Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices

Raphael Levchin


a non-poem

Translated by Daniel Levchin


Porous interior of dreams and disillusion.
A fountain of youth with a golden branch at the heart.
Teased by futile desires, and our gills - apart,
the wing of fate - pass her over, leave us in our confusion.
The borders of reality give birth to more fragile lines.
Something is sacrificed, so to never reach purity.
Loves her but leaves, and spits with his eyes closed,
and goes for a smoke, firing up an already planned out fury.
A poor actor in a smokescreen of thirst,
eyes closed, falling to an ocean of blood that is water.
False, as always, smiles, as they patiently wait their turn.
Lurking, is the sole-ripping face of present danger.
Hide your profile, before they point their fingers.
Cover up your honorable medal with a trembling hand.
Life - a careless idea with a horrible extent.
Cover up the profile on your medal.
My tongue lacks new signs to paint your portrait with.
And to your soul ascending - lifeless verse, my exterior.
Sitting in the corner I unravel dialogues impending.
The plastic prison cell I'm in again, is so familiar.
So you're not playing? Well, you're still in Play.
The change of sign will only change the sign.
Slip by, the words, it's just an ochre hum.
Blocked out by "CHARGE!" we can't escape.

II. Out of conversation

- I imagine you a reader.
- Reading often makes me tired.
- Tell me, what do you consider good?
- Something that won't leave a scar.
- But, I can tell that you are nervous...
- Yes, I'm nervous every time
when I press my lips to yours
I let so much extra come inside!...


King Herod, Warrior, Witch,
Black Dog, two Angels, Satan,
who held a cauldron gathering seven Souls -
the band quite generous with promise - flowed
along the streets, large motley figurines.

But, actually, as blissful as they seemed...

But I had disbanded, stolen a tangerine
for you, slid it into my shirt pocket,
turned and proceeded to leave
alone; like English sex but a little more cocky.

I went as simple as a nail into a post;
and behind me voices rose:
- A proper investigation is due here,
was it de facto or was it de jure?!
- Is he for real?
- Did he make the deal? That's what I'd like to know.
- Return him! We might use him down the road.
- To hell with all you--, spit over your left shoulder!!

IV. From Herod's correspondence

"...during the reign of Rome, I was
a producer of a traveling act, one of those lunatics
that bought women in Sicily and trained them
as players."


Extinguished day and I awake.
The night is soft and warm.
What use is mourning the dreamt-up republic
where we live no more.
Ahead of us - twelve hours of road.
I couldn't think a better plan myself:
to hell with all, wife and motherland, forget circumstances,
stupid, strong, life.
Packing feverishly under flashlights,
matches, paper torches,
red laser beams.
Cools down, it's dawn.
Inside of me a drain opened up hungrily
and the wavy sweet scents all funneled through.
Night, a rider, the sculptor on its shoulders,
I suppose persistence has gotten us somewhere.
Various lovers of Tenderness,
all of us - exiles.
Won't cadge any
hopes of immortality.
are always chasing us.
For some reason the catullus party --
dead and living --
met in a shelter.
Into the open door
we would not go,
"No, forbidden!"
Confess, you're not so cain,
but abel.
From rain and sun
the cool blue-gray marble
turned pale-yellow,
flesh, alive from thirst.
I was a man today,
and a woman, and a herd.
Through the forest-preserve
rode as high as I can,
and in my hands --
the Red Book of complaints.
Fruit severs ripely,
kindness serves the thief rightly.
My most caustic mask is the body.
Ancient heads,
smirking to nobody but themselves.
Old masters,
looking right past you.
I see, a radial saw,

VI. Excerpts from the press-conference

- What can you say about the Witch, for example?
- Never shows herself without a mask. There are rumors that Witch is a man. Nonsense, of course, there aren't any men at all; women perform all the male parts.
- Well... I mean, and You?
- Well, I...
The song of a rescued Maiden - I,
four wheels on a bumpy road.
I sing as I wring out burnt hair,
and water drips down from my nose.

CHORUS: The blind sing by touch.
The blind sing by touch.

I sing that the dragon is slaughtered,
that an apple falls ripe into rye.
The stars rise above the forest -
your footsteps come alive.

CHORUS: The blind sing by touch.
The blind sing...

The blind sing by heart,
all plagued up, immersed in flames.
Fire - their heavy monument -
won't let any fears slip away.

CHORUS: The blind sing...
The blind...

The song of the wicked Maiden - I...


Burning, like a mask is torn off,
like a blow across the face -
- Hello.
- ...how are you...

...in the tiny universe...

-...now your left hand takes the briefcase?
You should use your right, they say.
- But to keep my posture proper
I prefer to alternate...

Press a cheek against the globe, or
cross my legs as if some lotus.
(Whither, friend?
O, whither now?)
That's Korea,
that's Vietnam.

I see England, I see France,
(what will soon surround us?)
there, a little off:
the Zone.

-Complicate configuration,
get a poor civilization!
-While ontology, in certain,
leaves you nearly as potent...

And again, my love, you walk past me,
and my hungry vision forgot its dream.
Once again the fruit of knowledge
looks like the apple of discord to me.


At the call boxes. A neat round head, round glasses,
thin sweater, jeans, straining. Under my stare
she shifts carelessly. But not you. You would never
shift under a stare. And as far as I know,
you have always been immaculate in space.


