Alone in the Beinecke with Langston Hughes

poetry 0
Kassy Lee
From draft to draft, I see the translator’s
tension headache, a grind of molars.

					   +++++++++++Despierto entonces de mi propio 
					     +++++++++++grito,

the close of Gabriela Mistral’s poem
“Dormida.”

					   +++++++++++Awaken myself with my own 
					     +++++++++++screaming

Langston Hughes translates
at first. Eventually, he realizes:
not screaming but crying!

					   +++++++++++Awaken myself with my own 
					     +++++++++++crying!

A familiar thrill: archive. A striptease
as old journals unveil sweet nothings.

Near my sublet, a young man hollering 	   mami
could be interpreted as a gesture of 	   belonging.

I slurp an helado in front of CTown
as thunder claps in the distant rain.

My first night in Fair Haven, I woke up 	   crying,
alone again with a stipend but no friends.
My second night, I woke up 			   screaming,

Revision, the difference between sensations
which lurch us from sleep. I knew then how
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++mi propio grito

woke me. I had no son. No home.
No world. Only a pencil. Only my hand
caring about such trifles. I rock the raw meat
of my body, and my pulse mills the beat
of an affect translated through me, a feeling
we all know, yet remains, somehow, ++++++++untranslated.

Kassy Lee is a poet and teacher. She has received fellowships from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program, Vermont Studio Center, and Cave Canem. She earned an MFA from the University of Michigan and is at work on her debut poetry collection.