Poetry



Mme Intuita, Vampire-Killer, Grants an Interview


No one is born

With that kind of power


To get it

You have to die a proper death

Three times minimum


Usually I allow them a nibble

Sometimes I have no choice

Now and then they surprise me


In those cases I lie face down

For a long time

Until I recover my reason


The miraculous effects

Of that procedure

Are also guaranteed

By our makeover salons:


“Mme Intuita & Co.”

“Return to Transylvania”

And “Spectral Kiss”


Things that earlier

Might have contributed to your death

Now lose their power over you


But it’s important to reserve

At least a quarter of your lungpower

For when you return


Or have someone on hand to take your pulse

And maybe thump you hard

A couple times in the chest


Sometimes it happens

You’ll be gone a second too long

Too far to return


Still and all, there are benefits

From coming to grips

With the claw of eternity


Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik





Chrysalis



Lean and hungry women take on new strength

when disguised as men.

They wrap themselves in tailored suits as in cocoons

They savor the simplicity of the cut,

the smooth material, the presence of pockets.

Above all, they don't have to accessorize.


What's more, dressed in this manner,

they begin to speak more calmly,

with a precise elegance, no frills.

Words unspool from them,

from the core of their being,

and fitfully, they take flight.


Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik





Razor


I’d hardly got undressed when he said:

My wife left me for another woman.

Hurt him like hell.

On my way out the door, I thought,

Honey, I can understand why.


When he ran into her at a bar

She was different, like a razor,

All nonchalance, cigarette, and shaved head.

A militant bitch who wouldn’t let anything slide.

That other one turned her against him.

If not for her, they could still get along.


The girlfriend eyed them discreetly

From above the jukebox.


You know me, Razor told him.

If I were miserable,

Then maybe I’d miss you.

If I were just sort of happy,

Then I’d be able to forgive you.

But the way it’s going, honey,

it doesn’t look good,

it doesn’t look good for you.


Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik





Metamorphoses


Hard to call it tempestuous love

when you can’t stop laughing

My lover isn’t a woman

She’s a little critter


She has four paws and a sleek coat

We’ve stopped using words

Just growls and purrs

and all manner of animalness


Sometimes she’s a koala

and I a branch of eucalyptus

Or she’s a big scary King Kong

and I her rescued innocent

And then she’s some

unidentified little ball of fur

squealing in my hands

or a wet tongue

puffing from pleasure

who sometimes to cheer me up

slides across my nose


She’s only a person

when she gets serious and says:

I’m tired, I’ve had it

And I don’t know what to turn into

how to coax her back from humanness

For awhile it’s all quiet

until somehow

we push past that border and

argh

it’s just like on the human side

here on this same old couch

feeling skittish

but even still it’s always cozier

critter to critter





Mme Intuita Passing As a Phoenix


Madame Intuita reflects on the origins

of her name—

intuitas sum

as in pondering

meditating

seeing with her Third Eye

(she’s fond of juggling definitions like balls of light)


though she immediately tosses out that idea

along with the rest of her journal

in which she’s jotted down

the history of her soul’s hunger

Hambre del alma


She envisions herself ironically

standing on stilts

on the third step of a ladder

offering shelter

to all manner of subcelestial poets


She tries on a red wig

and drapes a veil over her face

which also happens to be red

and suddenly she’s transmuted into flame

burning at her own stake

and shortly after, she disappears

into a crowd of distinguished guests

vanishes at a tram stop

confuses which key is which

covers her tracks


She crooks her head

like a contented bird

smoothing and ruffling her feathers

seeing her reflection in a puddle

A sudden and unseemly transformation

down to the tracing of the papillary line


Mme Intuita remembers

why she has returned to the source

She wants to exalt

some bonnes amies

and herself



Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik





New Age Whore


After hours, she cloisters

herself in her cell.

She considers herself a priestess

of some clandestine religion

and the other whores her acolytes.

They’ve sworn a vow

to bring infinite love to the city

without letting on to their clients.


All the violence in the world

she redeems daily

through literal offerings

of blood, sweat, and sperm

which like the human body

must be transfigured.


Through her rituals she defuses

wars, revolutions, coups,

terrorist attacks.


After the first five guys

she didn’t yet know

what men were for.

She began to appreciate them

only after fifty and up.


