grace (ge) gilbert

closeted diaries

a fence with words carved into reading 'be gay do crime'

The New York Times documentary series is on. 

I angle toward the handsome, weary ICU doctors on the screen in a sort of reverence for information, though I am directly focused on the MacBook in front of me, which I purchased when I was eighteen after working at a fundamentalist Christian camp the whole summer. 

I designed and taught an entire arts curriculum. 

I played the Moana soundtrack 232 times. 

In return, they paid me 2,000 dollars and fed me grilled cheese with curly fries every day at 12:30 PM. 

This was when I loved god. 

O The shit I did for him.

 

 

 

 

Earlier I walk by a Methodist church that has a Pride flag staked very intentionally near the red painted doors, which seem characteristically heavy, probably a metaphorical nod to how narrow that narrow path really is. 

Mifflin Ave. 

This street is near my street, but it’s more luxurious—paved with artfully lopped bricks and populated with those tiny libraries that only ever contain obscure parenting books, Dr. Phil and/or Oz, John Grisham. 

Once I found Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions) hiding in the South Bend neighborhood of Rochester, New York. 

My next action was to eat vegan chicken nuggets on my vegan ex-boyfriend’s porch and read it in its entirety. 

We weren’t very conversational at that point. 

I slathered the tasteless meat bunches in Frank’s hot sauce. This caused a fight, which pointed to something else. 

Fights, and vegans, tend to do that.

 

 

 

 

When I walk by the church doors I think I feel a pull. 

The pull is followed by horror. 

A sequence of feelings that are really just reactions to feelings.

I used to associate this pull with “god working in mysterious ways,” something a girl about my age said in the Trader Joe’s line the other day. Upon hearing this I whispered “god isn’t real” to myself beneath my mask. I don’t know why I did this. I texted B about it as an act of documentation.

 

 

 

 

I conclude that the pull is loneliness. 

 

 

 

 

I scale the perimeter of the building and try to look in the windows but everything is a bit obscured by the age of the glass. 

I imagine a past self standing in the outdoor chapel at Christ the King, slapping mosquitoes between chutes of stubble on my legs. 

Candles in their praise stance. Singing hymns. Singing “as the deer pant-eth for the water, so my soul thirst-eth after you.” 

Meaning it. 

Or at least absorbing the momentum of everyone else meaning it, all of us pooling together in some primordial praise swamp. 

I felt like a happy fraction then. 

Arms up & floating toward a whole. 

 

 

 

 

I don’t pray anymore, but I think pointedly. 

I think, big-G-God, if you want me to think about you again, send someone out to pray for me. 

Big fucking dummy. 

However, as I think this I am walking away already, smug as ever, heading down the brick-paved back alley that is called “Virgil Way.” 

This reminds me of Dante.

In reality it’s just where rich people put their trash. 

 

 

 

 

I scroll thru Instagram when I get home. 

I repost a stylish quote that exclaims, in sleek rainbow text, “queer people in straight-passing relationships are still queer” and another one that says “bisexual people are still bisexual no matter who they date” and finally “gender is a social construct.” 

I think about my big-B-Boyfriend and what he thinks of this. 

The first person I told I was queer was myself, and then no one again until God died for me. 

I was ten and Leah (gay now, go figure) was very, very pretty. 

I whispered, “I am bisexual” into my book (probably The Giver, which my teacher made my mom sign a permission slip for me to read) during independent reading time because apparently that’s something I do when I need (want? know?) things to be true.

 

 

 

 

A text from B—he sends a 37 second audio message explaining that, remember in the beginning of quarantine, when we’d call like every day, and it was nice but then we decided we don’t have to do that, and though he loves talking to me he kind of just wants to watch a movie and read tonight, and that he wanted to be open and honest and direct in communicating because that’s what good couples do and he hopes that’s ok.

The pull incident has made me feel more solemn and interior than usual, so I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

I make a cocktail with bourbon called AMERICAN HONEY (which is good but twenty dollars) and apple cider I mulled with nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. 

I think about the Queer identity. 

I think about god I guess. 

I think about how irritating it is that I fear being uninteresting. 

I wonder if I’m really, truly, actually known or if what is seen, what B sees, what god (?) sees, is simply a straight performance of me that I cannot keep up.

 

 

 

 

Drink up, kiddo, there’s a whole life of this.   

 

 

 

 

The New York Times reporters are good, passive company. 

