It’s the sadness cage
not even ten by ten. A lioness
walks back and forth on a bare concrete floor
from end to end, from side to side, six measured paces and three
wild ones and two leaps of pain.
It’s the sadness cage,
three walls plastered over greenish iron studs,
and rain and sun and wind and leaves, and people’s hot faces,
and lights at night, through bars that rust every winter.
She sees all this, but she watches the whitewashed floor,
her rough and golden fresco.
And her legs take her into the corner where she rolls up
into a big dry woolly ball and in another corner she
sprawls out pain-struck.
Because it’s the sadness cage
the sugar of sadness that streams in her veins covered
in blackening fur leads from dead end to dark end
sometimes measured, sometimes wild,
her only food the meat of her household.
She knows, it was also suggested
that the bars are a stage set, that the metal is painted on cardboard
and what’s cardboard to a lioness, and what’s iron.
and she doesn’t go out to the grass, the sun, the flowers
in front of the soft warm people who wonder at her
who push in to see her, who tell her ad nauseum
rise up go forth
shake your head in a circular motion
rise up go forth race
out there carpets of space, a world.
(1991) Tr. Lisa Katz, 1999
(Translator's note: “the meat of her household” is from Proverbs 31:15)