The translator undresses. Tries on the shape of the work she translates. Stuffs her new belly with his engorged sex. Tries not to re-write his words tries to give her self over to his syntax. In the end, she wears her same nakedness.

volcano spews ash
thick clouds that touch the heavens
cover her body

transient—passing by or away from one place to another.

her thick fingers
trees damaged by a hard storm
downed power lines

rendering something written or spoken in different but equivalent form or state to a different place, office, or sphere by which information in messenger RNA directs the sequence

from the language of ash: the women in her family are beautiful and alone.

yellow park flower
its petals its leaves
brown

Monica Hand, "From the language of ash" from me and Nine. Copyright © 2012 by Monica Hand. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

Having fallen while no one was looking
Having borne what fell through
Having fallen early
/
Having barely fallen through myself
My luck, so close to catching,
Having caught the worst of it
/
Having fallen from the sky, and then
Through it. Having landed to realize
I had been part
/
Having parted the late sky, partly
Sky where I am delicate, I took
A tumble through the night bloom
/
I took the night with me as I tumbled,
Delicate with the infinite,
Which swells from the tallest branch
/
Having grown swollen
As low-hanging fruit, I tell Nadra,
I couldn’t help it—
/
The fresh heave of new breast
Thick switch of hip: a group
Of unnamed gifts is called a steal
/
She says, fruit you can reach is still
Precious. Her name means rare: her lean
Thins towards the unusual.
/
In Lagos, we name our girls
Darling, Sincere, Precious, because
A name is a stake in the grave
/
Having grieved and taken and taken
On the way to Eros, Thanatos
Having arrived late to my own bloom:
 
 
Halve me like a walnut
Pry the part of me that is hollow
From the part that yields fruit.

 

Copyright © 2019 by Omotara James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

What is said in conversation
when all of the women leave
the room? Satin glove slipped
from fist. An uncut deck of cards.

The men show their teeth. Mark
opinions like territory. Laugh
upside down, wrinkles shape-
shifting between stone, wood

and flesh. This cut & paste debate
sits in the shade of cigar smoke.
Sips dark liquors neat, no chaser.
Spans home front and auction block.

Laughter and shit talk roll
like distant thunder. Make bridges
of fragments. End in guarded
embraces as quick as they are firm.

Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Pegram. Used with permission of the author.

Some say thronging cavalry, some say foot soldiers, 
others call a fleet the most beautiful of 
sights the dark earth offers, but I say it's what-
            ever you love best.

And it's easy to make this understood by 
everyone, for she who surpassed all human 
kind in beauty, Helen, abandoning her
            husband—that best of

men—went sailing off to the shores of Troy and 
never spent a thought on her child or loving 
parents: when the goddess seduced her wits and
            left her to wander,

she forgot them all, she could not remember 
anything but longing, and lightly straying 
aside, lost her way. But that reminds me
            now: Anactória,

she's not here, and I'd rather see her lovely 
step, her sparkling glance and her face than gaze on
all the troops in Lydia in their chariots and
            glittering armor.

From The Poetry of Sappho (Oxford University Press 2007), translated by Jim Powell. Copyright © 2007 by Jim Powell. Reprinted by permission of the author.

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask.  No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard.
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this?  we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone.  But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
                      It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang.  And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker.  Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh!  Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

(“Every true woman feels——”—Speech of almost any Congressman.)

I am old-fashioned, and I think it right
   That man should know, by Nature’s laws eternal,
The proper way to rule, to earn, to fight,
   And exercise those functions called paternal;
But even I a little bit rebel
At finding that he knows my job as well.

At least he’s always ready to expound it,
   Especially in legislative hall,
The joys, the cares, the halos that surround it,
   “How women feel”—he knows that best of all.
In fact his thesis is that no one can
Know what is womanly except a man.

I am old-fashioned, and I am content
   When he explains the world of art and science
And government—to him divinely sent—
   I drink it in with ladylike compliance.
But cannot listen—no, I’m only human—
While he instructs me how to be a woman.

This poem is in the public domain.

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

From Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright 1973 by Adrienne Rich.

It isn't how we look up close
so much as in dreams.

