Portrait as Landscape: Untranslatable

The map of the marsh hides the map of the sister,
the one whose syntax is spilled sugar and coral yolk
smear. Which map is spoiled by a weak translation?
Which means “useless as rungs on a ruined ladder”?


Once, we were sisters corralled by syntax, yoked to sky’s
coral ladder, not yet marsh-heavy with ruin. The map
continues to smear our journey into the untranslatable,
into the syntax of sugared sisters. The ladder


is nothing to the marsh. The marsh is nothing
to the ruined map, but we translate yolk to coral,
rung to journey, as each smear of light leads us into


sugar spill, corralled clouds over the yolk-thick marsh.
We are marsh-ruined sugar, sisters of spoil and spill.
We are a strange syntax that cannot be mapped.


Simone Muench is the recipient of an National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and author of six full-length books, including Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014). Her chapbook, Hex & Howl, co-written with Jackie K. White, was published by BLP (2021), and she has recent collaborative work in APR, the Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, and others. She serves as a senior poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly, faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review, and poetry editor for JackLeg Press.

Jackie K. White is the author of three previous chapbooks and the co-author, with Simone Muench, of Hex & Howl (Black Lawrence Press, 2021). A former professor of English at Lewis University, her poems, translations, and collaborative poems have appeared in such journals as Third Coast, the Hopkins Review, and The Journal.