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Dangling socks and handwashed shirts, revisited.

(I'm currently in the process of reigniting a translation project, and while looking around for a few things, I found this in my archives. Tiny polished fragments. Unfortunately, things aren't all that different in my work process from how they were four years ago... fortunately, I'm not translating Ziedonis, so I'm less likely to get trapped in every single phrase. Ziedonis is a master trapper, and it was nice to come across these old familiar refrains.)

I haven't been translating for a while. As with everything I abandon, it eventually gets taken up again in a flurry of "I MUST"s. And so I picked up some old fragments of translations (Imants Ziedonis, Ephiphanies, wanting poetics in my prose) and made stuttering attempts at progress. Immediately, I was aware of my greatest and most debilitating weakness: I get trapped in the phrase.

We are the seers. We see what we don’t have to.

I fixate on one tiny sentence, and become so lost in finding its perfection that I have a hard time moving beyond it and polishing the rest of the piece. Or I fall in love with a sentence, and can't let it go.

My dangling socks and handwashed shirts.

I roll it around in my head and smile to myself, satisfied with the sound it makes. Unwilling to tackle the ugly misshapen phrases to its left or right.

My dangling socks and handwashed shirts.

You see? I'm trapped. Do writers do this too?

"He didn't squeeze the toothpaste tube from the end, but from the middle; he dipped his spoon right in the sour cream, and his whole life had neither end, nor edges."

I dwell in the wrong places, and become trapped.

Throw out the pike in the dewy grass. I have no need for evening pike. I reel in the line and look at the water as the light dawns again. That is what I want.

If there were awards for tiny polished fragments, I would be covered in gold.

(Originally posted on October 8, 2008)

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.

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