Poem by Katie Farris
Politics of Metamorphosis
Although generally you will not find it to be so, in this village, the girl’s belly is held in high esteem. Her husband, dead after his tractor ran over an unseen rock and capsized, left his seed there. They crowded her to protect her from the sight of his death, for she was almost ready to give birth. The child! The child! they whisper, pressing against her with their somber sweaty hands (for her husband was a loved man, a powerful man). They crowd her in the hopes that she will birth something better than they are. Suddenly she is a part of—what? In stories, girls are changed into cows or trees or rivers, or they are made to lie with swans and bulls and rivers. Even eating an innocent berry on the forsaken moor can get one pregnant by some vegetable god.
They say that the girl has ripened, is about to produce fruit. Her husband would not have fruited, ripened, even if he hadn’t died. And so the girl has learned that the location of her metamorphosis is her womb. But what does the girl want? And what the womb?
The girl cannot breathe. The child moves like an earthquake within her, shows its handprint, its footprint, through the skin of her belly. The girl wants it to wrap its hand around her finger. She wants it out. She wants be alone. She wants nothing more than to steal chocolates and crouch someplace alone, hidden, alone, to eat.
The girl runs. She runs until she feels a warning spasm in her back. She stops at the graveyard. She can see that the last season of digging found the same old dirt buried beneath the new ashes, the new bones, beneath the midden heap and the broken crockery, beneath the stories that couldn’t change, beneath the this and the that of the words the villagers speak. It is clear, she reminds herself, that a bone is a bone, no matter where it’s found.
-originally in "boysgirls" (Marick Press)
[When a man dies]
When a man dies,
His portraits change.
Different eyes stare at us, lips
stir in a stranger’s smile.
I noticed this, returning
from a funeral of a poet.
Since then I often checked it,
and my theory has been confirmed.
tr. Katie Farris & Ilya Kaminsky
Katie Farris is the author of "boysgirls" (Marick Press) and "Thirteen Intimacies" (Fivehundred Places Press) and co-translator of several books from Russian, French and Chinese. Most recently, she has co-edited Gossip and Metaphysics: Russian Modernist Poets (Tupelo Press). Her new writing appears or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, and Massachusetts Review and her translations had been included in many anthologies such as "New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry" (Tupelo), "New European Poetry" (Graywolf), "Penguin Book of Classical Russian Poetry" (Penguin) and others. She is the professor in the MFA program at San Diego State University and often teaches at the low-residency MFA Program at New England College.