Two Rough Translations, Available for the First Time – Sean Kilpatrick
July 19, 2022
Ola Hansson: Sensitiva Amorosa (Harvest Heart, Tenderest Loin – 1887)
I cling to one last interest: the study and enjoyment of womankind. Each bit of blood in my being, together with the roots that caved me through nourishment, little by little, dried and shrank, all save one, but this thread grows fat, saturated with juice, drilled into a network of fine branches offering a scant foothold on life. Other organs eventually ceased operation. Channels leading blood from the heart quit their every vessel. But a single atrophied rudiment remains for savoring the second sex, these cogs redefining what spins them with such microscopic fragility even my ruins glitter in the aftermath. This is a fine art the pursuit of which I intend to perfect.
Guys like me always, sooner or later, tire of the reality of a relationship. In connections between men and women, however different each may be, ultimately there is announced a screeching banality; I have had more than enough, and prefer to partake at a distance, peering through the blinds between their bodies and what’s left of mine, and by this bent method I can solve the trivialities behind fucking, while still huffing a girl’s essence without getting dizzy off the additives.
Start to stop, striving to obtain cunt so frightfully discomfits. First, we’re shy kids playing pretend, then we revert to slicking our furs like indoor cats, exchanging salutary gazes, glowing lustily, and end up sharing sobs, post defilement, trying to stay genial beneath unsaid resentments. I flail in disgust relaying this charade, its coy dance, frothing cockerel waltz. Pity the glory of a cumshot worn off, for a story fades in comparison to the applause thereafter, and you find someone you truly know a brief percentage of the time. Even then you gain just as little. The thing beside you in bed becomes your own amnesia. If it’s a mistress, what empathy can be spared? You await the parting frivolities and, if she’s societally condoned, you get to get intimate with a creature who switches masks daily, fastening each one to your remainder like Velcro.
You may pore over a woman, but why shine a spotlight at the stars? Her skin sheds eely costumes. Your subservience to her as a vision leaves you a speck by contrast. How can you miss that nothing is fixed to your beloved by the fact that you care for her? She’s an urn designed by clandestine processes, gathering more of you to stay full. Her body shrouds about in constant metamorphosis, like a tugged stitch, until both of you run out. Has the vision of your other been skewed, or is she changing as she changes you? Everything worth knowing is lightyears from your having entered her, the spasm fades into indifference, a despicable template meant to molt. Experience taught me not to risk enfeeblement by being overgenerous with a loved one – I’d rather be married to a ghost I composed and fill her with my own miserable taste.
These women I encounter on walks and in theaters – wherever trots the carriage in tandem beside them – like another of their many random stalkers, I do not wish to approach, and hold no hope for conversation, because heads that pretty often jut out their contents like a dumb brocade and it stifles the floorshow – but what a parade, the floats grow lovelier the angrier they make me.
I divorce each of her mound and sift through the contents therein, huffing an echo of the aroma mid-vase, and these nuances mock me, face to figure, her bouquet grasped with a fleeting gesture, and I’m left standing in a mine with a blank expression. This is her charity, to render an individual by the component, exposed as peculiar by the common trifle of obtainment, then I shuck the depth of this ensconced profile with a mean reflection: she stares back, distinct in her visage, talky as it is, and I enjoy her. And why not choke close on an intimate nearness until every male who stretched her out, memorized some ground floor womb, is erased by his own seed?
These are the plump monstrosities of categorization, eyes fixed black, brows wiped waxen, upright brunettes with apricot soft blush, violet velvet petals maintained dewy, excessively curvy blondes with sooty smelling heat, petite tulips combing their slit, a forget-me-not come hither smorgasbord sat on cities like a windowsill pies. Then those I want most, my countless finest estimates, those who fail to be ranked, but who live weird and independently, who look whorish enough, despite the peculiar nuances of a sensible intellect.
When I met such a woman in my wife, I was not satisfied until obtainment, till the world was erased around us. I put her on the dissection table and dug in till a disinterested bureaucrat emerged from the viscera. Every particle was spliced with her, the big secret at her center uniformly intuited. Man fumbles through affairs, succeeding only once he no longer cares about the outcome. At least, in order to revere my subject, from an objective distance, of course, I can still finger paint an expression with her bile.
