HOW THE LITTLE BEAR REFLECTED LIGHT
After Liliana Ursu
You said: “I’ve written no manifestos.
You can check my typewriter
if you’d like. I’ll strike every key
for you, but keep in mind how
it degrades us both to verify.”
Me, I came to Boston as a pilgrim,
not a Puritan, but still, I tried to find
some holy path. I circled the black box
of poetry, where the last words are
recorded. That indestructible box
in any sky. I came here for just
three things. I was ready to kneel
and pray for them. The idiom
of supplication opened like a cave.
I found fear only at the mouth of it.
You had a party– when the word
loneliness was returned to you at last.
They had taken away your days
and your nights, but loneliness was back,
a large bright room with enough
space to kneel down or lie flat
on the face and ask and wait.
By the way, I like waltz time too.
Something dies after every three,
and then the one returns to you.
I’d sought the wrong kind of angel.
I thought he’d be completely drenched
in beauty, but instead he was profane.
He reeked of yeast and brackish water.
His halo looked like lines drawn out
from the head, indicating pain.
When I found him we went deep
into the room of loneliness together.
The things we said were never written
down. I changed. You said: go
to the place where your heart first beat.
I did. I took my pulse. I breathed.
And there I found the number three. Long
ago, I was born in a layer cake that stood
in the rain just above the beach.
A plane fell from the sky that day.
My father, brown eyes lashed above
his epaulets, piloted the plane. Through
the whole fiery crash, everyone was safe.
So first this: build a bridge to some
abyss, so I can stand to look at it:
statues on both sides, the fair dead
to the left and saints off to my right.
That second thing I found tonight:
your lightwall that I sought and sought
to be. St. Francis breathed inside your
poetry. I am named for a flower, too,
to live, die, and then be nothing here at all.
Why worry? I’m green even now, near
you, wearing my best disguise of blue.
Once with the filthy angel, I learned
a game of chance: I would jut my hand
out, flat like paper, shouting “poetry!”
and he would make a claw, and whisper
“ball of light” and grab my paper.
Or he’d extend a fist, and tell me
“daily bread!” and I’d rest my paper
on the bread, to earn it. We went on
like this for hours, until the touching
of our hands became like a fire.
But I chose “ball of light,” and then
he went with “daily bread,” and so
the game became inert, and we sat down
to eat the bread, which, in the end, had
a baby in it, like a king cake. I named her
Liliana, after you. I put her in my pocket.
Then the bats flew in. I couldn’t even
tell if they were real, but we fought them
with our poetry, our open hands waving
in the air. The angel left, but first
he brought his claw up to his chest,
to replace the ball of light. And, me,
I rolled my poetry into a little
loaf of bread. In that bright room,
I held a child. That was the end.
(from Noontimes Won)
eyes steeped in a wet and thatched obedience
pistils of silence kindle underneath your steps
you walk a tightrope in the desert
dazzling above the tracks of kings
the wind in vain with death between its teeth
has passed retracing the rock face
while your light nests in a tranquil flow
where desire illuminates the atmosphere of things
let hunger cross its horrible wings
let the tree choke on its cries among the stiff wrists
leave the city’s sole worry in the hands of the blind
let beauty only recognize itself at the pleasure of the mirror
let the bridges by which she is recognized be blasted
and from among all images let pain come to mind
let the stalemate of the seas end here in your solitude
axis of heat cloaked in the flesh of your flight
perpetually the same on all sides
tender water of sleep offered around
water that pacifies by calling every blade of grass by name
you are steeped in bark
you speak between the lashes of the leaves
it’s you who appears at the wind's own window
between each stroke of the clock
i speak of the clock
i help you on with your cloak
when the sun sweeps the horizon
i speak to you of horizon
and my sorrow is traced
around each letter like a hard root
let the house silenced by forests
nakedly wear its thirst for the world
it’s the shortest river
where friendship is snatched from the night
your cruel youth on the pavement
the first said
the salt of oblivion
dogs in the stars’ jaws underneath the table
a lamp keeps watch in the rain
gobsmacked the silence forever and ever
the second says friends in sight
sheltered under rocks the eye is clearer
than the fear that bites the ship
and if something has not yet been said
it’s that the punishment timer
flickers in spurts of light
its innocence tossed to the deafness of drinking troughs
on the steps and stairs and markets of this city
village-–no-–a mind in the night
unleashing the terrible machines of the hunt
the first is ruin
the second is death
the second is the dead
solitude how could i celebrate with you
shadow play against love
[Heather Green's translation of Tristan Tzara's Noontimes Won will be published this year by Octopus Books. She is the author of two chapbooks No Omen and The Match Array, on LATR Press and Dancing Girl Press, respectively. Her poems and translations have appeared in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, The New Yorker, and are forthcoming from Poetry International.]
Copyright © 2015 by Heather Green, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.