transl. Alex MacKeith

He is like a god because he's not real
But he is very good looking.
He is a fabricated phantom,
Neutralises Jesus,
Takes his seat beside you
Like he knows how to sit down
Watch [look] listen [live].

Ice-cream smile, sad because everything,
He's the feeling me. And
Everything is you at once,
The label see-through,
Nothing left of that in me
[a voice that catches like it should].

Tongue hardened to a murder weapon,
Still a sucker for the art of
Fanning flames when we get home,
The sounds of you sobbing
In my snow-capped ears,
Stars buried in your eyes at night.

You need a job, Little Guy. That's what
Your problem is:
No Job holds your too-big gestures
Up to the light.
No job is for the kings that came before,
And real beauties
And it dies in the city.

Alex MacKeith is a writer from London. His first work for theatre, School Play, ran at the Southwark Playhouse in 2017 and was published by Oberon Books. His debut feature screenplay, The Lesson, premiered at the Tribeca Festival in June 2023 before an international release. His prose has been published in HotShoe Magazine, and as a stand-up comedian he won the UK's 2020 Musical Comedy Awards, has been a semi-finalist in the BBC New Comedy Awards, and took a sell-out solo show, Thanks for Listening, to the Edinburgh Festival in 2022. He has taught Classics in London and has an MPhil in Classical Literature from Cambridge University.



Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,
qui sedens adversus identidem te
spectat et audit
dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
[vocis in ore]
lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures, gemina teguntur
lumina nocte.
otium, Catulle, tibi molestumst:
otio exultas nimiumque gestis.
otium et reges prius et beatas
perdidit urbes.

Catullus, in full Gaius Valerius Catullus, born c. 84 BCE—died c. 54 BCE was a Roman poet whose expressions of love and hatred are considered some of the finest lyric poetry of ancient Rome. In twenty-five of his poems he speaks of his love for a woman he calls Lesbia, whose identity is uncertain. Other poems by Catullus are outbursts of contempt for Julius Caesar and others.

Read Alex MacKeith on translating Catullus.

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