Blackbox manifold

Issue 14: Heather Green


After Liliana Ursu

You said: “I’ve written no manifestos.

You can check my typewriter

if you’d like. I’ll strike every key

for you, but keep in mind how

it degrades us both to verify.”

Me, I came to Boston as a pilgrim,

not a Puritan, but still, I tried to find

some holy path. I circled the black box

of poetry, where the last words are

recorded. That indestructible box

in any sky. I came here for just

three things. I was ready to kneel

and pray for them. The idiom

of supplication opened like a cave.

I found fear only at the mouth of it.

You had a party– when the word

loneliness was returned to you at last.

They had taken away your days

and your nights, but loneliness was back,

a large bright room with enough

space to kneel down or lie flat

on the face and ask and wait.

By the way, I like waltz time too.

Something dies after every three,

and then the one returns to you.


I’d sought the wrong kind of angel.

I thought he’d be completely drenched

in beauty, but instead he was profane.

He reeked of yeast and brackish water.

His halo looked like lines drawn out

from the head, indicating pain.

When I found him we went deep

into the room of loneliness together.

The things we said were never written

down. I changed. You said: go

to the place where your heart first beat.

I did. I took my pulse. I breathed.

And there I found the number three. Long

ago, I was born in a layer cake that stood

in the rain just above the beach.

A plane fell from the sky that day.

My father, brown eyes lashed above

his epaulets, piloted the plane. Through

the whole fiery crash, everyone was safe.

So first this: build a bridge to some

abyss, so I can stand to look at it:

statues on both sides, the fair dead

to the left and saints off to my right.

That second thing I found tonight:

your lightwall that I sought and sought

to be. St. Francis breathed inside your

poetry. I am named for a flower, too,

to live, die, and then be nothing here at all.

Why worry? I’m green even now, near

you, wearing my best disguise of blue.


Once with the filthy angel, I learned

a game of chance: I would jut my hand

out, flat like paper, shouting “poetry!”

and he would make a claw, and whisper

“ball of light” and grab my paper.

Or he’d extend a fist, and tell me

“daily bread!” and I’d rest my paper

on the bread, to earn it. We went on

like this for hours, until the touching

of our hands became like a fire.

But I chose “ball of light,” and then

he went with “daily bread,” and so

the game became inert, and we sat down

to eat the bread, which, in the end, had

a baby in it, like a king cake. I named her

Liliana, after you. I put her in my pocket.

Then the bats flew in. I couldn’t even

tell if they were real, but we fought them

with our poetry, our open hands waving

in the air. The angel left, but first

he brought his claw up to his chest,

to replace the ball of light. And, me,

I rolled my poetry into a little

loaf of bread. In that bright room,

I held a child. That was the end.



(from Noontimes Won)

eyes steeped in a wet and thatched obedience

pistils of silence kindle underneath your steps

you walk a tightrope in the desert

dazzling above the tracks of kings

the wind in vain with death between its teeth

has passed retracing the rock face

while your light nests in a tranquil flow

where desire illuminates the atmosphere of things

let hunger cross its horrible wings

let the tree choke on its cries among the stiff wrists

leave the city’s sole worry in the hands of the blind

let beauty only recognize itself at the pleasure of the mirror

let the bridges by which she is recognized be blasted

and from among all images let pain come to mind

let the stalemate of the seas end here in your solitude

axis of heat cloaked in the flesh of your flight

perpetually the same on all sides

tender water of sleep offered around

water that pacifies by calling every blade of grass by name

childhood name

you are steeped in bark

you speak between the lashes of the leaves

it’s you who appears at the wind's own window

between each stroke of the clock

i speak of the clock

i help you on with your cloak

when the sun sweeps the horizon

i speak to you of horizon

and my sorrow is traced

around each letter like a hard root

let the house silenced by forests

nakedly wear its thirst for the world

it’s the shortest river

where friendship is snatched from the night

your cruel youth on the pavement

the first said

the salt of oblivion

dogs in the stars’ jaws underneath the table

a lamp keeps watch in the rain

gobsmacked the silence forever and ever

the second says friends in sight

sheltered under rocks the eye is clearer

than the fear that bites the ship

and if something has not yet been said

it’s that the punishment timer

flickers in spurts of light

its innocence tossed to the deafness of drinking troughs

on the steps and stairs and markets of this city

city-–­hardly village

village-­–no-­–a mind in the night

unleashing the terrible machines of the hunt

the first is ruin

the second is death

the second is the dead

solitude how could i celebrate with you

shadow play against love

Heather Green's translation of Tristan Tzara's Noontimes Won will be published this year by Octopus Books. She is the author of two chapbooks No Omen and The Match Array, on LATR Press and Dancing Girl Press, respectively. Her poems and translations have appeared in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, The New Yorker, and are forthcoming from Poetry International.