Karen Van Dyck reads

Penelope Says

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A poem by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke (1939—)
trans. by Karen Van Dyck

And your absence teaches me
what art could not
                 —Daniel Weissbort

I wasn’t weaving, I wasn’t knitting
I was writing something
erasing and being erased
under the weight of the word
because perfect expression is blocked
when the inside is pressured by pain.
And while absence is the theme of my life
—absence from life—
tears and the natural suffering
of the deprived body
appear on the page.

I erase, I tear up, I stifle
the living cries
“Where are you, come, I’m waiting for you
this spring is not like other springs”
and I begin again in the morning
with new birds and white sheets
drying in the sun.
You will never be here
to water the flowers
the old ceiling dripping
under the weight of the rain
with my personality
dissolving into yours
quietly, autumn-like…
Your choice heart
—choice because I have chosen it—
will always be elsewhere
and I will cut
with words
the threads that bind me
to the particular man
I long for
until Odysseus becomes the symbol of Nostalgia
sailing the seas of every mind.
Each day
I passionately forget you
that you may be washed of the sins
of fragrance and sweetness
and finally all clean
enter immortality.
It is a hard and thankless job.
My only reward is that I understand
in the end what human presence is
what absence is
or how the self functions
in such desolation, in so much time
how nothing can stop tomorrow
the body keeps remaking itself
rising and falling on the bed
as if axed down
sometimes sick, sometimes in love
hoping that what it loses in touch
it gains in essence.