The Sunday Poem: Anya Achtenberg... Torturer's Resignation

Imagine an artist painting with more than one brush at a time.  Imagine half of dozen sunrises today.  Imagine spending a lifetime being born.

Anya Achtenberg reads this afternoon from her new novel,  Blue Earth, at Bookworks.  She is also a part of the incredible gala reading at the Outpost Performance Space on September 28th kicking off the Albuquerque Cultural Conference.  Other readers at that event include Lorna Dee Cervantes, Damien Flores, Jessica Helen Lopez, David Martinez, Mary Oishi, Margaret Randall, Luis Rodriguez, Levi Romero, Andrea Serrano, Susan Sherman, Richard Vargas, and Lenore Weiss.

Torturer's Resignation

From all of this I am the only one who leaves.*
The shadow of blood does not leave, nor the hands,
nor the child turned into a rope, nor the rope into fire,
nor the flame become plague of scattering and landlessness.

What is on the floor remains the stench of concrete,
what is wooden tilts forever into earth's loneliness,
what flies off is hair, what sings is only
feet burning like drums, what lights the way
is ordinary lampshade.

I am leaving the arc of rage.
I am leaving the covenant of bitter women.
I am leaving my birth into sin and the scalding purifications,
the scream of ceremony, that eats of the fruit
between our legs.

Armies of blind cloth, I'm going. Unmap me. I am leaving
the tunnel of agony that opens to be fed.
I am leaving the arm raised in the field of arms
over the thud of child, of grace, of song.

I leave all of this for a naked dance, for innocence
in my cousin's tent, for lunch with strangers and the fruit
of grenades blossoming only in the target of dreams.
I walk away like a man or like a woman.
My soldiers are the armies of fruit
in the market crates, spilling, rolling,
lime and mango singing.

Electric night, I leave you.
Animal incision and insect crawl,
green slip of bile and exhausted organs
waiting in the breathless river for one kiss or one note,
one dead mother, one gasping father,
for the probing of the sister of teeth and locked closets,
of blankets of shadow and postcards of blame,
I leave you, hood of nightmare, for breath, for air,
for an entire body.

*With thanks to Cesar Vallejo for the first line used here, from his poem, “Paris, October 1936”.
This poem was previously published in The Stone of Language (West End Press: Albuquerque, 2004) by Anya Achtenberg.




Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

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Comment by Margaret Randall on September 16, 2012 at 8:39am

What an extraordinary poem! But I never expect less from Anya Achtenberg. Among the thousands of poets who riff on the great Cesar Vallejo, this works like few others. I am so glad that Anya will be presenting her new novel at Bookworks this afternoon, and that I will have the opportunity to read with her again this year at The Outback Performance Space to kick off our Albuquerque Cultural Conference. What we really need, is Anya to come back to live in Albuquerque. We have a poetry community worthy of her great spirit. But back to this poem, thank you Jon and Anya for another unbeatable morsel to chew on this Sunday morning.


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