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Mirko Lauer

Portrait of Her

Translated by Michael L. Smith

The necessity that converts sheep
into lions & wolves found in her its lamb
& if the daily deaths around her were
an unlucky Krakatoa, for her it was

like a soft breeze off the gulf. She shared
with the starving schoolmarms of her country
a progressive spinsterhood & a sedentary devotion
for virgins passed around in tiny boxes (1)

It is clear that the middle class pulled her to its breast
belatedly. The humid sands of Ventanilla, (2)
mixed today with each instant of her body,
were her Miraflores (3) & her death,

colorless, odorless, tasteless. Like a white lamp
that kisses a pale flame of alcohol, or a stream of catholic crystals
that enters the sea, docile - not knowing -
in the first novena of her second youth.


1 "for virgins... boxes" refers to the custom of taking an image of the Virgin Mary from house to house
2 Ventanilla: a beach north of Lima that has dangerous undertows
3 Miraflores: an upper class neighborhood of Lima

Continuous Bass, 1974