Translations from the Greek by Alexandra Papaditsas and Kent Johnson



Social Dictum (Fragment)

The City is the teacher of Man.

Its cupped, unseen hand [...]

[...] whose shit steams in the public places,
writhes and curls like slugs into letter shapes,
which our slaves, spilling limed water from amphorae,
wash away before the lesson can be read.

[Ca. 565-473. The above work--formerly attributed to Simonides-- belongs to his "Silloi" (parodic and satiric hexameters).]



Bacchanalia of Poets (Fragment) [1]

[...] pressed into rancid oil for the arses of the discarded,
who rub it on, thinking themselves anointed [...]

[ca. 630-590 B.C.]

1. From papyri discovered in 2000 on Lesbos.]



On Imitation

Splay the oozing Theophrastus [1] on a catapult.

Pull the puss-covered cart to the Pellaen [2] walls,
and cut the tensed rope.

Let the assholes of Assus [3] preach about Truth and Form:

In the real world, a philosopher flying over a burning city is
strangely beautiful.

And strange beauty sings that poetry is never bound by imitation.

[Athenian soldier and poet, friend of Leonidas of Tarentum, he fought in the campaign to liberate Greek cities from Macedonian garrisons following the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. Only three poems by him survive, though scholars have attributed a number of late *Skolia* (anonymous drinking songs) to him.]

1. Famous student of Aristotle.

2. The city where Aristotle served as tutor to Alexander.

3. A reference, in part, to Aristotle, who for three years lived and taught in Assos with Erastus and Xenocrates. Assos was the capital of a small client state ruled by Hermeias, a vassal of the Great King of Persia, and roundly despised by the Athenians.



The Miseries of Poetry

In Lydian tone she said, "Come hither, I will plug up
your tight asshole." And she beat my egg sack with a sprig
of lilac as if I were a satyr. I fell backwards, breathing
heavy, and caught there by writhing vines I suffered
torture times two, and then some: A dried rose stem
lashed my man-tits; someone smeared me with cow's
shit, and then my ass started stinking like Hades.
Dung beetles came, sucked there by the fetid
gook, like roan-filled flies. Bugs with their alphabet-eating
sounds: They covered me and shoved inward, burrowed
deep, filing their teeth without pity on my bones.

I hurt so bad, I might as well have had the Pygelian plague.


Read other works by Kent Johnson in VeRT #6 >>