An Adaptation

I’ve been recently in my acting class with a modern adaption on Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, a play called “Life Sucks,” it occurred to me that I could apply the concept of an adaptation to some of the translations I was doing.   In other words, I would translate the original poem into English and then turn it into a poem of my own through the process of adaptation.

Here is the poem I came up with:


An adaptation of 1909 by Guillaume Apollinaire

(Translated and adapted by Guy Conner)

The woman had a dress,
A silver sheath,
With straps across her shoulders.

Her eyes danced like angels.
She laughed and laughed and laughed.
Her face was like the flag of France –
Blue eyes, white teeth, red lips.
Her face was like the flag.

I could see the outline of her breasts,
Beneath the silver sheath.
Her hair that dangled brazenly,
Her beautiful naked arms.

The woman with her silver sheath,
The straps across her shoulders
Her red lips,
Her dangling hair…
She was so beautiful,
You would scarcely dare to approach her

Women of the neighborhood
Used to attract me;
Working women, sweat on their brows
Creatures of our technocratic age
But this woman was so beautiful,
She frightened me to death


And here is my original translation:

1909 by Guillaume Apollinaire

Translated by Guy Conner

The woman had a purple dress
And her gold-embroidered tunic
Was composed of two panels
Attaching at the shoulder

Her eyes danced and danced
She laughed, she laughed
She had a face like the Flag of France
Blue eyes, white teeth, red lips
She had a face like the Flag of France

Her dress hung low all around
Her hair done up in curls
Her beautiful naked arms

Midnight will never come

The woman in her purple dress,
Her tunic embroidered in gold
Dress hanging low
Shaking her curls
Her golden bandeau
Dragging her tiny buckled shoes

She was so beautiful
You would not dare to love her

I liked the horrible women in the parts of town
Where each day a few new beings were born
I liked, I liked the people skillful with machines
Luxury and beauty are only their foam

That woman was so beautiful
That she made me afraid


The poem below, a haiku, was in my head, completely written when I woke up this morning:


Death Vigil: The Eighth Day — A Poem Whose Title is Longer Than Itself

Her breath is raspy.
Outside, rain begins to fall.
Even God is sad.

poetry reading 2

I promised several people that I would repost this; I will also do a Facebook invitation.


I am pleased to announce that I plan to do my first poetry reading at the Atlas Coffee Company, 300 South A St, Ste 4 Santa Rosa on Wednesday, January 31st. Doors open at 6PM; readings start around 6:45

Hermits and the Internet

The Hermit

The hermit, huddled on the hill,
Tries, by exercise of will,
To do away with loneliness.
Yet he is a hermit still.

His aged hands, beridged by time,
Are streaked with blood, and dust, and grime.
(The cuts are wrapped without success.)
All this the fruit of his weary climb.

Down there, the village whence he came,
Where once, a woman knew his name…
But all of that was long ago..
And yet, it matters, just the same..

Now time and tide have passed him by,
And he hasn’t tear enough to cry.
Henceforward he will stay away,
He wants them all to wonder why.

The concept of a hermit seems to have faded from the public consciousness.  When I wrote the poem above  ( I was 19 or 20) , the image of a hermit — always male, always dressed in rags — who lived in a cave, apart from society, was quite common.  My poem imagined  a man who had separated himself from the world because he was disappointed in love, but the more common concept of a hermit was of someone who had withdrawn from the world to ponder the secrets of the Universe.  The hermit was thought of as a kind of Oracle, to which a pilgrimage could be made to find answers to Life’s most pressing questions.

So why has the hermit faded from our imaginations?  Part of the answer is the Internet — Google is a kind of Oracle; all questions can be answered (or appear to be answered) by a Google search.

Another part of the answer is, I think, mankind’s evolving consciousness.  There is a theory that our  consciousness is evolving rapidly — rapidly, that is, in evolutionary terms.  The idea is that, say, a thousand years ago or so, mankind thought with a kind of hive mentality; everyone knew their place in the system.  Then, as the functions of our left and right brains became more distinct, we began to think for ourselves.  The obvious next evolutionary step is for us to begin to be able to read each other’s minds.  We have all experienced the sense that certain other people seem to know what we are thinking before we say it, and we should get used to that feeling; it will only get stronger as we continue to evolve.

In short, then, we don’t need hermits because we have the Internet.  And, soon, we won’t need the Internet because we have each other.

Reflections on Time

Reflections on Time

This is the first of a series of brief essays that expand upon the ideas expressed in my poems. Let me begin with a poem:

Time’s Fools

Time is the Master that controls us all.
What was, is. What will be, was.
We are all Time’s Fools,
Who clown and caper as it passes by

All of Time exists.
We have but a little bit of it,
To hug, and hold, and do kind deeds.
Our piece of Time, of course, must have a stop,
So let’s begin.

Time is truly our master, but it is also our window, our small and cloudy window into the profound mysteries we can never comprehend.

Most people think of me as irreligious, and in the sense that most people use the word religion, I am. But I have a spiritual and philosophical side. For me, Gödel’s Theorem holds the key to how we should think of the immense vastness that is beyond our ken. Gödel proved that (to simplify a bit) for any given system there exist propositions that cannot be understood from within that system.

For me, that is it exactly – we must accept the fact that there are things we cannot know, mysteries we cannot solve. Consider the strange mystery of Time. It is one if the fundamental properties of the Universe. In that sense, Time is static and eternal. But as we live our lives, it seems as though we move through it at an ever-increasing pace. Time feels dynamic.

I cannot resolve this contradiction, and perhaps I have no need to do so. These days, the only quality that seems real is decay – the decay of our bodies, of our minds, of our civilization.

My hope is that, in some mysterious way (that word again!), I exist simultaneously in a multitude of universes, in some of which, at least, I do not make the same mistakes. But that is probably wishful thinking. I suspect that Time will stop for me at some point in the not distant future, and my regrets will not matter.

That’s why I say – Begin!


Death’s Blue-Eyed Boy

My father was certain
What would happen.
“Like snuffing out a candle,” he’d say.
“Like turning out all the lights in the world at once.”

I have a different take on death:
I think I’ll pass
Into an alternate universe,
Where I’ll get another chance
To do it right.

Poetry Reading

I am pleased to announce that I plan to do my first poetry reading at the Atlas Coffee Company, 300 South A St, Ste 4 Santa Rosa on Wednesday, January 31st.  Doors open at 6PM; readings start around 6:45