 

 

 

 

They flicker between shots of trees and cars and hospitals and New York City, bringing light to my living room, which, despite my best efforts, tends toward a certain darkness. 

 

 

 

 

The television is a TCL 32-incher, which is almost the size of a classic dick joke six times over. I got it, in essence, from my grandfather—a homophobic, supercilious, toupee-wearing alcoholic. 

He’s a retired State Supreme Court justice. 

I didn’t know his name was “Hugh” until I was eleven, because we always called him Grandpa Judge. 

Regardless, he’s rich as balls, dying of metastatic colon cancer, and has always been an erratic but lavish gift-giver.

 

 

 

 

For Christmas last year he gave me a 1000 dollar check folded into a glass ornament, and a purple Vera Wang towel (which, now stained with Garnier Strawberry Jam hair dye, hangs on my bathroom door). 

A few months ago, for absolutely no reason, he gave me 3 Amazon gift cards, each 50 dollars.

 

 

 

 

I sent him a thank you card. 

I thought, sorry I won’t see you before you die. 

I bought the TCL 32-inch television.

 

 

 

 

It arrived in 2 days, as expected.

 

A photo of a white person looking away  from the camera, reflected in a gold-framed mirror mounted on a peach-colored wall. They have dark short hair and dark eyes, and their mouth is slightly open.

grace (ge) gilbert’s recent micro, poetics, & lyric essays can/will be found in the Adroit Journal, Hobart, Ninth Letter, Pithead Chapel, the Offing, the minnesota review, Gargoyle, DIALOGIST, the Penn Review, Maudlin House, and others. Their digital micro-chap, no sharp things can be found in NAILED. They are an MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh where they consume unholy amounts of cheese and dumplings. Peruse their work on their website— gracegegilbert.com, or follow them on Twitter @geg2us.

 

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Ginger Ko

Bone Clean
Wholesome Things: Scoured Bright and Dry

Preface

Something pried apart never comes back together the way it grew. With Bone Clean, I am telling you to stop punishing me for your knowing. Your knowing why you’re living this life and not another. Your face is on the wall; every spring they move the rock that hides you and watch you weep into their buckets. 

The world to you is never tested. You think we’ll all be scoured bright and dry like you, the cleanest bones in the world. You don’t even imagine: the unwholesome shreds of things. Irremoveable stains. 

I suddenly learned that I have never stopped being a thing. Calmness comes from recognizing patterns. Like how I know, instantly, that you’re supposed to control this interaction, and there is a buzzing click-jolt into place of hatred. 

How can you and I escape historicity? How am I allowed to be in the present, or the future? How can I get out of the preface of being lost to mothers and fathers, of coming back from the mountains to kill them? I am not afraid this pain will last forever. I cannot see a future at all, even a false one.

To be “new”/experimental/forward-looking, you put the present violence in the past even as it happens. 

Look how old-fashioned I am.

Look how bad I’m making you feel for something that can’t be undone. 

 

 

 

Preface

I was young, during my twenties, but not so young that I couldn’t know better.

I spent a single unhappy semester in a low-residency MFA program. The in-person workshops took place in Louisville, and during these gatherings Charles Wright was circulated with reverence by all the hipster broets who styled themselves after Dust Bowlers. A young man, dressed to look like he had emerged, avec flannel, from The Grapes of Wrath, reverently handed me a Wright book as if it were my turn to receive the wafer. I read it and thought: “What.” (For instance, in “The Southern Cross,” that long, long poem, why isn’t it an apparent problem that female gender appears only as icon or figure or city subdued or sleeping sister or a…spider?) My mentor for the semester was an old white man who lived at the top of a mountain in Montana. I stopped turning in my packets of writing to him mid-way through the semester. I did not plan on ever writing again.

While completing a biology degree in Indiana, I earned my only A in an undergraduate creative writing class. The professor, another old white man, considered Merwin unpleasantly experimental due to lack of punctuation. He liked my writing very much and slanted my writing into something so small that I was hardly upright. This professor imprinted on me the desirability of slow nature and velar sounds. I found everything very beautiful all the time. I was so exhausted from the rich precision of the meditative mode that each poem I wrote for his approval was like wrenching my spine between two fists. At the end of the semester, he told me that I did not need to turn in a final portfolio, that I had far exceeded the requirements of the course. I went home and then felt empty for months. I did not plan on ever writing again.

