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Words Without Borders is one of the inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize winners!
from the December 2018 issue

Four Poems

In these four poems, Christiane Sobral breaks down the door, is spat on by a dragon and deliberately burns the beans in the pot.
 

Black Eye

I am a black renegade
I refuse the mirror daily
Which tries to massacre me inside
Which tries to deceive me with white lies
Which tries to discolor me with its rays of light

I am a black renegade
Determined to face the system
I drum up the black without a hitch
I bum-rush the stage

I am a black renegade
I advocate a necessary darkening
I unmask any racists in the closet
I shove my foot in the door and walk in

 

Time

Time
is an essence
I carry within me
Time and its strands
They've been coiled inside me since my navel was knotted
It has as its complementary counterpart
The space between time and its options
Time, lord of the hours
reigns sovereign
Subtly, on a silver cord
People don't kill time
He is the killer.

 

False Advertising

The first time I kissed
It was my girlfriends who kissed
They invented a flavor, a style, a smell
My lips weren't there.

The first time I kissed
The prince was chosen by these dreaming girls
He was a jerk to me
A toad, a dragon that spat its fire on me

I don't know what it was like
They didn't see my closed eyes
I wasn't there.

 

I Won't Wash the Dishes Anymore

I won’t wash the dishes anymore
Or dust the furniture
I'm sorry
I've begun to read
The other day I opened a book and a week later I decided
I won't carry the trash out to the trash bin
Or clean up the mess of leaves falling in the yard
I'm sorry
After reading I noticed each dish has its own aesthetic,
an aesthetic of traces, of ethics, of static
I look at my hands as they flip the books' pages
Hands much softer than they were before
I feel that I can start to be all the time
I feel. If something happens
I am not going to wash anymore. Nor bring
your rugs in for dry cleaning
My eyes grow teary
I'm sorry
Now that I've begun to read I want to understand,
why, why?
And why
things exist
I read and I read and I read
I even smiled
And left the beans to burn. . .
See, the beans always take time to cook
Let’s just say things are different now. . . .
Ah, I forgot to say
I won’t do it any more
I've resolved to have some time for myself
I've resolved to read about what's going on between us
Don't wait for me
Don't call for me
I won’t be going
From everything I've ever read, from everything I understand
It was you who went
Went too far, for too long, past the alphabet
It had to be spelled out for you
I won’t wash things to cover up the true filth
Or dust things clean and scatter the dust from here to there and from there to here
I'll disinfect my hands and avoid your moving parts
I won't touch alcohol
After so many years literate
I’ve learned to read
After so much time together
I’ve learned to make a break

My sneaker from your shoe
My drawer from your ties
My perfume from your scent
My canvas from your frame
That's how it is, I’m not washing a thing anymore
And I stare at the filth at the bottom of the glass

The moment always arrives
of shaking things up, of moving forward, of making sense of things
I do not wash dishes anymore
I read the signature on my Emancipation Proclamation in black capital letters,
size 18, double-spaced
I set myself free

I do not wash dishes anymore
I want silver platters
Deluxe kitchens
And gold jewelry
The real kind

So is the Emancipation Proclamation decreed
 

“Black Eye,” “Time,” “False Advertising” and “I Won't Wash the Dishes Anymore” © Christiane Sobral. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 John Keene. All rights reserved.

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