Now she’s been blessed

with cosmic understanding,

the mysteries of saint prostitute revealed!

At last, she’s come into her own.

For the first time in her life

she doesn’t wish to disappear.


Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik and the author





Non omnis moriar...



Non omnis moriar—my possessions I bequeath:

Windows with iron grilles, the smooth-skinned walls

Where Old Masters hang, the carpets in the halls,

My stocks and codicils remaining after me.


I leave a daughter, grandson from close friendships forthwith,

Two gold bands on a tray—my husband’s and my own;

Three sports cars—let them ascend to heaven’s vault

With my memories, and like the stars gloriously die out.


Among grandfather clocks, stuffed armchairs,

The candelabra’s furious, pearlescent gleam,

I admit my pride, hunched loneliness, dry tears.

So come, my rescuers, with emptiness in your wake:


There, in a drawer locked with a small gold key,

Once lay photographs of a woman, to me

Most striking, inscribed Forever yours.

Imprudent letters, date-books with endearments,


Pressed rosebuds, withered now. These I forsake,

Reduced to ash by my own hand. And now,

Let those devoted to me, my closest kin,

Ensure that all inscriptions on the wreaths are apt—


The poet’s lute now still, shattered on some crag.

I won’t disturb you, will leave no trace,

Won’t dispel your illusions or suspicions arouse.

I’ll depart just like I lived, with vigilance and care.


I lock the grilles at night and fatten your wings:

Grow strong, brawny wardens, my guardians dear.


Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik




Conversions


So the first guy said to me—

he looked like a jock—

why would anyone be attracted to a man?

(I think he left himself out of this equation.)


You know, he said, guys smell, they're hairy.

You're delicate, your skin's so smooth,

like the grips on weight machines, he said,

and let's face it, there's no hair on your chest.

If I ever woke up one day as a woman,

I'd definitely be a lesbian.

Not the kind with flannel shirts

and scars on their arms, he added.

I know enough of those in my life as a guy.

Why change if it would all be the same?

If I were a woman, I'd like to be naked

forever on some beach, wearing only a necklace

of wind and feathers.

(He later moved to Hawaii, I heard.)


The second guy doled out his love to me

in stingy portions. In a dream once, he told me,

By loving you, I turn into you.

(When I woke, I could feel his dismay.)


I asked a third guy about the meaning of the dream.

He explained: To become the person you love—

is there a truer surrender?


Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik




Madame Intuita


My whole life’s like learning a second language—

so many immigrant sacrifices and in the end

I can’t get rid of this accent,

recognized everywhere to my dismay.

And I’d been feeling quite assimilated!

All that effort, and for what?


Discouraged without wanting to admit it,

I enroll in a class of heightened conversation.

There, I also speak with an accent—

even thicker—sometimes I lose whole threads

or connections. I guess it can’t be helped.


You can call this a ‘mother tongue’

but I don’t have a mother, only a handful

of old wives’ tales and myths: watch the distracted

woman dancing on a tightrope—will she fall?

will she find something to grab onto?

The careful charting of her shifts in mood

doesn’t exactly encourage fluency.


That other language, elusive yet familiar, is like water:

slips through my fingers, now empty again

but for a trace of dampness, an aftertaste

of crystalline pleasure. Like an early Renaissance poet,

I savor the elaborate undergirding of Latin

with its praiseworthy logic and concision.

Despite efforts to blot out that passionate study,

it will never fully disappear.


The language of the educated classes

gives me an edge in rhetorical contests.

But in the heat of the moment

I lose sight of its sensible rules,

the origins of words grow uncertain.


Unsure of myself, I stop speaking altogether

and just listen to the cascade of sounds—

a mountain stream spilling onto a valley of rocks

which disappears like a shaky pulse, an echo,

a gnome—Now you hear me, now you don’t—

and before I’m able to laugh, I have to wade

through layers of hurt and shame. How to cope?


Elsewhere I come upon fragments of letters, stories broken off.

I tie up those loose ends, restore lines with my brush.

I’m content, I only look, I don’t say a thing,

don’t dare to breathe even so as not to frighten

this roadside creature half-woman, half-beast.

When I turn around and look that way again

will I find at least a print from her tiny hoof?



Izabela Filipiak, trans. Karen Kovacik


                                                                                          © Mona Blank




Comments