Stephen Page Has a New Poem Published on RiverLit

RiverLit covrStephen Page Has a New Poem Published on RiverLit.

Jake Sclavus (a short story) by Stephen Page

Jake Sclavus

Fiction by Stephen Page

(as first published in Quarto Magazine)

Quarto cvr w Jake Sclavus           My beeper is going off, so I look down to see the number on the display screen.  It’s the grocery store.  I run toward the store, hoping it isn’t anything serious.   This job is generally boring, in fact, deathly boring, but when something exciting happens, it is usually the kind of excitement that sane people try to avoid.  Crossing the large parking lot, I dodge moving cars, scattered shopping carts, and slow-moving people.  I check to see that my handcuffs are in place on my security belt as I enter the store.  My three-cell, heavy-duty flashlight is in my right hand.  The manager of the store tells me there is an “undesirable” walking around, one that has been picked up before on shoplifting  charges.  The manager points him out to me and I begin to follow him around.  He hasn’t yet noticed me when he cuts into one of the aisles with some food items in his hand.  When I turn the corner of the aisle, there he is, gulping down a quart of milk.  There is half-eaten lunch meat and cheese in his hand.  He has long, matted hair and he is wearing an Army trench coat, old jeans, T-shirt, and worn-out tennis shoes–all of which look like they have been worn for several weeks without a washing.   He gapes at me.  A few of his front teeth are missing.  I ask him if he is going to pay for the items, and he says, “Yes.”  I say, “Let’s go then,” and he says, “Fuck you.”  He begins to walk out the door.  I tell him if he walks out the door, I will have to apprehend him.  He says, “You wouldn’t dare.”  I tell the manager to call the police as I follow him out the store.  When we are outside, he turns and bumps me with his chest. I am surprised because his body is hard and wiry, his muscles hard as steel.  A fork has appeared in his right hand, and he is holding it in a menacing manner.  I notice that the sun has gone down and the parking lot has emptied.  There is a slight chill in the air.  The manger comes outside and tells me that the police will not arrive for at least half-an-hour.  Then he disappears, ducking quickly back into the store.  I look down at the very sharp fork waving around in the air.  Just then, a police car pulls into the parking lot.  I think they are there to assist me, but it turns out they are headed for the Mexican restaurant located at the other end of the parking lot.  I yell, “Hey!”  They turn their car around and head toward me and the hungry man with the fork in his hand.  They end up arresting him.


            I am walking around the parking lot.  I am bored.  My mind is numb from lack of use.  It feels like someone has had it freeze-dried, or at the very least, cut off its blood supply.  The only part of my brain that is alive is the motor-function area, and a minute section of the language area that keeps reverberating, “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored.”  It takes absolutely no intelligence to do this kind of work.  I am trying to figure how a person like me ends up with a job like this.


            It is near closing time.  Three more minutes and I can lock the doors and go home.  I am lazily staring through the glass doors and out over the parking lot.  Suddenly, a man appears in front of me, on the other side of the glass, his eyes are bloodshot and glassy.  I have to let him in because it isn’t yet closing time.  I open the doors and he just stands there.  It isn’t very cold out, but he is shivering.  “I just seen my friend get killed,” he says.  “Over drugs.”  I feel terrible.  Then I remember I’m on duty.  “Was it here, in this parking lot?”  “No,” he says.  “A few blocks away.”  His eyes stare unfocused on an imaginary spot over my shoulder.  His pupils are dilated.  “He was shot, man.  Three times.  In the gut.  He just lay there and bled all over the ground.”  I look down and notice he has one of his hands in his jacket pocket.  There is a bulge in that pocket, and he is lifting the bulge up, pushing it forward, pointing it toward me.  “Sorry,” I say.  “But it’s near closing time.  I have to lock up.”  I quickly begin to close the doors.  He doesn’t move.  He’s still staring at the imaginary place behind me, still pointing the bulge at me.  He looks like he is ready to cry.  I finally get the doors closed in front of him, lock them, and move off like I have something to do.


            I am walking around the parking lot.  My legs are tired and my feet are killing me.  My new shoes are pinching across the tops of my toes and rubbing sore spots on the backs of my heels.  When the eight-hour shift finally ends, I hobble to my car and drive home.  When I arrive, I take off my shoes and socks and notice the skin is missing on numerous spots around my feet.  I soak my feet in Epsom salts and wince at the pain.  The next day, when I wear tennis shoes, the Sergeant of the Guard chastises me for not having black shoes on.


