Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Dan Coman

Ninth Ward, Maternity

i enter the ninth ward a sheep hung at the neck.
struggling forward,
the security guards take me for a priest
keep following after me
keep lifting the sheep like on a cross
kissing it on the muzzle.

and this scared sheep hidden in my clothing as in the grass
causes tlinda to burst out laughing.
before she rises from bed
i see how slyly she arranges her beating heart as though
arranging a peasant skirt under the table.

birthing-birthing, stale fragment of air over a kitchen sink
as the nurse pushes in with her needle, zzzt,
the sheep at my neck sleeps now, like some bats
the other women hang their heads down,
careful not to unsettle the milk.

birthing-birthing, from this fragment of air comes nothing.

i sit on the edge of the bed and from the compote i open
first trickles of coffee.
like a small field of weeds
the powdered milk has invaded the shelves
casting shadows in the room and in these shadows
tlinda seduces, massages the other milk.

i see all too well: her sad and confused
signaling me to help

and then i slip my head under the blanket
slip my head into the gown to the height of the breast
i press my ear close but hear nothing
perhaps, i say, mother’s milk makes no sound
and then summoning courage i squeeze the breast a few times
and the nipples snap like fingers
but apart from a burst of fresh air in my eyes
nothing, not a drop.

don’t worry tlinda, i whisper, don’t worry
my comforting words stain her gown like cabbage rolls.

it’s late now, better you go
and i know from her blushing
that it’s time to nurse i start to go
but suddenly, in the ninth ward, life begins

row after row of women beginning to breathe to whimper
and rising now the way coffee rises an umph ah oy
slapping stomachs with both hands
the sound of milk in the breast like a jet of espresso

row after row rising up to form a perfect indian chain
they begin to rock begin to chant
praise for natural breast milk
one after another laying hand to shoulder
then making little circles with their feet

and hop-hop one by one hop-hop out of the ward

and here goes tlinda well behind the rest
red-red in the face and
without that hop-hop in her step

there she goes leaving with a bottle of formula in her arms
as if she went with a sack of potatoes
as if she went out directly her breasts exposed
making no sign for me to wait
no

and so i wake the sheep at my throat
we walk like the women, those who’ve just given birth
and sneak into the ward bathroom
for a smoke.

Salonul nouă, lăuze

Salonul nouă, lăuze

intru în salonul nouă cu o oaie atîrnată de gît.
înaintez greu,
oamenii de pază m-au luat drept preot
şi se ţin întruna după mine
şi ca pe o cruce îmi tot ridică oaia
şi-o sărută pe bot

şi oaia asta speriată ascunzîndu-se în hainele mele ca-n iarbă
o face pe tlinda să rîdă în hohote.
înainte să se ridice din pat
am văzut cum şi-a aranjat puţin bătăile inimii de parcă
şi-ar fi aranjat pe sub masă o fustă de moroşancă.

lăuze-lăuze, deasupra chiuvetei o bucată de aer stătut
pe care asistenta o tot împunge cu acul. şşşşt,
oaia de la gît a adormit, ca nişte lilieci
celelalte femei stau atîrnate cu capetele-n jos,
să nu se tulbure laptele.

lăuze-lăuze, din bucata aceea de aer nu iese nimic.

mă aşez pe marginea patului şi din compotul pe care-l deschid
se prelinge mai întîi cafeaua.
ca un mic lan de buruieni
laptele praf a năpădit etajera
şi ţine umbră în salon şi-n umbra aceasta
tlinda ademenind cu masaje celălalt lapte.

văd bine : e tristă şi nedumerită
şi-mi face semn s-o ajut

şi-atunci îmi strecor capul sub plapumă
şi îmi strecor capul sub capot şi odată ajuns la înălţimea sînilor
îmi lipesc urechea şi ascult şi cum n-aud nimic
îmi zic cine ştie poate că laptele de mamă nu sună
şi-atunci prind încredere şi apăs sînii de cîteva ori
şi sfîrcurile pocnesc ca degetele
dar în afară de-un aer proaspăt care îmi dă direct în ochi
nimic, nici o picătură.

nu-i bai, îi şoptesc tlindei, nu-i bai
şi încurajările mele ca nişte sarmale îi pătează capotul.

e tîrziu acum, du-te mai bine
şi eu ştiu după roşeaţa ei
că e acum vremea alăptatului şi dau să mă ridic
cînd ca la un semn în salonul nouă începe viaţa:

rînd pe rînd femeile încep să respire şi încep să scîncească
şi se ridică aşa cum ar ridica o cafea şi ufff au ioi
cu amîndouă mîinile îşi saltă burţile
şi laptele le sună în sîni ca un adevărat expresor

rînd pe rînd se ridică şi făcînd un perfect şir indian
încep întîi să se legene şi încep întîi să fredoneze un cîntecel
o laudă alăptatului natural
şi-abia după ce-şi aşează una alteia mîna pe umăr
abia apoi încep să dea din picioare ca din nişte rotiţe

şi ţop-ţop una cîte una ţop-ţop afară din salon

şi iat-o şi pe tlinda mult în spatele tuturor ,
roşie-roşie la faţă şi
fără ţop-ţop la mers

iat-o ieşind şi pe ea cu sticluţa de milumil în braţe
de parcă-ar ieşi cu un sac de cartofi şi
de parc-ar ieşi direct cu sînii la vedere
şi nu-mi face nici un semn s-o aştept
nu

aşa că îmi trezesc oaia de la gît
şi imitînd mişcarea lăuzelor
ne strecurăm în baia maternităţii
şi fumăm
Close

Ninth Ward, Maternity

i enter the ninth ward a sheep hung at the neck.
struggling forward,
the security guards take me for a priest
keep following after me
keep lifting the sheep like on a cross
kissing it on the muzzle.

and this scared sheep hidden in my clothing as in the grass
causes tlinda to burst out laughing.
before she rises from bed
i see how slyly she arranges her beating heart as though
arranging a peasant skirt under the table.

birthing-birthing, stale fragment of air over a kitchen sink
as the nurse pushes in with her needle, zzzt,
the sheep at my neck sleeps now, like some bats
the other women hang their heads down,
careful not to unsettle the milk.

birthing-birthing, from this fragment of air comes nothing.

i sit on the edge of the bed and from the compote i open
first trickles of coffee.
like a small field of weeds
the powdered milk has invaded the shelves
casting shadows in the room and in these shadows
tlinda seduces, massages the other milk.

i see all too well: her sad and confused
signaling me to help

and then i slip my head under the blanket
slip my head into the gown to the height of the breast
i press my ear close but hear nothing
perhaps, i say, mother’s milk makes no sound
and then summoning courage i squeeze the breast a few times
and the nipples snap like fingers
but apart from a burst of fresh air in my eyes
nothing, not a drop.

don’t worry tlinda, i whisper, don’t worry
my comforting words stain her gown like cabbage rolls.

it’s late now, better you go
and i know from her blushing
that it’s time to nurse i start to go
but suddenly, in the ninth ward, life begins

row after row of women beginning to breathe to whimper
and rising now the way coffee rises an umph ah oy
slapping stomachs with both hands
the sound of milk in the breast like a jet of espresso

row after row rising up to form a perfect indian chain
they begin to rock begin to chant
praise for natural breast milk
one after another laying hand to shoulder
then making little circles with their feet

and hop-hop one by one hop-hop out of the ward

and here goes tlinda well behind the rest
red-red in the face and
without that hop-hop in her step

there she goes leaving with a bottle of formula in her arms
as if she went with a sack of potatoes
as if she went out directly her breasts exposed
making no sign for me to wait
no

and so i wake the sheep at my throat
we walk like the women, those who’ve just given birth
and sneak into the ward bathroom
for a smoke.

Ninth Ward, Maternity

i enter the ninth ward a sheep hung at the neck.
struggling forward,
the security guards take me for a priest
keep following after me
keep lifting the sheep like on a cross
kissing it on the muzzle.

and this scared sheep hidden in my clothing as in the grass
causes tlinda to burst out laughing.
before she rises from bed
i see how slyly she arranges her beating heart as though
arranging a peasant skirt under the table.

birthing-birthing, stale fragment of air over a kitchen sink
as the nurse pushes in with her needle, zzzt,
the sheep at my neck sleeps now, like some bats
the other women hang their heads down,
careful not to unsettle the milk.

birthing-birthing, from this fragment of air comes nothing.

i sit on the edge of the bed and from the compote i open
first trickles of coffee.
like a small field of weeds
the powdered milk has invaded the shelves
casting shadows in the room and in these shadows
tlinda seduces, massages the other milk.

i see all too well: her sad and confused
signaling me to help

and then i slip my head under the blanket
slip my head into the gown to the height of the breast
i press my ear close but hear nothing
perhaps, i say, mother’s milk makes no sound
and then summoning courage i squeeze the breast a few times
and the nipples snap like fingers
but apart from a burst of fresh air in my eyes
nothing, not a drop.

don’t worry tlinda, i whisper, don’t worry
my comforting words stain her gown like cabbage rolls.

it’s late now, better you go
and i know from her blushing
that it’s time to nurse i start to go
but suddenly, in the ninth ward, life begins

row after row of women beginning to breathe to whimper
and rising now the way coffee rises an umph ah oy
slapping stomachs with both hands
the sound of milk in the breast like a jet of espresso

row after row rising up to form a perfect indian chain
they begin to rock begin to chant
praise for natural breast milk
one after another laying hand to shoulder
then making little circles with their feet

and hop-hop one by one hop-hop out of the ward

and here goes tlinda well behind the rest
red-red in the face and
without that hop-hop in her step

there she goes leaving with a bottle of formula in her arms
as if she went with a sack of potatoes
as if she went out directly her breasts exposed
making no sign for me to wait
no

and so i wake the sheep at my throat
we walk like the women, those who’ve just given birth
and sneak into the ward bathroom
for a smoke.
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère