Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Horse Dance Underwater poems by Helena Mesa

“The poems in Helena Mesa’s virtuosic first book, Horse Dance Underwater, run with such speed, verve, and alacrity they leave you breathless, exhilarated, and transformed as if the purest kind of song had lifted you into the air.  By this quickness of language finding lyric speech, Mesa’s poems remind us of art’s joyous and ecstatic effects.”
 — Michael Collier

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Helena Mesa was born and raised in Pittsburgh to Cuban parents.  She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Barrow Street, Bat City Review, Indiana Review, Poet Lore, and Third Coast. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays, Mentor & Muse: From Poets to Poets. She lives in Ann Arbor and is an assistant professor of English at Albion College.

 

 


 

Sway This Night

It reminds me of departure, this town
gutted with rails and passing trains whose horns
insist we waste our nights. At four, darkness
numbs our hands, hollows the streets
except for those trains, and after, a stillness
no one wants. My first autumn, then winter,
I began to believe I knew each train
by sound--silver bullet with a dining car,
freight of longhorns, and second to last, hogs.
It went this way. Each named by the drag of steel
on steel that says, This night belongs to no one
but me, named in the boredom that comes without
love, and the belief that the conductor speeds home
to something, until my chemist friend explained
that every few years in these boxed-up towns,
someone lies across the tracks after last call
a wisp of air like madness in fear. No more,
no more. Even the wind pressed off the sides
pushes back, its metal cold, like the loss of breath
after a blow. The body stands, sways, in wait.

 


 

The poems in Helena Mesa’s virtuosic first book, Horse Dance Underwater, run with such speed, verve, and alacrity they leave you breathless, exhilarated, and transformed as if the purest kind of song had lifted you into the air.  By this quickness of language finding lyric speech, Mesa’s poems remind us of art’s joyous and ecstatic effects.”
 — Michael Collier

 

“‘Everything beautiful occurs when the body / is suspended,” Helena Mesa quotes a performance artist who hangs his own pierced body in the air.  Mesa’s poems are artfully suspended between lyric and narrative, between humans and animals, between Latin America and the U.S., between desire and the difficulty of its fulfillment. Horse Dance Underwater is an inventive, musical, and powerful debut.”
— Mark Doty

 

 

“‘The world tilts in strange guises. Behold these, love these,’” Helena Mesa writes at the end of a long journey. I am moved by her notes to saints, by the way she limns the distance between strangers, by her quest for a sacred grove. There is a deep aura of solitude in this splendid first book.”
— Edward Hirsch

 


 

 

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