“Blood has its own syntax,” writes Becka McKay in her debut collection. A translator, interpreter, and guide, the speaker of this volume not only instructs us in the languages of our postmodern geopolitical Babe;—“the boy took my breath / in his mouth. Do you love it, / he asked. Hebrew / has no word for like”—but in lexicons of the inner life as well, from the “infinite grammars of betrayal,” to “the linguistics of clouds,” which “changes from country to country.” Only a writer endowed with McKay’s rueful cosmopolitanism could title a lyric ”You are Not Here,‘ leaving her reader both unsettled and, curiously, at home before the poem even begins. Ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Jerusalem to more fugitive topographies such as Utopia and “the kingdom of transitive verbs,” McKay’s speaker ultimately arrives at the fugitive yet purposive source of lyric utterance itself: “your mouth is always part river, part crossing.”
McKay’s quiet translations convey Epstein’s imperceptible wink to the reader, as well as the often elegiac and formal tone of the original.
Becka Mara McKay is slowly becoming one of our most reliable translators from the Hebrew.
The narrative itself is clear and seems almost effortless in its moving pace and mesmerizing plot, a seamlessness which the reader may contribute to both Adam and her translator, Becka Mara McKay.