I had not yet read Lacan,
but I knew that there are no women.
Men revealed it to me.
On the trolley bus, I was afraid of sitting next to them
with their aria glances, confidence, sitting legs splayed wide
across almost one and a half seats.
And I remember very well what Wislawa said to me, when she became
a ballerina, despite wanting to be an artist; we spoke in strange languages
with a Petersburg accent, which was preserved in her
by those dried out old choreographers I despised;
teachers with gray heads, black ribbons
leaning on canes, they would come
to the dining hall and weigh the curds, so that when Wislawa
vomited up the carton of Napoleon torte, she would
stop drawing servings.
Oh, how terribly she betrayed everything she had talked about! Just so that she could,
perched on one thigh, press herself onto
that half of a trolleybus seat.
And I remember what I was told
by another Wislawa, who wrote
about the river of Heraclitus, where a fish quarters a fish
much later, in the same language, she almost forgets
emerging from our childhood like a myth
of our continually-vomited existence:
she did not lie about the fact that she likes
sentimental postcards, gilded in glitter;
sweet like dessert curds
porcelain figurines, cross-stitched swans.
She always searched for them in kitschy shops.
She weighed them like servings.
And she could buy so many after the Nobel Prize!
But her words were boats that I secretly used
to cast off all the males in the Illiad
I cast off all of my un-danceable instincts,
I bricked up the sound.
Near the river in the spring,
this is how birds call to one another.
© translated by Ada Valaitis