Our giant is not so tall,
our lizard boy merely flaunts

crusty skin- not his fault 
they keep him in a crate

and bathe him maybe once a week.
When folks scream or clutch their hair

and poke at us and glare and speak
of how we slithered up from Hell,

it is themselves they see:
the preacher with the farmer's girls

(his bulging eyes, their chicken legs)
or the mother lurching towards the sink,

a baby quivering in her gnarled 
hands. Horror is the company

you keep when shades are drawn.
Evil does not reside in cages.

Copyright © 2005 Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Excerpted from "Circus Fire, 1944," from The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart. Used with permission of Persea Books.

Because dirt, my uncle called,
wore my human face,
into the window
of the abandoned home
where the boy and I
beetled miscible, like a trick,
through the teeming dark.

Because I bared my spine,
its soft gnarls,
for his fingers’ drizzle
to stir
and pry away the alarm
a woman comes
to know is her body.

Because in dining rooms,
aunties gathered to unscramble ayahs
and surveille immaculate windows
for unscarved girls,
their ringed forefingers
always heady with blame.

Because I hastened, a flash,
a mistake of speed.
And no matter how many times
I summoned foot to foot
for the untimely symmetry
of prayer, night after night,
swarming like locusts,
gregarious as Armageddon,
came the apparitions: my uncle,
siphoned forth in the antiseptic light,
watching the boy and I,
like a sore expelled from the center.

Because how easily I believed him,
smothered for months
that dark room beneath
the arsenic trail of my own
isolate fault and heaps
of pistachio ice cream
I dolloped all over
my sedentary, my criminal thighs.

Copyright © 2021 by Hera Naguib. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

1
I drove all the way to Cape Disappointment but didn’t
have the energy to get out of the car. Rental. Blue Ford
Focus. I had to stop in a semipublic place to pee
on the ground. Just squatted there on the roadside.
I don’t know what’s up with my bladder. I pee and then
I have to pee and pee again. Instead of sightseeing
I climbed into the back seat of the car and took a nap.
I’m a little like Frank O’Hara without the handsome
nose and penis and the New York School and Larry
Rivers. Paid for a day pass at Cape Disappointment
thinking hard about that long drop from the lighthouse
to the sea. Thought about going into the Ocean
Medical Center for a check-up but how do I explain
this restless search for beauty or relief?

2
No need to sparkle, Virginia Woolf wrote in “A Room
of One’s Own,” oh, would that it were true, I loved the kids
who didn’t, June, can’t remember her last name, tilt of her
head like an off-brand flower on the wane, her little rotten
teeth the color of pencil lead, house dresses even in 4th grade,
and that boy Danny Davis, gray house, horse, eyes, clothes,
fingertips and prints, freckles not copper-colored but like metal
shavings you could clean up with a magnet. Now Mrs. LaPointe
was a dug-up bone but Miss Edge sparkled, she taught the half-
and-half class, 3rd and 4th grades cut down the middle
of the room like sheet cake, she wore a lavender chiffon dress
with a gauzy cape to school, aquamarine eye shadow, Sweetie,
she whispered to me, leaning down, breath a perfume, your
daddy’s dead, tears stuck to her cheeks like leeches or jewels.

3
I aborted two daughters, how do I know they were girls,
a mother knows, at least one daughter, maybe one
daughter and a son, will it hurt I asked the pre-abortion
lady and she said, her eyes were so level, I haven’t been
stupid enough to need to find out, cruel but she was right,
I was and am stupid, please no politics, I’ve never gotten
over it, no I don’t regret it, two girls with a stupid penniless
mother and a drug-addict father, I don’t think so, I shot
a rabbit once for food, I am not pristine, I am not good,
I am in no way Jesus, I am in no way even the bad Mary
let alone the good, though I have held my living son
in the pietà pose, I didn’t know at the time I was doing it
but now that I look back, he’d overdosed and nearly died,
my heart, he said, his lips blue, don’t worry, I’ve paid.

