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The Interpreter

From: Colorado Review
Volume 41, Number 1, Spring 2014
pp. 132-133 | 10.1353/col.2014.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The interpreter of my thoughts, who speaks many languages,
Has brought me something primitive or strange,
To which I am unaccustomed.
He has translated it into English for me.

Without him I’m lost. But with him
I’m a child, therefore agitated,
Dependent for my happiness on someone whom I don’t respect.

Often he stands behind me, slightly to the left,
Like a waiter in a fancy restaurant.
If I drop my napkin, he retrieves it, drapes it over my chair.
He takes away my soup plate, brings the cheese.

But on this day he was nowhere to be seen.

I’d ordered a plate of pasta, half risotto, half trenette with ham.
At lunchtime you could do that, everybody did.
Half and half, I said, and some days
There would be lasagna, some days tortelloni—

I took my seat beside the window,
Leaned my book against a bottle of wine,
And in no time, though I’d taken
Only a few bites, the restaurant was empty.

Tables had been reset for dinner, silverware and cloths.
Couples were walking arm in arm,
The hills beyond the plaza tinged with fire—

Where did everybody go?

Another word for interpreter, he said
As he refreshed my water glass,
Is medium, the intermediate,
Who speaks among the living for the dead.

James Longenbach  

James Longenbach is the author of many books of poetry and criticism, most recently The Iron Key (Norton, 2010) and The Virtues of Poetry (2013). He is the Joseph Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester.

Copyright © 2014 Center for Literary Publishing
Project MUSE® - View Citation
James Longenbach. "The Interpreter." Colorado Review 41.1 (2014): 132-133. Project MUSE. Web. 21 Mar. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Longenbach, J.(2014). The Interpreter. Colorado Review 41(1), 132-133. Center for Literary Publishing. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
James Longenbach. "The Interpreter." Colorado Review 41, no. 1 (2014): 132-133. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed March 21, 2014).
T1 - The Interpreter
A1 - James Longenbach
JF - Colorado Review
VL - 41
IS - 1
SP - 132
EP - 133
PY - 2014
PB - Center for Literary Publishing
SN - 2325-730X
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/colorado_review/v041/41.1.longenbach.html
N1 - Volume 41, Number 1, Spring 2014
ER -


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