We Look Up To The Sun With Our Eyes Too Stunned To Bear It
Robin Myers is a young poet and translator from New York, currently living in Mexico City. For her, writing a poem is like an itch that comes "sometimes like a line, sometimes an image, sometimes just a nebulous question or concern or juxtaposition". If we can learn something from Myers' work, it's the fact that poetry can help us understand life itself.
OUT OF THE RIVER
Ashed embers like the flank of a molten fish.
I see my own soul trampling down what it ask’d for.
Outside, silver light, the fields flattened, December.
I remember Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Arkansas. Jerusalem,
Ohio. Jerusalem, Maryland, New York, Lincolnshire,
New Zealand. In 1929, you write me from the library,
hunched into the microfilm, Uncle Tom was shown
by popular demand at Ofer Cinema in Tel Aviv,
followed by a sequence of beautiful nature landscapes.
Today I woke up, switched on the boiler, and went
back to bed, as is your custom. With the house to myself,
the hours become objects to take in my hands and
learn the contours of. When I step outside the ugliness
is so shattering / it has become dear to me. A man
in the old city stands in the doorway of his clothing shop
and shouts “Hello! Hello! No business! One thousand
dollars!” The landlady asks when you’ll be back. I haven’t
learned how to say Sunday, so I say tomorrow. No,
she corrects me. Not tomorrow. Sunday. Meters from
the checkpoint is a truck that has crashed onto its side,
vast and crippled as a beached whale. In 1929,
Lawrence, you write me, as in of Arabia, remains a bachelor
after refusing his twenty-eighth marriage proposal
since the end of the Great War. The sweat rises
from our bodies in the sun, which makes us seek
the shade, which makes us crane toward the sun
with our eyes too stunned to bear it. God bless
you, ornery host, amateur astronomer, shrooming
old bear in your green towel. Bless you, kittens starving
in the cinderblocks behind the house, and you, owner
of the Bahamas Seafood Restaurant beaming the World
Cup across the Wall’s nearest face. I wish to God
I had made this world, this scurvy / And disastrous place.
I didn’t, I can’t bear it / Either, I don’t blame you. You
read Hannah Arendt on the couch, your feet splayed
over the arms as if waiting for a mother to object.
In 1929, the Palestinian police choir seeks men who play
the first clarinet and the bass trombone. Paint dust
snows onto everything we own. Sometimes we drive
along the dense, starless roads of the Galilee, quiet,
and I know it’s because no language can get out, or in.
A hulking sixteen-year-old boy holds his mother’s
incisions open for the surgeon by day, settling onto
our bony couch by night. A man says to Banksy, “You
make the wall look beautiful.” “Thank you,” says Banksy.
The man says, “We hate this wall. We don’t want it
to look beautiful. Go home.” Sometimes I feel like one
of those cheap red funnels your mother gave us, a tiny
channel for whatever amount of whatever flows into it.
On impulse, I return to the Nativity Church, which I
am then unable to escape; some Brazilians berate me
as I attempt to slip out through the entry door before
my rescue by an earnest young tour guide who says
urgently, Just give me two minutes and I will show you
exactly where Jesus was born. You hurt. You vanish.
Praise to the pain / scalding us toward each other.
In 1929, Edison celebrates his eighty-second birthday
and, in a radio address, invites all listeners to come
and share his cake and sit at his table. I am pleased
by the fine unfurling of my occasional violence.
I slug you across the shoulder. You kiss my hair.
What did I know / thinking myself / able to go / alone
all the way. Last night I dreamed you were married;
I clutched at a gift I intended to give you.
Do you remember the cars set afire? Where are you
going? Where did you get this? It was a gift.
Where have you been? Jerusalem, Arkansas.
The jaundiced woman faints against the turnstile.
The lithe backpacker weeps indignantly. The fruit man
shakes a fist and rages velvelty. Goodbye, fruit man.
Goodbye, rifle, hung from the shoulder of a spry, rock-faced
apostle whose birthday, he tells me, I share. Dear friend, As
you read this, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, because I
believe everyone will die someday, and am contacting you
because I really do need your help and I want you to help
me with all your effort and time for just seven to fourteen
workings of your time. What I remember most about
the very beginning was being inside and being outside.
It was so cold outside and so warm inside, as long as
we were near enough to the heater for it to scald us.
Outside, those first few days, we walked along Star
Street, up to the square and back toward the market,
where the cold and the sun and the air sharpened the edges
of everything against itself. It was all about the surfaces
and I was astonished at being allowed to even look at them,
let alone touch. Inside, I burned rice and waited for you.
Today I got stuck in the turnstile at the checkpoint.
I fell asleep on the bus, woke up, recognized nothing.
All reprises are quieter. Goodbye, John Ross. Goodbye,
little red arrow in the town of Beit Jala that signals down
a narrow, shadowed street and says simply Triumph.
Goodbye, mustached old man with your single crutch,
waiting on the side of the road to say just that. Come up
to me, love / Out of the river, or I will / Come down to you.
I peer into the mouth of the stove, another dying animal
I never knew. Ashed embers like the flank of a molten fish.
There is something in all this that I have already forgotten,
and it must be the part I love most. My cold country pulls
its long bones taut beneath the silver light and seems
so certain of its permanence. You were always ready to fall
to your knees! / Yes, I was always ready to fall to my knees.
Published in Amalgama / Conflations (Ediciones Antílope, Mexico) and in Lo demás / Else (Kriller71 Ediciones, Spain; Zindo & Gafuri, Argentina).
Photos by Drew Wilson.