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Four Back Translations of George Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous”



There are things, items, objects,

among which we live, and to see them

We know them


A unique case,

A series without limit,


The sorrowful marvels;


From what has been Told

There is a story of our wickedness,

Which is not about our wickedness


‘Do you remember a long time ago, we went to the town, and we sat in the

window that was destroyed, and we tried to imagine being part of those times –

It is dead, and isn’t it dead, and you can’t imagine either life or death; the world

speaks, the Salamander speaks, the Spring it arrives in its obscurity – ‘



Then, speak of the thereness of things

The unmanageable pantheon


The absolute purpose they said



The corporate city



into a dream


And the guiltless joy

And the mineral fact


Even though it is impenetrable


Like the world, if it is material,


–Anna Bryant


“Of Being Numerous”


“We live surrounded by things

we have to see, we have to acknowledge,

if we want to know ourselves:

the single event is part of an infinite

series of sad wonders.”


Or, at least, this is what I’ve always been told:

a tale of wickedness, a wickedness

that is not our own’s.


That old town, do you remember it?

The window in ruins where we used to sit,

imagining we were the ones who belonged.

That time is dead and alive, alive and dead,

I can’t imagine either its life or death.


A time that regenerates itself

like a creature of fire,

but then spring comes in and

draws its veil of darkness.



By these terms

the existence of things

is described.


An unmanageable pantheon,

in the barren lands

where, behind the glass,

the city of corporations

hides its dreams and pictures.


Impenetrable, like the world.


The world, impenetrable

like an open question.
–Elena Traina


“and a shadowy eden”


choices and choices ago

among the vivid and delivered

it was ours, born together.


running up against one left

in an infinity of leavings,


these sad wonders.


dusk. someone told me

a tale of our misfortune.

it was mis-sung: our misfortune this is not.


“you, you remember this old town,

us in some alley, ah, we were a sea

in the ruined window,

trying to think ourselves into those times.

dead and not dead, all that, you and I

cannot imagine its life or death; the earth speaks

and it speaks salamander,

spring’s coming condemns to the dark.”



thus our existence spoke of choices,

those unmanageable gods.


absolved, my fearful desert steps.


a city bodied forth



in dreams and visions –


and now I see purely

the quilts of stone


be and kill the self impenetrable.


you overwave me, sea of this one question;


and no place for the pen

to write its way in.

–Olivia Hanks


Be many


There are things

we live among and to see them

is to know ourselves.


Occurrence, a part

of the infinite procession,


the melancholy marvels;


from what they said

a tale of our wickedness.

It is not our wickedness.


Remember that old town, we went there

and sat in the ruined window, and we

tried to imagine that we belonged to this time –

he died and he did not die, you and I cannot

imagine either his life or his death; the earth speaks

and speaks salamander, spring arrives and obscures



Thus spoke of the existence of things,

the ungovernable pantheon


Absolute, but not to say



A town of corporations



in dreams


and images –


and unblemished joy

owing to mineral


although impenetrable


the world, whether a question,

is impenetrable.

–Will Stone

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