Naomi Replansky


        A little show to tease
        A little show to please
        To enlighten
        And to frighten

The Half-Man Half-Woman

How can he-she ever rest
When the beard denies the breast?
She would wake when he would sleep
She would swoon when he would leap
She must shun what he pursues
Down divided avenues.

You who come and ask for love,
Who below and who above?
Turn about
In doubling doubt.
Not you nor two wild horses can
Tear this woman from this man.
They are locked forever in
This battleground, this single skin.

The Mammoth Man

They stand around to hear him laugh
And he will laugh
And when he laughs, how much will laugh!
That whole form
Big as a whale and mammal-warm.
And the onlookers swarm around
To warm themselves upon that sound.

But should he stare
From wintry acres of despair,
Then slim and trim
Will flee from him
Will flee that cold and never know
If any warmth still lives below
His every crevice filled with snow.

The Quick-Change Artist

Rubber-jointed, loose of limb,
He is what you think of him,
For he takes his shape and size
From the image in your eyes.

Nine these lives and none his own:
Is a stone and can be thrown
Is a reed and can be bent,
Is a coin and can be spent.

He can curl within a hand
Or be spanned across a land,
Can be victor or be lost,
Can be solid or be ghost.

When you turn away your eyes,
Then what size? And what disguise?
In that dark he must retrace
The features of his single face,

Find alone his lone desire
And his solitary fire
And his separate flesh and bone
And his unique martyrdom.

The Tattooed Lady

Step up and see
the lady's past
set down in ink
from head to heel.

The names, the flags,
the arrowed hearts,
a face within
a flaming wheel.

The dragon of terror
curls at her nipple
and song-birds settle
upon her thighs.

Ah she is public,
the tattooed lady,
smooth to the touch,
a feast for the eyes.

Leaf through her skin,
who runs may read.
All is set down,
it is not to erase.

What now to be written,
be sketched, be stippled?
Is there one blank space
in a secret place?


Naomi Replansky was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1918. Ring Song (Scribner, 1952) was a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry. The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934-1994, was published by Another Chicago Press in 1994. Her Collected Poems was published by Godine/Black Sparrow in 2012, and won the William Carlos Williams award of the Poetry Society of America.