- Four disguises in your closet
masquerade as flesh and blood,
mini-body, maxi-body...
That's the way you've always done it!
- That's the way I always wanted -
four of them at my disposal,
and a heart for every body.
Where do you suppose I go now?
Only we may keep our goodness,
these masks have holes for eyes.
Every hour pray forgiveness!

- Every hour -- greedy crime...

(We enter regions limitless in space
and cast our masks, and underneath our faces

Burning orange Orient
all mask-production firmament,
and Herod-king is tuning a sitar,
and hoarse, he sings to the extinguished stars...

Far, far away, in beautiful Atlantis
a caryatid is to wed an atlas.
He waits until the guests are gone…
There was a mermaid splashing near the shore,
lost horsemen wandering the open roads…
Blood drones,
a headache's coming on.

How terribly deceiving sight can be,
you come to tea, and I put on some tea
but to take up your hand, and to my mouth,
take up the radiant strands, all-compass blinding…
the devil, I will gladly give my body,
but is it worth the buyer's currency?
Romantics is especially enticing --
a caravela into the horizon,
a caravan along the desert sands…
Tomorrow: 7:30, Monday morning.
Cool barrel to the temple -- can't afford it,
If only chance should bring me a cool hand.
(The instrument now passes hands to one
naming whom is wasting time;
oftentimes leaves his mask behind,
anyway, no one seems to mind.)

Scarlet shawl, round shoulders
softly covered in blood.
I've surrendered both ears
but persist about love.

Where the sea semi-dry now,
winds are nearly half-blind.
I've let go of my arm
but cannot stop about crime.

And my leg I've abandoned
in a trap's iron claw.
But pursuit plucks its tendons,
and I sing of the foe.

Life rushes to us from the South
And leaves us for the north


I am not going back to antiquity,
I am not going back to the province,
I am not going back,
I am not going,
I am not

In our villages,
green and yellow,
werewolves are quite common.
In the twilight they flip
and become wolves,
and at dawn they are men again.
When the moon is full,
young witches
turn their sleepy husbands
into horses,
and gallop them through the fields.
Here, an evil hex
sprinkles salt into hoof-prints
to sour the milk,
and a kind one, you just ask, will charm a snakebite,
bathe a lame child
in a brew of asafetida, parsley, and mugwort,
and the child will grow up a giant.
Here in the woods lives the ancient god,
he wrestles with bears in the wilderness,
spits on the tree tops,
howls after the shepherds' pipes,
pagan god,
shines in the night lights,
unsuspecting of
romantic god,
decked out in gold.


-- And do you know where goes my scalp? --
with a sinister eye.
-- I know this dull motif too well.
What wretched prose you drive!
What a disgusting show -- all your dogs and your catapults,
crossbows, ballasts and lists, and other light props,
backside emblems, urns, busts, and double-blanks,
metacomputers, metapuppets, and metapoppies,
idols, ideals, top-secret playing cards,
cafes of namelss poets, talentless actors,
thermos bottles, astral bodies, atriums, karmas,
epithets, egregores, cherubins, smoke detectors.
I've been far too long driving a boat in Subura,
procuring girls for the consul, machine-gun parts for terrorists,
landslides for train wrecks, and anecdotes with a smirk
for the supposedly blushing audience.

Mr. Y says my manuscript is his birthday gift,
a hermaphrodite will marry my daughter,
and no summer at all, thirteen months -- pure autumn,
I've had enough. I am bored to tears!

And nothing around me is mine,
and the wall around me isn't mine,
and the window here isn't mine,
and the wife there isn't mine.

And the stare in the glass isn't mine at all,
And the pocket knife -- altogether dull.
Special courier? Then why was I made blind?
Or Oedipus? But I wouldn't refuse a throne.

Be careful, my youngest son,
attend you to your schoolwork well,
or Herod-King, your title shall
scratch at your heart till kingdom come,

till all your friends that moment wrought
are vanished at the moment's end.
You'll say that substance lies in nought,
But in a bottle, or a pen.

Enough! Someone other must finish this task.

Someone will bring this task to completion.
Thread the daily routine with a discernable rhythm,
With flashes borrowed from the sea's surface round the edges of thing
by the sheer force of style conquer nearly all…
possibly even money…


We speak of trifles and we speak of woes,
of business steady built if built on blood.
Continue on, in your unchallenged course,
go on, love's boat presumptuous.

How many years our chatter meets late hour.
and there is neither wife we know nor end.
Traversing spiral hopefulness and sorrow,
glides moon's boat diligent.


Plain paper may exhibit yellow stains -
it is the tree looking to come back again.
In dim light, they appear brown.
So the vine its dreams from the sun imbibing,
what does it care for thirst or desire.
Please you to drown -

Unsuspecting, the sun too is waiting.
Golden, black, and golden - of fate
the cloak with ribbons sown.
Underneath - the soul, same as the body,
and it cares not for thirst or desire.
Love, if it please you so.


Your sleep undoing, coffee foaming
with time, around us forming circles.
Time ever certain, foam is swelling
with bitterness.
And I love you.

To bird and flower, to the celestial structures,
To verse, to us time vows destruction.
But you and I have seen each other --
of grace received from careless time.

Apart: uneven hands are idle,
running time's circle -- wheel of torture.
Time running faster, thirst is growing
with bitterness.
And I love you.

Once we were in a single being
united, how am I to leave you
now, how am I…