Poetry

Madame Intuita

 

My whole life’s like learning a second language—

so many immigrant sacrifices and in the end

I can’t get rid of this accent,

recognized everywhere to my dismay.

And I’d been feeling quite assimilated!

All that effort, and for what?

 

Discouraged without wanting to admit it,

I enroll in a class of heightened conversation.

There, I also speak with an accent—

even thicker—sometimes I lose whole threads

or connections. I guess it can’t be helped.

 

You can call this a ‘mother tongue’

but I don’t have a mother, only a handful

of old wives’ tales and myths: watch the distracted

woman dancing on a tightrope—will she fall?

will she find something to grab onto?

The careful charting of her shifts in mood

doesn’t exactly encourage fluency.

 

That other language, elusive yet familiar, is like water:

slips through my fingers, now empty again

but for a trace of dampness, an aftertaste

of crystalline pleasure. Like an early Renaissance poet,

I savor the elaborate undergirding of Latin

with its praiseworthy logic and concision.

Despite efforts to blot out that passionate study,

it will never fully disappear.

 

The language of the educated classes

gives me an edge in rhetorical contests.

But in the heat of the moment

I lose sight of its sensible rules,

the origins of words grow uncertain.

 

Unsure of myself, I stop speaking altogether

and just listen to the cascade of sounds—

a mountain stream spilling onto a valley of rocks

which disappears like a shaky pulse, an echo,

a gnome—Now you hear me, now you don’t—

and before I’m able to laugh, I have to wade

through layers of hurt and shame. How to cope?

 

Elsewhere I come upon fragments of letters, stories broken off.

I tie up those loose ends, restore lines with my brush.

I’m content, I only look, I don’t say a thing,

don’t dare to breathe even so as not to frighten

this roadside creature half-woman, half-beast.

When I turn around and look that way again

will I find at least a print from her tiny hoof?

 

Trans. Karen Kovacik

 

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Razor

I’d hardly got undressed when he said:

My wife left me for another woman.

Hurt him like hell.

On my way out the door, I thought,

Honey, I can understand why.

 

When he ran into her at a bar

She was different, like a razor,

All nonchalance, cigarette, and shaved head.

A militant bitch who wouldn’t let anything slide.

That other one turned her against him.

If not for her, they could still get along.

 

The girlfriend eyed them discreetly

From above the jukebox.

 

You know me, Razor told him.

If I were miserable,

Then maybe I’d miss you.

If I were just sort of happy,

Then I’d be able to forgive you.

But the way it’s going, honey,

it doesn’t look good,

it doesn’t look good for you.

 

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Conversions

So the first guy said to me—

he looked like a jock—

why would anyone be attracted to a man?

(I think he left himself out of this equation.)

 

You know, he said, guys smell, they’re hairy.

You’re delicate, your skin’s so smooth,

like the grips on weight machines, he said,

and let’s face it, there’s no hair on your chest.

If I ever woke up one day as a woman,

I’d definitely be a lesbian.

Not the kind with flannel shirts

and scars on their arms, he added.

I know enough of those in my life as a guy.

Why change if it would all be the same?

If I were a woman, I’d like to be naked

forever on some beach, wearing only a necklace

of wind and feathers.

(He later moved to Hawaii, I heard.)

 

The second guy doled out his love to me

in stingy portions. In a dream once, he told me,

By loving you, I turn into you.

(When I woke, I could feel his dismay.)

 

I asked a third guy about the meaning of the dream.

He explained: To become the person you love—

is there a truer surrender?

 

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New Age Whore

After hours, she cloisters

herself in her cell.

She considers herself a priestess

of some clandestine religion

and the other whores her acolytes.

They’ve sworn a vow

to bring infinite love to the city

without letting on to their clients.

 

All the violence in the world

she redeems daily

through literal offerings

of blood, sweat, and sperm

which like the human body

must be transfigured.

 

Through her rituals she defuses

wars, revolutions, coups,

terrorist attacks.

 

After the first five guys

she didn’t yet know

what men were for.

She began to appreciate them

only after fifty and up.

