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for Gerardo Deniz, based on his "20,000 Places Under Our Mothers," based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
O Ned your name is Land and it’s not anywhere near you;
you’re free in your captivity, holy paradox!
You tire of walking around the submarine,
of looking out at the luminous waters,
brimming with the phosphorescent zoophytes, tiny noctilucae, starfish and aurelias
you know not how to classify.
You’re bored with the sea breeze and the occasional horizon.
O harpooner, how did you land where the only bread is a replacement,
What creatures are you shooting in your mind?
How you manage to stop the hand, and instead reach for the diving suit.
The crew members hush when the captain’s right hand comes in.
Nemo knows he’s no one;
he enforces, forces.
Is he a double, or an appendage?
The closest of them all.
And if the captain were left-handed?
He says "Less paradigmatic,"
more so, more so.
Underwater’s reign is verticality.
Conseil hears the master’s cry and immediately asks
"Has it bitten you, Monsieur?"
"I’d pay with a limb to own the treasure I just found."
The cannibals throw stones; destroy it.
Destroy the left-handed shell, growing awkward against the clock.
Aronnax takes this lightheartedly; water being less dense,
certainly. He’ll plunge. Nemo hears no news about the incident.
There’ll be more expeditions coming up. They’ll be under, not above.
In the beds of Coral Kingdom,
the Anglo-Saxon crew member will forever dream of poinsettias, of cold Christmases.
His humor won’t be dry, for sure.
He had managed to learn that unrecordable language, and died with it.
And it’d been so long since he’d eaten raw vegetables.
Echoes of his hollering when the propeller caught his hair reverberate.
Mónica de la Torre is the author of six books of poetry, including The Happy End/All Welcome (Ugly Duckling Press) and Feliz año nuevo, a volume of selected poetry published in Spain (Luces de Gálibo). Born and raised in Mexico City, she writes in, and translates into, Spanish and English. She teaches in the Literary Arts program at Brown University. Her translation of Omar Cáceres’s Defense of the Idol is now available from UDP.
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