Bone Clean covers the period of my life spent in the lower Midwest. Bone Clean is my reparations to myself as the young person who knew things were wrong even as I did them. 

 

 

 

Preface

“I’ll suck on them,” my grandmother always said, beckoning me to hand over the leftover bones. My cousins and I would flee the room as the elders began lasciviously slurping the remains of the big family meal. My grandparents laughed as I covered my ears with my hands and squinted my eyes, trying to block out the unholy feasting of old Chinese people on the grey parts of cooked animals.

 

 

 

Preface

I needed to write Bone Clean because I have missed the late-night talks I had with the other women in my master’s writing program. We had all come from very far away to study the craft of writing in a tiny high plains town. We were all in our late twenties, married or divorced, and socially distinct from the younger, more glamorous students in our cohort because we were tired of drinking, and desperately tired of trying to find ourselves. It had already turned out that there wasn’t anything to find. Instead, since we were all living in a place that was cold and dark for most of the year, we would gather around someone’s kitchen table at night, still in our coats, when the babies were asleep, and methodically roll a dozen cigarettes. Then we would hold out our hands and ask the others to take their pick: lumpy or smooth, thick or thin, tight or loose. And then tramp outside in our boots and sit on the cold yard furniture: metal painfully grated against our backsides, or cracked plastic with too much give, or wood that never really dried out from all the melted snow. And we talked so much, gossiped and schemed and dissected.

Men would pass through our conversations—husbands letting out the dog, boyfriends joining for a smoke, friends wheeling their bikes through—but their brief intrusions were always overcome no matter how meaningful their contributions. Men who were present during these gatherings were shouted down, waved off, or left to quietly listen just outside of the circle of coated, smoking women. When the humidity was high, the smoke was hung up just above our hair. We talked and laughed so quickly and all at once that neighbors would often turn on their lights and stare out their windows. The conversations were a women’s space. The conversations were dependent on the collusion of women.

Bone Clean is my continuation of these women’s nights. We often spoke about women’s writing and relationships and health as if upholding all the subjects at once was easy. So easy that we would delve all the way down to the bone and pick it clean. I am still friends with many of the women I had these conversations with, but we are now distinct from each other. We graduated and separated. Bone Clean is my side of things, sending it out and waiting for their side of things. Bone Clean is my loneliness. My wish for a woman’s response, for our conspiracy.

 

 

 

Preface

I started writing Bone Clean after I went to view the Body Worlds exhibit when it reached Chicago. It had remained seemingly for months at one of the downtown museums and for weeks beforehand, and for weeks long after, drivers along Lake Michigan passed the unremitting streetlamp banners that displayed grotesque pictures of the plastinated bodies in various poses. Riding a bike. Posed as mother and daughter (or desexed father and desexed son), both pointing off into the distance. Suspended mid-leap/-kick with a basketball or football. All with their bright red ropey musculature and artistically flayed tendons and tissues.

I entered the halls of the exhibit expecting some kind of overwhelming smell or some other pervasive signal of decay. Instead, the museum spotlights were bright and beautiful, throwing the skinned bodies into the type of colossal beauty that serves antiquities and dinosaur skeletons. Some of the bodies were unnaturally stretched or enlarged, somehow standing ten feet tall and looming above the other bodies on pedestals at artistically pleasing intervals. These bodies are no longer bodies which are subject to decay. They are, in fact, not even preserved in time, their deterioration arrested. They have been converted to something else altogether via the plastination process, a mechanism of replacing all the living liquids of a body with plastics that are then hardened into shape. The bodies that go through this process transform into plastinates, a name that is given to all specimens that undergo this procedure, whether they are small animal scraps or an entire human body.

The Body Worlds exhibit that I attended in Chicago was a part of the Body Worlds franchise that is headed by Gunther von Hagens, developer of the plastination process. Von Hagens is a theatrical man, having founded and patented the plastination process in the 1970s. He went on to head several plastination centers and laboratories, one of which is a private workspace that is secreted away behind a revolving staircase. He wears a black fedora wherever he goes, and considers his life work to be the dissemination of anatomical knowledge. So intent on this legacy of bringing anatomy to the people, he has performed public and televised autopsies, has created several different strains of his world-travelling Body Worlds exhibits (Body Worlds: Animals, Body Worlds: Cycle of Life), and accepts all manner of bodies into his plastinated creations, including those of executed Chinese prisoners. 

