Poetry

As an immigrant woman, an academic of diaspora studies, a white "other" in a sea of American whiteness, I navigate layers of difference at times as a deficit, at times as an excess, a surplus.

My poetry comes from my practice of "counterpoint": When my divergent, competing personal and cultural truths come into contact with one another, the continuing processes of resistance, adaptation and re-creation shift not only the existing power dynamics in which I exist, but also my creative processes. My poetry is a result of a constant, shifting, exhausting and yet rewarding process of "counterpoint", an alchemy, a (mis)translation. My poems manifest a quality of translation, which is both my curse and the lens through which I observe and make sense of the world, from a sideway outsider, suspicious insider space. 

One of my favorite poets, Monica de la Torres, writes " That’s when I decide to stop fighting the city. Use it in my favor. Speak to strangers. Demolish the construct in the performance". Like hers, my poetry reflects the swinging pendulum that signals the strangeness I experience most days, my resistance to the pain as well as the agency the strangeness can yield to me, and my eventual surrendering to it with curiosity and compassion. 

Poetry is both the tree under which I seek refuge and the storm and wildfire that threaten to destroy that tree. 

As a poet I must be a trickster of my own limiting beliefs and fears; as a culture broker I must peel off my own fears before they translate into othering beliefs through which I pass judgment to the world. This conversation between the two worlds of the inner and outer is the raw material of my work.

As long as I am able to speak and write in tongues, and keep any felt boundaries porous and growing around my body like plants, I have written myself safe.

Below is a selection of my poetry from 2019 to 2020.

 

The Art of Hospitable Hosting

 

An Ekphrastic Poem on walking art.

 

The edge of a line

Must fray

Just enough for new life

to trust its light.

In unstable porous soil

This line carves itself a safe,

hospitable space.

 

A shaky hold does not matter

to the glorious whole.

The clouds riot

To glimpse the unfolding.

Even the seagull hops curious

Across the granular trails.

 

There is humility in this shape

 indigenous - not from here but

that grows here now.

 

Hand pauses to remind

you are hosting.

This labyrinth is all openings.

Hand marks and detours

Unearth layers and forge passages:

An empty beach is not yours.

A border sideways becomes a bridge.

A gentle tool the extension of a body aching

 Cultivation stems from care.

Poetry coils spirals of self

Inside and alongside the world.

On walking art -“Walking as art can synthesize ideas, movement, and material in unlimited expressions of the world. I love and am able to walk. I love to draw. I love to facilitate meaningful experiences for others.” Laura Reeder, 2019

A non poem for

the feminine mountain Apu

 

Valle Sagrado, Peru

January 2020

 

 

 The morning fog lifts up slowly

And the glorious profile of the Andean mountains comes to relief.

The feminine mountain - Apu - reaches out to the sky

rooting deeply into centuries of collisions, connections

 healing.

 

I am asked to feel

Yet I resolve to ponder on the training

My eyes need

To see beauty properly.

 

The search for symbolism, the craft of metaphors can take away

From the beauty that just is.

The layers of green, the dotting flowers, the chirping birds

 the aliveness of all beings,

None of them exist for my own entertainment or poetry.

 

If connection is possible

It requires a stretching toward the other,

A slow emptying of one’s self;

This constant doing, feeling, scheming, meaning-making

Clouds the universe like the sheet of this morning fog,

Numbs the imperative of the dance.

 

A dance in which I never become you

You never reflect me fully

But you and I enliven this space

Keeping each other grounded

Integral to our world,

Making it and unmaking it together.

 

Sustaining this silence is excruciating,

The quivering moment of  just looking

Fleshes out an intuition:

 

The only ingredient for any change

Is a modicum of softness,

 

 

A sea of bright yellow petals

Lending its own language of rebirth for the end of the year.

The yellow paste my burnt skin craves at night

Drying out into a festive ornament

Deep blue waters

From a 30.000 feet view above.

Corona 

A Collage-poem that uses sentences and captions that have recurred across media during the first weeks of the global pandemic in March 2020

We all feel the tender quality of this quiet.

 

A rest that feels restless at times

releasing

the stubborn want to be loved

As another woman who is not here

While this very woman is overlooked.

 

Where are you looking?

How small the small things become

Incastonate nei giorni

I can see now the crown in this corona

The spiky uncompromising jewel

The weight on an ungrateful queen

And all of the other questions that feel like frailties

Take downhill slope.

 

Try easy the teacher says in crow pose

Be Unmessable with!

Shouts the yogi In a live stream that feels like hope.

 

Yet hope  is not site specific

It does not matter either the frequency or the length

the inner reverberation speaks in the bathroom as I floss,

The sound of a question mark punctured by

Blood smelling like silver against my cheek

the tail of this - question - mark recoils toward me.

 

Perhaps one truly deserves these moments

of rest after work

Of rest before work

Of rest in the work

ahead.

 

Touch only those you are committed to for life- the rabbi says.

The problem in this language:

It legitimizes families

As the sole safe shelter

incubating healing.

Accents: A Manifesto 

 

I booked a blow job at two - I declare

to the large man at a London Supercut.

A blow ….what?  shouts he over blasting dryers

Sounding hopeful.

 

21, holding a tiny dictionary in my left hand.

Freshly off my boat.

 

How are you doing honey? asks the lady

At the college town check-out, somewhere south.

and all I do is unravel my immigrant drama,

 a line of impatient patrons growing out my back.

Hoping - but suspecting - that she did not mean

how I was really doing.

 

32, on a student visa without credit cards.

Freshly off my boat.

 

An accent is an accent is an accent.

An accent is welcome/exotic/ shame-filled/ opting silence.

An accent is charming. Curiosity Invited. Beguiling.

An accent is cilantro/garnish/ decorative/ lovely.

 

An accent is an exit door, a deceptive map, an escape plan.

An accent straddles two worlds.

At least.

 

An accent is the estrangement of family.

Mis-translating ahead. All the time.

Faking spontaneity, when family is obvious scheming & fault lines.

 

An accent is code-switching, confused dreaming,

Emboldened Scusa & Ti voglio bene & Per sempre.

Of a secret love language until your lover

Types these in Google Translate.

 

An accent is a stubborn escoria of places never quite home:

When Cuba no longer welcomed my interviews with political exiles,

When London rents went off the roof,

When I stopped being Elena Ferrante

for Americans who never spent more than three days in Naples ( you say is safe there?),

When Rome became too dump and provincial,

 

I handed a pile of fears at customs.

 

Tongue-lost,

English-compassed,

I kept an accent,

The only betrayal I still trust.

Smagliature di significato

A palimpsest poem

Una silouette di donna of a certain age,

una figura incerta,

from behind, leaning over her son

in a sunny avenue.

Una calza smagliata.

Ripped.

Solo una.

 

And I think: how familiar,

How dishonest, perturbante,

a map can be,

when worn down to the bone.

 

How precious, how delicate

is mother’s fabric on my skin

that opens up, loosens up

                       Inevitabilmente.

 

Her words

are smagliature di significato:

They either cluster or intermit,

her silk tearing up,

trailing stubbornly behind my story

 

always ahead of it.

 

I lean towards her mouth to listen

and I am in awe

with the many layers of meaning

She is not aware of.

 

Beneath her common sense

and uncommon sadness

my mother’s heart smaglia.

                         Inevitabilmente.

©2019 by Marika Preziuso. Uprooted Transplanted.