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John Poch translating Pietro Federico

BPR 49 | 2022

“Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane”—song written in 1871 by William Shakespeare Hayes, imprisoned by the Union for writing seditious songs during the Civil War. The song was released in Atlanta, Georgia, in June 1923, with the interpretation of Fiddlin’ John Carson. The Cherokee rose is a climbing variety, symbol of the state of Georgia.

Away from the fires, the chirping of crickets
used to penetrate the silence of my crowds.
Nothing further from peace:
the trembling expectation of my violin, my voice,
the reckless joy a thousand times with which I
and the bow used to stab the air
and all the seen and unseen sins.
By pushing I stabbed misery and death
and by pulling
embroidered them to a promise.
Let them come to me: the poor, the young, the weak,
those who in one way or another
find relief within my song.
America is a music of bravado
that does not ask permission from power,
does not suppress questions
and doesn’t wait for Sunday.
America is a story full of irony,
of living here because they promised riches
and finding ourselves singing to a cracked ceiling
in a house in the middle of the forest.
And of an old man, too old to feel bitterness,
he plays and (go figure!) he thinks
about the roof as a broken lid, who stays put
to enjoy more sun, more rain, more breeze.

Where does your music come from:
such unique and melancholic merriment?

They asked me once while I toured America.

The grass grows back over the paths
that I cleared all around the hill.
The Cherokee rose climbs the fence rails,
and after it has wound itself around them,
it drags them to the earth
together with the drenching weight of rain.
I feel lonelier than my dog.
The only other eyes here are hers
who doesn’t think much of loneliness
as long as she can smell my human hands.
Perhaps it’s not so true
this place is godforsaken.
Not a soul for miles
and just the wish to say farewell.
I keep my violin against my chin.
I almost dance with it and close my eyes for fear of lying
while the strands of horsehair sliding on the strings
get more and more disheveled, so thin
and incandescent that a breath of fire kisses my cheek.
And while I play I understand, as if dreaming, the reason
the grass will hide your paths and the Cherokee rose
pulls down any wood without the roots.
I open my eyes and the golden center of the rose
looks kindly back at me coming
from the ground still winding up my fence,
the dilated pupil of a girl who laughs
just with her eyes while listening to me.
And I exist now only if I play
this life into our lives,
the joy with which I lift our solitude.
We are the ones who clear the paths, who fence the borders,
but it is just our way in or the way back out, overcome
to tell a story to witnesses.
This realm of dream and matter
that razes our homes and fills our open eyes
never needed it.