The Secret Reader

a cento for Willis Barnstone

One day, someone will pick us up, translate
behind the words that happen on the tongue
the sun, deathray, on the red tree. Its light.
The rain aching peacefully in my lungs.
The landscape of salt stars. Only a ghost,
reading the lonely poems of Li Qingzhao,
a leafless trunk, and what I miss the most:
the live volcano with the summer snow.

Today it’s raining on the Kraków church.
I’m living for tomorrow. Now is gone
in smoky mystery. I look up to search
the glimpsed-at page, the vain pentameters—
to construct God, using the word. No one
translated to the chamber of the stars.

Constructed with fourteen lines from the following poems in Willis Barnstone’s The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets: (1) “Brightly Alone,” p. 281; (2) “About the Invisible Maker Who Thinks Me and Destroys His Traces,” p. 177; (3) “The Good Beasts,” p. 31; (4) “Dream Is Light,” p. 152; (5) “On My Island of White Geometries in Rational Blue, Thinking of Philo the Alexandrian Floating Up His Ladders of Being,” p. 271; (6) “Li Qingzhao and the Moon,” p. 38; (7) “Sonnet of the Mild Complaint” (translation of Federico García Lorca), p. 99; (8) “Tropical White Pajamas,” p. 12; (9) “The Camp near Kraków,” p. 22; (10) “Ticking Moon,” p. 247; (11) “God the Smoky Hero of Byzantium and Maine Who Elicits Prayer,” p. 62; (12) “Camden, 1892” (translation of Jorge Luis Borges), p. 7; (13) “Baruch Spinoza” (translation of Jorge Luis Borges), p. 371; (14) “Yellow Cottage,” p. 169.

Geoffrey Brock

Geoffrey Brock

Geoffrey Brock is the author of two volumes of poetry, the editor of The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry, and the translator of numerous books of poetry and prose from Italian, most recently Last Dream by Giovanni Pascoli and Allegria by Giuseppe Ungaretti. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Translation at the University of Arkansas.
Geoffrey Brock

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Author: Geoffrey Brock

Geoffrey Brock is the author of two volumes of poetry, the editor of The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry, and the translator of numerous books of poetry and prose from Italian, most recently Last Dream by Giovanni Pascoli and Allegria by Giuseppe Ungaretti. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Translation at the University of Arkansas.