We asked two poets to exchange work and create
interpretations of each other's poems. Read the original texts and new
interpretations, and then get the poets’ commentary on the process.
Alba: the caracol by Elizabeth Robinson
Nothing as arbitrary
as time can feign
Dawn: the snail by Norma Cole
No slippery able
a record of limits
takes you or keeps you
always partial and incomplete
reason comes to an end
under the bombs
one leg over the edge
we get here too late
was the other life
Faith, like light,
is fatal: can’t be penned in.
We look up at what leaps through
the air before
it turns us, in turn, into incendiary dust.
Thus we are made parts of our own whole.
By which one means reason.
Please be reasonable. As anti-gravity
would be supremest reason, for whom
the believer leaps from the bridge, nostalgiac
for what came before this lucidity, like
a previous life.
Night falls but doesn’t day fall too? Hooked on
the alba, unable to arrest the dawn, the thousand golden threads of
night evaporate in love’s light. The caracol, cochlea, inner ear “the
better to hear you with,” is the shell-like structure divided, like the three
sentences in the poem, into three parts. Two are canals for the transmission
of pressure, and in the third is the sensitive organ of Corti, which detects
pressure impulses and responds with electrical impulses. One “wakes in the
light of the old dream.” (Walter Benjamin) It’s all in the harmonics.
Who is “you”?
That perhaps that is the “other life,” the leap between a you and that
you’s other, and the indeterminacy of history that so constitutes us. A bomb falls, explodes, makes further dispersions. But what if that incendiary diffusion is
its own kind of logic or faith? What
if history is the gate that we throw our leg over, with a wistful backward
look before we jump?
Norma Cole’s most recent books of poetry are Where Shadows
Will: Selected Poems 1988—2008 and NATURAL LIGHT. A book of essays and
talks, TO BE AT MUSIC just appeared from Omnidawn Press. Cole
has received awards from the Gerbode Foundation, Gertrude Stein Awards, Fund
for Poetry and Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She teaches at the
University of San Francisco.
Robinson is the author, most recently, of Also Known As (Apogee Press). Two books, Three Novels (Omnidawn) and Counterpart
(Ahsahta), are forthcoming. Robinson
is also co-editing, with Jennifer Phelps, an anthology of essays on
contemporary women poets and spirituality, tentatively entitled Quo Anima.
Archived at http://lit.konundrum.com/poetry/colerobinson_trans1.php