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Éireann Lorsung

Yo por soleá

You are not a Russian spy

Telephone 2

Yo por soleá

                 For the former genus, see Viola (plant)
                 For the edges of the road in shadow, see the last day of your childhood
                 For desire in the form of a dress, see soleá itself
                 For musician, see music box
                 For atmosphere, see belief in its particulars (see also: votive)


                 : :


                 For the inexpressible, see seen

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You are not a Russian spy

                 Because you are stealing photographs of maple syrup canisters.
                 Because you line up at dinnertime, exactly six p.m.
                 Because under your clothes you wear a brown scapular.

                 Because your father is an artist, or your mother is an artist,
                 because your mother tongue is disappearing and your father
                 is a drunk. Because you scissored a photograph in six

                 without making sure before you did just where to cut.
                 Because your poems do or don't contain the moon, because
                 you escaped last time with just your life: you are not a Russian spy.

                 You are not a Russian spy, these days: your ostentatious eyewear
                 tells us so. Although you never floated on the private river
                 of the Tsars it's also true you don't care much for what

                 we'd call The Folk. While you line your iPhone up precisely
                 to get the shot of syrup that you want, while you dip your toes
                 in water in a Morse-code kind of way, while you sit and click

                 your pen a hundred times, a hundred hundred times, a million
                 times, while bad translations pass through you like semaphore,
                 we here at Headquarters are forced against our will to say:

                 alas, it's true: you are not a Russian spy, these days.

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Telephone 2

                 At distance repetitive noise meaning
                 take me, take me. In interwar

                 years: dust, libraries, silence,
                 new money, brown cloth, a shoe

                 that, left alone by the gate, does not yet
                 indicate Removal. Some people sit there,

                 in the realm of Before, fading and sizzling
                 like static on a dead TV, no longer

                 persons, only the appearance of bodies
                 going in and out on an imperceptible

                 tide. That noise is still in the background—
                 as the years tick over it gets louder,

                 as if to say I'm at hand now,
                 I'm waiting for you. From the present,

                 the past looks inevitable, a wall
                 too big to go around. The bodies that were here

                 fit like folded notes into that wall.
                 The telephone rings and rings and rings

                 without an answerer, and the TV
                 flecks with plain blank noise,

                 and the last trains cross new borders
                 carrying bodies

                 that leaf through magazines, transmit
                 fear by smell, send undated postcards

                 saying only When are you leaving? And when
                 are you coming back?

Note: Italics are taken from the correspondence of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann.

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Éireann Lorsungis the author of Music For Landing Planes By (2007) and Her Book (2013), both from Milkweed, and The Book of Splendor (forthcoming, Milkweed). Other work appears or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, jubilat, Field, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. She lives in Belgium, where she is residency director at Dickinson House (


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