CATULLUS 63

On reflection, highly triggery for some people.

Attis hurries. Runs barefoot,
takes a fast boat to Asia,
runs again.
Mad with Her love so that he feels no pain.
He loves.
Comes to Her woods and groves.
Then starts to cut
cut with the flint that cut
feet.
Cuts deep and fast.
The blood begins to flow.
She plucks the last
Bits of her former flesh
Out by the chords
No.
Takes off their weight
loses that weight.
So
And slash
No words for what she feels
new made at her own hand
blood gushes on the trampled earth
at this new birth
of who she is,
of what he was,
of who she will be,
what he cannot be.
Her hand
Suddenly delicate white hand
Seizes the tamborine
The little tintinabulinking
tamborine
the drums, the drums as white, the calfskin drums, drums of Her sacrifice
cut from the bull-calf.
Stretched
stretched
drum beaten by the white hand
the light hand
fierce.
She sings soprano, sopranino, mezzo mezzo to the band
of her new friends, her sisters of the cut
who beat the drums
and wave the tambourines
and dance upon the ground the bloody ground
the sound, the echo sound, the piercing sound
of Goddess rite.

Step forward, step back, one two three
Left, forward, right, back, one two three,
Stamp skip step, stamp skip step,
stamp skip and kick.
Step, stamp and kick.
We are the girls, kick,
girls of the cut, step
Cows for our Lady, stamp.
To her woods we go, step.
Far far from home, kick,
exiles for ever, left,
birds of a feather, back.
Sisters of cutting, kick.
Follow my lead, stamp.
Cast aside Love, kick
Watch Goddess laugh, left.
Hurry together, kick.
Dance to her house, right
Deep in the woods, stamp.

Where there are flutes, kick,
where Maenads shake it, back,
wild curly locks, left.
Cymbals clash, crancrancrancran
Drums beat, ratatata
Howl howl howl howl
Honour the goddess
One two and three, stamp
one two and three, kick.

Attis dances, Attis sings.
Attis new girled.
Howls. Howls. Ulualalalu
Drum ratata, cymbal ratat.
Up to the mountains
wild in the trance.
Out of breath out of mind fast stamping chorus
bleeding bleeding white
Drum ratatat
Cows moomoo ullalalu new
to the yoke
the goddess’ yoke.
The goddess house.
Where they drop
drop
sleep
starved
emptied
and frenzy
done.

Glare of the morning. Sky burned clear.
Waking sun.
Line of light across the harsh rocks,
the dry land, the scrub land, the merciless sea.
Wild horses of the sun
chase shadows of the night.
And Attis
wakes.
Wakes in the arms
of the mother goddess of all gods.
Calm of frenzy
Awake
Fresh from cutting, fresh from dancing,
voice clear.
Looks out across the sea
and sings homesick regret.
Aria.
O patria mea
quanto mi costa
Distress
you made me you undo me
mother and mistress,
I flee you
as slaves flee.
Up to the high hills
the hills are so cold
the wild beasts shiver
among them am I
snuggling in dens.
Oh country,
mother and mistress.
Are you here, am I there?
You have high hills
where trees shake in winds.
This is my home
driven by frenzy
far from good people kind people gentle folk
High harsh hills.
I am not in the forum and I am not in the gym
I am not in the market place or running round the track
I am no more that person and will never more be him
I’ve left my home forever and I’m never coming back
Regret regret regret. Ullalulalu
What does she look like
what do I?
Woman – stamp
Boy – stamp
Husband – stamp
groom – stamp
girlfriend – stamp.
Wife- stamp
Eunuch -stamp.
Maenad -stampstampstam.

I was so cool
they loved me in school
the best in the gym,
they asked me to tea,
they turned on the fans,
they brought me flowers, so many flowers.
And that’s all gone, ullalalu
up in the high hills.
Cut.
Like a slave
slave to the goddess.
Wild hair, and bleeding, cut.
Ullalalu
Among the pines
with boars and deer.
What have I done?
Ullalalu.
Mercy, mother, mercy. Hear my woe, ullalalu

The goddess heard.
Her lions roared
the long-maned lions who pull her chariot,
sweet chariot.
And said.
ROAR
ROAR
Drive Her Mad
With your Roar.
Whip her to frenzy with your lashing tails
that lash, that smash, that slash.
ROAR
let her feel claw.
So she’s mad. Mad.
Then let her run mad fingers through your mane
your hair your lovely hair
your strong neck.

Goddess takes the yoke from off their necks
The lions howl, and prowl and yowl
There is a crackle in the undergrowth
it’s lions seeking prey, tracking prey,
prey that runs from the hill
crosses the stream.
Running water running water
Make me safe.
Tracking Attis as she prays
kneels in the sand
looks across the sea.
White sand under delicate white knees.
And
They
Pounce,
Roar
In her Ear.
Drive her quite mad
Slave forever. Slave to the goddess.

Goddess, hear my plea
Goddess, stay away
Her but not me.
Attis but not me.
Ullalalu
Cut

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About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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7 Responses to CATULLUS 63

  1. swisstone says:

    I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, but right now don’t have the time to give it the attention it deserves. For now, I’ll just say that I’m glad to see this, and I’ll be back to it later.

    • swisstone says:

      Catullus 63 is an extraordinary poem. And this, frankly, is an extraordinary version. I very much like the way the staccato rhythm of the lines recalls the multiple short lines of the original. You perhaps lose the high rhetoric of the monologues, but that wouldn’t be appropriate alongside how you’ve approached the narrative sections.

      I don’t know if Catullus intended a poem about the emotions around transition, but in your hands, that is what it has become. It’s a triumph, and I’d like to publish is in CA News.

      One possible typo – should ‘stampststampstam’ be ‘stampststampstamp’?

  2. jamesenge says:

    Do you mind if I link to this? I know a few thousand people who should see it.

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