The Truffle Eye
Adriana X. Jacobs is the recipient of a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for her translation of The Truffle Eye, the 2013 debut collection of poems by Vaan Nguyen. Born in Israel to Vietnamese refugee parents, Nguyen, writing in Hebrew, explores points of contact and friction between her Vietnamese heritage and her native-born Israeli identity. Read Jacobs’ essay on translating The Truffle Eye here.
Three Snapshots of Paris
On a French park bench
a mother screams as a step-child
dips his hand into the fountain.
Someone’s smoking a joint.
He shields his eyes
from the clouds—
the promenade of the Champs-Élysées
taps the womb.
I threw up cigarettes on a man
housed in cardboard
a full moon.
cling to me with drizzle and the loud
howling in front of German houses.
Shadows rest on these benches
and you weep lion tears
and bite me with literary envy,
you bite down hard on my back.
With pique and chomping
teeth, outside the bohemian balconies.
See, this tiled street
pavement is our body.
My eyes are on the back of my head.
Look, darling, we’re
as old as Paris
and you’ll still
dream about me
Rain baked with Grand Marnier
gives off notes of onion and pigeon shit.
Where is the attic—
Where is the vaulted ceiling—
in Paris time, on the banks of the Seine.
Waiting for the makeshift lover sniffing a medley,
this boredom is
the inertia of legs in love
enveloped and coiled
at a standstill of no
Disgust swells, a balloon of self-loathing.
I’m a fashion catalog
a bipolar personality
in this city I’m
a depression clamped against a tree.
into the one-way cold she scatters
men vanishing into the dark,
the big city
glitters neon lights,
bubbling like sour dots
Vaan Nguyen (b. Israel, 1982) is the author of the poetry collection The Truffle Eye (2013, Ma’ayan Press). She is affiliated with Gerila Tarbut (Cultural Guerilla), a collective of Israeli and Palestinian poets, artists and activists, and also has worked as an actress and journalist.
Adriana X. Jacobs is an associate professor of modern Hebrew literature at the University of Oxford, where she specializes on contemporary Israeli poetry and translation. Her translations of Hebrew poetry have appeared in various print and online venues, including Zeek, Metamorphoses, Truck, Poetry International, Gulf Coast and MQR.
This piece is part of PEN’s 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Series, which features excerpts and essays from recipients of this year’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.
This translation is available for publication. Publishers and editors who wish to express interest in this project are invited to contact PEN Literary Awards Coordinator Arielle Anema ([email protected]) or Translation Fund Advisory Board Chair Michael F. Moore ([email protected]) for the translator’s contact information.
Since 2009, the Fund’s annual contribution for grant awards has been augmented by support from Amazon.