4
To return from Paradise I guess they call that
resurrection. Don’t remember the black cherries’
gleam, bay shine, mountain’s sheen, blissful
appalling loneliness. Messy foam at sea’s edge,
slurry they call it, where love and death meld
into slop, and unaccustomed birds. Forget all
the way back to where you were before you were
born. When Dyl was a toddler, still finger-sucking,
he said he remembered the sound of my blood
whooshing past him in utero, maybe the first of many
lies, this one with an adorable speech impediment.
I always return, it’s my nature, like the man who
couldn’t stop liberating the crayfish even though
it pinched him hard, that song, that Grand Ole Opry.

5
The best is when you respond only to the absolute present
tense, the rain, the rain, rain, rain, and wind, an iridescent
cloud, another shooting, this time in a shopping mall
in Germany, so this is why people want other people to put
their arms around them, I will walk to the bay where there is
a kind of peace, even emptiness, the barn swallows’ sharp
flight and cry, who now has the luxury of emptiness or peace,
the beauty of thunder in a place where there is rarely thunder,
the mind like a jackrabbit bounding, bounding, my wet hair
against my neck, grandfather’s barber shop, the line-up
of hair tonics by color like a spectrum, the pool table removed
to make a room for great-grandma to live out her years, my
father cutting a semicircle in her kitchen table so it would fit
around the stove pipe, rain, rain, fascism in America is loud.

6
Poetry, the only father, landscape, moon, food, the bowl
of clam chowder in Nahcotta, was I happy, mountains
of oyster shells gleaming silver, poetry, the only gold,
or is it, my breasts, feet, my hands, index finger,
fingernail, hangnail, paper cut, what is divine, I drove
to the sea, wandered aimlessly, I stared at my tree, I said
in my mind there’s my tree, there’s my tree I said in my mind,
I remember myself before words, thrilled at my parents’
touch, opened milkweed with no agenda, blew the fluff,
no reaching for comparison, to be free of signification,
wriggle out of the figurative itchy sweater, body, breasts,
vulva, little cave of the uterus, clit, need, touch, come, I came
before I knew what coming was, iambic pentameter, did I
feel it, does language eclipse feeling, does it eclipse the eclipse

Copyright © 2017 Diane Seuss. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

arrives early for the date
to tell him she's late
he watches her bio clock balk on seepy time
petals out of rhythm docked for trick crimes

flunked the pregnancy test
mistimed space probe, she aborted
legally blind justice, she miscarried
scorched and salted earth, she's barren

when Aunt Haggie's chirren throws
an all original ball
the souls ain't got a stray word
for the woman who's wayward

dead to the world
let earth receive her piece
let every dark room repair her heart
let nature and heaven give her release

From Muse & Drudge, page 39, by Harryette Mullen, published by Singing Horse Press. Copyright © 1995 by Harryette Mullen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

some hear the song
& ask me of my children:
what’s it like to be the mother of sirens?
            they curl their lips
            & snarl around the syllables

they mean to say,
what is it like to raise sluts
who draw men off their sacred path?

what’s like to be the minor character
in every story?

it is not my job to protect weak-willed men
who long to be seduced
but curse the ones who’ve master the art

Sirens are the call of emergency
Call to darkness.
the warning in any myth.

Sirens may save your life
or end it
you will not know which
until the morning comes

they want to know what It’s like
to have birthed such dangerous creatures

did it ever occur to you
that my children
flee their home
convene in isolation,
shield themselves with bladed rocks
because you are the dangerous ones?

Copyright © Assétou Xango. Used with permission of the author.

The places where Edmonia’s bones were fractured still hold violent reverberations. When it rains I massage the static hum out of each point of impact. There is nothing heavier than flesh that wishes to be on another axis, except perhaps stone she shaped. Tonight she tells me, it’s impossible to bring a lover to the small death she deserves. An orgasm is excavated, never given. She takes my face in her hands without permission. I take her waist with care not to treat her like a healing thing. My fear winnows. She is digging me out of my misery with her fugitive hands. No one has ever led me out of myself the way she does when we move as though the species depends on our pleasure. She makes a pocket of me until I cry. I’ve seen that field, the site of her breaking, in the empty parking lot I cut through to class. There is nothing left for us to forge in Oberlin, and still we remain, Edmonia a sentient rock, swallowing her own feet in want of motion. We fit on this twin sized bed only by entanglement. We survive here by the brine of our brutish blood.

