from Riddance

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 70th birthday.

10-09 Negroni
Maria Negroni
b. 1951


Am I that woman in the dance
raising inexperience like light
addressing herself like a feather
to her most elusive whereness?
Strange flower growing soft
out of the frame of language
trying on sandals and flinging
into writing unscathed by writing.

Winding the body’s lexicon
it hit me in the takeaway
shown my treasure in nothing
I wavered: submit or escape
it’s a question of what is lost
in the beat of a voluptuous skirt
what battle is evaded what dire
endearing enemy abandoned.

Strange as if lit from within
with the indicative expounding
from neckline to poem curve
I learned to conjugate affairs
but for what if the nitty-gritty
of nothing like eternity
consisted in leaving me naked
doubtlessly an odd privilege.

What if time were lawless?
Where do you keep what wasn’t?
They go on like this and that
you never know what kills you
and January sun and you just came
just like a breath and worked me
to confine my body’s surrounds
to the exacting beauty of lack.

And I who’d thought to interject
geography as flamboyant sun
retrace my past in slip-ups
sweet-talking myself tough
and even pin on you a trinket
clinched knees sissy feet
which you’ll interpret as expertise
but is just a pretense for hurt.

If together where the belly bends
if I contracted and opened for you
if something like a sky disclosed
to what encloses inside blue
if you drew me so disposed
if I existed where you lost me
if a spasm and other orphandoms
if imperfection is a gift.

Contrary to the clock hands
too long in two voices unreleased
you walk me through my legs
to tumult with no predicate
while I angle for the occasional
avails of female cunning
tattooing the flipside of language
digits an animal won’t give up.

Night is a house to wander
with Spanish moss poison
I mean, to look for looseness
beyond your foremost failure
maybe that was the attraction
out of all you gave me and got
how you tossed me into boleos
heart antsy the secret clear.


Translation by Michelle Gil-Montero

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