What We Gain in Translation

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Epigram from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot,
originally from Dante’s Inferno, canto xxvii

i)
forgiveness for the language:
scratches for the trouble of trying
to arrive at the same place by a different way
when the first way was also choked with thorns.

ii)
compassion for at least three minds,
two tongues. A crucifixion of disclosure.
If “a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen,”
it might be that we would never see each other again.

iii)
empathy for the moment
every reader faces: two minds,
one tongue which trips over the words
left over when the form is complete:

Does she still love me?
How do I live?
Can I try again?

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