Translate Me to Another World

“With strangers in your line?”
– Marina Tsvetaeva, from “New Year’s Letter”

Into and across
my words must travel,
yet they stop, then mix up
within each other. I want
a spare, clean line – I am
so warm and so thirsty.

You come from a place
that is different from my place.
Something I slip on my tongue
makes me realize this. Words, yes,
but deeper than tongue.
Non-words inside tissue traveling
to synapses that are soft
and bulbous and pinkish-grey.
I let them loose
and then they stall: clouds
surrounding spines, ice
on the eyes, electricity
in the hands. I feel it
but can’t make it green.

You traced the forbidden
with your stolen quills
and glass bubbles. Your soldiers
laughed when camels hauled the snow,
never walking across or into
the pine trees. My soldiers wrote
“Fuck Hitler” in German
in the same snow, sleeping under
the earth, not side-by-side.
In their eyes are your ears,
where you found God over God
over God. And the echo,
your echo, my echo: a bell tower
placed in my mouth.

In the town you grew up in,
I fed bread to the seagulls
when I was 13. Now I only want
a desk where keys are not notes
but branches that play music.
You know German, Italian, French,
and Russian. You were born
a childhood poet. You walked
in cherry trees before you died.
I try the words in my mouth: I am
so warm and so thirsty. You have eaten me
like an olive or a pickle and only
the sounds remain.

Bravery and intimacy
and inadequacy. The notes
in the margin. A comet
that breathes dashes, gulps
syntax in notebooks. I recite
your words in unison. But to name
them would be to separate
myself from them. The sounds
again: you are moaning consonants
that won’t open.

I hear your spit with my ear
on your chest. Between
shoulders broader than any
shoulders. I throw back my head
and my neck spasms. I want
sugar for your dead daughters.
Another desk for our elbows. I go
by voice across the riverbed.
Where there is
no water, I will lick the sky.

Barbara Berg earned an MFA in Creative Writing in poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles. She won first place for her short story “Waiting for Forgiveness” at Northern Virginia Community College and published “Close Box before Striking” in the prose poem edition of the online journal In Posse Review. She uses speech recognition software where she lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and two goofy Maine Coon cats. They are currently fighting an invasion of fleas.