 

Now she’s been blessed

with cosmic understanding,

the mysteries of saint prostitute revealed!

At last, she’s come into her own.

For the first time in her life

she doesn’t wish to disappear.

 

 

Trans. Karen Kovacik and the author

 

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Mme Intuita, Vampire-Killer, Grants an Interview

No one is born

With that kind of power

 

To get it

You have to die a proper death

Three times minimum

 

Usually I allow them a nibble

Sometimes I have no choice

Now and then they surprise me

 

In those cases I lie face down

For a long time

Until I recover my reason

 

The miraculous effects

Of that procedure

Are also guaranteed

By our makeover salons:

 

“Mme Intuita & Co.”

“Return to Transylvania”

And “Spectral Kiss”

 

Things that earlier

Might have contributed to your death

Now lose their power over you

 

But it’s important to reserve

At least a quarter of your lungpower

For when you return

 

Or have someone on hand to take your pulse

And maybe thump you hard

A couple times in the chest

 

Sometimes it happens

You’ll be gone a second too long

Too far to return

 

Still and all, there are benefits

From coming to grips

With the claw of eternity

 

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Chrysalis

 

Lean and hungry women take on new strength

when disguised as men.

They wrap themselves in tailored suits as in cocoons

They savor the simplicity of the cut,

the smooth material, the presence of pockets.

Above all, they don’t have to accessorize.

 

What’s more, dressed in this manner,

they begin to speak more calmly,

with a precise elegance, no frills.

Words unspool from them,

from the core of their being,

and fitfully, they take flight.

 

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Metamorphoses

 

Hard to call it tempestuous love

when you can’t stop laughing

My lover isn’t a woman

She’s a little critter

 

She has four paws and a sleek coat

We’ve stopped using words

Just growls and purrs

and all manner of animalness

 

Sometimes she’s a koala

and I a branch of eucalyptus

Or she’s a big scary King Kong

and I her rescued innocent

And then she’s some

unidentified little ball of fur

squealing in my hands

or a wet tongue

puffing from pleasure

who sometimes to cheer me up

slides across my nose

 

She’s only a person

when she gets serious and says:

I’m tired, I’ve had it

And I don’t know what to turn into

how to coax her back from humanness

For awhile it’s all quiet

until somehow

we push past that border and

argh

it’s just like on the human side

here on this same old couch

feeling skittish

 

but even still it’s always cozier

critter to critter

 

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Domestic Myths

 

My giantess works in the kitchen

My titaness feeds me hot meals

makes sure I don’t go hungry

juggles pots, twirls smoking pans

 

She tells me: You used to be such a skinny little chicken

And now you’ve turned into my tasty little chicken morsel

 

She leads me to the bed and lays me out

on the sheet like a white statuette washed by the waves

still sparkling from the salt and cuddled by an octopus

her embrace less tender than fierce

 

Curled up like an oyster, I let myself be consumed

Somewhere in the background, she’s running water for my bath

 

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Mme Intuita Passing As a Phoenix

 

Madame Intuita reflects on the origins

of her name—

intuitas sum

as in pondering

meditating

seeing with her Third Eye

(she’s fond of juggling definitions like balls of light)

 

though she immediately tosses out that idea

along with the rest of her journal

in which she’s jotted down

the history of her soul’s hunger

Hambre del alma

 

She envisions herself ironically

standing on stilts

on the third step of a ladder

offering shelter

to all manner of subcelestial poets

 

She tries on a red wig

and drapes a veil over her face

which also happens to be red

and suddenly she’s transmuted into flame

burning at her own stake

and shortly after, she disappears

into a crowd of distinguished guests

vanishes at a tram stop

confuses which key is which

covers her tracks

 

She crooks her head

like a contented bird

smoothing and ruffling her feathers

seeing her reflection in a puddle

A sudden and unseemly transformation

down to the tracing of the papillary line

 

Mme Intuita remembers

why she has returned to the source

She wants to exalt

some bonnes amies

and herself

 

Trans. Karen Kovacik

 

Madame Intuita cover

 

 

 

 

 

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