            A commotion breaks out at the far end of the parking lot.  Because of all the cars, I can’t see what it is, but I can hear a lot of shouting.  I follow the noise until I arrive at the scene.  I find a man and a woman arguing.  A few people have gathered to watch.  Nobody is interfering or saying anything, even though the man is moving toward the woman, gesticulating in a manner that is causing her to walk backward.  The man is about six-foot-four, and weighs about two hundred and forty pounds; maybe that is why nobody is doing anything.  I check to make sure my battery-powered zapper is on my belt.  My ever-present flashlight is swinging in my right hand.  “Please take your argument elsewhere,” I tell them.  They ignore me.  I say it louder.  They still ignore me.  “I want my baby,” the man says.  “If you’re going to leave me, I want my baby.”  “No,” she says.  “I’m taking her to my mother’s.”  By this time the man has the woman backed up to the trunk of a car.  She looks like she wants to crawl backward over the top of the car.  She is not afraid to argue back though, and keeps the emphatic rhetoric going, all the time eyeing his hands.  I walk up next to them and yell, “Take your problems off this parking lot!”  “Stay out of this,” the man says as he turns his face toward me.  That is all the time the woman needs.  In the split-second it takes the man to turn his attention, the woman ducks under one of his arms and begins running toward an idling car.  Behind the steering wheel is another woman, holding a baby.  The man turns and takes a step in their direction.  I quickly maneuver around him and stop a few steps in front of him.  He looks intent on tearing me limb-from-limb.  His eyes are flashing fire.  He steps up to me and towers over me.  I stand my ground.  He looks surprised.  “You’re only doing this because I’m black,” he says.  “No,” I say.  “It’s my job.  I have to do this.”  The car behind me squeals off, carrying with it the two women and the baby.  The man looks over my head and begins to relax.  “She’s a terrible mother,” he says.  He turns and saunters off toward a large four-by-four vehicle, gets in, and slowly drives off.  I relax the tight grip I had on my flashlight.


            Tonight I am working at the local hospital.  It is near the end of my shift, but my replacement hasn’t arrived yet.  I wait, fifteen minutes, half-an-hour, an hour-and-a-half.  It is near midnight.  I call the officer of the day and tell him what happened.  He asks me to work a double shift.  They never pay overtime, but I agree.  I drink another cup of coffee, buy a newspaper and check the want-ads.


            I am working out in the Palomar area, guarding an office building on the midnight shift.  I took this post because I can sit in my car most of the time and study.  I only have to walk around every hour, check the area, and make sure all the office doors are locked.  It is cold here at night.  Whoever said it doesn’t get cold in sunny Southern California never lived away from the coast, and never worked outside at nighttime in the winter.  I have a Volkswagen, so the heater doesn’t work unless I am driving 40 miles an hour.  Since it’s hard to drive around the parking lot at night at 40 miles and hour and study at the same time, I sit in my car and study by flashlight.  The bad light bothers my eyes.  Even when I wear long johns, my legs go numb after ten or fifteen minutes.


            I am sleeping soundly when the phone rings.  It is the officer of the day, asking me to come into work.  I look at the clock and notice it has only been six hours since I left my last post.  A headache creeps into my frontal lobes.  My neck tenses up.  I tell him, “Yes,” hang up, and stumble toward the shower.  As the water washes over me, I remember what I studied last year in American history: at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, business owners exploited their workers to every extent possible.  As I make myself coffee, I wonder what happened to the strong labor unions of the 1970’s.  As I drive to work, I look down at the gas needle.  It hovers near the empty mark.  I think about the one hundred-fifty dollar paycheck I received for last week’s pay.


            Sometime around three in the morning, on one of my rounds at the Palomar office building, around the back, next to one of the dumpsters, where the smell of rotting lunch scraps and ink-smeared photocopy paper mingles with the night air, I find a man sleeping on the ground.  He is wrapped up in a dirty Army-surplus sleeping bag.  He is snoring.  With my foot, I tap the end of the sleeping bag where his feet are.  It takes me three or four nudges to wake him.  “You’re going to have to leave,” I say.  “No one is allowed on these premises at night.”  “Man, do you know who God is?” he asks.  “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave.”  “Do you go to church, man?”  “Look, you have to leave the area.”  “I didn’t think you went to church.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be kicking me out of here.”  I wait as he slowly stands and rolls up his sleeping bag, grumbling all the time about God and church.  I watch as he picks up pieces of food from the ground, wraps them in a greasy piece of typing paper, and deposits the package in his pocket.  I follow him until he walks off the parking lot.  “Go to church, man,” he says as he walks away.


