Chloris a più voci (Translation as Reperformance, Part 2)

As a child I lived with a reproduction of an image of Sandro Botticelli's Chloris—just the detail of the nymph's face in torment, looking back, a stalk black—with age?—in her open mouth—on the wall of my parents' living room. It hung there amidst the array of bizarre elaborated objects yielded from people's garages and the trunks of cars chosen to be kept temporarily, rather than immediately resold. The picture disoriented and terrified me for years, and I had no idea where it came from, or that it was part of a scene of rape ensconced within one of the most "popular" paintings in the world; I never ceased to try resolving the image in mind, and would only unsee it when I learned about Botticelli's painting at large, an allegory of spring, beguiled by the general exquisiteness of the thing.

When at the very end of a dozen-year period of translation, I decided that I would be remiss not to include the final section of Amelia Rosselli's final work in my collection, despite my editor's wish to keep the page count down, and began to disentangle one line from another, and finally apprehended—perhaps—the image of a woman absconding with a stalk in her mouth, something surged within me: the flood of an overwhelming, if momentary, sense of transit into this complex poet's orientation.

Cloud, fill yourself with breath, as if the
twisted stalk in my mouth
were that exaltation of a
spring in rain, which is the
grey that now is was suspended in air . . .

Read the full essay on the Poetry Foundation website.