Three Poems

Original text from Britney Spears’ court transcript
Translated by Eszter Takacs

but my precious body

line for subjects like professors
whose work for my dad’s

subject object agreement
for the past [redacted] years

boiling up into cognition
the years the times the days

trying to be so good and pretty
fell apart on the page fell victim

to muteness so perfect
like a woman monster

but more like a mythos
head fixed on a plate of sun

that when [redacted] works
my body capital fails me so hard

and that when I do everything
I’m told to be currency

and [to be] the state of California
the vanity of a waterline in battle

allowed a slump like my ignorant father
to take his own daughter

like a small animal
in a wet fractal valley

that only has one role with me:
to become the lip of osmosis

a minor reduction but ore
that if I work with him [the father]

[redacted] may set back the whole geography
a sweat course an anchor a field

and a letter that allowed him to do that to me
that’s given these people I’ve worked for

way too much control

 

meds I’d been on for five years

the bodies and tools insist:
heteroglossia

the feather
and lithium complicate the voice

and this tract of blossomed land
a syph and spoke where

dispatch is a
very strong and completely different

medication compared to what
I was used to

and it becomes the age when
you can go

mentally impaired
if you take too much you wild

if you stay on it
longer than five months

wilt
but [redacted] put me on that

and I felt drunk
I really couldn’t even take up

the standards of women
for myself and

I couldn’t even have a conversation

 

there was one

broken word: agony
there were no other words allowed

brine was the next word and
the chef that came there

booked work that was soft paper
and cooked for me

a skin shaped harmony
like liver, tarts, a sweet suffering

daily during the weekdays
they watched me change

every day taking joints of shoulders
became multiple scarves became pearls

in the naked morning
like a wakeful lamb queen

noon and night my body spoke
but I had no privacy door

not for my hair
not for my room

and
I gave eight gallons of blood a week

 


Translator’s Note:
I’m completing a creative dissertation at the University of Denver, focused on poetics of the body and the poetics of capitalism. Specifically, my work aims to capture how Britney Spears has been manipulated into a product and caricature and too often flushed of personhood by the pressures of capitalist greed and the American desire to politicize, take possession of and burden the female body. One section of my work repurposes text from Britney’s June 23rd court testimony, in which she addresses the capacities and realities of her conservatorship. In repurposing existing text, I aim to inject the missing catalyst required to rewrite a victim and captive narrative into a goddess and victory narrative, so at its core, this is a work of translation. My goal is to complete this section by using every word of text from Britney’s court document. The titles of the poems are largely un-manipulated, un-translated lines from the court text itself, mostly from Britney!s own testimony, while the bodies of these poems include injections of language that I hope serve to speak of light, of power, not of defeat and captivity (hence the un-learning).

Britney’s court transcript is a byproduct of a prison she was forced into. While she does not speak in legalese, it was the text and ethos of legalese that trapped her in a conservatorship. Her court testimony transcript—her own words—seeks complaint, desires freedom, and is evidence of binding language, of a language that traps, captures and imprisons. In writing these poems, I first broke that language into small pieces, then “injected” language between these pieces, so as to speak a version of truth and forward-leaning justice that will (and has) come of Britney’s conservatorship and recent victories against it. Translation of literature is traditionally just movement between established languages and cultures—the cadence and conceit of one space isn’t the same as the other, but translation is the effort by which we try to equalize them. The language of the law, the language of fame, the language of simplicity and the language of poetry—these are the moving parts of how we receive the narratives of icons and celebrities. Britney comes from a space and culture of privilege. She’s an icon with money and fame. She has experienced a narrative most of us cannot fathom, but the power we thought she had was, it turns out, never actualized, never real. I’m trying to translate that: that lack of power, both perceived and actual, into the language space of the poet, and, in doing so, I’m unlearning the traditional rules of translation.

I currently have 23 poems completed of this section.

Britney Spears is an American icon.

Eszter Takacs is the author of the chapbooks The Spectacular Crash (H_NGM_N Books) and Together We Will Talk Right Down to Earth (The New Megaphone). Her work has also been published in Diagram, Inter|rupture, Apartment Poetry, Yalobusha Review, Soft Blow, Alice Blue Review, Barely South Review, Nightblock and elsewhere. She teaches writing at multiple institutions, works in supportive housing, and is a PhD candidate of contemporary poetics at The University of Denver. She has begun translating the work of Hungarian poet Lajos Kassák, but it’s a slow ship. Her socials were hacked and so she’s building a website very slowly here: www.esztereszter.com.