There springs from the uncultivated soil of modern society strange heart-shaped pickings fit for a set of underwear. Their petals are full of morbid oil, sickly scents charcoaled longer than a hospital night, steamed bedpans echoing the waters that filled them. If I were like you, I’d sift such flowers from manure and sell them to some whore at town square.
Karol Irzykowski: Paluba (The Hag or, Witch Rag, The Anthropomorphic Tampon of a Stick Figure Bitch, a Blown-Out Oracle, Sex Effigy – 1903)
Due to a hearty late night chat at our expat salon, I was condensed from my form into a rogue sketch of every accident that birthed me, connecting, idyllic, with the mystical sphere. Sometimes people have to bear the consequences of their own shed chiaroscuro. Indeed, cataloged in my memory are the culminated woes that dropped me squirming, hapless, through all the roles I rather humiliatingly play, and I will inflict honesty in their unwise telling, satisfying the demands to which I am a witting hostage.
Multiple afflictions upset me then, fantastically unhealthy dreams during rare instances of sleep. A transitional stage of longing gripped my heart. I was haunted by women. One vision’s clarity proved especially stirring: alone in a theater, in the proscenium, before some unknown rehearsal, the room too dark to spot potential spectators, the very top of the curtain parted, as if a separate show had begun from the rafters. In the opening appeared the face of a beautiful girl. Her neck stretched, exposed, implying nudity, I was convinced. Calling tenderly to unite us, I proffered my hands, but she denied. I ran behind the curtain, giving chase through dim corridors, unconcerned that only a head remained visible, floating in the darkness. She stopped at once and faced me – eyes stripped like a dead cupboard free of content, pupils gone. Strangely sweet and profound words now flowed. I saw my own body asleep in bed, the girl’s head tilting above it, outlined by the extinguished glow of a lamp, and I filled my form back in, waking up.
My limbs felt crippled by fear, unable to cool down, eyes cinched shut in vain recollection. The important monologue she’d so recently expulsed had vanished. That day I was meant to change residencies, and packed my clothes and books. My umbrella, a gift from the Count of Umbria, was smashed in half. I met up with friends and troubled them with my nightmare. I also told my hairdresser while being shaved. Some concurred it was indeed a mystery, others made silly and, so to speak, bawdy remarks.
A few weeks later I went on an archaeological trip to the area of N…Q. The greatest peculiarity of this area was an ancient castle in the middle of woods. Of some odd tactical fascination, it was built away from any mountains, too accessible, but, apparently, there were other opportunities beneficial for defense which I will not elaborate here. I left the already paid wagoner and his horses on the road at the inn and went into the woods myself. This lonely trip had a lot of romantic charm. As I passed under a canopy of branches, the birds formed an orchestra. I was vaguely afraid someone might rob me. A clearing revealed itself. I decided to rest on the grass under a bush. Luckily, I was equipped with a new umbrella, which perfectly protected me from the heat. I was just about to lie down, and had already spread out my handkerchief for that purpose, when, glancing to the side, I saw, through the leaves, a feminine figure sitting on a fallen tree trunk. She rested with her profile turned toward me, peering off in another direction, hands intertwined at the back of her head. Cautiously, quietly as possible, I moved toward her and watched. She was beautiful, very young. About the age when a girl begins to mature and understand what it means to be a woman. I admired the curves of her body, which were visibly filling out and becoming more beautiful under the influence of her own gaze, under the influence of hot dreams of delightful concessions of love. And this body of hers, in its careless position, shrouded by a trellis of green branches, drew me into a sensual spell, a spell exclusive, however, to true love.
(It wasn’t until much later, months later, that I began to criticize my supposed beauty by observing the composition of her skull, the form of her nose, the combination of features, being perhaps convinced by nature to produce a momentary delusion – for there was actually nothing beautiful there in the true sense of the word. Even a physiognomist, able, so to speak, to read between the lines, would have perceived a general background of ugliness in this lady’s face. However, I do not want to be accused of any disdain for Maria Dunin, and therefore I add that this parenthetical remark does not cancel the previous description, because, yes, the first impression was indeed very strong.)
For a long time I was lying in the thicket, looking at the girl, not even trying to hide and, as it were, dreaming with her, when, having stooped, she picked up a branch and threw it beyond herself in my direction. I was already thinking whether, and how, to begin a conversation with this dryad, when my thoughts were interrupted by quiet words:
–Is that you? She did not change her posture, only stuck out her hand, as if ready to embrace.
