Back to Issue Nineteen.

poem ending in antarctica

BY ESTHER LIN

The darkness of a theater I hate it
though I think of you when I’m there
let me be honest I hate cinema
all aspects of it    an unpopular notion
and this is a love poem that begins
with us watching Killer of Sheep
because you love film and I wanted
to exercise the greatest pleasure
the French guy says about the movies
which is leaving
with you on my arm    see? 
Isn’t this better than that dancing
cone of light of which
you’d later write so beautifully
and I’m stealing because theft
is more intimate than respect? 
Exit sign metal push doors
sky the everywhere-Drano smell
then the tyranny of what I must take in
leaches away with every step
I feel purer baptized even
whenever I’m done with a film
and I can jump out of my chewing-
gum seat but this happens
whether you are with me or not
and for a time you weren’t
which is why I could think of you
in that darkness when I was sitting
in the grime of so many fantasies
enacted in one dark room     mine too
bumping and elbowing their way
through the crowd until they appeared
in the shape of a girl
about to lose her organs I’m not kidding
they take them away one by one
until she drops dead   my decay
the last ten years of good health
spent without you when the next ten
could be all biopsies and copays
and why was our last movie
Killer of Sheep    so terribly sad
when we could have laughed through
Encounters at the End of the World 
where eighty kilometers from shore
on a plain of ice Herzog asks a scientist
if in the interior of that vast continent
there’s such a thing as going plain crazy
realizing one’s damned had enough
and yes the answer is always absolutely yes.  

 

 

LA TRAVIATA

BY ESTHER LIN

Who can resist Anna Netrebko in red jacquard, 
bird-of-paradise on a bone-plain stage singing,
Follie! Follie!

Her beauty like a tightened bow
as Yeats wrote in 1910, poems my mother read
at the suggestion of her boyfriend, who

was no Paris, though she was a Helen of sorts:
married but swept off to another house, 
where firelike she consumed Yeats and Tolstoy, 

and, I assume, fancied herself a courtesan
possessing a beauty dangerous indeed;  
but that Christmas we had her, 

and while the opera played in our rag-rug apartment, 
by her shining eyes and yelps of approval
I determined my mother longed to be

what she already was,
and I’m scratching for simpler speech,
to uncover the single word or phrase that names, 

indicts, and forgives in a breath;
or unearth the right myth to tell me
what is not and therefore bearable. 

 

 

Lin 19

Esther Lin was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for 21 years. A 2015 Poets House Emerging Poet and Queens Council on the Arts Fellow, she has poems published in or forthcoming in Copper Nickel, The Cortland Review, Crazyhorse, Drunken Boat, Guernica, Vinyl Poetry and Prose and elsewhere. She lives in Jackson Heights, and holds an MFA from Columbia University.

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