with:
“Tell me how much more treasure
did the big mister require of Peter

than ‘follow me’?
Nor did Peter and the others

take gold from Matthias

when he was chosen for the office
that leaky soul occupied before him.
So stay and keep hold of this,

your godly amount of punishment,
for your ungodly amount of money.
And were it not for my anchor,

for my reverence to the keys
you would have liked to submerge
with you, I would afflict you

with words (easy now)
more grave (deep breath)
than your greed, which buries

the good and raises the depraved.
You are in harmony
with the seven headed whore.

You have ten horns.
You would sing with idolators
but for the fact they love

another currency and you
all the benjamins
O Constantine!  Sick mother

and dowry.  How spent we are.”
And while I crowed,
rage or conscience bit her feet,

and so pleased my leader
he embraced me.  A delicate prisoner,
he ferried me across the obscene crag.

Not to let me down
until we reached the next
bulge for unpacking.

return to SHAMPOO 17