This caused me a great deal of trouble. In order to cover my embarrassment, I sprang to my feet, took my hat from my nose, and introduced myself, bowing politely, telling of the purpose that had brought me to this wood. I threw in a few perfunctory, accurate enough compliments. She looked at me, not speaking at all, met my eyes, and acted as if there was something unsaid between us. Eventually, she shook her head a few times, as if finishing some internal monologue, and broke off to run away. Soon, however, I grabbed her and, dazed and blushing, squeezed her hands tightly. My dream came to mind and I recited it immediately, leaving out the indecent details. She listened with delight, staring at me as if in a tizzy. She began talking about some of her dreams, impulsively, unruly and unclear. She put the tips of her fingers on my hand, pointed to the four corners of the world, and, speaking in a voice quieter than a fly’s caw, raised our arms up, solemnly. I understood little of what she was saying; it was all phantasmagorias, miracles, dreams of an overactive, prematurely developed imagination. Peering into her beautiful, turquoise eyes, I entered a melodious trance, craving her firm, shapely body; at last I forgot myself and pressed a passionate kiss on her lips. I thought I saw a gleam in her eyes, but she pretended to be surprised, shook her head again, wiped her mouth and swiped something nervously from her clothes, although, as far as I could see, without cause, for neither the bra nor the skirt had been powdered.
I asked to be taken to her house. I had ventured far from my path, was exhausted, and wanted to trace the history of this land. She agreed, without hesitation, got up and took her hat (if I remember correctly, it was decorated with poppy flowers). I wanted to give her my arm, but apparently she did not understand polite gestures. We held hands and walked like school children, or, rather, like an instructor with a student.
We arrived about half an hour later at the palace – for this is how I would refer to the home in which Maria Dunin lived. Not the manor house, as others incorrectly do. Situated on the edge of the forest, there was a row of other houses, which together formed one family, an entire colony isolated from the world, inhabited by a family nearly extinct, but devoted to a certain sacred idea, to which I wished to contribute. I remember the first time I met these people: how their eyes fell upon me with trust and sympathy, and in those silent looks there was, as I later came to know, a warm welcome to the new ally they sensed in me. Among such people Maria Dunin was hiding, but soon I knew that this girl was no flower tied to a beautiful mane, but a rotting mushroom!
Maria Dunin’s father and impresario, Mr. Acheronta Movebo, welcomed me as if I had been waiting for a long time. He was a great and stylish beast, and incredibly wise. He told me, at once, with a good-natured smile, that I had the face of a decent thug, and I would soon learn to steal seeds from the air. It was his style, as I found out later.
After I had eaten and rested, I was led onto the veranda, which offered a picturesque panorama. In front of the palace stood a pond, and in the middle of the pond golden islands, which glittered so much in the sun I could not decipher them. To satisfy my curiosity, Mr. Acheronta Movebo invited me for a ride. All our company, i.e. Mr. Acheronta Movebo, Maria Dunin, her sister Hermina – also very attractive – and me, sailed to those islands. They formed three big letters: (BWD in striped circle with arrow in both directions.)
Having tied the icebox to B, we jumped on the plates and walked on. After one letter, we were jumping to the next, sitting on the D, hanging our legs over, forming the center. I was lost about what this mysterious monogram might mean, and when I expressed my guesses, Mr. Movebo, laughing, said that this gold is Maria’s dowry and each letter is an acronym. Thereupon Hermina got indignant and cried out that it was the name of a country. The old man stopped her with one look. During the whole scene Maria was acting apathetic, looking at me, then at the still and transparent water, as if checking whether or not my reflection was correct.
In the evening I went to the guest room assigned to me and while lying down to sleep I noted the geographical location of the B W D islands and various qualities of their inhabitants. But the pencil dropped from my fingers when in the midst of night’s murmurings I heard, suddenly, rising towards me from below, the lurid sounds of some instrument unknown to me. Soon a second instrument of the same kind sounded; a duet was played, probably in my honor, as if two women were arguing with each other by means of music. Lulled, as it were, by this beautiful harmony, I decided to play back at them the next day, even to add the insult of a song.