Unraveling the Bed by Mia Leonin


Van K. Brock Florida Poetry Series (2008)

In Unraveling the Bed, Mia Leonin invents a remarkably specific and vertiginous world of veils and magic, blood and azul thinning to translucent, a frightening and tender portrait of a woman who is sometimes barely breathing and, at other times, rising fully into her opaque human self. What is most remarkable to me in these poems is Leonin's craft -- language that is mouth-wateringly rich, whether in line-breaks or prose -- and the way the poems seem to paint themselves before the eyes. I am grateful for this feast of words and for the enormous spirit behind them, and for the complex stories that changed me as I read. To quote Rukeyser... there is an exchange here in which our lives are met, and created. Mia Leonin offers us a work that raises and transforms energy from a deep, wise, and holy place. -- Maureen Seaton, author of Venus Examines Her Breast

Leonin's poems are simply audacious, their language expanding and clarifying sex, honor, love, and even God, whose blood, in one poem, spills onto his sandals. In all, the speaker in these poems, as Leonin says, "commands her body / To lift the weight of its joy." All books of poems should be this exciting.


Something must be said for the subtle power of the female voice in these poems, even when the woman seems to be suffering from rejection or loss. These are more than love poems. When the "business suits" try to demean her by calling, "linda, linda, linda," the woman's wit comes to her rescue: "The ambassador is swallowed in three pieces by his suit," she reports. In the nine-part poem "The Invention of Skin," the speaker addresses her portrait painter, "I don't pose. I appear." Unraveling the Bed is literary, transcendent writing, and it makes us all into spiritual beings. --Robert Stewart, Outside Language: Essays, Editor, New Letters

Leonin's display and description of all things passionate literally feels like it's coming from "thunder's mouth." The effect is provocative, exciting, and intoxicating. Moreover, and most importantly: Leonin's passionate poetry is endearing, thrilling, and relevant because of her skill, language, and heart. -- Michael Parker, MiPOesias, March 2008

About the CD:
The CD that accompanies Unraveling the Bed was composed and produced by Carlos Ochoa. Integrating site-specific recordings, electronic beats and instrumental music with readings of the poems, Ochoa has created a free style musical interpretation of the poetry. Live instruments performed on the CD are keyboards, guitar, flute, and the Andean moseño.

About Carlos Ochoa:
Carlos Ochoa is from Lima, Peru. He has lived in Miami since 1991, performing with the bands Pepe Alva & Alma Raymi, Bronce and Cantamarka. Carlos is trained in the classical flute and guitar, and specializes in electronic composition and Andean folklore instruments such as the quena, sampoña, and charango. He has recorded with the artists Shakira, Gloria Estefan, Soledad, Los Bacilos, and others.



Under the fraction of stars and seaweed and sighs,
those sturdy leather shoes pulled you into the sea.
Like two blind calves, they carried you on their backs.

I followed, our jellyfish sleeves
billowing out then clinging 
to each new wave.

Fleshy hands, moonlight of teeth.
Your middle name beating between my ribs.
The tide does nothing but divide and divide.
I can't go to the sea without dragging you along.

In every ruined shoe lies the memory: 
the salt of your breath crystallized, 
the method of your hands, your name 
rushing between my ankles.


The Question

Will you lead me by my wrist when I am blind?

Will you drain the bowl of my cancer
when my body is spinning, unraveling from its spindle?

Of course not. 
You will be pulling the crimson ribbon between your teeth,

unwrapping the gifts of the fair-haired, the red head.
You will be peeling the rind of some new fruit.

Take my wrist now.
Empty me now.

Later, I will have the gift of shadows.
I will have the wood's invisible center.



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