I call the plastinates creations because the human and animal plastinates are posed so melotheatrically (remember: revolving staircase, black fedora, etc.), something I found appealing and humorous when visiting the exhibit in Chicago. Later, I found out that the bodies—a woman laying on her side, one hand behind her head like a swimsuit model, a nearly full-term fetus sagging from her belly; a pair of humans atop a rearing, skinned horse, the mane and tail hair intact—might not all have been encased in Western skin. The delusion of Western-ness is aided by an artifice of the most probable signifier of race: the plastination technology still has trouble transforming the odd solution that makes up eyeballs, so most of the plastinates stare out with replica eyeballs that have blue irises. Though they are outfitted with Western accessories (the plastinates ride shiny bicycles and hold shiny Western instruments), they might have, in fact, been Central or Eastern Asian. 

When finding this out, I couldn’t help but assume that the plastinates were derived from stolen bodies. If the bodies had been Western, they would have been happy bodies, donated from an excess of wealth and an investment in knowledge production. It is the Western bodies that are interested in science and posterity, as well as history with a dash of the occult or steampunk. Such bodies would desire inclusion in the carefully contrapposto Body Worlds exhibit, in which the artistry of the plastinate form is equally important to the anatomical education imparted.

If you know that the bodies of the plastinates were actually people from Kyrgyzstan or China, where bodies are devalued, anonymized, imprisoned in variously despotic ways, and totally invisibilized to the Western world, then you know that the plastinates came from unhappy bodies. They were likely forgotten or secreted, sold or trafficked, rather than donated. They would not have given themselves to science. They were more likely given to the Body Worlds industry because they were lost to their families.

The Body Worlds exhibits are the most literal embodiment of Western consumption of non-Western bodies. My work in Bone Clean is my exploration of the insatiability of Western consumption and the non-Western teeming that nourishes the richly flourishing body of consumption. This is a work in words for those who are voiceless because their bodies cannot be comprehended. Their bodies carry unfamiliar memories, and so cannot be accessed as bodies. So many feed the few. 

 

 

 

Preface

The significance of my mediated skeleton lain against the stinging lattice: is for what follows.1

  

 

 

1 “Families need proof, Koff says—they come looking for recognizable clothing and say, ‘I want the bones.’
                 I, too, want the bones.”
– M. NourbeSe Phillip, Zong!

 

 

 

Preface

When I was six, my kindergarten teacher asked my mother to bring in the workbooks that my mother bought from the homeschool store and made me complete at home. In the workbooks were line drawings of underwater tableaus full of cheerful octopuses and encouraging starfish. There was also long division and fractions, carrying the one, and multiplication tables, sites of intense sadness because I so often did not understand the problems, did not want to be sitting at them, but had nowhere else to go.

      

When I started the first grade, and was then inexplicably carried away to the second grade a few months later—for the school administration, this was unprecedented; for me, it caused my aunt to sneer at the pencil lead I had smeared on my cheek in my excitement to show her my workbooks when she asked about them (I didn’t understand, until two or three years later, that adults could ask questions to which they didn’t want to hear the answers)—the place I found to go was the bathroom. As the child of a woman who regularly rifled through her daughter’s belongings, who gave me gifts and then weeks or months later combed the drawers and cabinets to reclaim them, the lock on the bathroom door was a revelation. I carried my books into the bathroom and read them under that sick white long-bulbed light that still despairs me to this day. I remember having some time, some quiet to myself, some kind of faint untraceable sadness and satisfaction at being alone, before my parents began to notice, using the screwdriver to break into the bathroom while I hid my books behind the toilet.

It is the privacy of writing that I sought for most of my childhood, writing to ease confusion even though my mother would go into my desk and page through my attempts at working out the problems of self-story, confronting me with their contents with a righteousness that lacked any guilt. My parents attempted to turn writing into a chore, buying me special journals and forcing me to write daily entries, reviewing them when I was done. In this way, the impulse to write for any length of time became shameful, wasteful and self-indulgent, especially when my mother liked to remind me that competency at reading and writing was something accessible to all (even to her, if she had been born in this country), and nothing special. Without being able to work through problems behind the closed doors of writing, I’m not sure I thought much at all, and was mostly just a receptacle for abuse.

