Selections from The marilyn hold

marilyn hold free version


sunday at the time of death

your shadow is a pearl turning for nobody

the bars are full

in the air saturday’s rough cloth holds

the noise a grid of cigarette butts and rouge

other people’s voices a wall of nails

and the soccer game’s volume exceeds the decibel

of men crying over an easy girl


sunday at the time of the scandal

there’s an imprecise change of speed

and the minutes slide their cow gaze

over your tender grass


at the next table a couple breaks

the evening in pieces

and a glass-shard halo soaks the tablecloth


I thought of those arms

sunday at the time of death

as though it were otherwise

lovers’ manual


I gave you a tiny jewel

a scaled sapphire in a fish’s body


and you let it

fall in the passing of things

full nelson


how do you do it?

didn’t you know that love after forty is an unfeasible concept

like forming an alloy from a flexible field and a totalitarian material

a sterile defiance marking a billboard message on your forehead

you go down the street the word never between your eyes

and everyone reads how you eat from the pot

sleep alone

wail against the medicine cabinet

sundays thinking of killing yourself

mondays cursing your lack of courage

on tuesday you get it together

friday you go somewhere where people know each other

but you feel like a shard of glass

a post

a layer of dust between the hubbub and the night?

everyone else kissing each other on the mouth

laughing and hugging like the world’s about to collapse


or like all that mattered was beginning


maybe the membrane that joins youth and beauty

gets torn by friction


how do you do it?

0-800 suicide hotline 


  • if you would like to purchase our new products press one


  • 1


  • firearms press one chemical products press two the new arsenic menthol combo press three to speak with tech support press four


  • 4


  • all our operators are busy

last scales


at inventory time silence is solid

bare counter

buried box to hide his photos

and turn down the volume of his voice


two animals in the same cage mate or kill each other

you learn to react on the fly


tiny lost fish in the bedroom let their last scales drop

I go barefoot in the house’s bones

and the water’s rusty drip doesn’t let me sleep


time to replace the material

skin rests like a chalkboard erased

or a living room cleaned


the shark fin*********removed from the shark

all at once looks inoffensive


I’m not interested in the truth

I’m gonna make these tin-can days pay in gold

0-800 suicide hotline take 2


  • zero eight hundred etcetera


  • the number you are trying to reach is currently busy 

leave your message after the beep


if you

if your word forging

a path through the static rain

like a fish dredging the depths

like a noose

if you

if my name leaving your lips

traveled along the wires until filling me

with it

becoming complete

in me

if you uttered me

if your tongue vibrated between your lips far

out there

and from that small effort came

the illusion of being


if you

if your eyes saw any thing

yet I’d swim you


until I fit

another minute into this life

it’s back


if you don’t hand over the pillow feathers

it coats your face with tar

and you dream of a mercury angel

who sews your lips closed with a thread of fire


nothing reaches it


there are bits of shipwreck in my underwear

nails caught up in my silk stockings


if you don’t hand them over it throws you to next winter

against the bedsprings

it wants your heart on a platter

the pearls of your eyes to fashion a necklace


it’s back


rubbing its fur in a sign of triumph

against the coming days

each morning


I do it as though a wild miracle

 were about to happen

with one foot on the doorstep of defeat

and another in the alley of insanity


I do it dirtying the truth

working around the edges of a tiny secret


I do it in gaps of conscience

in bedroom drawers

on the breakfast table


I do it unwavering

with a fanatic’s persistence

and a panhandler’s greed


I do it slowly

without innocence


I sink my fingers each morning into the shit

searching for a reason to live


I fail and I do it

and fail

and do it


Laura Yasan

Laura Yasan was born in Buenos Aires in 1960. She has published twelve books of poetry and personal anthologies, including: ripio, awarded the Municipal Poetry Prize of the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires in 2005; la llave marilyn, awarded the Casa de las Americas prize in 2009; and animal de presa, awarded the Carmen Conde prize in 2011. Her work has been partially translated into English, German, French, and Italian. She lives in Buenos Aires, where she runs writing workshops in prisons, libraries, nursing homes, and online through her program Palabra Virtual.

Phoebe Bay Carter

Phoebe Bay Carter is a graduate student of comparative literature at Harvard University and a translator of poetry and prose from Arabic and Spanish. She is the Cairo editor for ArabLit.

Copyright (c) Casa de las Americas (Havana, Cuba), 2009. English translation copyright (c) Phoebe Bay Carter, 2020.