Fifth Circle by Leslie Kaplan, Translated by Julie Carr and Jennifer Pap

Somewhere else, the hotel.
You are outside, under the tense sky. The hotel is standing, unreal and slender. Meager framework.
The rooms are inside.
The rooms, you know them. Little drowned rooms.
You have come out of the metro. Here is the street, the fruits and vegetables.
Weightless café window, placed on the sidewalk. You go in.
Outside, the sky descends. A white wheel, a carnival game. You look at the prize dolls, then you return to the violent, limitless space of the hotel.
From the sidewalk, you see the curtains, the little transparent curtains. The sky advances and penetrates the room. The street is there, very present.
You wander the floors, you pass by rooms.
Hallways bifurcate. The walls are full of water, miserable.
You are in the fragile and complicated structure of the hotel.
In the room, very quickly, thought is raw.
The blanket is on the bed. You sit down, you look at the room.
Time stays there, like a box.
Skin exposed, on the blanket. Over there, there’s the big white sink, and behind it, the cardboard walls.
The air is free, detached. The wallpaper goes on and on. On the bed, stiff linear effort. No success. There’s never an interior.
The furniture’s not right. You fall asleep without support.
Blank awakening, inhuman. No bearings, the factory. You are thrown headlong.
Sun and light. You see the little checks of the apron. The air is sharp, you advance to the end of the world. The black woman is very beautiful.
Fragility, tension. You are sitting, all alone.
Things are there, you can think them.
You can think things.
Blank euphoria, deferred birth. Mounting and diffuse movement, urgency.
Pure urgency.
Everything is there, in idea, everything. You are in the light, stuck. The world turns over, transparent surface. Nothing behind the windowpane. You see yourself being, endlessly.
You walk with the girl along the edge of the water. The sky is white. Banks, banks of the Seine. You walk together, you talk to each other, while the sky touches the earth, and the water. Benches, a painted snack bar. Over there, in the distance, you see the big mechanical factory, its sheets of metal.
You hold the girl by the arm, you walk. The sky cooks, immobile. One would say milk. In the water, a barge floats. It’s moving toward the bridge.
You walk. You have an apron, the girl has a smock. The trees are detached, stiff and green. The sky hovers.
The barge has reached the bridge. The air moves a bit. You look at the little boat, its red and yellow wood. The water is blue, far away.
You move along the humid earth, you talk. The factory is set over there, you see the tubes and the cylinders. Vague water, you look at it.
The barge has left, you feel the slowness of the sky.

Leslie Kaplan was born in Brooklyn, but raised and educated in France. Beginning in January 1968, Kaplan worked for two years in a series of factories. She later claimed that “no discourse could speak the factory,” but that some words—free of the forms and expectations of discourse— could undertake to do so. In L’excès-l’usine, she writes an alienating and often hidden place in society. The book-length poem, which includes nine “Circles,” acknowledges the distance and separation that the factory environment creates between people and objects.
Julie Carr is the author of six books of poetry, most recently 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta, 2010), RAG (Omnidawn, 2014), and Think Tank (Solid Objects, 2015). She is also the author of Surface Tension: Ruptural Time and the Poetics of Desire in Late Victorian Poetry (Dalkey Archive, 2013). A chapbook of prose was recently released as a free pdf from Essay Press. Carr was a 2011-12 NEA fellow and is an associate professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She is the co-founder of Counterpath Press and Counterpath Gallery.
Jennifer Pap is Associate Professor of French at the University of Denver. She has published articles on the presence of the visual arts in the language and thought of French poets such as Apollinaire, Reverdy, and Ponge. An article on Leslie Kaplan’s L’excès-l’usine is forthcoming in Contemporary French and Francophone Studies (formerly Sites). In collaboration with Julie Carr, she has translated Apollinaire’s Alcools as well as Kaplan’s L’excès-L’usine.