Six Imitations

Stanislaw Borokowski

Suicide Prevention Hotline

after Lu Yu

One late afternoon in April David strayed into the Mississippi everglades and was gathered to his ancestors in relative silence          – We never knew his last name

At a nondescript December sunrise Jason took flight over the metallic limbs of his red Kawasaki and smashed against the vandalized walls of a Tennessee highway rest stop       – He couldn't hear us calling

After a long night just north of Tallahassee            DC turns off the monitor       walks past the fish stands to the docks      leans against the giant columns and watches as the ocean's green hills hurl themselves into the twilight                    − When his phone rings he takes his sweet time answering

From an Airplane

after Juan Comte

As far as the eye can see   – human traces               In those boxes over there men and women seek shelter from heat    cold    faithlessness           On that patch of green one side won   the other side lost    and the bodies lay frozen all through the winter

Everywhere signs scratched in the dirt            The oceans are a lifeless heaven with    every once in a while                 white shapeless gashes       You have to stare for a long time to even know what you see

Where smoke rises someone's being loved or neglected     Things personal to me are marked too –             there you first spoke to me           here I grew close to your daughter                 The land   the city   the neighborhood    the house                the places where we never found peace

Winter Map of Montreal

after José Oliver

My dark apartment over a stripclub        under its red-striped awning the proprietor reading a day old Post and Mail      – Corner of St Denis and Rachel at the very spot (I tell myself) Leonard Cohen once courted a whore

Now and then I set out into the darkness in search of the shellshock       On the fire escapes I find plenty of metal on metal          on the sandblasted façades of the boutiques plenty of shine          Collapsible windows in service of the short summer    Silent windows like that other silence in the snow  Here's an unnamed square      here a shut-up bus station   All the shrouded necks and chins             the biographies for which I invent    – the cafeterias and dépanneurs mere backdrops for their undocumented dramas

Neon signs in a forbidden mundane tongue             Sometimes I escort a brother Indian through the harbor district after a short prayer in Notre-Dame (with what reluctance I surrender the dollar and a half entry fee)         I know there's a blue light over Chengdu    And Jerusalem?               Who will transport that blue light here?       Today was April      The skyline sank into the ribs of the snow

Religion Lesson

after Heather O'Neill

I hold a grasshopper in my cupped hand and peer at it precisely with one wide open eye      A grasshopper is nothing but a safety needle that believes in god     God has a mustache and tucks his pant cuffs into his rubber boots so his feet don't get wet                    God dyes his graying hair so that he doesn't look overly reverent           I know this    There's just so much kitsch in the world             and if we were all made in his image he must look a little silly                God has bad callouses and gives exact instructions         though he seems to be as confused as we are      as to what exactly our office here is

Sailors Dying of Scurvy

after Juan Comte

A piece of skin in the shape of a maple leaf peeled off my arm last night           though it didn't bleed much     Covered in reeking sores and a yellowy puss that sticks to the sheets           I'm still not as bad off as Taylor two bunks down         who after his nose came off a couple days ago      has almost no face left at all                The doctors say we're paying for our trespasses          that this comes from following those dark  skeletal girls into their shanties or from the lecherous nights with each other     but I never touched another man and the only mistress I almost knew broke down in tears at the sight of my limp penis             Three more corpses will be dumped overboard at dawn          I'm not sure who's manning my ropes or where this ship is heading    – back to the Dutch port where my sister will come out to meet her crippled brother pretending not to be disgusted by his stinking flesh    or on into the merchant night                 where man sells his brother for a few guns and the sins of the fathers are taken up by their sons            where we clench the iron bunk frames through the heaving darkness praying like anything that the sea won't run out on us

Death in the Afternoon

after Ernest Hemingway

From the breakroom wafts a sick sweet stench that turns out to be the soft-drink manager     now lying completely lifeless on the office floor for the paramedics to collect      Jake goes on unloading the last case of Dr Pepper                while I watch over the body

translated from the German by Chris Michalski