From Hull (Nightboat Books, 2019). Copyright © 2019 Xandria Phillips. Used with permission of Nightboat Books, nightboat.org.

   Although the aepyornis
   or roc that lived in Madagascar, and
the moa are extinct,
the camel-sparrow, linked
   with them in size--the large sparrow
Xenophon saw walking by a stream--was and is
a symbol of justice.

   This bird watches his chicks with
   a maternal concentration-and he's
been mothering the eggs
at night six weeks--his legs
   their only weapon of defense.
He is swifter than a horse; he has a foot hard
as a hoof; the leopard

   is not more suspicious.  How
   could he, prized for plumes and eggs and young
used even as a riding-beast, respect men
   hiding actor-like in ostrich skins, with the right hand
making the neck move as if alive
and from a bag the left hand strewing grain, that ostriches

   might be decoyed and killed!  Yes, this is he
whose plume was anciently
the plume of justice; he
   whose comic duckling head on its
great neck revolves with compass-needle nervousness
when he stands guard,

   in S-like foragings as he is
   preening the down on his leaden-skinned back.
The egg piously shown
as Leda's very own
   from which Castor and Pollux hatched,
was an ostrich-egg.  And what could have been more fit
for the Chinese lawn it

   grazed on as a gift to an
   emperor who admired strange birds, than this
one, who builds his mud-made
nest in dust yet will wade
   in lake or sea till only the head shows.

	.	.	.	.	.	.	.

   Six hundred ostrich-brains served
   at one banquet, the ostrich-plume-tipped tent
and desert spear, jewel-
gorgeous ugly egg-shell
   goblets, eight pairs of ostriches
in harness, dramatize a meaning
always missed by the externalist.

   The power of the visible
   is the invisible; as even where
no tree of freedom grows,
so-called brute courage knows.
   Heroism is exhausting, yet
it contradicts a greed that did not wisely spare
the harmless solitaire

   or great auk in its grandeur;
   unsolicitude having swallowed up
all giant birds but an alert gargantuan
   little-winged, magnificently speedy running-bird.
This one remaining rebel
is the sparrow-camel.

From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This poem is in the public domain.

Dreamed the thong of my sandal broke.
Nothing to hold it to my foot.
How shall I walk?
	        Barefoot?
The sharp stones, the dirt. I would
hobble.
And– 
Where was I going?
Where was I going I can't
go to now, unless hurting?
Where am I standing, if I'm
to stand still now?

"The Broken Sandal" by Denise Levertov, from Poems 1968-1972, copyright © 1970 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

She woke up old at last, alone,
bones in a bed, not a tooth
in her head, half dead, shuffled
and limped downstairs
in the rag of her nightdress,
smelling of pee.

            Slurped tea, stared
at her hand--twigs, stained gloves--
wheezed and coughed, pulled on
the coat that hung from a hook
on the door, lay on the sofa,
dozed, snored.

            She was History.
She'd seen them ease him down
from the Cross, his mother gasping
for breath, as though his death
was a difficult birth, the soldiers spitting,
spears in the earth;

            been there
when the fisherman swore he was back
from the dead; seen the basilicas rise
in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Sicily; watched
for a hundred years as the air of Rome
turned into stone;

            witnessed the wars,
the bloody crusades, knew them by date
and by name, Bannockburn, Passchendaele,
Babi Yar, Vietnam. She'd heard the last words
of the martyrs burnt at the stake, the murderers
hung by the neck,

            seen up-close
how the saint whistled and spat in the flames,
how the dictator strutting and stuttering film
blew out his brains, how the children waved 
their little hands from the trains. She woke again,
cold, in the dark,

            in the empty house.
Bricks through the window now, thieves
in the night. When they rang on her bell
there was nobody there; fresh graffiti sprayed
on her door, shit wrapped in a newspaper posted
onto the floor.

From Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy. Copyright © 2003 by Carol Ann Duffy. Published in April 2003 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.