The Post-Nuclear Ones

Lola Arias
Argentine
b. 1976

 

One. I’m going to stop lying. I’m going to stop
smoking. I’m going to stop being afraid of the dark.

Two. I’m never going to make mistakes again just
because it’s nighttime or it’s cold or there’s a
melancholy cloud over my head.

Three. I have to stop wasting time. When I get
home I’m going to start writing. I’m not going to
answer the phone or eat the leftovers from my
fridge or read all those books waiting on my
bedside table like skyscrapers.

Four. I’m thirty tomorrow. Instead of having a party
I’m going to get in the bath and read my old diaries.
How old are you when youth ends?

Five. I can’t hear my heart under the water. I could
die now and I’d never know. If I die I want to be
cremated and my ashes scattered in the sea or the
river or flushed down the toilet. I’d rather be dead
under water than dead under ground.

Six. I have to learn to breathe better. I’d like the air
to leave me without my realizing, as if I were a
mermaid at the bottom of a bathtub.

Secret Energy

Lupe Gómez
Spanish
b. 1972

 

1

You gave birth to me. I bore wings.
The blood of the dead was kept
in the trough.
It was Entroido, Carnival. I believed in the open sincerity of accordions.

There’s snow, so much snow in the fields and in the language I speak,
inside the political stomach of cows.

2

You gave birth to me striking softly
in the difficult percussion of my body.
The theatrical walls of the wellsprings burst
in the crystal of night.

I took flight.

3

You had four children, and forty years.
You gave birth in the kitchen of a dirt-floored house.
My blood was a knot in your domed belly.

4

You danced, and brought in the harvest.
I had whooping cough and
was expiring in your arms.

5

“I’ve two godmothers. Two meadows. Two pasts. Two trains. I’m two women, two sisters, two neighbour ladies, two wee boats.”

6

“There at that baptism, in 1972, was my godmother Marisol who wanted to name me for a tiny Virgin revered in that dark, chilly, lovely church. Also there /present and absent / were my godmother Virtudes and godfather Antonio. They lived in Germany, in the emigration of flowers. Virtudes’s eyes are wide-open blue camellias. Antonio was a decent and elegant man from Hermida. Though he’s dead, he keeps giving me gifts.”

Night is memory . . .

7

Mother camouflaged. Nest for birds.
Cuddle. Linguistic embraces.

I went hunting for birds.

8

I love you, with my mute fingers.
With butterflies of air I make you tatted lace.
With the blind power of my sad eyes
I rehearse a work of theatre for you.

With my love I make you
a forest.
I learn to listen to clouds, to work earth and to read heaven, in your lap.

9

“You gave birth to me, and your man looked on in silence, bursting with happiness and trees. I brought electric shadows.”

10

You screamed,
ate sops,
sipped Sanson fortified wine.

11

From your body mine was born,
as if you were sharing
the mystery of magpies.

12

You had no dreams
because village women don’t dream.

The economic backwardness of Galicia
was a form of artistic avant-garde.

Lost for Words

Colm Toibin
Irish
b. 1955

 

The sea is all washed up. The house rocks
On through the night; nothing will see reason.
Most things have left us, and some people too.
Strange the speed with which they disappeared.
And colours died that gave a shape to things,
Till what is lost comes vaguely in these dreams.

And the dead sad words float out in foolish space
And have the weight of atoms in a wind;
They do not want to come to earth again.
I saw their tears unflowing in the sky.

In an old house I heard some words for flowers:
‘Buttercup’, ‘lupin’, ‘truth’ and ‘fluredelee’.
And there were names for trees: ‘barkbrown’, ‘oak’
And ‘hard’, the loveliest of all, they said,
Easy to live with and soft on the eye.
On a saint’s day you climbed into its soul.

Afterlife

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 65th birthday.

John Burnside
Scots
b. 1955

 

When we are gone
our lives will continue without us

– or so we believe and,
at times, we have tried to imagine

the gaps we will leave being filled
with the brilliance of others:

someone else gathering plums
from this tree in the garden,

someone else thinking this thought
in a room filled with stars

and coming to no conclusion
other than this –

this bungled joy, this inarticulate
conviction that the future cannot come

without the grace
of setting things aside,

of giving up
the phantom of a soul

that only seemed to be
while it was passing.

Communion at the Gate Theatre

Mary O’Malley
Irish
b. 1954

 

This is the time of life when a woman
goes to Dublin to the theatre to get away
the night every Leaving Cert student in Ireland
is up from the country to see the same RSC production.

Hamlet is small and elegant and very English. What did
she expect – that after all those years
he would have grown really Danish, the lies
would be less eloquent, gestures less fluid?

Tonight she finds the prince tedious and self-obsessed.
You are thirty years old for Christ’s sake,
she shouts, startling the audience.
The students are disapproving, then delighted.

Now that they have stopped texting one another,
the girls are shaping some of the words.
There is Royal Shakespearean body language
between Claudius and Gertrude.

The boys whistle, applaud uneasily.
The woman thinks Gertrude is entitled to her lover’s kiss.
What kind of twisted little shit are you?
she asks Hamlet, but silently. Hamlet is relentless.

The actor fifty if he’s a day, torturing his mother
who is the same age. No one cares.
It is as bad as MacLiammoir playing Romeo.
The kids are loving it. We are rearing

a generation of throwbacks, she thinks,
without Latin to sustain them, much less history.
She checks the exits, measures her chances. She rises
in a crouch just as a hush is spreading through the house.

Here and there along the rows the students begin
To mouth Hamlet’s soliloquy. The half-formed faces
half-lit are devout. At What is a man is his chief good be…
but to sleep…the ungodly voices join in as at Mass.