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Published: Wed Oct 15 1975
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 4 Relationships Home Journeys
Vinegar Running South

There’s white mold growing
on the vapo-rub jar
in your bathroom cabinet, love,

& something’s stuck inside
my chest, my tongue
expertly pickled in your spit & your long hair
once more closing its locks
around my wrists.
_                                     _Please, love,
not the leg-irons again,
not the moist pink lips
of your monkey on mine
& please
not the envelope-glue lubricant
melted for my sake
off your collected unsent letters.

It’s all true,
the vinegar running south on the thigh’s highway,
the lost love resounding on the pedal steel,

& will the vicious circus
go unbroken—

bicycle chain of the uphill struggle
bringing a chain of white bodies
to warm me
& calm the chronic longing—

but no,
but thank you—please—
it’s nothing
a good night’s sleep-walk
won’t relieve.

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Stephen Kessler is a poet, prose writer, translator, and editor. His version of Luis Cernuda’s Desolation of the Chimera received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, and his translation of Cernuda’s collected prose poems, Written in Water, received a Lambda Literary Award. He is the editor and principal translator of The Sonnets by Jorge Luis Borges (Penguin). His most recent translation is Poems of Consummation by Vicente Aleixandre (Black Widow Press), and his latest book of original poems is Scratch Pegasus (Swan Scythe Press). He lives in Northern California, where he edits The Redwood Coast Review. (updated 4/2014)

Kessler’s translation of Luis Cernuda’s Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems (Black Widow Press) won the 2016 PEN Center USA Translation Award. The collection includes “The Family,” first published in AGNI 79.

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