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Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, attaining B.A. and M.A. degrees in Teaching English as a Second Language, and poetry at the City College of New York. He is now writing a dissertation on the sonnets of E. A. Robinson at LMU, where he tutors composition alongside editing flyers on poetry and style. His poems and translations have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the resident poet at EcoHealth, where his science-themed verse is regularly featured, and a senior copyeditor at Review of International American Studies. He also teaches at Münchner Volkshochschule and leads the Amerikahaus Literaturkreis.


I Am Merely Posing for a Photograph

by Juan Felipe Herrera

I am merely posing for a photograph.
Remember, when the Nomenclature 
stops you, tell them that—“Sirs, he was posing 
for my camera, that is all.” . . . yes, that may just work. 

My eyes: 
clear, hazel like my father’s, gaze across the sea, my hands at my side, my   
legs spread apart in the wet sands, my pants crumpled, torn, withered, my   
shirt in rags, see-through in places, no buttons, what a luxury, buttons, I   
laugh a little, my tongue slips and licks itself, almost, I laugh, licks itself   
from side to side, the corners of my mouth, if only I could talk like I used   
to, giggle under moonlight, to myself, my arms destitute, shrunken, I   
hadn’t noticed, after so many years sifting through rubble stars, rubble toys,   
rubble crosses, after so many decades beseeching rubble breasts—pretend I   
came to swim, I am here by accident, 

like you. 

My face to one side. 
Listen to gray-white bells of rubble, the list 
goes on—the bones, hearts, puffed intestines, 
stoned genitalia, teeth, again I forget how 
to piece all this together, scraps, so many scraps, 
lines and holes. 

The white gray rubble light blinds me, 
wait, I just thought—what if this is not visible, 
what if all this is not visible. 

Listen here, closely: 
I am speaking of the amber thighs 
still spilling nectar on the dust fleece across Gaza, 
the mountains, the spliced wombs across Israel, Syria. 

The amber serums cut across all boundaries, 
they smell incense, bread, honey—the color 
of my mother’s hands, her flesh, the shrapnel is the same color 
the propellers churn.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

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