Nació en St. Thomas, Islas Vírgenes y se crió en Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey es autora de The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, ganadora del premio Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Sus otros honores incluyen un Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, el Premio Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize de la American Poetry Review, un Premio Daniel Varoujan y el Premio Internacional de Poesía, así como becas de CantoMundo, Cave Canem y el Poetry Project. Su trabajo ha aparecido en The New Yorker y en otros lugares. Nicole tiene un MLA en Estudios Africana de la Universidad del Sur de la Florida y un MFA en escritura creativa de la Universidad de Nueva York. Es directora de programas en la Fundación Cave Canem.
Oís los alaridos de los gatos callejeros
peleando por las sobras lanzadas desde una ventana.
Suenan como niños que podrías haber tenido.
Si hubieras querido niños. Si tuvieras instinto maternal
te lo arrancarías de la panza para arrojarlo
desde las escaleras de incendios. Como si fuera la tenaz esquirla
ahora alojada en tu muñeca. No, lo ocultarías.
Sí, lo ocultarías en una mamushka estéril
que tenés desde chica. Su sonrisa
te recuerda a tu padre, que no sonríe.
Ni cree que seas suya. "Sos idéntica
a tu madre", dice, "que es idéntica a un fuego
de origen sospechoso". Un cuerpo, leí, puede aguantar
su quemazón enfermiza, su propio infierno, durante horas.
Es la mente. Es la mente que no puede.
Versión de Laura Wittner
You hear the high-pitched yowls of strays
fighting for scraps tossed from a kitchen window.
They sound like children you might have had.
Had you wanted children. Had you a maternal bone,
you would wrench it from your belly and fling it
from your fire escape. As if it were the stubborn
shard now lodged in your wrist. No, you would hide it.
Yes, you would hide it inside a barren nesting doll
you’ve had since you were a child. Its smile
reminds you of your father, who does not smile.
Nor does he believe you are his. “You look just like
your mother,” he says, “who looks just like a fire
of suspicious origin.” A body, I’ve read, can sustain
its own sick burning, its own hell, for hours.
It’s the mind. It’s the mind that cannot.
I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had sex with a man
who’s had sex with men. I can’t sleep.
My mother has, my mother’s mother had,
asthma. My father had a stroke. My father’s
mother has high blood pressure.
Both grandfathers died from diabetes.
I drink. I don’t smoke. Xanax for flying.
Propranolol for anxiety. My eyes are bad.
I’m spooked by wind. Cousin Lilly died
from an aneurysm. Aunt Hilda, a heart attack.
Uncle Ken, wise as he was, was hit
by a car as if to disprove whatever theory
toward which I write. And, I understand,
the stars in the sky are already dead.
Underperforming Sonnet Overperforming
FOR MARILYN NELSON
This poem, this time, is the best idea
I’ve ever had—the best in history
even, the best any has had, I swear…
and, I should know, I’ve kept inventory
of them all; this poem is the alpha,
omega, filler, and the laterals,
literally the conceit of a far
off blank stare or a volta with virile
tendencies to talk about it and be
about it (it being the best sonnet
to ever sonnet—formal guarantees
of a good time, ready rhymes, and, I bet,
this poem is, with enormous success,
the only poem entirely imageless).
Something was said and she felt
a certain way about said something.
because there was no mistaking the feeling
she felt—the sound empty makes inside
a vacant house.
I would like to be a spoiled rich white girl.
I want to be married in church. In white.
Nothing borrowed or blue. I want a white
house in Peekskill, far from the city—white
picket fence fencing in my lily-white
lilies. O, were I whiter than white.
A couple kids: one girl, one boy. Both white.
Birthright. All the amenities of white:
golf courses, guesthouses, garage with white
washer/dryer set. Whatever else white
affords, I want. In multiples of white.
Two of nothing is something, if they’re white.
Never mind another neutral. Off-white
won’t do. Capeesh? I want to be white
as the unsparing light at tunnel’s end.
*Venus Xtravaganza was a performer featured in Paris Is Burning, a documentary film about drag pageants in 1980s Harlem.
I don’t want to end up an old drag queen.
OCTAVIA SAINT LAURENT
This is no primrose path, a life lived out
of boredom, a role played on occasion.
Category is fem-realness—devout
in the practice of pulling a fast one
on the eye. Octavia, eighth wonder...
I wonder, am I as legendary
as legend lets on? Only amateurs
are moved by monikers on a marquee.
Only amateurs imagine Harlem
leads to Hollywood. I can’t afford such
idle delusions. So close I see them
flickering, but not close enough to touch.
So beautiful I almost forget, were
it not for history, to know better.
*Octavia St. Laurent was a performer featured in Paris Is Burning, a documentary film about drag pageants in 1980s Harlem.