and the amazed girls….

By ELEANOR STANFORD

 

and the amazed girls saw their bodies equipped with golden plumage, and the wings and feet of birds

I turn over the soil, my son chattering beside me. He wants to talk about time, its intransigency and evasions. Our hands breaking up the clumps, pulling out old roots.

In another possible world, another peaty bed. Time, slippery and permissive, and your fingers tracing a smooth furrow in the dark.

As once I translated his body from shadow into light.

When Pêro Vaz de Caminha docked in the Bay of All Saints, he saw that the earth was fertile and lush, and wrote a letter to the king: everything that’s planted here grows and flourishes.

We help the seeds set sail into earth. Little boats rocking, leaving their hulls behind.

Vaz de Caminha wrote: She came all full of feathers, stuck to her body.

Dirt pressed into my palms and the soles of my feet. Dirt on my tongue.

I am convinced, Vaz de Caminha went on, that they are like birds, or mountain animals.

Translator’s note: The difference between ser (‘to be, essentially’) and estar (‘to be, accidentally’) is a notorious difficulty of translation.

I converted him from water to air, from sticky jackfruit seed to little tree.

The difference between to be, essentially and to be, accidentally is not just a difficulty of translation.

What hope, if even Jupiter has to ask: Is this a theft, or an act of love?

 

Eleanor Stanford is the author of three books of poetry, The Imaginal Marriage, Bartram’s Garden, and The Book of Sleep, all from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, and many other publications. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Fogo, Cape Verde from 1998–2000, and a Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, where she researched and wrote about traditional midwifery, and a 2019 NEA Fellow in poetry. She lives in the Philadelphia area.

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and the amazed girls….

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