Our fall book list includes two excellent books of poetry. In Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, poet Alexis Pauline Gumbs presents a commanding collection of scenes depicting fugitive Black women and girls seeking freedom from gendered violence and racism. Only the Road / Solo el Camino, edited and translated by Margaret Randall, is the most complete bilingual anthology of Cuban poetry available to an English readership, comprising the work of more than fifty poets writing across the last eight decades.
We’re happy to share poems here from each of these two books, both available now.
An excerpt from “How She Spelled It” in Spill by Alexis Pauline Gumbs:
i am wrong. she told herself. born wrong. or more like retrieved. walk wrong, talk wrong, even now. she grieved. and who in the hell set things up like this? then she wrote it in the salt spilled on the table. wrong. she wrote it in the flour on the floor. wrong. she wrote it in chicken blood on the stump. and in grease on the counter. and she circle dialed it rotary home to her mother. and she postcard wrote it across to her sister. and she wrote it on her own wrists with toothpaste that night and smeared it over her teeth. and she bit herself wondering about sinews, worrying about the palimpsest of veins. but in the end she was too vain because when she spelled wrong in the steam in the mirror it was not her name.
“A Love Poem according to Demographic Data” (Un poema de amor, según datos demográficos) by Norberto Codina, published in Only the Road / Solo el Camino:
Next Sunday we will be four billion.
In the transparent nest of your hands
I deposit the secret of the species
where you come with four billion,
alone with four billion,
mine with four billion.
Like my mother, you bring
rain and the death of the universe
because all the others also wait with me,
those who want to keep on multiplying,
those who share this secret of tenderness
in the transparent nest of your hands.
In 1850 we weren’t so many
and there was hunger, my love,
In 1930 we were merely half
of what we are today,
and there was hunger:
the postwar soup ran out
my mother studied to be a nurse,
and in Berlin, in Rome, the world sickened.
Thirty years later,
we were two satiated children
who knew nothing of the rice trains
assaulted by a shadow fear of hunger.
The population of the globe
will ascend this Sunday to four billion inhabitants.
Isn’t the earth’s globe the globe of your belly
rosy and once again a star,
your belly like a house,
like a bell where I desperately listen each day
to hunger’s ring
in the births of thousands of people?
It is believed that in the year two thousand
we will be more than at any other time,
that fortunately there will be less patience.
And one day hunger, my love, will be a forgotten page
and not like today a poem of lovers
and not like today a poem of two and a poem of
but the sure march
of future inhabitants,
of the hundreds of thousands of lovers
who will study, like a bit of quaint history:
when we were just four
someone wrote a love poem using the word hunger.”