I must have made it easy, having been trained for it, and constitutionally suited to withstand it without crying or fighting back. I was slow, as a child, to understand jokes and identify the visual indicators that people use on their faces to relay their intent. I have memories of being insulted, my first reaction being to watch the scene as from a distance before understanding that I was supposed to feel bad. Often I didn’t feel anything at all, waiting until I was walking home alone, or standing in front of the bathroom mirror before a bath, to think about why things happened to me.

   

It is the resentment of turning my writing into something for others (the potential for the posterity of communication realized through the act of writing) that confuses me. If I can make writing truly my own, then I have no initial impulse to share it with others. I am too greedy for privacy and solitude. But what if it can never belong to me truly? Then my writing is bearing witness, forcing into existence what otherwise could be forgotten or denied.

 

 

 

Preface

I feel as though I’ve lost the language of my legacy. Those who say something is “bone deep” don’t know that sometimes it’s only as deep as the reading and speaking. I recently read the book of a great poet, and in it she writes lovingly to Lucy, the mother of us all. She could be writing to me. I am a lovely little primitive. 

Bone Clean is about how you’re not supposed to hate where you’ve grown up. Bone Clean is about how everyone else in the world doesn’t think that anyone’s hurt can be innocent. I don’t know how to be, so I am starting with the core beneath the tangled hose of my guts—my growth, my safety, my peace.

Originally published at Quaint Magazine

 

A photo of a woman with dark-rimmed glasses and hair that is dark blonde and black toward the roots. She is wearing a gray shirt, and looking into the camera.

Ginger Ko is an Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing. She is the author of Motherlover (Bloof Books) and Inherit (Sidebrow), as well as several chapbooks. Her next project, a book as interactive app, is forthcoming from The Operating System. Her poetry and essays can be found in The Atlantic, American Poetry Review, The Offing, VIDA Review, and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.gingerko.com

 

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Ryan Greene translates Yaxkin Melchy Ramos

Seeds from the New World I (English)

Semillas de “El Nuevo Mundo I”

Translator’s note

In 2007, as a 21-year-old industrial design student, Yaxkin Melchy Ramos began writing what would become his decade-in-the-making poetic project, EL NUEVO MUNDO (THE NEW WORLD). It is a thousand-page, kaleidoscopic work that he imagines as a “cell-book, constellation-book, or choreography-book” exploring “the contemporary world of mega-cities, science, the Internet, school, home, means of access to poetry, networks of friendship, etc.” The poems featured in this issue of ANMLY are taken from El Nuevo Mundo I (The New World I), the first of five full-length books that comprise THE NEW WORLD. Each of these poems showcase the range of Yaxkin’s poetics, incorporating visual poetry, typographical play, and sprawling lyric sequences. As I’ve worked with Yaxkin on the translation of these poems, he’s consistently referred to them as seeds. With that in mind, I’m grateful to ANMLY for providing fertile ground to “replant” them.

In 2015 I came across a downloadable pdf of The New World I, and was immediately struck by Yaxkin’s celebratory, collectivist approach to poetry. At the time, I was new to the world of poetry and even newer to the world of translation. Already, I was frustrated with the hyper-academic, prestige-driven current that I felt swirling through the stoic readings and prize tallying of many literary spaces. In Yaxkin’s work, I encountered an ethics of access and action that treated poetry as an embodied, community-rooted, community-producing art meant to live and breathe beyond the page or university walls. This was a poetry I could believe in. 

Since first encountering The New World I, I’ve been itching to translate it. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to work with Yaxkin to make that dream come true. In the throes of 2020, it’s been restorative to spend time in a collection that is simultaneously playful, meditative, and unabashedly heartfelt, while also heavily critical of, in Yaxkin’s words, “the commercialization, violence, frivolity, and egocentrism that are values capitalist culture has tried to impose on daily life and literature.” Rather than wait for a better world to come—a world of ecological connection, queer love, and cybergalactic creativity—Yaxkin writes it into existence and invites us to join. It is poems like these that help me to know that a new world is not only possible, but ready to bloom.

         

Ryan is shown before yellowgreen foliage, and beside a board painted with kawaii mammals, one goldenrod yellow in color, the other seafoam. Ryan has pale skin and thick brown hair which stands on end. Ryan is kneeling, with arms bent at the elbows and wrists, and held at chest height. Ryan wears a white shortsleeved tee shirt with red raglan sleeves, and denim shorts in a pale blue wash.

