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  4. Three Translations from Characters Found on a Lover’s Body by James Thomas Stevens
Three Translations from Characters Found on a Lover’s Body

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The earth and its foregoing, this could be horizon.
Combined, the radicals pressed into one another.
What do we represent lying held in men and arms,
to erect gold and sun and legs (running)?
I call you disc, sun entangled in the branches of a tree.
Rice field over struggle, earth over self.
Effacement. Your mouth is a carriage
and the carriage plus the tenth of a cubit is turn,
bent knuckle revolving around a pivot.
Common, is the object beneath the bench.
Plant, covers, knife, a weed
extended to mean govern, the flame in the middle
of the lamp is the man with ample arms,
blend and pace in the midst of court.
Your torso sings Garden.                       Composes.


Mastery of weeds extends to mean:
plants bending to cover the middle of lamp.
A knife for a flame, foregoing the earth,
this is the horizon of a man with arms.
To move across your body, I am the carriage
and the cubit, the disc running tangled
in the branches of a tree.
I am the common object beneath the bench,
the wheel running length
of the rutted road
down to the garden of abdomen.
I struggle over fields
to kiss a mouth filled with rice,
to put away evil.           This is earth over self.


Beneath a table of common struggles
I blend and pace in ample arms.
A rice field foregoing garden
on the horizon of your belly.
Govern the revolving cubit, the bent knuckle.
Me over you, over self, a tree.
Earth entangled in the branches of a knife.
Plant and cover inside your mouth,
the turning disc,
the carriage and wheel.
To erect lamps in the bend
of your gold leg running
is to extend the word
to mean master, garden or weed.

James Thomas Stevens, “Three Translations from Characters Found on a Lover’s Body” from A Bridge Dead in the Water. Copyright © 2007 by James Thomas Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.
Source: A Bridge Dead in the Water (Salt Publishing, 2007)
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Three Translations from Characters Found on a Lover’s Body

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  • Poet James Thomas Stevens, a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe, was born in Niagara Falls, New York. His Mohawk name, under which he sometimes publishes, is Aronhiótas. As an undergraduate he studied at the School of Visual Arts, Brooklyn College, and eventually at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he earned an AFA in creative writing. Stevens subsequently earned an MFA from Brown University.
    Stevens’s free-verse poetry explores the intersection of colonization, memory, and intimacy. In a 2007 Believer Magazine review of A Bridge Dead in the Water, critic Alan Gilbert called Stevens a “lyric poet of love and its accompanying damage—personal and collective.” Stevens’s poetry collections include A Bridge Dead in the Water (2007), Combing the Snakes from His Hair (2002), and Tokinish (1993). He co-authored Mohawk/Samoa: Transmigrations (2006), a collaborative poetry and translation project, with Caroline Sinavaiana.
    Stevens has received a 2000 Whiting Writers...

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