Oleander by Liza Katz


En l’absence des mots, les corps se mettaient à parler.

‒ Marlène Amar, La femme sans tête

Even in Paris, after the war, your parents cannot
unspeak you. You are twelve years old.
Chatty like a magpie, they say, discomfort brimming
from the corners of their mouths.
You imagine bird voices in a broad sky
streaked with stratus clouds. The strains of blue
blinking through spaces between oleander blossoms.

Your village, of which you must not speak,
with its held history cradled between stones.
The languor of neighbors’ porches,
storytelling and sweat. Time sat shouldered on desert skin.

Your schoolyard, hedged in with oleander,
clusters of tiny stars, pink-purple pinpricks.
You’d lean over the fence to collect them,
nestle them in your hair, make oleander necklaces
for your sisters, those who silence you now.

You are twenty years old. Your memory speaks
through your wavy hair and wide hips. You deny them too,
refuse food, mask your face in plastic, but you cannot
beget silence. In the absence of words,
your body speaks. You want to shatter borders

with your starved fists. But you are so weak.


About Liza Katz