I got this job, finally.  After six months of checking the want-ads, making phone calls, driving around, pounding the pavement, filling out apps, and getting drunk every evening, I got this job.


Re-Creation – an Esther Cross Interview

An Interview with
Esther Cross
by Stephen Page

(As first published in The Los Angeles Review)

esther_crossEsther Cross was born in Buenos Aires in 1961. She is the author of four novels, The Chronic Winged Apprentices (Emecé, 1992), The Flood (Emecé 1993), Banquet of the Spider (Tusquets, 1999), and Radiana (Emecé 2007); and the author of two collections of short stories, Divine Proportion (Emecé, 1994) and Kavanagh (Tusquets, 2005). She co-authored along with Felix della Paolera two books of interviews, Bioy Casares at the time of Writing (Tusquets, 1987) and Conversations with Borges (Editorial Fuentetaja, 2007). In 2002 she released The Insulted and the Injured, a documentary film that she co-wrote, co-directed, and co-produced with Alicia Martínez Pardíes. She has translated Richard Yates’s Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (Emecé, 2001) and William Goyen’s The Faces of Blood Kindred and Other Stories (Editorial La Compañía, 2008). She has been awarded a Fulbright and a Civitella Ranieri scholarship. She teaches writing in Casa de Letras, Buenos Aires, and for Fuentetaja, of Spain. She is published regularly in several culture magazines and supplements.

Los Angeles Review The Issue_08_FrontSp: What started you translating?

EC: I read Richard Yates’s Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, and was overwhelmed by it. I fell in love with the way he wrote, which is directly, sparingly—yet richly at the same time. Also, something Yates said in one of his stories, “Builders,” about using words honestly. That’s how Yates writes, he uses words honestly. I did some research and found that Eleven Kinds of Loneliness had not been translated into Spanish. I immediately decided I wanted to bring the book to the Spanish-reading world.

Sp: Who are some of your favorite Argentine translators?

EC: Enrique Pezzoni, who brought us Moby Dick. Borges, who made some great translations despite that quite often, his style is prominent. Félix della Paolera, who translated Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood. Rodolfo Walsh, Cortázar—among others.

Sp: Do you enjoy translating?

EC: Oh, I love it. It has increased my understanding of how language works. Also, it has increased my understanding of the two languages I work with—first of all, it has made me realize that I know more English than I thought I did, and second, it has made me realize that I know less Spanish than I thought I did (she chuckles). When I come to a sentence and it takes me three or four days to translate it, and all of a sudden I get it right—find the right words and the right word order—it is a rush. Mostly, I just love bringing great texts to people that language would normally keep apart.

Sp: Tell me about your translation processes. How do you go from concept to completed product?

EC: When I decide which book I want to translate, I read it from beginning to end to capture a general sense of it. Then I read it again to capture the rhythm of the words, the voice of the narrator, the writer’s style. Then I sit down and do a first draft of the translation, not worrying about getting it right word-for-word, but trying to capture the rhythm, the voice, the style. Then I go through my first draft, polish the details, make sure word choice is correct, that phrases make sense, that I am getting all that is needed to make an honest translation.

Sp: About the “voice” of the narrator or writer. Is that difficult to translate sometimes, even if you hear it clearly in the original language?

EC: Yes. But it is also what I enjoy about being a translator. I think that is the key between a good translation and a great translation—capturing the voice.

Sp: Is it difficult to get the rhythm of the words?

EC: Of course, because Spanish and English are very different languages. English is more plastic than Spanish, more pliable. Spanish is more rigid. Often, In Spanish, you need two or three words for one word in English, so sometimes you will write a very long sentence, whereas the original writer wrote the sentence economically.

Sp: And what do you do when you come to sentence or phrase where you just cannot capture the proper rhythm?

EC: I never give up. With Goyen it was not easy, because he has a talking quality, derived from the oral tradition. In interviews he speaks about the breath of the sentence. His fiction reads like someone is sitting down and telling you the story. Once I was able to “hear” his voice, it was a lot easier.

Sp: Now that we are talking about Goyen, what attracted you to him and his writing?

