Jeff Diteman

... translating Raymond Queneau
Fire Sails Through My Body

Finite humankind has eyes on towers
everyone is obviously rusted
iconic confessors ask to dissect
such hype and howling

Here galactic immersion tremors man
harks on a stethoscope by torchlight
his girl is seeded broken as the phonemes
uttered when tipsy

Along come men glossed with fear of lepers
daughters of chrome pure hyperdemocracies
hypotheses drown and foreign empires roam
buzzing everywhere

A democracy! Just a mustard seed.
Peasant ankles varicosed with the birthweight.
humming testosterone licking its dentures
finally alone

Fire sails through my body like a pirate ship. 

Something Thunders Under Vast Water, X Yelling Zealously

As beings can deduce, each fellow good human ignores,
Jealous kinfolk listen mindlessly,
Now observe, produce qualms, roar,
Something thunders under vast water, X yelling zealously.

As boys can depart, each female grows heavy,
If jejune kids lament, Methuselah needs optometry,
Priests quietly rape, sisters tithe,
Under vast water, X yelling zealously.

Arrayed birds cling, dot electric filaments,
Grim hands in Juneau kill lobster,
Maniacal nighthawks or parasitical queens reviled,
Something thunders under vast water, X yelling zealously.

Astral billowing clouds disperse, expand forever,
Galactic halos implode, just killed, left mindless,
Nebulae open, points quiver, reverberate,
Something thunders under vast water, X yelling zealously.

Alexander! Baby coil, dried echinacea,
Foul grain harmed its jewelled kin, left mindless,
Nature observes, preens quills, rejoices,
Something thunders under vast water, X yelling zealously. 

I Felt an Endless Scream Go Screeching

Once, I was out walking
with two friends—an endless
road, advancing random
redness chased the daystar.
Both my boys advised me:
breathe beneath your scarf here,
cattle yards are cutting
corners, pouring waste out.

Suddenly, I seized and
stopped to cop a rest, and
leaned there, feeling failure
flag my sagging members.
Blood and blades of fire
bloomed across the looming
clouds above the bovine-
beaten landscape’s features.

Deadbeat dads leave pregnant
damsels in their sin-wake,
priests may pray or foist their
prying will on choirboys,
nuns pronounce odd pronouns,
now say “thee” and “thou” still;
children sulk as senile
senators go senseless.

Birds like beads on wires,
bands of handless urchins
tricks of hawks and hornets
heaved against the ether
galaxies of silage
seizures rocked the stockyards
stars exploded spilling
spoiled milk on hilltops.

“Franz!” I hailed my friends, “and
Fred, don’t leave me!” Yet they
hadn’t even heard me
holler. Maybe all my
trembling talk was jumbled;
tough to tell—I felt an
endless scream go screeching
scratching through the patchwork.

  • "Fire Sails Through My Body" is a mashup, built on the sonic structure of Sappho's "Seizure" using thematic materials from the Queneau poem "Il y a dans le fond quelque chose qui beugle".
  • Something Thunders Under Vast Water is an abecedarian translation; each stanza is composed of 26 words whose initial letters cover the range of the alphabet
  • "I Felt an Endless Scream Go Screeching" is a mashup translation incorporating elements of Munch's poem that accompanied a version of "The Scream"; executed in the Norse drottkvaett form.

Jeff Diteman

Jeff Diteman is a translator, poet, and visual artist currently doing doctoral studies in
Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His translations and
original works have appeared in The Missing Slate, Nailed Magazine, and Inventory, and
his translation of Pablo Martín Sánchez's novel The Anarchist Who Shared My Name will be released next year by Deep Vellum Publishing.