Ryan Greene is a translator, poet, and book farmer from Phoenix, Arizona. He’s a co-conspirator at F*%K IF I KNOW//BOOKS, and he’s translated work by Elena Salamanca, Claudina Domingo, Ana Belén López, Giancarlo Huapaya, and Yaxkin Melchy, among others. Since 2018, he has facilitated the Cardboard House Press Cartonera Collective bookmaking workshops at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore. Like Collier, the ground he stands on is not his ground.

   

In a grayscale image, Yaxkin is shown standing behind a microphone, before a pale wall upon which lines of text in abstract arrangements are printed or projected. Yaxkin has light to medium toned skin, and short dark curly hair. Yaxkin wears rounded rectangular eyeglasses, and a dark crewneck sweater over a light collared shirt, and holds an open paperback book with both hands.

Yaxkin Melchy Ramos (Mexico City, 1985) is a Mexican and Peruvian-Quechua poet, translator, ecopoetics researcher, bookmaker, and artisan-activist-editor. He is the author of THE NEW WORLD, a five-part “cell-book, constellation-book, or choreography-book” which was written intermittently between 2007 and 2017. Currently he is a graduate student at Tsukuba University in Japan, where he is researching ecopoetic currents between Japan and Latin America. Since 2017, he has been translating contemporary Japanese poetry to Spanish, and currently he runs the artisanal press Cactus del viento, which focuses on ecological, spiritual, and transpacific poetics. He also publishes on his personal blog, Flor de Amaneceres.

 

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Ian U Lockaby translates Diana Garza Islas

from “Probable Synonyms of the Word Sololoy”

0

The boxes are read from right to left and from top to bottom. I am here to say what I heard. Christ holds a little devil popsicle. It could be a mirror, given the inscription I Am. I Am A Honeycomb. Just a little stick. The head that is not looking at me, I am. For this they have given me a good conduct award, some centuries ago. I left it there, look, next to the snails.                            

And my body meat. And my body upside down.
Very high up, next to the keys.

Do not open the door.

There may be more things in the bottle of quinine. 
I meat all through. I dead meat.

And as if I were a fish, I shall guess them at once. 

1

The meat on the plate is served, said the nana Neera. Now wait here, I gotta go for cartridges—as grandma would say, to speak of what I would see.                                           

The house burned down. I can’t imagine this would be zebras’ work. Nor even result of the war—it was heard. An egg’s voice was, a man’s voice. (To clarify at some point that they are not the same thing.) In whichever case, the sound of three coins, three stamps, three marine fossils and many head bones next to —or above, preferably—the fishhook, and a thousand times higher than the voice.                        

(One must not exaggerate)

In the background, the sea, at the corner of the leaf factory.

Here, stirring, since I have left a spoon for it. And then one would listen to the airplane that will go on dropping dust over the span of the pine forest.                                  

And the wagging meat, and the diluted crown, falling, here, into the view of the bearer.                                

2

The reconstruction of the cabinet of Ebodia Novena is inevitable: carrying little bone flowers in a pot that starts with an a (Hebrew) and after ten thousand things returns to three, and so on. It’s inevitable: eclipse something and enlarge your bloody cheek (sometimes yes, sometimes no) with a magnifying glass according to the date.               

(We should remember that we are still inside of the end of the world.)

A line of lithium, a path of bones for dowsing right above your name. Here, perhaps, what’s eclipsed is your hair, even if I say it so as not to speak of the flag and its eagles (opals, those, angles, winged-zebras) light blue mostly dirty, and at the center.                                          

If I raise my head, I know there will be poison, even if I won’t see it. And far behind, I know that Izunza is being read. In a crystal container that everyone will need to see, because it hangs, and it’s there. I have tried to not speak of all the elements, but one goes three times a little below the eye, and not necessarily from it I enlarge.                         

And mama. At the bottom of these things is always mama.

3

In order to ride a horse, especially if we are speaking from the end of the century, we must examine the box’s three points of view. The initial call: Asmodeus! Asmodeus! Comes panting with vibroplex resources, or more precisely: locomotive. The misshapen drops, the legs I don’t see. They come in turbine form and they come leaving little red dots behind, marking a helix of countryside and balconies. It is not for showing off, but this is all about a letter.              

If you guessed it is because you wear your mirror differently. Your teeth guarded behind the vertical bar. No one filmed it? Just that and nothing else?                                     