EC: His uniqueness. His powerful story telling. He has a quality that is similar to Faulkner, but of course he is not Faulkner at all. Many people call Faulkner’s style Southern Gothic. I like to call Goyen’s style Texan Gothic. It may be related to Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Carson McCullers—but his landscape is Texas. What makes Goyen’s stories impressionable is their orality, their musicality, and their subject matter. He said that he was inspired by his mother’s voice, the way she talked, how she almost sang when she spoke. Goyen also loved music—which his father did not like because he thought it was effeminate, and he forbad Goyen from playing the piano—so Goyen’s mother bought him one of those mail-order music courses, and he made a cardboard keyboard and sat under his covers at night and played music silently. His music playing, and as was later, his writing, had to be done in secret from his father. He was literally an undercover musician and writer. Sometimes, at night, he would pretend he was asleep and play his cardboard piano while he listened to his family talk in the living room—stories about sawmill workers, woodsmen, farmers, ranchers, out-of-work small-town people, the Ku Klux Klan. When he was older and started to write, he wrote those voices he heard while he was playing music.

Sp: Which of the two was most challenging to translate—Goyen or Yates?

EC: Yates. Because he is grammatically precise. Goyen is poetic, freer, looser.

SP: The stories you selected for La Misma Sangre are not solely from Faces of Blood Kindred, but are from a number of Goyen’s books. What were the factors in your selection process?

EC: I found that most of his stories fell into two groups—urban and rural. I chose the rural stories.

Sp: Goyen has been described as being drawn to the grotesque. Do you agree?

EC: I do. He often said he worked with the grotesque. He compared himself to the photographer Diane Arbus. He said he was not fond of the abnormalities in people, but that they drew him, and made him want to write about them, write about people who lived on the peripheries of society—like the bearded woman in his story “Zamour, or a Tale of Inheritance.”

Sp: In Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, what does Richard Yates say about modern society?

EC: His stories can be read as bleak, but I think he was trying to show truth, the dark side of the Golden Era in the United States—the Cold War, the façade of the perfect job and the perfect family, the failure of the American Dream. Yates showed the loneliness of those Americans—mostly young married couples—who bought the American Dream and found themselves in dead-end jobs, in debt, and with an awareness of the phoniness of dressing-for-success. Jean Améry once said that our biographies are not only formed by what we did but also by what we would have wanted to do. I think that Yates explored that gap, between who people are and who they had once wished to be.

Sp: Was Yates misanthropic, or kind to people?

EC: He was kind. He understood people. Most great writers understand people. Though he was pessimistic about the way the world works, he was very tender in his portrayal of the people involved in the world.

Sp: When you translate, in general, do you feel you translate into Argentine Spanish, Latin-American Spanish, or Spaniard Spanish?

EC: If it comes down to a choice, I choose Argentine Spanish, especially if I am being published here in Argentina. If I am translating for a publisher is Spain, of course, I use Spaniard Spanish. Overall, though, I try to think I translate into the language of translation.

Sp: So, when you are translating, do you feel you are copying something, or re-creating something?

EC: Re-creating. I try to be loyal to the original work. I know I can never copy something exactly, especially with language. I try to capture the spirit of the book. You have to re-create and not copy in order to respect another person’s work. If I may draw a parallel, it is like restoring a painting. In restoration, when the restorer fills in an absent part of the painting, or re-creates a part that was damaged, he performs what is known as tratation. If you look at the painting from a normal viewing distance, you see it complete. If you move closer, put your face right up to the painting, you will notice the restoration because the restorer worked with very thin lines. The restorer did that on purpose. She is telling you, “I am restoring the original painting, but I am not the original painter.” As a translator, I know I will never be able to reproduce the writer’s writing. I will try to get as near to it as I can, but I will not copy the writing. That would be too difficult.

Sp: Does that mean you feel a translator’s presence should be somewhere in a translation?

EC: No. Those lines I spoke about are not the translator’s presence, but the translator’s respect. The lines are there, but not the translator.

SP: You chose to translate two North American authors. Is there any particular reason for that?

EC: I guess that it has to do with my admiration for North American writing. I believe that the 20th Century narrative was what it was because of North American writers—not only, but mostly. I also feel there is a wonderful lack of solemnity in North American English that makes it playful. North Americans use the English language with a freedom and familiarity that is wonderful.

Sp: Do you find translating language of one culture into language of another culture difficult?

EC: Yes. Without a doubt. Because language is derived from culture and culture from language.

SP: Do you think, then, that translations promote cultural understanding?

EC: Yes, for the reader and translator. Unfortunately, from a political point of view, “cultural understanding” is a misleading term. For the book industry, anyway, translation is a means of cultural appropriation.

