Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

temptation; vain grasp at shadows
temptation

 

i.

one is tempted to reintroduce the question of character, 

with its knobs of vigor and its dank, dark smell, 

the gold filigree tooth and other signs of valor, 

like the Romans’ noble seed. 

 

then where are the great-souled men, you ask,

who would use the high rhetoric to fashion themselves? 

 

where is the small girl who would point and laugh, 

gurgling that their language was empty and trite, 

 

while being stoned?

 

 

 

ii.

but on this table in the west, 

 

where the contemporary friends gather around,

after having come across town and bridge and bridge and town, 

 

to share with you this, their hunger...

then we have no precision of style or communal voice, 

 

no other tangible link but your disappearing feast, 

and the evil, spotted dog who sniffs and shrieks, 

 

flaunting his bestial theatricality and moldering breath, 

crueler toward women than the hare. 

vain grasp at shadows

little things i desire, o sailors. 

in all the cities vexed by the unstable stars and poor council,

there has been no battle like the one we have waged.

we scud before the gale. only my eyes look back.

 

the steep crags boast no survivors.

shrinking from view, the women’s breasts spill their last blood,

fresh pain a faster alternative to the licking flames,

their dripping bodies ogled by the gulls. 

 

in the dim cities, only

the broken scepters of the drunken kings shine.

saved by some omen, the old man shouts that human power is eternal, 

though vexed by the group of unburnished spirits.

Alani Rosa Hicks-Bartlett is a writer and translator who lives in New York. She holds a PhD in Literature and Gender Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has won awards for her creative work, such UC Berkeley's Emily Chamberlain Cook Prize and The Dorothy Rosenberg Memorial Prize in Lyric Poetry, and her recent work is forthcoming or has appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, Gathering Storm, The Fourth River, Continuum, Renaissance, IthacaLit, and the Stillwater Review. Her translation of sonnets of the Catalan author Mercè Rodoreda I Gurguí recently appeared in Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Translation.