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“I need a mouth” from Juana I

"Necesito una boca" de Juana I
by Ana Arzoumanian
Translated from Spanish by
Gabriel Amor
Issue 27 Online Exclusive


What I need is a mouth.










I need a mouth the enamel of teeth your saliva.


Blood has stopped flowing to your lips.


I kiss the air, the locks of hair, the Virgin Mary; I kiss the right foot of Saint Peter.


I run ropes through the gates of your body. I pull on a rope to open your pupils and let in the light.


She is mad.


They murmur among themselves. They stare at the nakedness over my clothes. My two tongues. The sharp knot of my hands.


My tongue-eyes, my nose. A sheet embroidered with tongues. As though your mouth were the heraldic rumble of the sheet that carries you (dead).


I clean you. Licking muscle joined to bone joined to skin. I can’t sleep. I hear dogs howling; I cover my ears. If I sleep, an orgy of flowers, of lighthouses, of precious stones. Fruits in the horizontal thickness of your mouth. If I fall asleep down here there will be a chorus, a cry of spinning shovels or shoving spades, row after row, with the intensity of water.


Where did they put your hands? The bed widens; shovels reach my clavicle. I leave my child curled up against your chest.


Now my bed is of furrowed glass, and I do not sleep and cannot cry. Now my bed is of all the places where you are not with me. Of silence. Of cold.


I am not mad.


The tissue around the base of your teeth will not sustain my nipple. It would be better to open my breasts, fill them with mother-of-pearl. Stiff and tall as flagpoles, they will not bend when calling out to you. You will have nothing to see beyond my thumb moving along your gums.


Time has stopped. Only your body, larger or smaller. That body, larger or smaller, which is not here and will not become larger or smaller inside. And I search for you outside. Searching for you. Larger or smaller. Nothing could be worse. Today is today is tomorrow and I keep searching larger or smaller.


One law dictates these matters forever.




There’s a change of color. A tad whiter where once there was red or brown. The lethargic blues of cities, of palaces, running down the walls. White. White over black, the festering red wound; white. Lumpy, jiggling white. I roll my head. Turning it from side to side like a girl dreaming on a white pillow. I move my head on bolsters of air and I do not dream. I move my head as though my head were all mouth wanting to reach a certain something that gets washed and washed.


I move back a few inches and feel something of yours discoloring me, from your legs to my waist. I feel it enter through my navel and whiten me. It discolors me. It enters through my navel. An outpouring of stars. A flight of thugs and slackers. A farewell of soldiers heading to war by land or by sea. Discolored like wheat kneaded with water.


You, redolent of bread.


Thus (dead) your thin smell of flatbread dissolves in my bowels and tightens. I do not bite.


I am not mad.


I lift my dress. The gallop. The soft rise and fall of the mount, like wings beating. A path that floats above sand storms. Arching my neck, stretching my cheekbones. Feeling your face, shaking my hands in a circular motion just to know where it ends. Where your pubic hair becomes clouded, your groin. Lifting my dress, seeing you in the reflection of the galloping herd. Lifting my dress, comforted by the knowledge that you have been transformed into hail, into rusted iron. Transformed into agate amethyst coral. Rose silica that I rub to gauge a color.


Lifting my dress, seeing you made of stone.


I cannot hold it up. I lift your leg and it drops again. The circles are straight; they are straight lines, a certain something linked to your waist to your legs. Your hip. Straight. I search for you high and low in the cornices of the sky. Or I look up to see what lies behind. And, once again, your hands. A fist inside. Your fist or the expanse of the sky plowed by the seas. Or this inside, and your leg that I cannot hold up. Why does he not speak? I would say that he loves me. I would say he loves me, you love me; I, too.


I am not mad.


Up against the wood. The edge. Underskirt after underskirt after underskirt; bundles of fabric against the wood. I squeeze. My heartbeat. The skirt, the fabrics and one finger. I touch the iron crowbar in my throat. I touch myself, the crowbar, your throat, my finger. On the edge the fabrics my heartbeat against the wood: push. What should I do with my eyes? What should I do when I smell things from afar?


Am I crawling with ants? From two to twelve millimeters long. Lots of them. There’s a narrow section between the head and thorax. And the large head, nearly triangular, and long, long legs. In corridors: a swarm, a hotbed. They move hurriedly now; they are everywhere. From one end, it looks like a chalk line that someone has traced on the ground. Rows of ants leaving a half-inch furrow in their wake. And they sting. And it stings so much that it hurts.


They’re everywhere. In trunks, in barks, in hollow stalks. And they fly. Their bodies bloated by a sugary fluid in their abdomens. Hundreds of thousands of blind workers advance, guided by a hole they themselves make. (My finger, the wood, on the edge.) And they push (my finger, the wood, on the edge). They are agile; digging funnel-shaped ditches. A rusty red or yellowish brown or more or less dusty pink (on the edge the wood my finger). They spew acid. Tiny pricks appear and disappear suddenly on my legs. It is then that I tell you, lovely, lovely. And I open my eyes, although it is dark and it is night; I see better at night than in the daytime. Heavy, my heartbeat my finger and the small pile of milky sweat. And lovely, lovely.


I will not wash again.


She is mad.


It does not fit in my hand. It is too much.


Skin that opens, tightening. I lift my hips. Slide my buttocks and raise myself a little higher. Thousands of times. I cast about with my feet before making contact with the floor. Some maelstrom. Even now. Even now it won’t let go. I stand on tiptoes. How many days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a year, how many hours in a day? I undo my girdle and breathe deeply so as not to turn into those people: cripples, hags, beggars. I fill myself with a great menagerie of air. I inhale so as not to resemble those people. My pelvis or lungs: a great menagerie of air. Jumping so that my heels knock against my buttocks. It’s already been six days. I jump to expel the sperm. How many weeks in a month, hours in a day? A startle. A dissection. It does not fit in my hand, that skin that remains stuck to your limbs. And even now.


No, I am not mad. Run your tongue over the wound.

Ana Arzoumanian was born in Buenos Aires. She is a lawyer, writer, professor and genocide scholar. Arzoumanian has published over a dozen works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, which have been translated in four languages. She has also translated English, French and Armenian works into Spanish.
Born in Galicia, Spain, Gabriel Amor has lived in New York since the age of five. He writes in English and Spanish, and occasionally crafts “translingual” poetry using both languages. Amor has published translations of works by several Latin American writers, and he received a 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund for Juana I by Ana Arzoumanian. He was also a producer on the Emmy-nominated documentary The Woman Who Wasn’t There.