Sp: What do you do when you come to a word or phrase or a scene that does not make sense in your culture?

EC: I always try to stay true to the original. There are some exceptions, especially in word-choice, but the scenes must remain in the same order for the reader to understand the situation.

Sp: What about metaphors, similes, and double meanings. How do you deal with them?

EC: You have to give up something sometimes when dealing with figurative language. It’s inevitable. You strive to make it best as possible. Changing a word is hard, but not impossible. Sometimes you can find a similar figure of speech—just as long as you don’t change meaning. Sometimes when you are meticulously reading a text you will find figurative language that the author did not intend. Usually that happens with the genius writers. Their unconscious minds at work. If you try to reproduce any of that, it is kind of like trying to show the submerged part of an iceberg. You can attempt to show as much of it as you are able, but you will never be able to show it all. That would be too ambitious. There is just too much mass there. Lifting the iceberg out of the water would change the aesthetics of the tip.

Sp: What about story titles? Do you often have to change them to make meaning?

EC: Quite often, but not always. This is because titles are an introduction to the story, or an overall interpretation of the text. If that introduction or interpretation does not make sense in the culture of the translated language, a change must be made—something representative.

Sp: Do you feel there are a lot of great books and authors that have not been translated into Spanish?

EC: Yes I do. The main reason is marketability. Another reason is fashion. Basically, books that are being translated today are successful books. For contemporary books, that means bestsellers. For an older text, someone must classify it as a classic—which doesn’t necessarily mean it was a best seller when it was first written. If a good book does not become a best seller, or a classic, then the likelihood of it being translated is slim. Some great writers and great books are never discovered in other cultures.

Sp: Do you take a long time getting to know the author you are translating?

EC: Yes. (She holds up a two-inch thick book that she has held in her lap during our conversation, a biography about John Fante). I would like to translate his letters and that is why I am reading his biography. I always research the author.

Sp: Why do you feel it is important to get to know the author?

EC: If I know the author, I know how his mind works. If I know how his mind works, I know how he uses language.

SP: When you are working on a translation, how do you work…do you focus solely on the translation, or are you able to juggle other things, like your own writing?

EC: I would prefer to work solely on the translation. Keep my mind focused only on that. Sometimes though, I have to work on two projects and it works out. It’s difficult, but it can be done if it is necessary. You have to have a lot of faith in yourself if you want to work on your own writing while you are translating a genius.

Sp: Then, do you feel that your own writings and your translations compliment one other, or contradict one other?

EC: I think they complement one another, like all your lifetime writings do. They are linked. They are united. From each translation I make, I learn something. When I go back to my own writing I feel I have changed, I feel I am a better writer.

Sp: What kind of advice would you give to writers about to embark on their first translation project?

EC: A translation will never be perfect; you just have to get it as close as possible. The closer you get it, the better the translation is. Have tenacity. Never give up, even if it feels like it is not working. Have a very good dual-language dictionary, and read all you can about the author.

Sp: As a final word, then, what is the major role of a translator?

EC: To introduce the reader to the writer, then step back, and disappear.

Writing Poems By Robert Wallace and Michelle Boisseau

Originally posted on Fox Chase Review:

writing poemsPublisher: Longman; 8 edition (July 16, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0205176054
ISBN-13: 978-0205176052
Review by: Stephen Page
The first three chapters of Writing Poems are review for any writer who has taken a writing workshop at university and/or published anything other than a blog entry or a vanity book, yet the review is sweeet.  I believe it is imperative for all writers to reread the basics every decade or so, especially if that decade comes after years away from academia and teaching.  It’s not clear which parts of the book are Wallace and which parts are Boisseau, but the colaboration results well.  I like their ideas and theories, and their explanations are clear and concise.   I recommend this book to all writers and teachers alike.
On other reading this month, I read chapters three through six of Writing Poems.  I found the authors’ opinion of prose…

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Wanted to Join a Reading Club?

First Meeting of the Reading Club: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote Tell a friend Share viernes 28 de febrero de 2014 20:00 hasta 21:00 Fame Av. Cabildo 2921, Buenos Aires (map) Hi everyone! We’ll be starting a monthly reading club on Friday February 28th. The first book that we’ll discuss its  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The idea is to practice our English while discussing interesting books. The meeting will happen at a separate table from TEGOBA’s table in the mezzanine. Everyone is welcome to join the reading club table provided they have read the book in advance. You can find the book in PDF, ePub and mobi formats here: