(A Journey to the End of the Folly of Joan the Mad*)
We ride at night the mourning army and me,
heading to Grenada amid extinguished stars
and cries of owls, so that no maidenly or
lover’s eye may rest on you nor pester
Ah, this cerulean madness corrodes my
lopsided soul as woodworm poison.
Everything here–even my Flemish dress
–recalls the darkest hell of the Triptych of
Delights, the flaming pain of the best Bosch.
This silence rends my nerves. I can hear
your voice summoning me from the hearse
with precise knells. “Open the coffin,” I cry,
“I must kiss his gray lips, his pale body
clad in gold–one more time!”
They force the wood open. There you are,
amid the cracks! I still love everything about
you, even your worms and the acrid smell.
I will hug your Decay forever and more.
“Loca!” they hum. “Mad!”
Madly in love. So madly mad…
The Toothless Man and I are back on
track. He riding his winged steed, his
quiver full of slings, leading his habitual
danse macabre. I whirling in the folly of his blues.
* Queen Juana I of Castile (1479-1555) is generally known as “Joan the Mad.” At the age of 16, she was betrothed to Philip “The Handsome” of Austria. When the two finally met, it was lust at first sight. For Philip the attraction to his beautiful wife was purely carnal, whereas Juana became totally infatuated with her husband. Philip’s unfaithfulness exacerbated Juana’s wild spirits. The sudden death of her beloved husband at the age of 28 toppled her delicate balance. She couldn’t bear to be parted from his corpse and had the coffin opened several times. An armed escort followed Juana to Philip’s burial place in Grenada, Spain.
Pan in Disguise
Your livid mouth burgeons
Your wild mane entraps storms
You bring me hawks and kites
You speak to me in blank verse
(This is why I love you.)
Your sockets are chasms
Your wild hoof stamps the floor
You leave me as a withered leaf
longing for color
(This is why I hate you.)
You offer robins to my teeth. I steal
away their red. I kiss you. My jaw
splinters. My heart throbs in pain.
You are Pan in disguise.
(This is why I worship you.)
Caitlin and Dylan
Caitlin wears no
blue eyes stare open wide the
lingering mists over
shores and the empty milk pail ~
on the window sill. The
hole in her sweater makes the
heart cry. She has married poetry
and poverty, carelessly
exposed in her milky skin,
in her coarse skirt. She holds
on to him (as to her ale)
as to dear life. On the wall
there’s a crack and an illegible
address to a Gaelic god. On
the rustic mantelpiece a small,
milk-white horse with
a dark mane and raised hoof, a
simple vase. He stares at the world
with his most somber eyes,
a curly fleece of hair,
a warm cardigan to
keep Winter at bay.
She leans on him. He is tough as
brick, towering home of words,
Welsh flesh and feisty mood.
Later, in the left ajar shed, his
drunken hands will gallop over
the hills to milk the woods for her.
(after a photograph of Caitlin and Dylan Thomas)
When she is not translating, Alessandra Bava is writing the biography of a contemporary American poet. Her poems and translations have appeared or are upcoming in journals such as Gargoyle, Plath Profiles, THRUSH and Waxwing. Two of her chapbooks, They Talk About Death and Diagnosis, have been published in the States.