Maria Nazos

Maria Nazos’
poetry and translations are published in The New Yorker, The Mid-American Review, The Denver Quarterly, The Florida Review, The North American Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. She can be found at www.marianazos.com.

Ping-Pong Show


Love, tonight, let’s check out the Night Market:
we’ll buy a caged snake and maybe a baby chick.
There are tables heaped with glowing toys,
and a club next door where I’ll watch you get whipped.

Let’s buy a baby chick and feed it to a snake.
Check out the club where girls writhe on polished stages,
In another bar, you’ll watch me get whipped,
while ladies, like snakes, writhe in their cages.

We’ll stop at this club where women dance onstage.
They seem so free to grind, gyrate, and twist
their bodies, like the snakes, that writhe in cages.
And this woman who brings drinks, she’s incandescent.

Look at their bodies, how they grind and twist.
The bar glows pastel. It paints us both gold.
That woman who brings drinks, she’s incandescent.
This city’s stolen our livers, but we can’t drink away our souls.

Now it’s late (or early), the light is pastel-turned-gold.
Let’s finish this show of women flashing through night—
This city’s stolen our livers, but we’ve still got souls:
we’ll rise up against the sun’s billy club of light.

Let’s watch them glitter, the girls, they flash all night.
The day’s a slow strip show; the night’s a mirage.
Baby, we’ve beaten back the sun’s billy club of light:
now another woman’s giving you a back massage.

Today’s a slow strip show; tonight’s a mirage.
One girl shoots a dart out from between her legs.
Now, one another’s giving you a back massage,
hands you a balloon that bursts over your head.

One girl shoots a dart out from between her legs,
The sun begins to rise. My heart sinks heavy as lead.
As you hold a balloon that bursts over your head,
my liver might be pickled, but my conscience isn’t dead.

The sun rises; my heart sinks heavier than lead.
The women look weary, and boxing-glove red.
Beneath glued eyelashes, their eyes long for bed—
My liver, it’s pickled, but my conscience isn’t dead.

Their faces are weary, boxing glove-beaten, red.
In the dawn, their glittering bras are dull, yellowed.
My liver, it’s pickled, but my conscience isn’t dead:
beneath glued eyelashes, their eyes long for their bed.

In the dawn, the girls’ gold bras turn soft yellow.
The women might be mothers, laid-off workers.
Beneath glued eyelashes, their eyes long for their bed;
still they’re performing for us: ex-pats, junkies, and lurkers.

Maybe, they’re mothers; laid off factory workers—
I can see clearly now. It’s the end of vacation.
The girls perform until dawn for ex-pats and lurkers,
this place is Eden and Hell: paradise meets damnation.

I see clearly now. It’s the end of this vacation.
Let’s leave it all: our gaze, desire, the dawn’s early light.
This place is Eden and Hell: paradise meets damnation,
and I can see too clearly when the lights burn this bright.

Let’s leave it all: our gaze, desire, the dawn’s light.
Love, tomorrow, let’s go instead, to the Night Market.
I can see too well when the lights are this bright:
there are tables glowing with broken toys.

On the Beach in Rosarito, Tijuana

A dog staggered over on the dark beach. It’s fur half-mange,
its panting stubborn and hopeless

as love itself. That didn’t stop the mutt from loving you,
nuzzling your palm, putting its head

beneath your hand. Its eyes were wild grapefruit. It smelled
of sweet rot. You backed off slowly, then fast,

past the lighthouse. As you approached the waves’ edge,
there it was: the dog, floating sideways,

lifeless, in the dark surf. It had always been dying, it seemed, long
before you arrived. It was waiting to die and dead.

You waded to the body, chanting, to send up the last of its tiny
light. Then you heard

the voice, soft as dawn, the voice that knew before you did,
the whisper that you hear some nights, telling you

to let go. The voice said, This is what happens.  Leaving you to leave
the body, knowing where it was going, already gone.

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