The Drunken Girl
This crumpling into the arms of an unknown girl,
this brute job of trampling on butterflies, shadows, corpses;
this thinking of yourself as a tree, a bottle, or a flow of alcohol,
a print of a sleeping foot, a black or green jackknife;
this hard instant when a girl screams
and, shuddering, dreams of the goodness that was never hers.
All of this is not only the night,
but the night pregnant with blood and milk,
with asphyxiating children,
with women burned down to carbon
and men darkened by loneliness
and mysterious, suffocating waste.
Only the night of the drunken girl
whose sad, raging calls
wounded me like pure tears,
like nauseas and grudges,
like neglect and the begging of girls.
How sad these tears, friends, made of powdered glass
and funereal gardenias, shredded in the doorways of bars,
ground tears and swear, in which naked men, with only black beards
and hands as ugly as honey wash themselves without anguish, without
drunken crying, tears like carnations, like mildewed taverns,
tears like that girl’s, neither bored nor grieving, who gets drunk,
like the girl’s who one night, one holy night,
gave me her melting heart,
her hands of warm water, budding earth, silk,
her thoughts so like dead birds
her wooden seizures of tenderness,
her mouth tasting like a cup gnawed by drunks,
her breast soft as a fevered cheek,
her tattooed arms and legs,
her incipient tuberculosis,
and her cunt sleeping like a martyred orchid.
Ah, the drunken girl, the girl of the dumb smile
and generosity at her fingertips,
the girl of the trusting, unspeakable sweetness for a man,
a man like me, barely escaped from the violence of loving.
This tender memory will always be a lamp before my eyes,
a bloody and defeated day.
My friends, here’s to the drunken girl.
Translator: Philip Levine