Flood at the International Writers’ Workshop
Since the sky started crying
I haven’t been out-of-doors for thirty-one days:
By now the earth must be a pair of pliers
With tatters of human flesh stuck to its jaws.
I imagine myself on a seesaw, balanced so lightly
That if even an atom fell on it (let alone a bomb)
I would be hurled like a stone from a catapult
Straight back into the trap of Macedonia.
My people, are we God’s voracious eye
Suspended in the air like a traffic light
Which, as it blinks, directs the flow of nations?
Right now I’m only that greedy eye of legend
Which, on my side of the scale, outweighs the world.
In the Ark, our elevators work erratically:
Every deck is bursting with trapped livestock!
On the first floor, insects have turned into neurons
Without any owners:
On the second, saurians form a mythic chain
To swallow each other so they will all disappear,
Be too feeble to achieve total consummation;
On the third floor, the mad vegetarians
Roaring with hunger, lay waste the frigidaires;
On the fourth, the carnivorous flowers
Make plans to devour God;
On the fifth floor, this lone Macedonian
Mangles their languages, re-creating Babel.
And every line that occurs to me sinks like a plummet
When it should splash about like a happy dog
And, like a dolphin, jump through its trainer’s hoop.
But I’m dense when it comes to featherweight words!
The verb should be in a state of constant erection,
In equal readiness to strike, or stroke;
The adjective stick to the noun like a lizard catching flies;
And the noun should swing both ways,
While the conjunction is a universal passkey.
So the sky sobs on, like an hysterical child,
Like the she-dragons of my legends.
The gutters gurgle, and gargle.
The drainpipes are subterranean Mississippis.
The words refuse to swallow us any longer
Now we have set them to quarreling among themselves:
Trying to strangle each other, they bite off their tongues.
They have burned to tell us everything they know,
But, being dumb now, drooling idiots,
Speechlessly, they copulate witli rainbows.
* Gjuzel spent 1972-1973 in residence at the International Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. ED.
translated by Carolyn Kizer. From Reading the Ashes