Let’s speak then of the little wires that they would put to it: 42, c3, 00, 11h.                                    

Here probably it’s about the gut of another box. (Everything that is spoken is about the other). And it will carry nails in its name. And it will carry a handle, so you can run wild.

Asmodeus, Asmodeus: everything is in order.

(Although I still need to talk about the headgear they forced me to use the day of my first communion; and of everything else.)

4

A cocoon that something was giving birth to from concrete thorns, arrived. The little vials of elixir were on number ten. The key was also obvious and it slept (standing up) next to it. Someone was singing their desire to be a bison. Or it was the reverse. The stamp repeated: winged feet, drawn, faint and scepter.

The caduceus was a heron, for example, a sparrow or its ca-daver. Preening itself totally anonymously, already engaging the guardian:                                              

WELCOME TO CIUDAD PROGRESO.

It was an extraordinary day which we remember as “November 20th of 1910.”

Six graves there were, but only if you looked sideways, ignoring the natural enterprise of feet. The face, it could be said, stayed questioning, in a frame entirely vectorial, defeating. At every light, challenging us with its me, me, me.

—Merino Wool.

But I think that his true name was Santa Catalina and not Bison Dreamingme, Sealed Knight, Commonsense “Gar-
cía” Guardian.                                                               

Not at all.

 

Translator’s Note:

These five poems are the first in a series entitled “Probable Synonyms of the Word Sololoy,” which opens Diana Garza Islas’ 2017 book, Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera.

The word “sololoy” is a Mexican-Spanish phoneticization of the English word “celluloid,” and originated as a reference to a particular kind of doll made of the material that became popular in Mexico in the early 20th century. Celluloid, which is produced by mixing nitrocellulose and camphor, along with dyes and other agents, becomes brittle over time, and the dolls often fell apart.

In Garza Islas’ poems, the reader witnesses a breaking apart of the inner materials of language. She works with the component parts—but with a sharp attention to the cultural reference points and socio-political factors that build our understanding of words. It’s as if each of the poems that make up this series are themselves synonyms of “sololoy.”

Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera is in part based on the work of Veracruz-born artist, Carlos Ballester Franzoni. The book includes images of Franzoni’s pieces—assemblages inspired by cajas parlantes, a folk-art form from Soyalo, Chiapas. As Garza Islas writes in an endnote, cajas parlantes are “mediators of voices, healers y guides of rebellion.”

Garza Islas positions herself too, as a mediator of voices. Her playful, richly layered syntactical turns, her portmanteaus and puns sometimes turn so chaotic that it seems like multiple voices are speaking at once, that the poet is recording a colliding conversation.

As Miguel Angel Diaz writes, Islas “makes a reading of [Franzoni’s] boxes from the material approach, in the first place, to build her own talking boxes with those materials.” She creates, “‘dialogicity,’ when between two works there is a semantic and ideological tension, not just a referential transfer.”

 

Ian is shown, before a beige or white wall with wooden picture frames. Ian has pale skin and a very short dark beard and mustache. Ian wears a camouflage printed cap, a gray or drab hooded sweatshirt, and a rustbrown and grey plaided chamois or chore jacket over all.

Ian U Lockaby is a poet and translator currently living in New Orleans, LA, where he serves as Editor in Chief and Translations Editor at New Delta Review. His poetry translations have appeared recently in Sink Review and Desuetude Journal, and his own poems have recently been published, or will soon be, in CutBank, Denver Quarterly, Datableed, Posit, and elsewhere.

  

Diana is shown, before yellowgreen grasses, with the slope of a mountain and pale blue sky further behind. Diana has light brown skin and dark hair. Diana wears a patterned black headscarf, a black stand collar or crewneck sweater, and a gray wrap skirt or pants with black rounded grids printed upon it. Diana holds a yelloworange cylindrical object with both hands, perhaps a small lamp, trowel, or musical instrument.

Diana Garza Islas, born in 1985 in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, has published three books of poetry: Caja negra que se llame como a mí (2015); Adiós y buenas tardes, Condesita Quitanieve (2015); and Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera (2017). This “first yellow cycle” of writings was collected and published as Todo poema es yo de niña mirándola (2018). Her photographs, drawings, and video installations have been featured in various publications, interdisciplinary festivals, and collective expositions. She has twice received grants from FONCA (National Fund for Culture and the Arts). Texts and visuals: hastrolabia.net / @hastrolabia.

 

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