The Number Before Infinity

Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of nineteen books and plays, including seven collections of poetry, a novel, three anthologies, four volumes of translation, and a children’s book. His most recent books of poetry are My Mother and the Ceiling Dancers from Kattywompus Press (2012) and The Number Before Infinity, published by Scarlet Tanager Books. He has written three plays, including La Vie en Noir: The Art and Life of Léopold Sédar Senghor, performed by the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. He teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the California College of the Arts and in the low-residency MFA in Writing at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. He is the editor of a critically acclaimed anthology of U.S. poetry, The Face of Poetry, published by University of California Press; and editor of two volumes of TWO LINES: World Writing in Translation, distributed by University of Washington Press. His translations of George Sand, Colette, and André Breton have won numerous awards, including the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Award and the Northern California Book Award in Translation. His children’s book, Oranges, was a Junior Library Guild Book-of-the-Month.

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A Map of You

You’ve become my map, my geography:
the Black Forest of your hair,
your alpine lake eyes,
fathom after fathom,
your mouth red as turned Carolina earth,
those shoulders like Dover’s
chalk towers, your Sugarloaf breasts,
by your peninsular arms—
and your fingertips
when they touch me—
Polynesian archipelagoes. Serengeti
the temperature of your flesh.
Your Panama waist
flares to Venezuelan thighs
and between them
the Amazon, the delta, rare species
of the Galapagos, coral reefs with ultraviolet fish—
in just a few short months
you’ve become the other planet I inhabit.

And your legs taper
like a continent headed south,
one ending in Tierra del Fuego—
the Land of Fire—
and the other
in the Cape of Good Hope.

Copyright © Zack Rogow.

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This site designed and composed by Diane K. Martin. Technical and graphics assistance from Nathaniel Martin. Copyright © 2004 Diane K. Martin. All poems the properties of the original authors. Blackbird graphic scanned from a woodcut by Thomas Bewick (1752-1828), source: 1800 Woodcuts by Thomas Bewick and his School, Dover Publications, Inc. This site last updated: March 18, 2012